October 13, 2004

On books and things.

Now I know this doesn't look good on my part as I've missed like 4 classes, but it's been a bad month.

Most of what we've gone over in class, at least the reading, has been a wasted and silly effort. Two of the books we've read all contained the same garbage: First, a magical write-up on what a wonderful wide amazing thing that the internet is, followed by a simplistic analogy of how a network works. Following that, a lot of the information about writing for the internet just says what anyone who's used the web for more then 5 minutes already knows. Lots of text bad.

From there, the rest of the class has branched into subcultures and random sites, and moving to video games and text adventures is really grasping for subjects. Now, this isn't Jerz's fault, he's a nice guy and a good teacher. It's just that the subject of writing for the internet only takes a few class periods to complete. There's not a whole lot to go on, and when it comes to the internet, there isn't much at all besides history and a few key sites. Even when the internet came out it wasn't as hot as it was led on to be, and now that it's more accessible and easier for anyone to use, it becomes even more watered down from overexposure. Not like the droves of 0mG-AOLers and commercials on TV supporting the lack of spelling things correctly helps... I understand common sign-posting etiquitte says that mispelling something on purpose makes it more memorable to an onlooker, but making a slogan that's illegible by any standards should be illegal.

It would be nice if someone could write an internet book without starting from scratch. If someone wants to learn about the whimsy of creation and serious core basics the Internet of Dummies is good for you. They teach you at orientation how to log in, and in class anything else has been told in step-by-step instruction.

I know, not everyone is internet and computer-savvy. I don't expect the world to be, hell, I don't know crap about building planes or driving a stick shift or anything really useful in society. But the internet takes 10 seconds to explain and after using it for another 10 you quickly realize what looks good and what doesn't. Some people don't realize what looks good, I'm looking at every Geocities kid with bright flourescent backgrounds with flourescent text and animated gifs like the plague.

I thought I had a point in typing this, but I guess I don't. My apologies.

Posted by TimothyTraini at October 13, 2004 10:48 PM

I can sort of understand what you mean about the books having what feels like repetitive content, and I also felt that some portions of the Hot Text book that we read didn't really do much to explain web text as we use it in class... It seemed to be focused on corporate websites.

Nonetheless, I did get some useful information out of them... It's figuring out how that knowledge applies to me and my own writing that is the tricky part.

The Internet may be in widespread use, but I don't really believe that most "average" web surfers realize the wide range of things that it includes. I, for instance, usually use the internet for at least an hour or two a day, and before this class I had never even heard of interactive fiction, hypertext fiction, wikis, or weblogs. Judging from the reactions of our classmates, many of them had never heard of these things either.

My experience was limited to games, research for school, and online forums. I'm glad Dr. Jerz has introduced some of these things that are new to me in class, because a few of them really have me hooked.

Maybe you could try talking to Dr. Jerz and asking him if he could accomodate for your extensive internet knowledge by giving you a few assignments that are more suited to challenge and surprise you, Tim. I know that whenever I have been bored in a class, the first thing I've usually done is gone to the teacher and asked him or her if I could take what we learned in class to a higher level than we would reach normally.

Posted by: ChrisU at October 14, 2004 12:15 AM

Actually, for that matter, you could just take the initiative and work on some more advanced stuff on your own, too, Tim. I'm sure Dr. Jerz would be glad to review any such work you do, even if it is only briefly, and provide some feedback.

Posted by: ChrisU at October 14, 2004 12:18 AM

Tim, I've been using the internet for a long time myself and sometimes I feel like I'm more advanced than a lot of our classmates, but I really believe that what you get out of something is directly proportionate to what you put into it.

I was worried about this class myself since I've been writing for the internet since 1997... but honestly I've gotten a lot out of this class! I'm learning to fine-tune my writing and consider my audience. I'm also learning that while I can easily figure out how to do something on my own, I have a hell of a time trying to explain that same procedure to someone else.

I agree with what Chris said about going above and beyond the assignments. If you are bored with a class, it is your responsibilty to do something about it. Believe me, I've been there - skipping classes never makes the situation better. For me, I know that posting a couple entries throughout the semester would be a sheer waste of my time and skill. So I try to go above and beyond in order to challenge myself.

