Surviving the Ragnarök of Virtual 300

Ragnarök: Thor Fights the serpent of Midgard.

People really don’t know enough mythology. Keeping track of that part of humanity is important in my mind. I think these thoughts after getting feedback from a professor; but I push ahead.

By “surviving the Ragnarök of Virtual 300” I mean it as epic battle against the elements, time, and  (mostly) yourself. The original Ragnarök actually has to do with the Norse mythological version of the apocalypse and the deaths of Odin, Thor and more. Besides, Ragnarök is a good reference, considering this class is referencing another epic battle. But I digress.

1. Know your tools. One of the pieces of multimedia that you’ll need will be infographics. Kay Tan at Hongkiat.com lists over 20 tools that you can use to make your infographics better and efficient for both the reader and yourself.

2. Don’t procrastinate. Katie Notopoulos at Buzzfeed gives you 13 tips on how to stop. Trust me when I say that you do NOT want to wait until the last-minute to do these. And yes, I realized I sent you to Buzzfeed to stop procrastinating. Oh, the irony. 

3. At this stage of your communication student-hood, you probably have a lot of log-ins to even more websites. If you don’t, Virtual 300 is about to kick your swarmy non-linked-in butt. The best way to handle all the new social media is using something called Hootsuite. The good folks at Seriously Social give you the reasons why.

4. You don’t need a camera to produce content. Hopefully you have a smartphone, so you could follow Poynter.com’s advice here. If you don’t have a smartphone, tablet, iPod Touch, or access to a camera, you may be screwed. You, like most humans, will not survive  Ragnarök.

5. Know how to make top ten lists. You’re going to have to do it sometime during the semester, and reading this weeks in advance would’ve saved me from writing this at 3:15 AM. Also See point 2.

6. Similar to point 2, you should know to to manage your time. Being a part of  theVirtual 300 is a lifestyle change. You won’t have people marching in the street for your “rights,” but you’ll be able to handle better if you do what 99u.com tells you and have some time management.

7. Know what you believe. If you are truly interested in journalism, than you should have an opinion on what is right and wrong: not only journalism ethics, but a clear worldview on life, otherwise you moral outlook will be shaky and it will effect your future work.

8. Do you know what it means to optimize your search engine results? Known about SEO (search engine optimization  to get a more clear understanding of it.

9. You should use RSS Readers (feeders?) to stay on top of the the latest in news and in the industry. I subscribed to PopSci Magazine for years. Not these days, but they do ya the goods on the best RSS Readers now that Google Reader is going away.

10. Feel inspired. Check out this video from The Guardian (one of my favorite news sources) shows how journalism can move and change things through conversation, from small trouble in the neighborhood to the national or international stage.

Good luck with Ragnarök.

Reflections on #Virtual300

Reflection time

“If I would’ve had more time, I would’ve said less.”  It’s a quote/paraphrase that has been attributed to Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway  and Blaise Pascal. It doesn’t matter who said it. I heard it from Jill Falk, my online journalism professor, and it stuck with me throughout the semester. Perhaps that’s what inspired me from writing 1000+ word blogs and down to about 800 (and later, to the 550s+!). Live and learn, as it has been said. Now the time is up, and we are at end the semester. Did I say enough, and what did I say? What have I been doing for the past few months?

Theory (Book Larnin’)

First things first: the textbook. Sure, I didn’t really like it, nor did I really absorb a large amount of information from it. But it did make me aware of things I never really thought about: crowd-sourcing, for one. The other that stuck with me was the interactive side of ‘new media.’ The concept wasn’t new to me, but the behind the scenes, how-its-done details certainly were.

Our professor also showed us various talks and gave a few snazzy prezis herself. We learned that story-telling is key. You can be hip to the buzzwords and have all the latest gadgets, but without telling a story, they won’t be much use.

Practicum

The Interwebs

The rest of the class was all “practical.” We had to do everything ourselves. And it hurt. We learned how journalists use social media (especially Twitter and Tumblr) not only get their stories out into the Interwebs, but to find stories as well. Twitter is more about shouting out what you’re doing (like in this youtube video from early 2009), it’s about being part of a virtual community of like-minded people.

