Filter Bubbles

This week in class we watched a video from TED of Eli Pariser talking about “filter bubbles”. I think this video was very interesting, and Eli has some very good points. I think the Internet is reaching a point where we can actually say with some truth that “Skynet is real”. Not that it is going to take over and become a real thinking machine and kill all mankind like in the Terminator movies, but the Internet is a scary place now. The fact that it can determine what we will like more of when we search for something based upon our browsing history, where we live, what kind of computer we use, etc, is crazy and nerve-wracking.

Eli’s talk was very informative and eye-opening. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know, like how Google uses your previous Internet activity and location to filter your web searches and give you results that may most appeal to you based on what it has “learned” about you. I think that filter bubbles can be a dangerous thing, because they limit the search that we are looking for. Just because Google, Facebook, or whatever site we’re using, may think we want to see certain things, we may not want those at all, and want to see what it is hiding from us.

It’s very interesting to see how far the Internet has come since ten years ago, in such a short time. I still remember waiting for dial up when I was younger and when Google and YouTube had just started. The Internet is growing every day, and I’m very curious to see where the Internet and this subject will be in the next five and ten years, and even further, and the effect it will have on our children.

Watch Eli’s speech here:

Advertisements

Inforgraphics!

Infographics are graphical visualizations that display some sort of data and information to it’s viewer. Infographs can help a writer and blogger in many ways, and give a better demonstration and blog to view by an audience. Infographs can help appeal the blog to an audience and draw a reader in to the blog to read more of the bloggers posts. Sometimes there is some information that if explained in a text format, can become very confusing and difficult for a reader to understand. Infographs help the blogger get across the information he/she needs to in a way that best suits the reader. Statistics, percentages, data, graphs. They can all be read better in some sort of graphical way than just another paragraph explaining.

We see infographs everywhere we look and we don’t realize it a lot of times. Bus route maps, statistic charts, graphs during a presentation, pie charts of favorite games to play with groups, the list goes on and we see them everywhere. Infographs can even be seen at theme parks, in the maps that you pick up on your way in. Maps display the basic essentials one needs in order to travel around the park and find everything they’re looking for.

For me, I enjoy inforgraphs that are in the shape or form of what they are representing. For instance, this chart of population spread throughout America:

This chart does not only represent the information it gives, but it does so in a way that one can really see the differences. Instead of just having a standard bar graph with city names and number of people in each, it lays out the whole country with a neat way of displaying the information it portrays.

One infograph I became especially good at figuring out was Metro Maps. When I spent time in Paris this summer and last summer, I really had to learn how to maneuver my way around the city via the Metro, and the maps were at first very confusing, but once I got the hang of it, I became a pro at figuring out which stop to take. Here is the map of the Paris Metro system:

Now at first, it looks really confusing, but when you travel via the Metro, to save money and time, multiple times a day, you start to get the hang of it.

See, there are infographs everywhere we look, and they can be very helpful at getting information across in an easier, more understandable, and more fun way all at the same time. They are very helpful in writing, especially when a lot of data is needed. Readers will see huge paragraphs and be turned away, but if they see charts, graphs, or any sort of infograph, they won’t be so frightened of the piece.

Welcome readers in with a friendly infograph.

Guest blog! “Can I add a little somethin’ somethin’?”

This week, I have decided to do a guest blog for our Topic of the Week. I have chosen to partner up with my good friend Tara Duffy, cause she’s awesome and a great writer and writes awesome stuff that I like a lot. Here is her post, which can be found here.

