Online Journalism: Fall 2009

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Presentations week after Thanksgiving.

As we approach the end of class, it’s important that we check in on your site as you prepare to populate it with content (or, in the case of the content that’s already there, evaluate its value). It is also a time to strongly consider the presentation of the site itself, and to fine-tune the look & feel, because content is only as good as the site that showcases it. And it’s also crucial, of course, that you consider audience at every juncture as well.

The format for this presentation will be similar to our last, with slides and a group presentation. However at this point you should also be able to walk us through various aspects of your site itself, and be able to answer questions about the content and the look/feel of the site overall. Because of this, we will reserve the end of your presentation for a walkthrough of the site–the actual site itself, NOT a prototype. Prepare one of your team members to “drive” this walkthrough, taking over the projection computer. Map out what it is you want to talk about and highlight, however, so that your presentation remains professional and succinct.

As with last time, you will give both a presentation and hand in a report, signed by all group members.

presentation & report

The Site Idea and its Relationship to Content
–Be as succinct and clear as possible. Start with a one or two-sentence description of the site.
–Succinctly, how does content fulfill that mission?
–In other words: why are you featuring what you’re featuring?

The Content Itself
–What types of content do you see regularly appearing on your site? And why?
–What kinds of media will you employ for this content?
–Social media: What’s your strategy? Why? How?
–How do you plan on grouping the various content types?
–In other words, what are the various sections or categories on your site?
–How do these categories work to clearly state at a hierarchical level what your site is all about?
–Give seven specific examples of content currently on your site and ten specific examples of content still to come.

Content and its Relationship to Audience
This is important, so I will bold it: invite five members of your targeted audience to preview your site. Get as much feedback as you can from them regarding the content. For this section include bios/info about the people you talked with for the report and give their specific feedback there. In your presentation include photographs of these people interacting with your site.
–Who is the audience you are targeting and why? BE SPECIFIC.
–What content do you think they are looking for online, and why would they come to you to get it?
–How did you come to this conclusion?
–When you previewed your site to audience members, what was their reaction to the content?
–How did they feel it could improve?
–What other content did they feel could go in the site?
–What other feedback did they get?

Look & Feel
–Why does your site look the way it does?
–How does your site classify and display content?
–How can a user access the various pieces of content–is there a menu system that makes sense?
–How does the way your site looks compliment the content?

Walkthrough

The walkthrough of your site should highlight the following:
–demonstrate the way that a user would access various content types
–highlight some of the unique ways your site is presenting its content
–show off your site’s look & feel and explain why it works the way it does
–demonstrate the categories your content falls into

Slides

Your slides should correspond to the major sections of your presentation. Create as many as you see fit.

Your presentation should be no longer than 10 minutes, including the walkthrough.

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Filed under: Homework

For next week: Your Content Strategy

Knowing that the content you create and the calls to action you craft are crucial to creating an engaging site for your users, I want you to create a document that outlines some specific content you’re planning for your site and the calls to action you will use to bring users into your site. Please prepare a report that documents the following:

1) Your site idea, explained in one succinct sentence.

2) Who the users are of your site, explained in no more than two sentences.

3) Expected interactions: Why are people coming and what do they do when they get there. Give five specific examples.

4) 20 specific pieces of content for your site. These can be content pieces across media (text, video, data, maps, etc), but need to be specific. I.E. It’s not about “restaurant reviews” but about “a review of Restaurant X, which will talk about A,B, and C so that users are able to D E and F.”

5) Three clear calls to action for your site that will engage a user and model expected behavior. Sketch these out so that you are thinking visually, not just thinking about the copy. How do you illustrate these ideas? How do the illustrations help?

This report should be turned into class next week and should be signed by all members of your group.

Filed under: Homework

For next week: Data Collection Strategy | User Engagement Strategy

Two things for next week, that come directly out of your presentations:

All three of these sites live and die by the data they can collect. Whether it’s bars, clubs, or records, you’ve got to have a list that’s definitive. How are you going to collect that list, in a way that’s going to be sustainable and achievable? What methods can you use? Where can you turn online? Where can you turn in the real world? Explain what your primary data is, what it consists of, and how you collect it and maintain it.

Also, all of you facilitate the obsessions of your users, but in different ways. You need to be able to engage with them in a way that will keep them coming back and will create the core discussions you want to foster. Who are the people that are coming to your site–no more ifs, who are they really? And what do they do when they get on there, how do they interact with each other, and what value do they add to the site itself? What keeps them engaged and coming back?

