Jerz: Writing for the Internet (EL 236)

Ex 1: Self-assessment

Google your own name. What comes up? Now consider your preferred e-mail address. What impression would a potential employer or other professional contact have of that address? Write a brief informal essay (1 or 2 pages) that presents what you learned from this exercise. (Please don't simply list answers to my questions. Construct an essay with a thesis and specific examples taken from your own experience, or quoted from reputable sources.)

Update: Diana Geleskie found references to the website she created as a teenybopper, with a cute address that's still part of her preferred e-mail address. Her comment in class today: "I've got to update it."

Paul Crossman points to one of the many MySpace-related definitions on the Urban Dictionary. I think my favorite is "MySpace Cadet," because it illustrates the fact that established users of a technology quickly internalize the conventions of that technolgoy, and in order to signal their membership in a community, they call attention to the transgressions of the less experienced. (I was making a similar point in class today about elevators and early adopters of the internet).

Karissa Kilgore notes that I called the first assignment a self-assessment, when in fact "when, actually, I'm asking Google to assess me with its logarithm". That's an excellent insight, Karissa. No medium can capture the "real" person. We can only use the medium to construct a mental image of the person. An employer who has a list of 100 applicants may be looking for a reason -- any reason -- to cut down that number. That employer won't have the time to philosophize or investigate deeply, but will instead be looking for red flags of some sort.

Permalink | 30 Aug 2006 | Comments (1)

First EL 236 blog entries.

I won't always spell out exactly what you should write in your blog, but to get you started, take another look at MySpace: The Movie. This film records the consequences of transgressing powerful boundaries. In the opening scene, a young man illustrates the self-exploratory process of taking pictures at unusual angles. At the end of the scene, who ends up with power? Choose a few other vignettes, and analyze the central figure's relationship to power. Who gains it, and who loses it? Do you see any patterns? In what ways does this movie teach viewers to avoid risky behavior, and in what ways does it celebrate risk-taking?

Permalink | 1 Sep 2006 | Comments (1)

Ex 2: Personal Biography of Writing Technology

How has developing technology affected the way you write?

Your parents and your teachers probably all remember the first time they used a computer. Do you? Ask a teacher of your parents' generation about the smell of ditto machine ink; or, type a letter-perfect blog entry on a manual typewriter (and post a digital photo of it to your blog); or, find some other creative way to explore the ways in which technological developments have shaped the way we think about writing..

Permalink | 6 Sep 2006 | Comments (7)

Ex 3: Audience and Style Variations

The way we write depends heavily on the context in which we write. 1) Look through your archives, and find a personal e-mail (or chat transcript) and a more professional e-mail (or a letter you sent on paper). Identify and eplain the reaons for several specific differences. (200 words). 2) Rewrite the personal message in the style of a formal e-mail, and rewrite the formal communication in the style of an informal chat transcript. Play the role of the recipient, and write back in the same style, or a comletely different style. Be creative. (300 words.) 3) Write up a list of 3 significant issues you feel this exercise has illustrated, or questions it has raised in your mind. Refer specifically to material we have already covered in the course. (150 words.)

Permalink | 15 Sep 2006 | Comments (1)

Portfolio 1 Check

Are you keeping up with your blogging?

If you've missed posting the agenda items for any reading assignment, you should catch up..

Permalink | 18 Sep 2006 | Comments (3)

Ex 4: ''Digital Documents Reveal What Life was Like in 2006''

Following the model of the Onion article on e-mail, write up an imaginary news story that uses documents you have created or encountered recently, in which archaeologists of the future try to come to conclusions about how those documents revealed the values and social norms of our present culture. Focus on insights that would not have been obvious from digital documents collected in 1995.

Permalink | 22 Sep 2006 | Comments (2)

Informal group presentations.

This is advance work for Project 1.

Pairs of two students should find a website that has content they would like to emulate or respond to. Informally show the class what you like about the site you've chosen, and discuss plans for your own web project.

