Read & Respond week 10 – Comment Culture

March 16, 2017

This week we’ll be talking about talking: How to get people talking about your work (promotion) and how to deal with those who are talking about it (commenters). The links you’ll be looking through touch on each of these areas. Lots of material here, so skim to the stuff that serves you.

Promotion

  • How do you promote your blog? Start with this list – we’ve already discussed several (commenting elsewhere; building long-term content). Pay particular attention to the Rule of 100.
  • Learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Jeff Goins offers some tactics for writing SEO heds and posts, but beware – there can be a fine line between SEO and Clickbait.
  • (Then again, maybe it’s all Clickbait…)
  • Are you using Twitter as a tool or still just tweeting about mozzarella sticks with your buddies? If you just can’t adulterate your personal account, consider making a separate one to get your professional name out there.

Comments

Remember to respond to these readings in a comment to this post by  11:59 p.m. on Sunday, March 19. More importantly, come prepared to discuss these examples and, ideally, some of your own.


The Group Blog Project (spring 2017)

March 15, 2017

Beginning in two weeks (Sunday, March 26) and continuing through the end of the term, you’ll create, maintain, and promote a group blog that tackles a local and contemporary trend, topic, or theme in a journalistic way. You’ve already been assigned a team and started brainstorming, but now it’s time for greater specifics. You will:

  1. Identify, connect with and engage a community of interest in Morgantown
  2. Provide original content for that community through your own reporting and analysis

This is a team project requiring everyone’s strengths. The result should be a robust and engaging addition to your portfolio that will set you apart in the job market. If everyone does their own thing and there is no cohesive focus to the blog, you will do poorly.

Don’t. Just don’t.

Read this carefully if you want to earn points for your work. There will be no restaurant, local entertainment, advice, or graduation-themed blogs unless specifically approved by Prof. Britten (they won’t be). Do not make your blog a list of community calendar events or recommendations for local places to check out. Blogs focused on personality profiles are not recommended. Unsourced lists are frowned upon. Do not use clichés such as “eclectic” or “something for everyone” – define a focus and an audience. Posting recipes will bring swift retribution.

Weekly requirements:

You will be judged on the frequency and quality of your posts, comments, and other demonstrable contributions to your online publication. In addition, if your teammates report you’ve become a significant asset (or weakness), that matters as well.

  • Individual posts: Every person is expected to post at least once per week, and each blog is expected to have a post every weekday.  Your groups must each arrange and follow a posting schedule to ensure regular updates throughout the week (Monday-Thursday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., or Monday-Friday if you have five members). If you miss your scheduled deadlines, you will get lowered (or no) credit for that post.
  • Weekly group budget: By 5 p.m. every Sunday (beginning March 26), each group will email me a single budget for the current week and following week. It must include the following:
    • Current week: Which stories are you going to run, when (day, date & time), who will write each, and a brief description of each story, the specific information sources it is using, and why it’s of interest to your community.
    • Following week: Same information as above, but likely with less detail.
    • Longer term: Identify which big or longer-term stories you are pursuing.
    • Promotion: What will your group do this week to publicize your blog and connect to a larger community? (This might involve posting to social media but should also involve HOW you post – experiment with time, wording, etc.)
  • Weekly personal memo: By 9 p.m. every Saturday (beginning April 1), each person will send me a weekly memo assessing your work so far and what’s to come. It must include the following:
    • Post: Provide details and links to your work.
    • Comments: You will make 5 meaningful comments per week (not all on the same day!), divided between your group blog, other class blogs, and some outside blogs of interest (which is good way of attracting like-minded bloggers to your site). Link to these in your weekly memo.
    • Added Value: A plain-text post adds only one level to the conversation. That’s not enough. I expect to see you using your skills with links, images, maps, audio, wikis, and more, as well as integrating the site and its promotion into other social media like Facebook and Twitter.
    • Your Grade: Provide an honest grade for your work in the preceding week as a percentage score (e.g., 82%). Base your grade only on that week, and include an explanation of why you have earned the grade you propose.
    • Group Grade: Provide an honest grade for your group as a percentage score, and explain where the group struggled or shined in the preceding week.

How You’re Evaluated:

As noted above, each Saturday (beginning April 1) every student will send me an e-mail memo assessing the previous week. You’ll also include short updates on your experience thus far and your blogging plans for the week ahead. I use this to grade your quality of work, so if you’ve done more than just post, tell me about it!

You’ll get a grade for each week’s worth of work, which includes your weekly post, contribution to the group memo, and any extra work you do (note this in your memo). If you like to think in terms of points, imagine that I score in roughly the following way:

  • 40%: Content — Is it interesting? Relevant to your blog’s focus? Fresh?
  • 30%: Connection — Quality and relevance of the link(s) you included in the post
  • 30%: Mechanics — Grammar, spelling, punctuation and appropriate style
  • Bonus points! … for HTML, outside comments, etc.—beyond-the-call stuff. If you’re the editor-in-chief or have other special duties, let me know!

Because you’re each only expected to post once a week (more is allowed), I’ll expect the writing and ideas to be especially sharp – we’re not looking for long reviews. What matters more than the number of posts is the overall quality of the body of work.

First due dates:

  • Initial blog concept proposal (one page of overview, one page of posts from each member, and a tentative schedule) due as a single six-page packet from the group in class Wednesday, March 15.
  • First post from each member (printed, with links and images/media indicated in brackets) due Monday, March 20.
  • A revised blog concept packet – based on the packet above and incorporating feedback from me and the group – due in class Wednesday, March 22.
  • Your group blog’s About page with a focused mission statement must be posted by Friday, March 24. (post the URL as a comment to this post)
  • First budget: Email me this list of topics and dates for your first two weeks of postings (see above for explanation). It’s your first week, so this may change, but it must be thorough and complete – due 5 p.m. Sunday, March 26.
  • Your group’s first post: Must be posted between 10a – 4p, Monday, March 27.

