Welcome to JRL 430 (now get to work)!

August 18, 2016

Hello, future bloggers, and welcome to the fall semester of JRL 430: Blogging and Interactive Journalism. This blog serves as the mothership for your work in this class: It will link to your personal and group blogs, detail your assignments, provide your online readings (you still need to buy the Briggs textbook though!), and promote your fine work. There’s even a syllabus and schedule in the links at the top.

To set the stage, here’s the promised link to that John Oliver piece on our current journalism situation, which we started watching in class. As up-and-coming mass communicators, what do you think of the media world you’re inheriting?

I’m also including here your first assignment, which we went over in class. It’s an easy one: I want you to come up with ideas for the personal, media-focused blog you’ll be maintaining for the duration of this class. Here’s the details:

Assignment #1: Getting Started

  • Come up with TEN blog concepts
    • Must have a mass media angle
    • Must be more specific than “sports” or “fashion”
    • NO reviews, advice, tips, or recipes
  • Choose your two best
  • Write FIVE one-sentence story pitches for each (that’s ten total)
  • PRINT and bring to Monday’s (Aug. 22) class
    • If it’s not printed at the start of class, it’s late!

So that’s it – well, that and the read & respond due by Sunday night. Get ready, come up with some good ideas, follow me at @thebobthe on Twitter so I can follow you (and get that account created, holdouts), start using our #WVUblogJ hashtag, and let’s get started.

Temperatures in workout rooms rise during the most rigorous group exercise

April 28, 2016

By Samantha Clarkson, Ashley Gonzalez, Kalea Gunderson and Madalyn LaMastro


Spinning class 5:30 p.m. featuring the Arduino

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With the increase in heart rate that comes with exercise, there is also an increase in temperature in many West Virginia University Student Recreation Center group exercise rooms.

During group exercise classes at the WVU Rec, temperatures during high-intensity workouts increased by at least 2 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas low-intensity classes seemed to remain consistent or even drop.

This data was collected with temperature sensing technology through the use of an Arduino microcontroller. An Arduino is an open-source platform used to prototype coded inputs. It can read data input from sensors, in this case the temperature in the room, and output that data to the user via a personal computer.  


The arduino and breadboard connected to temperature sensing code

The data showed that group exercise classes where temperature increased were the high-intensity classes Body Pump, Spinning and Zumba. Both Body Pump and Spinning increased by 2 degrees, but Zumba increased by 3 degrees from beginning to end making it the class with the greatest temperature increase.

Yoga had the highest recorded average temperature of all. The class, which began at 6:40 p.m., was 75.45 degrees, making it the hottest class recorded. However, that temperature dropped throughout the class to 73.7, possibly due to factors such as the outside temperature drop in the evening.

rec temps graph

Group exercise class instructors try to keep their classes at consistent temperatures to ensure a comfortable experience for students.

“I want to keep everyone as cool as possible during the workout,” said Body Pump instructor Jaclyn Stamile. “I keep the fans on blast and remind my class to take constant water breaks.”


Body Pump 5:30 p.m.

According to Spinning instructor Melissa Henry, her class also keeps the fans running, but turns the lights off to attempt to keep the workout room at a cool temperature.

Regardless of attempts to control the temperature, these high-intensity classes rise in degrees throughout the workout. However, low-intensity classes don’t typically feel a change.

“I’ve only taught January, February and March in that room so I don’t really notice too much of a difference, maybe a couple degrees at the most because of the windows,” Yoga instructor Jayne Harris explained.

Each of the three workout class rooms at the Rec Center have big windows, allowing for nice views during group exercise, but also for sunlight to heat up the space.


Yoga 6:40 p.m.

“It gets really hot in here when the sun is streaming in,” Stamile said. “I wish the Rec would install shades for the windows so my class could stay cooler while they’re working out.”


Yoga 6:40 p.m.

Zumba instructor, Leah Skrypek says the room where she teaches class might have something to do with the increase in temperature.

“It definitely gets hot, especially in the upstairs room. In the winter, the heat’s on overdrive,” Skrypek explains. “I don’t think we get the heart rate levels that body pump or spinning would, but I think it’s a good beginner’s class.”