Once upon a time there was a man who would state his opinion and people would take it as fact. There would be no questioning of his theology or where he got his information. What he said was true and could be questioned. Then along came this younger man who had great ideals and a curious heart. After the first man would give out his information, the younger man would ask a question and cause those around him to think constructively and figure out together what the truth was. At first there was conflict. ‘Who does this guy think he is questioning this Man?’ started being asked by the people who sat and listened to their dialogue. Only after these questions were asked did the people see that they were changing themselves. No longer were they an audience of life, but participants of debates. The older man was quite stunned what a simple question could do to the vast majority. Never in his life have people questioned his word, and now he would have to defend his statements. He was being stretched in ways that never wouldhave occurred if this young man hadn’t showed up. Soon the older man would have talks and the youngimageman wouldn’t say anything, but the others would ask questions. They took up the idea and ran with it. After more talks ensued and were being debated, the young man decided to leave. There were other towns that needed someone to ask questions. He went to find them and say what others couldn’t.

Our opinion is so important and really can change the way things are run. I believe that everything that is count as fact should be investigated until proven correct. I know that there is a faith-based belief that may go against my rational, but Jesus said to test and make sure you believe what you actually believe. I think that commentsare almost as important as the subject being talked of. Your comments can bring about a new perspective or correct what might have been construed as something rude. Use comments to further knowledge and bring about understanding. If you use them more for correctness than understanding, you are missing the point.

Headlines. Read all about it.

Headlines are vital to any blog or social media site that posts articles  or pieces of written material for the audience to read. Headlines can be the most difficult part of a post to think of, create, and write, as they are the most important in getting the reader’s attention so that they will want to read your post, and then go on to sharing it with others so more people see what you wrote. Here are some ways to improve your headlines and insure that you will get an audience who wants to read what you have:

1. Be clear and creative. Headlines shouldn’t beat around the bush as to what the post is going to be about, and at the same time you want to be creative so that people are actually interested in continuing to the post, clicking the link that will take them to it to read more.

2. Make sure it’s enough characters to be shared on other social media sites like Twitter. Twitter only allows 140 characters, so you may want to keep it under 100 if tweeters want to add hashtags and other information about it in their tweet.

3. Spell check is key in headlines. If one sees a headline that has a basic grammatical or spelling error in it, they won’t think too highly of the writer and will skip over it. Think about it, if you saw a headline that had a misspelled word, would you think you’d want to read the rest of their post based off of the first impression?

4. Going off of 3, first impressions are key. Make the headline outstanding, funny, and interesting.

5. Don’t use a lot of “a”, “the”, “and”, etc, articles. Use as few as possible when writing a headline.

6. Make the headline what the article is really going to be about, and the most important information. Don’t add extraneous info that you can put in the article and save space for in the headline.

7. Make sure your headline excites people enough to see it and show it to others before they even get a chance to look at it themselves.

8. Subtitles are great. That way you can make your headline short and to the point and then you can add more about it in the subtitle.

9. Make your headlines bigger than the font of the article, and the font of your website. That will make them more attractive to the reader and more eye catching.

10. Use good and strong verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc. They will lighten up the headline and make it more appealing.

Comments, ARE AWESOME.

Blog comments are essential, and everybody loves seeing them. Comments prove that people visited your blog, and leaving them make people happy, so of course you should leave some wherever you go! Blog comments are like extra candy on Halloween, you don’t expect to have so much, but then BAM, there they are, and your night is made.

When you visit a blog, and if you really like it, heck, even if you hate it, it’s still a good thing to leave a comment for the author to see what other people think on the subject. The author put time and effort out of his/her day (that they may or may not have gotten paid for) to write the post you just spent time reading, and they want your feedback and to know what you thought as you read it! Every comment helps, no matter how small or how large it is, author’s enjoy reading and getting them, even if it’s a simple “great post!” Knowing that someone took the time to read what they wrote is a great way to compliment somebody on their writing.

Some things to remember while leaving comments that I have found are:

Be careful what you say on somebody’s post. Just because you disagree completely with what they say doesn’t mean you should post a comment harshly and without reason, completely bashing what they say and believe in. Be careful of your audience, but give your point of view respectfully.

Leave a link to your own blog, so that the author can go to yours and see what you write about, they may like it enough to follow along and leave you some comments in return!

