Tag Archives: blogging

joining blog high ed: new connections. new content.

Tommy Johnson: I had to be up at that there crossroads last midnight, to sell my soul to the devil.
Ulysses Everett McGill: Well, ain’t it a small world, spiritually speaking. Pete and Delmar just been baptized and saved. I guess I’m the only one that remains unaffiliated.

For a long time, I used those lines from O Brother, Where Art Thou? in relation to my relationship (or lack thereof) with the larger higher education blogging networks. Truth is, no one asked. But that changed this week when Matt Herzberger and Brad Ward asked some folks in the field, including me, to infuse new voices into their collective, Blog High Ed.

It’s a flattering situation, and I’m honored, humbled and happy. But it also brings the added benefit of forcing me to raise my game. Here are some topics to expect in the coming weeks:

* Our efforts at a social Commencement. We don’t have a lot of resources — a few students and yours truly — but we’re trying to step up in terms of connecting this very exciting day.

* The second Canadian Post-Secondary Education web conference, aka #pseweb, taking place next week in Toronto.

* Where’s the love for transfers? One man’s crusade to improve social media resources for perhaps the most overlooked and underaddressed higher education population.

Finding myself affiliated with some really great bloggers, I can only hope I do my part. It’s a great bargain to find company at the #highered crossroads, and I don’t even have to sell my soul.

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networking and student bloggers.

I’m happy to say that our student bloggers are off to a flying start this year. I can barely keep up with them! But also of note to those in higher education is how the contributors came together. The old-fashioned way. Networking.

bloggers

This year’s group includes:

Sherrifa Bailey, a senior public justice and psychology major, McNair Scholar and all-around uber-involved person
Christopher Cook, a sophomore English major, writer and devourer of pop culture
Steven DiMarzo, a junior human development major, director of student affairs for Student Association and admissions intern
Tiffany Duquette, a secondary education and French major studying in Paris, and member of the Laker women’s ice hockey team
Tess Kaczorowski, a senior theatre major and dramaturg for the student honors production Blood Relations
Leah Matthews, a senior elementary education major and co-captain of the women’s swimming and diving team
Katherine Raymond, a junior journalism major, environmental writer for The Oswegonian, secretary of Students for Global Change
Jose Terrero, a senior journalism and creative writing major, active fraternity member, writer, admissions tour guide
Meghan Upson, a junior business administration major active with alumni relations and the business dean’s council
Lizz Wetherby, a junior public relations major, Laker Leader orientation guide and my intern

Most of them I met at various times and identified as potential bloggers. I interviewed Sherrifa for a story and knew she’d be great. I know Tiffany from being a faculty mentor for the women’s ice hockey team. I saw Katherine give a presentation about her group’s activities and read her work in the campus paper. Worked with Meghan on a couple of projects related to her PR internships. Steven asked me about blogging after hearing me present at a student leadership conference. Lizz came to me as an intern because one of her best friends interned here after taking a class from me.

Others were recommended via canvassing my campus contacts. Tess came through a request to the box-office manager for someone who could address the performing arts. I contacted our swimming coach, a blogger himself, who recommended Leah. After a meeting of our social-media team, admissions recommended Jose (who I’d met before in his efforts to start an entertainment publication). As for Chris … he just wandered into our Web developer’s office as a freshman looking for a work-study job and we quickly learned he was a good writer.

So, for the most part, we obtained our bloggers through good old-fashioned networking … and, moreover, from having a genuine interest in getting to know our students. Like most colleges, we don’t pre-approve blog postings — just pre-approve the students who do them — so we need to know we can trust them with the Internet version of a live mic. Plus, recruiting good and interesting people more often than not leads to good and interesting blogs.

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a learning curve, for us all.

I’m still learning a lot of things in this social media game, like anyone else, including figuring out how to manage nine student bloggers. The project started out exceedingly well, but deep into spring I was concerned because only two were updating regularly. I’d asked my intern to serve as conversation manager, giving them encouragement and suggesting possible topics, but even that wasn’t working. So finally last Friday, I sent them all a gentle yet direct email:

Not to be a pain (why does every email that starts that way seem to be the opposite?), but wanted to touch base about the blogs. We’re still seeing nearly 100 visits to the blogging suite per day and I’m hoping those visitors will have some fresh content. This is a HUGE time for prospective students accepted by Oswego and other colleges making their final decisions, and we believe many of them are going to the blogs to learn more about life at Oswego.

