November 2008 Archives

Getting There

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I am in the final stages of refinement for my website. I've worked out a lot of the rough edges that appeared in the beginning and am now focusing on the final big picture issues that may need some altering.

Here is my Beta Release.

I've worked on creating an easier-to-read format for text. Instead of long paragraphs that can be boring to the reader, I've tried my best to use bold key words and throw in a bulleted list every once in a while. Since my website is about writing, it's sometimes hard to condense a lot of information into a small amount, but I feel I did a fairly good job at that.

I've also made some significant changes in the appearance of the site including the background I used and the color of the links. However, I've noticed that there is a difference in the links when using internet explorer and firefox that I'm not quite sure how to fix yet. So if anyone has any insights on that issue, feel free to share.

What I'm mainly asking for is feedback dealing with the information. Sometimes, when you're close to something for a long time you tend to look over things. Also, since I work in the writing center and deal with issues of writing all day, I may be forgetting to explain things or leaving important info out. If you see any of this please let me know.

Thanks for the help and here are some others' beta releases.

First Viewing

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So I've made some progress on my term project: a website dealing about Writing information. I basically ran with some of the ideas I had about including info about MLA and APA styles, writing thesis sentences, getting started with brainstorming ideas, and ESL tips. I entitled it The Write Direction. You can preview the progress I've made.

Before releasing it for public review I had a few ideas in mind. First I wanted to make sure I didn't have too much information on each page so that it's not overwhelming to the viewer. Having large blocks of text that stretch out across the screen is difficult for anyone to skim and focus on. Also, I was thinking of creating links to handouts and pages that will appear on the internal pages of my site. This will give the users printable access to information about writing that can be helpful.

Anne took a look at my website and gave me a few useful comments. She said that the text did indeed stretch out far across the page. She suggested that I should somehow created a margin on the right side as well as the left so that it condenses the text in the middle. She also suggested to make seperate pages for the MLA and the APA sections of the Incorporating Sources page. This was a great idea because having all on the same page is simply too much information for one person to have to sort through to get a quick answer.

I'm going to continue working on creating a easier-to-follow site with tips and informtion that is easier to read and skim. I'm basically taking one step at a time

Well I started this process with two general directions to send my website: coaching and writing. I'd like to design a site that I'd be able to use when applying for teaching and coaching jobs after graduation. I want it to prove that I'd be an effective coach and English teacher. I had also talked to Kim Pennesi about creating a website for SHU's writing center. This would include information about writing for anyone to access.

* * *

So what I've narrowed it down to so far is a web site for writing information and tips that is geared toward specific groups on campus. For example I could have a page for commuter students, athletes, adult students, high school students, freshmen, etc. I haven't come up with the exact groups I want to use but any suggestions would be very helpful. I also think I'll include aspects of the Writing Center which would include handouts for users to print out, tips for writing, and perhaps some excercises. I think a FAQ page would be appropriate as well.

So for a basic outline I was considering the following:

I really don't want to be cheesy but what can I say, I want to have fun with it. What do you think about "Heading in the Write Direction" or "The Write Direction"? The Writing Center's online forum is called "Write On!" so I wanted to steer clear from that. Any other suggestions you can think of?

I'd like to have a title, something like Jackie had for our online resumes. Also a navigation bar that would easily let you navigate to any one page quicker than scrolling. For the meat of the page I was thinking of having some famous people quoting why writing is important. Perhaps pictures or some other sort of visual art. Also, some brief information about writing: maybe different kinds of papers, different areas of writing (i.e. journaism or different genres). Things like that.

Internal pages:
Like I said I'd like to have internal pages that are geared toward specific groups. Here are a few groups I had in mind:

  • commuter students

  • athletes

  • adult students

  • grad students

  • high school students

  • freshmen

  • non-writing majors

  • international or ESL students

  • I'd like to gear each page toward that specific group including common problems that the group may face. Perhaps FAQs for each group or handouts that would be specifically geared for those individuals.

    * * *

    So that's basically where I stand with it now. It's neat cause I'm actually excited to do this. It's something that I want to do and I feel that I'm good at. I'm also looking at this to use in the future and not just to get a good grade in class so if anyone has any suggestions or ideas and would like to eventually be a part of this, you're more than welcome to.

    Let me know what you think.

    Others' ideas.

