Thursday, January 29, 2009

Penny Tries to Get a Pen

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coal Industry Continues to Decimate Mountain State

Here is Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia unveiling the 2005 West Virginia state quarter. He seems very proud of himself in this photo — but he should actually be ashamed of his current leadership regarding what is featured on this quarter.

What you probably know is that the bridge depicted on the quarter is the New River Gorge Bridge, the western hemisphere's (formerly the world's) largest steel-arch bridge. What you may not know is the mountain on the quarter is Gauley Mountain, and Gov. Manchin apparently does not care if the U.S. Mint has to reissue this quarter sans mountain.

Blue Ridge Outdoors reported in their January issue that Gauley Mountain is "slated for beheading." In other words, Powellton Coal Company has been issued a permit to blast on this mountain in order to mine coal via the controversial process known as mountaintop removal.

This isn't just another mountaintop removal project, however. The felling of trees, the toxic runoff and the traffic impact on small Ansted, W.Va., would be devastating.

I grew up in Fayette County, just about 20 minutes away from this site. What I can't believe is that the state government is allowing this happen because the mountain sits right in the heart of the state's tourism industry. Fayette County is in a way the backbone of the tourism industry in West Virginia.

On each side of Gauley Mountain, you have the Gauley River and the New River, both highly popular whitewater rafting locations. Not only would mountaintop removal hurt business, it would make one big, ugly scar on my home county.

Perhaps Gov. Manchin is content that he was re-elected in 2008 and has plans to run for higher office in the future, but I can tell him this — he will lose much of the southern West Virginian vote in any future circumstances if he allows this to happen. Of course, I already didn't vote for him because he was too busy chumming with pals for his daughter's fake business degree from West Virginia University than to do anything about bringing real jobs to the state.

Politicians in West Virginia have let the promises and dollars of coal companies run the state for too long, and very few will speak out. However, the mayor of Ansted is opposed to the project, and some of the people there have even conducted a study regarding the construction of a wind farm on top of the mountain instead, finding such an alternative highly feasible and profitable.

West Virginia will never be open for business, as Joe liked to say, until people can find more than dangerous mining jobs in a state that cares little about health or the environment. If the business he meant was tourism, then fine, but you'll need a wild and wonderful state for that, which the Mountain State will no longer be if all of its mountains are treeless, muddy, flattened, barren and ugly.

If you think the mountain should be saved, you can sign the petition.

I'd love to hear your comments on this, as I'm sure there are some who disagree with my point of view.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Get Quicker Facebook Updates And Help Out Your Inbox

Do you currently get an e-mail notification each time someone writes on your Facebook wall or sends you a message? Those were my settings, but it got to the point that I was getting a lot of these e-mails. In addition, many times I would already be logged into Facebook and get the red notification bubble in the bottom-right corner of the screen or see a notification show up in my feed.

So, if you want to cut out some inbox traffic and be able to check out a social media update instantly, perhaps you should consider Facebook's notification RSS feed. Now, the updates to this feed are not the same as what you'll find in the News Feed on the home page of Facebook. Rather, this feed gives you updates that relate to you. If someone writes on your wall, sends you a message, comments on a photo you commented on, etc., then it will show up in the RSS feed.

So, how do you get this feed? Here are the step-by-step directions:
  1. Click on "inbox" at the top toolbar in Facebook (you need to be logged in of course).
  2. Click the "notifications" tab once inside the message center.
  3. There is now a sidebar on the right side of your screen. There is a header that says, "Subscribe to Notifications." Under that header, you'll notice a "Your Notifications" link beside a feed symbol such as the one in this post. Click it.
  4. Now, you'll be given the option to save this in a bookmark, to a reader, etc. I went ahead and saved it in my bookmarks, then opened my bookmarks for organization and dragged and dropped the feed into the top toolbar area in my browser window. Now, I just click one time on the feed (I named mine "Facebook Notifications") and I get a super-quick loading, drop-down list of every Facebook notification that has come into my account during the last month or so.
I should note, regarding the directions, that I did this in the latest version of the Firefox browser. I doubt you will experience much difference if doing it in Internet Explorer, but then again, why are you still using Internet Explorer? (Seriously, don't take my word for it, take this word, and this one, or Chris Pirillo's, or this bloke from the UK's opinion. Go download Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome right now and save yourself some trouble in the future. Did I mention they are free?)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Social Media Survey Results, Discussion

