Almost all of the work we will do this semester in Curation Culture will take place on the course blog. As we start our semester-long study of information literacy and social media, I want us to begin by thinking about the blogs we read. What makes them good? Why do we return to them again and again? What features about them are convenient and enable easy exchange of information? As we write and participate in class, we should think about blog features and incorporate them into what we create. Before you start writing, read through these guidelines to help you along the way.
Technical Guidelines: Top Ten
Each person is a contributing writer to what I hope will be an interesting and informative resource for anyone who thinks about social media and information literacy. In order to make the product we put out as learned and visually appealing as possible, please adhere to the following guidelines when writing.
1. Come up with a creative title for each post. This is self-explanatory. Generate a title that will pique interest in what you write and will generate attention from others.
2. Tag and categorize your posts appropriately. When writing, be sure to use categories and tags according to the conventions we set up on the blog. This is called ascribing metadata to your posts. The main blog categories are predefined; please use them. However, tagging is also important, as it helps other people find the blog, and it is a conceptual map of what each post is about. You are free to use established tags or create new ones, if they make sense to you.
3. Use images and embed YouTube videos. Most blog posts should have at least one image somewhere, but preferably near the top of the post, “above the fold.” In order to upload images, use the “upload/insert” toolbar at the top of the writing panel. The best way to add an image is to download something from a website, save it to a folder on your hard drive, and then upload that file onto your blog post. From there, you can edit the size, add a caption, and even alt text. When appropriate, you are encouraged to add a caption that describes the picture or enhances the reading experience. Try to have the text of your article wrap around an image in a way that looks visually appealing when the post is published; you may have to fiddle with the dimensions of your image after you load it into the post.
YouTube videos are even easier to handle. Simply click the video icon on the aforementioned menu, copy the YouTube “share this” URL, and hit “insert.” Images and videos are a great way to synthesize multi-media content to the blog or just provide nice decoration.
4. Link to other sources, and embed links in your writing. Linking is a way of engaging with other ideas and writing online. In order to do this, simply highlight some text, and then click on the link button on the control panel. Copy and paste a URL. If the address is from another blog, or even a blog post by someone else from this blog, link to it as well. It will generate a pingback, which lets other bloggers know that you’ve interacted with their work. For instance, the other day, I read an interesting article on Awful Announcing, one of my favorite sports blogs, about Twitter’s recent decision to suspend reporter Guy Adams and shut down his account at NBC’s behest because he criticized their coverage of the Olympics.
5. Set off block-quotations of other sources, especially from our primary readings and from secondary sources, as you write. In all your writing, do get into the habit of actually quoting the words of other people. This is a particularly good idea when the text in question is from an article that we’ve read in class. WordPress has established a feature to do this: the quotation mark button on the dashboard. For instance, when talking about the aforementioned Awful Announcing article, you may want to highlight the text itself:
If [Twitter is] going to be a trusted source for news and opinion, it’s critical for the company to ensure that their (sic) behavior doesn’t skew toward protecting advertisers and corporate partners.
Simply highlight the quoted text, separate it with a new paragraph, and then click the quotation button. Then follow your quotation with some analysis.
6. Use the “More” tag. Since all of us in this class will be writing posts, myself included, we won’t want a single post to dominate the entire home page. In order to give each post approximately equal space on the page, use “more” tag, the fourth-from-left button on the top row of the control panel. Or just hit alt+shift+t. Try to have your image above the “more” tag.
7. Comment liberally. One of the features of blogging and online writing is instant response from other interested readers. Read an average article on the Al.com website, and you’ll see what I mean. Here on the Curation Culture blog, everyone should use the comment feature liberally. Share ideas with classmates. Commend good writing. Critique ill-thought ideas. Complicate things. Respond to brainstorms. Laugh out loud. And most importantly, provide good feedback on posts that build toward formal essays.
8. Use the built-in features to rate each blog post and/or “like” posts. With WordPress, you can express your reaction to a post with the click of a mouse; you hardly even have to register a coherent thought. Seriously, “liking” or rating a post on a scale of 1-5 is important for a couple of reasons: first, it lets the people who write know that they are being read and are doing a good job (or a not good job) and it helps me know which writers are resonating with people. There also may be grade bonuses for writers who achieve high ratings and whose posts generate the most hits, so there is an incentive for writing well, interesting multiple audiences, and getting page views.
Another good way to enliven the site visually and solicit feedback is to create a poll.
9. When you see particularly good content, including your own, spread the word. WordPress has features installed that will help us circulate our content and put it on the screens of like-minded readers. By linking sites to social media and bookmarking platforms, you increase your reading audience and earn potential rewards for this class. So do your part to get the word out. Share a good post via Twitter, Facebook, or any other bookmarking site. Link to the writing of your peers. Link to other blogs in your writing. Cite the writing of other people in the class when you write to demonstrate the conversations that are happening.
10. Strive for excellence in design, appearance, and writing. This blog is a creative space that you can make your own. As a class, we will take control of this blog collectively, and it is my goal that it will serve multiple roles as we move on. Not only will this blog be a portal for information about the class, but it will also be a place where people who are interested in reading about pastoral literature will come for like-minded conversation and ideas. That being said, do good work.
If you have any questions about WordPress or blogging, feel free to visit the WordPress help pages, or just ask me. Throughout the semester, we will cover some blogging basics in class. Anyone can blog!
The above video is a great talk by Josh Jones-Dilworth, who spoke at the University of Texas-Austin’s Digital Writing and Research Lab. I’ve also compiled a list of observations and advice about blogging on my own site.
The first list instructs us on how to blog and how to use the WordPress interface. This next list sets some guidelines on what to write, where to get ideas, and what kind of content you can create and include in your posts.
1. Get some sense of what other people are saying about the various issues at stake with information literacy, education, curation, social media, and neuroscience. Read articles from the sites listed to the right, and link to ideas that seem interesting to you.
2. Supplement your reading of our class readings with any content you come across that will help everyone else understand the relationship between social media, information literacy, and learning. See a video on YouTube that relates? Read an article on the Huffington Post that engages with Twitter? Listened to a clip on NPR? Bring them into the discussion.
3. Write with a purpose. Do you have an argument that you can back up by showing how other bloggers are talking about? Demonstrate that in your posts. Have a question about something that came up in class that you find controversial? Write a blog post about it here.
4. Create your own content that will supplement your writing. Perhaps you are an aspiring artist and you draw an infographic that illustrates some points you are making Scan it, and post it to the blog. Take a picture and upload. Create screencasts to show others how you are using social media and upload them here on the blog.
5. Quote the texts we read directly! Bring in sections of what other people have written and then engage with what you have quoted.
6. Don’t feel bad if you take images from elsewhere. When in doubt, give credit.
7. Think about writing in ways that will interest a broad audience.
8. Reference discussions we have in class. Follow up on them
9. Respond to the questions I pose in my blog posts. These questions are a starting point, but they are not the end of anyone’s exploration of social media.
10. Have fun and strive for a high level of entertainment.