    The Road to Successful Webwriting

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    I have a very positive opinion of the last text we read in EL 236. Don't Make me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug was a creative and interesting book that helped me focus on issues of web writing and web designing that I didn't previously think about. What I liked about Krug's spin on the web writing world was that he had a way of stating information that I would disagree with at first but he would prove it to me in a way I hadn't realized before.

    I think the strength of the book is Krug's ability to relate his reasoning to the user. He mainly focuses on what the user would want and how the user would like the web site to be. The title is in the user's point of view. Krug gives us things to think about not thinking, from the user's perspective. This especially comes into play when he talked about usability testing and provided ideas such as focus groups. The other thing I liked about the book is his practical application of what he discussed. Krug gave bulleted lists that made concepts clear such as "here's where to start." Things like, when in doubt cut it out, are able to help me and other web site designers create the best possible product. The book was extremely helpful and it would be great to see another edition, perhaps one geared more toward

    I take what Krug says about the application putting ourselves in the user's head and use it to support my argument in Things to think about not thinking.
    Another example of where I take Krug's words and elaborate on his concept is When in doubt cut it out.
    I chose not to supply a list of all the entries I've written during this portfolio period. If you want to see them you can go the the Archives section of my blog where you will find all of my entries.

    I gave my peers a chance to comment on Don't make me think... and When in doubt cut it out by publishing them enough time in advance.

    An example of an entry that encaptures how Krug successfully wrapped up the book is Don't make me think... He discusses issues where designers sometimes use too much "pizzaz" in on their sites or beg for too much unnecessary information and I site Dani's blog in my argument.
    I bring up some ideas about Krug's suggestions for focus groups in usability testing and relate them to the writing process.Usability Testing, Writing, and Hatred resulted in some comments from Dani, Kevin, and Dena.

    Not to get away from Krug's text, but an entry where I went into depth about the subject of Interactive Fiction, including links and a supported argument isStory or Game? Hmmm... This was my first experience with the genre of Interactive Fiction so I was intrigued and interested in the new concepts I encountered.
    As a class we were to play the IF game Slouching Toward Bedlam and comment on our experiences. I went into depth about my experience with the game and the creativity I supplied to my interaction with it producing an interesting insight into the game. In Slouching Bedlam Hidden Dragon I include both Dena's and Aja's ideas.

    As a response to Dena's entry, I loathe Interactive Fiction Games, I contributed to a large conversation where I add my creative thoughts for a version of Photopia.
    On Kevin's blog, Trying to Reinvent the Wheel, I referenced an in-class experience where that contributed to the conversation Jed and Kevin were having about web site designing.
    And bringing it full circle back to Krug's book I wrote on Blindfolding the Farmer and Cowman, Chelsea's blog, commenting on what I like about Krug's book. I talk about how sometimes revising websites will lead to hard decisions. The choices will be hard to make, but with Krug's guidance and our constant push to continue learning about web designing, we will have a great chance to help ourselves create the best product possible.

    I am Wikipedia

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    For the third section of our Wikipedia study we were to go into two pages that we were interested in and make changes to the pages. I chose, once again, the page for the Pittsburgh Steelers and I also chose the page for Westmoreland County, PA.

    On the Westmoreland County page I decided to make some changes. Under the heading Municipalities, I changed the capital letters of Cities and Boroughs to cities and buroughs. I let it sit over night and when I returned to see it remained as I had changed it. I think the main idea is that small changes that don't effect meaning aren't the issue. Who cares about capitalization. But if the information is incorrect, or biased, or opinionated in some other way, it will have to be dealt with.

    On the Steelers' page I made some changes that I noticed were changed back the next day. I looked into the history and someone had posted something regarding Vandelism but I wasn't sure if it was because of me or because of another's edit on the text. My change wasn't a huge deal but it did change the meaning of the text. It was the placement of an apostrophe changing something's possession. This goes to show me that there are people out there that monitor this stuff and I like how everyone is looking out for Wikipedia's best. They want it to be accessible and reliable.

    Overall, I feel much more trustworthy of Wikipedia now that I understand what all goes on behind the scenes. Yes, I realize that there are cases that the information may be tampered with when I view an article, or it may not be the most reliable source out there, but I wouldn't discourage my students from using it as a reference point to gain information. In the question of using it as a source, I'm still not sure what my stance is on that and I think I'm leaning away from it for the simple reason that it's just not that reliable. But I would and do encourage students that have a quick question about something or need a starting point to generate ideas to refer to Wikipedia. I think it's a great place for info and since it is a consensus of information, it may actually be more beneficial, due to a variety of outlooks on a particular subject, than something else.