If you follow Relatively Journalizing, then you will know that I recently conducted a survey here on the site utilizing a university survey tool to measure practices of readers in relation to social media. I have spent some time analyzing this data, and I have even developed some visual aids to go along with the results for this post. I was not sure at first what the best way to report the results would be, as there is quite a bit of information and quite a few graphs are involved. However, I felt rather than breaking the post down over several, more traditionally short posts, it would be a good resource for those who are interested in social media to have everything in one spot to reference.

First, some minor details to mention for your consideration. I did not submit these numbers to any sort of statistical tests for significance or correlations of any kind. However, because this went so well and was so interesting, I am almost considering it a pilot test for a future survey I might do for actual scholarly research to publish in a journal, and I would of course subject those numbers to such scrutiny at that time. For now, I'm simply blogging about observations I have made about the results and sharing the numbers with you. Still, even without all the uber-nerdy stuff, I find this stuff very intriguing.

I think it is important to note that the people who took this survey were likely more prone to use social media just because they are (A) on the Internet already and (B) linked into the survey from either my blog, my Twitter or my Facebook. However, many of them did not reporting consuming much social media, surprisingly, and I also feel as though there was a moderate amount of diversity for the sample size. Here are some other statistics about the respondents before we get into the real meat:
  • Of those who reported race/ethnicity: 76 percent were white, 10 percent black and 10 percent reported "other."
  • 25 was the mean age of respondents.
  • 81 percent of respondents have a bachelor's degree, 14 percent have a master's degree and 5 percent had a high school diploma.
  • The majority of respondents earn no more than $35,000 annually, though 14 percent earn between $75,001 and $80,000 — 5 percent earn between $95,001 and $100,000.
  • Only 15 percent of respondents did not report being of a Christian faith.
  • 52 percent of respondents indicated their political leaning as moderate, while 38 percent were liberal and only 5 percent were conservatives, indicating a disparity in Internet use from one political leaning to the other. Recent research has indicated that liberals are better at implementing social media and do so more often. For one example, see the information presented from the 2008 election cycle at TechPresident.Com.
Now, on with the data, shall we?

You'll see here that a whopping 90 percent of respondents use Facebook regularly. Wordpress (33), Twitter (33), MySpace (29) and Blogger (24) come in behind the social media giant. The interesting thing here is that Facebook has been around for years now, though the site has seen a few redesigns to keep up with the evolutions of Web 2.0. Twitter, however, is a relatively young medium to date, and it already came in at a tie for second place (and with a blogging service, interesting because Twitter is considered a form of blogging called microblogging). It seems that social bookmarking is a trend that has yet to really catch on though, as sites such as Reddit were much rarer in terms of being reported for regular use.

While many on the Web are reading blogs, this second graph shows only a fraction of respondents actually have their own blog. Figuring out just how many blogs are out there in the U.S. or in the world is a very difficult process because so many blogs are inactive or created for spamming purposes. One thing is for sure, blogging is becoming much more mainstream than it was when I created a Web log (yes, that's where the term blog comes from) back at the turn of the century. Hundreds of new blogs pop up every day, and 2005 estimates put the number of blogs in the world at about 70 million, a figure that I'm sure has exploded since the popularity of blogging during a globally popular U.S. election by both candidates and constituents.

