Best Blogs!

What a fun quarter it has been blogging!  Each time I got the opportunity to blog, I really dug deep into things that ‘bothered’ me.  This tactic outlined by the article The Secret to Writing a Great Blog Post That Gets Lots of Comments was especially helpful when I was writing my blogs.

One of my favorite blogs was my POW Creating History?  This was one of my shorter blogs, but the content was gold; I was very concise and accurate.  This post was very popular and got a Murray’s Take record high 6 thoughts on it!  In this post, I discuss not only the courage required to edit something on Wikipedia, but also the travesty that only 13 percent of Wikipedia contributors are women.  I admitted in this post that it was extremely terrifying for even me to edit a Wikipedia article.  The best line from my blog post was:

“Teacher always said to never write in the textbook!”

This may go down as the line of the year. My Wikipedia edit still stands today on the Area Code 513 article.  I must have said something that was good for the world to hear!

Another one of my favorite blogs was my most recent one Harry Potter to the Rescue!  This blog post was one of my longer posts but had a second high 5 thoughts on it.  You can tell that you’ve written a good blog post when more people are talking about it!  In both of these posts, one of my strengths were my questions at the end.  These are key in getting comments and getting people fired up to respond.  This was another one of the “secrets to writing a great blog post”.  The thing I liked most about this blog post was how well I developed it.  I made a bold move in comparing the Harry Potter Movement to Christianity, and then followed it up with a slight at politicians who use Jesus to defend their actions and get more votes.  The Family Guy clip I added at the end was perfect in helping me prove my point.  As said before, the questions I put at the end were perfect in getting people riled up to comment!

When I looked back at my comments, two stand out in particular.  The first one was my comment on Danielle’s post “Luck or a Science”.  Danielle discussed how things go viral on the internet.  While it may appear to be luck, as was the case with the Yosemitebear in her post, there is actually a science behind it.  As Konnikova points out in her “The Six Things That Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze, and Maybe Infuriate, You”, an emotional response is huge in getting something to go viral.  I pointed this out in the end of my comment:

“… The emotional response people get when they see a double rainbow is definitely part of the reason [the video] went viral, but another part was his reaction of awe to the beauty his eyes saw! It just goes to show that anyone can make a viral video, sometimes by accident and sometimes with intent!”

This was one of my best comments in tying together a course concept.

Another comment that I am proud to stamp my name on was on Kenton’s most recent blog post Mankind’s Biggest Dilemma – Lazy or Busy?  Kenton discusses how his friend claims that all of mankind’s greatest achievements were inspired by laziness.  His friend also claims that engineers are inherently lazy by nature.  Naturally, this viewpoint infuriated me, and so I went on rant; however, at no point did I begin ‘trolling’.  I make two great analogies in my comment.  The first is about accomplishing a task:

“I think there is a big difference between being lazy and making life easier. If I tell you to dig a swimming pool and give you a shovel and spoon and say that I’ll give you five thousand dollars once it’s finished, what are you going to do? Dig for years with the spoon, dig for months with the shovel, or hire a bulldozer to do it for a thousand dollars and keep the four thousand dollar profit? Hopefully you choose option C. Is the person who chooses the third option lazy? No. They are smart!…”

An old teacher of mine always used this swimming pool analogy to show that we should use our time effectively and efficiently.  The other analogy I use refers to Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone:

“…Alexander Graham Bell used his talents and gifts to create the telephone and make life easier. People didn’t say, I want to be lazy, Alex, create something so I can talk to people without seeing them….”

I think these two analogies were perfect for the point I was trying to make that engineers may be inspired to make life easier, but they are never inspired by laziness.

These blog posts and comments are truly representative of the high quality of work I put into the blogging portion of this Writing in a Digital Age class.  I never thought I would say that I enjoyed a Humanities class, but this was definitely one of my all-time favorite classes!

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Harry Potter to the Rescue!

Gather ye wizards and witches! We’ve got a world to save!

Harry_Potter_Alliance_Logo

What?

You read that right.  Harry Potter fans are trying to help the world under the organization known as ‘Harry Potter Alliance’.  Andrew Slack started the Harry Potter Alliance in order to get people to become activists and help out with various problems and issues in the world especially in the Sudan.  This organization was examined by Henry Jenkins in his book Designing for Spreadability.  In his chapter on “Avatar Activism”, Jenkins notes that Slack argues

“Young Harry Potter…realized that the government and the media were lying to the public in order to mask evil in their midst. Potter thus organized his classmates to form Dumbledore’s Army and went out to change the world.”

