Sunday, June 7, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter : How Social Media Needs to Change Our Country

As we all know social media has tremendous power in promoting social change. It is an effective tool for moving information and moving it fast. It is so good at moving information in fact, that it has brought a lot of information to my eyes that quite frankly: pisses me off.
It seems that every other day there is a video of an African American being harassed by an officer, being treated lesser than his white counterpart, or being portrayed as criminals or juveniles. The worst part about it? White people let it happen. Don't believe me? Go to YouTube, click the search bar and type in "Why black people", but then don't hit search, just wait and see what your suggested results are.
Some of us think that we don't have a voice, some of us are afraid we will be judged if we speak up, and some of us straight up think blacks are a lesser being.
Well I am here to tell you right now, that it does not matter if a man is white, black, latino, or any other race; every last one of us is an equal, no one greater than the other. And for you out there that are scared to speak up? Know that every person has a voice in this and that right now you have the most powerful tool that you could ever have to make a difference right in front of you: The Internet.
If there is going to be change in this country the only way it is going to happen is if we create a voice so loud, so undeniable, so constant, that our government cannot ignore it any longer. This change needs to happen and it needs to happen now. I challenge every one of you that reads this to go right now to social media and post why #BlackLivesMatter to you. You have the power to make a difference, but if you read this and ignore it you are offending not only me, but the Constitution of this great United States of America; the same Constitution that guarantees every man be treated as an equal.
The power is in your hands, don't waste it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

You Have The Right to Remain Silent: How Smartphones and Social Media Have Changed the Game For News Reporting

Recently, we have been discussing Indy Media and Independent Media Centers and how they have greatly impacted major news and media providers. The major news channels can no longer hide or change information to protect the image of a certain group, media providers play a smaller role in creating trends, and the people of the internet increasingly have more and more power over either of the two. In the age of the smartphone, everyday people have the ability to post videos, blogs, and tweets that give their own telling of a major event or even their own videos and photos of said event. With all of this happening, could we be transitioning to a time in which the major news is no longer relevant and instead people go strictly to social media to retrieve their news? I argue that we just might be.
As a college student and in turn someone who is pretty tied into the internet and social media I can attest to, as I am sure you can too, that I already go to social media sites when I want to see a video or photo of a major event that has just happened or is currently happening. For example, when there was an uproar in Ferguson we went to YouTube to see the video of Micheal Brown's death, we went to YouTube to see videos of mass rioting in the streets, and we went to Facebook to see videos of people video tapping violence from the safety of their hotel rooms or homes. In a generation where people are constantly on the go and the internet is readily available from our pockets, the television or newspapers are not the first place we turn. At the first sign of a major news update we run to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to find out what is happening and see the events as they unfold.
As our generation grows older and begins to have children, they too will inherit our habits of checking our phones to find information rather than turning on the TV. I think that in the future we will see major news outlets struggle to keep up with social media.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Earning a Bachelors on Twitter: Bringing Social Media Into The College Classroom

Social media has been on the rise ever since its creation. In recent years though we have been seeing more and more of social media use in the college classroom. Whether it is required to tweet regularly on subjects relating to the class, blogging on a weekly basis, or just watching YouTube videos to supplement a lecture.
Are there benefits to using social media as an integral part of a class though? Studies say yes! In a study titled The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grade(2011), researches observed 7 sections of the same class, 4 sections used Twitter as an integral part of the class and 3 did not, acting as the control group. The results showed that students that were required to use Twitter actually had significantly higher grades than the control group. So if you have ever been annoyed with having to tweet or blog for a class, you should really be thanking the professor!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Internet Of Things: Helping Coffee Makers Take Over The World

