Jerz: Writing for the Internet (EL236)

Introduction to Weblogs II (Panel 1-B)

1. Personalizing Your MovableType Blog (Valerie Masciarelli)
2. Pundit Blogs & Edu-blogs (Chris Ulnice)
3. Hoaxes and Fictions
4. Videoblogs and Audioblogs
5. Informal Tour of SHU Blogging (Stephanie Robb)

The History of the World Wide Web (Panel 1-C)

1. The Web and 9/11/2001
2. The Web Browser Wars
3. Dot-Com Boom and Bust (Jerz)
4. Hypertext before the WWW (Jerz)

Discussion of Kilian (Writing for the Web)

It's a short book, so I'm asking you to read it all.

In discussion: A basic principle of writing is "Know Your Audience." What does Kilian's book teach us about the readers of online documents?

On a piece of paper: How are you personally adjusting your own academic writing style in order to write for this class? Give an example of a sentence that you would have written for a traditional (printed) form, or in an informal online environment; then, revise it so that it will be acceptable for a college course in writing for the internet.

Small group exercises: A few short selections from the textbook (bulleted lists; .

Suggested blog topics:

Kilian introduces "semantics" and "register" as part of a discussion that distinguishes between informing, persuading, and marketing. Examine the Seton Hill University website, and evaluate it in terms of semantics and register, as well as its ability to inform, persuade, and market. (I'd prefer that you not start a blog entry with a list of terms and then just write a few sentences on each in the order which they are listed on this page. Come up with a point that you want to make, and use the terms Kilian provides in order to help you make that point.)

Compare the online syllabus for EL 236 with a syllabus you received in a different class. Is your other syllabus mostly designed for print, or is it also an online document? If it is designed for print, how does it differ from EL 236's syllabus? If it is also an online document, how does your other professor handle the needs of online writers?

Before Web Browsers (Panel 1-D)

1. History of E-Mail (Vanessa Kolberg)
2. History of Usenet (Newsgroups) (Dennis G. Jerz)
3. History of the Personal Computer (LeCrisha Mattox)
4. History of Word Processing
5. Feedback on in-class writing exercise (Dennis G. Jerz)

Instead of the History of Word Processing, we'll spend a bit of time on the problem in my instructions for Exercise 1-4.

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.

Current Issues in Cyberspace (Panel 1-E)

1. Google, Microsoft, and “Evil” (Melissa Lutz)
2. File-Sharing and Ethics (Leslie Rodriguez)
3. SPAM: In Your E-Mail and on Your Blog (Dennis Jerz)
4. Viruses, Spyware, and Security (Samantha Olinger)

You Can't Do That with Text! (Panel 1-F)

1. Constrained and Variable Writing
2. Adventures of the Internet Bookmobile (Denishia Salter)
3. Introduction to Wikis (Michael Iorio)
4. Introduction to Interactive Fiction (Moira Richardson)

Wiki Workshop

Today we will complete the Wikipedia tutorial, modify an existing Wikipedia entry, and create at least the "stub" of a new entry.


  1. What's a Wiki? A wiki (from the Hawaiian word for "quick") is a collaborative authoring system. (See Michael Iorio's Introduction to Wikis.) Just like there is no one "book" or "TV show," there are many different wikis that use slightly different methods. There are even wikiblogs. A Wiki is open source -- that is, when you publish something on the wiki, you do so with the understanding that other people can (and will) change what you wrote. The vast majority of changes will be improvements. Since a wiki is relatively easy to learn (no WS_FTP or FPE involved!), a person who knows a tiny detail or observes a minor typographical error can, with very little effort, make the change immediately. If person A makes a change that person B dislikes, person B can put the old version back. Person C might suggest a happy medium between A and B, and so on.
  2. First, I'll briefly show you the Wikipedia sandbox (where you can practice the syntax).

    A wiki uses a simplified syntax to generate HTML. To the reader, a page may look like this.

    Jerz's EL236 Test Area (Friday, 1 Oct, 2004)

    Here are a few links. It's very simple to make links to Wiki pages.

