Friday, December 16, 2005

Class Assignment

Please bear with me for today's post as it's part of an assignment for a class I've been taking on Internet Research. Thanks!

How to Create and Manage a Pop Culture Weblog
By Steven Thompson
Introduction
Hello. My name is Steve Thompson and I am the creator of the weblog, BOOKSTEVE’S LIBRARY ( http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/ ), a repository of pop culture reviews, views and personal anecdotes. Although relatively new, the practice of creating one’s own updated daily log on the web has become an Internet phenomenon. By abbreviating the term "weblog" to "blog," this practice has become known as "blogging."
Many individuals have chosen to blog on the web about everything from their sex lives and their diets to humor, politics and religion. Another distinct type of blog is the pop culture blog, from which the blogger writes about music, books, TV, movies, comics or all of the above from either a semi-scholarly or an "average person" perspective. Since I began my blog in August, I have received a number of comments from readers who would like to start their own. My goal here is to teach you how to use the Internet as a research tool to share your own pop culture interests by creating and managing your own pop culture blog.
Lecture Notes and Activities
Once you’ve decided to start your blog, the technical aspects themselves are simple. There are a number of software sites that literally walk you though the specifics in a step by step fill in the blank fashion. You choose a template for your overall look, add a profile and set it up for comments, links, ads, etc. as chosen by your personal preference. Some of the more sophisticated sites such as TYPEPAD at http://www.typepad.com/ charge fees so I recommend the novice try a free service such as BLOGGER at http://www.blogger.com/start. For our exercises, we’ll be using BLOGGER, which is now owned by GOOGLE.
Choose a memorable, fitting title for your blog. It should suit your subject matter and be as original as possible so as not to get confused with someone else’s site. Use a reliable search engine to check for similar names before you commit. Most people are familiar with Google and Yahoo but when choosing a search engine there are lots of other choices, many of which offer different features to narrow your searches. Type "search engines" into a search engine and you will have plenty of options to explore. I recommend a clustering search engine which is one that gets its information from multiple other search engines. My personal favorite is Clusty at http://clusty.com/ as it has a separate category for blog searches and also breaks down your results into subcategories on a sidebar. In the case of my blog’s name, for example, I chose "Booksteve’s Library," as I planned to comment mostly on items from my own substantial home library and I had used the email name, "Booksteve," for five years while working in a bookstore and later a public library. Although I stuck with my choice, a simple search would have revealed several other "Booksteves" already on various different types of websites.
Activity One: Go to Blogger, set up a free account and create your blog.
Again, the site will walk you though the basics of registering and setting up the blog. (You can always delete it later with the touch of a button if you aren’t happy with it.) The most important question you will have is "What content do I use?" As to the answer, I suggest writing about your passion. Be it books, movies, toys, comics or baseball cards, odds are you already know a few good sites or even blogs on your favorite subject. You might want to start out with an introductory piece, then perhaps write some reviews yourself. Some blogging software allows you to post illustrations from your computer or from the web. There are also separate free sites such as HELLO at http://www.hello.com/how_bloggerbot_works.php which enable you to post digital images on your blog. Remember to be careful not to violate copyright. Just because "everyone does it" on the web, doesn’t make it any more acceptable or any less illegal. On my site, although I know I’ve made some errors, I try to use covers, ads, promotional materials or other items that fall under the doctrine of copyright fair use (which can be read at http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html).
Activity Two: Write and post an Introduction and a review of your favorite movie.
Once you’ve chosen a topic for your blog, try to stick to it as much as possible. Many blogs tend to veer too far afield to get or sustain an audience. Use your search engine of choice to find blogs similar to yours and send them links to yours for them to review. Using the Blogger software, add favorite links to your site. Once again, the software walks you through it. The more plugs and links you can get from other sites, the faster you will be picked up by search engines so that more people will find you. This process is called "spidering" when the high tech hands of the search engines grab words from other blogs. If your site is mentioned, then its name is grabbed. The more times it’s grabbed, the more it appears in results listings. Ultimately, as you start getting reciprocal links, your site itself gets listed. Important: The way to do this is to offer top notch content, present it well and then "suggest" that other sites review it. The surest way NOT to get reviewed or linked is to insist on it. Even just asking for a site to link to you can be considered rude. Let them make the decision by giving them a reason to do so with quality work.
In the meantime, there are a number of sites that offer information on blogs themselves just for registering with them, which is usually but not always free. Many of them even email readers when requested sites are updated. One of these is : http://www.simpleweblog.com/comics/comicweblogs.php. Even though my site is not exclusively about comics, this site notes whenever it is updated.
You’ll probably want a counter in order to tell how many people visit your site. BLOGGER itself does not offer counters but there are many sources that offer them free. Type "free counter" into a search engine. After comparing the benefits offered, I chose BLOGPATROL at http://www.blogpatrol.com/login.php for mine. Again, you simply register with them (I receive very little spam. If all of this registering worries you, though, you can always set up a free "spam email" account at Yahoo or hotmail and give that account when you register.) and they walk you through pasting it onto your blog. The benefits from Blogpatrol include interesting statistics on not simply how many people visit your site but how they came there (keywords, bookmarks or links), what they looked at while there, and even what type of computers they were using! This information can help you determine what is working and what is not working on your site, allowing you to accentuate popular subjects and perhaps leave others behind. It can also tip you off as to the best time of day to update your blog for maximum traffic exposure.
One of the benefits of a blog is that it disciplines you to write on a regular basis as well as to pursue your hobbies and interests more regularly so you will have something about which to write. Even experts factcheck, however, so you’ll need to bookmark some reliable reference sites on your topic. How do you know if they’re reliable? Explore all aspects of a site before you accept them as reference material. Click on the About screen and the Help screen and the Search screen. How easily can you find information? Who created the site? Is it a reputable person in the field that you might be familiar with going in? That’s a very good sign. Check, also the dates. If your topic is ever-changing, make sure your chosen reference sites are being updated. Look up a few obscure things you already know and see what the site says about them. If you find mistakes, is there a way to contact the author for a correction?
Example: The Internet Movie Database at http://us.imdb.com/ is a well-respected source for all sorts of information on just about every star and/or movie ever made but even they can make mistakes. I looked up DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN (1971) and saw that it said that actor John Carradine was in the picture and I knew that he was not. I (perhaps along with others) emailed them this correction and, after verification on their part, Carradine was soon removed from the cast list.
Use your own judgement and common sense. Many flashy or even well designed sites have misinformation and are suitable only for the most general reference. Go to the sites to which your trusted sites are linking. Then check those out for errors, authorship and hidden agendas (IE: Is this site trying to sell me something or just present information?).
As you search the web for more information on your topics, you will find related topics and issues as well as entirely new subjects that catch your interest. The more diverse subjects you cover on your blog, the more keywords will be picked up on search engines when your blog becomes listed. This will bring more people to your site, presenting you with perhaps hundreds or thousands of people who share your interest in pop culture. As your researching skills improve, your writing skills will improve. As different thoughts are brought into the mix via comments and correspondence, you will become more knowledgeable all around and may become known as an expert in your chosen field.
Final Activity: Once you have created a new blog and written your movie review, send me a link. Within the next week, I will post links to all who have done so. Good luck and have fun! You’ve now joined the Webeloution!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Webeloution? Please drop that class ASAP before your brain dies.