Friday, February 22, 2008

Ask me a question

I installed a widget called Askablogr. So ask me a question. Look for the widget on the right side of my blog.

My initial reaction is that this widget can help engage readers. Here is how it works.

1. Click on the widget and ask me a question.

2. You have to create an account on the Askablogr site. That may seem like a negative point. However, the members of Askablogr have access to the questions and answers and can mark inappropriate questions. Essentially, askabloger site is a self regulating community.

3. The questions and my answers reside on the Askablogr site, The questions can be posted as a blog article on my page if I give Askablogr access to my blog. I have not done that which is the reason that my first question sits on the Askablogr site: Reader questions: Where did I find out about Askablogr and what role will Askablogr play?

If you want to see an example of a question appearing as a blog post, look at the post, Reader Question: Are there new opportunities in social networking?, on Andrew Chen's blog.

Also, the answer can be sent to the person asking the question via email (there's a checkbox set as a default to send email).

Since there are no feeds coming from the Askablogr site, I have no way to aggregate the questions and answers, I asked Chris DeVore about having future plans for feeds from Askablogr. His answer indicates that incorporating feeds is planned.

Instead of posting each question and answer as a post, I might choose particular questions to post and aggregate the others on my site.

I like the concept of readers asking questions (not just ones associated with posts). But, I have to be convinced over time if this is the right method to do that. How would a comment section not associated with any given post work?

For now, ask me a question through the Askablogr widget. Let's see how this works in practice. Tags: ,

Strength of relationships is based on trust

Lynette Spicer asked us to share stories of civility. Here is one. Though, sometimes, I don't know how to separate behaviors that indicate civility, courtesy, character, and leadership.

I do know how to recognize people who are understand basic principles of character and integrity. The ones who impress me the most are the young people. They encourage us by showing us that they understand basic principles of living life and working in the real world--sometimes better than those who are more experienced and older.

Brett Pohlman, a senior of Auburn University's public relations program, in his post, A Rocky Road, shows he understands that working with people, particularly in the public relations arena, is based on trust and relationships.

As PR professionals it is our duty to be upfront with our clients and to do the best job that we possibly can… ethically. Unethical PR will not help us or our clients in the long run.

Ethical PR is based around trust and relationships. Neither of those can be valid if a PR professional lies to its publics.

Some may think that Brett is being naive. However, it is clear he understands that public relations is about the relations which are about trust.

I bet that Brett also understands that the strength of all relationships is built on trust.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Reading is not dead--just changing

Reading reading online and with technological devices has changed the way we read. Howard Gardner explains how literacy has changed through time (not dying, but is different) in The End of Literacy? Don't Stop Reading in the Washington Post.

The most compelling statement is at the end of the article.

But whatever our digital future brings, we need to overcome the perils of dualistic thinking, the notion that what lies ahead is either a utopia or a dystopia. If we're going to make sense of what's happening with literacy in our culture, we need to be able to triangulate: to bear in mind our needs and desires, the media as they once were and currently are, and the media as they're continually transforming. 

I found the article link on The Web Difference, a blog for a Harvard Law class (2008). Tags: ,,,


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Social media and building experience among public relation college students

Robert French is a public relations instructor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at Auburn University. He has used social media in his public relations classes for awhile now. This semester, he and Karen Russell, an associate professor of Advertising and Public Relations at University of Georgia, are creating a community of public relations college students by using Twitter and other social media. These two instructors have also engaged public relations professionals to interact with the students.

As an outsider to the process and to the public relations arena, I am thrilled to watch the learning and the interaction between the students and PR folks. These students are using blogs, video blogs, wikis, and Twitter.

Karen's interview with Robert shows how using social media in the classroom develops learning by doing. Auburn PR student blogs and Twitter id can be found on the Loveliest Village blog.

The students are quickly "getting" Twitter. PR student Brett Pohlman blogs about his initial excitement with using Twitter. He also provides some links that are helpful to understanding Twitter. Here are some other Twitter perceptions and references that they may find helpful.

I look forward to lurking at their process and I hope to learn as well.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Questions and answers about blogging

Originally uploaded by aafromaa

A week ago, an Extension colleague was interested in how blogging fits into Cooperative Extension and asked a few questions about our blogging. Jim Langcuster and I answered her questions from our individual perspectives.

Jim started blogging Extension Daily several years ago and he was the first one to write a Wikipedia page for a state Extension service.
I started blogging a year ago and am using various social media tools, including Flickr, YouTube, Slideshare, (social bookmarking), and Twitter.

