Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Building a blog

In Uncategorized on February 27, 2008 at 3:29 am

For anyone wondering what it looks like when you build a Web site from the ground up, here’s the foundation.

Why I haven’t been posting

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Things are getting a little stressful here.

My job search has become my number one priority.

I’m currently taking a full load of courses, including a graduate course.

I’ve been following the local art scene, which has taken two to three nights out of my schedule each week for interviews and research.

I’ve been working on some side projects and having problems with them.

I’m getting ready for Megacon, which is going to take me somewhat out of the game for a whole weekend.

I’m trying to find time to finish up some craft projects to post on Etsy; I want to start a seller’s account there to show off my handiwork. (Working at a knitting or craft magazine someday would be amazing.)

My best friend is having a number of wedding emergencies; her wedding is in May.

My mom just announced that she will also be getting married, although that pressure’s off. She was going to make the date for June but has now decided to wait a year.

On the plus side, I did decide to take the plunge into making my own video for a blog post. It’s pretty simple and was an excuse to see what the cam on my MacBook can do. I made it for Nerdery Week.

The trouble of reporting in a digital era

In Anonymous, Scientology on February 16, 2008 at 7:13 pm

I wrote a similar post yesterday but had so many problems getting it to work right, I accidentally deleted it. So, I decided to rewrite it today for the Carnival of Journalism. This month, the carnival is being hosted by Bryan over at Innovation in College Media.

One of the problems of new journalism is the way the internet brings people together. Sure, we can now find sources using all sorts of social networking sites, message boards, and chatrooms. A quick search on Google can bring up organizations dedicated to topics ranging from knitting to raising money for stem cell research to any number of illegal activities. The thing is, there is too much information out there for journalists to handle, and many reporters take what’s happening in the cyber world at its face value.

Take the world-wide protests of Scientology on February 10 by the group Anonymous.

The Church of Scientology would like the world to view the loosely organized group of individuals known as Anonymous as a bunch of cyberterrorists who are a threat to national security. However, this isn’t the case, mainly because Anonymous isn’t a structured group or club.

The Anonymous video message to Scientology is ominous.

However, so far, the protests and a few Scientology sites crashing have been the extent of the Anonymous reign of terror. Institutions across the world probably wish terrorist attacks by other “terrorist organizations” were as civil as the Anonymous campaign.

In terrorist organizations, members of opposing factions are demonized; however, this is not the case with Anonymous. They chose their day of protest to coincide with the birthday of Lisa McPherson, a member of Scientology whose death was linked to insufficient care provided by the church. And, as much as Scientology would like to warn us about members of Anonymous, Anonymous has issued messages against harming members of Scientology.

The Church of Scientology is gearing up for a difficult fight, where the most they can do is investigate individual attacks against their web space and real space (if anyone bothers to harm a physical location or person). Casting the group as a hate group will also be difficult, because the group isn’t against Scientology but against a church that forces members to continue to buy church products to get ahead to have tax-free status, and against the church’s practice of fervently acting to silence their opponents.

A member of Anonymous I talked to the other day stated it is these businesslike practices and bullying nature of the church that bothers Anonymous as a whole. Like many members of the group, he is in his mid-twenties, is well-versed in the world of the internet and doesn’t want the outside world to know who he is and the part he plays in the organization. (In his own words, he merely keeps up with Anonymous, although he was at the Clearwater protest.) And, like many Anonymous members, he won’t give his name for publication.

In another video post, the reasons for the protest are described much better than I could state them:

In a world where disclosure matters, how do we write convincing and interesting content about an invisible source? How do we cover Anonymous, or a young woman on an eating disorder board who doesn’t want her name showing up in print, or a group of graffiti artists evading the police?

Video helps. Some groups and individuals wear disguises, and there are ways of blocking out faces and distorting voices in pre and post editing stages of filming. However, these present their own ethical problems which individual reporters and news organizations should take into account.

