Thursday, September 25, 2008

WSB 2-01 (2008): More Blogging Advice

Ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to Writing IV!

This Writing Studio Bulletin, WSB 2-01 (2008), is the first for fall semester, 2008-09. Please read it carefully and completely, then take timely actions necessary on your part to follow the advice I'm offering to everyone. Doing so can enhance your participation in on- and off-line activities in Writing IV, §§ 1a and 1c.

Class blog lists

Please read and follow instructions in the notices at the head of these wiki pages:
  • Note: If you re-activate your blog, or change your blog handle, please let me know right away. If you fail to notify me, in person or in writing, you may miss out on credit for posts or comments.

Catchy blog post titles

As I pointed out in a separate venue earlier today, "Please remember to use accurate, attractive, and informative titles on every post" (pab, 2008.09.24, 10:26). Post titles become parts of the URLs for each post, and will continue to reflect typing mistakes even if you correct them later. Attractive and informative post titles appearing in archives, feeds, and other lists may catch visitors' attention, and interest them enough to read and even comment on your posts.

Spelling and grammar checking (before posting)

Blogger provides a spell-check button in Create Post windows (ABC√). You should use it when drafting, editing, and revising quick posts.

In comment creation windows, Blogger underlines mis-spelled words with red dots. You should correct those before posting, because it is impossible to edit comments in Blogger after you publish them.

For more thorough checking of both grammar and spelling of major posts, such as book reviews or essays, I urge you to draft and edit your posts in a word processor, and use all grammar and spell-check tools available before posting on your blogs.


Short comments such as "hello" (one I rediscovered today on a reactivated blog) are hardly helpful or informative, so neither the author nor the recipient should include comments like that in tallies for their proto-portfolios.

Please count only substantial (helpful, informative, inquisitive, sympathetic, supportive, ...) comments as in-coming and out-going comments for your proto-portfolios and portfolios. For previous advice on comments, please click on the label "comments" in the sidebar.

Labels (a.k.a. tags): Extending our list

For your upcoming website review essays, please use three or more labels: 1) essays, 2) reviews, and 3) websites, plus any other words or phrases (comma separated) that you are likely to use again to label other posts--past or future! You can add tags to previous posts if you reopen them for editing, and it is easy to reuse previous labels if you toggle the "Show all" link at the foot of post editing windows.

Another label that I now suggest you use on posts that you make in preparation for essays is "essay prep." (without the quotation marks). Posting essay preparation lists or notes, as well as draft essays, can help demonstrate deliberateness and originality in your work. Linking from essays back to drafts or other preparatory posts also may frame or highlight development of your writing skills. The Blogger labeling system allows you to use phrases (two or more words) as labels, as long as you separate them from other labels with commas. To review previous advice on labels, please click on the label "labels" in the sidebar.

Feedback welcome

If you have concerns or questions about any of this advice, or how to implement it, please write them up and share them in comments on this post.

[613 words]

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wordle Word Clouds from RSS Feed and Bookmark Tags

The image above, I've just created with Wordle, a web application that creates word clouds from a variety of sources: text clippings, URLs or page feeds, and even a set of social bookmarking tags. I used the FeedBurner feed for the Writing Studio Blog as the source for this image.

The screen shot above of a pop-out window from the web app. shows the Edit, Language, Font, Layout, and Color control tabs in the toolbar (top), as well as the Print, Randomize, and Save buttons (bottom). If you are creating word clouds of private or personal content, Wordle recommends against saving them to the public gallery in the Save to gallery dialog box.

The image below, I've created from a set of tags. The Wordle Create function automatically used a different layout than the one for the Writing Studio Blog feed (above). Though I'm uncertain how accurate or complete these illustrations are, they do add a visual flavor to the content itself.

Creative Commons License
Images created by the web application are licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

[188 words]

Free Rice: website review

First of all, I'd like to acknowledge connections that enabled me to find this interesting website. In the mail queue yesterday morning was a weekly update message announcing over two dozen additional sites bookmarked by members of the LearningwithComputers (LwC) Group at Diigo, a group that the founder, Carla Arena, describes as "educators interested in sharing and learning about the power of technology" (Description, retrieved 2008.09.18).

That is just what I was doing as I browsed through the list of new bookmarks, after accepting an invitation to hookup through the group with Isabelle Jones, another member of the LwC. Interestingly enough, she had bookmarked a recent post on (one of) her blog(-s):
In that post, she updates her review of a wonderful site that she reviewed about a year ago (My Languages, Test Your English and Feed the World, 2007.11.18). FreeRice is a partnership project involving the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University (Cultivating Free Rice, 2008.09.01), and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP, FreeRice web phenomenon – games for a new school term, 2008.08.31). According to the WFP, the Berkman Center now provides servers for FreeRice, and works with the website's creator to develop new adaptive quiz content for the site. Thanks to generous support of various sponsors, for every correct answer to quiz items, the site donates 20 grains of rice to the WFP.

