Life Skills and All that Jazz

Well, school has started and I’ve been off this blog for a surprising amount of time. It’s unfortunate, but I’ve been REALLY busy preparing for this coming semester and, in some cases, plunging in. This semester, I’m taking on a lot. I’m signed up for 16.5 credits of classes (though I will likely drop a class by the end of the week), I’m running the biggest section of our on-campus newspaper, I’m taking a position with my sorority, and I’m working 10 hours a week still at my internship. Not to mention that I’m in a long-distance relationship that is just not-terribly-far enough that I talk myself into driving the 2.5 hours to his place just about every other weekend. (He comes here on the off weekends, so it’s fair, at least). It’s a lot to juggle.

So lately, I’ve been working a lot less on my media and communications skills (although I’m currently redesigning the company website banner at work, which has been fun) and a lot more on my life organization skills. Somehow, I missed that crucial learning process when I was younger. I’ve always been a high-functioning clutterbug, procrastinator and all-around disorganized person, and it was never a problem. Until now. The stuff:time ratio has exceeded the capacity of my current lackluster organization skills.

Here’s what I’ve been working on lately:

1. Keeping a planner. I’ve tried to do it a thousand times in the past. I even tried last semester. But I’ve never quite gotten the hang of it. Usually, I forget to mark things down in my planner and the thing quickly becomes obsolete and lies forgotten in some drawer. This semester, however, I’ve got a new system. Every time I get a list of deadlines (and I’ve gotten quite a few already in the form of syllabi and newspaper issue lists), I sit down at the end of the day and mark it down in my planner. Things like professor’s office hours and useful email addresses also go in there. And instead of writing everything in different-colored pens (which usually was my downfall since I didn’t take all my pens everywhere), I write everything down in black pen and then highlight the important stuff in a variety of colored highlighters, which can be done at a later date. So far, this is working well.

2. Organizing the inbox. Email is the scourge of my existence. I hate it. (Let’s be real- doesn’t everyone?) And I currently have four email accounts. One for school, one for work, one for the newspaper and one personal account. On any given day, each of them is likely to receive 30 or more emails. So I’ve taken up the habit of having all my emails forwarded to one email account, my school account, which is on Gmail. And just today, I figured out how to create labels for my emails and color code each email. Now it’s about a hundred times easier to find a particular email in my inbox because it’s color coded accorded to topic. It’s awesome. Is it sad that I can work PhotoShop with ease but I only just figured out how to organize my email? Talk about one-sided.

3. Putting papers in a binder. Yeah, I know, folks. We’re in the basics here. I told you I missed a few life lessons along the way. Last semester, I’m pretty sure I would have done better in all of my classes if only all my papers had been in a binder and not scattered across my desk, in my purse, in my car, etc. Until now, papers just sort of stayed in the first place I put them down and then when I had to find my syllabus to check a due date at the last minute, I was SOL. But this year, I finally broke down and paid the $5 for a three-hole punch and it is going to change my life, I’m convinced. All my papers from this week are already in there. It’s wonderful.

 

Other quick fixes I’ve employed lately:

1. Making my bed every morning. I’m so much less likely to want to cry when I walk into my room at the end of the day if I do this.

2. A hook by the door for keys. Last semester alone (we’re talking 3-4 months tops), I temporarily misplaced my keys or forgot to take them with me no less than eight times. Now I always know where to find them and I look at them every time I walk out the door.

 

None of this is revolutionary, I know. But it’s amazing what a few quick, simple organizational habits can do.

This Week in Social Media

I’ve been following social media news this week, and it seems that the social media world is grappling with some tough issues, such as:

What does and does not constitute free speech in social media?

According to U.S. District Court Judge Raymond A. Jackson, “liking” something on Facebook is not protected under freedom of speech. He ruled so in a case of a Virginia deputy sheriff being fired after “liking” the page of the sheriff’s opponent during his campaign. The former deputy sheriff has appealed this ruling and this week, the American Civil Liberties Union and Facebook itself have both come out in support of the former deputy sheriff.

At my work with a union, we’ve been facing a similar issue. With elections for union officials coming up this year, we’ve had to face either shutting down the union Facebook page completely (because candidates and other union members cannot publicly campaign for the elections) or whether to moderate the page to keep comments regarding the elections off the page, but legal council has deemed this a freedom of speech issue so the page will remain shut down until after elections.

Should social networks be ad-free, and at what cost?

App.net, a mobile app development company (according to its About page), has raised $600,000 toward building an ad-free version of Twitter.

The project has raised funds through “crowdfunding” inspired by an entry on one of the co-founders’ personal blogs, rife with language that reminds me a lot of the scene in The Social Network where Jesse Eisenberg accuses Andrew Garfield of wanting to “end the party early” by monetizing Facebook with advertising.

Sure, advertising may not be cool, but social networks are driven by teenagers and I doubt that users are going to want to pay App.net’s $50 per year basic access fee. Not with the number of scares I’ve seen on Facebook wherein misinformed users protest the “plan” to start charging to use Facebook in the future.