Note that I am more intersted in the content of your website than in the design, so a simple design is better.

I'm looking for a website with a home page (with filename index.html) and at least three internal pages, as well as an additional "about" or "contact" page.

The content can be serious or silly, but it should contain substantial writing (most pages should have at least 300 words) that showcases your best online practices. We'll work methodically through this project, so you won't be expected to produce all that writing (and coding) at once. For today's presentations, just talk about what you'd like to do.

Your group website should be online and checked by 04 Oct.

Permalink | 25 Sep 2006 | Comments (1)

Group work

Outside of class, your group should complete chapter 2.

If you're feeling ambitious, you are welcome to set up your own web space on the SHU website. You already have a website on, but your blog is running there. Your SHU website space will be completely blank, until you put something there. (We'll talk about that briefly today.)

Permalink | 29 Sep 2006 | Comments (1)

Project 1 Proposal

The project will ask you (working individually) to make and publish a basic website that demonstrates your developing ability to write for the internet. Today all I'm interested in is an informal proposal, posted to your blog, in which you link to two or more sites that illustrate the kind of thing you plan to do. Your project should have a home page, at least three internal pages, and plenty of links. Who are the potential readers of your proposed web site? If there are already web pages out there on your proposed subject, why does the world need another one? What special perspective or knowledge do you bring to your subject?

Permalink | 2 Oct 2006 | Comments (5)

Group Website.

Should be online and checked. Publish your link in a comment posted to the course website. Include the names of all group members. (Each group member should have a working website on his or her own web space, but I'd like to know who worked together.)

Permalink | 4 Oct 2006 | Comments (4)

Ex 5: Richly Linked Blog Entry

Revise and expand your response to the chapter you chose from Part III of Price & Price. Include direct quotes from the textbook, as well as quotes from and links to the assigned reading, blog entries written by your peers, and online material that you found on your own. Demonstrate that you can apply the conventions of chunking, bolding, listing, linking, and titling. Revised length: 750 words (can include a maximum of 200 words quoted from outside sources.)

I really like what I've seen so far. Do check all your links, and if you've pointed to your own blog, make sure that when you click on the link you get the html file, not the editing screen. (The link that would let me edit this file is, but the URL that lets you view it is

Permalink | 13 Oct 2006 | Comments (11)

Portfolio 1

A collection of your informal responses to the assigned readings. Keep up with the agenda items and reflection papers for each class meeting, and this assignment will be easy and rewarding. Fall behind, and this assignment will feel... otherwise.

Examples of portfolios from previous classes have included a no-nonsense list and a more personal essay. Either format is fine, but however you present your work, it's important to me that you specify where each of your posts falls amongst the categories listed below. The same post can count for more than one category, but if you keep re-using the same handful of posts that's probably a sign you can do a little better next time.

Submit your portfolio by posting the URL in a comment on this page.

