TED talks!

Today at Virginia Tech, TED talks are here! The TEDx Virginia Tech event is happening all day, from 8:00-4:00 in the new Moss Arts Center. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this event, but in its spirit, I thought I’d share some of my favorite TED talks. Enjoy!

Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”- what aren’t you searching online?

Eric Whitacre: Virtual Choir Live- awesome vocal conglomerate thanks to Skype!

Edith Widder: How we found the giant squid- I’m not a fan of under-the-sea creepies, but this is one cool video.




The Setup

This next blog post is brought to you with inspiration from The Setup. Here’s mine!

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Kristin Sorenson. Right now I’m a student at Virginia Tech, reluctantly graduating in December 2014. I like studying Spanish, communication, social media, and being crafty. I love traveling, and really miss Ecuador.

What hardware do you use?

My main hardware squeeze is my Fujitsu laptop. Clunky, not cute, designed for engineers- and I love it. It’s not sleek and I’m not a fan of making every day a ruck march with this 8lb brick, but it serves me well.

My iPhone- for better or for worse- is like an 11th finger. It’s probably my biggest distraction. It likes to freeze and do mean things to make me mad, so although we spend lots of time together, it’s a love/hate.

I’m a big fan of all things old-fashioned. My notebook and planner follow me everywhere. There’s just something about writing tasks and check boxes, taking (often illegible) notes by hand, and putting ink on paper that I just can’t shake. I don’t like using online calendars or my phone to keep track of things. I have to write it down, and see it on paper, preferably with pretty colors involved.

My handwriting changes according to the utensil I’m using. Pilot ink pens produce effortlessly sprawling scribbles , while Papermate ink pens  make my handwriting stiff, print-like, and forced. I enjoy writing in fine-tip Sharpies the most.

Sticky notes also hold a special place in my heart.

And what software?

Call me crazy, but Microsoft Word is my go-to. I think it’s a comfort thing. I’m just so used to it. It’s the program with which I’m most familiar, and it’s so basic that I can accomplish most of what I need in there.

I have ventured into Google Docs and do store a lot of information and in-progress work there as well. It’s my preferred method of sharing.

I am in love with Twitter and check it incessantly. Whether it’s my personal page or the page of the toy store I’m working for, I’m checking trends and news constantly. I’m always looking for ways to connect.

Also, Gmail. Gmail, Gmail, and more Gmail.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup would be a big wooden desk in a mid-sized room, with big glass windows looking out into the mountains (preferably the Andes, Alps, or Rockies), with a vanilla candle, a hot cup of green tea, my painting of Quito, Ecuador, some bookshelves with my favorites, my clunky Fujitsu, a pretty notebook, and  cups full of fun pens.

Microsoft Word Appreciation Day

It seems like poor old Microsoft Word gets so much hate in this digital age of beautiful typography, fancier word processors, and new simplistic writing platforms. Today in class, we were introduced to two old different word processors- WordStar and Writer. In the days of pre-Microsoft Word, this is how the world of writing was run. After we typed along in these two older systems, we played with the platform Write or Die. Here are some screenshots from today’s exercises. Disregard the spelling errors- they’re only apt to happen in these word processing environments!



This first screenshot is from the ancient platform WordStar. It’s not even operable anymore; you have to download a file to use its emulator. The task at hand here was to write a letter to someone. I wrote to anyone who would read, and basically just went through a stream of conscious here. (Hint: click on the pictures to see what I was actually thinking at the time!)


If you can train your eyes to be able to endure this for long enough, you’ll see that I expressed concerns about the difficulty of backspacing and deleting misplaced characters. I noted for myself that for some reason, my spelling errors were less than they normally are. This is probably because with WordStar, the content matters much more than any styling…mostly because there are no styling options.

There is a keystroke for deleting, but I didn’t take the time to figure it our today. I just went for it and typed. You can use the arrow keys to go back and add letters should you forget them.

Another 20th century staple- COPY AND PASTE- does not exist. This was devastating news. How did people do without this wonderful feature? Of course, I dealt with its absence. It just required me to take a screenshot instead of copying and pasting my letter into this post.

One other thing I forgot to mention- you do not use a mouse with this program. Not at all. It’s purely keyboard strokes. My grandpa has a taped note to his laptop with his rudimentary keystrokes. In WordStar, clicking on the screen will get you nowhere. It can be frustrating!