We also had to follow influential journalistic sources on our RSS feeds, tumblrs, and twitter. We used Hootsuite (which thanks to Professor Falk’s Com130 in 2010, I had already) to keep everything in sorted. In theory we did, anyway. Hootsuite can still be overwhelming. It’s true, Jill, admit it). But I digress. Using twitter, we were able to follow individual bloggers, journalist, and even whole organizations (APnews, Wall Street Journal  NPR, etc.). And let’s not even talk about the Twitter Scavenger Hunt.

The most practical, and difficult part of the class was doing the actual stories. First, I had to come up with a story idea. After some generous assistance, I then had to do the actual legwork. Boots on the ground, prancing around from the Boone Home to pipe tobacco shops, taking pictures, asking questions, and getting out of my comfort zone. Which is a good thing. Comfort zones are stupid.

Then the even harder part: putting it online in a presentable fashion. Finding the right programs to put up slide shows, experimenting with SoundCloud to upload a choppy interview on SoundCloud, and my good ol’ reliable timeline program. Of course, there was the infamous Story 5 (thanks to this fine woman here), we had to edit with video. I put a lot of work into that only to find didn’t “finish the race.” I missed some part of the requirements. Which is ironic because my story was about a colorful race.

But in the end, the stories came together, the pictures eventually uploaded, and I did get some sleep.

Finally, all of the class became more familiar with WordPress. I only ever really used it to write blogs. I could hyperlink, post videos, and maybe even a picture or two. It didn’t take long in the Virtual300 to realize there was more to it.

Accomplishment?

I’ve worked on seven stories for this class. I missed out on story number 4, because, well, I was having a hard time with the class at the time. I wrote a story about the Boone Home, by spending several hours on the Boone campus. I filmed myself dribbling a soccer ball through augmented reality. Besides the stories, I gained followers on twitter, and became more proficient in various skills. However, in the end, my favorite accomplishment is on the story I flubbed up in the minute details: the Splash Dash.

I choose this video not because I think it’s fantastic quality, but because how much I went out of my way for it, and the new experience it provided me with. For this video, I used a Go Pro camera, and I had a blast. It enabled to get int he middle of the action, without damage to the camera (and thus none to my wallet). Sure, I may not have made the other pieces of multimedia to put alongside the video, but I made the video. And I had fun.

I am at 799 words. I would have said less, but I have no more time.

The Future of Media

Whatever it takes, whatever ads I need to suffer through, I'll consume the media I want.

Whatever it takes, whatever ads I need to suffer through, I’ll consume the media I want.

Ancient Celtic mythology has a concept called “the time between times.” It was the dusk and dawn. The few moments between the waning of the day, and the advent of the night, or vice-versa. It was in those times that everything became more magical, though perhaps a better word would be sacred, or even more powerful. As I read the Pew Research Center’s study on the pressures that the move to mobile has on the news, I couldn’t help but think of the time between times.

The move to mobile is gathering steam, but news organizations cannot yet afford to pull much from traditional news to invest in the mobile arena. The money just won’t support it, yet they have to move forward on the mobile aspect of journalism. So it is a “time between times,” where the traditional era isn’t really there, but the new mobile era isn’t either.

The Future as a Consumer

As a consumer of news, I really don’t like advertisements that much. The ones I hate really hate are the ones that pop-up on my iTouch (virtually an iPhone). There’s a limited amount of space on an iphone, and having an unwanted advertisement interrupt me makes me more disinclined to whatever message they are selling.

On my iPad, it doesn’t aggravate me as much- advertisements show up on the side of the screen, just like on my laptop. The article in question (Digital: As Mobile grows rapidly, the pressures on news intensify) talked (A LOT) about the changes in digital advertising. They said some things that I’m not sure if I quite understand, but regardless, I managed to get an opinion  Whatever changes the news providers (and their advertisers) throw at me, I’ll adjust. I consume most of my news on my laptop or desktop computer, and not on a mobile device, so the move to mobile hasn’t really affected me much in the regard to my current habits.