As I mentioned above, social bookmarking sites did not yet seem to be very popular. Only 10 percent of respondents participate in social bookmarking, that being the practice of selecting something such as a blog post or news story and tagging it through a site such as Digg, Reddit or StumbleUpon where it can be voted on and shared with other members of that community. Almost 40 percent of respondents did not know what was meant by the term social bookmarking. Even though one would think that respondents who came across a social media survey link posted on social media sites only would be early adopters, it appears that may not be the case.

Even though we know from recent research in media that more people are getting their news online (and anywhere except in print format, it seems), it seems that the mainstream media (MSM) still have a hold on what people accept as news. I was certainly surprised by this number because I really thought more than 24 percent of the respondents would find their news away from MSM on sites such as Drudge, the Huffington Post or Perez.

The response to this question was perhaps one of the most important, if not the most important, from the whole survey. 90 percent of participants indicated that they use social networking sites (I am guessing this 90 percent correlates closely with the 90 percent who use Facebook) to keep up with their friends more than through phone or face-to-face interactions. This statistic is just a real wake-up call for everyone to see what the Internet has done for us (or to us). We have the ability to quickly find out what is going on with virtually anyone we have ever met (if they participate in social media), but what is this doing in terms of creating a society of people who do not communicate with one another but rather communicate into cyberspace with everyone. I imagine that if the respondents to this survey saw a status message of a friend on Facebook that sounded distraught about something that they would call that friend (depending on the closeness of the relationship, I suppose) rather than just read the status and move on. But how many would comment on the status? The questions go on.

Though not too many people had their own blog, we can see here that only 24 percent of respondents are not reading any blogs regularly. Much more than half are, with some even reading more than 10 regularly. The same percentage of people who read no blogs regular reads four blogs regularly, a moderate number, but one that showcases that people will find niche information sources on the Web that fit their lifestyle and stick to consuming that media.

It seems that subscribing to RSS feeds, really simple syndication of Web content using XML file formats that are aggregated and read to allow quick access to snippets of lots of content at once, is still something only for early adopters. 71 percent of respondents do not subscribe to any RSS feeds. I wish I had included an option somewhere to ask participants if they knew what an RSS feed is and how to subscribe to one because I think RSS is such a simple, helpful tool that people would want to use it. (By the way, to try it out, click the big orange button at the top left of this blog to subscribe to our RSS feed! Or, click here.)

So, we know so far that while blogging and social media in general has definitely caught on in a big way, especially Facebook, RSS feeds and social bookmarking are underutilized thus far. It seems the same can be said for accessing mobile social media with 57 percent of participants not using cell phone options for social media at all.

The whole point of social media is the development of community — it's about participation and discussion. However, 14 percent of respondents never never leave comments on blog posts or news stories online and 48 percent rarely do. Only 38 percent of participants can be counted on to leave a comment from time to time, but no one said they do so "very often." By the way, I'd really appreciate it if you'd please take a moment to generate a little bit of discussion and leave a comment at the bottom of this post!

I've read in a lot of different public relations resources lately that e-mail is still king in terms of reaching most people, especially those outside the millenial generation. In fact, 63 percent of participants were subscribed to at least two e-mail newsletters, with 24 percent subscribing to four. As e-mail becomes more integrated with social media and instant messaging through things such as Gmail chat, it will be interesting to see if there is some sort of Web 3.0ish merger of the mediums. We already have out own messaging system in Facebook with an inbox, and there has also been a recent addition of Facebook chat, a built-in-browser instant-messaging service with which one can chat with his or her Facebook friends in real time in addition to leaving wall posts or e-mail-like messages.

I thought the "yes" response on the above chart would be higher, but I suppose that may be because I am connected to AIM and Gmail chat constantly any time I have an Internet connection. Still, this is almost a split right down the middle, and that is quite a few people who use instant messaging. For those who do not IM daily, I wonder what their primary means of communication with online friends is. Any thoughts?

