Posts from the ‘Social Web’ category

Spice

It’s a new semester and we’re teaching Blogging 101 in our COM Theory & Practice courses at SJU. I was recently digging around for some favorite examples to show students – and got inspired. Original content can be amplified by choosing the right format. You know what they say – “variety is the spice of life.”

Here’s 12 tried-and-true writing techniques bloggers can employ to create diverse and engaging posts. Follow the links to see a great example from each genre.

  1. Exposé - An investigative piece that presents facts that may shock the audience. Writer incorporates surprising facts, statistics, anecdotes, or quotes to tell a true story. What Katie Didn’t Know. 
  2. Historical - A piece that tells a story of a person, place, or thing in the past. Writer usually tells readers something substantial they didn’t already know in an exciting fashion. The Core of Discovery
  3. How To - Guidelines for tangible or intangible actions. Writer often orders actions sequentially in a step-by-step fashion. For Many Reasons: Blood and Chocolate Pudding
  4. Informative - Logical information of a specific subject – for information’s sake. Writer employs expository writing, anecdotes, facts, or figures to inform readers about a subject. Writers should cover the basics – who, what, when, where, and why. Can Social Media Save Lives?
  5. Interview - Often in Q & A format, but not always. Content may have breadth or depth. The writer may also edit the questions and narrate the interviewee’s answers. Rashida
  6. Inspirational - A feel good story. The focus of the piece is the inspirational point that the writer wants to make. Charity: Water – What We Learned in India
  7. Personal Experience/Reminiscence - A human interest piece that features a compelling story many people would want to read. In the Kitchen with Grandma
  8. Personal/Professional Opinion - A personal or professional point of view on a subject of consequence to many people. Gigaom: My 10 Years of Blogging
  9. Photo Story - A graphic approach to storytelling. A lead photo hooks the reader and sets the tone for the visual story. Writer may supply additional text or captions.  Katie’s All American Post
  10. Profile - A prose sketch focusing on one or more aspects of someone’s personality or life. Writer may interview others who can offer insights (children, spouse, neighbors); writer uses the interview as a time and place of reference. The Butcher Chef. 
  11. Review - Sharing insights of a book, film, gadget, or program. Writer describes the experience in a positive or negative light. Crux
  12. Roundup - A collection of pieces of information tied together by one theme. Writers may organize the piece around numbers or lists. 10 Uncommon Superfoods

*If you have any advice for new bloggers, please feel free to share your words of wisdom.

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Hookah

My friend D didn’t sleep last night. He had to take exams this morning. D is from Istanbul. Friday he choked on tear gas. Today he takes exams while protests rage outside his front door.

Nasty

He says it’s hard to focus on exams as he recalls the violence in the streets.Bravery

Is there anything I can do? Yes, he said. You can tell others.

End police violence

D is optimistic. There’s something beautiful happening in Turkey – people are growing strong.

Extraordinary

He wants us to focus on the positive, “heart warming” moments of this social movement. The images he shared are, in fact, extraordinary.

Istanbul

This is the social web at its finest. Times like this. We might not live in Turkey or have dear friends living there, but that doesn’t really matter. The reality of our world is harder and harder to ignore due to our interconnectedness. The web enables us to embrace this solidarity and take action. It may not seem like much to you, but do tell others about what is happening in Turkey. If you want to do more, please contribute to this fund , organized by the Turkish people to take out a full page ad in the New York Times or the Washington Post to let the world know about OccupyGezi.

I also want to share with you one of my favorite TED Talks. According to Robert Thurman, the social web enables us to all be “little Buddhas” - aware and knowledgeable about what’s going on. This makes it harder and harder to ignore injustices on both a local and global scale.

Here’s Uma’s dad on what it means to be enlightened today.

thurman

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ESPERANZA – Vieques, Puerto Rico
18.1269° N, 65.4239° W

This is the place if you need to: unplug | commune with wild horses |  swim with sea turtles 

Last January, I spent more than a week off the grid. I traveled with friends to Vieques, an island in Puerto Rico. This was a time to enjoy the rugged beauty of the Spanish Virgin Islands. Commune with the wild horses. Swim with the sea turtles. Taste the local passionfruit and mofongo.