As you’ve heard before, we’re not looking for ‘War and Peace’ here, but a paragraph or two or a few on what you’re doing lately. Cool stuff, or even just studying. Classes you’re enjoying. Feelings about spring (knock on wood). If you have plans this summer. Or what you’re looking into doing after graduation. Or just personal tidbits about plays, movies, concerts or anything else — so people know a little bit more about who goes to Oswego. … If you have any questions or any other concerns, please let me know. Many thanks!

Within a couple hours, one updated. Then another. And another. By Tuesday, seven of them had fresh updates (including one who blogged just before the email). The eighth had been a good blogger but now has a full-time internship atop his already-busy schedule. The ninth one is, well, a lesson on how some things don’t work out no matter what you try. Seven of nine is a great average in just about any sport, so I’ll take it.

It’s possible that the bloggers wondered (rightfully) whether I still found the project important, since I hadn’t talked to most of them about it in months. For a professional communicator, sometimes I forget how to communicate. But they all also have individual concerns as well. Two bloggers sometimes held back because they wanted to create the perfect blog entry; I had to let them know it’s OK to just do their best. Another had a computer die and didn’t want to bug me yet again for the login address. They all have many things going on their lives, and I was too lax in reinforcing how important this is to the college and prospective students. These students are always teaching me something.

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a few words of introduction.

[I figured part of my responsibility MCing the Oswego County Spelling Bee this morning includes putting it into perspective. Including with this whole social media thing. So part of my introductory comments concerns writing … and how everyone is doing it.]

Welcome to the regional finals of the Scripps Howard Spelling Bee. I’m glad you’re here today, because you’re helping dispel a myth. A myth that the written word is dying. A myth that no one cares about the English language. A myth that we’re losing our ability to communicate. I would argue nothing could be further than the truth.

Between email and IM, text messaging and Twitter, blogs and Facebook, more people spend more writing than at any time in history. Not everyone is writing novels or poems, but I’ve seen high school and college students write things that are just amazing.

And as to whether anyone still cares about how people spell … well, we have around 30 eager spellers onstage, and hundreds of family and friends in the audience. So we have our answer.

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social media with a side of pancakes.

With all the marvelous, momentous and monumental potential behind social media, we can’t forget that it’s inherently about connecting. And, occasionally, silliness. Which brings us to #pancaketweetup this Saturday.

Everyone loves pancakes, and somehow a discussion with @lanejoplin evolved into the first-ever virtual pancake meetup via Twitter, aka #pancaketweetup. Yeah, it has its own hashtag and even online invitation if you’re so inclined (everyone everywhere is invited, cuz that’s how social media is).

By now if you’re still reading, you’re asking one of two questions: 1) How do I participate? or 2) What the hell are you talking about? I’ll try to answer both questions at once.

The #pancaketweetup is a virtual meetup this Saturday (March 7) at 10:30 a.m. eastern. Essentially anyone who wants to be involved needs only do two things: 1) make pancakes (yum!) and 2) share the experience in some way via social media. Real-time would be optimal, such as discussing it (briefly, obviously) on Twitter or Facebook, posting a picture of the pancake process on TwitPic and/or Facebook and/or Flickr, blogging about it, making a video or … well, other ways I probably haven’t thought up. Contact me here or on Twitter if you have other questions.

Consider it a low-stress, high-taste way to meet and interact with other neat (so we think) people across the Webiverse. And a chance to eat pancakes! Yummy yummy pancakes! Are you in? Are you hungry?

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less news than we bargained for.

Earlier today came the official announcement of the end of an era, on Syracuse’s WTVH-5 ceasing news operations and laying off 40 loyal employees. This hits home for me, because 5 is the TV news I’ve watched since I was a young boy, an outlet that helped interest me in journalism and where I had my most influential internship.

