Category Archives: Metablogging

Hey, Look. It’s A Technical Communicator! What! Where! Who! When!

TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND TRANSNATIONAL REALITIES

We have spent the past two months working to understand the breadth, depth, usage, analysis, audience, and users of social networking sites and emerging media in general. We have read articles, done our own research into companies and their social media presence, and experience a wide variety of opinions about the state of society in the Chrome Age we live in currently.

Thinking about the way we use social media in the different spheres of our lives is necessary if we are going to come to a consensus or even just a common denominator of standards and usage.

“Technical communicators are no longer able to control these new communication environments (perhaps they never really could), but technical communicators and teachers of technical communication are poised to understand content users now as producers and to work toward relationships between ICT and human interaction to design documents and content in this global context, allowing us to cross community boundaries (Longo p. 23).

I really appreciate what Longo had to say about the role of technical communications professionals and academics. If you’ve read my other posts, I do go back and forth about the role and mindset needed by academics and professors as we deal with a field that is constantly changing: partly because technical communication is still such an amorphous, inclusive field and also because we deal in technologies and platforms that are in a constant state of flux. It is definitely the definition of “blink and you’ll miss it.”

In my current role, I do see myself as straddling the world of information and communications technologies and the human experience. So much of what we do, as people, depends on the audience that exists almost constantly in our orbit. I work professionally to introduce people to different technologies through educational materials and technical manuals. I also manipulate content, create and Photoshop visuals (at a very basic level), and play around with layout design (bumbling around like an amateur) to make my content more streamlined and palatable to an audience that does not need or want to have the heavy technical knowledge required to fully understand the systems, softwares, apps, and other technologies they are using.

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying Glass

Source: (https://www.theadvocates.org/internet-privacy-conversation/)

I also really loved what the article has to say about a non-American perspective on social media and knowledge management/collection. One of the great things to say about social media is that it connects us as a transnational community. Having said that, dealing with each other has started to form a sort of transnational shorthand (like the way English is taught all over the world while languages here are encouraged, but not taught in the same way English is all over the world) that sacrifices cultural knowledge and particulars to avoid cross cultural communications confusion.

COLLECTIVE KNOWLEDGE AND TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION

Thinking about our work (or future work) in the technical communication field, we as working professionals and budding academics must always question what we are learning and what value we can offer current and future employers. But how do we know where to start? Of course, the Society for Technical Communication (STC) offers a great place for us to network, job search, gain skills, and belong to as we start, or continue, on our chosen career path. The definition of technical communication offered by the STC website is a bit of a webpage full.

“Technical communication is a broad field and includes any form of communication that exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
  • Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.
  • Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication.

What all technical communicators have in common is a user-centered approach to providing the right information, in the right way, at the right time to make someone’s life easier and more productive” (STC website).

stc

Source: (https://www.stc.org/about-stc/defining-technical-communication/)

Toni Ferro and Mark Zachary (2014) dive into the idea of technical communication, collective knowledge, and social media. What I focused on was what they had to report from others in the field about what the role of the technical communicator was and potentially could be again.

“Following this line of thinking, Johnson-Eilola (1996) suggested that framing technical communication simply as an activity that serves the real work of those engaged in symbolic-analytics disempowered both technical communication practitioners and those they supported. He posited that if technical communication was going to be valued in the new economy, it needed to be positioned as symbolic analytic work itself, rather than as support for that work (Fero and Zachary p. 8).”

This idea is not new but not one I had experienced as viscerally before. We are not meant to act as go betweens, connecting audiences to the work completed by engineers, mathematicians, scientists, and other insular, niche knowledge professions. We must work to cultivate our own audiences and we must find validation outside of the work we do after technologies and other fields have developed their plans.

What do you think about this idea? Was it very obvious to you? Am I just late to the party?

 

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What Do We Expect from the Internet and Why Do We Expect that?

Thinking about how information is aggregated and shared online is a must, both as digital consumers and as technical communicators. But how do we make sense of it all?

We start by listening to Zittrain’s presentation. As he spoke on the “Is The Internet Taking Us Where We Want to Go?” panel, there were definitely a lot of interesting ideas spoken. The one that I want to talk about at length is the idea of Google and other Search Engines as “information fiduciaries.”

By using the examples of searching for information about vaccines and Jew, he starts to develop ideas about how we use Google and how it should be formatted at the back end in order to act in a more responsible and sanitized way. Now, when he talks about the search algorithms and the reality of Facebook programmers having the power to influence events and attention by manipulating the way the News Feeds shares and loads information, there are definite causes for concern.

We know that there are people creating and managing the content and websites we traffic on a daily basis. As technical communicators, it may be in some of our job descriptions to act as the information gatekeepers and analytic experts. Even our work on the blog represents this fact when we get down to bare bones. Our job is to use our assigned readings and real life experiences to craft content and drive attention to this site.  But how much of a look behind the curtain do we need to have or be aware of in order to be truly effective as technical professions and savvy as consumers? The answer is…to be determined. Zattrain uses examples such as mugshot.com and Amazon sellers to talk about how information is not just manipulated by the technology we use to access it, but also affected and altered by the consumers as they access it and use it for their own needs.

Image result for analytic algorithms

Source: (http://openclassroom.stanford.edu/MainFolder/CoursePage.php?course=IntroToAlgorithms)

But he continues to talk about search engines and our thinking when we interact with them. “Are they just tools or are they our friends as well? In my mind, the idea of Google as a friend is ridiculous. It seems to just be another way to remove the impetus of the user and place all of the blame on the technology that exists.

The idea of “being mad at Google” as Zittrain posits seem like a useless endeavor to me. Google is not Siri. It is not Cortana. It is a method for us to learn information and get our questions answered. To demand, or even suggest that Google constantly alter its coding to be more sensitive to potential audiences and potential searches would hamstring the service and all of us who use the service.

It is up to us as users to learn how to navigate the digital arena we live in now. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. We should not be willing to give up the autonomy of a “clean” interface for the idea of a more politically correct atmosphere. Even if that were something a majority of users or providers could agree upon, when so many users dependent on Google for answers, someone is bound to be offended unless we act like other countries and give the government control over which sites we can visit.

In my work, I do not work directly with websites or search engines, but I do use them as a source when I perform my research. It is my job to weed through the articles, pages, and offerings of sites like Google and other search engines in order to produce the best-researched product for my supervisors and my audience. If I felt in any way limited in my choices, however much I may already be unconsciously, I would have a hard time depending on the service to meet my needs in the future.

Image result for manipulating content

Source: (http://www.giantfreakinrobot.com/sci/facebook-scientists-experimented-users-manipulating-content.html)

In terms of talking about learning, I definitely agree with his closing point about the change in thinking that needs to occur among academics. If you read my previous post, you can tell that I have had a bit of a mixed bag relationship with educational institutions. I know that there is still a place for professors and other experts to instruct students; I decided to enter this program because I know that there are things I don’t know and find interacting with other professionals and technical communicators as we learn skills, competencies, and how to frame the questions and perform the research to delve into the topics of social media, rhetorical theory, and project management. There does have to be the realization that expertise in a field is a lot harder now than in the past.

The information we all have access to does not make us PhDs, but it does put the onus on the educators to continue pushing themselves in their fields, ask questions, poll professionals, and yes be open to the idea that a student twenty years younger than them can be an authority they should listen to.

Overall, there were a lot of ideas working in the presentation. A lot of which connect to what we are doing in this class and in the workforce as technical communicators. In your opinion, should we expect Google and other search engines, like Bing, Yahoo, and DogPile (does anyone else remember this), to be more conscious of what the algorithm is spitting out? Or should it provide us with the raw output and leave the decision making process up to us?

A Mixed Bag of Blog Experiences

A major reason that I pivoted from journalism to technical writing is the joke “What do you call an unemployed journalist? A blogger.” For me, blogs have been a casual acquaintance that make an appearance in various contexts every couple of years. I’m always impressed with the potential of blogs to be a dynamic forum to give voice to your worldview, and then a little bit disappointed when the reality of the work they take and mediocre response sets in.