Answer these two questions fully and completely in a report to be turned in next week. All of your teammembers must sign this report.

Filed under: Homework

graded site check-ins next week

Next week is our first of a few graded check-ins on your site. This check-in will accomplish two things: introduce the idea and the audience/community for your site, and demonstrate a hi-rez prototype of some elements of the site.

Next week we will have presentations and you will turn in a report. Your report and your presentation should encompass:

presentation & report

Who is the audience you’re targeting?
— what age/gender/etc are they?
— what do they do, both for a living and also for fun?
— what are their hopes/dreams?
— why are they interested in the things they’re interested in?
— where do they go? (both in real life and online)
— why are they a part of the community(ies) they are a part of?
— what will they gain by visiting your site?
Give three specific examples of real people, complete with photo documentation. For your written report, write a short profile of each person.

Where is the community that already exists around your site’s topic?
— where do they go online?
— where do they go in the real world?
— what do they do when they’re there?
For both locations, please cite three specific examples of each (both virtual and real), explain the motivation your audience/community has in going to those places, their activities once they are there and what you can learn from these things to apply to your site. For the real-world place, please include photo documentation of your visit there: show us your community “in the wild”.

What sites are working in a similar space?
— how are you different?
— what are they doing right?
— what are they doing wrong?
— how do you plan to work with and among those sites?

Bring it all together
With all this information about your audience/community, explain how you will reach them and engage them with your site.
— three specific online examples
— two specific real-world ideas

Your report will be handed in, be sure that every member of your team signs the report.

Slides

Your slides need to cover:

  1. Intro to your site with a one-sentence description
  2. Your audience defined, with photos
  3. Their community defined, with images of them in the locations you identified
  4. Other sites in your space
  5. A slide for your conclusion

Your slides can contain as much information as you want (though remember: less is often more, you will be talking along with them), but need to cover these five points.

Walkthrough

In addition, you will also present a guided walkthrough of a high-rez prototype of your site. Similar to your work in the Student Communications project, you should craft a mockup of your site in a presentation program of your choosing, with enough detail to get the site idea across, and enough active links to be able to show us some basic functionality.

Presentation specific notes

–Your group’s presentation should not last longer than 10 minutes, that will leave plenty of time for questions from the class and our panelists. If I had to offer a breakdown, that would be probably 7 minutes for the presentation and 3 minutes for the walkthrough. But that’s just an estimate–your time is your own.
–Plan your presentation and walkthrough out in advance, and make sure everyone’s practiced it as well. Rambling doesn’t help anyone.
–Be prepared to answer questions with further detail about your site and your strategy. Prepare also to hear criticism. Being argumentative does not help you in any way, shape, or form. Criticism at this stage is crucial to building a viable site.

Filed under: Homework

Your Work for Next Week

A busy week! Three things:

1) Prepare and test a paper prototype for your group site. This is a group project, so divvy up the work equitably. You need to:
–build the prototype and test it on three actual users of your site (not just your roomates).
–between each user testing session, refine the prototype according to feedback from the previous test.
–document all the testing sessions with video and upload a video of the testing to YouTube.
–write a brief report documenting what you learned from testing and how you’re proceeding with the site concept and design (250 words).

2) Hand-code a deep-dive web page on a subject of your choosing. This page needs to:
–demonstrate your understanding of both basic HTML and CSS.
–show a deep understanding of the subject you’ve chosen.
–as with the example we looked at in class, it should have an introduction and three distinct topic “dives” consisting of multiple links.

3) We’ll have a mid-term check-in on the blog you’ve been keeping since week one. Please make sure it’s up-to-date.

Filed under: Homework

Your work for next week

Your teams have been assembled. Now you need to get together and start making plans on how to move forward. You have a very important document due next week, an audience & editorial plan for your site. This plan needs to include the following and must be signed by every member of your team:

  1. A detailed description of your site. It is OK, at this stage, if the site idea has changed from the initial pitch, either subtly or dramatically. This should lead with a clear one-sentence description, and then build with a paragraph explaining the site & idea in more detail.
  2. A clear description of the audience for this site.
  3. Interviews with three actual members of the audience/community you’re targeting (new folks, not the same faces), about the space your site is operating in, not the site itself.
  4. Informed by these interviews, a discussion of the type of content you would like to do and at least ten specific content ideas.
  5. A plan for the integration of tools and media beyond simple text/blogging.
  6. A basic plan for marketing your site: How do you connect with the communities that are already out there?
  7. An overall plan for the equal distribution of labor: How will you share the reporting work? The data entry? The coding? The images/video/audio? The marketing?

