chrisfoxenglish

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Web 2.0 & Me

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Our class was privy to quite a number of various social media and web 2.0 applications throughout this semester. The oddness of this experience, personally, was that a great deal of these applications were already known by me. But I’m of the opinion that there are always lessons to be learned from every experience encountered. And to be true, there were things to be learned from this class.

One thing our class has had the fortune to do was introduce a wide variety of different applications, with very different methodology and uses. Due to the sheer size of the internet, this sort of sharing of tools is quite a wonderful thing, for even if I knew a majority of the applications, there were still many I had no knowledge of until their introduction in class.

By far the most useful, for me, has been 750 Words. As a novelist and lifelong writer, the use it provides, and the methodology it uses to achieve its means is fascinating to me. I love the ideas behind gamification, used by an increasing number of applications, including others such as Foursquare. I learned once from some teaching pedagogy that only a fool would pass up learning more about gamification, and the ability to incorporate it successfully. 750 Words does so in spades – their daily goals reinforced by the bowling card-styled checklist; competition set up by their point system; and a viable reward system supported by their badges, which are most certainly uneasy to earn. 750 Words is one of those few websites that has the ability to fundamentally change one’s life if one allows it to. It most certainly has for me, for while I have always had a high output of regular writing – both academic, novelistic, and otherwise – never has my writing been so forcibly consistent and daily. 750 Words forces me to be conscious of my output every single day, for fear of losing my hard-earned rewards.

Another application that is intriguing has been Dropbox. To be true, I feel as if I would have learned of this soon had we not discussed it in class, for I have heard many good things in the interim since September. But it was our class that provided the introduction, and the necessity for use, acting almost as a tutorial to the process, which is one that is a pleasurable experience. Dropbox is an application I could see myself using… especially given my “good fortune” with previous computers melting their own motherboards… sigh.

Linked.in is another application that I tried out after our discussions in class. This was admittedly more for the desire to experiment with Vizualize.me, to tinker with the various imagery it could construct. While I don’t think Vizualize.me is very practical, and while I have yet to find a good use for Linked.in, I’ve now used both services, and could see potential uses, which is better than nothing. It’s probably a wise idea for any professional connectivity to have previously created an account via Linked.in. Whether the use is there is something determined by time, I reckon. Prezi also offers a very unique take on presentation style, and I look forward to playing with the system in a few weeks.

The final benefit to this class was to experience those around me experiencing the same technology available to them. I grant that I’m a bit more technologically savvy than the average soul, and something of a social networking fiend, spending a great deal of my free time tinkering with various applications. But due to these inherent experiences, it has garnered me a great deal of biases: being able to disect a website in the first few minutes of looking and clicking around it, understanding internet jargon, gaining knowledge that is thus assumed upon me by the networks themselves. This assumed knowledge is something that was forced to be shed, as well as the biases built by my own use of the internet, to better address discussions in class. I always aimed to speak from a learned perspective, but always with as simple language as I could afford, attempting to make my messages as clear, simple, and concise as I could manage.

Learning of others inexperience with various social networks and technical internet knowledge, and learning which areas people lacked the knowledge in, gives me a greater understanding of how to speak about web content in the future, and moreover, how better to use it. Writers’ Bloc, along with many of my social networking ventures have been met with different levels of success, and many have not been as successful as one could hope for. Knowing better how others experience the internet in their personal lives better teaches me how to allow them to experience my own ventures. It gives me a broader understanding of where my energies should be focused in trying to maintain an online webseries, as well as which energies are wasted on certain areas. These skills are most certainly provides a strong knowledge base to continue pursuing my current goals.

