Category Archives: Blogs
Since I worked on the Final Paper Proposal and Annotated Bibliographies early on with the guidance of Dr. Daisy, it became so much easier to write my final paper. I knew what I wanted to write about related to our course objectives, and I already got literature pieces that I wanted to draw upon for my paper. It was very helpful to have a video conference with Dr. Daisy where she provided insightful advice unsparingly and guided me to see the overall blueprint of my final paper from a wider perspective. At the same time, it was a good chance to write my Final Paper in that I can ponder over the current condition of our online education where I am also taking courses for MSTPC and where I am teaching my ESL/EFL students during the era of the pandemic instead of our usual face-to-face classes.
Here’s the abstract of my Final Paper.
Learning beyond the Borders: Especially in the Era of Covid-19
As an instructor in the ESL/EFL environment, I teach reading, writing, and discussing various types of text (literature, biography, articles about current issues, etc.) written in English. Before the pandemic, taking advantage of emerging media and digital technologies, I have already been using media sources as a subsidiary tool in my class such as Youtube and Google, which promptly provides a great amount of useful graphic data. However, since the pandemic, Covid-19, strongly stroke the whole world, my students and I have been fully depending on digital technologies in order to continue our classes online instead of taking a break from our usual face-to-face classes.
In the beginning of the pandemic period, I had to take a long break from most of my classes without getting paid for months. However, with the support of digital technology as well as S. Korea’s nationwide passion for education, it was decided to resume classes online at language institutes and schools. Since most of the online classes including the ones at our institute are synchronous, reliable internet access and laptop or tablet and the like became not an option but indispensable tools both for my work and the learning environment for my students. Through the phase affected by Covid-19, I realized how significantly digital literacy can evolve/keep evolving based on the benefits of emerging media and digital technologies. The video conferencing platforms, Zoom and Gooroomee (a Korean platform similar to Zoom) definitely provide a stable connection for the classes I teach. Youtube is still a great source of videos we need for online classes. It is also amazing that I can share my screen on Zoom and Gooroomee so that my students can read what shows up on the virtual board instead of a usual whiteboard in their offline classroom. Google Docs is another great tool that can replace an actual white board in the offline classroom, letting both instructor and students write on the virtual sheet synchronously, which we are joyfully using in many of our classes during this pandemic era.
Teaching online from home, my commuting time has decreased, and I can spend more time preparing materials for my students by making a deeper level of reading comprehension questions, vocabulary list with more ample examples, quizzes with various types of questions, etc. Beside these benefits of having online classes, I contend that there are several aspects that need improving in terms of more effective communication for better online teaching and learning based on my teaching experiences. Hurley and Hea note that it is important to prepare students for technical communication in the era of emerging media and that it is necessary to enable students to critically use social media in the aspect of technical communication skills. Also, beyond using social media platforms merely for research, the authors argue that students also need to learn how to share the content and distribute it through various social media platforms. In a similar vein, Stein demonstrates how to prepare students for a virtual class, focusing on how to prepare learners for online classrooms, considering students’ concerns about the contact with their instructor and peers, technological failure, and so on. In order for students to share their concerns with their instructor while having communication with their peers, it is necessary for students to build a relationship with their instructor and classmates. Regarding this, the author argues that based on the theory of “Community of Inquiry,” students need to develop “social presence.”
According to Knowlton’s theory, students better collaborate with each other in a reciprocal and dynamic atmosphere because “There is a social dimension to the teaching and learning process – students are not ‘alone’ in their efforts to learn” (Knowlton, 2000, p.9). As reciprocal collaboration helps students to actively participate in learning, it naturally forms student-centered classroom atmosphere. In “Online University Teaching during and after the Covid-19 Crisis: Refocusing Teacher Presence and Learning Activity” (2020), Rapanta et al. (2020) present practical methods for effective online classes from a variety of real-world cases based on the interviews with experts in the field of online education – to introduce a few: “Open up extra communication channels” for students. Allow “flexible time.” Make prompts to stimulate “probing, interrogating, critiquing and relating to content and other learners.”
In conclusion, I agree with Rapanta et al. (2020) that we can make the period of Covid-19 a chance to focus on the need for a change to the field of education. Due to emerging media and developing technologies, the world is changing rapidly, and so is the education field. By designing feasible and effective online learning environments based on digital technologies, both instructors and students will be able to adapt to the changing classroom environment and new patterns of communication. It is also essential for instructors and students to be ready for unpredictable forthcoming environments that could be caused by the pandemic. At the same time, the academia needs to be aware that it is necessary to invest in training instructors to develop their technical and professional communication skills using emerging media and to keep instructors updated on new, effective pedagogies (Rapanta et al., 2020, p.945).