In the case of Anonymous, individual protesters have stated many times they are worried about retribution from the church. In a similar case, I would recommend tracking down a spokesperson who doesn’t mind having their face and voice recorded, if at all possible.

If personal identification isn’t in the cards, put as much detail into their online personality as possible. Screen names and avatars are a good idea, as well as publishing screen shots of actual conversations belonging to a source. It is a very bad idea to write a story only based on an online source who refuses to be named. They may have unknown motives as to why they wish to remain in the shadows. And, while it is possible to find out who is posting what from IP addresses, many people access the internet from school, work, internet cafes, and libraries, which makes correct identification that much harder.

Don’t promise more than you can deliver. If the police come knocking at your door, you may have to give up your source, especially if they are suspected of a crime. Give your source a clear definition of what you can and can’t do for them, then stick with it. Once you’ve proven you’re untrustworthy as a reporter, the trust is gone, period.

Realize that on the internet, a group of people working together isn’t the same as it is in the real world. If a member of Anonymous did resort to physical terrorism, the investigation would have to be focused on individuals, not the organization itself. Because there is no central leadership, there is no one person calling the shots. Instead, one person might post an idea or call to action on a message board, and watch it go viral. This is a lot different than organizing in the past, because members of loosely based groups don’t have to worry about arguments with leaders, proximity problems, or activities taking up their resources. Instead, they’re only expected to help out as much as they want to. One group member might only involve him/herself to the point of responding to forum posts, while another may deluge a site with information until the servers crash. It’s going to be interesting to see how laws and investigations bend to the will of the virtual world as the borders between reality and virtual reality blur in the years to come.

WordPressed out

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2008 at 1:51 am

If anyone has been having horrible problems embedding videos into WordPress today, please let me know how you fixed it. I’m all WordPressed out for today.

Stalking Nathan Fillion p. II is up

In Conventions on February 14, 2008 at 6:05 pm

And, it’s only two weeks late. You can check it out here.

Site review: Helium, Pay Per Post, and 451 Press

In Consumer Review, Writing Opportunities on February 13, 2008 at 5:32 pm

I started out on 451 Press, with the first blog I was paid to write.

The network pays on a per view basis, and I earned about $5 a month. $5 for anywhere between 10-20 blog posts. After a while, it was hard to make myself write the posts. In addition to writing, I had to link back to at least two other posts in the network to get paid. While good in theory, it could be hard to make those other blogs fit into my blog’s theme. There was also no room for creativity when it came to my blog’s layout. However, the other blogs in the network were well-written (bloggers are screened and must go through a brief hiring process).

My take: 451 Press is a good starting point for mass comm undergrads who haven’t had an internship, have a light course load, and don’t have a part-time or full-time job.

After 451 Press, I joined Pay Per Post, a paid content site works through established blogs. PPP blogs are non-commercial ventures, so I used my Blogspot blog instead of 451 Press. PPP pays a flat fee per article, and the biggest rules are (1. bloggers must disclose paid posts and (2. blogs must alternate between paid and nonpaid posts. I’m averaging around $60 a month with the PPP system.

My take: PPP is a good system for established bloggers who want to earn a little spending cash and don’t mind their blog being taken over by annoying ads. Some members of the PPP network make thousands of dollars a month, and every payment I’ve been promised has made its way into my bank account.

In another bid to make money off of writing for the internet, I joined Helium. I’ve realized it’s not for me, although they’re currently holding a special event for the next two months where high quality writers earn extra money through every posted article, and they have a Marketplace (where sponsors send out article requests) that offers more bang per buck. Currently, my earnings state I’ve made $.07. However, I just received an email stating I’ve earned $7.50 for my articles plus the extra rewards for the event. So, I could possibly earn more than $100 in the next two months. I will probably submit semi-regularly to get at least a small return.