Speaking of IMs, here we see which tools people are using the most to send IMs. AIM, after all of these years is still on top at an astounding 71 percent. However, Gmail chat/Google Talk is still very new, and it is already at 38 percent, meaning at its current rate, it should overtake AIM at some point in the near future. It probably does not help AIM that Gmail allow the integration of AIM into its chat system, which I know is something I take advantage of. I have not had to open AIM/iChat since Gmail chat came out. All of the other IM services play a minute part in the conversation in comparison to these two.

So those are the results of the social media survey. Please, leave your thoughts about the things I've discussed here. If you have ideas for good questions or ways to tweak such a project as this for future posts, feel free to leave them as well. What do you think the role of social media will be in the future in people's lives? If you want to do a guest post about some aspect of social media, feel free to contact me about that as well.

That's all for now, I'll see you on social media!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Changes (Finally), And More to Come

So you may notice that I have finally changed the theme of Relatively Journalizing a little bit. I've been meaning to do this since after Thanksgiving. The maroon and orange theme was really nice, and I think that the autumn title banner will long be one of my favorites. However, I felt as though the blog needed a more wintry appeal (as we are well into winter). I finally had a little bit of time to work on a new title banner and color scheme, so here we go! The good thing about this one is it looks pretty generic, so even if I don't get time to move into a spring layout, then this one will do until... well, until I do what I eventually want to do with this blog.

You may well know that this blog was originally started to chronicle my graduate-level public relations internship almost one year ago. It has, as you will know if you have read many posts, evolved into a much larger beast since then. I mostly have used this spot on the Web as a forum to discuss topics that interest me, trying more and more to narrow them as I go along. If you can make out some of the keywords in the background of the new banner, then you'll see the main things I blog about. I will not be a student for much longer, so the college/graduate school stuff is likely temporary. Therefore, my main foci are public relations, journalism, new media/Web 2.0, politics and sports.

What you may not know is that around the same time I started this blog I was working on a separate Web site to create as my working resumé and portfolio on the Web to share with employers. I probably have only about 5 percent of my clips and other work scanned in, but my goal is to someday finish that process and the design of that site. I would love to have a place where I could point potential employers where all of my best work is available. I think such a resource would be both impressive and convenient.

So, where is the future of Relatively Journalizing?

I envision the future of this site as having it merge with my portfolio site someday. As I advance in my career, I imagine that this blog will become even more professionally oriented, sharing experiences and questions with other public relations practitioners and the like. Until then, you'll still be seeing a lot of the usual content, and it's likely you'll even hear about my first adventures in finding a real job and entering the professional world (OK, I've already had some real jobs, but my first career-oriented job).

What do I have in the works right now?

You may have seen the Social Media Survey post and/or the post announcing that I had closed the survey to begin analyzing data. I have indeed analyzed that data and created visual graphs of the results, so as soon as I'm finished writing that post, it should be the next one you see. I think the results are pretty neat, and depending on what kind of feedback I get and what sort of discussion ensues, I might do something similar in the future.

Also, I'll write about ridiculous university policies, the need for academics to conform in some cases, an NFL playoffs predictions recap and some vlogging. I hope to finally restart my custom domain name and get some more guest posting going on as soon as time allows as well. So stay tuned to Relatively Journalizing!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Student Bloggers Adds Editors

My good friend, Alexander Bea, started Student Bloggers (dot org) with a dream to develop a place on the Internet where all collegiate Internet writers could come together to share their views, opinions, experiences and love for social media.

I'll admit, when he first started up the site, I was surprised it didn't already exist somewhere. Kudos to Alex for recognizing the need for a worldwide database of student blogs and a way for all of us to connect. As I graduate with my M.A. in May, I imagine my blog will move to the alumni tab on Student Bloggers soon, but the brief time that I have been a stublogger (Alex's term, not mine) has been great.