Everyone has made the joke one time or another the robots would take over the world someday, but in today's day in age where every object in our home has some sort of computing power could we be nearing that fateful day we have all joked about? I mean, have you ever thought about what items in your home have computing power? You ever wondered how you are able to start your coffee machine from your phone while you're still laying in bed in the morning or how your washing machine can text you tell you your laundry is done? This phenomenon is called the "Internet of Things", or IoT for short. In the Internet of things, everything has some sort of computing device that allows it to be synced up with the world and used to make life easier for us lazy humans.
According to Gartner Inc., a technology research and advising company, the IoT is estimated to have over 26 billion devices connected to it by the year 2020. That means there will be over 3 times as many "smart" devices on the planet than there are humans. So if you ever were more worried about  robots taking over the world, the time us now!
Something really cool about the IoT, however, is that although some people fear smart devices invade privacy or make us dumber, they really do provide efficient and effective solutions that can save people money. Now, a washing machine that texts you when your laundry is done isn't going to save you money, but there are solutions that allow for more accurate control of energy consumption in homes, monitoring of water quality in your home, monitoring of your health, and many other things that can provide practical use in the average person's every day life.
So although there is more and more of a chance we will see the age of robot rulers as we add more and more smart devices, the IoT provides some pretty cool stuff too and you should take advantage of the solutions that are avaliable out there.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Defending Against The Words Of A Cyber Bully: Are We Looking At The Problem Wrong?

Cyber Bullying in recent years has become a pandemic that has every parent and media outlet raging with concern. Parents implement limitations in an attempt to shield their children from the monster on the other side of the keyboard, the government creates legislation in order to hush parents' worries that there will be no justice served to the offender, and community leaders warn children about the dangers that lurk on the internet and inform children how to avoid Cyber Bullying, but is this the wrong way to look at it all?
In today's society we are constantly defending against the result rather than the action. For example: our society tells women not to wear provocative clothing, or to go out alone, or to act too friendly because if they do they might get sexually assaulted. Our society tells blacks not to act suspicious or hang around at night because they will be more likely to have bad encounters with the police if they do. Our society tells teens not to lurk around on online chat rooms because if they do the will be subject to sexual predators. Our society doesn't tell men it is wrong to sexually assault women just because they "were asking for it. Our society doesn't tell police it is wrong and they are breaking the law to stereotype blacks as dangerous. Our society doesn't tell adults that it is wrong to take advantage of children online. The same pattern follows when it come to Cyber Bullying. It is so much easier to tell the teens to "Just delete your account" or "Just unfriend them". It is so much easier to ask the question "Why didn't the parents take the computer away?" or "Why did they keep reading the posts if they knew they were going to be hurt by it?". Our society is one that is afraid of conflict, afraid to tackle issues that are awkward to talk about, and afraid to jump in and help a stranger when you know they need it. As a result, our society is one that lives in fear of the threat. We protect against the result not the action. We throw up barriers in an attempt to hide from the threat, in an attempt to distance ourselves, but we know it never solves the issue.
Now I understand that there are some obvious flaws in the words I've typed, because obviously a majority of our society understands that all of the things I have mentioned are bad things to do and I also understand that there are campaigns in order to educate and discourage teens from Cyber Bullying, but if you have read this far and deemed me an idiot you have missed the point. Let me hit you with some statistics. 4,600 people ages 10-24 commit suicide every year in the United States. A study done in Great Britain estimates that half of those deaths are directly linked to bullying. Along with those 2,300 deaths each year, another 160,00 kids stay home from school every single day because they fear being bullied. That means that every 3 hours and 45 minutes a person between the age of 10 and 24 will commit suicide due to bullying and another 160,000 might be thinking about it.
Now you might be thinking that 2,300 deaths a year isn't a lot, almost 5 times more people die every year from drunk driving accidents, but even if there was just one 10 year old, just one, that committed suicide as a direct result of bullying, wouldn't that be too many? Imagine that is your 10 year old. Your little 4th grader that barely knows how to pack their own lunch is Cyber Bullied relentlessly enough that they decide they would rather be dead.
It's time to wake up. It's time to think about the sentences that you create and how they will affect those who will read them. It's time to stand up to bullies rather than stand on the sidelines. It's time to stop pretending like it isn't a big deal or that it is easily avoidable. Every person on this earth has the ability to take a stand and help a victim of Cyber Bullying, it is whether or not any one of those people has the courage to do so.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's A Black Tie Affair: Building You Professional Website

Get out your black shoes and that nice polka dot tie your dad bought you, because we are dressin' it up and building our professional website. There are a lot of things to consider when you're building your own website and it's important to get it right the first time. The average reader only spends 15 seconds on a web page before they click and go to something else. So that means that if you're trying to promote yourself and you don't catch that potential employer's attention in 15 seconds you're SOL, or (in a less colorful light) Sadly Out of Luck. So without further adieu, let's get to it.

