This semester, we'll be trying out a ning community and a wiki instead of using this blog.

Visit the BECA 670 Course Community and the BECA 670 wiki (coming soon)!


Week 16: Adventure in Second Life

Hi all! We'll be meeting in Second Life today, so be sure to put on your best clothes (or fur, or armor, or whatever it is you young avatars are into these days) and practice your six or seven favorite dance moves.

I found an interesting multi-media art and poetry installation, Maemi Gardens, that might be a good place to start. My SL name is Lethe Lebed (extra credit for anyone who can figure out what it means!); if you have trouble using the link above, invite me to be your "friend" and I'll send you a teleport invitation to where we are.

***Sorry for the abrupt disappearance! I got spit out of SL and am having trouble getting back in and unlagged. I trust everyone saw the installations and got the short assignment; please post to your blog by Friday evening. I hope you enjoyed your brief dalliance in the virtual realm — maybe some of you enjoyed it a bit too much, ahem — and perhaps we'll meet again!

Thanks for a fun afternoon and a fun semester. Have a great summer!


Week 15: Guest Star James Lee

PLEASE NOTE: There is no problem with the Drupal forums. Remember, it's not under "Create Content". You need to choose "Administer", then "Content Management" and then "Forums". So forum away!

Today James Lee visited and talked about his work in the online marketing world. Here's a list of the links he shared:
Did I leave anything out? If I did, remind me and I'll get the link.

This coming Thursday will be our last class. We'll talk about how to leave the BECA Community Online site and how things might resume next semester; we'll also do class evaluations (extremely important!) and pick a time for our Second Life meeting. Please be on time!

  1. Finish up your Drupal stuff.
  2. Make your Second Life avatar and practice moving around, etc.
  3. Get a start on any Writing Lab or other extra work I asked for in my last feedback e-mail.


Week 14: Drupal Intensive

*ANNOUNCEMENT: I forgot to say in class today that I will not have office hours next Monday 4-5, but I will have a substitute hour Monday 12-1. I will have normal office hours Tuesday 4-6.

Today we had a lovely, informative visit from grad student Adam Greenfield, who gave us a tour of the BECA Digital Lounge and talked about his experience in building, maintaining and growing an online community. It's a tough job, and he gave us a lot to think about in terms of decisions about the one we're building.

We also had Alex with us to help get started using Drupal to build our site. Reid, Mike and Amanda: you'll need to get in touch with someone from class and probably meet in the lab to learn how to do the building required in this week's homework.

ALSO: Check out the Ning community Jesse built!

    1. Create a poll on the BECA Community Online site. The question can be anything relevant to gathering input on the goals, functions, design and use of the site.
    2. Create a calendar event on the site. This event should be an example of something you'd really like to make happen. It's a fictional example at this point, so don't worry too much about the month and how you'd organize it, etc. Make it an event occurring in September 2008.
    3. Create a blog entry on the site. Discuss one or more of the following: community management and "policing" (it's fine to refer to Adam's talk, but you don't have to); issues of copyright and DRM; ideas for growing the community and encouraging participation, including thoughts about possible obstacles to participation; or another topic relevant to building the community. Please use this blog post wisely — it's a chance to get everyone's ideas in one place so we can start making decisions. We don't have much time left!
    4. Create a page on the site. You have several options for topics: (1) Readings — describe and review 3 blogs, articles, books or other readings that you think would benefit BECA students; do not use readings that get assigned in classes. (2) Tools —describe and review 3 tools for building/displaying/accessing online content. Blogger, Jottit, Wikia, Ning, Drupal, and readers such as GoogleReader are examples of tools, but you can only use one of these; the other 2 have to be ones we haven't used in class. Please don't use Myspace, Facebook, or YouTube; other social-media and media-sharing/distribution sites are fine. Shopping/review/opinion/gossip sites, etc., are not tools. (3) Communities — similar to the presentations we had in the first part of the semester; present 3 communities that you think BECA students would benefit from participating in. VERY IMPORTANT: When you create your page, make sure you tag it with your topic: readings, tools, communities (no caps, correct spelling).

  1. Read this NewTeeVee post about Hulu's new presence within YouTube. Follow all the links, and pay particular attention to the linked L.A. Times post. Follow all of those links, and pay special attention to the "Jason Kilar totally ripped on YouTube" link (leads to a C-Net post). Be ready for a quiz.
  2. Get started with Second Life if you want to take the extra-credit option. Make an avatar and go through Orientation Island if possible. We'll try to sort out any major technical obstacles or problems next week, but the more you can get done on your own, the better off you'll be, really!