I actually kept my own blog for a semester in college when I was studying in New York City, which was considered a different world from my home and school in Minnesota. It was the stereotypical travel “abroad” college blog to share pictures and stay in touch with family and friends. I like to think that my blog was slightly more clever and widely applicable than most, and I actually had a pretty strong and consistent readership. Then I came home and intentionally killed the blog.  

Nevertheless, a lot of the points in the Nardi, Gumbrecht, and Swartz article “Why We Blog” resonate with my experience with personal blogging. Along with the mix of motives for creating blogs, the authors discuss the awareness of readers and the effect that blogs can have on off-line relationships. My NYC blog was certainly an intentional form of communication, and I was very aware that my parents read it. I also appreciate the authors’ acknowledgment of “blogger burnout” and how the pace and style that you set for your blog can determine its long-term sustainability.

As a reader, I have a couple of favorite blogs that I frequent, but I haven’t bookmarked, closely followed, or commented on any of them. These range from recipes blogs to political commentary to friends’ blogs, and I categorize them all as “junk food” reading when I want to mindlessly skim and not think.

Along with my personal use of blogs, I’ve also blogged previously in academic contexts. Somewhat surprisingly, I actually can’t remember any blogging when I did online courses in eighth, ninth, and twelfth grade. I’m not sure if it was just too early in the virtual education revolution or if blogging wasn’t to be trusted to high schoolers.

In college, I did have several traditional and hybrid classes that included an online blogging component. My experience is in line with the findings in “Learning with Weblogs” (Du and Wagner) about the value of using weblogs in a constructivist model of learning. The learner-centered nature of a blog certainly helps with engaging course content, processing it, and creating based on it. Then again, this isn’t particularly new, and teachers have had students writing short essays for generations, long before they could be published as blogs.

However, I’ve been disappointed in the past with the collaborative aspect to blogs that Du and Wagner emphasize. Despite the potential, I haven’t really seen great dialogue come from blog comments. Even for classes that require commenting on others’ blogs, the comments are often low-level steps to a grade and don’t meaningfully contribute to a larger conversation or collaborative learning. In his article “Instructional Blogging: Promoting Interactivity, Student-Centered Learning, and Peer Input,” Stuart Glogoff enthusiastically embraces blogs for online learning, but also recognizes the difficulty in creating quality community through blog commenting.

I think this comic is a fair summary of my casual contact as a blog passerbyer so far, and I’m hoping for a much better level of comments and engagement in this course.

blogging-post-comic

Blogging 101: How Did I Get Here?

If I had to describe it I would say that my experience with blogging thus far has been a mere flirtation;  I don’t come to the class with anything reaching formal or professional training.

I remember starting a blog in high school, in the late 2000s. I can’t remember what I called it but I would try and post every day about something that had happened. Maybe I had a particularly witty insight during Pre-Calculus. Maybe the teacher caught me reading a fantasy novel instead of paying attention to the projected history lesson. I recall that I would always end the blog with a section titled “Lessons from Lloyd” or something like that: a bulleted list of sage teen advice I would dole out to the masses.

I didn’t have any sort of real audience. My group of friends knew about it and would sometimes poke fun at me, but it was mostly a solitary endeavor, a way for me to write down what I was thinking and laugh at myself while I did it.

What strikes me to this day is two particular posts I wrote: movie reviews for Twilight and Harry Potter (whichever one came out around that time). I had fun ripping the first movie apart with my words and enjoyed figuring out why I liked the second one (but not as much as other films in the series).

When I saw this assignment on the schedule, I tried to Google my old blog. It didn’t really work out. Mostly because any key words I may have used have been buried so far in my subconscious, I’d never a brain biopsy to route them out. Also, because I’m not sure what platform I used; I think it was BlogSpot, but I didn’t get any hits when I searched.

Oh well. It’d be fun to find those posts again, a little time capsule of my writing style to look back on, but c’est la vie.

I had a literature professor who loved to make us blog in undergrad. She’d come up with these specific prompts and styles for us to use. I was terrible at meeting deadlines and she was quick to call me out.

Professionally, my experience with WordPress began in my last semester of college. I had a magazine internship that used WordPress to load select print articles to their website. I was in charge of choosing the stories, loading them to the site, and creating SEO tags for them. I had absolutely no training in search engine optimization, but it did expose me to what that meant so kudos to Guy for leaving it in my hands.

In regard to some of the readings, the term “academic blogging” interest me, mostly because it seems like, other aspects of academia, to suck the fun out of the experience. It is not enough to take part in this activity, it must be renamed and repurposed for proper discussion and acceptance.

Excuse me if I take a hard line, but I have strong feelings about the way academia re-interprets already existing things. For example, I took a Pop Culture class in college and we read a paper by an academic that went into a long spiel about the validity of fanfiction as a way to look at audience interaction with media and content. This author created a master list of terms and descriptions for already existing norms. These things are already valid and don’t need a PhD stamp of approval before the world can officially sign off.

What is it about the academic part that requires the creation of a unique subculture in the blogosphere?

Don’t feel obliged to answer that. I did research on so-called popular literature and subcultures in undergrad and I somehow manage to revive the topic every so often.

Maybe it has to do with the research-based mindsight that comes with a “Publish or Perish” higher education system. Maybe I’m just too sensitive about a perceived slight.

The world may never know.

I do look forward to interacting with the class and figuring out how to communicate with emerging media. From the glimpses I’ve read of past students’ work, this is a place for lively discussion and appropriately timed infographics and pictures.

If you’ve managed to last this long, thank you for indulging me on my trip down memory lane and my mini rant about…whatever the underlying point of those few paragraphs was. This blog post is the sole product of my particular upbringing.

Here’s to a successful semester of blogging!

Pomodoro Technique Put to the Test

pomodoro technique

It goes without saying that capturing our attention these days has become an increasingly difficult task. Regardless of where we go or what we do, media presents itself to people at all times and in all places. While many of us try to multitask to accommodate this rapid flow of information, oftentimes this technique fails. With so much going on, no wonder it’s difficult to focus, let alone be productive. Thus, we need to transition from managing time to managing attention in order to help us achieve our goals. In other words, there are ways that we can pay attention to our inattention and increase productivity.

Mindfulness

One example is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Numerous studies have found that the practice of mindfulness can have physical, social and psychological benefits. In today’s digital world, exercising mindfulness is an especially important task. In his book Net Smart, Howard Rhinegold states, “Deliberately exercised, continually strengthened, and judiciously applied, mindfulness is the most important practice for anyone who is trying to swim through the info stream instead of being swept away by it.” Thus, mindfulness can help us tune out distractions and improve our attention as we try to reach our goals.

Rhinegold’s emphasis on mindfulness and the need to incorporate it in our lives made me curious about my own attention to media and how I allot my time. While I certainly have experienced times where I have been swept way surfing the web, I never gave much thought to where my attention was focused or how I interacted with these forms of media.

Pomodoro in Action

Thus, in an effort to increase mindfulness of my own I decided to try the “Pomodoro Technique” that Rheingold references. Developed by Francesco Cirillo this technique uses twenty five minute intervals, or pomodoros, of work separated by five minute breaks to increase productivity. Every four pomodoros and you take a longer break. With nothing to lose, armed with a mountain of work and my egg timer I decided to give it a shot. The timer started and my mind began to race. How much could I accomplish in this little span? Could I make it to the end of the chapter? If I start researching, how far will I get? In other words, I found the twenty-five minute spurts or uninterrupted work to be a race to beat the clock.

Break

Likewise, I found that the five-minute breaks go faster than I thought they would. The first break I did a few light chores around the house but just as I started to get into things, the timer went off. Back to work. The next few breaks I found myself texting and shortly after the timer chirped again. Even though I easily found ways to distract myself for five minutes, the Pomodoro site offers several suggestions of things to do. Most importantly, being active or physically creating distance between you and your work is best. As a result, going for a short walk, getting a glass of water or even simple desk exercises or office yoga are recommended.

Critique

Overall, I think the Pomodoro Technique with its short bursts of work helped me hone in at the task at hand. Knowing that after periods of work I had a five-minute incentive of free time helped me stay focused. Additionally, thinking about unrelated things for a few moments oddly helped keep me on track. While the fourth twenty five minute stretch was the longest, it also was the most rewarding because of the longer break.