Let them know how good their blog is, and how well it is written. Give them tips on how to improve, and offer advice of your own so they can become a better writer so more people will want to see what they post.

At the same time, read the comments you get with an open mind, and don’t be so quick and rash to come to fumes over what somebody said about your post. Everybody has their own opinion on something, and just because someone does not agree with you does not make them right or wrong in their ways.

Digital or Analog?

There is a very big difference between digital and analog writing. Analog writing has it’s advantages, and so does digital. I personally prefer digital, especially since just about everything now is digital with smartphones, computers, iPads, etc.

With digital writing, it will be on the internet, and everything that goes on the internet is there forever, there is no avoiding that. You can save your drafts that way, and always know where they are, and not risk losing them, which is definitely a huge benefit. Digitally, anybody can see it too, people from all over the world, which can help a lot in getting more feedback as well.

There are several Do’s and Don’t’s of digital writing, and though I do not know all of them, I will give some of mine.

DO use pictures. Pictures help a lot, they help attract the reader to your blog and articles, and help them browse. They can also give the reader a good idea of what the post will be about before reading it and if it is something they will be interested in or not.

DON’T ramble. Rambling gets everybody nowhere, and nobody wants to read somebody’s rambles about anything they don’t like.

DO use short paragraphs. Short paragraphs will catch the reader’s eye easier and more clearer, and want them to stay on the page more. If they see a bunch of long paragraphs, they’re not going to want to read all of it and will skip over what could be your best post.

DO be bold in what you say. Be brave, and bold at the same time. It’s your blog, you can post what you want on it, however be careful of what you post. There are some things that you may want to say, but should remain in your head and not on the internet for everyone to see.

DO NOT start arguments or fights on the Internet. That is just a low move to pull on somebody and bashing someone through the internet is rude and immature and should be done so in person with the person you are in a feud with.

DO NOT plagiarize. Not only is it illegal, but it is morally wrong on all accounts. Create your own work for reader’s to see.

DO use other’s for help and guidance. This does not mean plagiarize, it just means use other’s to guide you and be inspired. You can look at other blogs and be inspired by what other’s say and write off of that.

DO use hyperlinks to other people’s blogs you visit. If somebody likes what you write and want to see more on the same topic, link them to others who share the same values or writing topics you do.

DO write often. Write regularly. Writing a lot will help you become a better writer and readers will see that and see your growth as they follow your work.

DO give credit when credit is due.

Cleaning Your Copy

Last week I did the NewsU course Cleaning Your Copy, and learned more about grammar and technical issues about writing. It was a very good course to take, and I would recommend it for other students.

What I learned: I learned more about the technicalities of grammar, AP style, punctuation, spelling, and proper word usage. A lot of this wasn’t very new to me as I had learned most of this already in previous classes I had taken throughout my college experience (Advanced Expository Writing, Journalism, etc), but this was a good refresher course. One really good part was distinguishing the difference between two words that sound identical, but mean different things, because that is something I usually have a hard time with.

What surprised me: Not much of what I saw in this course surprised me, because, again, I had already seen most of it. The AP style is something I have really had to get used to through all my COMM courses I’ve taken so far, and it’s something Dr. Cotton really pushed us to use in his classes I took last year. Something that did take me by surprise was all the words that people usually have trouble spelling, I sometimes don’t, unless I’m typing really quickly. I’ve always been a pretty good speller, and that has helped me a lot through my school experiences.

What do I want to know more about: The AP style is still something that confuses me sometimes and I have to remember to check off everything to make sure I get it right when I do it, so that would definitely help a lot. There are still some grammar technicalities that I need to really get down in my writing before I graduate which I really hope I can accomplish this year, but other than that, I’ve already heard a lot of what was in this course from other very good professors.

This course was very good, and I know not everyone has had the classes and professors I have had and been exposed to it like I have, so I would definitely recommend it for other writers and PR students.