Please post your reports here, but also bring in a hard copy that–everybody now–has been signed by every member of your group

Filed under: Homework

What’s a persona?

It is always easier to create a site when you’re creating it for someone.

For many developers, this means creating a few personas, fictional stand-ins for the many real people you speak to when developing the site. These stands-ins need to have enough reality behind them to push your ideas toward real people, instead of stereotypes. As a result, your personas should have:

Names
Genders
Relationships (or lack thereof)
Incomes/Jobs
Education
Interests/Hobbies
Attitudes towards technology
A reason for coming to your site/goal to achieve there

Please think of three different personas that are rooted in reality (can and should base them on interviews you conducted—they can be amalgams of multiple people, if there are through-lines that connect them. They should have varying levels of computer literacy, and varying interest in the topic your site is built around. Think in terms of a “super user” a “casual user” etc.

For more about personas, you can read here and here

Filed under: Homework

Your Reports for Next Week

In addition to your pitches, you will be turning in a report. It should cover the following:

1) Have a name for your site
2) Give a clear and precise two-sentence description of the site
3) Outline the audience for this site.
4) Discuss the social media strategy for engaging that audience.
3) Give a description of a three personas—analogues for some of the real users you have talked with—following the guidelines set out in the class blog.
4) Write a brief narrative of how these personas interact with your site. They may do so in different ways (a “super user” for instance, may access and work with your site in a different way than a “casual user”).

Filed under: Homework

Your pitches next week

Your pitches next week should be NO LONGER than two minutes and should consist of NO MORE than two slides. Here’s the breakdown of what you need to cover:

Slide one: The Idea
1) What’s the idea? BE SUCCINCT.
2) How does it manifest itself online?
3) What does the site accomplish?

Slide two: The Audience
1) Who’s the audience for your site?
2) How do you engage them? (“WITH GREAT CONTENT” IS NOT AN ANSWER)
3) What’s your Social Media strategy?

In addition, you will be turning in a written report (explained in the next post). Your grade will be for both the presentation and the report.

Filed under: Homework

Twitter: 21 Days

Twitter is a lot of things. One of them is that it’s very hard to explain. There’s one thing that is true though: It’s a new paradigm for communication and community, and it’s reaching critical mass.

Because of that, we’re going to do a deep dive into Twitter. The thing about Twitter is that it takes a little time to “get it” (and, even more importantly, what that “it” is will be different for each person). As a result, we’re going to follow the “21 days” concept: It takes 21 days of doing something regularly for it to become a habit.

So let’s form Twitter habits:

  • Starting by October 12thj, you’ll need to sign up for an account on Twitter.
  • Follow me. My Twitter page is here. I will follow you back.
  • Also, post your twitter user name in the comments of this thread so that your classmates can find you.
  • You need to post to twitter at least 3 times a day. In addition, you need to @ reply to someone at least twice a day. That’s a MINIMUM of five tweets a day.
  • Follow new people every day. Here’s 10 good folks to get you started. Use Twitter Search to find other interesting people to follow (type in keywords of things that you find interesting, for example).
  • Every 3 days, in 140 characters, sum up what you’ve learned and include the hashtag #onlinej09 in your tweet. For example: retweeting can really spread a message quickly #onlinej09
  • Follow your classmates’ revelations by doing a twitter search for that hashtag
  • We’ll have a pretty good list of things we’ve learned on Twitter at the end of this experiment. Plus, you’ll have developed a pretty healthy Twitter habit by then.
  • At the end of our 21 days, write a 500 word summary of your time on Twitter, what you think it’s useful for, and how you see Journalism intersecting with it. That report will be due on November 6.

Another great thing about Twitter is that there are any number of ways to access it outside of the homepage. There are some great applications for accessing your tweets, like:
Tweetdeck
Tweetie
Twhirl
Twitteriffic

Other applications for discovering people, doing interesting things, and more:
Twitpic
Twitter Grader
TwitterVision

There are an almost countless list of interesting Twitter apps–The “app store” One Forty is fantastic for finding them)

Finally, one thing about having only 140 characters is that it makes it hard to paste in a real link. You’re going to need a URL shortener to do so. Personally, I like bit.ly, but people also use tinyurl and others.

See you on Twitter!

Filed under: Homework

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