However, one criticism is the application of this technique in different contexts. When I tried it I was at home and was able to have my timer go off without being a nuisance to others. In contrast, if I were to try this technique at work, having a timer constantly chirp may be an annoyance to other co-workers who may not be as receptive to my attention management strategies. Additionally, it was frustrating to become absorbed in a task and have to stop simply because the timer buzzed. In a few instances, I would have preferred to keep working and stop at my own pace. Yet, for the sake of the experiment I followed suit.

Closing Thoughts

In sum, even though my stint with the Pomodoro Technique was brief, I found it helpful nonetheless. While experts agree that you can to notice a difference in your work or study process within a day or two, true mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.That being said, I believe mindfulness would be a great technique for anyone, including myself to cultivate in order to help achieve goals. Thus, with more time and practice I should be able to realign my attention habits and train myself to be more present and aware.

Relying on Heuristics in Digital Communication

I spend nearly every work day reviewing science and engineering reports and memos. Virtually every one of them follow the same structure: introduction, methods, results, and discussion or IMRAD as it is sometimes called. IMRAD is a viable heuristic for what is historically a paper-based, long-form argument. (If it weren’t, it would likely not be so prevalent.)

I’m also asked frequently by the marketing department to review content for online distribution. To help them along and save myself significant substantive editing time, I’ve attempted to provide that department—some of whom are trained technical writers—with heuristics (what I call writing prompts or an outline of sorts) which they can use to author within the various information types they are responsible for. So far, I’ve developed heuristics for blog posts, social media posts, brochures, flyers, and so on.

They’ve come to rely on these heuristics, essentially canonizing them, which was never my intention. I’ve been thinking a lot about why this has happened and its appropriateness. I’m beginning to be cautious about developing heuristics especially for digital communication.

Paper-Based and Digital Communication Are Different

Michael J. Salvo and Paula Rosinski wrote in Digital Literacy for Technical Communication (p. 105) touched on this dilemma:

“One difference between paper-based and electronic communication is that the forms and designs of older analog media have been internalized and naturalized…Use, familiarity, and comfort within these newer information spaces are therefore, to some extent, generational, and technical communicators must now consider how to bridge these generational boundaries that are likely to express themselves as technological preferences.”

I suppose what I’m saying is that the bridge between paper-based (with their traditional heuristics) and digital communication (which lets admit can be a free-for-all) is not heuristics.

Moving Away from Heuristics

What I’ve come to realize is, when it comes to digital communication, heuristics are effective starting points, but should never take the place of authentic communication. By authentic communication, I mean communication conceived of and designed to serve its particular audience and the content itself. This is the opposite of content designed to meet a preset structure (such as IMRAD).

In other words, instead of developing heuristics for digital communication (e.g. “A blog post has these five components” or “The services page on your website should cover three things”), what if we simply approach each rhetorically? Dave Clark in Digital Literacy discusses the “rhetoric of technology” which he contrasts against IMRAD without using that concept specifically.

So, the next time the marketing team wants some help structuring digital communication in particular, instead of writing up a heuristic they can use over and over again, I’m going to write a set of rhetorical questions they can rely on.

Test blog #2: Social media a viable tool for dissemination of technical information – Van Beusekom

Elise Verzosa and Amy Hea’s article pointed out that social media often has negative connotations for students concerned that using it will undermine their academic lives and careers. These students are fearful that their university, employer or future employer will see their postings, and it will have ramifications for them, because once posts are up, they tend to take on a life of their own (eg, Anthony Weiner’s photo)..

Of course, their concerns are legitimate when it comes to posting photos and blurbs about their late-night escapades or hateful rants. But people who think that not posting photos of themselves or any information on social media will preserve their privacy have got it all wrong. Today, privacy is an illusion. I don’t have to go on Facebook to find out how old you are, where you live, where you work, where you go to school, who your neighbors are or how high your real estate taxes are. It’s all out there–and much more–for anyone to see.

But posting technical communication on social media is no threat, and I can’t understand why anyone would think otherwise. In fact, I see its usefulness every day on LinkedIn, where fellow professionals post how-tos, advice and other information to enhance both other people’s careers and their own. By making themselves an expert, they are positioning themselves to be seen as a trustworthy, authoritative source. Often, I find myself wondering how to do something (eg, how to remove chewing gum from upholstery) or why something is the way it is (why does my cat go outside only to turn around and want to be let back in 20 times a day?). I’m looking for practical advice (eg, how to get promoted) and personal stories from people who’ve been there (eg, how I got promoted). I’m getting married next year, so I’ve Googled things like “good processional music” and “Minneapolis catering” dozens of times lately.

I’ve also posted some promotional how-to articles on e-how for friends’ businesses (eg, a “how to clean and preserve your deck” article for a local deck-washing business). Of course, I often respond to other people’s how-to questions on different forums (eg, how do I display cupcakes at my wedding? “Try an acrylic cupcake tower.) I once posted a photo of my flower towers, a project I found on homedepot.com and did at home; a friend saw the photos and asked me how I made it, so I ended up posting step-by-step instructions. Anyone can do this, which brings me to the next point.

The caveat in using technical communication via social media is that it’s hard to be sure if the poster is a legitimate expert and not just someone out to make $25 for posting an article on e-how (I’m not sure what they pay now, but they used to pay per article). I find that it’s best to always verify the facts some other way, by checking out similar posts on other social media forums or Googling it. Not that I’m against using Wikipedia; I find a lot of useful stuff there, but I verify it elsewhere. I’m also always skeptical about the information found on sponsored sites.

It can be hard to get the information you need online because the Internet is so congested. I find Pinterest to be one of the top offenders when I’m searching for something in particular, because many people post photos or images of things on Pinterest without saying where they found them, so it’s a couple of wasted clicks when I could have possibly found a solid lead elsewhere. Plus, so often, they’re so old and out of date, they’ve outlived their usefulness.

Another way to be relatively sure of the soundness of the information is to use only trusted sites; I find academic institutions and well-known organizations to be pretty trustworthy. And I tend to rely on information from people with credentials versus without. For example, I am 100% confident I can trust a post on mayoclinic.com written by a doctor (although, chances are, someone else wrote it for him). On the other hand, I wouldn’t go on just any discussion board and take the medical advice of someone whose daughter’s husband’s second cousin once had the same symptoms.

All in all, I find that, as long as I take the time to drill down to the level of information I need and the trustworthiness I desire, I’m able to find what I need. And by posting valuable information to help others, I return the favor.

People as Products

People gather around a common idea. This is why, according to Boyd and Ellison, social sites thrive among smaller groups and communities dedicated to a similar interest. When reading their work, it immediately made sense as to why Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm changes continually. In order to best service their primary customers (companies advertising via Facebook) and consumers, Facebook’s primary goal must be to study consumers first. Where people gather to share, ingest and produce ideas depends on what each group prefers and finds passionate. This kid of digital narcissism (Keen and Weignberger, 2007), is precisely why similar patterns of behavior are studied in order to utilize the underlying beliefs of niche groups.

The brilliance behind this kind of marketing is, I feel, that individuals feel specialized when, in actuality, they are part of a mass product. If individuals do not have to pay for a product, I would suggest that they are the actual product. In the case of social media, individuals are the product, and their behaviors are analyzed to deliver best marketing information to the shareholders (i.e. companies).

Always a Blogger

Growing up as a digital native, blogs were ubiquitous with self expression. Whether the short-lived Xanga bubble, MySpace catastrophe or the matured Blogspot and Blogger platforms, the form of blogging as always lived within my own social sphere. In a sense, digital natives have lived in a world where self expression lends itself to some form of microblogging. Thus, digital natives may associate themselves as a perpetual blogger.

Professionally, blogs have also been integrated in my life. As the managing editor for a university, I oversaw organic and non-printed copy development for online usage. This meant blogs, specifically hosted on CMS platforms for branding control, were part of the editorial and content calendar. Apart from blogs hosted on a privately developed CMS, I’ve worked with other third-party sites and currently have my own WordPress cite. Although I am still developing my coding skills, I am interested in WordPress themes which allow me to access and change the CSS so that I can customize the cite to meet my needs.