The Future as an Employee

Adaptation is not enough, however. As a future of employee of media, this move to mobile means a lot. Tailoring my content for an audience that consumes it on their phones or tablets, instead of their laptops and televisions, will be a constant evolving task. If I work in advertising, I will have to come up with ad campaigns tailored for a mobile audience.

One advantages of this shift is that advertisers will probably have more information on individuals, due to information-gathering methods used for mobile devices. Geo-tagged photos, the immersion of social media into all of our transactions, all add up to more information that advertising can use to get their message to resonate with you. Targeted ads are probably the future (it’s already happening).

One of the disadvantages is that all this is relatively new territory. How do I know what banner ads will work on what size devices? Trial and error? Focus groups?  Furthermore, how will consumers react to targeted ads? Will this be the straw that breaks the camels back? Will they become uncomfortable with the knowledge that advertisers have access to?

So?

The future is an uncertain place. Yes, things change: people will consume their news and information in a variety of ways, be in traditional or not. But one thing will stay the same: people will always consume information, and the devices to do so, be in stone, paper, or smart phones, will continue to evolve, adapt, or wither away. As a consumer and employee, I’ll try to stay ahead of the curve.

The beauty of Snow Fall

Snow in the Woods

Snow in the Woods

The Old Gray Lady surprised me by featuring a piece of journalism that I adored. Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek by John Branch not only caught my attention, but hunted for it. My interest was the prey and Snow Fall was the predator, and it took me down in its jaws.

One of the aesthetic aspects I appreciated in Snow Fall was the simplicity of the presentation. Black text on a white background. Georgia/Times Jew Roman font. Every once in a while a small thumbnail would appear on the side. Some of the pictures featured movement, and you flowed into and through the graphics, rather than being hit over the head by them.

Another thing that “blew me away” about the story was the story-telling itself. This may sound like a no-brainer, but at times it was like reading engrossing fiction- it drew me in, even though I really didn’t want to be reading it in the first place. The sheer volume of research required to gain as much depth as Snow Fall is staggering to me. It’s one thing to create what you want while writing fiction. But as an act of journalism, having the detail that Snow Fall drowns in really does blow me away.

I’m not sure one makes this “act of journalism” so remarkable, though a few people have an opinion or two. Perhaps I am (sadly) not well-versed in current journalism trends, but if this isn’t a widespread way of telling long-form stories, than it should be. I suppose me saying that is makes this story remarkable to.

This story connects back to the Virtual300 because it is peppered with multimedia elements. Though if I wrote an article half-this size, I’m pretty sure my professor would flip, though if I had 1/10 of the multimedia she would cry tears of joy. I’ll have to think about that. In class we have learned of the importance of multimedia, and I think the captivating graphics in Snow Fall demonstrate that, if done right, multimedia can enhance your story on a cosmic level.

Snow Fall is inspiring in the sense that it tells me that it can be done. What I mean is that Snow Fall told a story that is engrossing, even entertaining, while remaining real in its tragic glory. The whole project involved more than just John Branch, and it took six month. It is a huge undertaking, and Branch deserves recognition for it. As for what I can do with it, I could use Snow Fall to inspire me to go the extra mile, interview people with the right questions to get enough details, and to include better multimedia elements.

There weren’t any real negatives in Snow Fall. It’s a very long story, so it isn’t practical, necessary, or even good for ALL news stories to be like Snow Fall. However, it does serve as a guide for integrating multimedia into a story. It shows that multimedia can really enhance the story, and not only bring understand and context, but feeling. When someone takes this approach to a story on, I will be first in line. Also, as I wrote earlier, the story was packaged in a simple format that flowed smoothly, which I really appreciated. At first I didn’t realize that there would be more to the story in the tabs towards the top (TO THE PEAK, or DECENT BEGINS, etc.), though by the time I did notice them, I wanted to read them.

The real (and final) question is how Snow Fall will influence my writing in this class and beyond. It will always be in the back of my mind, and I think I will probably bookmark it. It’s a great style, a unique (though sad) story, and a superb guide to my story-telling. The next month will not find me putting out 8,000 word articles, though I bet they’ll be better than ever.

*Also, after discussing it just before class, I think we should get Adele to re-record her single “Skyfall” and make it “Snow Fall.” That was the only thing missing in the story.