    Seton Hill University

    Internet Weblogs

    If the Wiki page does not exist, the link is red. Rainbow Hector You can create a page simply by clicking on a red link.

    Here's what I wrote:

    == Jerz's EL236 Test Area (Friday, 1 Oct, 2004)==

    Here are a few links. It's very simple to make links to Wiki pages.

    [[Seton Hill University]]

    [[Internet]] [[Weblogs]]

    If the Wiki page does not exist, the link is red. [[Rainbow Hector]] You can create a page simply by clicking on a red link.

    By the way, please don't create a Rainbow Hector encyclopedia entry -- the world is not ready for that yet.

  3. If you have not already done so, go to the Wikipedia sandbox, click the "edit" link to the right of the any secton on the page, and add a few links. Click "Show preview" in order to check your work.
  4. Move on to the Wikipedia tutorial (which lets you move at your own pace.) I'll come around to help anyone who needs it. Note in particular the "Neutral Point of View" discussion (on page 7 of the tutorial). Wikipedia is a consensus builder. If you say something outlandish and unsupportable, other users will tone it down until it is acceptable to the body of Wikipedia users. While Wikipedia aims for a neutral point of view, it's probably the case that people who like technology (and like things like interactive fiction) will probably spend more time on Wikipedia writing about it, as compared to someone who dislikes computers, who would just ignore Wikipedia.

Assignment: Once you have gotten through the tutorial,

  1. Edit: Find an existing page on Wikipedia on a topic that interests you (there's a search box on every Wikipedia page), and make some change to it. (Be sure to save your work when you are finished.)
  2. Create>/b> a new "stub page" on a topic that would be of interest to Wikipedia users. (There are probably few who need to see a page that lists your favorite movies, for example. Leave that sort of thing for your blog or your website.)

    The easiest way to create a new page is to find a red link (which signifies that no page exists for that topic). Click it, and sketch out the beginning of an entry (a "stub").

    The easiest way for you to find a red link that interests you is simply by reading existing wikipedia topics until you come across a red link that interests you.

    If you have a specific topic in mind and can't find a red links to it, add one yourself. Find an existing page on a related topic . Edit that existing page, inserting a bracketed word or phrase in an appropirate place. (For instance, if you want to write an entry on a particular type of cheese, go to the [[Cheese]] page). If the link you added isn't red, then somebody else has already created that topic.

  3. Connect: A wiki is a web; the pages are valuable because they are connected. Find two related pages, and add links from them to your "stub page." Go back to your stub page, and make sure that it has outbound links to the three pages that mention it. (I'm asking you to create at least three links going out to other Wikipedia articles, and three coming right back in.)

    For example, if you created a stub page for your hometown's world-famous apple harvest festival, it might link out to existing pages for your county or hometown, for [[apples]], and for [[harvest festival]]. Edit all three of these pages so that they include links that point to the stub that you just created.

  4. Bonus: Flesh out your "stub" page. Blog about it, and check back from time to time to see what other people have done to it.
  5. Required: Save the URLs of all the pages you worked on. Exercise 1-7 will ask you to check back on them.

Topics in Cyberfiction (Panel 1-G)

1. Chatbots and/or MUDs/MOOs (Ashley Thornton)
2. Star Trek’s “Holodeck” as a Story Vehicle
3. Story-driven Videogames (Rachel Kaylor)
4. Hypertext Fiction (Victoria Mara)

Update: I have e-mailed tips to the students who have already signed up. Thanks! --DGJ

Information Literacy

Information literacy is a librarian/researcher's term for the ability to recognize and use the materials and resources that you need.

When I was a graduate student, I got to know a medieval studies student who knew exactly how to read a religious painting. He knew how to read the hand positions of the figures in the painting, so that if two people are shown with their hands on an object, you can "read" whether one person is giving it to the other, whether they are fighting for it, sharing it, etc.

My friend had an informed visual literacy that I lacked. We both looked at the same painting. We both saw the same colors and shapes -- we saw the same data -- but he saw more information that I did.

In small groups, look at each of these pages, and evaluate its credibility. If you were writing a college research paper on a related topic, how likely would you cite this page? What strategies do you look for as you evaluate the quality of information you find on the site?