  • The Cover Entry: Post a blog entry that contains links to all the entries that you plan to submit for your portfolio. For the benefit of an outside reader (that is, someone who doesn't know what a blogging portfolio is), introduce each of these links and explain why they are significant. (For example, see "Favorite Blog Entries: Journaling Mode.")
  • The Collection: Your blogging portfolio is supposed to be a collection of your best weblog entries. For the purposes of this class, a "good" blog entry is one that demonstrates your intellectual engagement with the assigned readings and student panels, and/or the questions raised by your peers. I will accept a bulleted list of entries, but please write for an audience that does not know or care about your homework requirements. (Thus, no boring titles or links such as "Chapter 4 Blogging.").
    1. Coverage. Ensure that you have blogged something for each of the assigned readings (for a C-level grade, at least brief agenda items for each assigned reading; for a higher grade, demonstrate your intellectual involvement with the assigned readings). If we read more than one chapter from a book, or several short articles, I would accept a single blog entry for the day, as long as that entry addresses common themes that you find in multiple readings. (If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.)
    2. Depth. Some of the "coverage" entries you selected above should also demonstrate your ability to examine a concept in depth. Do some original online research, and link to the precise pages where you got ideas that helped you formulate your ideas. If you prefer to use a library book, quote a passage that you found interesting. Here are a few examples (from a literature class) of a blog entry that goes above and beyond the standard "what I thought about the book" blog entry: Fitting in in the Diamond Age and Forced Reading-- Beloved Character.
    3. Richly Linked Blog Entry: Choose one of the chapters in Section III of our Price & Price texbook, and write a "richly linked blog entry." (By that, I mean simply a blog entry that uses links, not just as add-ons or throw-aways, but a blog entry in which the links are a deep, integral part of both the structure and the content.)
    4. Interaction. Of the "Coverage" blogs entries included above, some should also demonstrate your ability to use weblogs to interact with your peers. For instance, you might disagree (politely) with something a peer has written; link to and quote from the peer's blog entry, then carefully (and respectfully) explain where you disagree. Rather than hurl accusations in order to make the other person look bad, cheerfully invite the other person to explain their perspective. Quote passages from the texts your peer has cited, or find additional examples that help unveil the truth. (These may or may not include some entries you have already included among your "Depth" entries.)
    5. Discussions. Blogging feels lonely when you aren't getting any comments; you will feel more motivated to blog if you enjoy (and learn from) the comments left by your readers. Your portfolio should include entries (which may or may not overlap with either the "Interaction" or "Depth" entries) that demonstrate that your blog sparked a conversation that furthered your intellectual examination of a literary subject.
    6. Timeliness. A timely blog entry is one that was written early enough that it sparked a good online discussion, before the class discussion. A timely blog entry might also be an extra one written after the class discussion, if it reacts directly to something brought up in class. The blog entries that you write the night before the portfolio is due won't count in this category. And don't try to change the date in your blog entries -- I know that trick! ;)
    7. Xenoblogging. "Xeno" means "foreign" or "guest" so xenoblogging (a term that I coined last term) means the work that you do that helps other people's weblogs. Your portfolio should include three entries (which may or may not overlap with the ones you have already selected for "Coverage") that demonstrate your willingness to contribute selflessly and generously to the online classroom community. Examples of good xenoblogging:
      • The Comment Primo: Be the first to comment on a peer's blog entry; rather than simply say "Nice job!" or "I'm commenting on your blog," launch an intellectual discussion; return to help sustain it.
      • The Comment Grande: Write a long, thoughtful comment in a peer's blog entry. Refer to and post the URLs of other discussions and other blog entries that are related.
      • The Comment Informative: If your peer makes a general, passing reference to something that you know a lot about, post a comment that offers a detailed explanation. (For example, the in the third comment on a recent blog entry about the history and culture of print, Mike Arnzen mentions three books that offer far more information than my post did.)
      • The Link Gracious: If you got an idea for a post by reading something somebody else wrote, give credit where credit is due. (If, in casual conversation, we credited the source of every point we make, we'd get little accomplished. But since a hyperlink is so easy to create, it's not good practice -- or good ethics -- to hide the source of your ideas.) If a good conversation is simmering on someone else's blog -- whether you are heavily involved or not -- post a link to it and invite your own readers to join in.
    8. Wildcard: Include one blog entry on any subject -- related to online writing or not, serious or not -- that you feel will help me evaluate your achievements as a student weblogger.
Permalink | 18 Oct 2006 | Comments (8)

Project 1: Beta Release

A full draft of your website should be online for your peers to review.

Permalink | 23 Oct 2006 | Comments (0)

Ex 6: Usability Report

Conduct a usability test of your own website and two peer websites. In a brief memo, report your findings. Present a copy of your report to your peers, and recommend changes to their website. Describe the recommendations you received from peers, and specify what changes you made for the final version of your website.