Week 13: Writing Mechanics Intensive

*NOTE: My bad, I put this post up really late. I apologize! Thank you, John, for nudging me, and thanks, Claudia, for stepping in with help.

Today we had an intensive writing-mechanics session — something we probably should do more!

I'd like everyone to apply the same close reading to their own blog posts. Do it on paper, not on the screen.

Next week, Alex will be here for a Drupal extravaganza. Soon you'll all be building like crazy, and the BECA community will live!

One more blog post. 750 words, any topic, and beautifully clean of mechanics errors. Especially the ones on the handout. Seriously, if you're not using it by now, I don't know what to do with you!


Week 12: Net Neutrality

Thanks for a good discussion yesterday!

Check out the Neighborhood Empowerment Network (the city project you're all coming to talk about next Wednesday!). They've got an online TV show on Veoh (hosted by Daniel Homsey, the guy in charge of the project, whom you'll meet on Wed.), and two big conferences coming up in June and October — major opportunities for BECA people!

***Also: Please make sure you're checking whatever e-mail address SFSU has for you; I'm using the class mass-mailing list to send details about the meeting at City Hall.

Meanwhile, don't forget to keep up on the Net Neutrality news. Media Alliance has already posted new updates about the Stanford meeting on Thursday.

  1. Print out the Writing Mechanics Handout and read it THOROUGHLY.
  2. Print out your last 2 blog posts (the Net Neutrality post and the last regular post) and proofread them THOROUGHLY, using the handout.
  3. Correct mechanics errors in your blog posts (all of them since 2/24) online.
  4. Bring the handout and the printouts of the 2 posts with corrections to class.


Week 11: Build, build, build

Today Alex is going to help us get this BECA Online Community underway — huzzah!

I've built a demo front page, just so we have something to look at and tinker with. We still have to sort out some things, including:
  • What can be part of a semi-official (class-produced) site, and what needs to be "off the books". Possible problems include: commerce, creative work that contains copyrighted material, and professor/course reviews.
  • How will the site be maintained and administered, and by whom?
  • Which parts of the site will be read-only/password access/adminstrator-only access?
We're going to be having some interesting guest speakers in the next few weeks, so this week's homework includes some preparatory reading and writing on the topic of net neutrality. It's a contentious topic, so I'm looking forward to hearing some well researched, thoughtful argument on both sides!

  1. Read "Neutrality 101/FAQ" by Internet4Everyone and "Net Neutrality is a Civil Rights Issue" by Jeff Perlstein of Media Alliance.
  2. Write a blog post about how the net-neutrality issue affects you in different ways: as an individual, as a student, as a San Francisco/Bay Area resident, as an American, as a global citizen, as a human being (or any other category you'd like to write about). This might not fit in with your blog's overall topic, but consider it a special post. You'll need to do some research and discuss/include links to at least 2 sources in favor of net neutrality and at least 2 sources against. Write at least 750 words. This post will count for twice as much as your other posts in the next round of grading.
  3. Proofread and edit your blog posts dated after 2/24. I'll be grading the entire chunk starting on 4/17, and I expect every post to be written at a college level of English. Please use the Writing Mechanics handout, my office hours and the BECA Writing Lab for assistance.


Week 10: Preliminary Community Mapping

Today we talked about the community-building ideas you posted on the Class Wiki and began a preliminary blueprint of what it might look like.

Next week, Adam Greenfield will come to class to talk about his experience building the BECA Digital Lounge site and getting our grad students communing online. Also, Alex Kessinger will be here to answer questions and get suggestions about what we'd like to build. I'm going to construct a very rudimentary demo front-page based on the discussion today, just so we have something to start with next week. But remember it's all still wide open — so keep thinking about your "wish list"!

  1. Write a blog post (at least 500 words, 3 links, 1 image/sound/video).
  2. Leave thoughtful, engaged, discussion-furthering comments on the next 5 blogs (pick up where you left off last time).
  3. On today's Class Blog entry, leave a comment proposing a creative interactive-media project that you'd be interested in doing (in addition to contributing to the BECA online community). This can be something that we've covered in class (blog, interactive fiction, wiki) or something we haven't done; if there's anything you found inspiring or that you'd like to have a try at, let me know what it is!


Week 9: IF and Community Building

Today we'll take a quick glimpse at a fun pseudo-IF piece called Wikihistory — looks like the literary world is getting into the interactive/collaborative groove! Then Claudia will show us Soap Zone, Tauri will present an IF community, Josh will give us a tour of Protagonize, and Sharon will find us something tasty, too.