This screenshot features Writer. It was a little better (read: lots) than WordStar. Although the colors are a little more creative, it’s still pretty cut-and-dry. There is the option, though, to change the fonts and colors and other personalized  options. Writer also features the indispensable ability to delete words. When you’re flying by typing, it’s so necessary to be able to go back and fix errors. (Editor’s note: the work done in these screenshots was not edited.)

There is a word count in the bottom right-hand corner, and you can even set a goal. In fact, a little fanfare even plays when you have successfully reached this goal.

Other innovative options offered by Writer include a one-click PDF converter, as well as the ability to print. If you’re feeling stuck, an embedded link (although you can’t insert hyperlinks in the text itself) will take you to an online thesaurus.

Another plus is that your work is automatically saved, which is always helpful.

All in all, Writer > WordStar.


write or die

At the end of class, I was introduced to Write or Die. I had heard of this but had never actually used it. It was a hopeful concept at first, but then just became stressful as I went along. The goal I set was 400 words in 5 minutes- which turned out to be a heck of a lot! I don’t have a screenshot posted because I wanted to reach the goal; to do so, I figured out that one letter alone counts as a word, so I had a lot of that going on toward the end. Oops. Maybe next time I won’t set such an crazy goal. Mind you, this was also in “Kamikaze” mode, with the “Evil” setting for punishment. (aka my text started deleting itself if I didn’t type fast enough or paused!)

I would recommend trying Write or Die for brainstorming. Just getting everything out at once and going from there can be a relief.



So, the next time you open Word with all its bells and whistles, think about how far writing technology has come. Be glad you’re not staring at a black screen, and think about all those cool features that used to be unavailable. If you still think Word is boring, old school, or inhibits your productivity, try one of these other options! But whichever you choose, don’t stop writing.

Exploring Social Media

I’ve recently been acquainted with the social media scheduling platform HootSuite to manage the Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress for a local toy store. This cool site makes it easy to schedule posts for a variety of social media outlets. It’s easy to use, convenient, and takes the stress out of having to write that perfect tweet on the spot. Especially for local business owners who have the upcoming holiday season to worry about, tools like HootSuite can help make their digital lives much easier.

Today, I taught the store owner and manager, both middle-aged women, the what, why, and how of Twitter. It was neat to see them get so excited over 140 characters- a limitation they were previously scared of. It is exciting, really, when you find that you can have such influence online by simply tweeting at, replying to, or retweeting another user. As my two new friends said to me today, “the Toy Experts are now Twitter Experts!” I’m glad I could finally get them on board to this new platform.

The toy ladies from the store will be accessing their Twitter and HootSuite accounts from a laptop, iPhones, and an iPad. This means they will be working within the parameters of three user interfaces. From my experience, the Twitter mobile app is my favorite. It’s so easy to see the newest posts, write a tweet, and view notifications. I don’t often go on Twitter from my laptop, just because it’s more convenient from my phone. I experimented with the HootSuite mobile app today, and it was not hard to figure out. Granted, I did have some prior knowledge of how the site operates from its web-based format, but the idea and execution were basically the same.

My next project is an analytical essay about the user interface for the movie editing app PopcornMaker. I am currently investing how it operates from a user standpoint, what its limitations are, and how it’s used. Diving this deep into an app is something I’ve never done before, so I’m looking forward to it.



Tap That

With all the new touch-screen technology out today, even traditional forms of writing are becoming more modernized. Take, for example, the traditional academic essay. Times New Roman, 8.5×11,include sources at end. Prompt to be announced.

Depending on the theme, this piece has more than enough potential to die right there on the page, scanned lightly under the eyes of the teacher. Emotions are non existent. Images are reduced to 12 point font adjectives.

But what if there were a way to give new life to these compositions? What if what was written deserves more than this MLA-styled jail cell?

There’s a new app called Tapestry that turns essays into a tactile and visual experience. Made for use on touch-screen devices such as the iPad or iPhone, the “tap essay” lets readers pace themselves when going through the essay.

Stories ranging from 2-screen, animated gif jokes to statistic-laden informational essays fill https://readtapestry.com/. The reader physically taps (get it?) the screen, advancing the story. The catch though, is that once tapped, the screen doesn’t turn back. So pay attention.

Personally, I found the format to be annoying, as the tap authors are able to do pretty much anything to make the reader wait for the text- such as having to tap for every word to appear, in some cases. After creating my own though, the style grew on me, and I experimented with pauses, sizes, and emphasis.

Check out my finished product on Tapestry- Cleverly Malicious Graffiti: Civil War Edition

Curious about Tapestry? Try it for yourself; it just might surprise you.