Misc. Browser Links

I’ll post sooner than later (yet this weekend, certainly) about Thanksgiving at home this year, but in the meantime, it’s time once again to post a ton of links to stuff open in my browser that I want to and/or need to come back to sooner than later.  In no particular order here:

I guess I’ve always been a content strategist

The other day, Charlie Lowe posted to the tech-rhet emailing list some information about “Content Strategy” as a new and evolving term in the web business.  Charlie posted this article from A List Apart, “The Discipline of Content Strategy,” and this Google knol page about content strategy.  He also pointed to some books, including Content Strategy for the Web, which lead me to Brain Traffic, which is the operation where Content Strategy for the Web Kristina Halvorson works, and also this presentation from Halvorson on Slide Share.

All this eventually lead me to amazon.com and a number of purchases:  Halvorson’s book, along with  Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works by Janice “Ginny” Redish and The Web Content Strategist’s Bible: The Complete Guide To A New And Lucrative Career For Writers Of All Kinds by Richard Sheffield.  And there are plenty of other books to find with a “content strategy” search.

Anyway, all this made me contemplate a number of different things.

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And in more link catching up news

Again, in no particular order– just things I want to keep track of that I have left open in my browser for a while now:

  • “Reading in a Whole New Way,” which is a very readable/accessible piece about how technology has altered the sense of “book,” from Smithsonian.com. And this is a link to the article itself, where there is worry about the iPad.
  • Speaking of which:  “Revisualizing Composition:  Mapping the Writing Lives of First-Year College Students” is a WIDE whitepaper/study about the way that students use writing technologies to write in different aspects of their lives.  There’s a lot here, but I was struck by the idea that students write as often for “personal fulfillment” (with Facebook, texting, etc.) than for school.
  • “Nine Important Trends in the Evolution of Digital Textbooks and E-learning Content,” from something called “xplana.”  I think these trends are debatable at best, but I like things that speculate about the future of publishing, especially when they are horribly wrong.
  • I really liked this cbd post “Taking Notes,” and I wanted to keep a link– a note?– of it for future reference.  Lots of good stuff here.
  • To be honest, I don’t know if this is worth passing on, but I will anyway:  From Inside Higher Ed, “An Adjunct’s Novel,” which in some ways seems amusing but in many ways seems rather predictable to me.
  • Here’s a link to an iPhone app I might try out later, something called the Sleep Cycle alarm clock. Though the whole thing seems a bit problematic to me.  First off, I set an alarm for a particular time not because it is the “best time” for me to necessarily wake up, but because it is the time that I logistically need to wake up to go on with my day.  Second, I don’t get how this app could possibly work, and I guess what bothers me most is that the reviews suggest that it does indeed work.
  • I might get this book called The Whuffie Factor:  Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business because it does sound pretty interesting.  But to be honest, between stuff I’m reading for school and for fun right now, this is going to have to go down the list a bit. Still, for the Kindle (iPad, of course) edition, it might be worth it for the next time I’m on a plane.
  • What’s the point of an iPad?  How might it be used in the “real world?”  Here’s a link from Apple to tell us. I’ve pulled my iPad out a couple of times in my first year composition class and what I think is interesting is that my students in that class seem pretty dismissive of its usefulness.  So much for “digital natives” understanding this stuff so much better.
  • Speaking (again and again!) of the iPad:  I recently won an iShine give-away from PadGadget by being early enough on Twitter to retreat an article from the site PadGadget.  Here’s a review of the iShine, which I mostly agree with.  I prefer to have my iPad in its Apple case because it’s easier to prop it up and such, but the iShine bag is handy and easy too.
  • Finally, this is something I really ought to do with my laptop:  from Lifehacker comes “Starting from Scratch:  A Step-by-Step Guide to Reinstalling Your OS.”