Then we'll look at a short article called Six Conditions that Form Online Communities. How do the six conditions apply to the community and the content we're creating? Are there more conditions we can identify and implement?

For the rest of class, I'll hold a writing mechanics clinic for anyone who wants help.

  1. Add at least three ideas for the BECA Online Community to the class wiki. Each idea should include a link to an example. Be sure to include your name at the end of your entries.
  2. Write one blog post (500 words, three links, one image/video/sound file, proofread).
  3. Play a lot, rest a lot, and do a lot of something that makes you happy over break — I'll give a quiz on that if I have to!


Week 8: Catch-Up Day

Yikes, what a week! I've been getting so many frantic SOS signals from the class (PC/FTP problems, among other disasters) that I think we ought to have a hyperventilation-prevention day — take care of tech issues, tidy up the IF pieces, and catch up on IF reviews.

We'll also spend some time covering the Writing Mechanics handout.

I was hoping to bring in a few therapists to help us all recover this week, or maybe a reflexology massage expert, or at least some tarot-card readers, but I'm afraid you're going to have to settle for just me. (Though I did work as a phone-psychic for a while, so maybe you'll get that tarot reading after all.) In any case, remember what the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy says, and DON'T PANIC!

  1. Fix anything that needs fixing on your IF piece (minimum length, links working, etc.). Please post a comment to today's Class Blog (Week 8) with a link to your IF, even if you already posted it last time. Everyone should post a link on Week 8.
  2. Catch up on your 3 electronic-literature reviews (see last week's homework instructions). Please post them on this week's Class Blog (Week 8).
  3. Read the next 5 blogs on the class blogroll (pick up where you left off) and leave intriguing, compelling, discussion-furthering, blog-enhancing comments with at least one link for your fellow bloggers on their most current post.


Week 7: Interactive Fiction/Hyperfiction

Today Grant will introduce us to the NBC Heroes wiki community and possibly also a San Francisco community wiki; and Caleb and Amanda will present wiki communities as well.

Then we'll kick off the Interactive Fiction segment by learning basic webpage creation. This means learning a bit more HTML and also understanding how to upload to your SFSU webspace.

Here's a template for creating a very simple HTML document. Click the link to open it as a web page, then do View Page Source (command-U, or use the Firefox "View" pulldown menu) to see the code. If you're feeling ambitious and would like to do fancier HTML, w3schools has excellent tutorials with a view-as-you-do function that makes it really easy to experiment.

Here are the basic steps for uploading your .html documents to the SFSU server:
  1. Create your document in TextEdit (on Mac) or Notepad (on PC) and save it with a .html suffix (mypage1.html). Be sure TextEdit or Notepad is set to "plain text" and not "rich text" or any other fancy stuff.
  2. Open Fetch or other FTP program. Log in to your SFSU account (hostname orion.sfsu.edu, pluto.sfsu.edu, or apollo.sfsu.edu).
  3. Open your public.html folder. Choose "New Folder" and name the new folder "storyfolder" or whatever you choose. Double-click the new folder to open it (it will be empty). NOTE: Never use spaces or hyphens in folder names; it's easier to use all lower-case letters, too, because your URL must match the folder/file names EXACTLY.
  4. Drag your .html files from the desktop into your story folder. If that doesn't work, choose "Put" and select your .html documents; hit "choose" and you should see the documents in your story folder.
  5. The URL for the page you've just created will be: http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~yourSFSUusername/
    storyfolder/page.html (remember to put any subfolders in the filepath as well). For example, the URL for the template above is http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~mdrennan/interactivefiction /index.html ("interactivefiction" is the name of the folder; "index" is the name of the page).
  1. Create a 7-page hyperfiction piece: a start page with two choices for the reader (lit up as links); those 2 result pages, each with two more choices lit up as links; and those 4 result pages as endings (no more choices to follow). Total of 7 separate .html documents. Each page should have at least 50 words of text. The reader choices can be embedded in the text of the story or they can be listed separately on the page — just make sure the links work! Remember the difference between internal links (pages that live in the same folder on your server) and external links (full URLs). Post a link to your start page in a comment to today's Class Blog. Due 9 a.m. next Thursday.
  2. Explore the Electronic Literature Directory and choose 3 projects (any category or genre) to review in a comment on the Class Blog. Discuss the following questions: What makes these projects interesting (or not interesting)? Do you find the interactive format empowering (being able to choose how to navigate through a story) or confusing (not being able to see the big picture, getting lost in all the clicking around)? Are there ways that the interactive form can enhance a reader's experience, compared to reading a linear narrative? What writing techniques need to be developed in order to facilitate that enhanced reading experience? Include a link to the fiction project itself (not to the ELD).
  3. Sharon, Tauri, Josh and Claudia will present interactive fiction projects and talk about the forms of interactivity going on. (For IF, there isn't always a record of community/users, so for this round of presentations it isn't necessary — though if you can find examples where there is a community using other forms of online communication/organizing, great!)


