Reorg Note 2

I’ve registered It’s just an empty shell right now, but I’m planning to upload all the archives from this blog to it and use it as my personal blog. I need that URL because it matches my Tumblr address and my personal twitter handle. Here’s how the transition will go:

  1. I’ll pick a theme, upload the archives from this blog, and tweak everything until I’m satisfied that it’s functional.
  2. Once I’ve moved, I will replace the front page here with a static page which says I’ve moved.
  3. I’m leaving this blog intact because I don’t want to kill links on other peoples’ blogs, but once I’ve moved, I won’t be updating this one any more.

I’m going to proceed very slowly and put a lot of thought into this. What we’re doing with our Facebook fanpages and on Tumblr is not working. I’m hoping to figure out a way to start making a little progress on those networks by changing my network architecture a little.

I’m also reviving my Google Plus account soon. Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me over there despite my complete and total absence for almost 4 months. I have a mobile now, and G+ is very mobile-friendly. So you can look for me to set up real circles and start giving some +1s over there by the middle of September.

Zero to Hero 6: A New Element

The Zero to Hero challenge for today is to write a post with an element you’ve never used before, so here’s a post I wanted to publish today anyway, and I am adding a poll at the end.

Yesterday, I read 10 suggestions from a blogger who is more successful at audience-building than I’ve been so far, and I decided to give #9, “Engage your readers” a try in yesterday’s Zero to Hero post. I was so pleased at the number of comments I received in response to my questions, I thought I would try it again today.

Diana and I are serious about building a large audience, but we’re just throwing strategies against the wall and seeing what sticks. Our professional lives don’t leave us time to do thorough-going research, and we’re not mass communication experts. We need some advice from more experienced people, and our interest is practical rather than academic.

I’ve done some things over the past few days to try and raise the profiles of our blogs – I’ve really been doing things all along (see below). My question is: Other than like, comment on, and reblog people with similar interests, and use other social media to promote our blogs, what else can we do? Are there groups we should join?  Or is it just all about persistence, quality, and luck? I would be very grateful for any advice or shared experience about things you’ve done to attract readers that have worked.

I registered our blogs with Google and Bing webmaster tools in November, and that helped almost immediately. We also have Faceblook pages, Twitter feeds, and a Tumblr page that isn’t performing very well because no one has time to develop it properly.

On Sunday night I joined the following social media groups, just to see if I could meet a few people that way: Bloggers Network at Google+World Bloggers Community on FacebookProfessional Bloggers on LinkedIn.

Anyone have any experience with these groups, or know any other groups that have really helped you make connections?

I am also thinking about a Headliner campaign using a revised version of our new about page to introduce people to our blogs, and would love to know if anyone reading this finds Headliner worthwhile.

So here, then, is the new element in my post for today. A simple poll about using social media to build audience. If I set it up correctly, you should be able to choose more than one answer.

I am happy to have the first post from contributor Garrett Ashley up at Sourcerer today. It discusses whether or not video games are art.

Technology, Writing, and Humanities Education

This is a set of links I have been collecting for a while. They all relate technology to either writing, humanities education, or both. Diana and I have been having a conversation about technology, writing pedagogy, and more general humanities concerns for weeks now.

I am still at the point of trying to separate what we actually know about this stuff from what we simply think we know. This post is a sort of annotated bibliography to help me figure out where to go next.

Here is an article from 2001 by Marc Prensky explaining the idea of Digital Immigrants .vs Digital Natives. The metaphor can be problematic, but I’ve found it very useful to understanding generational differences in the way people relate to technology.

I have also been looking at a more recent article by Nancy K. Herther, “Digital Natives and Immigrants: What Brain Research Tells Us.” It was published in the Nov./Dec., 2009 issue of Online. I haven’t been able to locate a copy to hyperlink, but it is a fascinating read, and it includes a good bibliography. You can read the abstract here, and I have a fair-use copy I can email you if you want to read it.

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article last month about how to give Liberal Arts graduates better career opportunities.  This part is worth emphasizing here:

For several years now, I have been meeting with the center’s faculty members, students, and internship directors to learn what they are hearing from employers about our students. Again and again they hear potential employers say things like, “We like liberal-arts graduates. They are curious and creative, they write well, they can do research, they are quick learners, and they are good critical thinkers.” The best of them have the “ability to synthesize and distill large amounts of information.” And “we especially need individuals who are good storytellers—who can convey the mission of our organization in a variety of forms.”

All good so far. We liberal-arts faculty members pride ourselves on graduates who have those qualities and who can do those things. But employers also have other, more specific and immediate needs: “What we ­really want right now is someone who can build and maintain our website and publicize our work appropriately using social media. We want graduates who can generate content, of course, but they also need some technical skills. And most of the time we can only hire one person. Do you have anyone like that?”

“We want liberal-arts graduates who are not digitally challenged,” one museum director said.