Blogging. It’s grown on me.

I think at first, blogging had a negative connotation due to many people using it as an online, public diary. Now, there’s still that genre, as well as any other type of information mecca one might seek. I’ve thought about blogging. And haven’t because the dedication to come up with something readable every week or day or month is daunting. And I would have to inevitably choose between quality or quantity.

For work, I publish mini blogs about our product portfolio and keep the tone professional and in line with our company’s branding. I am an avid fan of one blogger who posts great recipes on her My New Roots page. They’re delicious.

I found the “Why We Blog” PDF useful in that it organized thoughts I’ve had about blogging into readable points. For example, why bloggers are motivated–why someone would invest a huge amount of time to create a blog.

Emerging from my “blog fog” to say farewell and thanks!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my investigation of using blogs in our Introduction to College Life classrooms, but I feel like I’m emerging from a “blog fog” and I can’t quite relate to anyone who’s not steeped in this subject at the moment.  My husband has learned to include the word “blog” in any conversation he attempts to engage me in – “Are we getting a Christmas tree blog this year?,” “Would you like scrambled or fried blogs?,” or “Have you talked to our son,Sam blog, this week?”

 But seriously, this was a great learning experience for me. I researched the use of blogs in university classrooms and designed a plan to use those findings to create a blog for our Campus Read program, which is just two years old.  Campus Read programs always list “building a sense of community” as a goal, and “community” is almost always listed as an adjective associated with blogs, so I thought it was a natural fit. One thing I learned, however, is that the community-building nature of blogs doesn’t automatically happen and that a great deal of work will have to be invested for my vision to materialize.

I gained this insight from reading about the Julie/Julia project, which was made into the movie Julie & Julia with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep in 2009.

Even though Julie Powell’s blog was very popular, visitors only reported feeling a “moderate” sense of community and the community dissipated when Julie Powell discontinued the blog. To the degree that people did report a strong sense of community, it was associated with the comments function of blogging – both writing and reading, which makes sense if you think about community as being dialogic. Anyway, if anyone is interested in reading more about the Julie/Julia project, I recommend Anita Blanchard’s article “Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying a sense of Community in the Julie/Julia Project.” You can retrieve the article here at the Into the Blogosphere series through the University of Minnesota, which offers a lot of great articles about blogging (http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/blogs_as_virtual.html).

 Aside from my insights about community, I learned a lot about my own campus’s policies and preparedness for 21st century learning.  Probably the most interesting insight I came away with is the degree to which we’re still groping with how to effectively use new media.  I read an article that described all of the “invisible” issues we might have to consider in creating a campus blog and initially I put it in the “not relevant” pile as I was sorting through my research.  It kept bubbling back up to the top of the pile as I had discussions with people on campus about how to implement a blog.  (You can read the article, “The When of New Media Writing” by Danielle DeVoss, Ellen Cushman, and Jeffrey Grabill at http:// www. Jstor.org/stable/30037897). It wasn’t that anyone was being obstructionist particularly, but with any large institution, people and departments aren’t always communicating or communicating clearly. As I put the finishing touches on my paper, I still wasn’t clear about what I might and might not be allowed to do with regard to technology, sometimes for practical technological reasons, and sometimes because of local, contextual constraints.  I hope I am being sufficiently vague.

 Finally, I just have to briefly mention the role of audience and blogging. Because of my role in our Writing Center, I knew that the concepts of blogging and having a sense of audience were linked, but I didn’t expect that I would spend so much time thinking and writing about it for my paper.  We always tell students to “imagine” an audience with certain characteristics and so forth and not to think of the professor as the sole reader, but that’s always a difficult exercise because ultimately, students know that their professor usually is the sole member of the audience. Having a blogging experience, though, can fundamentally change the way students think about an audience and motivate them to write—this was probably the main learning outcome I had from my research project, and it isn’t really the one I was prepared for, since I thought my main goal was to use blogs to develop a sense of community.

 Which leaves me to you, my “audience.”  This experience was very educational for me, and I want to thank you all for your support during my graduation to the 21st century (well, at least from elementary school to middle school!). It has been my privilege to take this course with you.

 And now, in a nod to Lori’s sendoff from Michael on “The Office,” I leave you with these words from Creed  Bratton’s Blog, also from “The Office,” apropos of the fact that we are now fully immersed in Wisconsin winter:

 “Almost winter. Time to turn my tennis racket into snowshoes.”

 Good luck to all on final projects!

Coming to grips with the “Internet of Things”

So, I suppose this is tangential to this week’s readings (or maybe at the heart of them), but I kept going deeper and deeper into the Internet as I studied the issues of privacy, ethics,

and problematic internet use (PIU), straying far from my topic, getting lost in all sorts of sidetracks.  For example, I came across the word “paraphilia” in one article and didn’t stop to look it up, but then I came across it again. I was reading an article that mentioned the fact that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5) (http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx) was updated in 2013 and would now include PIU, which I found interesting and relevant to this week’s readings.  So, I went to the DSM site and found, in fact, that “Internet and Gaming Disorders” is included in Section III, which is apparently a research section because it explains, “By listing Internet Gaming Disorder in DSM5’s Section II, APA hopes to encourage research to determine whether the condition should be added to the manual as a disorder.”

It was at this site that I saw “paraphilic” again, so I decided to do a search and spent over an hour just reading up on those.  I won’t offer you a link, but you can Wikipedia it and see at a glance why I got distracted. Or perhaps I’ve just been sheltered?

Anyway, I don’t think I would qualify as one of the addicted just yet, but this is the kind of thing I worry about — getting sucked in to the Internet “black hole.” I mean, I really had to force myself to stop going everywhere willy-nilly and exert some discipline — problematic internet use? Scott Caplan makes a distinction between impulsive (lack of impulse control) and excessive (a lot) and says that what might be seen as excessive might just be what is required for a student to complete an assignment (that’s probably me, so far), whereas compulsive use is more likely to result in negative outcomes (p. 724-725).

Speaking of negative outcomes, before I started this course, I thought about Internet privacy challenges mostly in terms of social media and the fact that some people seem to lack

Note that most of us still score a "C" for personal security measures. http://blog.varonis.com/varonis-2013-privacy-and-trust-report/

Note that most of us still score a “C” for personal security measures.
http://blog.varonis.com/varonis-2013-privacy-and-trust-report/

boundaries with regard to self-disclosure.  Now, I have a much broader (and more disturbed) understanding of the privacy challenges we face, including the fact that it’s so easy to track our digital footprints. Still, like the people in this Varonis report, I do very little to protect my privacy.

Maybe there’s regulatory help on the way? According to this November 12 article from Politico (http://www.privacylives.com/politico-ftc-wading-into-internet-of-things/2013/11/14/), the Federal Trade Commission is going to start taking an interest in privacy issues because of so many everyday objects (“thermostats, toasters, and even sneakers”) that are getting connected to the Internet.  Some of the more interesting ideas: pill bottles that keep track of whether you took the pill, refrigerators that tell you when the milk will expire, and forks that track how fast you eat, all of which could embed sensitive information about individual consumers that could then be inappropriately shared.  This echoes Carina Paine and Adam Joinson’s concern that areas of our lives previously considered offline are now areas of privacy concern and being magnified online (p. 16).

Some trade groups are concerned that this new interest from the FTC might inhibit innovation, so it should be interesting to see if the FTC will be able to do much reigning in.  By the way, when I went to retrieve the Political URL, I saw an article about “hacktivist” Jeremy Hammond getting 10 years in prison, so of course, I had to stop writing and spend another 45 minutes learning what that was all about.  Oh well, I guess that’s the nature of the “Internet of Things” (that’s the name of the FTC workshop).