Step 1: Identify Your Audience
The most important step in creating a professional website, or any website for that matter, is to identify your website. Who is it that you want visiting your page and what kind of things are those visitors going to be looking for? Are they looking for a gallery of photographs you taken or are they looking for straight to the point facts about what makes you qualified for the job? Whatever the case may be, think hard about who you want visiting your site and what sort of things are they going to be interested in seeing because remember, you only have 15 seconds.

Step 2: Pick The Layout
Now this step is probably one of the harder steps because there are simply just so many layouts and themes to choose from! So how do you make the decision then? Well, like I've said, you only have 15 seconds before the reader clicks to another page so rather than giving them the chance to miss some of your content, why not just put all your content on a single page! Single page sites look clean and professional and today are becoming more and more popular. This is tricky though, because if you have a lot of content to display you don't want to just slap it all on the front page because otherwise the reader will be stuck scrolling forever and get bored. A rule of thumb for creating a single page website is to keep the content as long as about a page and a half to two pages of standard printer paper. Now this can be hard to judge since you're viewing everything on a screen, but just use your best judgement and try it out a couple times. Scroll up and down your content and see how easily you get tired of scrolling all the way to the bottom. If it turns out that you need to add another page that's no problem! It is just important to keep all your information concise and not too wordy.

Step 3: Choose Your Content
When it comes to choosing your content, it is important to consider what it is exactly you are trying to promote. If you are looking to grab the attention of employers that can get you a job in video editing, you don't want to make your Photoshop projects the main focus of the page. Instead you would put maybe some videos you made right at the top, or at least relatively near the top of the page. The two things to remember when you're picking your content though is to 1) be concise and 2) don't put up bad content! It is important to be concise because nobody wants to read about the 2 hours you spent picking the perfect lens for the shot, they want to see the work! So don't bore the reader with lengthy paragraphs. As far as putting up bad content goes, just don't do it. Everyone has some work they are really proud of and everyone has some work they know isn't very good. Don't feel pressured to fill the page up with millions of things you've done, just put up the work you're absolutely proud of up there! If the time rolls around where someone wants to see more, then maybe you can pull those not as good projects out from the closet.

Step 4: Sticking Out In Search
Last but not least, take advantage of the many free tools you have available to you to make your website stick out in search. With a Google+ account you have access to free tools that allow you to improve how your site is displayed in search. Google will even tell you how to improve your HTML with rich snippets and meta tags so that your site will pop up in more searches! So take the extra step because it will pay off in the long run.

Final Thoughts:
So as you can see, you have a lot to consider when it comes to making your professional website, but you also have a lot of tools out there to help guide you. Whether you follow my 4 steps or find other sources out on the web, you don't have to start from no where. Just remember to keep your information concise and relevant to your target audience and you'll be on your way to creating a great site.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Living Online: How Social Media is Predominating Real Life

Have you ever been at a social gathering and went on your phone to get onto a social media site even though you were already in a social gathering? Of course you have; we all have! Social media is a booming trend that is consuming the lives of billions. Whether grandma is checking on the grand-kids' Facebook pages or you're posting a Tweet from a party, everywhere you go you will find some trace of social media.
Now I do not intend to bash on social media here, I am just as guilty as the next guy, but I do  believe it is time for us to take a step back from the screen (well after you finish reading this) and think about the facts. So lets get to it. Exactly how much of our lives do we dedicate to social media? 30 minutes? an hour? maybe two? Lets start by naming an average social media user, we will call him Joe. Joe is a pretty average 20 year old dude and uses the top 5 most used social media sites according to eMarketer: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. Because Joe is so average, he can't help but go astray from any average statistic so he follows suit with eMarketer's statistics and on average uses Facebook for 51 minutes a day, LinkedIn for 9.3 minutes a day, Pinterest for 25.6 minutes a day, Instagram for 29.9 minutes a day, and Twitter for 23.5 minutes a day, So in Joe's day, he spends about 139.9 minutes or a little under two and a half hours a day on social media. Let's also say that Joe wakes up at 8 AM and goes to bed every night at 11 PM, or in other words, he is awake for about 15 hours every day. That means that Joe will spend 15% of his day on social media. That is more time than a person spends eating in a day!If you're not even a little worried right now, you probably should think about it some more and it will hit you later because these numbers are disgusting.
So what is it about social media that draws us in so heavily? Is it the convenience? Is it our need to show off who our friends are publicly? Or is it just really that fun? I'm not qualified to answer that question, but maybe you can share your insight.
The bottom line is, with the average Joe spending 15% of their waking hours of the day on social media, the line between a person's online life and offline life begins to become blurred. People are no longer simply just the person you know from face to face contact, now everyone can see everyone else's online activity; which means that maybe now you don't like Kate as much anymore cause she likes the Louis Vuitton Facebook page and you hate Louis Vuitton because they screwed you out of the online deal.
So let me end this blog post with some thoughts: should we keep our online lives and offline lives separate? Or is it ok for the two to mix? Does it perhaps force people into living more open lives? and is that even preferable?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Drunk on Google Juice; Are We Addicted to Google?

