Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Constant Content

First, watch my helmet-camera view of taking some ski jumps up at Snowbird for 30 seconds:

Now my question to you: Have you noticed how constantly you are creating content?

Maybe you don't think of all those status updates, text messages, pictures or videos you've put online as "content." But that's what they are. Or when you comment on others' blog posts or "like" something on Facebook. All that is you, a content creator, constantly contributing your ideas, feedback, and media.

It's so casual, so informal, that it doesn't seem to be all that important. But it is! Just think about how much credit you give to what others say and do through the new media. And of course, you've heard all the horror stories about people who are careless in what they post online. (Did you hear about that UCLA student that got expelled for her racist video complaining about Asians?). Hopefully you are being careful about not posting things that would embarrass you. But are you giving enough thought to posting content that will be to your credit?

Obviously, by assigning my students to create blogs, I am trying to get them to create meaningful content that will build not just a great set of ideas, but an even better online identity for them. Only here's the thing: as informal as blogging can be, it still tends to be more formal than other kinds of new media. The trouble I've had in the past with student bloggers? They think that every post needs to be an essay.

Ultimately, I do want my students to formulate more formal arguments and more serious kinds of content for their academic blogs. But that can only come later -- after accumulating a lot of casual content. Blogging doesn't work if it is an ordeal. So don't make it an ordeal.

I'm trying to encourage this among my students by assuring them that frequency and interactivity are more critical than less frequent, long, formal posts. I'm not sure if they are taking me seriously yet!

The content you create will be more valuable if it is regular (more daily than weekly), and if it is social (if you are using it to respond to others, or your content consists of responses to others).

So here are a few best practices for creating constant content:
  • Narrate your process of discovery
    Talk about what you are reading, thinking, or researching midstream. One tool to help with this is a good social bookmarking system like Diigo. Sam McGrath modeled this in his recent post about scienctific crowdsourcing. He has figured out how he can post directly to his blog by making an annotated Diigo bookmark. That makes it easy! You can post frequently and briefly about what you are discovering online by piping into your blog your Diigo bookmarks.
  • Post about your personal, non-academic interests.
    Did you watch me take some jumps on the slopes in the video up top? Does this make all the academic blogging instruction less tedious? Nuff said.
  • Keep it short
    Try to think about your blog posts more like your Facebook updates. Can you do a blog post that is one sentence or a brief paragraph in length? Yes you can. That's what Matt Harrison did in this very brief post (which also exemplified the previous suggestion of narrating one's process of discovery; he listed superhero-themed movies coming out soon that he is planning to see). 
  • Respond to others
    In Taylor Gilbert's recent post, he gave a shout out to Bri Zabriskie. Another way to create content through responding to others is to use someone else's post as the basis for one of your own. This is especially good, since it combines CONSUME (reading others' stuff) with CREATE (you are posting your own response) with CONNECT (making your knowledge social).
So get posting -- daily.

1 comment:

  1. Cool! I didn't see Taylor's shout out till I read this. I shouted out to both him and Amy on my blog this week.

    I have been blogging a while and have a TON of trouble with the brief post comment. I always start out intending to keep it short but actually think it takes more time to condense your ideas than it does to just write them out. Plus, pardon my observation, but your not a glittering example of brief posts yourself professor. :)