It’s somewhat humorous to look at how the mission of Harry Potter Alliance is loosely related to charitable works in the world today.  I seriously doubt that Andrew Slack’s reasoning behind establishing this organization was rooted in Harry Potter.  I’m not saying that he’s not a fan of Harry Potter, but I am saying that when I watched the Harry Potter movies, I did not suddenly feel that I should solve the world’s problems, and I’m sure that everyone else who watched those movies (or read the books lol) felt the same way.  So why was it created then?

Slack obviously wanted to help solve many world’s problems but realized that he could not do it alone.  He needed to get people excited and passionate about giving their money and free time to a charitable organization.  This is a very difficult and daunting task to undertake.  So, he decided to enlist the help of Harry Potter fans.  To think that this came to him the other way around is absurd.

The organization is very successful in helping solving many different world problems.  This is a testament to the fact that getting people to become activists requires more than just good moral fiber.  You’ve got to sell something to the potential activists.  As said before, no one watching or reading Harry Potter closed the book or left the movie theater thinking about how they were gonna solve the world’s problems.  Slack sold them on the belief that Harry Potter would want them to do this, and, as his followers, they should accept the challenge.  What would Harry do?

This whole organization bears striking resemblance to Christianity.  What would Jesus do?  Slack saw someone with many followers, Harry Potter, and attached his agenda to him.  People do this to Jesus all the time.

Now while this clip is more of a satirical and comedic way to look at this issue, it is true that people often align themselves with Jesus (whether those be for good or bad reasons) to get people to agree with them.

How do you feel about the Harry Potter Alliance?  Are there similar organizations that you know which loosely relate their cause and effect?  Do you believe politicians refer to Jesus for genuine purposes or for their own personal gain?  Comment below.

Why did it go viral?

In today’s internet-driven society, stories, pictures, videos, and other media go ‘viral’.  Why?  Maria Konnikova of the New Yorker gives just some of the reasons why in her “The Six Things That Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze, And Maybe Infuriate, You”.  According to her article, “the best underlying story, regardless of its trappings, will come out on top”.  This makes perfect sense.  Just because I see an article that catches my eye with an awesome title doesn’t mean that I will send it along to all my friends and followers.  Catchy titles are great bait for getting me to click on a link, but only actual content worthy of me sharing it will be passed along to my friends and followers.

This reminds me of emails I have (and still) receive from my grandmother for the past 10 years.  I love my grandmother with all my heart, but there are definitely things I don’t want or care about that she sends to me!  Those emails always start with ‘FW’ (forward).  Most of the emails have a catchy subject such as “FW: YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT THIS MARINE TOLD OBAMA” or “FW: PROOF OBAMA IS NOT A US CITIZEN!!!” (Notice the common theme of anti-Obama propaganda and Caps Lock)  While I would not by any means consider myself a fan of Obama, I would never forward any of these emails to anyone I knew.  These emails are based off feelings and speculations, not FACTS.  As a result, although I may open the emails due to the shocking or absurd nature of the subject, I never forward these on to others.

We all have that one crazy relative!
We all have that one crazy relative! Courtesy: The Oatmeal

What goes into your mind when you make the decision whether or not to retweet something?  Do you truly retweet based on the title alone or do you have to digest the content before you share and put your name on it?  Comment below and share your thoughts.

Online Harassment – A Problem or an Overreaction?

Ever since the dawn of the internet, people have been able to express their opinions to others in an instantaneous way.  This is one of the best things about the internet, but it also can be one of the worst.  Anything created by human beings is subject to the flaws of human beings.  As a result, harassment occurs online in abundance as the internet becomes more widespread and easy to use.  Many people will say that the cure-all panacea for online harassment is to “shut the lid”.   While this may seem like an effective solution, (I would argue that it is the best action to take in the vast majority of circumstances) it does not always solve the problem.

Since some parts of our lives (and for some people, all) have been lived through the internet, we must adjust our laws and procedures to it.  Today, “40% [of all internet users] have personally experienced [online harassment]” according to a study by Pew Research Center.  Some people may think this number is ‘lower than they expected’ and therefore a good thing; however, this number is staggering and a testament to the widespread effect of online harassment.

Online harassment can come in many forms and is not limited to “calling someone an offensive name, purposefully embarrassing someone, physically threatening someone, sexually harassing someone, or stalking someone”.  Some people think online harassment is not that bad and that people are overreacting to it.  I would say that it is by far an ‘underreaction’!

One of the worst forms of online harassment occurred to a cheerleader who was performing her routine.  A Reddit post told people to edit a picture of her landing into her fellow cheerleaders’ arms, and that the best one would ‘win’ (I will not post the picture because that would only further the harassment).  The edited picture of her went viral and her reputation was ruined as a fifteen year old.  She didn’t choose to have that picture taken of her! She didn’t choose to be harassed for it!  She can’t just “shut the lid”!