I had a great semester with you all! Have a nice winter break!
I would describe myself as an avid consumer of information. Following the example of my parents who read the newspaper cover to cover every evening and then sat down to watch a solid hour of nightly news, I make it a point to stay abreast of what’s going on in the world. Of course, I don’t have to wait for the paper to be delivered each day; I am not limited to one editorial board’s perspective, and if I have far greater access to information, I have to work harder to make sure it’s credible.
My first conclusion regarding my own experience with blogs is that in spite of how much reading I do online, I only follow one blogger regularly. Hungryrunnergirl has defined my view of the evolution of blogging. The author blogs about her running, her love of food, and her life. In the early years of the blog, she posted several times a day in colorful fonts. Lately, she’s dropped to six posts a week. She blogged through a divorce, adventures as a single mother, remarriage, blending a family, and more pregnancies, as well as an ultramarathon, breaking 3 hours in the marathon. Robinson Meyer’s take on “What Blogging Has Become,” I see this blog has also limited my appreciation for what blogging can be, perhaps what it must be, today, not the least of which because that article is already five years out of date. Meaning, if my ideas on blogging were outmoded in 2015, they must be fossilized in 2020.
In “Why We Blog,” Julie Nardi, Diane Schiano, Michelle Gumbrecht, and Luke Swartz say that “bloggers are driven to document their lives, provide commentary and opinions, express deeply felt emotions, articular information through writing, and form and maintain community forums.” That was in 2004, but it captures where my current appreciation of blogging stands.
I mentioned my news consumption earlier. I don’t pay to have the local news delivered to my doorstep, but I do pay to have online access to it. I am also a paid subscriber to Talking Points Memo, which is apparently also a blog. I guess the President of the United States also blogs given his affinity for Twitter, which I also learned is a thing called microblogging. Who knew? Well, you knew. Now I do, too.
When Meyer asks, “Is there a place for blogging online in 2015?” I begin to think that there cannot be a simple answer for that in 2020. Blogging certainly has a place. As it was defined even five years or 15 years ago? Perhaps not really. Can one simply start a blog and drive readers to the site on the power of their topic and personality alone? Can they do it without leveraging the power of centralizing sites like Medium? Without microblogging on Twitter? Without Instagramming content, as well? Without vlogging or podcasting on top of it all? Kyle Beyers reports that as of 2019, “there are over 600 billion blogs in the world.” That’s a big crowd.
As my appreciation for what blogging has become grows, I’ll make better use of that content and the strategies that inform the content and the format. What actually concerns me, though, is that much of the current practices surrounding blogging seems to devalue the individual behind the content. Joshua Benton thinks Medium “degrades authorship, renders it secondary, knocks it off its pedestal.” This is seconded by Robinson Meyer, who writes about Medium that, “Medium doesn’t want you to read something because of who wrote it; Medium wants you to read something because of what it’s about.” The implications behind that move need more exploration and consideration on my part.
Benton, J. (2012, August 13). 13 ways of looking at medium, the new blogging/sharing/discovery platform from @ev and obvious. Nieman Lab. https://www.niemanlab.org/2012/08/13-ways-of-looking-at-medium-the-new-bloggingsharingdiscovery-platform-from-ev-and-obvious/
Byers, K. (2019, January 2). How many blogs are there? (And 141 other blogging stats). GrowthBadger. https://growthbadger.com/blog-stats/
Meyer, R. (2015, February 26). Why no one blogs anymore. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/02/what-blogging-has-become/386201/
Nardi, B., Schiano, D., Gumbrecht, M., & Swartz, L. (2004). Why we blog. Communications of the ACM, 47(12), 41-46.
Effectively addressing digital audiences is a critical function of being a technical writer. However, our authors this week demonstrate how difficult this task can be. Not only are audiences fragmented in a digital space (as Bernadette Longo points out in chapter 6), but there are many cultural practices and barriers that prevent us from communicating to everyone adequately (as Barry Thatcher shows in chapter 7).
Besides fragmentation and cultural barriers, I would argue that algorithms also create challenges for technical writers to adequately construct, address, and engage with digital audiences.