Three brief thoughts on burning the Koran

You have perhaps heard this story, about the nut-jobs in Florida (so many of them are in Florida) who are going to have a “Koran burning” on 9/11.  See, for example, “Pastor’s Plan to Burn Korans Adds to Tensions” from the New York Times from a couple weeks back.  At least three things occur to me, each of which has something to do with my line of work (well, sort of at least):

  • If it were not for Web 2.0/social media and the 24/7 news cycle, no one would have ever heard of these crazy people.  In other words, this is a highly “immediate” rhetorical situation, as I discussed in the Diss oh so many years ago, and it is yet another example of how technology directly impacts the ways in which rhetorical situations are processed by rhetors, audiences, and messages themselves.  Technology gives much, but it also causes bat-shit crazy stuff like this.  In any event, one wonders what would happen if this whole thing had simply been ignored, if we thought more carefully about the exigence for this situation, if this would even be possible before cable news, etc.
  • I am reminded of the flag burning debates of a few years ago with all of this.  Sure, this has a distinctly different flavor in the shadow of 9/11 and “war(s) on terrorism,” the non-issue of the Burlington Coat Factory turned  mosque/community center somehow vaguely near “ground zero,” and just a sort of general ill-placed fear of “Islam,” which is at least as diverse a religion as “Christianity.”  But I am also reminded of a Miss Manners article way back when, in which the always delightful writer Judith Martin pointed out that there was no point in legislating against flag burning because the reason why someone burned flags was to make a point by being terribly rude.  Of course, this is extra-über rude, but still.
  • Finally, this once again speaks to the extreme importance of the materiality of the book, and by “the book,” I mean the old-fashioned codex book, paper pages, pagination, a cover, the whole nine yards.  I don’t mean the Kindle or the iPad, and I hasten to add here that I really do like (love might be too strong) the reading experience on my iPad a lot.  I’m reading a couple of books on it right now, and I am going to be preparing for a day of getting some articles I’m teaching on my iPad after I finish this post.  Obviously, electronic reading and writing has an incredible power (see observation #1).However, if these crazy people got together and said “hey, we’re going to burn this here Kindle with the Koran on it,” or “we’re all gonna bring our laptops and erase our copies of the Koran all at the same time,” no one would have given a shit about that.  Not even a little bit.   What’s got everyone all excited is that these things are the actual and material thing that was previously the only definition of “book,” and they really will burn and give off flames, smoke, and heat.  Never mind that there are millions of other copies of the Koran, so it’s not like these people will have any real potential to damage the religion.

WIRED, you’re dead to me

And it’s not because of all the stupid “The Web is Dead” stuff, either– though I guess that’s part of it.  No, I am thinking of the still not complete saga of how WIRED screwed me out of my iPad application, which began back in early July and which still continues.  This has been a lot to go through for a five dollar app.  Anyway, after the jump, most of the story, but the moral of the story here is crappy customer service is a bad thing.

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“Digital Natives” not so savvy (or, I could have told you that)

Read Write Web had a piece I’ve been meaning to blog about for a few days:  “So-Called “Digital Natives” Not Media Savvy, New Study Shows.” A quote from the beginning:

Having been born into a world where personal computers were not a revolution, but merely existed alongside air conditioning, microwaves and other appliances, there has been (a perhaps misguided) perception that the young are more digitally in-tune with the ways of the Web than others.

That may not be true, as it turns out. A new study coming out of Northwestern University, discovered that college students have a decided lack of Web savvy, especially when it comes to search engines and the ability to determine the credibility of search results. Apparently, the students favor search engine rankings above all other factors. The only thing that matters is that something is the top search result, not that it’s legit.

This study isn’t really so much about the extent to which young people “automatically know” how to use various computer/internet/device tools just by virtue of being “native” to the technology– in other words, “the kids today” just automatically understand texting and facebook and whatever because they are kids and have never known anything different.  Rather, this study is about how young people (the study included just over 1,000 college freshmen, I think) aren’t particularly thoughtful about evaluating the credibility of things they find on the Internet.  These students more often than not just picked the first thing that came up in Google, paying no attention to any citation information (authors, dates, sources, etc.).  It also turns out that students in this study thought less about the reliability of Wikipedia, perhaps because so many high school teachers hammered into these students that “Wikipedia is bad, m-kay?”

And then the comments on the article tell their own story about who is (and isn’t) “digitally literate.”  First, many commentators complain about the study itself as being too small (there was a typo that it was 100 instead of 1000 subjects) and not really to be about what it claims to be about.  Then there were a wave of comments that more or less say “I don’t believe it because I’m digitally literate,” along with a lot of comments that agree with the study’s results.

Well, first off, if you are reading and commenting about anything on ReadWriteWeb, you are not in the “general population” demographic, period.

Second, I suspect if you studied 1,000 (or more) people in the general population without any controls for age, class, education level, etc., etc., you would get similar results:  that is, one thing I always see missing from these studies is the acknowledgment that maybe the basic assumption that the age of users is not as significant as proponents of the “digital native” argument might think.