This post includes the questions, answers, and some examples so others can see how Cooperative Extension professionals are using blogging. In my opinion, Extension has not even created the "drop" in the bucket. Typical Extension subject matter professionals have tremendous of knowledge to share, and I hope this post helps them understand blogging can work for them.

1. How do you have time to write an entry a day?

Jim L. Well, in all honesty, it's hard sometimes. Finding subject matter often is very difficult. I pour over the online dailies regularly --- in particular, the New York Times --- and, fortunately, have a very good working relationship with agents and specialists. Otherwise, I simply would not be able to do it regularly.

Incidentally, congratulations to you for seeing the value of blogs.

Anne A. I don't post every day. I do generally write something daily, but it takes me awhile to post some of my blog articles. While Extension Daily covers a lot of diversity and Jim blogs everyday and sometimes more than once a day, I have averaged posting 1 time every two weeks. So far this year, I am posting 2 to 3 times a week.

I write notes throughout the general workday and my in-depth writing occurs mostly at night and a few free moments on weekends. Although I do sometimes blog during the workday, most of my writing is done at night. Sometimes I get ideas about presentation and approaches when I jog (that is part of being alone and having a chance to "think").

When I talk to agents about blogging, I encourage them to submit blog articles with material they have already created for their newsletters, newspapers, and answers to emails. As Jim says, writing and synthesizing the content is the hardest part. If agents are already writing articles for their newsletters, then they could easily adapt these articles into blog posts. I think a better option is to learn to blog and develop the newsletters from the blog posts.

I see Extension educators blogging in niches. Niche blogs will get "reads" from people who are truly interested in those areas, not necessarily thousands and thousands.

2. What is your position?

Jim L. Yes, a news and public affairs specialist -- technically a communications and marketing specialists based on a new university reclassification, though I prefer the first.

Anne A. My title is Associate Director, IT. I started blogging in January 2007 as a way to understand how blogging fits into the Extension educational efforts.

3. Where do you get your information? Do you find the stories yourself?

Jim L. Yes, as I said, I find the stories myself, though, of course, I work with the agents, though mostly specialists, for quotes. It's time consuming, and I do this on top of several other job tasks.

Incidentally, I take much of what I write --- two thirds or so -- and provide it to the agents in column form, which, of course, involves significant rewriting. We've had a tremendous increase in our newspaper coverage as a result, so I'm convinced the effort has been worth it.

Also, I sometimes take the very best material and pitch it to media outlets directly -- and, in the case of truly singular stories, I write them into op-eds bearing the by-line of the person I've interviewed.

These have been featured in Sunday op-eds in some of the state's major dailies, most notably the Birmingham News.

Anne A. I write my thoughts as they happen (in meetings, right after discussions, emails, phone calls, and instant messages). I don't post articles right away, rather; I develop the notes and find supporting material before posting blog articles.

Agents are usually in middle of most of these discussions or their work is the object of the discussions, so yes, I get ideas for my blog posts from agents. I often think how Extension professionals can apply the information as I write my articles. Most of my articles are usually written for specific Extension educators (although I don't always say so).

Also, I keep up with lots opinions and knowledge on social media from a variety of sources:

  • blogs of Extension IT professionals.
  • blogs about social media in business, non profits, and marketing.
  • blogs and news stories about technology and leadership.
  • blogs on elearning, learning and education, I am particularly drawn to university educators who blog about elearning and learning.
  • blogs from Extension agents.
  • Twitter messages from marketing bloggers, technology bloggers, education bloggers, nonrpofit bloggers, Extension agents, and even, a retired musician.
  • network of Extension IT and communications specialists.
  • general news stories.
  • people in general.
  • books I am reading.
  • links sent to me via emails.

I read a lot, try to listen, and absorb lots of opinions and information from a variety of sources. By the way, the only way I can read from this many different sources is to use a news reader (i.e., Google Reader).

4. Do you have any advice for agents who are considering doing a blog? Time seems to be the biggest obstacle.

Jim L. Yes, believe me, time is the biggest obstacle -- not just to write the stuff but to conceptualize it in a form that fits the whole Extension matrix. Frankly, I see a huge potential here for agents. In fact, I've begun speaking about old and new media -- old being conventional media, new being blogs, vlogs and podcasting.

I suppose the frustration is that that while we have a big administrative buy-in to the value of blogs, our specialists and agents are still rather wary of them, partly because of the time, partly because blogging strikes them as, well, terra incognita -- something a bit too new and too daunting to grasp at this point.

