Jerz: Writing for the Internet (EL236)


17 September 2004

Today's Outline

Just to keep us on track...

  1. Troubleshoot Exercise 1-4 (It worked when Evan logged into the teacher's station and followed the instructions... it doesn't work on the student computers... but we'll figure it out.)
  2. Discuss The Weblog Handbook (Ch 1-4)
  3. Return and discuss exercises (including the in-class writing)
  4. E-Mail Newsletter group project brainstorming (for proposal, due 22 Sep)

Discussion of Blood (The Weblog Handbook)

Chapters 1-4.

On page 15, blood says that "[m]otivated bloggers" research and link to opposing viewpoints. Is there anything inherent in the design of weblog software that encourages online authors to link to opposing viewpoints? Is there anything about welogs to discourage a blogger from linking to someone who shares his or her biases and doesn't challenge his or her opinions in the slightest?

On page 18, Blood mentions the importance of linking to primary material. Thus, if you dislike a particular politician, post a link to a speech or a news story that describes something specific that that politician said or did. Even if most of your blog entry is a rant, the link is a service to someone who is interested in that politician, regardless of whether you reader shares your opinion. Page 20 offers some observations about eyewitness accounts and their relative value when compared to traditional journalism.

Page 28 describes Blood's own motivation to use fewer words when she writes. She describes a tension between posting frequent but uncultivated entries, or less frequent and well-digested essays. (I leave that up to you, but be warned -- if you procrastinate, your portfolio assignment will be much more stressful and much less rewarding than it should be.)

Page 30 and 31 offer some good observations about what happens when a blogger chooses not to post something; also, how blogging encourages critical thinking.

I and your peers have already already walked you through most of the material contained in chapter 3, but seeing it all in print may help spark some ideas and connections.

Suggested blog entry: Respond to Blood's Chapter 4, "Finding Your Voice." Read the blogs posted by your peers. How are some of them developing their voice? Link to a few specific blog entries (use permalinks -- click on the time stamp at the bottom of a posting) and comment on the voice. Reflect on how your own voice is developing.

Group Project Workshop 1

Form groups to discuss the newsletter-writing group project. First issue is due October 13.

Much of what I and a former student put in "Writing Effective E-Mail: Top 10 Tips" also applies to e-newsletters, but people are much more likely to scan (or trash) newsletters that seem irrelevant.

I like e-mail newsletters because they are self-contained -- I can print them out and read them offline, or I can download them to my digital organizer (which doesn't have internet access) knowing that I can read it while standing in line at the grocery store or during my son's piano lesson, and I won't feel disenfranchised by the fact that I can't click a link.

Review the e-newsletters that you signed up for in Exercise 1-2.

How does an e-newsletter differ from other similar sources (such as a newspaper article or a weblog)? What is the purpose of an e-newsletter?

How would you describe the writing style of an e-newsletter?

Consider Mike Arnzen's prize-winning "Gorelets" (horror)

Langalist (hardware and software tips and troubleshooting)

E-Mail Newsletter Writing Tips


Discussion Questions for your Group

Topic for your newsletter? The ones I can think of right away: Success at Seton Hill University;

Value to readers? Your friends and family members may read your newsletter simply because you wrote it... maybe your teammates will care about a newsletter devoted to your club... but what kind of newsletter would a wide range of people, who are just as busy as you are, actually bother reading? What concrete benefit will your readers get? (Will you be able to save them time, by doing research for them? Save them money, by pointing them towards good deals and away from bad ones?)