Third, it is hardly surprising to me (and to anyone else who has ever taught first year writing) that freshman doing research usually settle on the first piece of research they find, regardless of the quality and usefulness of that research.  Google searches and the like make it a lot easier to find that piece of research, but I can tell you as someone who started teaching freshman long before people just “googled it” that doing what can only be described as “lazy research” is not a new phenomenon.

BlackCT and Social Media

There’s a blurb article in Inside Higher Ed that kind struck me, mainly because I’m starting to work on an article/chapter about using WordPress as a content(learning) management system, “Blackboard to Unveil New Learning Suite.” Here’s a quote, with my emphasis added:

Blackboard plans to announce today the release of a new version of its widely used e-learning suite, with an emphasis on incorporating social networking tools such as wikis, YouTube, Flickr, and Slideshare. “We provided a very intuitive process to search for and add content from YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare to a course without ever having to leave the LMS,” said Stacey Fontenot, a Blackboard vice president, in an e-mail.

So, why is this a plus? What is the problem with having students experience the internets the way that they experience it in every other way? As far as I can tell, the answer is teacherly control, surveillance, and grading. I don’t completely dismiss the value of such things, but is it really a selling point to anyone who uses stuff like Blackboard that you never have to leave the comfort/control of the course shell?

“Internet Explorer, I’m looking in your direction”

Before I get down to some biz-ness, I decided to take a look at Daring Fireball, one of my (new though it’s not a new blog) regular reads.  In the “colophon” section, we learn a little more about the site’s author and such, and this little bit about web standards:

Web standards are important, and Daring Fireball adheres to them. Specifically, Daring Fireball’s HTML markup should validate as either HTML 5 or XHTML 4.01 Transitional, its layout is constructed using valid CSS, and its syndicated feed is valid Atom.

If Daring Fireball looks goofy in your browser, you’re likely using a shitty browser that doesn’t support web standards. Internet Explorer, I’m looking in your direction. If you complain about this, I will laugh at you, because I do not care. If, however, you are using a modern, standards-compliant browser and have trouble viewing or reading Daring Fireball, please do let me know.

Heh.  Perhaps I’ll come back to this in 444.

Remainders on my browser

I have a habit of leaving Firefox open with dozens of tabs leading to dozens of things I either intend to read, bookmark, come back to for teaching, etc., and then I get busy with other things and I don’t.  In any event, in an effort to close some windows and to keep track of some of these things later, here’s a list of links to stuff, some of it tied to teaching and scholarship, some of it just kinda cool/interesting to me:

  • SecondBar allows you to have a menu across two monitors, which is how I roll on my desktop computer.  Not sure if it works yet or not, to be honest.
  • “Let Us Now Trash Famous Authors” by Christina Davidson is an article/web piece from The Atlantic might be useful for 621 in talking about why it is really important to be careful about how we work with “subjects” (e.g., “people”) in our research.  Davidson goes back to the town of Moundville, Alabama and retraces some of the history of James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which is about sharecroppers during the depression and which is also famous for having some iconic depression era photos by Walker Evans.  Well, when Davidson tries to talk to some people about it all, the only ones she (apparently) can find who know the book feel like it exploited and humiliated the families.  Which I think just goes to show you that we always have to kind of careful about what we think will be “harmless” research or writing.
  • “No Ink, No Paper: What’s the Value of an E-Book?” is an NPR story that argues, basically, that publishers ought to move aggressively to e-books and take their substantial losses now instead of waiting for the inevitable.  Interesting points.
  • Chicken chicken chicken, which figures very briefly into my CCCC 2010 talk.
  • “Thank Sex for Making the Internet Hot.” I have always said that when it comes to figuring out what advances in technology matter, look at porn.  As I understand it, when man figured out how to fire clay into things, the first things they made were not pots for holding stuff but sex toys.  I might be wrong about that.  Anyway, this is an NPR story in which an actual technology historian talks about how sex paved the way for many new technologies, with a fair amount of focus on the internet.
  • “The Posting Hour” is about insomniacs and forums like Facebook.  Kinda interesting, I guess.
  • And finally (for now), there’s the Google Apps Marketplace, which looks to be a sort of “App Store” for things Googley.  I haven’t played with it much yet so I don’t know how useful it might or might not be, but it was an open tab, so there you have it.