Zumba 7:50 p.m.

In addition to room structure, the time of day and year also affects the temperature in the exercise rooms.

“It’s definitely hotter in this room in the summer and when there are more people in the class or back-to-back classes throughout the day,” Henry said.

Data was retrieved from the Spinning class when it was 61.84 degrees outside in the middle of March. It was 5:30 p.m. with little sunlight and only 3 people in class, likely due to the timing before spring break. It was also the only class in that room that day.

Body Pump was also recorded in the evening, which could have affected the data.

“Although we try to keep the temperature as cool as possible, people tend to feel their exercise is most successful the sweatier they get,” Stamile said. “So, maybe the temperature increase isn’t too bad – it all just depends on what people want from their workout.”


To learn how to use the Arduino to sense temperature, watch this video.

Group blog teams

February 29, 2016

Here they are, your group blog teams for 2016! I went through your existing blogs and the comments you left on last week’s assignment to sort you by complementary interests, styles, and so on. The more detail you provided, the better a fit I was likely to find. Regardless, you’re in this boat together now, so get to know each other!

Group 1

  • Ashley
  • Sierra
  • Angie
  • Kaitlin D.
  • Audrie

Group 2

  • John Mark
  • Craig
  • Emily E.
  • Kaitlyn P.
  • Patrick

Group 3

  • Jade
  • Preston
  • Corey
  • Caitlin W.
  • Molly

Group 4

  • David
  • Kristen
  • Sarah E.
  • Matt
  • Emily M.

In today’s class, you’ll be meeting to work out the initial details of whatever it is you’ll be doing for the final five weeks of the semester. Next Monday, March 7, your group will present its concept, along with a list of story pitches (at least two from each member) and a tentative schedule (don’t create an actual blog on WordPress yet – that comes later).

Welcome to Blogging and Social Media Journalism!

January 11, 2016

Here we are, ready to kick off another semester of Blogging and Social Media Journalism. This mostly placeholder post will serve to get things going (I’m going to upload it in class as an object lesson). This blog is where you’ll find weekly readings, post assignments, and interact with each other’s personal and group blogs. More to come!

Get familiar with our Twitter hashtag: #WVUblogJ

Welcome to JRL 430 (and Assignment #1)

January 12, 2015

Here we are: Another exciting semester of blogging and interactive journalism. In this class, you will learn to use social media (a term under which I include blogging for its often-interactive nature) as a tool rather than a toy. You will create and curate a personal, media-focused blog (this is the College of Media, after all), pursue and create stories using various social media, and design a focused group blog on a topic of significance.

Some things to know:

  • You’ll be creating your personal blog next week (Monday, Jan. 18) using WordPress. If you have an existing blog, you may use it as long as it meets the course requirements.
  • This blog is a kind of living syllabus. It’ll be the home for assignments, reading responses, student work, and more. If you have questions about what you’re working on, check here first.
  • You’ll need a Twitter account if you don’t already have one – sorry, holdouts. If you’d prefer to keep this separate from an existing personal account, feel free to create a new one for this this class. Our course hashtag is #WVUblogJ. I’ll use it to share course material, and you should be using it too.

Assignment #1: Getting started

Part 1: Pick a topic

Write up the focus of your blog (about a paragraph) and post it as a comment to this post by 10a Wednesday, Jan. 14. Your blog must have a clear MEDIA focus that goes beyond your own opinions – it can’t just be a diary or your movie reviews. To that end, some restrictions:

  • No diaries
  • No cat/dog/cute animal pictures
  • No recipes (yes, I’ve gotten this)
  • No sports, entertainment, fashion/health tips, and so on. You CAN use these subjects if your focus is clearly on their media angle – for example, if you covered issues in sports journalism – but your opinions on the Dallas Cowboys are not relevant here.
  • No pink dragons

Also: Don’t forget to give it a title!

Part 2: Write your first post

Write up a good first post for your first blog, print it out, and bring it to class on Wednesday. You might describe the different arguments being made about a subject relevant to your topic, linking to each. Don’t just list, though. Provide evidence and synthesize something new: What are the bigger themes going one in these posts?