Quizzes now come in a number of different varieties. For example there is one on English vocabulary, and another of English grammar. What's more, as Isabelle points out in her recent post, there also are quizzes in other languages and subjects:
  • French, German, Italian, and Spanish;
  • art, chemistry, geography, and math (FreeRice, Subjects).
The FAQ explains that sponsers pay the WFP directly:
FreeRice does not make any money from this. FreeRice is simply a website committed to the cause of ending hunger around the world. While it is not a registered non-profit organization, FreeRice is run entirely for free and at no profit. All money (100%) raised by the site goes to the UN World Food Program to help feed the hungry. Sponsors make all payments to the UN World Food Program directly.
(FreeRice, FAQ, Does FreeRice make any money from doing this?
Is FreeRice a non-profit organization?).

There are options that you can set on site either to display a running total of your winnings, or a fresh tally every time you visit the site. However, the aggregate total probably works only if you use the same IP address every time you take a quiz.

Each correct answer not only adds to your contribution, but also cranks up the difficulty of the quiz items that appear next. A note on the Subjects page indicates"the difficulty levels for new subjects will become more exact as more people play." Though incorrect answers will lead to easier quiz items, they will not decrease your contribution. You can find monthly totals since the site's launch here, along with daily totals for the current month, ready and waiting to include yours!
[525 words]

Help end world hunger

Monday, September 8, 2008

NSF and the Birth of the Internet: a website review

NSF and the Birth of the Internet is a special report from the U.S. National Science Foundation combining text, graphic, and video resources.
The presentation begins with a spectacular introductory video splash that loads automatically. Low connection speeds or heavy local network traffic may delay downloading and display of audio-video elements. There is a prominent link that you can use to skip the splash.

The report itself covers contributions from various domestic parties involved in network development from the 1960s to the 2000s. Video-recorded interviews with three main contributors are accessible immediately following the splash. However, the central organizing scheme of the report is a time-line, in which each decade tab in the viewing frame covers up to half a dozen resources presented as menu buttons in the main viewing window.

Most resources covering the middle years (1970s-1990s) are short interview segments featuring people involved in technological and organizational developments. Most of the interviewees are male.

Text sidebars explain graphic selections and introduce video segments. Back and next buttons on resources when actually displayed would facilitate navigation without returning to decade menus. Transcripts are available for video segments, but replace videos and sidebars in the main viewing frame.

One auxiliary window in the viewing frame displays corresponding increases in numbers of network users and data transfer rates as you browse through the decades, while the link in another, which overrides the main video links displayed immediately after the splash, in turn over-rides both the main viewing window and decade tabs with schematic maps of U.S. network growth from 1969 to 2007.

Using the conveniently located close button on the maps returns you to your previous view of decade menu resources. There is also a separate list of resources, including PDFs and Wikipedia listings, accessible both through the report frame, and in text-only view:

The NSF site is accessible in text-only format, however it might take some time to find a corresponding location, such as this special report, from the top level of the site if you use the text-only link in the page footer outside of the report itself, rather than the one inside the special report viewing frame:

I am grateful to George Siemens for his recent pointer to this interesting, government-funded report. I gather he gleaned it from Ray Schroeder's Educational Technology blog (Siemens, elearnspace, 2008.08.20). In the end, I'm wondering what individuals and organizations in the rest of the world were doing during the period of time covered by the NSF's special report.

Image source:
(22 KB JPEG format)
Note: "No special permission is required from
the National Science Foundation to reproduce these images"
(, 2008.09.08).
[489 words]

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Big Bob's Burger Joint: Melting Mindz video game

The link to this Melting Mindz video game, I gleaned from Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day (2008.09.03). He says the instructions are intermediate level. Please try it out, and tell us what you think in comments on this post.

... [Note: I've removed the Flash player that I had embedded here, because it was slow to load, and included a mind-numbing audio loop. Please use the link below if you would like to try out the Burger Joint game (pab, 2008.09.24).]

If the flash player doesn't seem to work here, or is too small for ease of viewing, you can try the game at its original location: Big Bob's Burger Joint (Melting Mindz).

That link is a recent addition to Larry's immense collection of resources grouped by themes, for example, food. Is it as fun as Larry says it is? If so, please let us know why you think so, and whether you find anything else of equal or greater interest among the other resources on his website.

[170 words (including: Note, above)]
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