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Week 2: Bootcamping It

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Congratulations! You’ve officially completed your first week of ds106 bootcamp. You should be proud of your accomplishments (assuming you did get everything done!). This week, we’ll be continuing to work our way through the ds106 obstacle course as you work further on customizing your blogs, wrap your heads around the wonderful world of tagging, explore the crazy world of copyright, and attempt to complete your very first digital story assignment.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by The U.S. Army

Customizing Your Blog

So, you’ve got WordPress installed, and you know how to write posts and pages. Now what? This week we want you to begin tricking your blog out so that it is a well-oiled machine that reflects a bit of your personality. You’ll be installing themes and plugins as well as changing some of the general settings and options on your blog.

Settings & Options to Customize

  1. Blog Title: First, and foremost, if you haven’t already you absolutely MUST change the name of your blog from “My CMS” to something more interesting. Go to Settings -> General and pick a name that represents you.
  2. Permalinks: Don’t be scared off by this term. Permalinks are just the format that WordPress uses to create links to the content on your site. By default, the permalinks use a cryptic format that looks something like We want the links on your site to be pretty — and to more clearly indicate to someone what the post/page is about and/or when it was created. To do this go to Settings -> Permalinks and choose any permalink setting other than the default.
  3. Menus: Menus are a way for you to organize your content on your blog. The one caveat to using menus is that they may or may not work depending on the theme you are using. So, we recommend choosing a theme for your blog (see below) and then exploring how you might be able to use menus.
Here’s a video that Alan put together that covers permalinks, menus, and other basic WordPress settings:

Plugins to Install

You may have noticed a menu item in your blog called “Plugins.” These are simply programs that people have written to extend the basic functionality of WordPress. For this class, we require you to install a few plugins that will make your blog run better.

  • Akismet: A spam-catching plugin. You most definitely want this one; students are already getting spam comments. If a comment appears and sounds very general (“nice blog, I will return often”), not directly related to what you wrote, and has a link to a business or other vice sort of site, it is most likely spam.
  • Twitter Tools: Allows you to easily and automatically tweet whenever you write a new blog post
  • A Flickr plugin: Choose a Flickr plugin to integrate your blog with your Flickr account. A few possibilities:
  • JetPack: A collection of plugins in one. Adds stats and email subscriptions for comments, in particular.

A set of tutorial videos for installing these plugins is available!

In addition, we encourage to browse the Plugin Repository and install any other plugins that look interesting!!

Changing Your Theme

The theme of your site dictates what your site looks like. By default, you had a theme installed on your site called Twenty-Eleven. It’s a perfectly fine theme, but you probably would like your site to not look like everyone else’s. To that end, you want to install a new theme on your site. For this summer’s edition of ds106, we put together a video about how to install a new theme on your blog:

Tagging #4life (and Some Widget Work)

One concept that you’ll need to wrap your head around as you work through this course is the idea of “tagging” your content. Tags are just descriptive words or phrases that tell us something about your blog post, Flickr image, YouTube video, etc. You’ll want to use these liberally when creating content.

You can add tags to all of your blog posts–on your own site they can be a useful way to freely organize what you create by using descriptive words like “fun” “most challenging” “crazy” “youtube” “silly” “marthaburtisisthebestds106instructorever”. Not to mention “NoOneRunsFasterAndFartherInds106ThanStudensOfCogDog”

But in a course like ds106 where we are also pulling together our section’s content in its own pages – have you seen where your section is listed?

There are ways we can pull tags together.

For this week, and going forward, we want you to experiment with free tagging all of your blog posts (you can easily add tags to posts already published. Go to your post listing, hover your mouse over a post name, and click “Quick Edit”). Make sure every one of your blog posts has at least one tag; more is better!

On your own blog dashboard, go to Appearance -> Widgets. These are bits of content that you can add to the sidebar of your site (how many sidebars you have and the names of them might vary with your theme). Look for the “Tag Cloud” widget on the left, and drag and drop it into your sidebar. If you have several sidebars defined in your theme, you may need to experiment a bit to find the one that shows up on your home page. Save the widget and check out your blog. (while you’re at it, why don’t you play with the other widgets!)

The tag cloud will morph as you tag your posts. It will show what is important on your site as more frequently-used tags get larger.

