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I had a brain freeze this past week and forgot to write my last two assigned blog posts. I don’t know how it happened. Once I realized my mistake, I desperately tried to correct it but found I had a case of writer’s block. In despair, I just Googled “podcasting.”

Why didn’t I do this earlier?

What I found was an excellent resource for podcasting. Podcasting Tools has graphics like this one: , FAQs, validators, directories, forums, how-to’s, history, and more. It’s one-stop shopping for all of your podcasting needs. I am really excited to use the graphics they next time my internship asks me to post a podcast.

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Our books seem to follow two assumptions. Either 1) you will use a service like Podbean to put out your podcast or 2) you work for a company with a tech department that can handle your feed for you. Unfortunately, if your company is small, you’re going to need to learn a little more; if you use Podbean, the feed will be associated with Podbean, which isn’t ideal for branding your podcast as legitimate and professional, but if you want to use your own server to host it, be prepared to go out of your comfort zone with web programming: even the most seasoned software engineer may not understand podcasting without a bit of explanation.

My company, a small start-up, has just started podcasting. Since I am taking this class, I was enthusiastically given the task of distributing the podcast. I was looking forward to submitting it to different podacst catchers and getting hundreds of interested listeners to tune in. Instead, they gave me a raw MP3 file and told me to have fun with it. Ultimately, I got the tech guy to create a feed, but first I needed to explain to him what exactly he needed to do, which required a crash course in XML and RSS. The University of Washington’s Learning and Scholarly Techniques page does a great job explaining RSS feed. Podcast 411 also has a decent page (and a podcast episode) devoted to this.

Once we got this squared away, the tech guy was able to show me the actual details of how to add episodes. 1) Acquire the MP3. 2) Make the MP3 available by uploading to a server: the company uses Amazon’s S3. This is pretty easy: I downloaded an S3 plugin from Firefox, entered some top-secret information, drag’n’dropped the file and then made it public. 3) Publish the podcast: this requires updating the RSS file; the company has a wordpress plugin that does it for me so that I don’t have to worry about <this sort of stuff>. Voila! Now, if only my free wordpress acount would make podcasting so easy…

Advice on blogging from the bloggers (via twitter).

  • how often to post blog updates. tip: study your traffic patterns to find the best days of the week to post.
  • What is the identity and message of your blog? Are u an authoritative voice on that subject?
  • “more than the frequency with which you post, its the consistency.” your readers will adapt to your publishing schedule
  • Voice isn’t just about how you write but also about what you observe…@katflinn
  • tip from @rebekaden: write as if your telling the story out loud. emphasize where its natural, be conversational
  • Food blogger conf panel on “voice”; rebekah denn “I try to use the same voice I use when I talk to my husband”
  • Project a consistent persona (even if you need to steal it from someone else)
  • Q: do you have to know all the answers to be an authority? A: no. as long as your readers enjoy the ‘conversation’ with you.
  • “Reality” in your writing resonates w/ people
  • succesful voice: be transparent, be universal. if you dont know something, admit it. Realize that we’re all pretty similar in private.
  • conscious reading is critical to writing
  • Your writing should change as you change.
  • 300 dpi print. 72 web. RT @seattlefoodgeek: Q: what’s difference between photos 4 web vs. print? A: smaller resolution for the web.
  • If you’re not using Google Analytics, do
  • Links are the currency of the web
  • critical factors for page rank on a search engine? how long a page has existed, and how frequently it gets updated.
  • Elisa of Simply Recipes: Three pillars to build traffic: Content, context and community
  • Elise of Simply Recipes: You must be useful, entertaining or timely
  • Elise/Simply Recipes: If you are generous with your links out, people notice, and you build community. Web karma.
  • Pick your titles well to increase SEO: make them what you think readers will be searching for
  • when you hit 40, can’t read tiny print or white text on black background. Usability!
  • Oh, snap. Elise: “If you’re serious about getting traffic, get off of Blogger”
  • Blogging as a career: if your blog = your income, prepare to stress out!
  • staying up on the technology, being there, coming first: jump on opportunities ASAP to distinguish yourself and get people to notice.
  • [on traffic] “When you double a small number, it’s still small”
  • Make money? Make blog very unique and meet someone from Amazon and Google.
  • Strategy for gaining legitimacy: offer to write (for free) for a real publication like local paper, radio station, etc.
  • Diversify your brand: Pitch stories for print, television as well as your blog
  • Give it away for free if it’s going to help you; don’t give it away if it doesn’t help you.
  • Speakers are saying that they felt successful when “old media” mags and papers recognized them.
  • Invest in the right tools: Consider your blogging platform, your camera, your domain
  • http://www.Compete.com and http://Alexa.com are great tools for tracking traffic. Pick two blogs you admire and compare.
  • I think I’m realizing that I’ve been posting a lot of fluff just to have updates. NO MORE! Time for less (but better) content!
  • Treat your blog/name as a business; drive your brand. Learn from those who know. Know what you stand for.
  • Go back to your early blog posts, however painful, and see how you’re developing.
  • Rule #1: be transparent with your readership. If you have personal relationships with chefs or get freebies, disclose it.
  • Why do we have ethical issues? To maintain credibility and reputation. Have transparency and be consistent w/your standards.
  • You can’t publish untruths that are damaging to other people. That’s defamation and it’s illegal.
  • good to know: if someone leaves a defamatory comment on your blog, you’re not legally liable.
  • Companies exempt from liability if their authors are independent contractors and write defamatory material; employees are different
  • transparency=saying the circumstances behind receiving what you are reviewing or talking about on your blog.
  • Choose your license well. Your work can be attributed to others if you are not careful.
  • You cannot retroactively pull back license but you can unpublish and republish under new license
  • But you cannot copyright anything for which you do not have originality, creativity or fixation