Finally, I found Steven Katz and Vicki Rhode’s piece, “Beyond Technical Frames of Human Relations,” a bit hard to absorb.  If I understand their argument, it’s time to move beyond previous ethical frames to “human-machine” sanctity, which “recognizes the new relationship between him and and machines as whole entities” (p. 250). Call me old-fashioned (for sure!), but I don’t want to have “reciprocity” with my machines (p. 251). The authors bemoan the fact that some mechanized procedures and processes, most notably content management systems, seem to operate according to the machine’s specifications and for its own purposes rather than for people or organizations (p.235), but their proposal that we humanize our machines so that they become “you”s rather than the objects that they actually are seems to be a prescription for making the situation worse.

Did I just not understand this? Do I just need to come to grip with digital “being” and the “Internet of Things”?

Thinking Critically: All that Twitters is Not Technological Gold

After last week’s immersion in Sherry Turkle’s cautionary tale (Alone, together), it’s kind of hard to return to the full-out celebration of all that is Twitter and technological glitter in Qualman’s Socialnomics. I thought I’d bridge the gap by first considering Dave Carlon’s discussion of “Shaped and Shaping Tools” in Digital Literacy (edited by Rachel Spilka).

Time and Space “Fixity”

The subtitle of Carlson’s piece is “The Rhetorical Nature of Technical Communication Technologies,” and in it he calls for technical communicators to “be critical,” to be rhetorically savvy in their use of new technological tools (p. 87). To study the rhetoric of technology, he offers four broad categories of scholarship: rhetorical analysis; technology transfer and diffusion; genre theory; and activity theory.

In his consideration of rhetorical analysis, he discusses the fact that Twitter “opens up both temporal and spatial fixity” because Twitter is not bound by either time or space (93). Early on in the chapter, he makes the point that Twitter can be “endlessly resorted and reorganized” because we have countless interfaces and points of entry.  I wasn’t entirely sure what that last idea meant, so I did some surfing and found this “Twitter Storm” piece by Tom Phillips on Buzz Feed http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/the-29-stages-of-a-twitterstorm).

http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/the-29-stages-of-a-twitterstorm

Tom Phillips gives a nice, humorous rundown about how Twitter can be “endlessly resorted and reorganized,” as Carlson suggests.
Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/the-29-stages-of-a-twitterstorm

I think it perfectly makes Carlson’s point about multiple interfaces and points of entry. You can enter the conversation at any point and, especially if you are someone  with a following, start the conversation all over again.

Even laggards, thankfully, can enter the conversation at any time!

But, just entering the conversation doesn’t make us critical thinkers with regard to technology, a point Carlson makes, Turkle makes, and even Qualman makes.

Genres as Regularizing Structures: PowerPoint and Prezi

For example, Carlson asks us as technical communicators to think more deeply about how technologies shape us and how we are shapers of technology. Consider his discussion of genre theory. He cites the work of Carolyn Miller (“Genre as social action”) that genres such as memos, reports, and manuals are not simply formats but rather they are “regularizing structures … that shape the work of members of organizations” (97). As example, Carlson cites the work of Yates and Orlikowski’s examination of PowerPoint “arguing that genres create expectations of purpose, content, participants, form, time, and place” (97) and become regularizing structures within organizations.

I’ve seen so many bad PowerPoint presentations (and I’ll bet you have, too), that I readily tried Prezi a few weeks ago simply on the barest glimpse of hope that, if it catches on, people might add a little zip to what otherwise turn out to be humongous snooze fests where we watch someone read from a screen.

Prezi, like PowerPoint is not simply a format, but rather it is a "regularizing structure." Source: http://prezi.com/your/

Prezi, like PowerPoint is not simply a format, but rather it is a “regularizing structure.”
Source: http://prezi.com/your/

Prezi does present a shift in perspective as Klint Finley from Tech Crunch points out: “For those not familiar, Prezi uses a map-like metaphor for creating presentations instead of a slideshow metaphor. This makes it possible to create non-linear presentations, or presentations that use spatial metaphors for organizing ideas, like mind maps.”  (techcrunch.com/2012/10/30/powerpoint-killer-prezi-launches-new-interface/.)

In my experience Prezi does offer a different way of organizing information, which might present a new rhetorical paradigm for presentations, but I actually think either platform could be used effectively.  If you’re not familiar with Prezi, you should visit their website (http://prezi.com/your/) and try it out.  I, a renowned technological “laggard,” taught myself in a couple of hours, so you know it must be pretty intuitive.

Cheerleading for cheerleading camp

The concept of “laggardness” brings me to Qulaman, who is always fun to read because, for one thing, he doesn’t laden himself with too much in the way of academic support.  But those are the two querulous impulses I always have when I read Socialnomics―timeliness and evidence.

In the first case, I always have an impulse to check out where the anecdotal evidence stands today. For example, Qualman spends a few pages (161-165) discussing Hulu’s success with delivering high-quality traditional television and movies and for employing an innovative advertising model. Yet, today’s news would suggest that what was true when this book was published is no longer true today.  You can read here about the company’s latest challenges: “5 ways new CEO Mike Hopkins Can Save Hulu” from Mike Wallenstein at Variety (http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/5-ways-new-ceo-mike-hopkins-can-save-hulu-1200735150/).

Hulu

A new CEO is being brought in to “save” Hulu, which suggests that it hasn’t sustained the success that Qualman wrote about in 2009.
Source: (http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/5-ways-new-ceo-mike-hopkins-can-save-hulu-1200735150/).

That doesn’t make what Qualman published in 2009 any less true, only outdated, and perhaps what makes it outdated could have bearing on the business strategies and choices Qualman extols.  Wallerstein’s advice to Hulu: 1. Get the owners rowing in the same direction 2. Pick―and stick with―a strategy. 3. Time to bid big against Netflix 4. If you’re going to do original programming, do it right. 5. Stop the bleeding.

The other problem, as others have pointed out on this forum, is that Qualman seems to rely a lot on anecdotal evidence.  His mother’s friend Betsy’s cheerleading camp (pp. 175-178) was probably pretty meaningful to Betsy, Qualman’s mother, and Qualman himself, but I didn’t find it either particularly informative or easy to follow.  What’s missing in Qualman’s analysis is that he can’t seem to direct us to broad conclusions based on quantifiable, reliable data. He can tell stories about this or that success or failure, but he’s not convincing in a broad, academically supportable sense.

Yet, I find him enormously persuasive much of the time, especially when he discusses  “finding the right balance between launching every possible idea through the door and ensuring they are not missing out on a great opportunity” (181). He actually lauds TripAdvisor for taking a “deep breath” and re-thinking their strategy with “Where I’ve Been” (p. 106). He also advises companies to “Take time to decide where you will be,” which is sort of the missing element in this 140-character, non-fixity world.

To “think critically,” as Dave Carlson encourages us, does take at least a little bit of time, the most valuable and rare commodity in this twittery, glittery world.

slideshares on blogs

Here’s some food for thought regarding the many uses of blogs. In fact, I’ll probably link to these popular slideshare presentations the next time I assign the blog literacy “test post” because I think they cover a lot of ground.

and

I do wonder why the “11 advantages” presentation took 65 slides and the “25 styles” one took 28 slides, but the thing with slideshare is remembering that these slides were created for actual presentations and their authors chose to share them here after the fact. So maybe the 65 slides were used as background while the presenter was extemporaneously speaking to the audience about the topic at hand?

Either way, enjoy and let me know what you think!

Tried Blogging, but it never stuck…maybe now is time to try again.

Blogging is something I have a little bit of experience with. I started my own blog at the beginning of 2011 that was intended to chronicle my weight-loss journey. Each Monday and Thursday I had intended to post my progress along with my actual weight and BMI. After about what looks like two months I stopped posting. I only had one follower, my friend Jami, and I was talking to her on a consistent basis anyway. I may have to think about starting this up again, but its a bit depressing that I weigh more now than when I stopped blogging.

The only other experience I have with blogs is reading them. I don’t really have any blogs that I read on a consistent basis, but often times look at them for various things. I’ve looked up Gluten Free recipies, my step-mom has a gluten intolerance, and other recipes that I usually end up “pinning” to my Pinterest Page and then never actually using.