Is it possible to use social media to end (or alleviate) the unemployment crisis?

According to Jackalope Jobs, yes. The new jobs website is not another Monster.com or Craigslist. Jackalope Jobs promises to optimize your job search by connecting with your various social networks– Facebook, LinkedIn, or Plaxo– to import your qualifications and point out your most valuable contacts in your network. You can search jobs from the dashboard of the site and it will sort jobs by a ranking based on your credentials and your connections.

I’ll be entering the job market within the next year and if this website actually revolutionizes Internet networking, I’ll definitely be looking into it.

What have you heard about in social media news?

Lessons In Blogging- Learning from the Pros

I’m still very new to this whole blogging thing. My only claims to fame in the blog world are my old Livejournal (more of an online diary, really) that I’ve had since early 2010 and which is now currently hidden under pretty strict privacy settings, and the one blog I wrote for Baltimore City Paper before I left.

Because of my lack of experience and my eagerness to learn more about PR, I’ve been casually following a new blog that I recently stumbled across, Spin Sucks. Spin Sucks discusses social media, marketing and PR without taking the angle of “spin doctors.” After all, I’d like to think most of us are not out to lie for a living. I know I’m not. Their recent article, Eight Common Blogging Mistakes, is full of useful information for new and old bloggers alike, from using internal links to making your posts easy to share through social media.

I’ll definitely be going back through WordPress’s widget options tonight to see if I can make my blog available on an RSS feed or something of the like. Hopefully, the link-happiness of this post was useful instead of annoying.

Over the next week or so, I think I’m going to set myself up a new Twitter account, too, and link that to this blog.

An Intro to Infographics- Using Easel.ly

Infographics seem to be the up-and-coming new thing in the communications, marketing and PR world. In my media and communications classes, many of which deal with a lot of theory, we’ve discussed how communications and learning began in the world as a visual process, with cave paintings and hieroglyphs derived from pictographs. Then, the alphabet came into being and writing and language became more widespread. With the advent of the Gutenberg printing press in the fifteenth century and the rise in the use of the vernacular with the help of Martin Luther during the Protestant Reformation, literacy became increasingly prevalent. Subsequently, the storage of information shifted from the visual to the written.

The written storage of information and knowledge went undisputed for centuries, but in the nineteenth century, photography as we know it was invented, quickly followed by the film. Then came TV and the Internet, which have almost entirely obliterated the written/printed forms of communication and information storage. Newspapers have been replaced by news broadcasts and online sources, even by Facebook statuses and Tweets. Watching a television screen is now a far more common source of entertainment than reading. So it is that the visual, the image on the screen, evocative of the painting on a cave wall, has risen up again and subsumed the written.

The infographic makes sense in this world of 140-character communications and visual storage of information. Composed of eye-catching colors, icons, and graphics, it condenses a wealth of information into bite-sized morsels of knowledge.

Today, I decided to explore this new communications device, hoping that doing so wouldn’t require me to use Illustrator, which I do not yet have on my home computer. A simple Google search quelled my worries, since apparently a number of websites have been developed to make the process accessible to those with no training in graphic design software. The first of these, visual.ly, looked promising and would most likely be the best bet for professionals, but it costs $1,500 to get started, so I passed that one over. An article on CMSwire.com recommended easel.ly, which is currently in beta and is free. That’s the one I decided to try.

Easel.ly makes the process of creating an infographic quite simple, a matter of selecting from a number of graphics and design elements and then simply inputting your desired text. While the selection of graphic elements and backgrounds left something to be desired, it was free and beggars can’t be choosers. Over the course of about an hour and a half of experimentation, I created the infographic on this page, choosing to make a graphic about union organizations because I am currently employed in the communications department of a labor union.

All in all, it went well enough and I think if I tried again, I could come up with something even better. If I was better-versed in Illustrator, I might try that instead, but I assume that using this software cuts out a great deal of time, as easel.ly makes creating an infographic a matter of simply choosing, sizing and arranging a number of graphic elements and pieces of text rather than having to individually create every element you wish to use.

Overall, it was a much easier process than I was expecting and one I feel confident I could use in a professional setting, especially after I take a closer look at the infographics that are already out there and see what methods they use to make the information at hand visually appealing.

Hello and Welcome!

Hello and welcome to my blog! As graduation nears and I start neurotically looking at job listings in the communications field and seeing the areas where I am lacking, I am reminded that blogging is a very valuable, even crucial, skill in an increasingly digitized world.

Now that I’ve started it and thrown myself into the blogosphere, this blog will serve a multitude of purposes. First and foremost, I will be using this as a sounding board over which I will splash my thoughts and opinions about current events, what I’m learning in class and at my internships, what’s going on in the media and communications world these days, and other fun things. Additionally, this seems as good a place as any to assemble my portfolio, so I’ll be posting here examples of my work. Expect to see previous work, thoughts and developments on current projects, and ideas of future ones.

I’m new to this whole thing, so I’ll be working on developing this blog to my standards over the next few weeks, so if random pages start popping up all over the place, I do apologize.