My Millennial Storify

In case you hadn’t already noticed, I began this blog for my Writing and Digital Media class at Virginia Tech and this post marks my last one for the semester. I do plan on continuing this blog into the next year in order to have a place for all of my thoughts on the use of digital media, specifically in advertising.

I wanted to comment here with a post about our final assignment in which we were to create a “Scholarly Webtext”. The assignment description was intentionally left wide open, leaving us to choose a topic we truly cared about and experiment with any online medium we pleased. After hearing about the Storify web application in class, I was intrigued, and used that app for the composition of my webtext.

As for my topic, I chose to comment on the conversation surround millennials and argue against those who see us as a rare species that are impossible to market toward. I provided a background of why some of the articles I read sounded silly to me and then went on to provide tips for marketing, digitally, to millennials.

You can find my finished Scholarly webtext here.

Overall, this assignment was one of my favorites. It really pushed me to become well read on a particular issue and I’m glad that I now have some sourcing and argument behind my claims. I also really loved how the assignment pushed me to use Storify, an application I was not comfortable with, since I now know how to use it and already have ideas for how to use it in the future.

Needless to say, I feel like the semester went out with a bang. Have fun exploring my last assignment and I’ll see you next semester.

Interface Review: VideoStar

After reviewing Blogger and WordPress, I realized that I never wrote about an assignment of mine entitled “Interrogating the Interface” for which I had to choose an application designed to support writers, photographers, filmmakers, storytellers, etc. I ended up reviewing an app called VideoStar and publishing a full review of the app on a website I call The Video Star Verdict.

To sum it up, I will leave a quick review here.

Video Star is an app that allows anyone with an iPhone or iPad to create amateur music videos in a matter of seconds. You start by selecting a song from the library of music stored on your device, and then selecting different filters and effects for your clip. Once your ready, you hit record and the screen counts down before video recording whatever you aim your camera toward. When you are finishing recording a clip, you simply press the  record button a second time. You continue this process until the song has been filled with clips, and then you can choose from a variety of options to export your creation.

The app is used mainly by teens and tweens around the world who use it to create music videos to One Direction songs in their bedrooms. They dance around with heart framed effects and then share the videos with other people to gain popularity. I highlight in my review however, a different way to use the app. While studying in Switzerland last semester, I would use the app to create video montages of some of my favorite places. I would pick a song and take clips throughout the day or weekend, and at the end of it, I would have something to watch back and remember my time. The key was, I didn’t use any effects and I tried to film with basic videography skills in mind.

So if you think you want to check it out, I say go for it. The app is free and even if most of the users are thirteen, you may be able to find your own use for it.

Interface Review: WordPress

Now that I’ve shared my thoughts on Blogger, I figure it is only fair to comment on using WordPress. After all, I have used each for about the same amount of time, although the two blogs are very different in nature and purpose.

While Blogger satisfied the travel blogger in me, I have to say that I do prefer WordPress when it comes to composing. The text box for composing text is larger and the default font is definitely more pleasing to the eye. The interface is simple, allowing you to see relevant information in the corners like word count and the time of your last draft save and the toolbar is easy to understand.

The display options, however, fall second to Blogger’s. When I started this blog at the beginning of the semester, I had the WordPress sponsored theme entitled “Twenty Thirteen.” It was the default, so it wasn’t very original, but I liked it’s simplicity and I even chose images to display in the header area, replacing the default option they chose for me.  I grew bored of this theme and was exploring other options ones day when suddenly my “Twenty Thirteen” theme was gone forever. I couldn’t find it as a display option and I even tried to download it separately. I’m sure this sounds silly to any experienced WordPress users out there, but I’m telling you– the initial learning curve seems a little steep. Perhaps with more time and effort, I will master the art of achieving a well designed blog but for now, I’m sticking with “Twenty Ten” and praying that it doesn’t abandon me as well.

