Social Media Challenge #6 – Best of the Blogosphere

October 2, 2013

As a final stage of your preparation for blogging excellence, you’ll be taking a look at blogs that ARE excellent. That’s not the same thing as the most popular blogs. You’ve been teamed up (see below) and assigned a blog that is judged one of the best of 2013. I’ve paired you up for as close a fit as possible and tried to match interests with blogs, but some fits are closer than others. And that’s just fine – your goal is to identify WHAT makes this blog good, whether it’s about U.S. Politics or Funny Cat Pictures. Tell us how it does what it does, and what we can steal learn from that.

Here are the teams:

In next week’s classes, each pair will do a 5-10 minute presentation on your blog. You’ll need to address the following (providing on-screen examples):

  • Basics: Explain the blog, its content, its design and its voice. What does the About page tell you? Is it a stand-alone blog, or affiliated with a larger publication?
  • Audience: Who is this blog for? How do you know? How does it connect to that community?
  • Metadetails: What posts get the most hits? Has it been in the news? Does it advertise?
  • Overall: How well does the blog do what it sets out to do? Show some of its strongest posts (and its weakest)
  • Takeaway: What ideas from this blog can you incorporate in your own?

This should not be stressful (no, really). Approach the blog as a reader first and a student second. Think about what we’ve read thus far in providing your critique. What are your blog’s strengths and weaknesses? What can you and your classmates learn from it for your own projects?

NOTE: There will be no Read & Respond for this week. Instead, read your chosen blog!

Due: Presentations will be in class on Tuesday, October 10, and Thursday, October 12 (we’ll sign up in class this week). Extras such as handouts, audio/video, or lasers are not required, but are certainly welcome.

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Social Media Challenge #5: Twitter Scavenger Hunt

September 24, 2013

The best way to learn about Twitter is to use it. For the remainder of class today (Tuesday, September 24), you’re heading out into the world in teams of two (at least one of you needs a phone with the Twitter app) to find 10 things. You’ll need to complete the bulk of this assignment by the end of class.

IMPORTANT: To count, each tweet MUST include:

  • The number you are doing (e.g., 1) Joe Smith: “I love WVU”)
  • The hashtags #WVUblogJ and #JRLWeb

And now … the list!

  1. School spirit. Photo and quote from someone (not you or your partner) revealing school spirit (what exactly that means is up to you.)
  2. Eating up. Photo and quote of/from somebody (not you or your partner) at your favorite eating spot on campus.
  3. Professor on the street. Photo and quote from a professor on campus. Ask them what they think the role social media plays in social change, such as in the Middle East. Be sure you include the professor’s title and department.
  4. Student on the street. Photo and quote from a student. Ask them where they get their news and if they use social media to keep up on the news. Be sure you include their year in school and major.
  5. Academic excellence. Photo and quote that reveals (you are going to have to be creative) how WVU contributes to cutting edge research and/or learning.
  6. Scenic spot. Photo of your favorite scenic spot on campus.
  7. Little-known fact. Photo and quote of something you think many people might not know about West Virginia University, even some of those of us that go to school here.
  8. Fanatic fans. Photo/quote from somebody asking for their thoughts on the general awesomeness of the rifle team, WVU’s move to the Big 12, prognosis on the remainder of the football season, or other sport of your choice.
  9. Personal favorites. Photo of you and a photo of your partner in your favorite spot on campus.
  10. Extracurricular extravaganza. Photo and quote that exemplifies some of the huge variety of clubs, organizations, etc. available to students at our university.

A Few Tips:

  • Think like a reporter. Have an eagle eye for the interesting, the important, the relevant, the unique, and the immediate. Double check your facts.
  • Think like a public relations professional. Show other people what’s cool about WVU.
  • Think like a storyteller. You may only have 140 characters in each tweet (actually 120, minus the 20 for your hashtags), but you can say a lot in a few words or using an image.
  • You may use more than one Tweet for each of the items below. Don’t overdo it, though, and don’t forget the #WVUblogJ and #JRLWEB hashtags!
  • You will want to offer an introductory Tweet or two explaining what you are doing and introducing your partner. You may use either of your accounts or both. Doesn’t matter as we are using the hashtag to organize the Tweets.

This is going to seem a little strange to some of you, but the goal is to reveal to you the journalistic applications of Twitter. You need to be an observer, a reporter, and you can’t be afraid to accost people on the street for their opinions. You’ll provide perspective and voice, and you’ll tell a larger audience something about your subject (WVU, in this case) – make sure you’re thinking of them!