I’m not sure what would make me be a consistent, returning reader to a blog posting. With what I am doing now it is harder to make the time to do any pleasure reading. I am married, with one child in 3rd Grade, my husband is a part of the MN Air National Guard, working full-time up there and I have decided to return to school and get my Master’s Degree, all while working full-time.  A concern of mine is that writing these blog posts each week and the corresponding responses will take too much time. I say this now, because the 2nd class I am taking this semester has still not posted the syllabus, so I have no idea on the requirements for that class. This semester is starting off as a very stressful start to my Master’s Degree.

The only other experience I have that even resembles blogging is my past experience in the online learning at Lake Superior College and UW-Stout. Traditionally, my classes have required one discussion post and then post two responses to other classmates discussion postings. this is very similar to the requirements for this class.

As part of the learning for this class I hope that I can learn a lot about this emerging media and apply it to my current job and towards my newly refreshed weight-loss blog. I will need to concentrate on writing for the internet and make my posts interesting and make people want to come back and read more about my journey.

Ryter Incoming: Watch out Blogosphere!

I suppose I am rather like a returning visitor to the writing side of the Blogosphere. My first visit was in my junior year of college when I blogged intermittently for a writing class; I have not been back since. Throughout college, I was very involved with the UMass Amherst campus environmental sustainability initiative, and I used this blog as a forum to discuss current projects, initiatives, and progress made on sustainability issues affecting the campus community. This blog was also an outlet for me to bring up concerns and express frustration with some ongoing sustainability efforts; for example, that year, the campus made a significant financial investment in compostable cups, plates, straws, and napkins but did not make compost bins available to the community, thereby “shooting themselves in the foot,” so to speak. While my blog post did not result in the immediate appearance of compost bins, it did start a dialogue on the topic, at least among my readers.

Although writing intermittent blog posts in one undergraduate class is about the extent of my blogging experience, I have more experience following other people’s blogs. I follow technical writing blogs for my job- to keep me up to date on current trends in the field and help me learn best practices. I also follow a blog started by a few of my college friends to publicize feminist perspectives and women’s issues. My favorite blog to follow, though, is my friend Claire’s travel blog. She lived in Paris, France for a year, traveled all over Europe, has visited Cuba and Peru, and is currently working in Japan. Claire blogs about the experience of being an American abroad. She is a student of foreign cultures, and she poses a lot of questions about her identity as an American, and what that means, that challenge me to ask the same questions of myself. Through reading Claire’s blog, I almost feel as though I am experiencing what she is experiencing in her travels, which is hopefully a compliment to a travel blogger. Feel free to check out Claire’s blog for yourself: http://www.internationaleclaire.com/.

Generally, I enjoy reading other people’s blog posts more than I enjoy writing my own- probably because blogging does not come easy for me. Andrea Doucet’s article, “Scholarly Reflections on Blogging: Once a Tortoise, Never a Hare,” really resonated with me as I identify with her in that it is also difficult for me to step away from the comfort of the formal, impersonal, analytical, and thoroughly researched and reviewed writing in which I was trained in favor of a first person, less formal writing style in which I am allowed (even encouraged) to write about my thoughts and opinions- imagine that!

I hope that as I blog more frequently, it will begin to feel more natural to me. I found many of the tips offered in Belle Beth Cooper’s “16 Top Tips from Blogging Experts for Beginners” very insightful (especially keeping it short, writing for myself, and valuing existing readers), and I will definitely revisit these tips and incorporate them throughout the semester. Embedded in Tip 4, “Build your email list,” is the suggestion to experiment with different language in a call to action. The example cited is “subscribe by email” versus “get jobs by email.” As someone who always chooses words carefully, with painstaking attention to exactly what they mean, I find the replacement phrase rather misleading; subscribing to an email list of job postings does not mean the same thing as “getting jobs.” While I understand why that phrasing would generate more email subscriptions, I don’t think I would feel comfortable using it in my own blog.

I think the example I mentioned above offers a lesson relevant to blog reading: there is a huge amount of information and advice out there, and not all of it is applicable to or right for everyone. While we should absolutely read blogs, we should also remember to think critically about them. Blogs offer an opportunity for authors to freely put any thoughts and opinions out there for the world to read, but they are not necessarily factually correct, unbiased, or an authoritative source of information on a topic.

Happy blogging everyone!

Blogging: My Newest Frontier

Originally, I thought I would start this post off by confessing that I have absolutely no experience with blogs, but that turns out to not be entirely true.  While it is accurate that this is my first post—yeah!—it turns out I’ve been reading blogs and not even realizing it. In reading “Searching for Writing on the Web,” Alex Reid lists the top 25 blogs and I am very familiar with 3 of them—The Daily Beast, Think Progress, and the Huffington Post.  Now that article is dated 2011, and 2 years is like a millennium in Internet time, so I don’t know if they’re still in the top 25, but it was comforting to realize I already knew something about blogs.

But not much.  For example, a former student of mine recently got hired to write a twice-weekly blog about holistic dentistry, and I didn’t quite understand why since, as far as I knew, she knew nothing about dentistry, holistic or otherwise. From her description, she is mostly serving as a “tipster,” about how to engage in holistic care of teeth and alternatives to traditional dentistry.  She doesn’t have to be a content matter expert, but rather just do some basic research and engage the material in a lively and readable way.  So, I’m still struggling  a bit to understand this medium and it’s multifaceted purpose, but I am looking forward to the education.

In my case, my mind tends to want to skip the theoretical and go straight to the practical application, often to my detriment, so I think I’ll need to proceed slowly in thinking about what use I might make of my newfound knowledge after class ends. In Langwitches blog post “What does it Mean to Be Literate?” the author cautions teachers to engage in some basic blogging education including “pre-reading and pre-writing”  skills such as understanding how blog platforms work before attempting a blog in the classroom.  I’m definitely still at the pre-writing and reading stage.

When I do feel more comfortable with this medium, one use I’d like to make of it regards my role as the chair of our campus’s “Common Read Program.”  One of my tasks is to get the students, faculty, and staff engaged in a larger dialogue than simply in individual classrooms or book groups.  Last year, our Writing Center held an essay contest and the prompt was tied to the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.  It was reasonably successful for a first-time effort, but I didn’t think the submissions really reflected the level of critical thinking we should be seeing from college students.

I’m wondering if a pre-writing blog might help students reflect on and clarify their thinking before they put pen to paper (keyboard to MS Word) for the essay contest?  “Learning with Weblogs: Enhancing Cognitive and Social Knowledge Construction,” suggests that “weblog technology fits with the constructivism learning theory, and argues that a weblog is a useful online tool for students to reflect and publish their thoughts and understanding.”  I can see some logistical problems already, however, such as the fact that we have about 1,650 students in our freshmen class alone, so I don’t know how exactly this would work.  I’ll be interested in learning more from my classmates and our readings as I formulate my goals and understand more about the medium.

By the way, our Campus Read book this year is Scoreboard, Baby by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry.  It’s a very engaging read, and I highly recommend it.  I’m using this as an excuse to see if I can master the skills of downloading a graphic.

Scoreboard baby cover

As I wrap up my first-ever blog post and I read what I’ve written, I’m trying to discern if it reflects anything I’ve read in “16 Top Tips from Blogging Experts for Beginners,” and I’m not entirely sure.  It seems clear that I’m writing for myself first, which is tip #2, so I suppose I’ve at least accomplished that. Another tip I read was “Get Ideas from Your Audience,” so I read my other classmates posts first and one thing I noticed is that, as a reader, I like bullet points such as those I read in “Testing, testing… What I’ve Learned from Blogging,” by sr hebert, so let me close with these points:

  • I’m very much looking forward to learning from my classmates
  • I feel a little more confident already
  • This course has already forced me to expand beyond my comfort zone because now I have both Skyped and blogged!

Best to you all!

Testing, testing… What I’ve Learned from Blogging

Greetings, fellow bloggers.

ENGL-745 will be the third course I’ve taken requiring me to create regular blog posts.  As a result, I believe that I can share what I have learned in my experiences as a blogger  with confidence.  Feel free to read, reflect, and evaluate.