The presidents of Stanford and the University of Michigan published an editorial in the Washington Post the same week arguing that the United States is in danger of marginalizing the humanities in higher education, and a long list of important skills along with it. They emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary education and conclude:

The crucial issue is not whether a student will be a “science and technology person” or a “humanities and social sciences person,” or whether one or the other is more important to preserving the United States’ global standing and maximizing a student’s job prospects. The critical issue is that a person needs both types of skills and knowledge to innovate and lead in a rapidly changing world.

The Arendt Center has a discussion of a recent open letter by Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee on threats to the humanities and the importance of defending them. He is not optimistic about the state of the university as incubator of independent thought because he believes people at all levels of higher education have lost sight of the value of the humanities, which is bad enough. This only makes the situation seem more dire:

We also find this same loss of belief in the humanities in the ever-increasing talk about using the humanities to teach basic literacy or critical thinking “skills”, in the parlance of recent jargon that dominates committees discussing educational reform. Here is Coetzee:

Even if we grant that critical literacy is as important as you claim, do students really need to know about Hesiod and Petrarch, about Francis Bacon and Jean-Paul Sartre, about the Boxer Rebellion and the Thirty Years War, to attain a sufficient competence in such literacy? Can you not simply design a pair of one­-semester courses – courses in which all undergraduates, no matter what their career track, will be required to enroll – one course to be entitled “Reading and Writing”, in which students will be trained to dissect arguments and write good expository prose; and the other to be entitled “Great Ideas”, in which they will be briefed on the main currents of world thought from Ancient Egypt to the present? A pair of courses like that will not require an entire faculty of humanities behind them, merely a school of critical literacy staffed with bright young instructors.

In other words, to argue that what students need are simply skills is to abandon any actual defense of the humanities. While skills can be taught through the humanities, they can likely be taught as well and more cheaply in other ways. Attempts to defend the humanities because they inculcate useful skills does not and cannot defend the humanities themselves. Whether those skills are themselves useful is an open question; the bigger question is whether there are easier ways to acquire those skills then spending years reading and writing about old books.

The thought of adding critical literacy components to the core along the lines of the courses Coetzee describes has occurred to me, but I was thinking of them as courses that would teach students basic things they need to know before taking the rest of their humanities courses. I never thought of using critical literacy courses to replace humanities requirements, but I can certainly see it happening. Doing it that way looks more efficient and can be easily spun as an innovation.

I am not sure what this all means, or where it leads, but I think it is important to pay attention to this stuff, because it has to be influencing the evolution of higher education and some other long-term social trends. Just ignoring it, or leaving it to a small group of experts does not seem like the best way of dealing with it.

Here is one other link, to a New York Times article about an experiment which involves a writer having his brainwave activity monitored while he composes a novella. Once it is published, a group of readers will also have their brains monitored while they read the novella for the first time. The goal of the experiment is to compare the brain scans to see whether or not the readers experience the same or similar emotions that the writer experienced while composing specific parts of the text.

Best Week Ever. (Digest)

We just had an awesome week at Part Time Monster. Here are six reason why we did so well:

1. The Hunger Games (and I want to revisit some of the stuff in this post with one of my own soon).

2. Zombies

3. Doctor Who

4. Annie-Blog (Sailor Moon)

5. Cat-Blog (a fine introduction)

That is five interesting pieces from four different authors, all in one week.

On my own blogs, I decided to build some trebuchets, had an unfortunate experience with Twitter, and talked about my own Constructed World.

Also,  The Professor is cool, in a punchy sort of way.

Sunday Photo Blogging


The weather has been too bad, and I have been too busy with this Thunderclap to to find a flower photo for today. I think this is just as good, though.  It’s a composite image of Pandora’s Cluster constructed with data from  the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and several different telescopes.

Pandora’s Cluster is officially designated Abell 2744. It’s 3.5 billion light years from Earth, and 400 trillion times the mass of the sun. It is formed by a group of four galaxy clusters that have been colliding for 350 million years. The red in the image is hot gas. The blue shows concentrations of the dark matter which makes up 75% of this massive structure.

The photo link goes to the BBC story where I originally discovered the image.

How to write easy-to-follow technical instructions

This is a set of instructions I spent 20 minutes writing and three hours revising last night.  I will discuss the writing process below the fold.

I’ve set up a campaign to get attention for Sam’s movie. Here is what you can do to help. It is easy and will take 5 minutes.

If 100 people support it, a message I have created will be posted on all their pages at once Nov 27 at 1 p.m. Thousands of people could see it.


1. Click  this link to Thunderclap.

2. When the “Rolling with Kings” page comes up, find the red “Support with Facebook” button. The page has information about the movie in case you want to read about it before you decide whether to support it.

3. Once you click “Support with Facebook,” you will have the option of entering a message, but you can leave it blank and just click “Support” if you like.

4. You may be asked to enter your username and password. Thunderclap does not save this information. You are only granting permission to post my message once.

That’s it, it’s easy as pie.

The movie is interesting. The group it is about do a lot of work for childrens’ charities and disaster victims. Feel free to share these instructions with anyone who might like to participate.

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