Social Media Challenge #4: Blog-a-Day Week

September 16, 2013

After blogging for several weeks, you should be developing a feel for what should have a feel for what works, what doesn’t, and how to plan your attack. So far you’ve been doing sprints, but this week will be a 5K. Beginning Monday, Sept. 16, you will post something EVERY day to your personal blog for a week (yes, this includes Saturday & Sunday). This will not be easy, but you can do it, and at the end you’ll have a newfound respect for those who do this every week.

Some rules:

  • The first rule of Blog-a-Day Week is:  We do NOT talk about Blog-a-Day Week! This means no posting about how hard it is to post every day, or other such metacommentary.
  • Likewise, no posting about how you don’t know what to post. Use the skills from previous challenges, ideas from your blogroll, synthesis posts, comments from other students … ANYTHING that leads to a substantive post!
  • As always, good posts will have rich content (links, videos, images, maps, etc.) and be connective. Now might be the time to check out that “Add Poll” button up at the top of your New Post window.
  • Scoring (10 pts total): Two of these posts obviously count for your required weekly posts (2 pts each; not part of the SMC). The remaining five are worth 1 pt each, and the overview post (see below) is worth 5 pts (so it should be a little more in-depth).

After these seven posts, you will then post an eighth: an overview of the blog-a-day week experience. What did you learn? What was difficult? What got easier over time? Post this by 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, and also post a link to it in the comments section of this assignment (this is the only link you need to worry about posting to the course blog).

DUE: Every day from Monday, Sept. 16 – Monday, Sept. 23 (eight posts in all)

So that’s it. Daunting, but I promise you’ll survive and learn some new skills. THIS is what a full-time blogger does. I strongly recommend writing a few posts in advance to keep from going insane. You might also want to check out the National Blog Posting Month website for advice and support – you can even sign up to win prizes.


Social Media Challenge #3 – Talking Back

September 5, 2013

This week you built and annotated a blogroll to follow in your own blogging pursuits. The Read-Write Web isn’t simply about taking what you need, however – you also have to become part of the conversation. This week you’re going to make your voice heard.

Part 1: Start talking! – DUE: All comments made by 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11

You must post at least 10 substantive comments to the blogs you read (I will only count one comment to an individual blog). The majority of these should be to blogs in your blogroll, but some outsiders are acceptable. Be sure to include your email and blog address when you post, or it won’t count!

To verify your work, you will provide a printout of each comment (one page each, so 10 pages total) and turn it in at next Thursday’s class (Sept. 12).

Note: A substantive comment goes beyond saying “Great ideas” or other spammer-speak to build on and extend the conversation. Run with their ideas! This brings us to part 2 …

Part 2: Synthesis post – POST BY: 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 12

Since the blogs in your blogroll are all aimed at your focus, you should be able to synthesize several of the ideas they present into something new that takes their ideas further. For this assignment, you need to identify an ISSUE that’s currently being discussed in your chosen blog community. You will construct a blog post that brings together posts on the subject from at least three members of your blogroll AND adds your own voice to that discussion.

Post a link to your post (not your main blog page) with a one-sentence description to the comment section of this assignment by the due date.

Wondering how to get started? Here are some ideas:

  • How is the issue being covered in the news? What are other bloggers saying?
  • Do you agree with these other perspectives? Disagree?
  • How can you fit the different voices you’re hearing (news, supporters, opponents) together to say something NEW about the issue?

Note: Although some summarization will be necessary, that’s NOT the point of this assignment. Instead, you must build an original discussion or argument upon these others’ ideas. Be sure to link as needed in order to give credit where it is due.


Social Media Challenge #2: Start Following

September 2, 2013

In your first post, you introduced yourself and suggested a focus for your blog. This week you’ll solidify that focus and identify sources of information that will contribute to your writings. Note: These posts must ALL be made during week 3!

Part 1: Refine your focus

Last week, you created an “About” page with your blog’s mission statement. In class today, we assessed these focuses. Based on my and your classmates’ feedback, refine your “About” page and add some depth. Remember these points:

  • It’s not about you. Make sure your focus is a larger conversation, not a diary or “expert advice” (you’re not one) or “my crazy life” blog. How can you connect with a larger community?
  • It’s not about everything. Avoid being too broad (e.g., “pop culture”) – if you say you will write about something general like “sports,” you’ll need to spell out what a reader might get out of reading your site compared to the countless other sports sites out there.
  • It’s not just links. Links are necessary, but a successful blog needs to add something to the information it synthesizes from elsewhere. Linking to a bunch of stories about the Pittsburgh Penguins is not blogging.