I took no laptop, no iPad, no smart phone. On purpose. For a digital media studies professor –  for anyone really – I believe that digital naps are imperative. Taking a break helped me understand how hooked I really was …


The powerful (ahem – addictive) urge to tweet/Instagram dissipated in about 48 hours. The tweet-like thoughts eventually disappeared. You know, that short pithy commentary that springs fully formed –as if the Twitter muse had fashioned it just for you from somewhere beyond. While there were many tweet-worthy moments, my mind ceased crafting them into consumable content – thankfully. I just was. I just let moments be, with no need or desire to repurpose them into some vague personal branding enterprise. I was also freed from the tireless stream of status updates.  I felt truly relaxed for the first time in years.

While there were many images of beautiful bays and delicious coconuts to share immediately while on vacation, I had to ask: what would be the purpose of this status post right now? To share my life aquatic with my friends and family? To inspire travel to Puerto Rico? To incite jealousy? To receive confirmation? Instant gratification? To see how many friends would like it? At that point, I didn’t care who liked or didn’t like what. I liked it. And I needed a break.

I found peace on Vieques, sipping punch, lazing with the iguanas in the bougainvillea. Watching the sunset, smelling the jasmine. During these moments, I reflected on the act of seeing through mediums. These days, when we have an experience – something beautiful or exciting we are often viewing it through a medium. A beautiful sunset – quick grab the camera.  An impromptu concert in the streets – must be recorded and shared.

San Sebastian Festival, Old San Juan, PRThe trend is toward more mediated (indirect) and consumable experience.  We create value through the recording and sharing of an experience. But what are we really sharing? And what is the value of a direct, unmediated, unshared experience? Does an undocumented experience still hold meaning and value?

If you want to plan a trip to Vieques –  please allow me suggest going easy on the planning. And to leave your chargers at home.

We took a quick flight – a tiny Cessna –  from San Juan to the island. The pilot took us low, hugging the postcard perfect aquamarine coastline. The five of us rented a villa with a wrap around terrace overlooking the ocean. It was glamorous (in a very shabby chic way) without breaking the bank.palmyra

There is a swanky W Retreat & Spa on the island, too. It’s currently winning awards for being a hot spot. It is hot, with all the expected W charms. But for something truly stunning, try the Inn at the Blue Horizon.

Here’s how we spent our days:

Breakfast was always a simple affair that involved lingering over a strong café con leche (or two) and a cuban pastelito (or two) and the morning paper at a local bakery, like Roy’s Coffee Lounge.

When the urge hit us, we foraged for provisions in town (ginger beer, banana chips) and hit one of the island’s beaches with our snorkel gear. SandyWe needed an SUV – beach hopping felt like a tropical, Indiana Jones jungle adventure. And hop we did –  there are 41 beaches on Vieques.  Blue Beach, Green Beach, Pirate’s Point, Playa Navio, Playa Negrita (a stunning black volcanic ash beah), Playa Prieta (secret beach). Each one unique. All glorious. The beaches were often secluded. Sometimes we each had our own palm-shaded lagoon.

beachtime

Midweek, we acquired a machete at Black Beard Sports, so we could hack our way through some jungle. And open all those tempting coconuts. A beach guide can be found here.  Black Beard can also arrange PADI dives and nighttime kayak trips to the bioluminescent bay.

On our way back from the beach, sandyfooted and sunsoaked, we sampled the parcha (passionfruit) punch at  a low key place like Lazy Jack’s or Bananas. It was all too easy to spend hours in the lawn chairs, sipping out of plastic cups and telling tales of the day’s discoveries – sea turtles, tidal pools, starfish.

Esperanza, Vieques, PR

After cleaning up and another round of parcha punches back at the villa, we headed out for dinner. If you are a foodie, you will be delighted to hear that the restaurants on Vieques were marvelous – try Tradewinds, Bili’s, El Quenepo, and Chez Shack . No reservations necessary. The focus was on the freshest seafood (ceviche, shrimp, scallops, conch, Caribbean lobster) and local produce (passionfruit, guava, mango, plantains).  And then there were the specialty rum flights.

Right now, Vieques is the best of both worlds. Just the right amount of development. Where you still have a sense of discovery. It feels a little like Tulum did in the mid-90′s, before the resorts and yogis came. The perfect, low-key place to unplug.

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Paul Klee Twittering Machine 1922Standing before Paul Klee’s Twittering Machine (1922) at the Museum of Modern Art, I recall Marshall McLuhan’s words and consider how we shape our tools and in turn how our tools shape us. In Klee’s day, the painting could have served as a social commentary on the forces of nature and industry colliding. Today, perhaps we should look again. The bird’s are shackled to the wire. The crank turns, we stand in our chains to sing songs of relentless cacophony.

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