Read & Respond week 14 – Video

November 8, 2018

This week’s readings are mostly viewings. Once upon a time, this unit involved the late, lamented Vine (for those not in the know, Vine was an app that let you create and share six-second videos; Twitter bought them, and that was that). That time limit and focus on speed and sharing made it a tremendous place for creativity (and weirdness), and it might be why the app couldn’t last. Check out some of these applications:

(Why am I having you read examples from a dead app? Because I want you to see what journalists and mass communicators did with this weird little thing. Innovation is our focus, after all: When you see something new, your first thought could be “how could I do journalism with this?”)

Vine may be gone, but live video’s having a moment. My friend Mike is involved with the Purple Martin cam up at Presque Isle in Erie, Pa., which is a live camera pointed at a purple martin nest all day.

You may think a bird’s nest wouldn’t draw much interest, and you would be wrong – the cam was a surprise hit, with people logging on throughout the day to watch (and comment on) the activities of the birds (check the comments on that video if you don’t believe me). Elsewhere, scientists are livestreaming marshes, and entertainment like gaming has become big business largely thanks to streaming popularity on YouTube and apps like Twitch (as in this example for a mobile game).

Naturally, the big kids want to play. Facebook lets you livestream with Facebook Live, and Periscope, another app gobbled up by Twitter, now powers Twitter Live (not much for originality in naming over there). Facebook has even fiddled with letting viewers skip to the good part – think of it as semi-livestreaming. This is our current social media world: Ideas live, they die, they live again (but under new management).

Livestreaming is inarguably changing the media landscape. Do you livestream? Is it something you’d try? Consider these suggestions from Poynter on how to do it (have a plan, don’t waste my time, make sure you’re adding value…). How can we apply this to the practice of journalism, and what are its problems?

As part of your overall response, propose a livestreaming topic that would compliment your personal or group blog. When and how would you do it? What would you need to prepare in advance? We’ll discuss further in this week’s classes.

Post your responses in a comment to this post by 11:59 p.m., Sunday, November 11.


Read & Respond week 13 – Group Work So Far

November 4, 2018

For this week, we’re going to take a look at our own work. I’d like you to read through the first two weeks of posts by one of the other groups. Assignments are as follows:

ADDED: Take a moment and click through your classmates’ surveys to aid in their future work. They’re short!

For your responses, which you’ll post as a comment to this post as usual, I want you to identify the following:

  • Which posts were the strongest (and why they’re so good)
  • Which posts were the weakest (and how they might be improved)
  • Overall take on the blog and how it displays the group’s online journalism skills
  • What you’d suggest (general ideas; specific posts) for the rest of the semester

Post your responses by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4.

UPDATE: This post didn’t auto-post when it was scheduled to, so I’m extending this deadline until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6.


Read & Respond week 11 – Audio

October 19, 2018

When we think blogging, we think writing. Recent weeks have emphasized images and other tools, but things still seem to come back to the written word. Briggs, in this week’s chapter on audio, proposes some ways to emphasize sound over sight. We’ll focus on one: Podcasting. Over the next several classes, you’ll be hearing from podcasters and planning out a podcast with your group to record in our own studio here in the Media Innovation Center. Read on, and think about what you might have to say.

What’s a podcast?

You could think of a podcast as an audio blog post. Instead of reading, you can download and listen, which is helpful if you like to do your “reading” while exercising, cooking, or doing something else. The process can be simple or complex, but it boils down to four basic steps:

  1. Plan
  2. Record
  3. Convert/Upload
  4. Promote

This guide from DigitalTrends gets into more detail, but at minimum you need a theme (and usually some guests), a topic, a mic, and a (free) copy of Audacity; anything more can give a cleaner, more polished product but isn’t absolutely necessary.

With special guest, Trey Kay!

We’ll be joined this week by Trey Kay of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, host and producer of the “Us & Them” podcast. In preparation, I want you to check out some of his pods from Us & Them and Red State/Blue State.

The best part is, you don’t have to sit at your computer for this assignment. Cue them up on your phone and go for a jog (or brisk walk)!

Want more?