Part 2: Identify sources to help you

Blogging isn’t something you have to do on your own. With your focused topic in mind, it’s time to identify some sources to help you on that path. You will identify 10 blogs to follow. Each of these blogs should inform your topic in some way – for example, a social media blog might draw on http://www.readwrite.com. You’ll need to complete the following steps:

  1. Add a blogroll (Links > Add New > Create a “Blogroll” category) and add your 10 blogs to it
  2. Write a blog post explaining (in 1-2 sentences each) how each of these blogs will inform your own blog – don’t forget to include links to each blog in your post!
  3. ALSO add mashable.com, readwrite.com, and the course blog to your blogroll (these don’t count toward your 10)
  4. Yes, this counts as one of your two weekly posts.

Part 3: Add the Calendar widget to your blog

This is an easy one (you’ve probably already done it in class). In your Dashboard, go to Appearance > Widgets and drag “Calendar” to your sidebar. If your template doesn’t support calendar, you need to change your template. Sorry.

 Due: 4p, Tuesday, Sept. 3 (all three parts)

  • Don’t publish your post before Monday!
  • Post both links (with descriptions) in a single comment to the SMC#2 assignment

Social Media Challenge #1: First posts

August 22, 2013

We created our blog and started the “About” page in class today, so what’s next? Two of the key points of blogging (after starting the blog) are developing a voice and maintaining a flow of content. Your first two posts will be easy because I’m assigning them, so here we go:

Post #1 – “HELLO WORLD” (due by 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26)

Your first post is an easy one – give us a “hello world” post that explains a bit about your interests, what you hope to blog about, and how that fits with your post-graduation goals. You do NOT have to divulge any personal information you aren’t comfortable with, but you should help us understand something about your voice. Some guidelines:

  • Break up your post into short chunks, not one long paragraph. Put yourself in the reader’s position – would you want to read one big piece?
  • Even if you’re not certain, choose a focus. It’s OK if it changes later.
  • Links are not required for this post, but (as always) they are strongly recommended – ditto for pictures (no hotlinking!)
  • Once you’ve posted, SEND ME THE LINK and a short (one-sentence) overview – this will go on the course blog.

Post #2 – First topic post (due by 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28)

You already wrote up a draft of this post in week one, and this will be your second blog post. Take the feedback from class and integrate it into your work to create a well-developed posting that fits the focus of your blog. You must include 2-3 links to relevant sources and material that your post builds upon (one will be the original story related to your topic; others might be other news or blog posts discussing the topic). This is your first shot at balancing facts, discussion, and your own (developing) voice – make sure you’ve got appropriate amounts of each!

Rules to abide by:

  • Posts must be made between Monday and Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to receive credit (we want people to actually read these)
  • Keep it in short chunks (but longer than a sentence) – think 3-5 paragraphs as a rule of thumb
  • Integrate links in-text (e.g., “The Drudge Report shows how …”) – don’t use straight URLs (e.g., “I read this at http://www.blahblah…). Links should provide examples, explain terms, and ALWAYS show where your information comes from.
  • SPELLCHECK. Don’t give the trolls a reason to attack you, people.
  • Post your two links (with a sentence explaining each) as a comment to this post (on our course blog) by 11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 29.

Note: That’s THREE deadlines! Be sure not to miss any.


Social Media Challenge #5: Best of the Blogosphere

February 28, 2012

As a final stage of your preparation for blogging excellence, you’ll be taking a look at blogs that ARE excellent. Your assignments are drawn from a variety of rankings of the best, most interesting, and most influential blogs out there (and I’ve tried to align these with your stated interests to the degree that that’s possible). The result is not exactly scientific, but it gives us a list with some variety.

You have all been assigned, in pairs, to a blog. These blogs were allegedly some of the best of the best in 2011, so go to it, read it, and get to know all about it:

In next week’s class, each pair will do a 5-10 minute presentation on your blog. You’ll need to address the following (providing on-screen examples):

  • Basics: Explain the blog, its content, its design and its voice. What does the About page tell you? Is it a stand-alone blog, or affiliated with a larger publication?
  • Audience: Who is this blog for? How do you know? Is information provided on traffic and business details?
  • Connection/Promotion: How does your blog connect to its community? Is conversation two-way? How is social media used? Is commenting allowed? How is it moderated?
  • Metadetails: What posts get the most hits? Has it been in the news? Does it advertise?
  • Overall: How well does the blog do what it sets out to do? Does it serve and engage with its community? What are some of its strongest posts? Its weakest?

This should not be stressful (no, really). Approach the blog as a reader first and a student second. Think about what we’ve read thus far in providing your critique. What are your blog’s strengths and weaknesses? What can you and your classmates learn from it for your own projects?

Due: In class on Tuesday, March 6. Extras such as handouts, audio/video, or lasers are not required, but are certainly welcome.