As you might imagine, managing a site that has exploded into something so great and successful becomes basically a full-time job (one that Alex does not yet get paid for, as he reminds readers). I doubt it will be much longer before someone wants to buy up Alex's work or at the very least begin advertising, as the database has expanded quite a bit (so I imagine readership numbers/unique hits are on the rise). To help with all of the added responsibility, Alex put out a call for editors of Student Bloggers. I am not sure that these students have any more free time than I do, so I applaud them for stepping up and taking on the extra work for those of us who feel too busy to do so at this time. The site has added three editors, in addition to its founder, Mr. Bea.

So, to Ashley, Dara and another friend of mine, Kelvin (yes, the synchroblogging guy), thanks and congratulations in your new role as a Student Bloggers editor. I wish all four editors the best of luck and more growth for Student Bloggers. From Relatively Journalizing and all its readers, keep up the good work, and keep the conversation going with the world's young and bright social media gurus.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Social Media Survey Closes for Evaluation

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the social media survey! I'm analyzing the data right now, and while I will save ultra-scientific statistical analyses for papers that I'm actually going to publish in academic journals, I do plan to take a look at this snapshot of Relatively Journalizing readers for an interesting picture of how social media is affecting our lives today as members of the blogosphere, whether you are a reader, a writer or just a passerby.

If you haven't subscribed to this blog yet, please use the big orange RSS feed button to do so. It's simple, takes just a second and it will enable you to take a quick look to see when this blog has been updated without actually having to load the whole page every time. I hope you'll keep reading to see the results of the social media survey and all the rest of the big changes coming to Relatively Journalizing during the coming months.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Social Media Survey

I have decided to do a little informal research through my blog. You can take a quick, fun survey about your social media use to help out with the project! Just click here to take the survey!

Please forward the link to everyone you can online, as I'd like to get as big a sample size as possible. This will be the last blog post for a little while so I can wait for results. The next post will discuss the results of the survey once enough people have participated. Thanks for your help!

The full URL for the survey is: https://survey.vt.edu/survey/entry.jsp?id=1231433236314

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Helpful, Often-Overlooked Studying Tool in Microsoft Word

Are you someone who learns well from repeatedly listening to information? If so, then I might have a studying tip for you. In Word 2008, just click the little scroll in the top right area of the top toolbar (right beside "help"). You'll notice an option that reads, "Sample Automater Workflows." If you have your class notes or other important information in the currently opened Word document, just click "Convert text to audio and send to an iPod."

You'll be able to choose from several different voices (I prefer Vicki), and you will soon have your text in an audio format that you can take with you to the gym (or in the car on your way to that big exam).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Maddie the Dachshund

For today, I figured, why not just post a cute doggy photo? I took this photo right before Christmas on my new Nikon D60, which was a gift from Shari.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Self-Esteem Is Great, But It Doesn't Yield Points

I'm a teaching assistant. I'm going into my final semester of graduate school this spring, and I've never really been bothered by the job that pays my tuition and delivers a decent stipend. However, this past fall, at the end of the semester, I was flabbergasted by a flurry of e-mails I received from students in a class I assisted with (both the class and the students shall of course remain anonymous).

After the final exam grades (and final course grades) were posted for one of the classes I assisted with, I received e-mails from frantic students who suddenly realized they hadn't put as much work into their studies as they should have during the length of the semester. Of course, there was absolutely no way any of the students with low grades earned their points — it had to have been a mistake on my part. Now, mind you, there were students who received an A in the course, so it's not as though the class itself was unreasonably difficult.

The e-mails ranged from students thinking I forgot to add their seven points extra credit (yes, the professor I TA'd for was nice enough to allow almost a full letter grade of extra credit on the final exam) to students who thought they deserved an extra grade up to help their GPA or chances of graduating this year. Some students thought I must have made a mistake in calculating the average of their four exams in the course or that I didn't give them credit for doing their outlines of the chapters (even though I had never failed to do so at any point during the semester with previous chapters). Overall, though, there was one recurring theme in the e-mails — the students felt confident about their answers on the final exam, so therefore the grade posted could not be correct.