Week 6: Wiki & Blogging, Cont'd.

Today, in the next leg of our online-community tour, John will show us Last.fm, Veronica will present Online Community Report, and Reid will present Fallen Sword.

We will also spend a nice, big chunk of time on writing mechanics. Par-tay!

We're going to do more with wikis in the next few weeks, but we're going to pause for a moment to revisit your blogs. One of the ways you can help build a readership is to enter blog carnivals, which are events hosted by one blogger who solicits posts on a certain topic and presents a "table of contents" or list of links to those posts. The result is that readers of the host blog get exposed to a range of other bloggers with similar interests — and, hopefully, they subscribe to their new discoveries.

PLEASE NOTE: For those of you who have, so far, kept blogs that mainly of personal/niche interest, you might need to change the way you write your posts in order to participate in a carnival. You don't need to change your topic, but you should be thinking about giving a wider audience a reason to read (and subscribe to) your blog — and this might mean expanding the scope or adjusting the writing a bit.

  1. Write a blog post (minimum 300 words, 3 links, 1 image or video) and submit the post to a blog carnival.
  2. Submit the same post OR previous posts to 2 more carnivals, so you have submitted to a total of 3 carnivals. It doesn't matter whether you submitted the same post or different posts to the different carnivals, but you need a total of 3 different carnivals.
  3. In a sidebar element, list links for host blogs of the 3 carnivals you entered. Be sure to link to the host blog itself, not the blogcarnival.com listing.
  4. Grant, Caleb, and Amanda will present online communities that include wikis.


Week 5: The World of Wiki

Today we'll see three more online communities: Shira will present Retroland, Tony will present Bodyboarder, and Jesse will show us BigSoccer.

We'll also take a little tour of Wikipedia and Wikia to get a feel for what they are and how they work. We'll also discuss the issues raised in the reading for this week (including crowd vs. community, the role of "experts" vs. "amateurs," the nature and effectiveness of wikiquette, etc.).

Then we'll get started on creating and editing our own wiki pages. This requires learning basic wiki markup language, which is pretty simple (kind of like HTML, but different). We'll begin by looking at a simple prototype I created on Wikia, and everyone will create a page and link to it by editing the main page.

  1. Finish your wiki page. Write at least 500 words on your topic. Break the page into at least three sections using level-two headlines. Include an internal link to the main BECA 670 Wikia page and at least 3 external links. If you run into tech trouble, check out the excellent tutorials, which will take you through everything from creation to editing and formatting text. NOTE: DUE 9:00 a.m. THURSDAY!
  2. Sharon, Veronica, Reid and John will present online communities that use wikis as one of their components.


Week 4: Thinking About Community

Today we'll look at three online communities: James will present the Yahoo! Health Group, Jeannine will show us the Guitar Hero site, and Shira will give us a tour of GameDev.

We'll talk about each of these with a view toward generating ideas for our own BECA online community project. What features and functions can we find that seem like good ideas (or adaptable ones) for our community?

We'll also talk about this week's reading and the issues it raises regarding "professional" news vs. citizen journalism, and the nature of online communities in general.

And — yes, there's more! — we'll get everyone set up with Feedburner feeds, and discuss stats, publicizing, and audience-building through blog carnivals and webrings.

  1. Catch up on blogging: by next Thursday at 2:00, you should have 3 posts (spellchecked and proofread, with at least 3 links and one image or video) and also you should have made 10 comments (each on a different person's blog, each with a link). PLEASE NOTE: I do expect you to go back and spellcheck, proofread, and correct your previous posts; however, only this week's post needs to be 300 words — you do not need to go back and lengthen your previous posts.
  2. Read SF Weekly article "Wikidiots".
  3. Jesse, Tony and Sharon: find an online community that you think has some relevant, inspiring features, and be prepared to give a short presentation to the class next week.


Week 3: Keep On Bloggin'

I see some highly intriguing and promising blogs starting up! Lots of personality and enthusiasm coming through, and great potential for building readership and letting your style and subject evolve.