 

Written by Chris Fox

13 November, 2011 at 10:58

Posted in assignment

750 Words

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Written by Chris Fox

2 November, 2011 at 01:33

Posted in assignment

NaNoWriMo

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We’re still going strong with our videos for my little creative writing project at Writers’ Bloc. If you haven’t seen one of the episodes yet, this is the one you should definitely check out. It’s a little summarization of NaNoWriMo, a big event for novelists that takes place throughout the month of November. :]

Written by Chris Fox

1 November, 2011 at 16:19

Posted in Superfluous

Wikipedia Reflection

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I always try to learn something from the things that I do. It’s a good habit to find at least one thing worth learning from any experience. And even though I’ve begun quite a number of Wikipedia articles, I’ve still found something new to experience with this latest one.

What I learned from posting this article was the biases that are inherent to the posting and editing of articles, which was indeed a strange thing to learn. The big issue with posting my article was that it was tagged for deletion. This isn’t a very big deal, as almost every article I’ve ever posted has been tagged for speedy deletion. But this particular posting put all my past articles to shame.

The problem lies in the editors. Wikipedia is nonjudgemental about their editors, which is an awesome thing. Anyone deditcated to Wikipedia can eventually become an editor, and be given more responsibilities, and thus more respect from other Wikipedians. There are a number of reasons one might want this responsibility. Some care about the organization, and some think that they’re the best person for the job. Some people are honestly the best for these jobs, and do their jobs with great skill and determination.

In the case of this editor I was having to deal with, we hit the negative aspects in responsibility. To put it bluntly, he was an egoist. He had been a long time editor, and had been standing on his pedestal of power for so long, that he lost touch with the fundamentals of Wikipedia. He’s so busy tagging articles for deletion – believe me, I checked… this is pretty much all he does – he forgot why it’s good for articles to get published in the first place.

Here are the discussions we had. You can witness the happenings of the past two weeks for yourself: main discussion | deletion debate

Essentially, this moderator attempted to close my article for not having proper references. Which was fair at first, as it often is. It’s that sort of instant critique that makes a page stronger, by giving a sudden deadline that says “fix this.” The problem comes when I did fix the article. I added the references required, and the article was fit by Wikipedian guidelines. But not by this one moderator’s standards. He flagged it for public deletion, sending the article through a long process of debate. Then, he waxed poetic on the systemic faculties of Wikipedia, completely ignoring the actual article, and arguing from a complete stance of irrationality.

This is one of the downsides to outsourcing editing work to the masses. Once in awhile, you’ll get someone like our lowly Quebecker, who justifies his strength of ego by ruthlessly enforcing against others, even when no enforcement is necessary. You can’t stop this egotism, because it’s his personal choice to be silly, and he does do good work. It’s simply a negative aspect that one has to live with if something like Wikipedia is to exist.

The benefit is that Wikipedia has experienced this sort of situation millions of times, and have rules in place to deal with it. What saved my article from deletion by this man’s irrational thinking was the Snowball Clause. To paraphrase, this clause says if an article doesn’t have “a snowball’s chance in hell” of making it through a particular process, don’t waste people’s time for semantics’ sake. It was obvious that my article was worthy of publication, as it met all guidelines. It didn’t have a snowballs chance in hell of being deleted, and the only reason it was put through the process of deletion was because no other editor had come across it yet and negated the actions of one crazy person.

If anything, this episode taught me a lot about the underlying systems and clauses that go into the publishing of articles on Wikipedia, giving me a stronger idea of how things work behind the scenes.

Written by Chris Fox

30 October, 2011 at 12:11

Posted in assignment

For Tomorrow (Don’t Touch!)

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Written by Chris Fox

25 October, 2011 at 17:30

Posted in Uncategorized

For ProfHacker

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This is for Professor Hara. I had no idea where to post this, so I figured that this place would be as good as any! If you are anyone besides Professor Hara, please ignore this.

If you are Professor Hara, let me know if I need to format or include links and such, or anything else you might need – comments you might have – for what I’m supposed to write! I’m more than happy to tinker with this if you’d like me to.