When things go viral nowadays, there is nothing stopping them.  Society has to do something about these viral injustices because innocent people are becoming victimized and have no legal recourse to aid them.  Have you ever been a victim of online harassment?  Have you ever victimized someone on the internet (we are all human)?  Comment below and share your experience.

Digital Free Speech?

“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…” –First Amendment to the United States Constitution

Many people think that the banning of Twitter accounts is illegal and “Un-American”.  Some people may think that is true, but look closely at the First Amendment.  The only thing it says is that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech”.  It does not say, “Twitter shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech”.  So basically, Twitter has the right to do whatever they want to the users of their service.  It is a private company with no governmental ties.  There is often the misconception that when something is huge and affects all of society that the government runs it.  The economy, Facebook, Twitter, and major news networks are just some of the many counterexamples to this misconception.

People were alarmed when Charles Johnson was banned from Twitter and screamed things such as ‘Censorship!’ ‘Communism!’ and ‘Big Brother!’.  He was banned for his tweet that could have been interpreted as a threat:

“Go to gotnews.com/donate if you want to give money to taking out @deray.” -Charles C. Johnson

It is foolish to think that Charles Johnson is raising money to hire a hit team to take out Deray McKesson, but as Del Harvey of Twitter points out in her TedTalk, they have to assume the worst in order to keep the users of Twitter safe and to keep Twitter’s reputation from being tarnished from a tragedy.  

When you post things on Twitter, you walk into Twitter’s house and speak.  Twitter has every right to escort you to the door for your comments, just as you would if a guest was unruly in your home.

So now the question must be asked “Why do some people get banned and not others?”.  The big factor in deciding who gets banned is how many people are listening to it.  When on Twitter, you get to selectively decide who you listen to (except of course when a promoted tweet comes your way).  If someone with very few followers is spewing junk from his/her Twitter ‘mouth’, then it is not that big of a concern for Twitter to deal with them.  However, when someone like Charles Johnson, who has thousands of followers says something that even remotely could be interpreted as threatening, steps such as banishment will be taken by Twitter.  As said before Twitter’s two main goals are to keep its users safe and to keep their reputation good.

Is it fair that Twitter gets to decide what people get to post?  Is there censorship truly a Constitutional violation?  Comment below and share your opinion.

Creating History?

I recently tried something out this week: edit a Wikipedia article.  At face value, it seems harmless, but throughout the whole process I felt nervous and that it needed to be perfect.  At this time, the edit is still up on the Wikipedia article concerning the Area Code 513.  I asserted that “Very similar to how Manhattan is known as ‘212‘, Cincinnati is sometimes colloquially referred to as the ‘513.’”  A very simple statement that is true, but  one that does not fit very well into the context of the article.  No one has decided to take it down yet, so there must be some value in it.

As a nineteen year old computer literate male, I was a little terrified of editing Wikipedia. Teacher always said to never write in the textbook!  If this is how I feel, I can only imagine how a woman in my situation might feel.  This is nothing against women, but it is a fact that just “13 percent” of women are Wikipedia editors.  I don’t like that number one bit.  I went to an all-male high school, and one of the things our United States Government and Politics teacher said was that we were missing out on half of the world’s opinions since we are all male.  We were missing out completely on the female perspective to issues.  We discussed topics that divide men and women such as abortion and were very one-sided in our arguments.  It is no stretch to think that by a lack of female Wikipedia editors that we as a society are missing out on different ideas.  It is not in the nature of women to edit Wikipedia articles (nor is it in my nature!), but if that 13 percent number was closer to 50, it could only help the quality of Wikipedia.  Wikipedia thrives on the idea of open-source knowledge for all.  The more people and different groups of people who share their ideas and wisdom can only further advance society and the quality of it.

Have you ever edited a Wikipedia article?  Did you feel scared?  Do you think your gender affected your decision on whether or not to edit something?  Comment below and share your experience.

Google It!

What year did William the Conqueror lead the Normans in a victory at the Battle of Hastings? Google it!  How many touchdown passes did Tom Brady throw this weekend? Google it!  When was the last time there was a super-majority in the United States’ federal government? Google it!

Society has evolved to the point that one you think of a question, you have the ability to get an answer.  Nearly ten years ago, this type of need for information was not as clear.  When someone would think of something, it was “Maybe I’ll Google it when I get home, provided I remember it.”  With today’s smartphones, answers to the questions above and any others can be obtained in just seconds.

