Monday, September 5, 2011

Sharing Information Online with Blogger

Research isn't helpful unless we're able to effectively discuss and share our findings.  For today's project, you'll assemble a basic framework for sharing research using Blogger.

Discussion Boards and Blogs: Brainstorming versus In-Depth Discussion
Thus far, we've been using Facebook comments to assemble and comment on various research sources.  The advantage of Facebook is that it allows many, many people to interact at once.  As we've seen from our group, though, is that having too many people posting at once can make it hard to sort out who's saying what.  The second problem is that we can't rearrange the posts into a coherent order - the latest posts show up at the top, and comments always roll straight down the page from their post.  This is the disadvantage of chronological posting.

We've gotten around this by having individual groups set up documents for their research projects - now we're going to go a step further by having each group set up its own blog.  Although this process is far more complicated, it offers many significant advantages:
Depth of Discussion
Longer posts provide more information. You have room to discuss what you've found and why it's important.

Editing allows you to write more thorough articles. Your aren't trapped with what you uploaded - you can go back and make changes as new information becomes available.

Hypertextual Organization
Organizing your posts thematically allows you to create a more coherent presentation. Use pages to create "Start Here" welcome for your visitors and an easy-to-navigate table of contents.

Yes, the internet is an ethereal creation that exists beyond our physical reality. But unlike old Facebook posts - which are constantly buried in newer posts and format changes - a blog is a durable creation. A well-designed blog can serve as a kind of "home base" for your online writing.
Step 1: Set Up Your Blogger Blog
You should each have a Google account set up and ready-to-go. In your groups, you'll each log in to Blogger and also to the e-mail account associated with your Blogger account.

From there, follow these steps:
Name Your Blog
The name is very important - it sets the scope of your subject, attracts readers, and contributes a great deal to your search engine placement.  You'll want to decide on a couple possible names before entering Blogger, and then use Google to make sure that these names haven't already been taken and/or trademarked.

Create the Blog

Designate one person to go in to Blogger, create the blog, and then share it with the other members of the group.

Establish Privileges
Accept your invites and assign admin privileges.  Decide if you want everyone to have admin privileges, or if you'd rather limit it to one or two people.

Choose who will be in charge of different aspects of the blog. I recommend having one person in charge of each of the pages you wish to create, and then assigning individuals to cover blog posts for specific topics.

Step 2: Organize Your Posting
You'll want to have a general idea of not only your topic, but also the categories of information related to it. If, for example, you were writing about cooking, you would first decide what particular aspect you were addressing (e.g. salads, Thanksgiving meals, easy dinner for under $10.) If you chose salads, you would then sort your presentation based on the categories you find relevant. You could go with the types of salads (e.g. Caesar, chef, Mediterranean, etc.) or with the ease of preparation (Five Minute Salads, Buffet Salads, etc.)

Organizing a blog involves two critical components. The first is tagging - you want to decide on a list of relevant tags before starting your posts, and then assign the appropriate tag to each post. The second is linking - ideally, each blog post will link to other relevant posts, and there will be a single "contents" page which will direct readers to either posts or keyword tags based on the categories you've chosen.

If you're unsure of how to organize your blog posts, then Look to Your Research to guide your decisions.

Step 3: Write Your Blog Posts
A good blog post should have a solid introduction to interest the reader which is then followed by the information you wish to present. You'll want to provide your thoughts, links to other blog posts, and links to outside websites with relevant information. Don't forget that you can also imbed outside media (such as YouTube videos) inside your blog to build interest.
Important Note: You cannot post photos or content unless you have the rights to do so - copying materials from other websites without permission or attribution is a violation of copyright law.

Step 4: Keep Writing...or Start New Projects
The best part about blogs is that you can continue updating them for as long as you like.  Although the internet is filled with "orphan" blogs which are no longer maintained, it's also filled with with a rich collection of personal and professional blogs which are regularly updated with new content.  As you work on your blog, you should consider the future you want from your project, whether you'll continue updating it or instead choose to move on to other projects.

If you would like more detailed considerations in the aesthetics of blogging, take a look at Blogging and Your Online Presence.


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