The internet is a vast and never ending database that contains almost all of the globe's knowledge. You can go to the web to find literally anything: funny cat videos, scholarly research, shopping, directions, how-to guides, and anything else you could possibly ever imagine will be there. What makes the internet even better though, is that it is indexed in such a way that if I want to find a recipe for homemade pizza I can find almost a million different sites in only 0.4 seconds that will give me one. The internet didn't always work like this though, it wasn't always this quick and simple to retrieve information and ultimately we have one company to thank for this commodity: Google. Google has revolutionized the way in which we browse the depths of the web. On Google's way to the top, however, the tech giant has began to record and track information about us that people find is an invasion of privacy. Google claims that they do it in order to improve their search, but has it gone too far?
Most people know that google tracks literally everything you do. They also slowly are acquiring more and more companies and even hosting their ad spots on millions of websites so that now no matter where you are on the web, Google can follow you and target ads at you based on your search history. But what else does google do with all this information? Well for one thing, did you know corporations can legally request that Google collects about you? Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself.
Ok so the government can request my user data and use it against me, but it's not like corporations are requesting my data everyday, right? Wrong. Since Google knows all of our interests, it would be really beneficial for maybe, online shopping websites, to request this information when we go to their websites and then use it to charge different prices. So really, Google could be the reason you can't find those sweet internet deals you're always hearing about!
Is it really that bad though? A lot of people will say that they don't even care and honestly, I used to be one of those people because aside from all these negative things I've been talking about, Google really does do a lot of good for the world. They build their own research facilities for public research, they install optic fiber in communities to increase internet speeds, they host free education tools for students and teacher, and a slew of many other things that are improving our society as a whole.
So does all this bad really outweigh the good Google does? I would argue no, not even close. I would say, however, that Google is definitely dipping their fingers too far into my personal life. Some people enjoy the convenience that Google offers by having all their content linked and just ignore the fact that they know everything Google does because as they say: Ignorance is bliss. I used to be one of these people! Having everything linked via one account is great and who doesn't love the convenience of Google Docs? But it has finally come to my attention that maybe it isn't a good thing that they know so much about me. Maybe we as a society, myself included, has become addicted to Google and as a result we have let them in too far.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

140 Characters or Less: How Media Convergence is Giving Power to the People

Whether it's exploding from the little rectangle in your pocket or bursting out of the bigger rectangle on your desk, there is no escaping the constant onslaught of media we face in today's world. Maybe the media is coming from 1 source, or 10 sources, or maybe even 100 sources, but the fact of the matter is, the way media is consumed and created is changing. Humans are wired to take the easy route and as a result, we have created magic little boxes that fit in our pockets that give us the ability to view and create all different types of media. This innovation has resulted in a phenomenon known as media convergence which simply put just means that all different forms of media are converging to be accessed through one device. A person no longer has to go to the convenience store to pick up a copy of the paper or get the newest release of Time Magazine, instead they can just head over to the appropriate website and read the online version.
This ability to create and consume almost all media from our handheld devices has brought significant power to the average Joe. People now have the ability to share their own videos, pictures, tweets, blog posts, restaurant and product reviews, Facebook statuses, and countless other things with the rest of the world in a matter of seconds. Not only is this process of media creation fast, it's also easy and a lot of the time fun! On top of the simplicity of it all, companies even encourage people to participate in the media. Ever read Like us on Facebook! or Follow us on twitter! or Leave a review of our product and receive a coupon!? All of these little phrases provide incentive for people to participate in the media and use the power they have sitting in their pocket.
So is this convergence of the media a bad thing? Will it have negative outcomes for us in the future? I argue no. Existing media creators will adapt to this shift and redirect their efforts, companies will continue to encourage participation in the media from their consumers, and every day people like you and I will continue to consume and create media everyday. In fact, I think this convergence of the media will have positive outcomes. People can use their power as media creators to share thoughts and ideas in seconds which will accelerate the process in which new inventions are created, new policies are implemented, and new ways of thought are born.
Can you feel the power surging from your pocket? Can you feel the weight of the responsibility that has been placed in your hands? You as an individual have the ability right now to go and create something; something that could change the ideas of 5 or maybe 5 million people. You hold tremendous power now, use it wisely.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How's This? The Complex World of HTML Design

