Blogging Essays

Although the blog essays will be similar in both halves of the course, I find it helpful to break up my descriptions into two halves.  I will grade your work each week, so if you start out a little slow, you can learn from my feedback.

Part 1: 6 blog essays in 8 weeks,  50 points each, top 5 = 250 points.

I am asking you to write weekly short blog essays in lieu of writing a fully developed paper.  Your six posts in 8 weeks will add up to about a 10 page paper.  I am calling them “blog essays” because I want to be clear that I expect “essay” elements in these posts: a point or insight (thesis), development of that idea with reference to the ideas and works of others (our assigned readings, websites or Tweets you might be analyzing, videos and images you might be learning from), well-written and carefully edited prose, although some room for informality and netspeak.  I will also be looking for some uniquely “blog” elements: categorization of posts, tags, links to the sources you reference, and relevant images.  

These “blog essays” should be significant undertakings: they should be planned, drafted, and revised before posting.  They should not be attempted late Sunday night with a midnight deadline looming, although my guess is that most of you will post towards the end of each week.  I recommend that you set yourself a schedule and stick with it: most social media professionals keep a posting calendar. Every once in a while a student will blame me for not setting a hard and fast deadline.  If you think you will be that student, your blog essay is due Saturday of each week.

But what should these blog essays look like? What are the generic conventions?  
Post length:  400+ words.  This might seem long, but search engines index and analyze deep into a page, so more content can increase search engine exposure.  The wordiest blogger in 2012 got the most site traffic, debunking the over-emphasis on keeping things short (can someone update this information).  English and Communication majors (as well as other students in this class) should look at writing as their strength, their skill that sets them apart, so use those skills to write post that have:
  • Voice: speak to your readers, engage them with lively language, engaging stories.
  • Content: informative and insightful—content is king. Provide an insight, develop it / back it up. Draw on sources we are reading for class but also try to find at least one relevant article on your own that can help your thinking and strengthen your post. Link to it.  Short posts about nothing won’t get read.
  • Image(s): as good as our writing can be, we have to admit that images have great appeal to.  ALWAYS include an accompanying, meaningful image (s); one for every 200 words is becoming the formula.
  • Categories: categories are like folders–a place to put your work. If you are blogging in another course, plus blogging about personal interests, you might have three categories: English 457 (or better, call this category “social media for social good”), your other course (“Society and Internet”), and “My Life.” If you only use this blog for this course, I recommend you start with two categories: “social media” and “nonprofits.” Categorize each post, but don’t put each post in both categories or the categories won’t become meaningful. If someone comes to your site and sees 6 posts but only wants to read what you have written about nonprofit, that visitor should be able to click on your category and then see your posts about nonprofits. You can set up a new category at any time, and in WordPress, you can go back and recategorize your posts. Categories will make more sense as you develop more content.
  • Tags: tags help you and your readers see the more specific details that you write about. Within your Social Media category, you might write about Facebook one time, so you can use Facebook as a tag with that post. You might write about Twitter and Instagram in another post; you could use both tags there. Tags build the same way as Categories: a future reader can come and see that you have written about Twitter quite a bit, click on that tag, and read all your posts about Twitter. The same principle would apply for Nonprofits.
  • Links: most obviously to sources and sites you are referring to, but also to “additional readings” as provided by WordPress.
  • Share-ability: make sure you share your posts on Twitter, Facebook or both. Consider sharing on LinkedIn if you are trying to make professional connections via this class.

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Topics: Sorry, you can’t just write about any old thing! Below is a list of topics, but consult the schedule each week to see more details about your posts.

Wk 1 Write one blog essay about persona; consider these options: a) Who do you want to be online? b) Who are organizations trying to be? c) combine those two topics. See the schedule for more details.

Wk 2 Write about style: the long form (blogs) the short form (Twitter, status, SMS) and what you are doing (or have done) to learn these styles. How does SnapChat figure in? See the schedule for more details.
Wk 3 (Social) networking: how do non-profits build following / community? By week 3, you will be following three organizations as they try to raise money online via Giving Hearts Day, February 8, 2018.
Wk 4: catch up if you need to, re-write a blog if you’d like to overcome a low score in the first set, get a “tune up” if you are having trouble with any of the technical components of the blog essay.   We will video conference (or meet face to face) this week.  We can talk about your voice and style, length, website design, web essay design, etc..
Wk 5 What makes for a good image in a blog, on Facebook, or shared via Twitter?  (Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest). What do images want?
Wk 6 What makes for a good video blog or good video storytelling on YouTube, embedded, or shared elsewhere?
Wk 7 Public narratives produce action: tell a story of self-us-now.

At the end of week 8, please submit a memo to me (via email) that functions as a self-evaluation or your work, that provides me with some data points, and that gives you a chance to make an argument for more holistic (and presumably better) grade.   Tell me:
  • About particularly ambitious posts: video posts, audio posts, mashups—posts that took considerable time and energy to produce.
  • Reposts or pingbacks you got–signs that others liked your work and shared it some way or other.
  • How many comments you received on a particularly active post, how many in total.
  • How many comments you posted on other people’s blogs, or what other strategies you used for driving traffic to your site.
  • Please also provide a screen capture image or other output that shows me your WordPress Stats: weekly visits, comments, etc..

Please evaluate yourself holistically: did you get more or less traffic and conversation than you expected? What would you say about the quality of your exchanges?  Overall, did you do excellent work, good work, adequate work, or inadequate work to be a successful user of Web 2.0 tools?  I will likely accept your self-assessed score out of 300 if it seems reasonable and honest.

Part 2: Project blogging.  Six posts in seven weeks, drop the lowest score, 30 points each, 150 points.  

For Part 2, I am going to take away the weekly prompts but challenge you to develop weekly posts in six of the seven remaining weeks. Your posts should flesh out your avatar (who you want to be online) and interests:

  • post about the ideas, causes, technologies, and/or organizations you are passionate about. So I am not saying, “Post about anything,” but I am saying post about the passions you want to be known for when online.
  • continue to refine your WordPress site as a whole with the design, images, categories, and tags that reflect who you want to be online.
  • optional strategy: develop a consistent approach, like the “High Five Fridays” that OnSharp uses. This might help some of you; it might confine others.  Only use this approach if it helps you.

Your weekly post should still have voice, solid content, appropriate images, use categories, tags, links, and be share-able.  You can have some flexibility with the length: at least 400 words, but up to 800.  If you want to shift to video blogging or podcasting, I would endorse that as well. Consider doing some brainstorming in week 10 to see if you can think of six topics you’d like to write about over the remaining seven weeks; start drafting some of those posts, but also be open to issues that emerge, events that are relevant to you and the organizations you care about, insights about causes that are important to you.

Topics to be determined by you.

I think, Therefore I blog.

Image courtesy of “Windows Incident Report” and this post about writing blogs.

 

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