Your 444 Portfolio and Text to Hypertext Project: Working With WordPress or Weebly (and PS about the Codecademy Part 2!)

One of the things on the schedule for us this week is to start talking a bit more about your 444 Portfolio site and whatever software you decide you’re going to use to make your text to hypertext project– and for that, you’re probably going to use WordPress or Weebly.

We’ve talked about this a bit already, but part of the reason why I think this is important for this class is because it’s software sort of like Wordpress and Weebly– let’s generally call it “Content Management Systems”– that drive most kinds of web sites.  So to me, it’s as important in a class like this to learn the basics/concepts behind Content Management Systems as it is to learn the basics of HTML and CSS.

I don’t have any “Codecademy”-like sites to point you toward for learning the basics of WordPress, but I do have three two easy suggestions and one question to help people out:

  • Ask some questions– right here, elsewhere, etc.– about WordPress. That’s what I’m here for! What are you trying to figure out to do? Ask! That’s why I get paid the big bucks!
  • Also take a look at which is WordPress’ support site. It’s searchable and very complete, so give it a try.

And here’s the question: is there any interest in folks getting together face to face to talk through some of these tools and/or the upcoming final writing assignments for the term?

I am always available to meet with each of you individually either in person or via Google Hangouts, but I’ve found that it can be productive (and kinda fun!) for a group to get together. Time-wise, I could probably meet in the late afternoon/early evening next week on November 16 or 17 or maybe November 18, and I could probably meet late afternoon/early evening on the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

What do you think? Vote here in the poll if you’re interested.

And finally, PS: don’t forget you need to do the second part of the Codecademy assignment, something you should probably something you should get started on if you haven’t yet. It’s due the Monday after Thanksgiving.

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About the pre-test on usability: how did it go?

I’m not gonna lie: as I type this after waking up to a world where we’re going to have a “President Trump,” I’m more than a little distracted. But I also feel like I need to go on– maybe you do, too– which brings me to this discussion: how did you your pre-test for usability for your web site go? Or how is it going?

Remember that by now, you were supposed to do this simple pre-test. Here’s how I describe it in the assignment itself:

The first is a “pre-test” of sorts:  you will create a sketch or a wireframe of the site you are working on/planning and get some basic feedback.  The goal here is to help steer your project in the right direction before you get too far into it.  You will report about your pre-test usability test both in a brief (1000 word or so) essay and in class discussion.

Note that I changed that write-up part of it, though we are still having the class discussion part (here!) and this is an experience you’ll probably want to write about in the final essay that you’ll complete at the end of the term/end of this project. But for now, let’s hear how the pre-test part is going.

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A few small (but notable) updates

Watch the video, but two updates:

  • I am trying to (and almost there!) to get caught up, and that includes commenting on your write-ups about the quasi-usability testing we did on the department web site. Those comments are on canvas.
  • I am not going to require you to write about your pre-test usability experiences specifically because it occurs to me that you’ve been writing a lot already and you will write about this when you write your essay about the whole experience of putting together your text to hypertext project. So don’t worry about that. We will talk about the pre-test experiences here (on the site, that is) starting on Wednesday.
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Discussing Wolff’s “Baby, We Were Born to Tweet Springsteen Fans, the Writing Practices of In Situ Tweeting, and the Research Possibilities for Twitter”

This is where we’ll talk about Bill Wolff’s article “Baby, We Were Born to Tweet Springsteen Fans, the Writing Practices of In Situ Tweeting, and the Research Possibilities for Twitter.” This is kind of a complicated and long essay, and if you don’t get it all, that’s fine. (And if you have some specific questions about what’s going on here, feel free to ask). I think it’s worth taking a look at for a few different reasons:

  • There is lots of stuff in here about how social media works, how fan culture works, and how Twitter works that could be potentially useful for any of your final projects for the semester of social media.
  • The detail is perhaps a bit much for our purposes here, but the way that Wolff spells out his research methodology is interesting and potentially something the graduate students in the class might want to study. After all, a big part of making your MA projects work is figuring out a research methodology.
  • The “in situ” bit just means the way people use Twitter while actually involved at an event, and in my experience, this is a really important way people tend to use Twitter. So I thought that was pretty interesting as well.
Posted in Reading assignments, Writing Assingments | 27 Comments

“Super Mom in a Box”

This is where we’ll talk about the essay “Super Mom in a Box.” Sorry I’m a little later on this than I’d prefer, but it has been one of those “one thing after another” series of days.

The next few articles we’ll be reading/discussing (actually, it’s the last bits of reading for the class) are more of an academic bent– though I still think accessible– and specifically about various uses of social media. The idea here is to read and think about some of the scholarship that is out there about how social media works so you can start thinking about it for your end of the semester reflective projects.

This particular essay is about the writer’s (Lindsey Harding) complex relationship with Pinterest and her own identity as a woman and a mother. I know a couple of you are following Pinterest as one of your social medias this semester, but I don’t think you have to know a lot about Pinterest to get the hang of this piece.