There are many algorithms that can make it challenging to form a digital audience. For example, Google’s algorithms can make it challenging for users to find your content. In order to rank on the first page, you have to follow rules and tackle specific key terms. I’ve learned that in order to get my articles to rank, they need to be over 1,000 words, mention the keyword more than once, link to multiple websites, have the article be linked on other websites, be published on a Google trusted site, be shared by others, have numerous pictures, and the list goes on.
If you follow these rules and algorithms, it can be quite easy to rank and gives users a means to find your content. However, these rules don’t make it easy to address audiences effectively. I have found myself spending so much time trying to meet the requirements (such as saying the keyword more than 50 times), that I wonder if I’m actually creating helpful content for users. The search results are also so competitive and manipulated that you have to write sensational headlines and more just to get noticed. I’m not saying it’s impossible to write SEO (search engine optimization) content and not have it be helpful, but it certainly presents a challenge to content writers to construct and address digital audiences effectively.
Tom Johnson, a well-known technical writer, states that writing good documentation can be challenging because it can feel like your writing to the “absent user”. That’s because documentation platforms provides little or no measurable means to track how users engage with your content. Of course, as Tom Johnson points out, there are numerous tools that can be used to gather knowledge and feedback of how users are engaging with your documentation — surveys, web analytics, plugins, etc.
Even though we have these tools, I believe Tom Johnson makes a good point that digital spaces (like documentation) don’t inherently give us many tools to understand how users engage with our content. I find this same challenge when writing a corporate blog. I know users are visiting my content due to web analytics and other marketing tools, but it can be difficult to know if the content is addressing their actual needs. In a digital space, the best means to get feedback from users is from surveys, but even this can be challenging because users are usually flooded with so many different forms of digital communication. And when users do take surveys, they can provide general, or extremely non-specific feedback.
No matter how you cut, the web (by design) does not give technical users many helpful ways to address their audiences. They must go out of their way to interact with end users and get feedback. I believe this is why technical writers have to train themselves to become more customer and UX-driven. Without these practices, technical communicators cannot be effective at their job.
Algorithms can also make it challenging for digital creators to create engaging content. For example, have you ever searched a simple question on YouTube and can only find 15 minute long videos that take forever to answer the question you searched? That’s because YouTube’s algorithm favors longer videos, which forces creators to prolong their videos to meet these arbitrary requirements. That means creators could be spending more time trying to extend their video length, rather than creating quality content that actually helps users with problems.
What to do?
While specific rules and algorithms can limit technical writers, they can be easily overcome. In the end, it’s the job of the technical writer to be aware of these rules and continue to find ways to communicate effectively despite them. It’s the reason why we are hired. We’re expected to not just know how to address audiences effectively, but know the algorithms that effect us from being able to communicate adequately.
This past year, I turned 42, and I’ve had to start admitting that I’m now “middle aged.” Gasp. Forty was harder than I thought it would be, and I’m trying to age gracefully, but I hear poet Dylan Thomas’s ghost whispering to me, “Do no go gentle into that good night!” I get the same feeling every time I read about the evolution of the technical communication field. Practitioners and textbook authors seem positively anxious about what’s happening in the field, and I would argue unnecessarily so. Each field goes through growing pains, and as a former technical writer and a teacher of writing, I’m less concerned about what we call it and more concerned about what we do and how we continue to evolve gracefully within the profession.
When entrenched in any field of study or interest, it’s important to understand its history. The historical timeline that R. Spilka (2010) chronicles in Digital Literacy for Technical Communication covers some obvious changes that have occurred in the last several decades. Changing social norms, technologies, and business practices have had the largest impacts: more women are writers, more work is online, all technical communication work is done using technology, and as a result the skill set that technical communicators need has expanded. This is true of most professions. My mom taught in a two-room schoolhouse. She didn’t use a learning management system (LMS) to display course content or let students and parents review grades online. As a twenty-first century instructor, I use an LMS daily, most of my classes have computers, and we’re offering many more online courses. The profession changes, and so do we as practitioners.
When I graduated in 1999 and shortly after was hired to be a technical writer for an internet-based start-up company, I wished that my undergraduate degree had prepared me more for the technical aspect of the field. I had used Word to write essays, but that was about it. I had to teach myself some HTML, graphics, and the new-at-the-time RoboHelp program. Spilka notes that when the internet bubble burst a few years later, more employers were looking for the technical communicators who had those technical skills (p. 37). Teaching myself those skills was good for me. It made me more motivated and confident, but it would’ve been easier to transition quickly into the field with more computer software and technical skills.
