It’s been a long and windy path getting to this moment. At times, it has been difficult. But, it has also been eye-opening and I’m thankful every single day. I went back to school in 2012 when my niece was born. After taking an exorbitant amount of Child Development classes, I shifted gears and pursued an AA in Film Television Media. I had been a radio DJ for 12 years and a video editor for five years prior to going back to school, so it wasn’t a huge stretch. I received an AA in FTVM from Moorpark College in 2015 and a BA in Educational Studies from University of La Verne in Oxnard at the end of 2017.
When I completed my Bachelor’s degree, I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to not give up. I knew if I stopped going to school that I would never go back. So, the frantic search for a Master’s program began. I was so excited when I found the Digital Journalism program at National University. I’ve only taken two classes, but I’m already loving it. Now, I’m on a path that feels right, and I’m surrounded by some amazing aspiring journalists. I’d love to tell you about these talented writers.
Tanya R. Adams
Tanya is a copywriter, life coach and self-admitted tech geek. If you are looking for a freelance marketing specialist or an education writer, visit her professional website here.
Lawrence is a writer with his own travel site for fabulous people. He has made it his mission to travel the globe and give detailed accounts of all the destinations he has visited. Visit his travel site for blogs about his trips to Rio De Janeiro, Prague, Paris and Honolulu.
Toni has a blog that offers something for everyone with varied topics that keep the reader entertained. She has reviewed sports events like basketball, football and martial arts. And, she has also spoken about the dangers of makeup and created various product reviews to help other consumers.
Delores is an aspiring journalist who goes by Renee on her blog. She is also a talented freelance writer, amateur photographer and graphic designer. Renee calls Houston, Texas home, and I look forward to reading more blogs about the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Renee is a news anchor, reporter and personality who grew up in San Diego, California. She is currently working as an Anchor, Multi-Media Journalist and Producer for KYMA News 11 in Yuma, Arizona.
Dana is a storyteller, travel planner and freelance journalist. She has a blog that discusses books, travel and local events in her hometown of Sacramento. She is also working with her husband on a podcast that is currently in development.
My brain hurts, and that can only mean one thing; I just finished reading chapters 10 through 16 in “Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life.” I was hoping to have an epiphany by the end of the book, but unfortunately, I can report no such magical event. It was just as heavy going out, as it was going in.
The big term that is referred to over and over in the book is scale-free network. Although I read every single page in Linked, I still needed to go back upon completion to wrap my head around why this was an important discovery. As Barabási was trying to explain how real networks grow, he discovered they are managed by two laws: growth and preferential attachment. After creating a model that used both laws, he and his team determined that as nodes are added to a network, they prefer to attach to more connected nodes. Those connected nodes are the hubs in a network.
In the 11th link titled “The Awakening Internet,” Barabási explains that although humans created the Internet, it is more similar to an ecosystem than something manmade. It is living a life of its own making it like a cell with all the characteristics of an evolving system. Barabási found that the Internet continues to expand node by node which is the first requirement of a scale-free topology.
Although Linked is more than two decades old, it hinted at something that is a very real concern today: computer self-awareness. It’s something I’ve seen Elon Musk speak about with real concern. Barabási noted that it is impossible to predict the date self-awareness will arrive, but the Internet is already living a life of its own as it evolves and grows each day.
Barabási tackles the issue of the World Wide Web and how fragmented it is in Link 12, The Fragmented Web. He describes the World Wide Web as having different continents that don’t always link directly to one and other and some continents that only have a way in or a way out. Barabási found that although there are billions of documents on the web, we can only reach about 24% of all documents, and the rest are completely unreachable by surfing the web. This is a reminder about the importance of SEO and anchor text to make sure a webpage is found by its audience.
A moment that caught my attention in Linked was when Barabási admitted the challenge of writing a general audience book while focusing on science at the same time. As someone who is not completely savvy when it comes to scientific terminology, I found Linked to be a challenging read. I enjoyed the history of the Internet and the connections Barabási found between the network of the Internet and networks in all other aspects of life. But, I would have been happier with a dumbed down version of the book.
Get ready to put on your thinking cap as we step into the first half of “Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life.” Although I’ve had a few days to let the first nine chapters sink in, I still find myself trying to process all the different studies and technical terms that were mentioned.
Instead of chapters, Barabási has named the sections of the book links. In the second link, Barabási explains the innate desire of human beings to come together. This is a phenomenon that is easily visible on any school playground, in the workplace, and any church on Sunday. Barabási uses a party as an example. He explains how strangers will make their way through a party making connections and creating invisible social links. And, by the end of the party, the guests have created a network.