On the site, articles move up and down a ranking system, where users vote on specific articles. In order to succeed at the site without the special, limited rewards program, users must write a staggering amount of articles to make any money, and there is not instant gratification payment. I’ve also seen people in the message boards complain about users “revenge ranking” or automatically ranking well-written articles near the bottom as well as seen frustration from other users who have written for the network for months but haven’t earned more than a few dollars. Many of the articles aren’t well-written, which is another reason to avoid the site.

My take: Helium is a great site for wannabe writers who don’t understand the ins and outs of journalism or the book publishing business; it could lead to other opportunities and could possibly act as an okay writing portfolio.

Blogging in two languages

In College Goals, Complete Waste of Time on February 13, 2008 at 5:10 am

אני ורד ווידרס. אני רוצה לילמוד ליכתוב עברית. אני גרה לילמוד ולומדת לגור.

As a way to improve my written Hebrew, I’ve decided to blog a little every day in both English and Hebrew. Today’s bit of bilingual wisdom?

“I am Wendy Withers. I want to learn to write Hebrew. I live to learn and learn to live.”

Unfortunately, Pages doesn’t seem to want to let me copy the Hebrew text with all of my periods intact. Although, considering I just spent an hour trying to figure out how to make Pages let me write in Hebrew at all, I’m not going to complain.

To check out my new Hebrew blog, click here.

Coming up- a review post of the three paid blog/writing systems I’ve recently tried.

Weiner poopie

In Complete Waste of Time, Uncategorized on February 8, 2008 at 7:04 pm

How could I resist blogging about this video segment? It’s the first thing to make me laugh all day. (Okay, I’ll admit my sense of humor is juvenile.)

I’m sure everyone who was involved in this production knew it would become instant fodder for bloggers around the world. That’s the only reason I could imagine this making it to air.

Thanks to Ross Wolinsky of the Cracked blog for the heads up.

Writing for Helium

In Consumer Review on February 8, 2008 at 6:50 pm

Thanks to a comment placed on my other blog, I discovered Helium. Because of my curious and experimental nature, I am now playing with the site to see if it’s a more viable way to make money than 451 Press or Pay Per Post.

So far, it’s a lot more user-friendly than 451 Press but possibly not as lucrative as Pay Per Post. I’m not sure if it will make as much money, because I’m not exactly sure how the earning system works. But, like 451 and PPP, earnings are sent to PayPal.

The site is easy to register with, and it has a detailed user guide to help writers navigate things like building a profile and tracking their earnings.  Instead of receiving a set amount per article, writers get royalties based on how popular and well written their articles are. Although, there is a marketplace where publishers ask for submissions, pick the best, then pay a set rate for those articles.

My favorite aspect so far is the earnings breakdown. I know, after one day, that I have earned $.01. I also know, thanks to the same page, that two articles I’ve written are ranked No. 1 in their respective categories, and the third article I’ve written is ranked No. 6 of 25. The earnings and payments page packs a lot of info into an easy to read format.

The biggest problem I have is the site’s emphasis on rating, and the addictiveness of ranking others’ articles. This is one of the things I tried to avoid, years ago, when I was a member of Writing.com. Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the rating system there, I think it’s better than the Helium system. Another plus: unlimited room on Helium for showcasing work. On Writing, the last time I logged in there was a space limit for portfolios.

Helium looks like a great resource for new writers who haven’t built up clips. The marketplace is also helpful for writers to gain recognition. A skilled writer with even a glimmer of talent will stand out. The user guide is also a great resource for writers to learn the dos and don’ts of self-marketing for their site.

I’ve set up my articles and about me page; it will be interesting to see how this particular site will pay out compare to the amount of work I put in.

Gearing up for my next post

In Awesomeness, Complete Waste of Time on February 8, 2008 at 3:42 am

In the meantime, here’s a video I found at Missbehave.

Imagine if hundreds of people froze in place in your airport or train station. Improv Everywhere pulls stunts like this all the time.