Some more requirements:

  • At least one high-quality link is required in every post for full credit. This means links to CONTENT, not links to Wikipedia, Facebook, or the CNN homepage (yes, I’ve gotten all of these).
  • The key here is to report on the conversation. What’s being said? Can you get at the discussion and tell us something new about it? Use links and evidence strategically – it doesn’t need to be long.
  • Mark links with the URL in brackets, e.g., “Miranda July’s newest novel is getting some good reviews [http://www.avclub.com/review/miranda-julys-first-bad-man-first-great-novel-2015-213144].”
  • Don’t forget a headline – try to make it something that would catch YOUR interest.

BOTH are due by 10a Wednesday, Jan. 14.

After-ARG Breakdown

November 21, 2013

Now that you’ve completed your induction examination from the Wampeter Institute, I thought I’d show you just what goes into an Alternate Reality Game (in ARG parlance, this is known as “pulling back the curtain.”). As you might have guessed, today’s activity was the reason for your ARG-related readings. I was curious about the applications of this format to journalistic storytelling and wanted to give you a shot at solving an ARG in a hour.

The rare faculty senate meeting in which something gets done.

The rare faculty senate meeting in which something gets done.

So after quite a bit of planning, some themes started to shake out. In the search for a good fake name to get you all down the Rabbit Hole, I came up with Dr. Wampeter.

Wampeter – the central theme or purpose of a karass. A karass generally has one wampeter that it revolves around, but there can be two if one is shifting out of focus (waning) and a new one is coming in as the central theme (waxing).

Initially, I just liked the sound of it, but the word comes from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (thus Doc Wampeter’s first name of “Kurt”). Reviewing that book (it’s been a while), I realized there was a lot more than a single word to lift from it [note: this part gets a little hairy, so if you just want to read about the ARG, skip to the next graf]. This activity brought your group (karass) all together around a single purpose (wampeter) via a number of harmless untruths (foma) to give you a sudden shove (vin-dit) toward an idea by keeping you “busy, busy, busy.” The fact that your connection is possibly artificial, based merely on taking the same class rather than something more big and cosmic, means your karass might be a false one (a granfalloon), but more on that later.

The Puzzles

After coming up with the main idea, the next thing an ARG needs is an end. That’s right, you work backwards in designing something this complex (unless you’re the creators of LOST). Where should you, the Collective Detective, wind up? Briefly, I needed somewhere I could sit and monitor your online transmissions that was 1) out of the way, and 2) not my office. I settled on Eliza’s in the library because 1) I like a nice latte, and 2) I did not want to stand for an hour in the parking garage with my computer. From there, I had to reverse-engineer a set of possible locations that included Eliza’s, and I needed a means for you to eliminate those locations. Thus this map:

It has 18 markers for a reason. There are six colors (green, magenta, red, blue, yellow, purple) and three shapes (dotted, no dot, pushpin). Each correctly solved answer eliminates one color or shape until only a single pin is left: Blue & No Dot (Eliza’s). To eliminate five colors and two shapes, the qualifying exam needed seven puzzles. Here they are:

  1. PDEO EO W OEILHA AJYNULPEKJ YWHHAZ PDA YWAOWN YELDAN. EP EO W LKLQHWN YKZA BKN XACEJJANO. AHEIEJWPA WHH ZKPPAZ IWNGANO. {Translation: “This is a simple encryption called the Caesar Cipher. It is a popular code for beginners. Eliminate all dotted markers.” In this particular example, A=E. By the way, I didn’t encrypt this myself – there’s always an easier way.}
  2. File enclosed {In a provided Excel file, students must sum three columns, then sum the three sums in the indicated cells (we learned how to use =SUM this semester). If the total is correct, a hidden formula on the next line will return “Eliminate all pushpin markers.”}

    It's amazing what =SUM can do.

    It’s amazing what =SUM can do.

  3. #ff00ff {Hexadecimal for Magenta (we learned about hex in an HTML workshop)}
  4. Martin 106 {a QR code is taped inside the doorframe – it links to Pantone 13-0858 Vibrant Yellow}

    "Who, me? Just a QR code. Nothing to worry about."

    “Who, me? Just a QR code. Nothing to worry about.”