By link three, Barabási explains the work of Stanley Milgram who rediscovered Frigyes Karinthy’s short stories from 1929 about “six degrees of separation.” Milgram created a study to determine the distance between any two people in the United States, and to his surprise, he found that most people could be connected by 5.5 links. Milgram helped to show that society is quite dense, and that was in 1967. In today’s internet driven world, we can maintain connections over greater distances with ease making the entire planet a large network.
“Small Worlds” is the title of link four, and it’s about the benefits of weak ties in a network. Although I had been struggling with the heaviness of Linked prior to this chapter, this was the one that got my highlighter going crazy. Barabási discusses Mark Granovetter’s paper “The Strength of Weak Ties,” in which he proposed that when it comes to finding a job or spreading the latest fads, we rely on our weakest links. Because our closest friends run in the same circles and are exposed to the same information we are, we need people outside our home group to bring in and take out information. This is information that becomes crucial in understanding the growth of websites online.
While describing Malcom Gladwell’s test to measure a person’s sociability, Barabási begins his explanation of the importance of hubs in a network. According to Gladwell’s research, people who have an easy time making friends are connectors, and Barabási lays the foundation for explaining the similarities between human connectors and hubs on the internet. Because hubs create short paths between two points in a network, they dominate any network they are present in. My head started spinning a bit when Barabási began explaining power laws and their surprising presence in the Web, but the gist of that section is that hubs are what prevent the network from falling apart.
By the eighth link titled “Einstein’s Legacy,” the elephant in the book is finally addressed: Google. As Barabási explains, Google became a hub practically overnight, and it is one of the fittest hubs on the web. In another one of Barabási’s technical and scientific jaunts in the book, he explains the phenomenon known as Bose-Einstein condensation. By studying links and fitness of networks, Barabási states that one node especially displays Bose-Einstein condensate perfectly: Microsoft.
Chapter 13 of “Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia” offers numerous strategies on how to tell a story online successfully, while providing real life examples. In the beginning of chapter 13, Tompkins states that watching TV is a passive activity and perusing the news online requires action. Because of this, Tompkins says that journalists must treat TV and online very differently when thinking about how to distribute a news story.
According to Tompkins, online users can participate in a story by commenting on it, showing it to a friend or family member, or by sharing it on their own websites. When users interact with a story online, it promotes a deeper understanding of the story, so Tompkins says online news stories must be planned with interactivity in mind.
Tompkins found that successful online journalists become skilled at using “search engine optimization,” also known as SEO, to reach the largest audience. Search engines like Yahoo!, MSN and Google have robots that are constantly crawling over new content, and keywords from the story must be embedded in the headline to drive traffic to the story. Tompkins suggests that when online journalists are creating headlines with SEO in mind, they remember that brevity is the first rule, and they only use the words necessary to capture the essence of the story. He recommends journalists also try to think of words or phrases online readers will be using to find information; the more predictable a headline is the better the story’s chances of being found.
One of the best pieces of advice Tompkins provides in Chapter 13 is about how an online site can stand out during the big moments: breaking news, special events and elections. Tompkins simple recommendation is “constantly update.” In order to be a user’s source for breaking news, headlines and lead photos will need to be changed often, and stories should have the date and time so the user can track how often something is being updated.
Everyone has heard the phrase “Don’t bury the lead,” and Tompkins suggests journalists will lose online readers if the lead is buried. Although the online audience will read larger pieces, Tompkins recommends online writing that uses short sentences containing 15 or fewer words and doesn’t exceed 800. Tompkins found online news audiences generally come in two waves: midmorning and midafternoon. The greatest focus should be placed on updating the site during heavy traffic times.
As someone who enjoys spending time behind the camera, I found Tompkins’ advice about tailoring video for the web invaluable. He states that using that wide and medium shots don’t work as well as close-up shots with online video. Tompkins recommends keeping mobile users in mind and making the fonts in online graphics large enough to be read on a small screen. He also suggests keeping camera movement to a minimum because it’s difficult to stomach on a cellphone.
“Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition” (New Riders) by Steve Krug
Although “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” was released over a decade ago, the advice within the book is timeless. Steve Krug has written a book that is easy to digest, and it won’t take a large amount of time. He reports some readers have read it in two hours; it took me about four. Krug opens the book by emphasizing the book’s title and stating that web designers should never expect the user to think; a webpage should be clear, and everything on it should be visible and easy to find. Krug recommends keeping terminology simple, because when terms become too clever, there is the chance the user won’t understand what is meant and that can lead to frustration.
Krug has spent many years observing how users interact with websites, and what he found is that they tend to glance at a webpage rather than read it. Technology has helped speed up our world, and we are always rushing. The mindset of being in a hurry influences how we use the web. Krug found users tend to click on the first thing that jumps out at them on a webpage, and one way to combat users not viewing the entire page is to create a hierarchy that is clear. Krug recommends making the most important item the most prominent and cautions against any extra noise on the page; this can include items that are underlined and webpages that are too busy.
