This blog began as a project for my Multimedia Writing class so it is only fitting that I reflect upon my experience. Admittedly, I was not and am not a techie. I can’t tell you how many all-nighters I’ve pulled because I somehow managed to delete an eight-page essay at 1 am. Walking past shuttered branches of Border’s and paging through shrinking newspapers, it became increasingly evident to me that to become a relevant writer for this century, I would need to develop technological literacy.
I admire written word for its sparse beauty–its ability to paint an image without color, plead without sound. Readers today value convergence, i.e. text adorned with more flashy mediums. I was excited for this opportunity to leave my comfort zone to gain insight into the mindset of the twenty-first century reader, and to produce content that adheres to modern conventions.
I knew from the beginning that one of my challenges would be ensuring that my writing was suitable for a web audience. In the past, I’ve written extensively for a print publication, newspaper journalism preaching that AP Style and the inverted pyramid are the only way of writing. It was a liberating change that web conventions aren’t nearly as strict as print, however, there are still certain expectations, some of which are contrary to print, be it journalistic or academic.
In a news article, the lede is supposed to be between 28-30 words, but online, the introductory sentence (and all sentences) should be as concise as possible. Brevity is not my strength. Take a look at this early post which is
replete with florid, pollysyllabic words long-winded. I once had an English instructor who took off points every time I’d select a common word such as good, bad, very, extremely, or like. Online, simple and accessible is encouraged!
As my posts progressed, they became more candid and colloquial. I began writing in shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, and I experimented with list forms–unacceptable in an academic essay, but well-suited for online! As Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”–it was evident when I spent less time on a post, because I’d relapse into my yabber-my-jaw-off tendencies. If I learned anything from this class, it’s that adapting to new writing conventions is a continual process.
Effective writing online is not sufficient; posts need to draw an audience. Titles take precedence in Google searches, and for this reason, it was a bit difficult to settle on headings. In print journalism, titles are one of the easiest parts of article-writing, as the good folks at the Associated Press have a ready-made formula. Online, a quality title needs to be attention-catching, without sacrificing searchability. Sometimes I selected titles that were much too indirect and academic in tone to increase traffic, but I realized over the course of the semester that I needed to put myself in the mind of a Google user. If I was responding to an Austen Kleon text, it made sense to include the title of his book in my own title. Of course, multimedia rules are made to be broken–for the title of my final project, it was essential that I compose something convoluted to echo the confusion of Temple administration.
Another technique to leverage traffic is effective tagging. Whoops–I entirely forgot to include tags in my Book Rat Courtney posts, but fortunately, I remembered this handy tool just in time for the final project. Initially, my approach was to tag every frickin’ word in my post. Did I really think that someone Googling “college” would come across my article on Temple bureaucracy? Maybe if there were so inclined to scroll through 14,759 pages of search results. It is more important that multimedia writers choose specific, relevant tags. In the past, I had tried to develop blogs, but I never stuck with them, most likely because I never had an audience. While by no means did I manage to draw a crowd to my blog outside of my Multimedia Writing comrades, I am now more aware of Search Engine Optimization techniques. It’s encouraging that even a small number of people from beyond ENG 3813 are checking out my site–unless the 23 views on April 23 are because y’all decided to read it at the same time?
There are a few minor changes which could help this course accomplish its objectives further. The problem with flexible project guidelines is that there is less of a push to achieve. When everyone is, say, giving presentations on Yeats, and I realize that my notes don’t delve into the text as deep as Person A’s, I know I need to amp up my game. But when people are pursuing different topics, it’s a bit more difficult to know where I stand, so I’m less likely to produce my best work. I don’t want to imply that project topics should be limited, but perhaps the distinction between “A,” “A-,” “B+,” etc. websites needs to be explored. This could be done by showing examples of websites online (as was done during the visual rhetoric unit), and discussing what works, what doesn’t, and the approximate grade such a website might receive.
Most of us really enjoyed the final project, and I think we would have benefitted if it was introduced earlier. I appreciated that I got the opportunity to talk with people in the class I really hadn’t spoken with before, and had this happend before in the semester, it would have benefitted our classroom dynamics. It also would have been interesting to publish more pieces to Temple Alive, so we can watch the website’s growth, but in terms of content and traffic.
I was greatful for the chance Multimedia Writing provided to try something new and build important resume skills. While I don’t know if I want to become a non-fiction Multimedia Writer persay–I discovered while taking a fiction class this semester my heart lies with good ‘ole paper-and-binding, fictional books–I do know that I can use the knowledge I built in this course to leverage my career. I enjoyed getting to know everyone and seeing how their diverse interests were represented in their blogs. Thank you for a pleasant and productive semester! I think this Luddite is going to stick around on the blogosphere for a little while…