  4. From the Google home page, search for "victorian robots".
  5. From the Google home page, search for "french military victories"

After this exercise, I will discuss traditional academic peer review, and Google's PageRank system. If we have time, I will walk you through the interface at Slashdot (and an example of real-world, informal peer review, in a discussion of the assassination of Ultima's Lord British).

Postponed: Discussion of Blood (The Weblog Handbook) 2

Read and disuss chapters 5-7.


  1. Examine metablogging communities such as Technorati, TruthLaidBear, and BlogShares. Type in the URLs of blogs that you like, and see what you find.
  2. Either 1) add your blog to these services or 2) if you prefer not to publicize your work in that manner, write a short paragraph on internet privacy concerns.

This blog page is under construction...

Due: Issue 1

To submit your newsletter issue, one member of your group should e-mail it to the whole class.

(Hit "reply all" to the e-mail I sent out to the address you entered into JWeb.)

Remember that this is an e-mail newsletter, so I will evaluate it mostly based on what actually ends up in my in box. (If your e-newsletter links to longer versions of articles online, that's fine, too.)

If you have already begun to collect a list of subscribers, e-mail it to them too -- but put their addresses in the "bcc" field, not the "cc" field of your e-mail reader. (Make it easy for your readers to respond to you with suggestions.)

If you have already decided where and how to archive the back issues of your newsletter, great. If not, that should be something you work on between now and your next newsletter issue.

Individual Project Workshop

Rescheduled: Discussion of Blood (The Weblog Handbook) 3

Chapters 5-7

This this activity was moved here as part of a readjustment that gave us more time to talk about Exercise 1-5.) We'll get to it today.

Suggested blog entry: Implement two or three of Blood's suggestions for publicizing your weblog (or your e-newsletter). Include links.

Weblogs and the Google Galaxy

This presentation is based on an article, On the Trail of the Memex

Weblog Case Studies (Panel 2-A)

1. Kaycee Nicole
2. She's a Flight Risk
3. Dear Raed
4. [TBA -- consult with instructor in advance.]

Discussion of 'Blogging as Social Action'

Discuss "Blogging as Social Action"

Into the Blogosphere 1 (Panel 2-B)

All the "Into the Blogosphere" panels will ask students to summarize the main points contained in one of the essays in the "Into the Blogosphere" collection, and compare/contrast/apply that essay to another assigned reading that the whole class has been assigned to read. For Into the Blogosphere 1, the assigned reading can be either "Blogging as Social Action" or "Phantom authority...".

For your presentation, quote specific passages from the assigned readings and the additional essay that you are summarizing. Focus on two or three main points that you think will lead to a productive class discussion.

Presenters in this panel should choose one of the following:

  1. Geography of the Blogosphere: Representing the Culture, Ecology and Community of Weblogs
  2. Visual Blogs
  3. Imagining the Blogosphere

Into the Blogosphere 2 (Panel 2-C)

Everyone should read Moving to the Public: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom. Bring a one-page informal response to class (you are encouraged to blog it.)

Presenters should sign up to give a presentation that explores areas where the above text reinforces, contradicts, expands upon, or intensifies one of the following texts:

  1. Personal Publication and Public Attention
  2. Remediation, Genre, and Motivation: Key Concepts for Teaching with Weblogs
  3. Parody Blogging and the Call of the Real

Due: Issue 2

Was originally due Nov 10.

Into the Blogosphere 3 (Panel 2-D)

Everyone should read The Labyrinth Unbound: Weblogs as Literature and bring to class a one-page response. (Feel free to blog it if you like.)

Presenters should choose from one of the following texts, and introduce it to the class by making connections to/contrasts with the required text.

  1. Women and Children Last: The Discursive Construction of Weblogs
  2. Weblogs and the Public Sphere
  3. Common Visual Design Elements of Weblogs

Interactive Fiction (Panel 2-E)

Present a thoughtful, researched response (with quotations and links) to an interactive fiction game that you have not already played for Exercise 2-3. You may compare two IF games, compare a work of IF to a work in a different medium, or suggest a different approach.

Usability Case Studies (Panel 1-G)