Since webpages are giant billboards that can be sold to advertisers, visual space is a huge commodity. According to Krug, a simple way to free up space on a webpage is to eliminate useless words. Krug suggests removing half of the words on most webpages, and he is certain value won’t suffer. Krug speaks of eliminating happy talk which he describes as promotional writing that is self-congratulatory. He found another source of useless words in instructions. By making everything self-evident, there isn’t a need for step-by-step instructions on a webpage, because the user will already understand the purpose of the site.
One of the most important chapters in the book focuses on the home page. Krug insists that because there are so many items that automatically need to be included on the home page, this section of the website is beyond the web designers control. But, Krug stresses that a good tagline is vital to the success of the site. Taglines are typically placed next to the site logo, and they describe what the site is about in six to eight words. Taglines should be informative and sometimes witty. Krug recommends against generic and vague taglines, because they can lead to user confusion.
Krug’s chapter on usability testing is one of the main nuggets in the book. With easy instructions and guidance, he explains why testing is so crucial and how to do it at a relatively low cost. Since the book is over a decade old, some of the techniques described are outdated, but the crux of his advice is solid; he recommends doing usability testing even if it’s only with one user. Krug found that it’s never too early to test, but often, companies are testing too late. Test and test often is Krug’s enduring advice.
“Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” is full of knowledge and advice that has stood the test of time. It is valuable for anyone seeking a clear and concise presence on the web that will be simple for the audience to use and interact with.
Ladies, I worry this post won’t make me very popular. I could edit it for days and still feel like I haven’t gotten it right. So, please bear with me. This is a subject I have avoided writing about for months while I’ve watched stories unfold in the media and within every aspect of our lives. Yet, it has nagged almost daily at the back of my mind, and today it demanded to be let out. I’d like to start by saying how proud I am of the women who have come forward and shared very difficult stories about sexual assault and sexual harassment with the public. I know how difficult the decision must have been, and your courage has been awe inspiring. I think the day of reckoning was long overdue, and I hope all of you can find peace now that you have spoken out.
For me, however, I will not be hash tagging MeToo or TimesUp anytime soon. I think both movements and organizations are amazing, and if you are struggling, you should look to them for help or seek out a trusted friend. With some of the cases we’ve seen in the news, like the U.S.A. gymnastics story, I have been horrified at the abuse that has come to light. But, there is something else transpiring. There have been complaints of inappropriate behavior in the workplace. In those instances, we have seen a woman complain, and then the man who is being accused is abruptly fired. It has been an almost instantaneous chain of events in some cases. We have gotten to a point in the reckoning where there is no trial, and instead things move straight to the sentencing phase. I think this is why many of the women I’ve spoken to are at the “I’m over it” part of these movements. I’m not quite at that point, but I think some of it has gone too far. This is always what happens in moments of big change; a microscope gets put on a situation, and suddenly, every speck of dust found is a germ that must be eradicated.
I’ve tried to figure out why a woman would feel negatively about a movement intended on making women’s lives better. There are some women who despise other women just because, and I’m not even going to entertain that portion of society. Maybe, as in the example listed above, they feel that the executioner part of the movement has overstepped. Maybe the women who are sick of it have been lucky enough to never have been exposed to leering and inappropriate behavior in the workplace since they work in all female working environments. Maybe they have just been lucky and haven’t had to deal with some of the creeps out there, and I know they are out there.
Those are not my reasons for avoiding the bandwagon, however. I, like you, have experienced harassment in the workplace; I’ve been overlooked for a promotion because of my gender; I have been in an abusive relationship, and I’ve been taken advantage of while intoxicated. But, when I dissected all of those experiences, I could clearly see that I was the common denominator in all of those situations. I am able to look at those experiences and see my part in each and every one of them. Does that mean I think every woman has a part in being harassed or even worse being attacked? No, emphatically no. I can only speak for my own life and experiences. A long time ago, it became obvious that I needed to take ownership of my part. Did I encourage bad behavior? Yes, unfortunately I did. Maybe it was out of loneliness or a desire to be loved, but I know anytime a man was inappropriate with me, it was because I led him to believe that behavior was okay.
So, I have given the Me Too and Times Up movements a lot of thought. At the end of the day, I hope these movements continue to empower women. I know we are still early on in a process that will take decades to correct (big change never comes easy), but it’s hard to watch some of my fellow sisters portraying an image of such weakness. We are women; we are stronger. There is a reason we bring new life into this world. There is a reason we outlive men. We are amazing. But, I think some of us need to take a good hard look at the things that have framed our mental dialogues. You are only a victim if you tell yourself you are a victim. Sometimes a different perspective can shift reality and an identity. I chose a long time ago to live in love and not hate. Maybe that decision helped me take a clear and honest look at the men who have flitted in and out of my life. Were they monsters? Hardly. Were they all amazing human beings? Hardly. But, the one thing I know for sure is that I have been the star in my reality. And, because I am the star, I can own part of every bad deed I’ve experienced. By the same token, I can choose to tell my story from a place of strength and power.