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Two FWIW readings about Twitter: the end of Vine and a memorable Twitter feed

Two things I came across lately that some of you might be interested in, in the “FWIW” category of things:

  • Apparently, Vine is no more. Or at least Twitter (which owns Vine) is phasing it out. There are a bunch of other news stories about this out there. Anyway, I know at least one of you is using Vine as one of your social medias this semester.
  • One of the genres on Twitter that is kind of interesting is the series of Tweets about something. Here’s one I came across the other day that is about typewriters; I guess I liked it because I kind of have a soft-spot in my heart for all kinds of writing technologies, particularly typewriters. In any event, even if you don’t fare about typewriters, I think you can see how this expands the possibilities of the 140 character single tweet.


Posted in FWIW | 11 Comments

About “Tales from the Public Domain” and Creative Commons

This is where we’ll talk about “Tales from the Public Domain,” a comic by Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins, which is actually a comic about copyright, and also a bit about Creative Commons. I am always torn about how much attention we should spend in a class like this on issues of copyright, fair use, open-access, sharing culture, and the like. On the one hand, I think it is critical to at least acknowledge these issues because you will want to pay attention to them when you put together your own text-to-hypertext projects. And of course, these are important things to think about professionally, too: you can’t “just take stuff” (like images, video clips, audio clips, and so forth) and add it to your web site. You have to own (or lease) the rights to that stuff.

On a related (maybe other?) hand, copyright law and just what constitutes “fair use” (for artistic reasons, educational reasons, etc., etc.) is enormously complicated, too complicated to really talk about fully in a class like this because of time and expertise– that is, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t think any of the rest of us are either.

So that’s why I think this comic is a decent-enough compromise. It’s a little dated, but I don’t think the law has changed in any basic way, and it’s an approachable/easy enough to digest format.

The Creative Commons site is all about one of the solutions to the problems of copyright with online material. Hunt around the site both for what it’s about, the various licenses it has available, about searching for things you can use with different creative common licenses, and so forth. The (very very short) version is Creative Commons is a way that allows creators to share their work for others to use in a much more dynamic way than traditional copyright. It’s far from a perfect solution, but it’s probably the best we’ve got for now.

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And shifting into readings sort of between the text to hypertext and social media assignments…

We’re starting to move away from the readings that are specifically about the text to hypertext/usability projects (that is, Krug and Redish and the like) and more into some readings that make connections between that assignment and the semester of social media assignment. For example:

These are all very “browsable” postings/brief essays that to me are both about the nature of social media and also about the nature of the way “words in a row” prose functions/works differently online. And when I say “browsable,” I mean these are all (IMO) pretty quick reads, and there are a lot of other texts like this out online– if you know something similar, please share!

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Continuing to talk about “Do Not Track” (and a few related FWIW readings/thoughts)

You can continue the conversation about “Do Not Track” where we started it and/or here, that’s totally up to you. But I wanted to post a new thread first to remind you to make sure you finish up the series– there is a good “episode” about mobile devices in the middle, and also the last one about the “future” of privacy.

I also wanted to share a couple of related links here. First, in the “in the news” category of things:

“Police Use Surveillance Tool to Scan Social Media, ACLU Says” is a New York Times story from a couple weeks back. Basically, the same companies that are tracking us for the purposes of advertising and to otherwise sell us junk are now marketing their tracking software/capabilities to police departments and other agencies so they can “mine” the data of social media to track (potential?) criminals. That’s creepy.

And then there’s this:

This is an episode of the NPR interview show Fresh Air with a story relevant here. To quote from the web site:

Author and law professor Tim Wu says much of the “free” content on the web comes at a price to users, who are subjected to ads that are targeted specifically at them and increasingly hard to ignore. His new book is ‘The Attention Merchants.’

I heard part of this interview and he makes a good point about how we’ve made kind of a “bad deal” in deciding that the way we’re going to pay for all of this internet stuff is by allowing ourselves to be tracked and advertised at all the time.

My personal reaction/feelings about “Do Not Track” are “well, be aware that there’s not a lot of privacy online anywhere.” But if you reaction is a little stronger and you are thinking “hey, I need to stop these things from tracking me,” you might want to explore some of the different tools out there that can help protect your privacy. For example, (which is one of the sponsors of “Do Not Track”) is a service for this, but there are a ton of others.

And hey, if you really want to unplug for a while, maybe it’s worth taking a look at this advice from Gwyneth Paltrow’s “lifestyle” web site Goop:

Posted in FWIW, Reading assignments, Writing Assingments | 14 Comments

“Do Not Track,” a web video/experience

This is where we’ll talk about “Do Not Track,” which is a sort of web video and interactive web experience about an important topic we haven’t really talked about much yet: privacy and data security on the web. There are a lot of things we could read/talk about with these issues, many of which are current news with things like wikileaks and the allegations that the Russians are tampering with the election. Maybe we’ll read some more about that soon.

Anyway, “Do Not Track” is broken up into seven different “episodes” of different lengths about internet security stuff. How “long” it is depends a bit on how much you “experience” it because there are lots of side/tangent readings and such. But plan on it taking at least an hour to “experience” the whole thing. We’ll start talking about it Monday and continue it off and on through the rest of the week.

Posted in Reading assignments, Writing Assingments | 32 Comments