  • Blogging really put me “out there” in terms of who can see and read my posts.  On multiple occasions, I have had digital strangers bash on my ideas when I am simply trying to fulfill a post requirement for a course!  On the flip side, I have had friends call or text me to say “Hey! I was googling and found the blog you write for graduate school!”  Yes, this has happened to me!
  • Blogging can be very insightful and challenging.  Becoming a blogger is “taking control of your own learning, finding your own voice, and expressing your own opinions” (Walker, 2005, p. 2).  Although blogging is not considered academic writing, I have discovered that I learn more practical things from blog posts – I think it is important to have a mix of academic and practical.
  • Blogging requires me to engage in the rhetorical process much more than I had anticipated.  When I write my posts, I tend to take into consideration my fellow classmates and my professor (audience), decide the overall message I want to convey (purpose), and how the heck I am going to translate my ideas into to a fun blog post with a cool title (context).
  • Blogging is actually really difficult.   When I started blogging, I found it incredibly challenging to break away from formal writing and use “blog style.”  (When in doubt, use bullet points.)  I had to reassure myself multiple times that it was acceptable to use first person and less-than-academic language in my posts.
  • Blogging can create a sense of community.  I hope in this class, since we all belong to the same blog, we can grow and learn together.  We may not all always read the same texts or understand them in the same way, but I hope that over the course of the semester, we can put our digital heads together and create some insightful conversations!

I hope everyone is looking forward to getting started as much as I am!  Good luck fellow bloggers, and may the students of ENGL-745 Fall 2013 have the greatest blog posts yet!

References

Walker, J. (2005). Weblogs: Learning in public. On the horizon, 13(2), 112-118.

Obama – just one example out of many

Qualman’s chapter 2 and all the previous readings seem to come together. Great insights. To me this is pretty much all new. My question from before about if the position of a sales person and a technical communicator will eventually merge, found somewhat an answer in this week’s reading. Qualman says, “advertisers need to become providers of content” (p. 65). How do you market yourself, how do you create your own brand, it all have changed with social media. Actually, I was wondering if Obama would combine private with business life on Facebook or if it is all about his brand. So I checked his FB page and found mostly political posts on it. Just his and Michelles 20th wedding anniversary I found – at first. Scrolling down more, there you go there is a picture of him and his two daughters with a comment about what they did last night.

However, the wording of the comment brings it all back into perspective. You think at first there is a private moment, but no, it is about the convention speech Michelle gave. Ok, so we are back into marketing. I guess where I am heading to with this is I still wonder how do combine all these different personalities we all have on social media. Do you do it at all? Do we need to see Obama and his private life? If not, how is he sharing with his family and friends his important moments? Does he not use social media at all for that or does he use a pseudonym?

Another aspect out of these readings is: Even though I heard about it, I never looked in detail in how Obama benefited from using social network. However, one thing that stood out to me was that you could actually track down what was searched for the most at Yahoo or Google. I don’t quite understand how do you actually access the search results? How do you find out if people google for soda or pop? Literally, how do you do that?

My (Somewhat Limited) Blogging Experience

Last semester, I took Rhetorical Theory (English 720) with Dr. Pignetti. In that course we used a blog for our reflection and discussion, which was my first academic experience with using a blog. Initially I was intimidated by the idea of airing my thoughts in such a public venue (particularly after reading the blog literacy articles), but it really wasn’t so scary after all. One thing I appreciate about using a blog rather than the D2L discussion board is the ease with which we can tie in relevant ideas, content, examples, etc. Including images and videos, for example, can help drive home the point you’re trying to make as you write and make for a much more interesting read. Basically, academic blogging allows for a more interactive, interesting, and dynamic experience.

My experience with blogging in my personal life has been more passive. I don’t write my own personal blog, or anything, but I do quite frequently read others’ blogs. I enjoy reading the blogs of my friends, family, and acquaintances as a way to keep up on their lives. I also appreciate blogs about cooking and do-it-yourself home projects. Annie’s Eats is one of my favorites in the realm of food, and I also just discovered Anne’s Food.

The blog literacy articles do a good job of highlighting the interactivity and sense of community blogging can build in an academic setting. I am looking forward to another academic blogging experience!

What Will You Share Online?

Privacy has and I venture always will be a hot topic when dealing with the internet. If you are a Facebook fan, do you recall a recent post being circulated that indicated to look at the address bar while in Facebook? You were to determine whether your present location prefix was http or https.  The (s) at the end of http in the URL indicates the information shared is being done so via secure settings.  But, how many people really look for this and/or that telltale closed padlock that could also exist on the lower right of their browser?

Amazon.com is more trusted than a bank

I want to share with you an actual conversation that occurred in my Chiropractor’s office the other day.  I had my IPad out as usual while waiting and this usually creates a few questions. The conversation moved on to internet access and how people use the internet. The receptionist, who is approximately 60 years of age, made the statement that she doesn’t understand how anyone could use internet banking. To do financial transactions online is just too risky.  I asked her if she ever purchased anything online, and she responded that she did. She even added that the sites she goes to she “knows” are safe.  I asked her how she knows and she responded “I trust the companies”.

As we continued talking, I told her that I felt that the bank was much safer to deal with online because of a variety of issues:

  • The banks are regulated and are mandated to make sure through multiple different strategies that our transactions are safe
  • The banks already use the internet to do transactions themselves whether we partake or not
  •  Banks have a larger stake in our safety than does any other random vendor online

What creates trust on the internet?

The interesting issue here is that even armed with this knowledge, she was not convinced that her bank was at least as safe as Amazon.  I wonder if this has to do with the advertising and global presence of companies like this as opposed to the businesslike demeanor of her local bank.  Or maybe it is the locality that used to instill trust, but now when it is coupled with the World Wide Web, presents an image of distrust – or, at least incompetence with new technology.

So now I begin to wonder.  I know many people who blurt out on Facebook personal information, when they will be out of town and the like, but are oblivious to the securities on the site. I also know many of these same people who will not utilize their bank’s online features because they are unsafe.  They have been using Facebook for 3 years but have been with their bank for 20.  What is up with this?  In addition, they will click randomly on links that cause malicious events on their computer (could even be installing keyloggers) then trot on down to Amazon.com or TigerDirect to make a purchase.

 I am not saying that these websites are not secure – I use them myself. I just do not understand the rational as to what is secure and what is not. And once again, I have posted more questions than answers!!

 In weeks past, we have discussed many elements of social interaction on the internet and one of these may, indeed be an indicator as to why people trust on the internet the way they do.  Facebook comes up again as a huge meeting place for people on the internet. People trust people.  When a person visits a social site each day or even each week and see others in their group trusting online businesses, they are much more likely to trust them also. In addition, just the presence of these businesses as advertisements on the social networking page can add to that trust factor.  Does the local bank advertise online? Probably not.

Image References:

http://www.unitedfcs.com/assets/images/secure_messaging_new.jpg

http://www.unitedfcs.com/assets/images/online_banking(2).jpg

Social Media and Aps

Please bear with me as I post this. I am using a WordPress ap on my IPad and unfortunately it is a bit clunky. Over the last week, I have tried to find a way to view more than only my own posts, but alas I have yet to figure that out. So far, this ap only allows me to see and edit my own posts. It seems to be an interface for posting alone.

To this end, it is quite elementary at best for even posting, but I am tenacious – I will see how this works out.

As my topic suggests, this is about more than just WordPress. Tonight, as I was checking out some Twitter posts, I came across a tweet that did more for me than any other since I started stalking the Twitterverse.

http://stumpteacher.blogspot.com/2011/01/twitter-102.html

The above link is a must-see for any aspiring Twitter-er? Tweetster? Oh heck, you get the picture. Unfortunately, his reference to an IPad ap (TweetDeck) is a bit premature – there is only a workable ap for the iphone. But, never fear, I plan on testing it out on my laptop.

Oh yea, I suppose I need to take a picture to test this ap and post it here. Let me see if there is a photo option….. alas there is not, but that is all the better because I look like hell right now.

Wait, I found it – here is a picture of my puppy, Spaz. She is sitting here waiting to watch the #DWTS result show – OOPS, I mean Dancing with the Stars.

20111108-200132.jpg

Well, for some reason,I am having trouble now seeing what I type because the program will not scroll. In the end, I think this ap needs a bit of work!

One last thing, are we allowed to link our posts here to twitter if we want to share them?