At my first writing job, I was a lone technical writer in a group of computer software engineers. As I moved on to my next writing job, I would start to mimic some of the changes that emerged from Phase 3 to Phase 4, according to Spilka. In the early ‘00s as the Internet became part of our workplaces and households, my work broadened to include website copy, marketing brochures, both print and online, and working within a team of writers for multiple clients. By this time, the Internet and the websites on it had a less rinky-dink and a more professional appearance. Internally, we developed standards guides that we distributed throughout the company and expected everyone to adhere to. Rather than just seen as “translators,” we were included in design and
marketing meetings. Quite honestly, I liked it better that way.
Spilka caps off the second chapter of Digital Literacy by writing, “technical communicators’ work is undergoing significant changes at a rapid pace” (p. 75). He later admits that all industries are.
No longer is it enough to just be a writer. Technical communicators (aka symbolic analysts) must be Jacks and Jills of all skills and must keep those skills up-to-date with the changing needs of the market–as must most employees in this information age. The largest take-away from these two first chapters is the need for technical communicators to keep demonstrating their value, and that means their dollar value. With the threat of downsizing and globalization, the author posits that technical communicators must muscle their way to mission alignment and administrative recognition. It seems like this shouldn’t be necessary, but I suppose it is.
Spilka ends Chapter 2 with “While the period ahead may be at times unsettling for practitioners and educators alike in the technical communication profession, it also promises the kinds of challenges and rewards as such periods always yield” (78). That’s right, Dylan Thomas! We won’t go gently, but go we must.
P.S. Googling images of middle-aged people is an exercise in humility itself. It results in a lot of Truman Show-esque couples in weirdly smiling embraces.
I produce a blog for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) called All Together. As the homepage states, it’s a blog about SWE members, engineering, technology, and other STEM-related topics. It’s up-to-date information and news about the Society and how its members are making a difference every day. You’ll find articles, videos, and podcasts under a variety of categories: Advocacy, Diversity & Inclusion, Member News, Outreach, Professional Development, SWE Magazine, and more.
Blogs vs. Websites
When I show people the blog or ask them to write an article for it, they often say it looks like a website. In fact, it is. As Robinson Meyer notes in the 2015 article “What Blogging Has Become” in The Atlantic, blogs in the past were a list of posts in reverse chronological order written by a single author. Today, blogs look like Medium, Tech Crunch, and Mashable. They have headlines, photos, and sections. They often appear the same as news sites, which many blogs have become. Huffington Post and BuzzFeed come to mind. Meyer also discusses how social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the online environment, driving traffic to today’s blogs.
Blogs and Social Media
Every post on All Together is shared on SWE’s social media channels which include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat. Each article page also has social media sharing buttons to make it easy for readers to share the content with their friends and colleagues. This strategy seems to be working. I just checked Google Analytics for the latest data on how All Together is performing. So far in 2018, it’s had more than 100,000 visitors. That’s a great statistic considering the total number of readers last year was about 65,000. The bar chart below shows how All Together’s readership has increased since it was launched in 2015.
When recruiting contributors to submit content for All Together, I send them a document describing the basics for writing a blog post. It calls for a blog to be at least 300 words for search engine optimization, and it should have subheadings and photos. Every blog should also have links to websites and embedded video or social media posts. This post follows all of those rules.
In Dylan Kissane’s 2016 DOZ article the 5 Most Important Trends in Blogging for 2016, number one is that bloggers are often now known as influencers. Number two is that size matters. The article cites a survey from Orbit Media Studios that found the average length of a blog post in 2015 was 900 words. Number three is the comments section is disappearing. Four is great graphics are needed. Visual rhetoric is just as important as text. Finally, number five is that engagement rates are more important than visitors and page views. It’s a measurement of how much readers engage with the content in the form of not only views but also shares, likes, and clicks. Fortunately for All Together, the average time readers spend on a page is almost two minutes.
Blog, blog, blog. . .
I have never blogged, nor found interest in blogs. Perhaps this was largely due to time constraints, but I am also sure it was due to my personal bias toward blogging, for it seemed to me that many used it to vent. I thought of blogs as more of an online personal journal.
The Writing Process
Many of my students blog, so I decided to use the following video about writing a blog as a way to connect with my audience, and show them that writers don’t just write– they follow a process.
Audience, Tone & Context
In addition, to sharing the above video about writing a blog, we also discuss audience, tone and context. Since the professor in the video is Canadian, that alone opens a discussion on audience, tone and context. So, we also evaluate the professors choices in devising this video.