Audiences listen to podcasts via apps such as Stitcher (free), iTunes, or just listening to them streaming online. If you’d like some examples beyond the WVPB ones above, consider these examples of the form:

Your response this week should be enjoyable: Listen to some podcasts, especially if you never have. Pick some from the links above, or find some of your own. How do these (and Briggs’ other audio subject) inform your work? Have you now decided blogging is dead, and you’re going to become a podcaster instead?

In addition, what’s a subject (ideally one relevant to your group blog) you could see running an approximately 10-minute podcast on? Would you have guests, or would it just be you and your groupmates? What are some questions/topics you can set up in advance to avoid the dreaded Dead Air? Post your responses by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, October 21.


Read & Respond week 10: Chatbots

October 11, 2018

This week (or two), you’re going to build some bots! Chatbots – or “conversational agents” if you’re fancy – are a fairly new entry (with apologies to Eliza) into our mass communication world. Digital assistants like Siri and Alexa are chatbots: You speak to them, and they rely on rules or artificial intelligence (or both) to answer or perform a function.

Here’s a simple example: Cleverbot

A chatbot typically mimics human speech in a call-and-response way: If I say “Hello,” the bot might respond “Hi there!” That’s not too exciting, but bots are rarely so simple. More likely, the bot will ask what I’m looking for, shopping for, or otherwise would like to know. The Loebner Prize is a contest that seeks bots that can best approximate human interaction – as these transcripts show, they’ve still got a way to go.

Do people actually like chatbots? Yes, actually! They’ve certainly got their place, but the simulated human communication often goes over pretty well. The health care profession has even been exploring using bots for personal care and assisting those suffering from dementia. The language learning app Duolingo also includes chatbots (currently offline for a fix) that will converse with you in the language of your choice.

Chatbots are all around you, and they’re only going to get smarter. Although you’re most likely to see them in customer-service areas, journalists have been experimenting with them as well…

Bots are great for daily functions like answering common questions or automating data-oriented tasks or for larger projects like the one above. They’re not hard to make, either – free platforms like Dexter (which we’ll use in class) let you create simple ones on your own.

For this week’s response, reflect on what you’ve learned about chatbots and where you might apply them in journalism. I’d also like you to come up with a specific application for a bot: Answering questions or interacting with audience for a specific subject. What kinds of questions would you expect? What kinds of answers would it give? What kinds of questions might you NOT expect (people are weird, after all)?

Remember, your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, October 14, as a comment to this post. Don’t worry about Briggs this week – the syllabus had us reading the Mobility chapter, but it’s not particularly relevant – so just focus on the questions above.

 


Read & Respond week 8: More Images

September 27, 2018

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 data (we’ll focus on data more intently a few weeks from now), typically in terms of where, when and how much of something compares to something else. Graphics you’re likely familiar with include 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?

Lastly, as we segue into a focus on data, check out Google’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 this with your personal or group blog?

Remember, your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 30, as a comment to this post. There’s no Briggs this week, so just focus on your thoughts on these graphics readings.


Read & Respond week 7: Images

September 20, 2018

The next two weeks are all about visuals, and in this 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? In Briggs’ chapter on visual storytelling, think about his advice and note the example experts he gives. Yes, photos are ONE possibility – 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-read: How 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 that 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:

Remember, your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 23, as a comment to this post.


Read & Respond week 6: Group Blogs Past

September 13, 2018

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 no Briggs chapter for this week; instead, you’ll take a leisurely read through what has come before. Read the following:

First, read one of these:

Morgantown Problems (2013) or Morgantown Nightlife (2017). These are two 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)

MountainEats (2011)

The Eclectic (2011)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Morgantown (2011)

Graduation Preparation (2012)

A “J” in the Life (2012)

Mountaineers Connect (2012)

#gradschoolproblems (2012)

Morgantown Man Cave (2013)

Meet Me in the Mountain State (2015)

A Gentleman’s Guide to Morgantown (2015)

Wild But Not So Wonderful (2015)

Humans of Morgantown (2016 spring)

Morgantown Matters (2016 spring)

Morgantown Underground (2016 spring)

The New Motown (2016 spring)

Business of Morgantown (2016 fall)

Morgantown Notes (2016 fall)

Mountaineer Munchies (2016 fall)

Conserve the Wild and Wonderful (2017)

Morgantown Diversity (2017)

WVU Women’s Health (2017)

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, September 16.