Read & Respond week 10: Data Tools

October 17, 2019

This week’s readings will be more skills-focused than usual. We’ve been tinkering with Google tools throughout the semester, but now I want you to actual undergo some training of your own. The Google News Initiative provides targeted packages of (short) training modules for a variety of its tools. You’re going to head to its training center and complete at least three of its training modules.

Note: I’m asking you to complete modules, not entire courses! For example, the “Fundamentals” course involves 13 lessons and takes about 111 minutes – that’s not what I’m asking you to do! Instead, you might select the five-minute “Google Alerts” lesson from within Fundamentals as one of your three.

Once complete, you’ll write up a comment that lists the three modules you completed and what you got out of the lesson. For the main part of your comment, tell us some specific ways you could apply the skills from each to your personal or group blog (or any journalism and mass communication project). Details matter, so spell this out!

Remember, your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, as a comment to this post.


Personal Post

You’ve already received this week’s assignment, but just as a reminder, your post needs to involve location in some meaningful way, and it must include a Google map you’ve designed (full details here and our mapping how-to guide here). All the usual requirements apply:
  • At least three links (more is better) to meaningful content. This means news stories, relevant posts, and substantive material, NOT to homepages (e.g., wvu.com) or general sites (e.g., facebook.com)
  • At least three content links: Images, video, social media posts, etc.

You’ll put this one up on Thursday, October 24 any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.


Read & Respond week 9: More Images

October 9, 2019

We’re not done with images yet! Last week we focused on photo; now we’re going to take a look at graphics. Graphics are ways to visualize information, typically in terms of where, when and how much of something compares to something else. You’re already familiar with many graphic types: maps, charts, timelines, tables, and diagrams.

There are lots of free graphic-making tools out there, at a variety of quality levels, but just because you can make charts doesn’t mean you can make them WELL (or that your readers will understand them).

It’s easy to think of graphics as being extras to the story, but a good graphic IS the story. Here’s a good example: Take this New York Times quiz and see what it tells you about yourself. Any surprises? This quiz and resultant map was the Times’ most popular story of 2013 (and it was created by an intern). Can you see why? There’s something compelling about a map that tells us something about our favorite subject – ourselves – and people started sharing this story with friends.

That shareability is why graphics, and charts in particular, are such popular subjects in online communication, but without being graphic-literate, it’s easy to make misleading charts. Have a look at these common chart errors – would you have spotted any of these without being warned?

As I’ve noted in class, an easy way to get some facility with data and visualization is through the Google News Initiative’s training links on data journalism. We’re frequently talking about analytics in class, so plunge into one or two of these 5-minute tutorials (I’d definitely do some tinkering on the Google Trends page – can you identify any interesting comparisons?). How could you incorporate what you’ve learned into your personal or group blog?

Remember, your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13, as a comment to this post.


Personal Post

You’ll be embroiled in Blog-a-Day Week next week, so I won’t give you any additional responsibilities. Make sure your Thursday post is your most robust of the week and follows the usual rules:
  • At least three links (more is better) to meaningful content. This means news stories, relevant posts, and substantive material, NOT to homepages (e.g., wvu.com) or general sites (e.g., facebook.com)
  • At least three content links: Images, video, social media posts, etc.

You’ll put this one up on Thursday, October 17 any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but don’t forget the other four posts due this week!


Read & Respond week 8: Images

October 3, 2019

The next two weeks are all about visuals. In this first one, we’ll tackle photos. Some of you have been incorporating visuals into your work from the start while others have yet to do so. Regardless of your use of visuals so far, how might your blogs tell a story that is more visual than textual? Yes, photos are ONE possibility, but what are others? Skim around this list and identify some options you might be able to apply to making your blogging more visual.

Photos:

  • First, a must-readHow to use photos LEGALLY on your blog. There’s a great graphic “Can I Use That Picture?” guide at this post from The Visual Guy.
  • Rather than guess about whether to use an image, consider using (and joining) Creative Commons, which lets you contribute and use a variety of works on the creators’ terms.
  • Photoblogs: Some blogs focus specifically on image sharing. Sites like Cake Wrecks hit big a few years back, but there are more serious efforts like the Boston Globe’s The Big Picture. There’s a whole bunch more to skim (150+) at this list.

Apps:

GIFs:

That’s a lot of links, so focus on some from each area and skim the rest. Has your image use been at all … problematic? What can you do to improve your game going forward? Your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6 as a comment to this post.


Personal Post

Write a blog post incorporating at least three images from the legal, publicly available sources listed above. This is a practice I expect to see in all posts going forward, so if this week’s reading showed you that you’ve been using images unethically (or worse), go forth and sin no more! As always, the overall post must be relevant to your personal blog concept and must include:
  • At least three links (more is better) to meaningful content. This means news stories, relevant posts, and substantive material, NOT to homepages (e.g., wvu.com) or general sites (e.g., facebook.com)
  • At least three content links: Images, video, social media posts, etc.

Since we’ll be out for Fall Break on Thursday, you can post this one any day from Monday, Oct. 7 to Thursday, October 10 any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (please wait until after Monday’s class though – we’ll be covering good image use in there!).


Readings and Personal Post: Week 7

September 26, 2019

Note: I’ve changed the titles of these posts to better reflect what’s in them (both readings and personal post requirements). 

Readings

No readings for next week because you’ll be focusing on Group Blog Planning Assignment #1. Make sure you hit all of its deadlines!