For those of you still working on getting your blog built and your first post posted, check in with me if you're having trouble. I'd like to get your blog on the list ASAP so you can start getting feedback from the class.

Also: don't forget to PROOFREAD (I'm seeing way, way too many simple mistakes such as plurals vs. possessives, missing apostrophes in contractions, spelling, run-on sentences, etc.) — use the Mechanics Handout in the sidebar and/or your handy APA Style Manual (or the dictionary or any other grammar reference) and get those posts tidied up!

For this week, I've got some reading for you, and I'd like you to keep going with your blogs (details below). My internet access is a little sketchy for the next few days while I'm at a conference, but I'll be checking in as much as I can.

See you next week!

  1. Read this article on community building by Craig Newmark (founder of craigslist)
  2. Check out this article/chart of the life-cycle of a blog post
  3. Write and post another blog entry (with at least 3 links and an image/video/audio)
  4. Read the 5 blogs under your name on the list and post a comment to each. Comments should include thoughtful feedback on the post and also on the blog itself (any helpful suggestions for the author?) and at least one link. (No image/video; Blogger doesn't allow these in comments.) If you aren't on the blogroll yet, pick any 5 blogs to comment on.


Week 2: Get Your Blog On

Today we'll get everyone set up with their own blogs and talk about choosing blog topics. You'll be making blog posts as your homework for a few weeks (and beyond), so it's worth investing some time in picking a topic that will keep you inspired, and also that will let you connect with communities and join webrings, blog carnivals, etc.

We'll also take a look at an online community that started as a simple open letter to the Kansas state school board and has now grown into the official Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, focusing on how the site is built to welcome new visitors, facilitate communication among members, and encourage participation and contributions. We're going to be building an online BECA community, so we'll be looking at lots of examples like FSM; part of the homework for this course will be finding such communities and presenting them to the class.

  1. Pick a topic for your blog and finish building it on Blogger. Make sure you keep all the settings I went over in class today!
  2. Write a blog post that includes at least one image and three links. Remember that your writing voice and style are up to you, but I'm looking for writing that reflects college-level writing proficiency (including mechanics: spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.).
  3. Post a link to your blog on the Class Blog or e-mail me the link.
  4. James, Shira and Jeannine: Find an online community (definition is pretty wide open; consider what we saw in FSM and see what interesting things you can find) and send me the links.


Welcome to the Blogosphere!

I enjoyed meeting everyone today; looks like great things are in store this semester.

This blog will be the central hub of this course. Each week, assignment info will be posted. Links to important tools, sites, documents (including the syllabus) and other resources will be available in the sidebars. Feel free to post comments to the class blog if you want everyone to see them; if you need to communicate directly with me, please use e-mail.

Today we took a quick tour of Technorati and Google Reader. To get you started subscribing to blogs, and also to start building background knowledge and keeping up with important issues in media, check out the Recommended Reading in the sidebar and subscribe to all of those blogs.

To subscribe, click the orange RSS button (some blogs don't have it; look for a link that says "subscribe" or "feeds" or "Atom/XML"). You might have to look around for the button/link; some blogs have it at the top of a sidebar, others at the very bottom of the main page. Some blogs also have multiple feeds (like EFF has press releases, action alerts, main blog); just decide which ones you like and subscribe to those.

Here's a little refresher on link code: The opening tag is:
a href="http://www.google.com" (put all of that inside < > brackets).

Then type the word(s) you want to light up as your link. The closing tag is:
/a (inside < > brackets).

HTML is extremely picky; you must write the code exactly. Be sure there's a space between a href, but no spaces around the =; also be sure you're using the correct type of brackets (the ones over the comma and period keys), the correct backslash (under the question-mark key), plain quotes (sometimes if you copy from Word or another program, you get "smart quotes" which don't work in HTML). If your link doesn't work, there's something wrong with the code — it's just a matter of scrutinizing until you find the mistake. If you run into trouble let me know and I'll take a look.

1) Set up your Google Reader account (or use another RSS aggregator if you like)
2) Use Technorati or do your own search for 5 blogs that interest you. Go for variety rather than picking a bunch on the same topic. Subscribe to those blogs.
3) Post a comment to the Class Blog that gives a brief description of your 5 blogs and your overall impression: does the writing style suit the content? Who do you think is the intended audience? Does the look/layout of the blog affect your experience? Does the blog have any extra interactive features (chat box, guestbook, polls, quizzes, etc.)? If it were your blog, would you do anything differently? Be sure to include a link to each blog as you discuss it.
4) Start thinking about what kind of blog you'd like to do; we'll start building them next week.