Now let’s have some fun with competition. By the end of the week, identify what you think is the most well written, interesting, or crazy over the top fun blog post you have done so far. Make sure you tag that post “Section1KicksBootcampButt” if you are in Martha’s class or “Section2RulesBootcamp” in Alan’s section. Get the tag exactly right. By the end of the week we will find out which section tags the best!

Copyright Craziness

This week we’re going to learn a bit about the Creative Commons (CC) movement and how it relates to our notion of copyright and intellectual property. It’s up to you this week to do the research on this topic! Use the power of the Web to learn more about CC and copyright — don’t worry there are TONS of materials online about this topic. We’d like to see what you find and come up with on your own.

When you’re done, write up a blog post in which you share your research findings — what exactly is Creative Commons? In addition, let us know what Creative Commons resources you found most useful and informative. Finally, share your thoughts about how you’ll be licensing your work for this class from here on out — and let us know why you made this choice.

Daily Creates

You’ll be ramping up your daily create work this week. You must complete three daily creates this week — you can pick which ones you do. You should not blog about each one, but you must follow the instructions on the Daily Create page to ensure that your contributions show up on that site (Please keep in mind that it can take services like YouTube and Flickr up to a day for your tagged stuff to show up — this is beyond our control).

Remember, these are meant to be short, quick tasks — do not spend more than 10-15 minutes on them!

What you should do, by the end foofthe week, is to write a summary blog post of your Daily Creates for the entire week, with all of the work you did embedded. Do not just slap the media up there, make sure you link back to the original dailycreate and/or describe the task. And also write about the thinking or process that went into the way you created your own.

And use the categories you set up last week to organize your Daily Create post!

Your First Digital Story

This week, we’re also going to ask you to do your very first digital storytelling assignment from the ds106 Assignment Repository. The Repository is a Web site filled with new media assignments that we’ll be using extensively this semester. Your first assignment is “Say it Like the Peanut Butter,” in which you’ll be creating an animated gif of a clip from your favorite (or least favorite) movie. You must also follow the instructions on the assignment page to ensure that your contribution shows up on the Assignment Repository site.

We’re not going to tell you how to make an animated GIF. Rather, we expect you to use the tutorials on the assignment page and/or do your own research into how to complete this task. This is a little bootcamp exercise to test your resourcefulness. If you get stuck, should you just spin your wheels alone? No–use your tools (cough… twitter) (cough… #ds106 hashtag) to seek help.

We know that this may seem daunting, and we understand that! We’re interested in seeing what you can figure out on your own, and we’re not expecting perfection. Furthermore, we want you to get accustomed to using the Assignment Repository and tagging your submissions properly.

Check out this post from Alan that outlines how to write up ds106 storytelling assignments like a bootcamp pro!

On Writing

Speaking of writing, you should be finding that the way you write on your blog will evolve as you get to understand the space it occupies (and that you own it). We are not looking for academic essays or the usual kind of brain dumps students do to fill blue books.

What we are looking for is that you are thinking about the work you are doing and the topics we present. When you post a digital story piece of media, that is only part of the process. We want to see some evidence of your line of thinking, the inspiration behind it, and the context.

Each blog post must be able to stand on its own as something that makes sense if that is the only thing a visitor reads on your site.

The first thing you need to be doing as much as possible is using hyperlinks when you write in your blog. It is what makes the web a web. When you are writing about one of the videos we assigned or a Daily Create, if a user reads it, will they know what you are referring to? No. Link them to it. When you discuss your previous work, link to it. When you reference a movie that you used to create an animated GIF, link to a page about it (like IMDB or Wikipedia).

For more on this in relation to ds106, see:

Weekly Summary

As always, you are required to write up your activities for the week by midnight on Sunday (9/9) in a weekly summary on your post. Here’s a run-down of what you must include in that summary this week:

  • Embed your three Daily Creates (and/or link to your summary post of Daily Create activity) and tell us a little about the process of creating them.
  • Link to your post about Creative Commons
  • Embed your Digital Storytelling assignment and tell us a little about the process of creating it
  • Reflect upon the process of customizing your blog — what did you have trouble with? Do you feel like your blog is a reflection of you and your identity now? What other things would you like to be able to do in this space?
  • Talk about week two in general: How is your experience of ds106 going? What did you think of bootcamp? What do you need help with?

Also, if you did not manage to successfully embed a video, an image, and a Tweet in your first Weekly Summary post, you must demonstrate to us in this post that you can do it now! If you had trouble with this, seek help this week!

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