Time Magazine thinks that Twitter is a waste of time. According to an unscientific poll, 89% of the country believes Twitter is a waste of time while only 11% believes that it is beneficial. This doesn’t surprise me too much, though . Twitter is an emerging technology, and not everyone has embraced it. However, Time also broke the survey down by state. I would think that the more liberal and tech-savvy the state, the more open they would be to new technology. Furthermore, I would expect the more conservative states to oppose “socialist” social media. In actuality, whether a state swings red or blue has nothing to do with their residents’ views on Twitter.

100% of respondents in Maine, Rhode Island, Alaska, Hawaii, South Carolina, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa, Wyoming and Idaho believe it’s a waste of time. However, 70% of Nebraska, 67% of Delaware and Montana, and just 60% of North Dakota feel this way. I don’t think of North Dakota as being much more than nuclear weapons, snow and cows, but apparently those cows are having a ball letting their friends know what they had for lunch (grass). Twitter has a 9% approval rating in its home state of California and 8% in MCDM’s home state of Washington.

Time magazine is a well-respected new source, though their survey methods may be questionable. Their 100 most influential people of 2009 poll drew criticism for naming Christopher “Moot” Poole of 4chan.org as the most influential person of 2009. Besides, an unscientific survey doesn’t prove anything. The press claims to be the only legitimate source of news, but by publishing results that may or may not be correct, Time isn’t living up to a true journalistic standard.

So, I’m going to do my own unscientific poll. What do you think?

I get really excited when I hear about people using social media for more than just mindless entertainment or an update on the contents of their stomach. Some churches (including Seattle’s Mars Hill) are encouraging their congregations to tweet. A taco truck in LA tweets its location. A man in England delivered his fourth child after watching a video on YouTube. Some of these examples are more significant than others (though if you’re from California you know the loyalty people have to their taco trucks) but the principle is the same: social media serves a constructive purpose in society. The use of social media to enhance our education in this program is living proof of that.

I recently took over my work’s Twitter account. This experience has taught me a few things.

1) TweetDeck is a necessity. It allows you to simultaneously view tweets, @’s, direct messages and searches; the page even automatically refreshes to ensure you get up-to-the-minute information. When you follow 30 people, it’s easy to periodically refresh your homepage to see what the people you follow have tweeted. When you follow 1300, it’s a little harder: you don’t have time to switch back and forth between messages, searches and the feed. You need everything side by side.

2) Friend or Follow is a nifty resource. It shows who you are following but is not following you. This is useful to weed out people who have not updated in while or who obviously are no longer using the service. Twitter is a popularity contest: you want to be followed more than you follow, but at the same time you need to follow relevant people in order to ensure proper communication and interaction. I have found Friend or Follow to be very relevant in keeping these numbers in the proper ratio.

3) 140 characters makes everything black and white; you cannot casually mention a great service your company offers in the middle of a conversation. Promoting this service directly in a tweet comes off as a sales pitch and drives people away. Twitter is an excellent tool for engaging people in conversation and hoping that will draw them to the website, not direct marketing.

4) Finally, you can’t tweet all day. After an hour or so of reading tweets for relevant content and searching for new followers, your brain is fried. Read a magazine. Make a sandwich. Wash some dishes even. Give your eyes and brain a break after a hardcore tweeting session. My goal is to put in an hour a day of solid work then periodically check in every few hours, respond as necessary and move on. I will see how this strategy works. Suggestions are appreciated.