Google, along with other search engines, has also affected researching.  Some argue for the good, some for the worse.  In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center titled “How Teens do Research in the Digital World”, it was determined that while 77% of teachers believe that the internet has had a “positive impact”, at the same time, 64% believe that today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically”.

Google-wikipedia

I believe in the former; the ability to have information in seconds as opposed to waiting weeks to acquire it far outweighs any negative impact the internet can have on learning.  My favorite high school teacher, a recent MIT graduate and one of the smartest people I know, stated that his degree should be from the “University of Wikipedia”.  This is testament to the fact that Wikipedia is a wonderful source of information and should not be discredited by educators as garbage.  In a study in 2005 by the journal Nature, it was discovered that Wikipedia was as accurate as world renowned Encyclopedia Brittanica.  This study conducted over 10 years ago points to the fact that Wikipedia is extremely accurate and only continues to become more accurate.  Sure, Wikipedia can be vandalized more easily than any other encyclopedia, but the chances of this are rapidly decreasing with dedicated servers and spam catching software utilized by Wikipedia to clean up their articles.

Why must educators continue to bastardize Wikipedia and Google as corrupt and unreliable sources when they are proven to be as reliable or in some cases more reliable than scholarly resources?  What is your experience in using these sites? Comment below.

Unplugging the Cord

It is often taken for granted how much we as Americans depend on and rely on technology.  Recently, I did a 25 minute experiment, where I was without any of my electronic devices and just walked around my college campus.  One of the first things I noticed while on this journey was the sense that I was missing something.  The half pound mass that usually rested on my thigh was no longer there, and my brain was sending alert messages to my body.  I was afraid that this anxiety would keep me from enjoying the unplugged experience and could also result in my loss of a sense of time.  In Emily Skorin’s “How a Plugged in College Student Spent 24 Hours Without Tech”, this same concern was addressed.  Much to her surprise and my surprise, this was not the case and being unplugged “turned out to actually be relaxing”.  The urge to look at one’s phone and other electronic devices actually has a name: Impulsive Digital Isolationist Tendencies (I.D.I.O.T.).  Shawn Parr highlights this in his article, “Are You an Idiot?”  After the first ten or so minutes of my experiment, my brain ceased to worry about not having my phone.  My mind then did something that it hasn’t done in a while; it wandered.  I began to pay attention to small details of a campus that I have walked around on for over a year.  I was amazed as to how much information and details I was missing out on in my world.  Do I really look at my phone that often, or has technology prevented me from looking into the details of the world around me?  As time passed on my walk around campus, I started to lose a sense of it.  Without a phone or watch that I could look down at and see precisely what time it was, I was left to my own instincts and sense of time.  I was able to almost guess 25 minutes had passed (I finished at 26 minutes, when I believed it to be 25) without the use of a clock.  This is testimony to the power of the brain, and its ability to have a sense of time.  Maybe this skill was acquired on the football field, or perhaps it was acquired in the classroom while gazing at the clock.  Either way, it goes to show how powerful the brain is, and how we should exercise that power just to see truly what our capabilities are.  Emilie Reas highlights this brain power in her Scientific American article “Your Brain Has 2 Clocks”.  These clocks keep our bodies in check and keep us on top of our lives to make sure routine steps such as taking a shower do not continue indefinitely.  We can try to be “unplugged”, but we will never be unplugged from the power of the brain, and perhaps that is a good thing.

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you were truly “Unplugged”? Comment below, and share your experience.

Memes

Texting, the death of a language?

Futurama Meme

liam meme

Maury Meme

Many doomsday theories have come about since the advent of texting.  These memes address these theories, and for the most part, declare them as hoaxes.  The primary audience for these memes are average American adults with basic cultural literacy.  The visuals were chosen to be humorous with the captions that they go with.  The Futurama meme does not require a whole lot of cultural literacy to appreciate because the face Fry is making is pretty self-explanatory.  Many literary critics have asked themselves whether or not texting is a form of laziness or a sign that English will never die.  The Liam Neeson meme is a reference to the popular movie “Taken”.  Just as Liam was ready to take out the anonymous threatening caller in “Taken”, he also has had enough with texting doomsday theories.  The last meme is the Maury meme; this meme probably requires the most cultural literacy.  In the show, Maury reads off lie detector results in a dramatic fashion, and whenever the test comes up negatively, he always says the iconic line “that was a lie”.  In this meme, Maury is discrediting the texting English language doomsday theories.  These memes were created to both prove a point and to be humorous, much like a comic.  The humor mixed in the facts behind these memes is hopefully enough to get someone to share it.  The overall argument behind these memes is that texting is not the end of the English language, but rather is an advancement of the language.