Before I give you some examples, let me just say how I still can't wrap my head around this. Since when does self-esteem ever translate into a grade? You can think you're great, and it'll likely help you be less nervous during exams and such, but to get credit — yeah, you actually have to choose the correct answers.

Sorry, I know you (the current generation of undergraduates) have been groomed all your lives to think you are so awesome and that everyone in your generation has always received a trophy (regardless of any actual performance), but that's still not how grades work — at least in classes with professors/TAs who have any sense. Maybe some pinko commie liberal professors out there will try to keep everything zen and reward you for your positive energy and pitiful attempt at critical thinking — but plenty of us out there still want you to actually learn, which means you have to actually study more than a few minutes and do more reading than just skimming the chapters.

Here are quotes from some actual e-mails I received at the end of last semester (along with what I wish I could've responded with):

"I was wonder if my (failing) grade could be rounded to a D- ... I need these hours to graduate in May. I realize that I have no one to blame but myself..."
(Yeah, you're right. You're the only one to blame. Did you bother coming by my office after you failed any of the first three exams to get help? Nope. Then don't expect it now that I'm on winter break.)

"This (grade) surprised me because I did not feel like I was unsure about that many questions."
(If you felt so sure about wrong answers, then do you really think you deserve a higher grade?)

"I thought I did really well on the final exam... is this (grade) not right? Or did I do horribly on the last test? Thank you for any light you can shed!"
(Here's my lantern of light shedding — nope, under further illumination, you still bombed the final exam.)

"I felt confident after the exam, so I'm surprised I scored so low."
(Me too. After I had extra office hours the whole week before the exam to help people out and then factoring in that it was such an easy exam, I couldn't believe you scored that low either.)

"I know this maybe (nope, not may be — probably failed English last semester as well) a minute problem, but I'm really concerned with my grades and low marks. Please let me know if there is something I can do if this is the final grade that I have received."
(Well, I'm concerned as well. There actually is something you can do. Study next time. Come by my office and ask questions. Read the assigned chapters. And yes, this is the final grade you have received.)
I suppose these e-mails surprised me so much because I was a good student as an undergraduate. But if I started to have difficulties in a course, then I asked for help. I went to the instructor before it was too late. And I never even dreamed that I did well on an exam if I didn't. I knew coming away from an exam if I had difficulties choosing answers or not — and I think today's students still know that as well. You can't tell me that all of the erased bubbles traded in for different answers on this multiple-choice exam represent confidence.

Maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe I'm expecting too much. But I don't think I am — the students before you didn't get by on feelings, so why should you be an exception?

Quit expecting life to be handed to you. If you don't take anything away from your college experience, please learn this — those who work hard will be rewarded. Those who do not work hard will experience a feeling for sure — a feeling of regret, but also a feeling of a lesson learned.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

Note: This post was delayed one day because of something more important than New Year's Day (the Orange Bowl).

I sincerely hope 2009 brings you all lots of joy and success. A new year is often a time of change for many people, as chapters in life open and close.

You can expect to see many changes here at Relatively Journalizing as the new year goes on as well. There will of course be more of the great tech, public relations, media/journalism, college, business and other fun blog posts that you are used to. In addition, the new year should bring some vlogging to this site, as well as more interactivity and linking to social networking utilities.

The blog will also move to its own domain name and get a new, more permanent layout on a new host this year (I hope). I also have plans about bringing in more guests/staff regarding blog posts while also integrating this site into my own personal portfolio online.

These are exciting times! Seize the new year and make the most out of it!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Orange Bowl

The Virginia Tech Hokies face the Cincinnati Bearcats tonight in the Orange Bowl. It's old-school Big East (now ACC) vs. new-school Big East. Funny how the Bearcats wouldn't even be able to be in this game if VT had not switched conferences a few years ago. Let's go Coach Beamer, we can do this. I've got your back (just not Stiney's). Prediction: Hokies by nine points.