_____________________________

The idea for Writers’ Bloc started from my viewing of the webseries Extra Credits. This series, which deals with exploring video games from a developer’s point of view, opens an intellectual discourse about video games that the average player doesn’t see, making the information not only accessible, but also making their presentations highly informative, and also simplistic to understand. I wished to do something similar, although I knew that if I wanted to present a topic in the same intellectual and professional manner as Extra Credits did, I would need to choose a subject that I knew well. Being a lifelong novelist, the creation of Writers’ Bloc was quite simple.

Writers’ Bloc is very minimalistic by design. My team of writers on The Bloc take issues pertinent in the fields of creative writing, discuss them amongst ourselves, and boil them down to their major points. Through this communal discourse, we can compact all the fancy-pants academic jargon taught in creative writing classrooms into easily understood concepts. To aid in understanding – and to help keep the viewer entertained – we provide images that focus on visual puns and ironic counterpoint. Furthermore, due to our short timeframe for videos, we won’t bore the viewer to death with a droning lecture that regurgitates information. The goal is to teach the widest range of writers possible the same material that is being taught at the collegiate level of creative writing. The inherent mores behind these videos are freedom of information and ease of accessibility. It’s a shame that hundreds of creative people are barred from learning like a professional academic due to economic woes and life constraints. The skills of creative writing should be taught to everyone, not the lucky minority. So our goal is to make the knowledge of novelists accessible to as many people as possible.

The true question is: how is this important in the classroom, for students and for professors? Given our casual format, but our advanced discourse, we are able to discuss the same things any creative writing and English class can, while still remaining fun and lighthearted. We embrace YouTube, internet culture, social media, which directly appeals to those whom are likely in the classroom (as of 21 October, our average demographics for viewership is ages 15-25, and we have only just begun receiving data). Those involved in Writers’ Bloc are between the ages of 18-23, and we are novelists ourselves (except for our artist), so we are trained in content creation, and we’re essentially talking to our peers as fellow students of writing.

Our short videos can be streamed in a classroom setting, and open up a broader discourse on the topics we discuss to a classroom of students. And of course, our opinions – like all artistic opinions – are subjective, and allow for open debate, which we applaud as healthy. We interact directly with our viewers, and also field all our viewers – students and teachers alike – for potential topics to discuss. Essentially, we host a lecture for anyone interested in listening, which can allow a perfect diving board for teachers and professors into deeper discussions they wish to hold themselves.

 

Linklog:

Extra Credits – http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/show/extra-credits
Writers’ Bloc – http://writers-bloc.tumblr.com
Twitter – @_writersbloc  | http://twitter.com/_writersbloc
First video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOw_Zxuq0UM
All Videos – http://writers-bloc.tumblr.com/tagged/videos
Email – chris.writersbloc@gmail.com

Written by Chris Fox

21 October, 2011 at 23:36

Posted in Superfluous

Wikipedia How-To

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Wikipedia fun time! The act of actually writing on Wikipedia can be either a fun – if a bit tedious – process if you know what you’re doing. The downside is that if you’re new to the process, the experience varies between intimidating and insane. ¡No buenos, señores y señoritas! Here are some tips to make the process more intuitive.

Content

Your actual content is NOT like a traditional essay. This is very important to say first because this is the style most of us are probably accustomed to. Do NOT write in an essay form, because it won’t help you. Instead, write more on the lines of a casual blog post. Keeping it casual will make the style seem less intimidating.

That being said, your content must be purely objective. In other words, no personal opinions. Pretend you’re a journalist, having to cover all sides of an issue neutrally.

It’s important to say now that not everything needs to be cited. Just write, and worry about citation later. Citations add legitimacy, which is what you’re trying to do, not support claims with references. Remember, claims are regularly subjective, not objective, and we’re staying logical here.

The best question to ask yourself when wondering what information to add on your topic is “why does this information belong? What’s the point?” also, ask “Why does this article belong in an encyclopedia?” If you can’t find a good answer, your topic is likely to get scrutiny when published.

Format

The format of Wikipedia is highly specific. The only thing that’s written like a Wikipedia article is a Wikipedia article. The mechanics are REALLY confusing. But the fact is: you don’t need to know them. If you keep using Wikipedia, you’ll learn them.

