Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meta Blogging

In September, I started a series of blog posts on college courses that I've taken. I wrote a post every day and got through about four or five semesters' worth, depending on how you count it (one year was quarters, plus some AP classes from high school). I haven't stopped but have slowed way down. Between not wanting so spam my (3) loyal readers and not having the time to keep up a post a day, I couldn't maintain that kind of production.

I don't know how the NaNoWriMo people do it. Well, I do know that of the hundreds of thousands of people who sign up, the average number of words written per person is just under 15,000. They're supposed to write 50,000. About one in five finish, which means about two in three write nothing.

I did write a post for every day that one month, which is something I wanted to try, and I have kept up my streak of at least one post a month for the past four years. Interestingly enough, I pulled in a little over 15,000 words in September, which means I beat a lot of NaNoWriMo people.

Something else I have let slip is my RSS reader. I had close to a thousand unread posts in there from all around the web. I unsubscribed from the feeds for a MOOC I stopped participating in, which dropped a few hundred unread posts off. I marked the posts from the You Are Not a Photographer blog, because everything is in there twice and they keep doing weird things with their feed that makes old stuff I've already read show up as unread again. I may end up just unsubscribing, since it looks like they stopped including the picture in their RSS feed, so you have to actually visit the site to make fun of how bad people are at photography. I've been considering unsubscribing from the Freakonomics blog for awhile now, but every once in awhile a post comes along that makes it all worth it.

I finally unsubscribed from Larry Ferlazzo's blog. I'm sorry, Larry. I tried to keep up. I really did. I subscribed when I found several interesting posts related to Bloom's Taxonomy, which I was reading about at the time. Seven posts a day is too much for me, especially if I get a couple days behind. To give you an idea of the volume here, he has well over 500 "most popular" posts. I have no idea how many unpopular posts he has. I was going to maybe suggest that he try Twitter, since his blog posts are mainly lists of interesting site related to teaching a given topic, and Twitter is great at sending out links to people. Of course, I should have known; he's got more than 30,000 tweets. That means that over 3 years on Twitter, he averages 27 tweets a day. Given an average of about 12 words per tweet, that's almost 10,000 words per month, so he's not much off the NaNoWriMo average and doing better than most would-be authors just on Twitter.

One thing I do need to do is go back and fix the pictures in my September posts. I didn't add a picture to every post, but for the ones that I did, I got lazy. I just randomly googled images and grabbed stuff wherever I found it. Normally I use photos licensed with Creative Commons on Flickr. When I use their photo, I will link back to their Flickr stream and leave a comment on the photo I used with my thanks for their sharing and a link to the post where I used it. The bus up there is just a random openly licensed photo I found that kind of popped out at me. Thanks for sharing but not sharing too much.

photo by didbygraham

Friday, November 4, 2011

Business Communication

Business Communication was a great class. I enjoyed it and still use things I learned in it. One great thing about it was that it was a night class taught once a week. I like the extended time less often, because it seems that you can get into deeper conversations given the extra time. I like night classes a lot more than early a.m. classes, since I'd rather stay up late than get up early.

The content of the course was useful. We learned a ton of grammar, which I really appreciated. My spelling and grammar have always been pretty good anyway, but there were things I learned in this class that I had never grasped before. I do purposely break certain rules for various reasons, but it always is for a reason when I do. I do occasionally start a sentence with "And" but almost exclusively on my blog and only for added emphasis. The unfortunate thing about this class is that they have since removed the grammar component. Given my AP and ACT scores, I'd have qualified to skip the grammar pretest and never had to learn any of the rules that I actually appreciate having learned in this class.

A couple examples:

When using conjunctions such as and, because, but, and or, you only put a comma before the conjunction if what follows the conjunction could stand alone as a complete sentence. I raked the leaves and emptied all the garbage cans. No comma since "emptied all the garbage cans" is not a complete sentence. I had previously always used a comma before a conjunction.

You can tack two complete, related sentences together with a semicolon and no conjunction. I will pick up dinner at Pizza Pie Cafe on my way home; they are having a sweet sale right now.

Something I'll always remember about this class was the overhead slides. No, the weird part isn't that the professor used overhead slides instead of computer-based slides, although that was a little strange, too. This was and is one of my favorite professors of all time but for whatever reason had a strange method for displaying the overheads: lay slide on overhead, turn on overhead, talk about slide, turn off overhead, lay slide on overhead, turn on overhead, etc. The overhead projector was turned on and off for every single slide. I remember joking with my classmates that any electricity savings from the two seconds it was turned off while picking up the next transparency off the pile would surely be lost by having the replace the worn out power switch before its time.

I also recall that the final paper for this class had to be cancelled. It was supposed to be a research paper, which we'd write with all our new-found communication skills. The problem was that when you do research, you have to get IRB approval, even if it's a simple survey to ask people about their parking behaviors, which ours was. IRB approval usually takes months, and while there are provisions for blanket IRB approval for class-based research projects in certain situations, it was too late for that process as well. Being the go-getters that we were (and since I was writing a paper about the same topic in my English class the same semester), we already had our research collected by the time the sad news was delivered. We ended up writing and turning in our paper anyway for extra credit. The extra credit should have been reversed, since we threw a bunch of screen beans into it, and that flies in the face of any kind of professional communication which we had been learning about. It's too bad I couldn't have taken some of that extra credit and applied it to the grade in my English class, for which I was using some of the same content.