  5. File enclosed {Shows location with plaques off Woodburn Circle with the word “HERE.”. On ground at that location, in chalk, is “RED”}
    The text may have made it too easy?

    The text may have made it too easy?

    There was a lot of chalk writing on the ground that day, so I'm glad my students figured it out.

    There was a lot of chalk writing on the ground that day, so I’m glad my students figured it out.

  6.  –.  .  –  /  .-.  ..  -..  /  —  ..-.  /  –.  .-.  .  .  -. {This is Morse Code for “Get rid of Green” – think of it as a throwback to one of the earliest channels of mass communication, or to the fact that I was a Boy Scout.}
  7. BD418.3 .L48 2001  {The library number for PURPLE Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness, by Joseph Levin. Because I’m a firm believer that the digital still needs to be balanced by the analog.}

Getting In

Once the meat of the puzzles were done, the ARG needed triggers for initiation and conclusion. Our class meets at 1130a Thursday, so that was when the handoff would happen. I wrote up an “induction” letter from the Wampeter Institute, which our school’s administrative assistant was kind enough to hand off to the group at the start of class.

Greetings and Congratulations!

You have been selected as 2013 inductees to the Wampeter Institute. To gain admission, you need only complete the entrance examination. This consists of a short set of items designed to test your lateral thinking abilities. The items will require a combination of digital and analog solutions, for which your regular instructor assures me you are well prepared. Teamwork is both encouraged and necessary to surmount this examination. Upon completion, your karass (group) will be assigned a score based on the thoroughness of your work; this score may be redeemed for extra credit at your home institution. Instructions are appended below. Good luck!


Dr. Kurt Wampeter
Executive Director,
Wampeter Institute
Troy, NY

To begin: Contact the Institute with the phrase “busy, busy, busy” and follow the resulting instructions.

Note: Institute facilitators may be contacted via Twitter for assistance on any examination item, but each such contact will result in a deduction from your final score. Decide carefully!

I packed this up in an official-y looking manilla envelope. I also designed the Wampeter Institute’s logo for this and the Twitter account, and when I ran it off on some nice textured resume paper, I was pleasantly surprised by the lightly weathered look it gave.

It's the little touches that make a difference.

It’s the little touches that make a difference.

Once students contacted me (via the @WampeterInst handle), I directed them to the examination:

This, unfortunately, led to some confusion on both parties’ parts. I had taped it under a sink in the second floor men’s bathroom of our building. They missed it on their first pass, but when I was contacted, I mistakenly directed them to the FIRST floor bathroom.

Proof that it did exist!

Proof that it did exist!

After some frantic back-and-forth tweeting, I emailed them their documents, and they got off and running.

Getting Out

The endgame was the other necessary scenario. Short of just saying “You Won!” I wanted a solid closing event, ideally with a bit of spectacle. I was particularly inspired by a challenge from The Institute, in which solvers had to start dancing in public until joined by sasquatch (video regrettably unavailable); lacking access to sasquatch, once the class correctly identified my location, I tweeted them the endgame instructions in this Vine:

Once they’d sent me a picture …

… and held the pose for five minutes, they received a codeword (from my helpful graduate assistant):

After messaging me with the codeword, they were directed to the final location for the big finish, congratulations, and debriefing (which involved showing them the hidden pieces they didn’t find, involving white text and wingdings).


So why do an ARG? They’re make-believe, they require a lot of planning, they have a poor participation rate, all kinds of things can go wrong, and at best they’re glorified scavenger hunts. All true – this was a tiny ARG, and as I’ve shown, we STILL had things go wrong. But my class is about potential and play; we take what’s available, we play with it, and we break it. Here’s what I’d do differently the next time:

  • Incorporate more meaningful content. Today’s activity emphasized social media and mass communication tools but didn’t provide a lot of content. There’s a lot of potential to introduce an additional layer of learning there. For example, Eliza’s is named for WVU’s first professionally trained librarian, Eliza J. Skinner, a pretty remarkable woman. There’s potential for a pretty cool story with her and history at the center. Adding this level of complexity, though, means I’d need to…
  • Involve other puppetmasters. This was a lot to juggle on my own. In a way, that’s good because it forced me to keep it small (I have a tendency to overdo things like this), but I still had to enlist assistance from two people. Having another person or two manning the channels of communication opens up much greater potential, including the possibility to…
  • Introduce an antagonist. This was a goal I had that got away from me (probably for the better). I wanted to create a larger narrative in which an antagonist got in touch with the group and suggested Ol’ Doc Wampeter might be up to no good. This would create a possible branching-off, even dividing the group of solvers, with its own alternate ending. It was a cool idea, and I’d even created a Twitter account for this persona, but I realized it was just one too many plates to keep in the air. I’m keeping this one in my back pocket, though, for future iterations. Which brings us to…
  • Play it over a longer period. This was my attempt at an ARG-in-an-hour. That’s insanely short by any standard, and I’m proud of my students for getting through it. Realistically though, this limitation severely cuts the ability to incorporate more robust elements like story, antagonists, red herrings, and so on. Would the assignment work over a week? A month? The entire semester? That’s what I need to figure out next.

Was it worthwhile? I think so. I got several satisfied comments both in person and via social media after the fact. Maybe it’s just because we spent class playing a game, but there’s something to be said for that too. In addition, now that I’ve DONE it, I can do it BETTER. I’m pleased at how I was able to incorporate our tools from the semester in this, but the project could do more. There’s journalistic potential in everything, if we dig for it, and I’m keen to see if I can find some in this idea.

With love and apologies to Kurt Vonnegut.

Personal blogs for fall 2013

August 27, 2013

The links are in, so here are your personal blogs and the summaries you’ve provided. Take a look through and see what’s coming. I’ll be adding these to the blogroll (on the right) as well, under “1. Student blogs,” so you’ll have ready access to each other’s work. A few of you are straggling – get me those links and descriptions!

Maddi Blankenship: How public relations interacts with the mass media.

Eva Buchman: My blog focuses on the television industry and how they are evolving to include more user-generated content in their broadcasts.

Bryan BumgardnerThis blog is about magazines – specifically, what they look like. Layout, design and photography are all storytelling tools with just as much weight as words. I overthink magazines for you so hopefully you’ll see magazines in the same way I do: as powerful, artistic litmus tests of human cultures.

Abigail Campbell: An introduction to my blog focused around using social media and multimedia in the search for jobs and internships.

Samantha Cart: This blog will explore how religious organizations specifically are using social media to garner support, draw in new members, connect people with similar value networks, gain recognition and educate the world about what they believe.

Emily Cotter: My blog will be studying and analyzing nonprofits and how they are using social media to their advantage.


Kevin Duvall: In this introductory post, I tell a little about myself and give an overview of how brands use social media and new online business models.

Ryan Fadus: I will be blogging about how social media has changed and affected the sports world.

Ryan Glaspell: Covering the use of mass media communication in music promotion.

Whitney Godwin: This blog, written by a graduate student at the P.I. Reed School of journalism, is based on nonprofit organizations and their use of social media to further their mission and goals; this specific post is an introductory post explaining my background and future career hopes.

Daniel Krotz: I am going to focus on news stories and how the story can change based upon who is reporting the news. For example, the same news stories from FOX and MSNBC may basically have the same gist, but could be biased in their reporting. I am focusing on “news equality.”

Michael Martin: “Mass Media Meltdowns” is a blog dedicated to surfacing the Media Disasters in Sports.

Ilyssa Miroshnik: This page describes myself and my interest in not only entertainment news but current day social media usage for news.

Ian Moore: This blog is dedicated to covering the advancing technology and its effect on the television and film industries.

Karlea Pack: The focus for my blog will be on the ever-changing nightlife scene and how social media is helping to flourish this industry.

Charles Richardson: I wish to spotlight how social media has given more power to the people dealing with news events.

Timothy Saar: My blog will be a chronicle and discussion on video games shift into our modern, always-on culture.

Rachel Simpkins: I will be focusing on how social media boosts TV advertising.

Natalie Snyder: An aspiring writer and journalist researching the future of the diminishing print industry and the status of the flourishing world of internet reporting.

Zachary Voreh: This is a blog about the history of documentaries and the evolution of the field, as well as profiles on specific filmmakers and films.