Permalink | 25 Oct 2006 | Comments (7)

Project 1: Final

To receive credit, send me a formal cover e-mail that includes a link to your published site, excerpts of your best material (with links to the appropirate internal pages), and makes a polite but persuasive case for getting me to add a link from somewhere on my site to yours. Be as specific as possible. (You may instead CC me in on an e-mail that you send to a different webmaster.)

Permalink | 27 Oct 2006 | Comments (4)

Project 2: Playlist

After consulting the ratings and review website, choose four IF games that you think you would be interested in playing. Play each one for at least 15 minutes, and write a brief paragraph giving your response to each. Then, choose one game to play for at least another half hour. Again, record your response. (Use those responses as the basis for Ex 7.)

Permalink | 6 Nov 2006 | Comments (0)

Ex 7: Interactive Fiction Response (moved from Nov 3)

Collect all your reactions to IF, and write them up as a richly-linked blog entry. Link to online versions of the games you played. Check to see whether the author has a website, or the game has a sequel, or it inspired someone to create fanfic, etc.

I had initially scheduled this for Nov 3, but I've changed the due date to Nov 6.

Permalink | 6 Nov 2006 | Comments (3)

Project 2 Transcript

Write a 300-word transcript of the beginning of your own individual game. You're welcome to submit working code instead, if you're feeling ambitious.

Permalink | 8 Nov 2006 | Comments (5)

Project 2 Prologue (delayed from Nov 10)

Expand your game so that the source code is about 600-800 words. Include a "test me" line.

A "test me" line is a list of the commands that the player is supposed to type in order to see all the features of your game-in-progress.

The last line of your code would be something like

Test me with "open door / say 'yes' / examine form / tell student about Disney course / sign form / open powerbar / eat powerbar / read book"

Permalink | 13 Nov 2006 | Comments (3)

Portfolio 2

Permalink | 13 Nov 2006 | Comments (8)

Project 2 Expansion

Expand your game so that the source code is at least 1000 words. You're welcome to make it more complex. Include a "test me" line.

Permalink | 15 Nov 2006 | Comments (1)

Project 2 Expansion

Expand your game so that the source code is at least 1200 words. You're welcome to make it more complex. Include a "test me" line.

Permalink | 17 Nov 2006 | Comments (2)

Ex 8: Beta-testing Report

Ask two people who are not in this class to play your IF game and a peer's IF game. You can give your testers a handout with general tips on playing IF, but don't make any suggestions regarding the specific games they are playing. Report what you learned, and change the source code appropriately. Present the beta-testing report as a formal e-mail, demonstrating what you have learned about professional communication in that genre.

Permalink | 20 Nov 2006 | Comments (0)

Project 3 Proposal

For your third project, choose either a website or an interactive fiction game. I would be open to other ideas, such as a wiki project.

If a website, will it be creative (such as a hypertext short story) or informative (such as a survey of restaurants in your home town, or a web presence for your family business)? Include links to two or three websites with a scope and content similar to what you propose. If an IF game, what is the story concept ("The Godfather, but with mermaids," or "Anakin Skywalker at Hogwarts" or "Slice-of-life romantic comedy")? Include links to reviews of or storyfiles for two or three games with a similar concept..

Permalink | 27 Nov 2006 | Comments (6)

Project 3 Website

Have a working website that will house your final project. (IF authors, I will show you how to get your game to play in a web page.) On the website, demonstrate your ability to write for online readers.

Permalink | 1 Dec 2006 | Comments (1)

Ex 9: Progress Report

Write up your progress as a richly linked blog entry. Quote from your work, from the work of your peers, and from the assigned readings. Demonstrate your ability to apply the lessons we have learned about writing for the internet, and about beta-testing projects.

Permalink | 4 Dec 2006 | Comments (5)

Final Exam (Date TBA)

There is no final exam as such, but class will meet during the final exam slot for informal oral presentations of Project 3.

Permalink | 11 Dec 2006 | Comments (26)