But you will have to format some, or else your article will be deemed unacceptable by moderators. The best tactic I’ve found, since I’m still a novice myself, is this: find a topic similar to your own, and write it like an add lib of information.

For instance, let’s pretend I want to write an article about The Beatles, assuming it didn’t exist. I have all the info, but I’m not sure how to format. For guidance, I will navigate to the article for The Rolling Stones, which has already been created. The Stones are similar to The Beatles, given they’re both rock bands in the same time period. Copy+paste the Stones article in a word document, remove Stones info, and replace directly with Beatles info!

In personal example, my article was on Extra Credits, a webseries. I found a separate webseries, Zero Punctuation, copy+pasted it directly, and modified this article for my own purposes, with a similar format, but new and appropriate content. If you want to see the actual changes I made, glean both articles.

References

Remember this: references are NOT meant to support your content. You are not trying to JUSTIFY your article. You are attempting to legitimize your article. You are not asking “how is this information supported,” you are asking “what sources will qualify this information to appear in an encyclopedia?”

Quantity over quality. The more references you have, the better. However, your sources must be reliable. Wikipedia defines reliable as “verifiable.” What the crap is that, you ask?

Firstly, it means NO PRIMARY SOURCES. A primary source is something directly associated with your topic. Let’s say I’m writing about The Beatles. If the Beatles had a blog, this would be a primary source. If they had a YouTube, it would be a primary source. It doesn’t count. You can use these sources for direct quotes to support your claims, but it will NOT make your article verifiable by Wikipedia standards.

Let’s say I’m still writing about The Beatles. Let’s also pretend I found a really smart blog, where a person had an interview with John Lenon himself! It’s great, and John talks all about the band and every one of his songs in great depth. This is not a good source. This is considered an “unverifiable” source because there is no editorial staff, no matter how awesome the content is.

The references you are looking for are websites with an editorial staff. Any sort of publication is considered legitimate (except for tabloids, which are often blacklisted and not allowed on at all anyway). Good ideas for sources are newspapers, scholarly websites, and books.

_________________

And that’s that! If you have questions, leave comments! I’ll answer anything you’ve got for me. If you want a faster response, hit me up on Twitter. I check it more often.

The following content does not apply to our drafts. But read if you’re interested or have nothing better to do!
_________________

Mechanics

Note that for our drafts, we probably don’t have to worry about the mechanics, so feel free to skip this part for now. But when we begin imputing the info into Wikipedia, this will be helpful.

Then there are the mechanics. These are more difficult to discuss, because they are HIGHLY complex. The way I learned the mechanics was again, to see how other articles are laid out. Go to any wikipedia page. Near the top right of the article, you’ll see a button that says: “edit.” Open a new tab or window to this link. It’ll show you the format page.

This is where you actually construct your article when you’re uploading it. If you’ve done as directed, you’ll see the same article, but with lots of freaky looking markings and symbols. It should look REALLY confusing. Don’t panic.

Glance back and forth between these pages. Look on the real article, find a few lines of text, and compare with the edit page. You’ll see the same text wrapped around strange symbols, like this: ==text==

This is specific coding for Wikipedia. There are lots of rules to it, and it’s only used on Wikipedia. You don’t need to learn this, just deal with it for now. If you’re doing an add lib as mentioned, simply replace the material on this edit page with your own material. This way, the format has already been laid out, and you’re applying a new set of wallpaper. Easy peasy!

The one mechanic you should learn is in-linking. These are links that direct to other Wiki articles. They are symbolized by a double-bracket on both sides of the word. For instance, If I wanted to link to The Beatles page, I would type: [[The Beatles]]. This will create a clickable blue link in your final product. Sometimes, you’ll end up with a red link. This is a link that doesn’t lead anywhere. Don’t worry about this – another editor will probably fix this for you.

Written by Chris Fox

19 October, 2011 at 10:14

Posted in Superfluous