The lack of understanding of the power of this medium and of a similar but emerging new medium -- social networking -- is what I find most frustrating. If you like, I'll write you an epistle about why I think new media quickly is superseding old media as the most critical outlet for Extension educators.

Anne A. Like Jim said, Extension agents' opportunities and reach are vast. It is a great medium that should not be overlooked. Blogging is a perfect fit for Extension educators. My advice to agents:

  • Tim Mathews and Diane Turner, write Master Your Garden.
  • My Minnesota Woods is updated by faculty members, Eli Sagor and Philip Potyondy.
  • The Beef Blog is a team blog serves as an educational forum for beef producers and Extension educators.
    • multi-purpose material. Use material that is being used in newsletters as blog articles. Use photos and slide presentations as basis for blog articles.
    • blog what you are already doing. Examples:
  • Teens use of social networking sites.
  • Internet security presentations.
    • blog everyday questions. Tony Glover does this in the Heart of Dixie Gardener blog.

    • blog your passion and knowledge for the purpose of sharing. Examples:
  • At Home with Extension
  • Civility in the Workplace
  • Shepherd's Notebook
  • Lead2020
  • High Touch
  • Keeper
  • Scouting Around
  • Virtual Blue Ribbon Party
  • Extending Extension
  • Brian Webster-Blog
    • refer to content produced by Extension professionals. (We need to do this more and more!)
  • Becky Nibe refers to writing for the web post in Writing for the Web refers to writing tips.
  • Mitch Owen and I had a conversation via blogging in these 3 articles: Web 2.0 = Social Networks, NOT , Trust in Web 2.0 and Social Networks , and Trust,Web 2.0 and Influence, Social Networks Part II
  • John Dorner and I had a conversation via blogging in these 3 articles: What is a blog? , Do You Blog? or Why Blog? , and What is a blog? Continuation
  • Everyone has something to say. Blogging:

    1. is a great way for Extension professionals to expand and develop their programs.
    2. creates relationships with other Extension professionals.
    3. creates relationships with clientele.

    Random observations:

    Anne A. As Jim says, writing and synthesizing the content is the hardest part. If agents are already writing articles for their newsletters, then they could easily adapt these articles into blog posts. I think a better option is to flip that process around: Blog articles and then develop newsletters from blog posts.

    I see Extension educators blogging in niches. Niche blogs will get "reads" from people who are truly interested in those areas, not necessarily from thousands and thousands.

    Blogging may not be for every Extension professional. However, most anyone can find a social media tool that fits for their style and talents.

    Jim L. First, as I’ve said before, old media is not on a Hospice trajectory, though it’s nonetheless competing with entirely new and, in most respects, far more convenient media that many younger users, the so-called Millennials, find considerably more appealing.

    Our role, as Extension educators, I believe, is to begin tapping into these sources. Indeed, if we don’t, we soon will begin losing any sort of competitive edge we still enjoy vis-à-vis better funded public and private entities.

    Some would contend that Millennials still are roughly 10 years away from being fully integrated into the economy and exercising opinion-leading roles that ultimately could affect our bottom line. So what? My argument is that 10 years is an exceedingly short time, and besides that, there are other older clientele that could begin benefiting from blogging and other social networking techniques, if only they were given adequate training. At the top of the list are the Master Gardeners, who often tend to be retired, well-educated and highly adaptive Extension users - lifelong learners who hunger for knowledge.

    I would add to that list a large number of well-educated agribusiness professionals who already have bought into the highly technical precision farming methods and who may be interested in one or more social networking techniques to keep abreast of emerging technologies and innovations among Extension experts and other producers.

    Free blog workshop (for February)

    According to Vicki Davis, Cool Cat Teacher, Atomic Learning is giving away their blogging workshop called "Learn to Blog" for the month of February.

    Tim Warner created a great introductory course with 2 minute lessons. He specifically uses Blogger as the blogging software and the education community as the target audience.

    For someone who has never blogged, you may want to look at these instructions as examples of the processes you would use in any type of blogging software. For me, I learned a few techniques I had not used before, though I have been blogging for a year.

    For someone who is considering blogging, but not yet settled on Blogger, I would recommend taking the lessons in this order.

    A. Blogging Basics
    B. Choosing a Blog Subject
    C. Selecting a Blog Hosting Solution
    I. Formatting and Editing Your Posts

    J. Using Hyperlinks
    K. Posting Images
    M. Managing Blog Archiving
    O. Team Blogging
    R. Additional Resources for Educators

    You can pick up the other parts of the workshop if you decide to use Blogger.