Friday, January 8, 2010

New Media - A Workshop

Before I decided to focus on children's writing, and writing for parents and teachers as the Book Chook, I tried travel writing. You'll even find some of my published articles in aging copies of print magazines like Australian Traveller and Transitions Abroad. During this phase of my life, I studied with Amanda Castleman, an outstanding journalist and teacher. Today I discovered that Amanda is offering a workshop through about the art and craft of new media.

Why am I telling you this? I think
the workshop sounds brilliant! If you've ever thought you wanted to learn more about blogging and other new media, this could be just the way to do it. It isn't free, unlike most of the courses I do. But I believe $US310 for this particular ten weeks offers value for money. The course I did with Amanda taught me so much about writing. I know she is a great communicator and generous with her time and help. I don't know her co-presenter Mike Keran, but his bio is impressive.

Here's some details about the workshop:

Taught by a retired Microsoft programmer and a full-time freelance writer, this workshop focuses on the art and the craft of new media. Instructors Mike Keran and Amanda Castleman offer a crash course in self-publishing, online promotion and social networks, suitable for raw recruits to intermediate bloggers.

The brave new media world has revolutionized self-expression, so even hobbyists can create professional-looking platforms for their prose, photography and graphic design. The instructors' wide skill-sets and wry styles help them painlessly coach any pupil to his or her comfort level, whether that's an intimate family chronicle, a monetized commercial site or a shingle in cyberspace for an author or communications expert.

Students lab-test blogs, while learning about Web 2.0, social media and responsible citizen journalism. They explore the history of new media and its future, ethics, syndication and traffic generation. The workshop also focuses on literary aspects: developing a distinctive voice, thematic continuity, content pacing and shaping short narrative. It touches upon "other voices, other rooms:" adding diversity though interviews, memes, images, links and multimedia. From basic SEO to CSS-hacks, this class provides new-media newbies with the tools to grow more serious.

Here are the things you learn and practise during the first five weeks. You'll find the last five weeks, and more information, at the page.

Week 1: Hang a shingle in cyberspace
Media revolution; Introduction to Web 2.0, Wikis, User-generated and crowd-sourced content; Rise of the indie geek; Blog stars are born; History and highlights of blogging; Ripples outside the pond; Citizen journalism; Why should you blog? You're not alone – or screaming into the void; Bloggers making it work; Successful bloggers who have moved on; Why write without pay? Introduction to freeconomics; Ponder your genre; Naming and branding your blog; What's in a name? The hit list and examples; Taglines; Choosing a blog host; Anatomy of a blog; Introduction to design principles; Choosing a template; Posting – compose mode versus edit; Finesse your settings; Blog software tips; How to ask the right questions; Site navigation
Assignment: create a blog or assess your current one, answering these questions in 25 words or less: Why is this blog important? Who cares (target audience)? What skills do I bring to this subject? What community is my blog building? Make at least one entry

Feedback: (Amanda) critique of design, tone and overall effect

Week 2: Start the press!
Matching design to topic; Feature original material and context high; Post-frequency. Archiving; Adding, deleting and repositioning sidebar elements; Private or public? Pseudonyms versus transparency. Kicky bios and other profile tactics; Single author versus group submissions; How to link; How to be linked to; Page-specific URLs (permalinks); The importance of art; Sourcing images legally: an intro to public domain and Creative Commons; Photo editing and management (Flickr, Picasa, Photoshop Elements: what's best for you?); Prepping images; Web-friendly formats and compression; Image upload; Art alignment and text wraps; HTML and CSS – the mysteries revealed;

Assignment: settle on a template, make at least one entry including a link and photo. Post/refine your bio.
Feedback: (Mike) tech and design suggestions

Week 3: Strong, Sticky Content is Key
Master the headline; Tantalizing openers – how to make your first 25 words pop for search engines; Writing for narrative or thematic continuity; News vs. features vs. opinion; Finding the right format; News angles attract audience; Avoid the echo chamber; DJ your blog: mixing expertise and entertainment; Content pacing; It's all in the timing; Creating static pages and teaser text for longer material; Fact-checking; Redrafting and self-editing; Text-trimming tips

Assignment: Three posts – one 25 words, another 100 words, the last 350
Feedback: (Amanda) writing line-critique

Week 4: Meet the reader
Target audience; Keep the home court advantage; Genre refinement; Building communities; Blogrolls; Link farms; Comment interaction; Organizing blog material; Labels; Search capacities; Hitlist; Dynamic Sidebars; Widgets and gadgets; Intro to Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools; Exposure – yours, interviewees' and readers' (ISP data-harvesting etc.); Who's reading? Alterting search engines; Test blogs

Assignment: Add Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, and make two posts
Feedback: (Mike) Q&A, tech troubleshooting

Week 5: Mix It Up – Adding Diverse, Original Content
Digging down: creating distinctive, original content; Interviews; Citizen journalism – Reporting 101; Classic blog entry formulas; Blog jump starts; Mining press releases for ideas; Tapping pro-writer tools like media kits; Memes; Sourced content; How to access and credit multimedia – or create your own; Introduction to audio, video and podcasts; Open Source Movement; Redefining intellectual property rights; Creative Commons License

Assignment: Incorporate at least three sources - quotes, memes or multimedia - to add texture to your blog. Bonus points for original audio or video uploads!
Feedback: (Amanda) writing line-critique

If like me, you don't know your CSS from your RSS, this could be just the place to start. The workshop actually coaches you through beginning your blog, then walks you through further skills. There is an amazing amount packed into each week. This is actually why I can't commit to it just now - I have recently enrolled in two other courses. My advice would be you need to do this course when you have the time to give that it deserves. But as a blogger who has stumbled and fumbled her way through discovering half of this material, and who knows enough to say she can't do the other half, I am definitely eyeing the dates later this year. Do let me know if you are tempted - maybe we can study together!

PhotoCredit Morguefile, Anita Patterson

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