Tag Archive for 'blogging'

Promises, promises

What was it I said a few weeks ago about being back in the blogosphere? Yeesh. I didn’t expect to fail so quickly. But one thing I’m sure most of you would agree with is that making the assumption that your workload will lighten up once you launch an enterprise-sized website is foolish, and that if anything, the work has only *just* begun. So that’s where I am - in the midst of post-launch updates and planning for future interactive modules. There’s a lot of fun work down the pike, but for now, we need to make sure the basics are covered and most importantly, that stakeholders are happy with the new site.

All this, and I get to take a few days away from the daily grind to congregate with other geeks at this weekend’s SXSW Interactive festival. I’m stoked to return to this event - a year after I first attended - and this time as a presenter on non-profit technology. I had an amazing time in 2007, but felt there was very limited discussion about NPTECH and how non-profits can leverage the same tools as for-profits, and how big those results could be. I’m speaking with Beth Kanter, Erin Denny, and Rachel Weidinger, on a panel moderated by Ed Schipul, where we hope to impart some wisdom to both non-profits and vendors on how best to kick ass with technology. I’m most excited about the discussion time after the panel as it will be a good pulse check to understand where folks are struggling most and what issues we need to focus on more as an industry.

I’m also eager to meet all the great folks I’ve been networking with for over a year, including my fellow panelists! Last year I attended with a group of colleagues from graduate school and I was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, and fairly lost in the techno-whirr of the festival. There were long lines of folks waiting to chat with geek rockstars - mostly people I had never heard of. There was constant twittering about good and bad panels, the best parties to attend - a veritable smörgåsbord of SMS diarrhea - and I wasn’t quite sure how to take it all in. This year there won’t be an absence of that fire-hose guzzling phenomena, but I’ll have a bit more context to apply, a lot more friendly faces to look for in the crowds, and new technologies and strategies to be inspired by.

I also can’t wait to enjoy a decent enchilada, margarita, and barbecue platter :o).

I hope to continue my blogging from the conference (I am really trying to keep this promise), but please disregard the fact that I’ll be using my work PC. Obviously I’d rather use my Macbook Pro, but toting along my work computer makes the most sense for a number of reasons. The good folks at EchoDitto promised to bring me an Apple sticker to plaster over that hideous Gateway logo, and hopefully, that will keep several of you from thinking I’m a techno-hypnocrite :o). Because I swear I’m not.

Reaching out: University lessons-learned from student blogging

In the quest to perfect our study abroad blog pilot - which seems to be going very well these days - I’ve been reaching out to several universities that are doing a fantastic job with their student blogging projects. Most all of these blogs would be classified as “admissions blogs” and give the reader an insider perspective about what it’s like to be a student on their university programs - whether it’s a student attending math classes on home campus, or spending a semester studying in Spain. The content is engaging, the design fantastic, and it’s clear that these universities have a strong handle on producing strong, reliable, and authentic content.

Giving up some of the university’s control of content and decentralizing it to students is an intimidating prospect for most organizations, yet the content created in these venues can be the most compelling for perspective students. As I’ve said before, it’s a fine line to walk between being too controlling and encouraging bloggers to user their own voice. Here are some of the tips in my running list of good techniques to employ when setting up a student blog: Continue reading ‘Reaching out: University lessons-learned from student blogging’

Free Burma

Free Burma!

Help Free Burma too.

More on Myanmar…

It only took a day after I wrote my last post before the ruling junta in Myanmar shut down the internet and disabled several cell phone networks to prevent the free-flow of messages, video, and photographs streaming out of the country.

According to the Guardian:

The Burmese government apparently cut internet access today in an attempt to staunch the flow of pictures and messages from protesters reaching the outside world.

An official told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the internet “is not working because the underwater cable is damaged”.

In Bangkok, in neighbouring Thailand, an official at a telecommunications firm that provides satellite services to Burma said some internet service inside the country had been cut.

The London-based blogger Ko Htike said: “I sadly announce that the Burmese military junta has cut off the internet connection throughout the country. I therefore would not be able to feed in pictures of the brutality by the brutal Burmese military junta.”

Mr Htike said he would try his best to feed the Burmese junta’s “demonic appetite of fear and paranoia by posting any pictures that I receive though other means … I will continue to live with the motto that ‘if there is a will there is a way’.”…

But people are still talking about Burma - probably even more now that most of these message channels have been disabled. Webpages are plastered with articles, videos fill up pages on youTube, and several of my colleagues and friends are wearing red shirts in support of the Burmese dissidents.

Empowering Myanmar, one blog at a time

In 2002 when I was in graduate school, I did research on “hactivism” in Myanmar - the expanding practice of using internet channels to promote political ideology in opposition to the ruling totalitarian regime. You can download this paper if you want to read more.