I think if you wanted to you could have a great time with the individual project finding something that will challenge and entice you. I think you will enjoy class more if you try to challenge yourself instead of thinking, "man, i've been doing this shit for eons!" It's all a matter of perspective. Good luck!

Posted by: Moira at October 14, 2004 09:28 AM

I will agree that some things we've come across were not necessarily new, but things I never really got into from lack of interest.

Now, working with challenges, I'll admit I am a procrastinaing lazy bastard. And to add insult to injury I have to show up at court to testify at 9am and hopefuly make it out in time to not miss another chem class. Skipping class and being too damn worn out from outside things to care are two different things.

But to find something else above and beyond what we're doing? Even though most of my time has been spent on the internet, I've learned that if you want to make money, you have to spend money for several years and pray to God you get a fanbase. I ran a webcomic for 9 months, and using advertising space and being a top community member on other popular sites I managed to get a small, yet decent readership out of it, along with the subject matter of relating to internet forums. I guess as a challenge I can try to do that again, but if anyone has ever done a tri-weekly or more webcomic before, it's very taxing, and getting noticed in the webcomic world is only slightly more humiliating and futile than trying to get a fiction novel published, and at least then you only have one person saying you suck, and not 400 people destroying your site an hacking it because you suck.

For perspective, there's not much more tht I can accomplish. I've had my 15 minutes of internet fame and walked the information superhighway enough times I could do it blindfolded. I'm probably just apathetic and need to get my ass in gear.

Okay, I AM apathetic and need to get my ass in gear, but that's beside the point. It would be a bit of a silly thing to ask for a challenge when I haven't even done most of the work that everyone else has. I fully accept my responsibility here, I'm not going to lie about it and act elitist, like I'm too good for the class. I just think that book-wise and subject-wise the class has come off more as an Intro to the Internet, and not Writing for it.

Posted by: TimTraini at October 14, 2004 11:01 PM

Proof in my slacking would also be the fact that I forgot to tweak the colors in my blog and fix the accidental HTML tag in the title.

Posted by: Tim Traini at October 14, 2004 11:26 PM

Tim, now that we've gotten the introductory stuff out of the way, the 2nd half of the course we will go more in depth into current academic research into weblogs, there will be another unit on interative fiction, and I'll start introducing usability testing. And, of course, we'll be reading each other's e-newsletters and working on ways to improve them. So we'll spend more time applying what we already know.

I hope you'll give the rest of the class your best shot -- you've got a lot of talent and experience; I hope we can find something that sparks your passion.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at October 15, 2004 01:18 AM

You wrote: "I've had my 15 minutes of internet fame."

Hey, awesome, me too! Crazy, isn't it?

Again, as mentioned in "The Weblog Handbook" (I believe) it's all about writing (or drawing comics) for yourself. Try not to worry about who is or isn't reading. Yes, I know that's hard because believe me I used to check my page stats obsessively compulsively when I was running my dot com.

Another thing, from my experience, I think it's practically impossible to make any sort of real money from the internet unless you have some sort of tangible product to sell. Knowledge is power, yes, but no one wants to pay for it.

Maybe you could do your comics again but look at them not so much as something you are doing to earn a buck on the 'net but something you are doing to express yourself (and to compile into a print book of your comics to sell to make a buck on the 'net). Or make t-shirts of your most popular comics? Or stickers? Something that people can take home with them and say "oooh coool, look what I have!"

And as for a fanbase? There's, what, 25 people in our class? If even half of them like your stuff and tell a friend who tells a friend that's 50 people reading your work right off the bat. You've got a ready made fanbase here... you just gotta work it, baby! ;c)

Posted by: moira at October 15, 2004 09:09 AM

Yeah, Moira has a good point there Tim.

I've also got another idea for your comics: why not include a comic that has something to do with entertainment in each issue of our group project newsletter? If you really do want to do comics, and you also want to build your fanbase, why not use E-X-Press as a platform for that? I'm sure everyone in the group would be fine with it (at least, I know I would) because it would only add to the value of our newsletter.

You could also submit some comics for the Setonian... We do have someone who does comics already, but maybe for one or two of the upcoming issues we could use one of yours instead.

Think about the newsletter idea and let me know if you're interested.

Posted by: ChrisU at October 15, 2004 09:40 AM
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