has been added to the Memoir Class 2009 page. Take a look.
I have encouraged people in Walt Peterson’s memoir writing class, some of whom wrote wonderful stories, to send them to me for posting on the blog. We were given two assignments, although we were free to write about anything we wished. The first assignment was to write about someone who bullied us; the second about someone who influenced our lives. The fitst submission, about a bully, appears on the new page I’ve created above. I’m expecting lots of submissions, including something from Walt, so check back often.
This was our last class. I can’t call it a great success, but it was fun. I think I have nurtured six blogs, out of the nine students, but have links to only three. I’m hoping three more will show up eventually.
I was surprised to find at least two of my students were doing this on public computers. One of them is very successful. After finding out she had a degree in Computer Science I wasn’t too surprised. The other student is struggling, but seems determined. I hope she will succeed. I promised to help all of them by email, and hope they’ll take me up on it.
We spent about half of the class talking about building traffic to their blogs. Earlier in the week I sent an email with links to sites with traffic building information:
I am sure there are many more–possibly even better than these. I didn’t do an exhaustive search. Youtube has lots of good information, also.
For the remainder of the class time I worked with each student to try to make sure their blogs were off to a good start. I suspect this could have been profitably extended to another five sessions. If the class is offered again, I will recommend a ten week course.
Topic for this class was ‘building an audience.’ I explained the importance of getting other people to link to you, beginning with finding people with the same interests as yours, commenting on their blogs, getting them to visit your blog. As part of this I reviewed the process of creating links and commenting on other blogs. Also explained the use of categories and tags, all of which are used to help other people with similar interests to find you. I showed some blogs that might be of interest, in particular Ronni Bennett’s Time Goes By, one of the most interesting blogs expressing the point of view of older people, and with her lists of elder blogs, one of the best networking sites.
I’m doing a lot of repeating and tidying up, and will probably do the same during the next class, our last. I’m trying to find that magical place between the basics of creating a blog and the sophisticated knowledge needed to develop a large audience. My students (and maybe I, myself) are not ready for that, but I’d like them to be on their way. I’d also like to make them comfortable enough with the computer to find the path for themselves. Not easy.
Two of the blogs we created in the class are list in the sidebar, here. I’m trying to get the others to send me their URL’s.
Only four people showed up for the third class. We spent a lot of time on copyright. Previously I sent them several examples of copyright statements along with a link to the creative commons site. I spent some time explaining each of the options. Of course, my student who originally jumped the gun on copyright, wasn’t there for the discussion. I could hope someone else will fill her in.
My four students all opted for a simple copyright statement, Copyright 2009, YOURNAME, which we put into a widget, getting two lessons in one. After that instruction I went to links, the obvious answer for not violating someone else’s copyright. Having only the four people allowed me to work with each of them individually, which I found useful. A couple of the people put in a list of links that never seemed to show up in the blog. I fixed one of these by moving the blog to a different theme. I don’t know what happened with the other blog, but she seems to have fixed it herself. I don’t know how my students find problems I’ve never seen before.
I will still be in New York on Saturday so we won’t meet again until April 18. Probably wishful thinking on my part, but I’m hoping they will all be far enough along to think about methods for developing revenue sources and ways of increasing audience. I think I am not the person to teach this stuff: I have only a small audience and nothing commercial on my blogs, so it’s probably just as well no one is really ready to learn it. All of this info is available on the web. What I’d really like is to get them all sufficiently computer literate to find it themselves.
Three of my students didn’t show up. I knew about one of them but was disappointed about the other two. They seemed so enthusiastic last week.
I began the class talking about copyright. At least one, and probably several, of my students had no clue. Since I really wanted to talk about image optimization and Picasa during this class I spoke only about violating someone else’s copyright and promised a full explanation about protecting their own work and using links next week. I told them posting someone else’s work on their sites was stealing and I used Napster as an example. Most of them knew something about Napster. I got a few good questions about appropriating stuff, so I’m hoping I got the message across. No one suggested they would do it and probably not get caught. With the use of Google Alerts, I think it will be very easy to catch illegal appropriations. One thing that amazed me: the person whose query originally provoked my thinking about the matter, never bothered to look at the entire presentation she wanted to put on her website; never noticed the copyright statement at the end. That’s an even bigger no-no in my book: I want to know exactly what goes on my blog.
We are using wonderful computers at the University, but they don’t have Picasa on them, and I didn’t think I should download it, even if I were able to do it. I sent simple instructions for downloading, hoping they would all try it before the class. One person tried and failed to download. I have no clue about what happened.