Back then, the focus was on getting information into Myanmar through peer-to-peer networks - using connections to bases like Napster to transmit controversial and banned information on the state of the country, including international reaction. Burmese expatriates the world over secretly gathered in chat rooms to determine their messaging, and then used creative technology to educate and empower those activists in Myanmar who were quietly and secretly waiting for signs that the regime was growing weaker or for a specific call to action.
Continue reading ‘Empowering Myanmar, one blog at a time’

Harnessing the unpredictability of youth (or wishing you could) Part I

In the spirit of Beth’s recap of Amy’s strategy, here’s a go at combining work notes with blogging (and breaking it into pieces that are manageable)…

So it’s been a little over two weeks into our study abroad blogging pilot, and in my opinion, the experience so far has been a success, if not also a great learning opportunity. All students are finally on-board with blogging accounts, and almost everyone has written at least one post, with several writing more than that. I’m particularly encouraged about the potential of this technology, as several of the students physically signed up for blogging accounts when they already were situated in their host countries [testing the limitations of the local technology].

The posts are engaging and interesting, and definitely provide some great fodder showing future students what their experience might be like. It’s been a lot of fun re-living the study abroad experience through our students, while also learning more about the structure of our programs (since I am new to the organization). I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was disappointed that the Flickr component hasn’t really caught on yet, but I’m waiting for students to feel completely comfortable with Typepad before I send out another email reminding them that we have it, and encouraging its use.
Continue reading ‘Harnessing the unpredictability of youth (or wishing you could) Part I’

Our first blogger

It’s official, our Fall 2007 SIT Study Abroad blog has it’s first student blogger signed on for when our programs start in September! We weren’t sure whether the project would appeal to our students, nor if they’d want to participate in a blog owned by World Learning vs. a personal blog. Some are doing both. However, the unanimous response from the students we chose was “Yes, of course! I’m honored!” Well, we’re honored to have them too. So it’s a win-win for everyone.

I received the signed waiver last night (via a photograph that was emailed from Brazil - smart kids!) and sent out the formal Typepad.com invitation soon after. You may wonder what the waiver is all about, or you may also ask why we haven’t taken a blood sample and an oath over a bible saying there will be no inappropriate material written over the course of the semester. I think some of our staff would have preferred that method, or that we’d have avoided blogging altogether, but maybe in my own young naivety, I’m trying to give our students the benefit of the doubt.
Continue reading ‘Our first blogger’

A foray into student blogging

Note: this was first published for Michaela’s personal blog on August 21. 2007.

One of the first projects I’ve been working on at my new job is setting up a blog for our fall study abroad programs. We have 79 specialized programs scattered across the world and each student has a vastly different immersion experience. I thought it might be fun to follow 10 of our students through a blog, as they undergo a semester of transformation.

Beyond the usual decisions of what blog software to use and whether to host 10 separate blogs or 1 blog with 10 voices, and how to handle photographs, it’s been hard to ignore the controversy out in the academic world: whether or not it’s appropriate to feature student bloggers on an organization’s website. Students tend to be extremely insightful at times, while at other times, extremely inappropriate. My research of other study abroad students (on programs unassociated with ours) uncovered provocative YouTube videos, inappropriate photographs and captions on Flickr/Webshots, and independent student blogs that blasted their study abroad programs and overseas experience. Granted there is lots of *great* stuff out there too, and hopefully as with most things on the web - the good will rise to the top, and the moaning/complaints/inappropriate discussions will sink to the bottom.

The other discussions I’ve been involved in with folks revolve around directing the types of content we want from our students (both on our official blog and if students choose to blog independently) and/or censoring negative content - all things which are hard to do on something as “leaky” as the web. I also struggle with any idea of censorship because of the free speech/freedom of press implications, etc. I believe the web should evolve organically, though the unpredictability of student behavior - college students for that matter - makes this issue a tough one. Kids have gossiped for hundreds of years - the internet has just evolved as another medium for this type of behavior. Anyone who has spent anytime on Facebook or MySpace knows this. Also, beyond our blog, what if students are writing inappropriate content on personal blogs - are we allowed to tell them to stop? I’ve tried to explain that what we don’t “allow” our students to do, it will still likely surface somewhere else if the student is determined enough. But regardless, you throw in free speech and ideas about civil society (which we try to teach in our programs) and you’ve only added fuel to the fire while not practicing what you’re preaching. It’s hard for folks to understand this, but hopefully in time it will be more clear and some best practices will emerge.

It’s definitely going to be an interesting learning experience, not only for our organization and myself, but for our students as well.The blog is located here, though not populated yet (our student bloggers will be identified in the next week!).

In the process of setting it up in Typepad, I’ve found a few scripts that add some multimedia and interactivity to the blog in a simple (and free), yet useful way. My two favorites so far are:

A Zee Map that features the locations of each of our study abroad bloggers.

And a Flickr slideshow (featuring my images) from Slide. Thanks to Beth for telling me about this one!