Every day hundreds of thousands of people get on the internet to browse, shop, stream, listen, and just about anything else you might want to do to occupy your time. As more and more people browse the web, it become more and more reasonable for the average Joe to create their own webpage, but how should our average Joe design his page? Webpages in today's world can act as a digital portfolio where any individual can learn everything they need to know about any given individual that hosts a page; so you want your webpage to look perfect right? But HOW do you make it look perfect. There is no guide on how to make your webpage look like a standard webpage because there is no such thing! Yes, there are common things like you should have the title as the top in big letters with the navigation in close proximity, but how you lay everything out on the site is totally up to you. So whats the point? Yes there is no standard way to organize a webpage so what? The point is, how do you know if you have an effective webpage? How do you know you organized things in a way such that it is easy to read and that you used the right colors and that you used the right font and you chose a fitting name, is there even a way to tell? I would argue there is not. I think that an effective webpage all depends on the purpose of the webpage and the choices that are made should reflect either the person, movement, organization, or cause that is publishing the page; and that is the beauty of it. There is no right way to do it, just the way that you think reflects whatever you are trying to portray well.
A webpage is certainly a professional way to promote yourself or an organization, but in a sense a webpage is a work of art that is slowly and thoughtfully crafted until the final piece seems perfect. So what does that mean for you? It means you have the power sitting in front of you right now to go out and add some art to the world.

Bloggers Blogging about Bloggers Blogging: Remarks on a Rebecca Blood Interview

Fred First
Rebecca Blood is an acclaimed blogger that blogs about a number of things that interest her. Through the years, Rebecca has also interviewed bloggers about blogging and then blogged about those bloggers blogs and why they do it; it's quite the tongue twister I know. One interview that Rebecca conducted that I found interesting was her interview with Fred First, the owner of the blog Fragments from Floyd. Fred is a 58 year old (as of 2006) blogger from Floyd County, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southern Virginia.
When reading Rebecca's interview with Fred, the first thing that really interested me was his remarks about why he started blogging. Fred, in the interview, talks about how he started blogging initially as an outlet to get out his frustrations with the way his peers in the professional world were treating him. As someone that has never really been into blogging or had much exposure to them, I found this interesting because I had always assumed that blogs were about things that were happening in the world and what people thought about them. Fred viewed blogs in a different light, however, and utilized his blog as a medium for all of the people of the world to listen to his struggles in his professional life. As the interview continues, Rebecca also asks how Fred has changed his blog over time. I found Fred's response to this question pretty funny and also very humbling. Fred notes that the initial goal of his blog was to tell a story of his frustrations with life as well as to just talk about anything that he was immersed in at the time. Fred continues to talk about how he had received an email at one time about how one of his readers disliked something that Fred had blogged about and warned Fred that if he did not change his blogging topics that he would lose them as a reader. As a general statement, how rude! I am all for people sharing their opinions, but if you're not asked for it and you know you are not going to give positive feedback, keep it to yourself people! The thing that really made me smile though was how Fred explained that he reacted to the email. He states that he never actually responded to the email, but instead he wrote out a hypothetical response that had a very sassy tone to it and to summarize said, if my blog doesn't please you then stop reading it! He continues to explain that his blog has never been about pleasing people, it has always been the same from the start: to tell his own story.
Fred seems like a pretty humble man and holds more degrees than you would ever imagine having time to get. His interview is one worth reading and his blog gives you a peak into the life of an intelligent man with nothing to do in a small mountain town besides blog and watch nature.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015