Personal Post

Personal Post

Write a blog post incorporating trend information from Google Trends (including a link to the trend search(es) you use). We’ll develop these in Wednesday’s class. The trend may be the focus of your post, or it may be integrated into a larger post, but it should meaningfully add to the post. As always, the overall post must be relevant to your personal blog concept and must include:
  • At least three links (more is better) to meaningful content. This means news stories, relevant posts, and substantive material, NOT to homepages (e.g., wvu.com) or general sites (e.g., facebook.com)
  • At least three content links: Images, video, social media posts, etc.

You will post it Thursday, October 3 any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.


Read & Respond week 6: Group Blogs Past

September 19, 2019

In preparation for your group blogs (into which you’ll be sorted this week), you’ll be taking a look into the past. There’s two sets of readings I’d like you to choose from:

First, read one of these:

Morgantown Problems (2013), Morgantown Nightlife (2017), or Transpo in the Mo (2018). These are three of the most engaged group blogs produced in this class, and I want everyone to have a look (especially Morgantown Problems’ Panera post and its resulting comment thread).

Then, skim at least TWO other previous group blogs from this list:

Move-in Morgantown (2010)

The Eclectic (2011)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Morgantown (2011)

A “J” in the Life (2012)

#gradschoolproblems (2012)

Morgantown Man Cave (2013)

Meet Me in the Mountain State (2015)

Wild But Not So Wonderful (2015)

Morgantown Matters (2016 spring)

The New Motown (2016 spring)

Morgantown Notes (2016 fall)

Mountaineer Munchies (2016 fall)

Conserve the Wild and Wonderful (2017)

Old & New in the Gold & Blue (2018)

Almost Heaven, Almost Green (2019 spring)

Arts in Appalachia (2019 spring)

Your response will focus on the blogs (one from the first group and two others) and what they did. What are they about? Is there a clear focus? What are some of their strongest posts? Weakest? (yes, you have to pick one – be constructive) Finally, and most importantly, what would you have done differently, and how does that influence your own group blog plans? Your response is due as a comment to this post by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22.


Personal Post

Write a blog post incorporating at least four tweets. They may be drawn from your listed influencers or just people discussing the subject you’re writing about, but they must be clearly relevant and must be addressed in your writing (don’t just drop them in without comment). As always, the overall post must be relevant to your personal blog concept and must include:
  • At least three links (more is better) to meaningful content. This means news stories, relevant posts, and substantive material, NOT to homepages (e.g., wvu.com) or general sites (e.g., facebook.com)
  • At least three content links: Images, video, social media posts, etc.

You will post it between Monday and Thursday any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.


Read & Respond week 5: Twitter

September 12, 2019

This week is about all things Twitter, the platform where your thoughts are limited to 280 characters but the outrage is limitless. We’ve got some neophytes in our class, so first, have a poke around in some of these how-to links:

Getting more into the realm of journalism and mass communication, skim through these suggestions and warnings:

And now for the important part. There’s a current debate over whether Twitter does more harm than good. Read (don’t skim these ones) these next two and see what you think:

In your response, I’d like you to respond specifically to these two viewpoints. Never tweet? ALWAYS tweet? Something in between? Give us some examples that illustrate your stance and why it’ll make the world (or at least journalism) better!

As always, post your response as a comment to this post (and finish your Twitter duties) by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15.


Personal Blog for Week 5

For week 5, you will publish your explainer post. Remember that a minimum of 10 meaningful links is required, and don’t forget to bring your annotated list of links to Monday’s class! (full details with the assignment)


But Before You Go…

Finally (if you haven’t already) you need to get ON Twitter. You’ve got four things to do:

  • Create an account if you don’t have one (or want to use a different one for class), and make sure it is public (not hidden).
  • Follow at least 20 people – if you’re new to Twitter, try tweeting with some hashtags (#) and tag (@) some people (start with your classmates and me if you’re anxious).
  • Follow me (@thebobthe) so I can follow you back.
  • Post two tweets promoting one of your personal blog stories on two separate days, one on Thursday and one on Friday (include our course hashtag #WVUblogJ in each). We’ll compare their performance in class.

Read & Respond week 4: Links and Crowds

September 5, 2019

This week, we’ll be talking about connections, both the in-person links that create crowds and the digital ones that create, well, the Internet.

Readings

The term “the wisdom of crowds” was popularized by James Surowiecki, but it’s been around for a while. Some take issue with the idea that crowds actually have any particular wisdom; a crowd, after all is just a thrown rock away from a mob. Here’s a little tune on the subject from Nova:

Moving on to links and linking, consider some ideas from these posts:

  • Start with the mechanics of links. Where do they come from? Why are they blue and underlined?
  • Bill Thompson talks about links as the key component of “the semantic Web.” This one’s a little wonky, but at its heart is the idea that the meaning of a link comes from how it’s used rather than just where it goes.
  • Did you know that the way you use links affects how your posts show up in Google search? It’s true! You probably realize that using bland link text like “click here” is an amateur move, but the quantity AND quality of your links affects your PageRank, which determines where you show up in search.

So how do you write good link text? Start with this rule of thumb: “link text should always describe what the user will see when they click on it.” Avoid “click here“or actually posting the full URL. Try some of these strategies for writing quality links (from Harvard – fancy!) and drawing search engine hits (scroll down – the first part is more about not using “click here,” and I think you know that by this point).

You will need to post your response as a comment to this post no later than 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8. Keep it concise and relevant, and provide some useful examples!


Personal Post

Write a blog post synthesizing (and linking) ideas from several members of your blogroll. As always, it must be relevant to your personal blog concept and must include:

  • At least three links (more is better) to meaningful content. This means news stories, relevant posts, and substantive material, NOT to homepages (e.g., wvu.com) or general sites (e.g., facebook.com)
  • At least three content links: Images, video, social media posts, etc.

You will post it on Thursday some time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.