Picasa Download instructions
Open a browser. Go to Google. Click on more and even more in the dropdown menu.
On the next page, click on Picasa.
Click on “Download Picasa.”
An icon “Picasa Setup” will appear on your desktop. Double click on it to install Picasa. You will be asked if you want Picasa to find all of the pictures on your computer. Picasa does not move your pictures; it points to where pictures are saved and creates thumbnails.
I gave a demonstration about using Picasa, both as an image editing tool and for exporting to the web. Then I showed them how to upload photos to their blogs with great success.
Nine out of the ten people registered showed up for the class. They all seem to have the same degree of computer literacy, except for one person who seems to be ahead of the others. We began by discussing their intentions for their blogs. Then I defined user name, URL and domain name and had them check their blog names by Googling them with quotation marks around the name. After everyone was satisfied with their names they began setting up their blogs. I decided to use WordPress since I am familiar with it, although I did check out Blogger. I find the instructions easy to follow, but it’s not easy for people who are not comfortable with computers.
I was very grateful to have Judy, one of our administrators, in the class. She helped me keep everyone on the same page. It was not easy to quickly see what everyone was doing. The room is a little tight when it’s fully occupied, and I can’t get around quickly.
The class meets for two hours, and the time went much too fast. I wanted each of them to write their first post, but it didn’t happen. I had them save their posts as drafts then took them to the Themes section and explained custom headers and a little bit about pictures. Next week we will concentrate on pictures.
Here is the tentative syllabus for the blogging class. I am still thinking about weeks four and five, and I have a feeling the topics for weeks one and two will run over into week three. Any suggestions will be welcome.
Blogs are not engraved in stone. You can delete, abandon, erase, start all over.
Privacy and/or anonymity
Terms of Service
Set up your blog
Write your first post
Scanning, screen captures
Customize your blog
Write another post/add an image
Do you need copyright notice?
What if you borrow from others?
Write another post/embed video or slide show
Attracting an audience
Feeds/ email notifications
I’ve been going over the posts on my Japan and China blog for inclusion in an artist book made from the blog, and adding photos in places where I couldn’t post them from China, a whole different subject. I intend to make insertion of images the topic of my second week of teaching. We will all have blogs by then, and I will encourage my students to bring photos to class. I am not happy about the way WordPress is handling photos and am rethinking my use of WordPress for the class. My other choice would be Blogger. I will begin another blog, using Blogger, with some of my garden photos from Japan. I hope I will then feel comfortable about using it.
I intend to cover scanning, screen captures and the use of Picasa and iPhoto during this class. I will briefly touch on the use of cell phone pictures, but this is an area where I am definitely not up to speed. My cell phone only makes phone calls. I have a camera for photos, although I’ve begun to see some virtue in using a cell phone. (Next contract.) That gets me to another issue: pixels per inch. When I worked in publishing this was an important consideration. I don’t think it’s too important in blogging, but I haven’t been able to find out whether blogging software automatically downsizes ppi, or whether having a high ppi will slow down how quickly the images appear on the receiving computer.
I’m using this blog to think out loud, so to speak. At some point I’ll post an outline for the class–after I do all this thinking.
My class description in the Osher catalog includes an instruction to come to the first class with a name for your blog and be prepared to write. When you sign up for a new blog they tell you to select a name that will be descriptive of your content; not something like “My Blog.” The name of your blog should tell something about you, and I think it should be distinctive, preferably unique. I googled the name of my first blog, “fat-old-artist” with quotation marks around the name, and found nothing else using that phrase. I thought I was being funny, but found out the name had a dark side. I neglected to google the words separately, or I would have found out there are a large number of sites that come up, many of them concerned with p*o*r*n*o*g*raphy. Given our obsessions with thin and young this came as a big surprise. By the way, the asterisks are to keep search engines from finding the word, I hope. The spam gets annoying and a little scary.
I changed the name of the blog to Studio Ruthe, which actually solved the problem, but fat-old-artist remains in the URL, the address of the blog. This brings up the second name–the one that appears as part of your URL. From my not so happy experience I recommend that this should not be the same as the blog name. There is actually a third possible name–the domain name that I will not discuss unless one of my students raises the question; I think it can only add another layer of confusion.
One of my favorite pairs of names was created by my artist friend Sandy Blanc. She calls her blog “Color Me Blanc” and her URL is http://sandrab1.wordpress.com/. She got off to a great start with a page of collage techniques and several good posts; I wish she would add to it more often.
I think every elder should have a blog. I see it as a way to fight the cloak of invisibility that envelops us as we age. It is a testament to our enduring curiosity, interests, opinions and activities. More to come.