So there you have it. Blogger for the more fun and juvenile blogs and WordPress for the slightly more scholarly. I know that I should stick to one, so I have to choose a side soon, and if I can figure out how to customize my page to my liking, I think the winner will be WordPress.

Interface Review: Blogger

I remember sitting in my room the night before boarding a flight to Switzerland for a semester abroad. In an attempt to avoid finishing packing my life away, I spent about 30 minutes trying to decide which website I would use to host my blog for the semester (and another 45 minutes writing my first post…). I started by simply googling “best blog platforms” and then surfed on from there. I ended up choosing Blogger because I liked it’s connection with Google and all of examples I saw were similar to the idea I had in my head of how I wanted my blog to look and feel. I chose a theme, named my blog and there it was: the birth of “Linds Goes Euro.”

I haven’t written in that blog since April. This semester, I was tasked with creating a blog through my account at Virginia Tech, which is hosted through WordPress. Thus, having a semester of experience using each, I thought I would spent some time reviewing them both. Firstly, Blogger.

Blogger was great for uploading pictures and arranging them within my text, and I remember really liking the consistency of my pages. Once published, I was also very happy with the ease of customizing my page’s display. I chose one of my own pictures for the background and overlaid that picture with a bold white font. Navigating through my posts was easy, but a bit frustrating when at the home page, since I would have to sort through the various months on the side tab to find older posts. I would say that I would have preferred them to all exist on the same page, but I think my scroll bar would end up being no more than a centimeter long and I’m sure my background image would not work well with the scrolling.

My favorite aspect of the Blogger interface was the dashboard/home screen. Immediately upon signing in, I was prompted with the statistics on how many views my page had gotten, where the users had linked to the page from and how often they revisited. I was shocked to see those numbers in the thousands at times, and it really encouraged me to keep up with my storytelling by blogging regularly. Call me self-centered, but who doesn’t like a quick confidence boost to remind you of all of the attention you are receiving from back home?

Overall, Blogger was very appropriate for my situation and I’m glad I chose it. WordPress is cool too, but you’ll have to read about that in my next interface review.

My Innovation Space PSA

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Innovation Space this semester and apart the end of semester rush, I am usually one of the only students there.

The first time I ever went was to rent out equipment that I needed for an assignment in my Visual Media class sophomore year. The Innovation Space was fairly new then and I didn’t know much about it’s offerings other than what my professor had told me. When I returned the camera a few days later, I picked up a flier about workshops the lab offered to students to teach them about various software programs. I went home and wrote down every single class, the date it was offered and the time it started in my planner, determined to become the next digital genius.

While I certainly didn’t attend every class that I intended to, I did learn a bit about a few different programs and how to use them. I was learning some in my classes, but not to the extent that I had wished, so I kept visiting the Innovation Space, teaching myself a little and asking a question every now and then.

I am so glad that I started that habit when I did. I now know more than I ever would about expensive programs that I can’t afford to have on my own laptop, most notably the Adobe Creative Suite. I always tell my friends that they should check it out but I don’t think any of them ever do. The resources they have available to students seem endless and I can’t believe more students don’t know about the Innovation Space offerings. I truly believe that every student could have something valuable to learn. Every time I visit, I leave knowing something that I didn’t before.

So if you are a student reading this, I encourage you to visit the Innovation Space. Don’t be intimidated by the knowledgeable staff or the fancy equipment. It all exists so that we can experiment and learn. Record yourself in the audio bay, edit a photo in Photoshop or try to create a document in InDesign. I think you’ll be glad you did.

The Beginning of the End for Print News

Every morning my mom reads our local newspaper that we have delivered to our house. She systematically starts with the front section before moving onto the local stories and then maybe over to sports, unless it is baseball season, in which case sports would come first. She also completes every crossword puzzle and finishes 95% of them, which blows my mind because when I try I usually can only crack about five of the clues before giving up.