Group Assignments

Available here.

One more thing:

In addition to creating a blog, you’ll need to add all your group’s members as authors (you may all be administrators or just choose one member for this role). Follow these steps:

  • In Dashboard, select “Users” from the left bar
  • Under “Invite New,” enter the new user’s preferred email address
  • Choose the new user’s role (contributor, administrator, editor, or author)
  • Click “Add user”

Group Blog Teams (spring 2017) – UPDATED with full groups

February 27, 2017

UPDATE (3/1/17): Full groups have been finalized and are listed below. Blogvengers Assemble!

Sorting for your spring 2017 group blog teams is now in progress! 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.

Below are the seeds for our four teams. Each team currently has TWO assigned editors and up to three open spots. If you were in class, you conducted interviews with these assigned editors; if not, you need to get in touch with THREE of them by noon on Tuesday, Feb. 28, with a proposal for a post at their blog (the concepts are pretty broad right now, so you can find something you think might fit). The two assigned editors (make sure you’ve gotten in touch in advance if one of you missed class) must then submit to me a ranked list of their top five choices by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Group 1: Morgantown of Color / Diverse lifestyle and experiences

  • Laura
  • Mateo
  • Denali
  • Jackie

Group 2: Nightlife and Business Issues

  • Zaakira
  • Rebecca
  • Carly
  • Haley

Group 3: WV Health

  • Madalyn
  • Aishina
  • Rachel
  • Cara
  • Mia

Group 4: Adventure and Entertainment

  • Cayla
  • Ashley
  • Lindsey
  • Steven
  • Shannon

 

Group Blog Planning Assignment #2

In Wednesday’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. On Wednesday, March 15 (the Wednesday following Spring Break), your group will present its concept to the class along with several specific story pitches. As a group, you will print and submit the following as a (stapled) six-page packet:

  • Page 1: The title of your blog and a detailed description
  • Pages 2-5: One page from each member with ten one-sentence story pitches. These must be complete sentences that underline why we should care and suggest potential sources.
  • Page 6: A tentative posting schedule (Monday-Thursday) for the final five weeks of the semester.

All this material can be changed, but you must have it in hand at the START of Wednesday’s class (or the group will receive a deduction). I recommend collaborating together in Google Docs so you don’t all have to be together at the same time. NOTE: Don’t create an actual blog on WordPress yet – that comes later.


Read & Respond week 8: Group blogs past

February 23, 2017

In preparation for your group blogs (to be announced 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 this:

1. Morgantown Problems (2013): This is one of the most engaged group blogs produced in this class, and I want everyone to have a look (especially the 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)

West Virginia Sports (2016 fall)

Your response will focus on the blogs (Morgantown Problems 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, February 26.


Pitching Your Group Blog Ideas

February 20, 2017

For the final third of the semester (weeks 11-15), you will be creating, promoting and maintaining focused group blogs. In preparation, and to identify similar interests, each of you will propose a group blog concept and a list of potential stories. I’ll use these to determine group assignments, which we’ll go over next week. You’ll be reading through some group blogs on the sidebar for next week’s read and respond, so you might want to get a head start on those now.

Post a comment (to this post) with a pitch for a group blog concept by 10 a.m. Wednesday, February 22. This must contain the following:

  • A one-paragraph description of a group blog concept focused on some aspect of Morgantown life (no activities calendar blogs!). Other regions (e.g., West Virginia; other cities) can also be your focus as long as you’re able to cover them.
  • At least FIVE story ideas. Use complete sentences and address why this story matters. For example: “A few years back, downtown Morgantown saw an explosion of eCigarette shops, but today many of these have closed. Is vaping on its way out?”

In addition, read through the comments by 11:59 p.m. Friday, February 24. Post comments to TWO concepts that you’d be interested in contributing to (more than two is fine), and let the creator know what you’d bring to the table.


Assignment #7: Blog-a-Day Week!

February 17, 2017

After blogging for several weeks, you 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 on Monday, Feb. 20, you will post something EVERY day to your personal blog for a week (yes, this includes Saturday & Sunday) between regular blogging hours of 10-4. 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 and tips:

  • 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): Your Monday (Feb. 20) and Thursday (Feb. 23) posts count for your required weekly posts (5 pts each) and are NOT part of the assignment. The remaining five posts are worth 2 pts each. Same-day posts receive NO credit, so make sure they’re up on time!

DUE: Every day from Monday, February 20 – Sunday, February 26 (seven 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.


Read & Respond week 7: Data

February 16, 2017

This week we delve into data. You’re surrounded by it, but do you know how to use it as a blogger? As a journalist? As we discussed in our Mobility week, we’re increasingly devoted to technologies that track our movements, habits, and preferences, and these trackers produce a wealth of data.

Consider Wikileaks, arguably the game-changer in data journalism. Approached with a massive wealth of data, The Guardian compiled phenomenally complex accounts of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and a collection of cables (communication dispatches) from the U.S. Embassy. Not only this, they made the data itself available to readers to make their own stories out of it. Most recently, they’ve leaked data about the Democratic National Committee and its candidate, Hillary Clinton. Some have described this as a test of transparency; others have accused them of pursuing vendettas. Outside the realm of partisan politics, they’ve been criticized for their unwillingness to obscure private information such as email addresses and credit card numbers. Even fellow leaker Edward Snowden took some issue with this:

What can you do with data in your own writing? What, if anything, have you done already? Here are a few more supplements to give you some ideas:

Be sure to post your response to Briggs and the readings as a comment to this post by 1159p Sunday, February 19.