Twitter has been getting a ton of press conference lately, thanks to Oprah and Ashton Kutcher; I find it a little ironic that Twitter needs mass media to elevate it to greater popularity, since so much of everything I’ve read so far flaunts social media as niche-driven and personal. Virginia Heffernan of The Medium (one of my two blogs) compares Twitter to the Emily Dickenson poem “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”: “How public — like a Frog — / To tell one’s name — the livelong June — / To an admiring Bog!”

Heffernan’s point is that many people still don’t use or view Twitter as anything more than an exchange of useless information; she calls these tweets “yawps”. She also takes an interesting stance: Twitter is for the poor, because the rich don’t care about these trivialities: “Anyone with a strong soul or a fat wallet turns his ringer off for good and cultivates private gardens that keep the hectic Web far away.” This is the first I’ve heard of the socioeconomic implications of social media and am intrigued by this idea.

However, I don’t agree with her on either count: while Twitter can just be used to describe mundane details of people’s lives, it is also a powerful vehicle to share information and ideas, and is a wonderful communication tool. Twitter has been a great way to stay in touch with friends in Boston and family in California, people whose lunch choices I genuinely care about. I’m not so sure about the poverty idea either: maybe if I was truly rich, I could just hop in my personal jet and fly to these exotic locations, but for now I enjoy hearing what my loved ones are doing. Also, if young people tend to catch on to technology faster than their parents, and young people tend to have lower incomes, Twitter users may be poorer just by logic. Twitter or not, the rich are just as connected: think of the CEO (or the current president) who is both wealthy and addicted to his Blackberry.

On the opposite end of the Twitter-embracing spectrum, Jeremiah Owyang’s Comprehensive FAQ Guide to Twitter , which I came across on Delicious (which has been a great resource), clears up some of these misconceptions. It answers all of the questions I was too afraid to ask and some that I didn’t even consider. In fact, all of the Web Strategy blog is helpful over a broad variety of social media topics.

I feel a little silly writing about the following topic for a graduate level class but it does demonstrate a practical and valid application of podcasting and social media. I had a song stuck in my head the other day with a prominent ukulele solo, and since I’ve had a ukulele decorating my apartment after my first trip to Hawaii last year, I decided to finally learn how to play a few chords. The Internet really does have a niche for everything: there is an entire online ukulele community just waiting to be discovered. I found Ukulala to be especially helpful. The site is maintained by a brother/sister band, Ukulala, and has, among other features, videocasts explaining how to play many popular songs.

I visited other websites before Ukulala’s and was frustrated by what I found. They all had detailed descriptions, diagrams and illustrations, but even though it looked like I was doing everything right, my notes just sounded wrong; the text was missing out on the critical audio component of music. Ukulala’s video demonstrated visually how and where to position my fingers to play the three chords that make up the song, accompanied by a thorough audio explanation. My chords didn’t sound like the demonstrator’s at first, which confirmed that something was indeed wrong with my instrument; as it turns out, it was not properly tuned. I fixed that problem thanks to another Ukulala tutorial and after watching the 9 minute videocast, I was able to play a real song.

Music has both audio and visual components, so podcasts and videocasts are useful tools when learning how to play a musical instrument. Private lessons are expensive, the internet is cheap. The band itself demonstrates the collaborative power of web 2.0: the duo live on opposite ends of the country and record their tracks separately. They email each other the recordings and mix them individually, and are currently using their blog/website to find a drummer. They field questions from like-minded people all over the world: the most recent query was posted by a man from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ukulele is a silly instrument, but this is a serious site.

NPR has a nifty feature that builds a podcast customized to your tastes, found at www.npr.org/rss/podcast/podcast_directory.php. This makes NPR’s podcasts more interactive than the average podcast, as it allows the listener to choose which topics they want to hear.

I wanted to bundle my favorite NPR programs into one all-inclusive podcast. However, the database did not have any programs on file, only extremely broad topics. These topics are too general to appeal to an audience. For instance, “cooking” and “vegetarian,” both generic terms in their own right, did not show up as viable options, but “food” did. “Food” can mean a number of things: how food is grown, processed, packaged, marketed, its chemistry, and more. I just want new recipes, and to narrow it down even more, I don’t want recipes for food I won’t eat. But I gave it a shot anyhow.

I created “Helen’s Podcast” with food, the environment, and two of my favorite bands as the criteria and subscribed via itunes. I got information on batteries, ballpark cuisine, a winning garlic recipe, Isabella Rossolini, the Royal Horticultural Society, and more. It’s sort of the podcasting equivalent of stumbleupon.com: you receive tidbits you may find interesting, and you’re never sure what you’re going to get. It didn’t let me build as much as I would have liked; instead of one large podcast, the result is actually short, separate podcasts of newscasts that may be relevant to my interests.

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