I have endured a harrowing three months. I had emergency surgery, the county I live in has dealt with the largest fire in California’s history, and I seriously tried online dating. The emergency surgery was a big deal at the time, but I seem to be fully recovered. And, the Thomas Fire is ongoing, so I can’t fully comment on its affect other than you can feel it is taking a toll on people everywhere you go, even the ones who didn’t lose their homes. Now, I agree that the third thing listed there shouldn’t be a big deal, but in today’s charged male/female climate, it can be described as nothing less than depressing and fully shocking. When I say I tried online dating, I went all in. I signed up on 3 different sites thinking I had to meet at least one person I connected with. I had a very good filtering system set in place, and I knew what I was and wasn’t looking for. For example, if the dude had pictures with his shirt off and flexing, he was gone. But even with good filters, the experience has left me feeling as though at 43, I may be single forever. And, considering the type of men I met in the last 3 months, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. I’m going to tell you about three of them here, so you can witness what women are up against.
About a month into online dating, I met what I thought could be the one. His pictures actually told a story, and I was instantly drawn to him. When we started emailing, he revealed that he was a retired cop (bonus points- I love cops) and a teacher. The getting to know you seemed to be going great, until I went into the hospital for emergency surgery. While I was in the hospital recovering from surgery, we texted nonstop. It was at that time that I mentioned that I meditate every day, and he responded that the only type of meditation he’d practiced was OM. I had never heard of OM, but I can tell you after looking into it, that isn’t at all like the meditation I practice. Within a week, I stopped hearing from him, and when I reached out to inquire why, I never heard from him again. This is a recurring theme in today’s mock dating world: no explanations, no goodbyes, just straight up cold shoulder.
The second guy I met seemed very cool in the beginning. He suggested we share 5 interesting facts about ourselves, and he loved my 5 facts. One of his facts was that he owns land in Scotland, so he is actually a lord- not too shabby. But, then came the big reveal; he said he needed to tell me that he is in a wheelchair from a dirt bike accident that happened 20 years ago. My first thought was “that’s new,” and I was sort of impressed with myself. I have never been presented with that kind of obstacle before, but I wasn’t going to let it dissuade me from getting to know him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too much later, like 15 minutes, that he revealed he can’t go through the dating rituals that most people do; he said he needed a visual and sexual connection right away and then his heart would follow. I think my first response was “huh?” And, so he went on to explain that he’d need to see how his body responded to mine and how I took direction, to which I asked what kind of direction I’d need. We spent days texting back and forth about how this was what he needed and what he knew in his heart was the way it had to be. I kept saying I wasn’t sold. After less than a week of texting nonstop every day, he vanished.
Now, the third and final guy I’m going to tell you about isn’t nearly as interesting as the previous 2, but he was still curious case study. He too would message me nonstop, although there was nothing romantic or sexual about his messages. He was constantly going on and on about how all the news channels lie and cannot be trusted to deliver any type of true news. During a conversation about the Thomas Fire, which he had been evacuated from, I mentioned the smoky skies being our new normal. To this, I got a page long diatribe about how climate change isn’t real, and it was just cooked up by politicians and news organizations. This immediately set off some warning bells considering I stand with the 97% of scientists who have gone on record acknowledging climate change has been exacerbated by humans. Despite that, I decided to give him another chance. Although within a day, he was going off about different government plots, to which I replied, “do you look for a conspiracy in everything?” As you might imagine, that didn’t go over well, and I received many angry texts in response about how he loves doing research and is a seeker of the truth. I told him I appreciated his love of research, but that I think sometimes too much can lead people to only see the darker side of life. And, with that, I never heard from him again.
So, what did I learn? Well, I’m still putting all of that together. I think it may take a while for dating relations to return to or evolve into a friendlier or even more conscious experience. It is as if people think of the getting to know you process as a disposable one. There are so many options on dating sites that one can throw someone away and have a replacement within a few minutes. Considering I’m approaching my mid-forties, this is not the type of dating I was prepared for. In my day, if you gave someone your number and began texting nonstop it meant you liked each other and would actually go on a date. Did I mention that in all of the above experiences I never met any of those men? I guess it’s easier to walk away and have a shallow text relationship if you never meet the person. But, it leaves me wondering what on earth are all of these men looking for on these dating sites?