After doing activities like this with my students, I realized I needed to change my attitude about blogging. My goal as a writing instructor is to get students to write– even if they are writing blogs. Most likely they will enjoy the process more since it isn’t a traditional “essay.”
I started blogging in 2008 before I started working for an online marketing business. I didn’t know really anything about writing online or blogging; however, I was interested to have my thoughts and ideas published online and to learn more about WordPress. I began with a site similar to this one and later moved on to the self-hosted WordPress.org where I selected a title and registered it with GoDaddy.com.
Part of my job with the online marketing company was to write, edit, and publish about 12 blog posts per week for business clients. I wrote about car parts, plastic surgery, divorce and dating, limousine and wine tours, travel within the United States, custom cabinets, pet memorials, pet sitting, shipping/packaging supplies, Ohio law (lawyers) and more. To improve a business’ visibility in the search engines, search engine optimization (SEO) was important, which included keywords. These keywords (1-2 blog post) are placed throughout the blog post, title, meta-title, meta-description and meta-keywords. Check out Hubspot’s “How to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog Content”.
Content was important since anything published online is permanent. Then you need to think about your blog’s “reach” according to Elise Hurley and Amy Hea (2014), “consider the ways which content is shared and distributed across social media and other media venues” (“The Rhetoric of Reach”, p. 62). Not only content, but also connecting with the audience. Be personable and imagine talking to one person about your topic. Whether a blog was one sentence or 750 words long, it was important to make a connection with the audience. This is true for business and personal blogs. How often have you read a recipe blog or a computer review that was dry and boring? Probably not too often.
With my personal blog (mostly how to be more eco-conscious), I didn’t think anyone would read it because there was already so much information online; what could I possibly add? There’s always something that you can offer – your opinion – on any topic and someone will read it. For example, Wikipedia, this is user-generated and user-edited. Anyone can start a topic on Wikipedia and others can add, clarify and provide sources of additional information to make it valid and credible. Hurley and Hea (2014) used Instructables.com as a student project to examine crowd-sourcing, the involvement of several people to do small pieces of a project. The result of crowd-sourcing is engagement though use of commenting, responding and sharing the content (p. 65).
Social media and blogging are important within the technical communication field because it provides another communication medium to connect with a larger audience and create a professional platform for future opportunities.
Hurley, E. V. and Hea, A. C. K. (2014). “The rhetoric of reach: Preparing students for technical communication in the age of social media.” Technical Communication Quarterly, 23:1, 55-68.
I came into this class reluctant about the whole idea of blogging. I didn’t think I would like it and thought I would have a hard time writing about topics that others would find interesting. When I first started, it was difficult for me to transition from writing in an academic tone to a more conversational tone. But over time, I became more comfortable with the medium, found my voice and actually found myself (gasp) enjoying it. Not only was it interesting to see what my classmates wrote, but the resulting comments and discussions were intriguing as well.
For the final paper I chose to explore the idea of “long tail love” online. The idea was spurred from a combination of Michael Anderson’s “Long Tail” reading, Turkle’s talk of Second Life/profiles, and Rhinegold’s “crap detection”. Additionally, hearing about the encounters of my friends in their pursuits of online dating made me curious about the subject. Deciding to give it a shot, I started doing some preliminary research and the rest is history. What I can say is that researching the subject has certainly has lead me down a rabbit hole. One lead uncovers the next as there are unlimited avenues this subject can take. Even though it won’t be for a while, the idea of “long tail love” online is even a topic I am considering for a thesis.
The pervasiveness of technology and the internet impacts almost every facet of our lives. It has made our lives easier, faster and better in countless ways as it affects how we work, learn, and communicate with each other. However, can these technologies help meditate the need and physical drive to find love and develop lasting relationships? And can the allure and convenience of the Internet really help us find “the one” and maintain these close ties? Or, does its ease provide protection, where in the digital realm where it is easy to present oneself in the light in which they want to be seen? To answer this question, this paper will explore online representations of the self, deception and misrepresentation, long tail love and the pros and cons of online dating and sustaining romance online. It was found that while the internet can certainly foster relationships, it can readily lead to misunderstandings as differences between face to face communication and computer-mediated communication occur. Thus, for better or worse, technology is redefining romance in our ever-connected world.
A big thank you to everyone for your intriguing posts and thought provoking comments during this semester! Have a wonderfully relaxing break and good luck with your future endeavors!