The point is, she loves the paper. Which is why I was SO excited when I had the bright idea of buying her a subscription to the New York Times for Christmas. She had talked about how much she wished she still got this paper, the one that she grew up with in New York, but the conversation ended and I never thought anything of it until recently. So I did some research and calculated that a year subscription to Sunday issues of the New York Times would set me back… $4.10… per week! I couldn’t believe how expensive one lousy newspaper was, so I continued my research in an attempt to decide if this bright idea was even worth it after all. That’s when I heard about the increase in subscription prices for getting the Times in print. Not only was this paper expensive, but it was about to get even more expensive.

I thought back to a documentary that I saw about a year about called Page One: Inside the New York Times which was created to highlight the harsh reality of bankruptcy in the newspaper industry. I remember thinking that there was no way I would see the New York Times go bankrupt in my lifetime. Sometime in the far future, maybe, but the paper is known worldwide and the New York Times name meant so much to so many people.

Well now I get it. Whether we like it or not, the internet is surpassing print as our main news source and there is little we can do but continue to support the papers during their rough times. It’s hard to imagine a world in which the old man sitting on a bench in the park is flipping through his favorite column on an iPad, but now that I’m looking for it, I see that not only might I live to see the end of paper news, but so could my parents. Which is exactly why I will be splurging this year and buying that subscription for my mom. Not only because I know she will appreciate the extra challenge on her Sunday crossword, but because I’m realizing that the rich smell of a freshly printed paper may soon be a thing of the past.

Font Finding 101

Over the course of the past month, I’ve been working on a few different design projects for fun, one of which involved redesigning my resume. Since Virginia Tech’s Art department is so exclusive, I haven’t had any success in adding design classes and therefore have just been trying to teach myself. I get a lot of great feedback and advice from some of the graphic design majors who work in the Innovation Space and I thought I’d share with you some tidbits on my recent infatuation with finding the perfect typeface.

It started sophomore year in my Designing Documents for Print class where we learned about downloading fonts and the free websites that hosted these fonts such as 1001freefonts.com and dafont.com. I had fun throughout the semester exploring these sits and learning the lesson of keeping the fonts in the same folder as my working file and saving that folder onto a flash drive at the end of each workshop.

I continued that lengthy process of perusing ad-cluttered websites for the fonts that I wouldn’t have to pay for until I came across Google Fonts, which I found to be a much more pleasant experience.

When I told the employee at Innovation Space that this was the way I searched for fonts, she referred me to her “favorite fonts” board on Pinterest, where she pinned typefaces and design samples she liked. I have had a Pinterest account for a couple of years now but once I realized how much time I was wasting, I stopped using it. I never thought of pinning things that could actually help me create better work. Who knew Pinterest could be productive?

Now, when I’m looking for a font, I start with Pinterest and skim through boards and pins until I find a font that I like. Then I re-pin the font so that I have the name and image saved before typing that name into Google and finding a free version of the font. This process is much cleaner and ten times more entertaining than searching through a seemingly endless database of the “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” sentences made out of  quirky lines that may or may not translate well onto my design.

So, I urge any amateur designers out there to check out Pinterest when looking for your next bit of inspiration. Just don’t spend too much time on the site or you won’t be able to call it productive.

Queen B does it again…

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the pop culture stunt heard around the world. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, Beyonce released an album just after midnight Thursday night that had been anticipated– by no one. That’s right. No press releases. No pre-release marketing. Nothing. The secret self-titled album was supposedly kept by the few members of her team that knew about it’s production.

This “visual album” includes not only 14 brand new tracks but also a music video for each track and three additional videos that come with the album. Beyonce describes this approach as her attempt to tell her story, similar to how artists traditionally form albums.

“I see music. It’s more than just what I hear. When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to the music … I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it, I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.”

Now, I will list the reasons why I think Beyonce is genius.

1. She didn’t release a single. In fact, you can’t even purchase the songs separately yet. If you want the album, you have to buy the whole thing for $15.99. Just like back in the day! She didn’t fall into the trap of just releasing another single for us to scream about and then forget after a few weeks time. Beyonce understands the importance of releasing an entire album in an artist’s attempt to tell a story, and this is one I can’t wait to read.