Is it time for a Different Social Network?

Is it time for Twitter, is it time for a different  Social Network?

I am not old – I am busy! 
This is my excuse for not utilizing Twitter up until this semester. Of course, when I realized what the content of this particular course would be like, it became apparent that the only way to really understand this phenomenon was to experience it firsthand.

Because the majority of my experience lately is with Facebook, I just assumed that there would be similarities – there are not.  Dave Clark, in his article:  Shaped and Shaping Tools presented me with a much different perspective of Twitter.  When he described his frustration with a program, subsequent Tweet and then an answer from a perfect stranger, it became apparent to me that, unlike Facebook, what we say and do on Twitter reaches the world.

So far, I have found some very interesting Twitter feeds to follow including Mashable, Lifehacker others specifically relating to our school and my own personal interests.  Mashable is purported to be the largest independent online news site and caters to social media. Lifehacker is such an interesting feed and so far. I have seen everything from holiday decorating ideas to feeds about our cyber lifestyles.

This brings to mind our conversations regarding social networking. Because there is not only a possibility, but a probability to meet new people daily through Twitter, I find that this is, indeed a social networking activity.  Not only that, it is much more organized than I ever imagined. My initial impression was that this was a random, willy nilly type of activity where people posted randomly everything from where they were and what they were doing. It is much more than this.  The quality of information available via links and searchable content make this a very powerful resource.

Of course, you will note that what I mostly took away from Clark’s work was his introduction. As he continued on in his writings and the concepts got thicker and thicker, I found that it was increasingly difficult to maintain focus. This is not to say that his concepts and information is not valid and worth study.  I just find a more direct and lest scholarly approach easier to digest.

This being said, Qualman’s readings are much easier to assimilate and compare to real-life situations. His references to the power of social networking are such amazing information. I equate his references to the proverbial drop of water in a bucket. My one purchase may not really mean much on its own, but couple that with the purchases of my friends and their friends and everyone that I am a fan of on Twitter and our bucket is overflowing.

Social Networking on Blogs by Penny C. Sansevieri CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. is an amazing reference to the power of blogs and their place in the land of social networking.  Penny states in her blog post that

“Commenting on blogs posts is a sort of social networking, even better in fact because blog posts and their associated comments are searchable.”

Just like Twitter, we are able to search blog posts for pertinent information and use this information however we desire.  While Penny’s post relates to the trials of getting a publication noticed, it is a powerful statement about the uses and abuses of blogging.

After going through this week’s readings and paying a bit closer attention to both Twitter and blogs posted on the net, I am coming to feel the immense power of social networking. I am also becoming very disillusioned with Facebook. I am starting to yearn more for interesting concepts and tire of daily drama.  Does this make me a bad person? I am curious – how do you answer the following?

All Restaurants Are Taco Bell (language)

Ok, so I was so tired tonight –  hard day at work. To relax, I grabbed my Ipad, pressed the icon for Netflix and started watching the first fun, sci-fi movie that I saw: Demolition Man (1993).  The movie had not gone very far when I realized the number of references to elements that are in our Turkle readings.

When I think of the “reduction in meaning” that is referenced by Turkle, I think of a lack of intimacy and even a dehumanizing factor that occurs when using technology.  This movie was absolutely packed full of references to just this.  Here are a few:

  • The dispatcher answers a call and says something like: “911 – if you would like to speak to a recording, press 1 now”.  DAMN!
  • People die and the squad room is shocked, sort of. Moments later when a conveyance is located through technology, everyone is elated and cheers. The deaths are all but forgotten.
  • The Compu-Chat program takes on a human personality and is deferred to as such. Even to go so far as to have an upset individual go to the computer for guidance.
  • The human police officers utilize a computer to walk them, step-by-step, through a narrative in order to act human.
  • The only person (Simon Phoenix), who can master technology can control it. All others are helpless.

Here we have a movie going on 20 years old that is addressing issues that concern us today.  Of course, I am not saying that all restaurants will one day be Taco Bell, but I am saying that to a degree, we are all concerned with technology dehumanizing us.

Blogging in Secret!

My Experience with Blogging

I actually have a personal blog, which I write for myself more than anyone else. Considering it’s password protected, and my husband is the only one with the password, I guess it truly is for myself. The first blog I ever had was in college before “blog” became a buzzword (does that make me sound old? I’m only 27!) and it was just called a “LJ” (short for Livejournal). My family and friends had my LJ URL and I updated while I was studying abroad in England. Fast forward to July 2010 – I started my blogger.com blog, which is what I still write in today. I write an average of one post a day – mostly about what’s going on in my life, nothing very exciting at all. The main reason I haven’t shared my blog with anyone is because it’s my space to be completely honest with how I feel, while not worrying about anyone else’s feelings. Apart from writing in my own blog, I follow several personal blogs, and blogs on natural food eating and DIY/home improvement blogs (how many times did I say “blog” in one sentence? ha!).

Reading Reflections

In Nardi’s article “Why we blog,” they state that in blogging, the reader gets a strong sense of the author, which could be why we’re drawn to them as humans. If you respect someone and view them as creditable, it’s no surprise that you’re likely to tune into their opinions on topics you’re interested in. Something else that struck me in that article was this: “Most bloggers are acutely aware of their readers…calibrating what they should and should not reveal.” I think this is precisely one of the big challenges of blogging. Authors have to censor themselves to some extent so not to alienate or offend their readers, who make the blog successful in the first place.

In Du and Wagner’s article about learning logs, it stated that web logs could be used instead of written papers to prove understanding and comprehension on the students part, which I think is a fantastic idea because it creates discussion between students and the professor instead of one-way communication that papers provide between the professor and the individual student. Plus, I think there are some very interesting and insightful disucssions that could pop up in a blogging environment that normally wouldn’t be brought to light in traditional circumstances.

Robin Gotch – First Post (let’s hope I don’t delete it!) – EDITED 9/21/2011

I had a blog – and I deleted its contents.  I wrote some really cool stuff – but then reconsidered.  I still think what I wrote was good, but realize that more thought and planning is necessary before I jump into the fray. Being a very honest person, the sort of person that you best not ask the question if you are afraid of the answer,  I tend speak my mind and have a very strong personality.

I also want to be hired to write or teach some day!

So, should I blog?  And if I do, should I set limits or should I go “balls to the walls” as is my want and do this thing up right? As you can see, I usually have many more questions than answers – so, should I blog about what and who I am or what confuses me?

In the end, I think the most important thing I need to do is learn. I need to learn about what blogging is, what types of blogs are out there and where I fit in, if anywhere.

Thoughts on the Readings:

There is no question that my own, personal feelings on blogging were quite inaccurate. This is exemplified by my comments above. I was under the assumption that the only good blog was one that dealt with politics or other intense issues. Silly me, blogging is for everyone! In fact, blogging is akin many other internet activities. It provides a cultural release nothing short of a shared online diary for many people. How many people this is shared with is a matter of personal preference. At the very beginning of the article, Why We Blog, it is evident that there is no one reason that people take pen to paper – er – fingers to keyboard, and document what is itching to be told.

I also found it appropriate that blogs are typically found by other blogs. This makes sense to me. I was so unfamiliar with blogs primarily because I was not active in the blogging community. What hit home for me was the statement “Bloggers sometimes poured out their feelings or ideas and sometimes struggled to find something to say.”  This sums up my reticence in a nutshell. Do I dare pour out my feelings? And what if I don’t feel like writing for a time?

Getting back to the concept of how to find a blog, I did a random search in Google for “blogs about horses”. Low and behold there is a site: http://horsebloggers.com

DOH! Now, this may not be the exact blog site I want to follow, it sure showed me how far my head was stuck in the … sand.

Mena Trott on Blogs


In the test posts in the coming weeks I look forward to hearing your opinions on blogs and hope that the use of a course blog allows us to grow as a community of writers.

To get a sense of the types of blogs I prefer to read, check out this TEDTalk. As an owner of a blog hosting service, Mena Trott has an interesting take on how she sees people using blogs to express themselves.

 
<for some reason the code wasn't working from the actual TED.com site, but I found the talk on YouTube.>

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