The announcement tries to position it as 5’s newsroom merging with that of neighbor and former rival WSTM-3, but it essentially ends an institution with a proud tradition. TV5 was SUNY Oswego grad Al Roker’s first professional weatherman gig. When I interned there, one of the nicest guys was Mike Tirico, now well known as a lead announcer for ABC Sports and ESPN. Other TV5 alumni are working jobs all over the country, thankful for the small-market start.

This news came on the heels of the Rocky Mountain News’ abrupt shuttering by parent company Scripps Howard. If you happen to have 20 minutes to spare, the video on the ghost paper’s home page is an engaging yet devastating documentation of the end of a proud and important paper. And the sad thing is that more TV5s and Rockys will join the club of former journalism outlets.

One part where I disagree with the RMN video, and other pundits on this subject, is in the anger and blame directed at bloggers for the demise of journalism. This is misplaced, albeit trendy: While there are some rogue bloggers trying to supplant journalists, most bloggers (and Twitters and Facebookers) trafficking in current events post links to newspaper articles. It’s just a different distribution method, as I don’t know a single blogger who wants to see newsrooms close, or is working toward putting journalists out of work.

If you’re looking for blame, try corporate boardrooms that have bought up all these journalism outlets and see them as lines on a balance sheet … not as the community resources they are. When Scripps Howard gives up after a mere month of trying to find a buyer for the Rocky Mountain News, when Granite Broadcasting decides to phase out 5’s news function, they are merely redlining an expense to keep shareholders happy. That a community with fewer journalism checks on power is a disservice to everyone, that cities shedding jobs now losing news sources they’ve come to trust like friends is one more kick in the gut … these human costs do not fit into the equation. No film at 11, no special edition, just a fade to black.

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the secret (and not-so-secret) lives of bloggers.

As a follow-up to probing how ‘social’ social media should be, let’s talk about blogging. Or, in this context, the question of personal and/or professional blogs, and how (or if) they intersect.

The road to professional blogging was in large part paved by e-zines showing the power of the written word to inform and incidentally build online communities. The late, lamented Suck.com blazed a trail of cultural criticism with a kick that flowed so easily and looked so fun that everyone wanted to do it. Getting published (and skewered) in its letter section, The Fish, was the ultimate 1990s achievement in social media, before anyone ever paired those words. Sibling publication Feed (page not found) brought a democratic feature where those who posted comments had them displayed right next to the article, as if we were just as smart as the author!

Personal blogs often had a lonelier — literally — path to daylight. The perception that early bloggers were guys who couldn’t get dates and angsty teenage girls, while overstated, implied that people blogged for lack of another social outlet. I started blogging (before it was called blogging) because it seemed an interesting creative medium. The community angle — rings of friends and strangers alike coming to offer comments and support — appeared as an almost unintended consequence. Yet those connections were the fuel wherein blogging would really take off.

We can’t forget these roots as we ponder personal vs. professional blogging. I know many who blog for only personal reasons: to connect with others, to keep loved ones informed and to vent. I also know others who blog for professional reasons: to share their insights with others, solicit feedback from colleagues and promote their expertise.

But what about those of us who do both? I think it’s hard to be overly personal in a professional blog or overly professional in a personal blog. If you seek those two audiences, a one-size-fits-all blog where you talk about last night’s bad date one day and social-media strategy the next will likely regularly disinterest some readers. Yet our personal and professional lives will always be of interest to someone somewhere.

I’m not saying to leave the personal entirely out of professional blogs. Little details of our lives revealing our humanity make any blog better and allow readers to more easily connect; professional blogs with all the warmth of a cyborg professing to have all the answers grow as tiresome as a self-righteous sermon. Yet I also see real experts with spotless, spectacular professional blogs reveal their innermost fears, secrets and concerns in their Twitter streams. Which is, to me, just fine and makes them all the more identifiable and credible.

Showing different parts of our analog life reflects the beauty of a 360-degree view of social media: We can focus our messages in one sphere, yet round ourselves out as much as we want in different corners. I don’t promote my personal blog through this blog or through Facebook; not that it’s secretive (or all that interesting), it just gives me a feeling of distance and separation. This blog I promote everywhere because it concerns all those social media outlets. Your approach may differ, and your mileage may vary, but ultimately it is the author’s decision.

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