    Edit this page

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    I went to Wikipedia and typed in Pittsburgh Steelers. I found a very informative article about the organization. I really enjoyed the images included and the amount of effort that went into supplying the information. There are obviously some people out there that love the Steelers and made sure there was much information on the team. I went to the "edit this page" tab and the changable text of the article came up. It said that I wasn't logged in but I still went ahead and made a change and saved it. It seems that it would be fairly easy for any user to go in and change text, but from what Dr. Jerz discussed in class, someone would discover this change quickly and fix it. It's also pretty neat to look at the discussion and history sections of the page. The discussion section showed how people actually go back and forth and discuss what's best for the page. I think this is great and shows how when people act together correct information is the result.

    I also took a look at the Seton Hill University and Saint Vincent College entries in the Wikipedia database. An obvious difference was the image that Seton Hill's page had of it's campus, but Saint Vincent didn't have one. I also think Seton Hill had a much more in-depth page. It's page discussed the departments and the programs within each while Saint Vincent's page didn't do that. However, SVC's page did have a tradition section which SHU's didn't. It also seems that the Saint Vincent page had a little more activity on the discussion and history pages. Perhaps this shows that more people have looked at the site and wanted to change and edit it. Overall though, both sites are very similar.

    Wikipedia: Helping all people

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    What I took away most from doing some research on wikipedia is the fact that through all of the attention the site gets and the reputation it has, Wikipedia's main goal is to help all people.

    My pre-knowledge of Wikipedia is very blurred. I knew it was a quick way to find info about a particular subject but I had no clue about as to how reliable it was. I didn't know if anyone could go in and edit the entries. Because of this I was concerned. But as I read Wikipedia's Key Policies and Guidelines, I learned that the main goal for Wikipedia is to create a large base encyclopedia for anyone to access with reliable information. From the tone of the article, I quickly realized that Wikipedians don't mess around. They want solid information in their entries. No garbage.

    In reading Wkipedia's Five Pilars, I also realized that Wikipedia doesn't want any biased information in its entries. Becuase the goal is to help all people it must have a neutral, unbiased presentation of information. I have more respect for Wikipedia now that I understand what it stands for and the effort that goes into keeping it reliable.

    In Krug's final chapter, where he discusses the two main points of requesting too much personal information and using too much unecessary pizazz, I feel that he successfully wrapped up this interesting and helpful book.

    Throughout the book, Krug gives us practical reasons for doing things the way he describes, and most of them deal with making it easier for the user. This chapter hits home on the same ideas. And althought I try to stay away from personalizing and venting in my blog entries, I think this issue would get anyone fired up and talking about it. That's why I like Krug, he brings up simple issues that we may look over, and instead of simply raising the point, he offers solutions and tells us how we should stay away from them.

    I basically talked about this in a comment I left on Dani's blog which inspired this portion of my entry. What really gets me going is when people, whether it be some type of service or web site designing, ask you for information that isn't really necessary but they act like it is. For example, I was a part of an organization this past summer (I am going to keep everything very general in order to not expose anyone, or get in trouble myself). For this organization we were required to have certain individuals take surveys. No problem right? Wrong. I totally respect what the surveys were for and the reasons behind why they were given, but quite frankly, some of the questions sucked. It was unbelievable the kinds of information they were asking for. Information that had nothing to do with the reasons for being surveyed. As a person who was required to fill one out, it is extremely frustrating to have to sit there and think about information that I don't really know about myself. Like, how many relatives in my family have had knee problems (just an example I made up?).

    People don't want to have to sit there and deal with questions that they don't feel are helping them get to where they want to be. When I'm going through an ATM machine, I don't want to think about how many transactions I made in the last two weeks... I want cash! And when I'm at the grocery store I don't want to sign my signature 50 times before I can get my milk... I'm thirsty! The same principle holds true for people on the web. They want to be able to do what they came for. So keep it simple, keep it smooth, and don't make them think about things they don't want to think about right now. Pretty simple don't you think?

    About this Archive

    This page is an archive of entries from November 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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