Widgets and gadgets: The building blocks of your blog’s layout

What’s a widget?

image courtesy CPA Training Vault.

image courtesy CPA Training Vault.

Aside from templates, widgets will be the most important choices regarding the look and functionality of your blog. Widgets (called gadgets on Blogger) are small visual utilities that display specific content or connect your blog with another social media service.

You most likely already have a few widgets on your blog. Those little boxes with About Me, Archives, Recent Posts, Categories are usually added to your left or right sidebar by default, and they’re some of the simplest and most ubiquitous examples of widgets. But widgets can range from calendars to small games to background music players to, as we discovered last class, a picture of a puppy that changes every day.

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Moderating comments

This is social media, so I’ll be expecting all of you to provide feedback on your classmates’ blogs, like and join their various pages, collaborate, and otherwise interact and connect with each other. In this post, we’ll quickly run through the basics of moderating the many comments you’ll be receiving from your classmates this semester.

By default, WordPress and Blogger are both somewhat restrictive in terms of allowing readers to comment on your blog. This is due to potential abuse of the commenting system by advertising spambots or malicious readers. To comment on your blog, readers usually have to be signed in to their Google or WordPress account. For this course, I encourage you to decrease that security level a bit to allow your classmates and readers to more easily leave comments on your posts. The options in both services are extensive and fairly self-explanatory.

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Discussion settings in WordPress

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Adding links to your blog posts

You’ll often need to include links to other pages in your blog posts, and there are two ways of doing that. Simply pasting a URL into the body of your post looks terrible (especially if the URL is long), and forces readers to go through the extra steps of copying and pasting the URL into their browser instead of simply clicking on the link. Adding links seamlessly on to text makes for a much better-looking and efficient reading experience.

Adding a hyperlink in WordPress

Adding a hyperlink in WordPress

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Starting from the top: Customising your Header image.

Time to get down to business.

Quite a few of you have put together your blogs and drafted your introductory posts well ahead of the deadline, and that’s a great start. I want to use the next few posts to cover a few of the more useful settings and features in your platform of choice.

We’ll start at the top, with your header image. For quick reference, the header (also called banner) image is that blue sphere on a black background at the top of my blog. Depending on the blog template you’ve chosen, you’ll have to use a similarly-formatted graphic or photograph. Templates usually come with a few header image options, but you might want to use one of your own.

My original banner image choice, from Free Web Headers.

My original banner image, from Free Web Headers.

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Commodification and social media…

As media studies students, you’ve no doubt encountered the concept of commodification. It refers to the tendency to regard items, ideas, services etc in terms of their monetary worth, rather than for any other sort of value. In mass communication, the concept is applied to media messages and, as McQuail points out, audiences themselves, both of which can be primarily (if not exclusively) regarded as revenue sources by  media owners.

Image via Benjalink

Image via Benjalink

One of the recurring themes in our class is the idea that social media removes the barriers to entry in mass media, affording audiences access to the tools of media production and distribution that were once only available to those with much greater resources. However, this more leveled playing field has not changed the realities of commerce. If anything, it’s intensified the monetisation of media.

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Social Media Project Example – Behind the Scenes of Modelling

The hallmark of a good social media project (and good communication in general) is getting people interested in a topic they might not otherwise care much about. So it’s to Shonika Greenidge’s credit that her blog on her developing career as a model ended up being one of the most interesting and well-presented of her semester.

BTSOMscreenshot

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Don’t read the comments: A few notes on “online incivility”

Judging by the nature and scope of some of the project ideas I’ve received so far this semester, it’s clear that a lot of you are enthused by the opportunity to create something. To put your work, and thus part of yourself, out there, and control a tiny piece of this vast mediasphere. To connect with an audience of people who you can both teach and learn from. Good! That’s the perspective you’ll hopefully gain or maintain by the end of this course. More than any other medium, social media is about empowerment.

Empowerment, however, can be a double-edged blade.

honestslogans.com

Good advice from the Honest Slogans Tumblr blog.

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