2. She let the publicity generate itself. For having “no” marketing strategy at all, this marketing strategy is one of the best I’ve seen yet. In my PR classes, we often talk about how brands create buzz about certain products by putting their face in the spotlight. Beyonce knew that releasing a secret album would send the media into a frenzy. Anyone who is anyone knew about the album by noon the next day and if they wanted to check it out, they were forced to buy the whole thing. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you generate 80,000 downloads in three hours (…and 1.2 million Twitter mentions in one day).

3. She proved her status as Queen. Artists everywhere are kicking themselves. Taylor Swift gave you the option of receiving her album when you ordered a pizza from Papa John’s. Jay Z partnered with Samsung to give away 1 million copies of his album Magna Carta. Unique, but not quite Queen status. The idea of surprising fans with an album seems so simple and yet nobody has pulled it off quite like Beyonce. And I don’t think anyone ever will.

So there. If I fail my finals this year, I’m blaming B.

In Facebook’s corner: Instagram Direct?

Facebook is no longer pursuing Snapchat, after offering $3 billion in cold hard cash.

That’s because Instagram (owned by Facebook) has rolled out it’s own version of the fast-share photo feature, Instagram Direct.

Although it has only been out for a few days now, I have to say that I don’t think it will be enough to trump Snapchat. Since Thursday, when Direct surfaced, I have received ONE direct message. Stack that against the 30+ Snapchats I receive daily and even a fool could see that these two aren’t even playing in the same league.

I’ll give Instagram some time. I remember doubting the Instagram video feature and complaining about how all it did was copy Vine, but now, months later, we see strong adoption of the video feature in our feeds. And while most take too long to load and therefore most of my peers skip over them unless posted with a specific mention or tag of interest, I wouldn’t call the video a failure.

But what about Direct? My theory is simple. People like going to different apps to complete different tasks. Instagram already took a stab at growing in complexity and taking yet another step in that direction may seem like a smart move to some, but I don’t see it as one. Snapchat is quick and effortless. The little yellow icon sits on many a home iPhone screen. The recent addition of “My Story” has people going nuts and Snapchat seems to be playing its cards right.

I’m not sure if I would’ve turned down the 3 bil, but then again I just finished a bowl of ramen noodles.

 

Read more about Instagram Direct in this article I found on adweek.com.

That viral video isn’t real. But I won’t be the one to tell you!

Pessimistic… callous… over-analytical. Call me what you want, but as of recent I have found nothing more annoying when searching the internet than when I run across shared viral content that contains zero truth or credibility.

I just can not believe some of the things people believe are real. The “WORST TWERK FAIL EVER” video that has been going around? Yeah… that was created by Jimmy Kimmel in an attempt to communicate the same idea that I will work to communicate in this post . Or how about that hilarious image of a child’s letter to Santa that included an amazon hyperlink written in out in crayon to cover the entire page? Written by an adult comedian in 2011. Now I’m not saying I’m better than anyone. I am no better than average when it comes to immediately spotting the discrepancies between a real story and a fake one. But while something may catch my eye at first glance, I always dig a little deeper to find out if what I’m seeing is worth believing. And guess what? It’s usually not.

I believe the problem is that a lot of the time, things are shared on Facebook and people read what they see without clicking or finding out more. This wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t share that same story without even looking into whether or not it is credible. The cycle then just continues until someone calls someone else out. Which we don’t do because that makes people feel stupid and nobody wants to make anyone else feel that way. So we just continue to share things we find funny or inspirational, mixing fiction with truth and thereby clouding the internet entirely until nothing can be trusted.

So please, before you post or share anything, do your research. I’m hoping that more and more users start thinking before posting. Until then, all we can do is try to educate those nice, innocent people who believe anything they see or hear.

Now that I’m done sounding like that scary angry old woman who I grew up next to, check out this story published a few days ago on the New York Times’ website. I’m tellin’ you– I’m not alone!