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Is content en mass better than content quality?

A critical look at two different approaches to developing an


online presence.

The task that we were set at the beginning of the subject was to
‘craft a specific online presence’. This has involved developing a
specific persona around a personal interest, fictitious character or
other such appropriate theme. Bloghosting websites have catered to
this task with their adaptability, customisation options and ease of
content creation. Other platforms like Google Sites offer a more
complete and flexible solution in terms of content and appearance.
However Google Sites also requires a higher level of technical
knowledge and expertise than many bloghosting websites. After
exploring both methods of producing an online persona I aim to
critically reflect on which has provided a better outcome for my
online project.

Over the semester I divided my online presentation into two distinct


sections; the first I focused on content creation and utilized this
method to create an online identity, the second I concentrated on
the quality of the content and integrating new web technologies.
These two approaches presented their individual problems and
challenges, and both developed my skills with writing for a blog/web
environment, and presenting myself while constrained by the online
environment. When changing from one project to the other and
realising the differences in approach I would have to adapt to, I
made sure that I utilised the correct platforms to base my projects
around.

From the outset this project was daunting and without careful
planning I realised my project could very quickly fall behind
schedule. With this in mind I decided to focus on something that I
already took part in on a regular basis, which was music. This
proved to be a simple and flexible subject, but I focused my content
on one particular aspect of my musical interest. Triple J Unearthed is
an online band comp, run by radio station Triple J. It dedicates itself
to ‘unearthing’ new bands and allows them to host their songs for
free on the Unearthed site. Being an avid listener of Triple J and a
constant reviewer on Triple J Unearthed I started to formulate ideas
on how I could incorporate my passion into my class project.

The availability of free and easy to use bloghosting sites has spurred
the growth of the blogosphere. Sites like Wordpress, Blogger and
Tumblr have helped the number of blogs to grow from 53 million in
2007 to 212 million today (Keen, 2007). I chose to use Tumblr as the
platform for my blog, And For Tonight’s Main Act, where I could
review bands, songs and related media that appeared on
Unearthed. I felt that Tumblr offered the best content flexibility and
ease of use, while its content creation process was simple and
straightforward. Also it meant that I could actively look for and
participate in communities related to my theme and topic. This is a
great advantage of bloghosting sites, the ability for communities to
join with each other, snowballing their membership and
participation rate in an easy to use environment.

Communicating in a blog environment is vastly different to


communicating in a face-to-face environment, it requires prompt
engagement of the reader and opinionated points of view, whilst
still maintaining fair and unbiased facts. I concentrated on not only
relaying my opinion but trying to make that opinion knowledgeable
and informative, not belittling bands that I didn’t like but
constructively criticising. I took this approach after reading Andrew
Keen’s 2007 Cult of the Amateur.

In Cult of the Amateur, Keen highlights the rise of citizen journalism


in a negative light. He refers to citizen journalism as ‘a euphimism
for what you or I might call “journalism by non-journalists”’ (2007).
Keen is describing here what he see’s as the decline of credible
information, ‘citizen journalists have no formal training, yet they
routinely offer up opinion as fact, rumour as reportage and
innuendo as information’ (2007).

Once I had the style of communication understood, I developed a


notion of what content would appeal to musicians, and especially
lovers of the indie genre, as most music listened to on Triple J is
aimed at this section of the community. The success of my blog
relied on the integration of different types of media into a
multimedia platform. I developed a weekly schedule and included
Youtube music videos, hosted audio tracks and text based reviews,
aiming to update my blog daily, therefore increasing the content
variety and developing my blogs style.

Updating ‘And For Tonight’s Main Act’ daily worked well, my own
style and preferences came to the fore and represented my
personal taste in music. I had comments from people liking the
content and the number of people listening to the music I had
posted was going up, counted on an online music player embedded
into the blog. However, the daily updates soon stopped and I found
myself bored by the lack of overall variety in content and content
delivery. I found that although content en mass is visually appealing
and can attract a large group of followers, it takes a large amount of
time and effort to maintain such a site, an amount that proved too
much for me provide.

The second project I embarked on was a clear start from a new


direction. Instead of focusing on the content, I would try and focus
on the delivery and integration of new web technologies, especially
those we discussed in class. This would in turn make the content
varied and interesting, meaning readers would still be drawn to my
project. Although the format of my last attempt wasn’t successful,
the decision to base it around something that I like or am already
involved in proved to be logical, and this time I chose to base it
around marketing strategies employed by many forward thinking
companies around the world.

Pull marketing is a new non-traditional style of marketing that


requires the company to promote their product by drawing the
customer to them, rather than attempting to push the product onto
the customer. This is done by analysing key areas like brand
performance and product branding to make the product interesting,
cool or unique. This choice of topic complemented my aim to use
diverse web technologies because the subject matter was diverse
and easily presentable in different formats.

Differences in approach to this second project also meant a different


attitude to content production from the first. While I tried to create a
lot of content And For Tonights Main Act, by adhering to a weekly
schedule it meant that my content was of a diverse nature day-to-
day but standard week to week. In my second project, A
deconstructed. Experiment, I tried to create as much of a variety of
content formats as possible, utilising most web technologies that I
came across and focusing on the ones discussed in class.

Using Google Sites as a platform base allowed greater flexibility in


presentation than my previous blog on Tumblr. It offers various
themes from which to start your site. These can then be altered and
changed easily, with almost every element of the site
interchangeable and malleable. I created A deconstructed.
Experiment with simplicity in mind, keeping the focus on the
content and its delivery was my main goal. Google Sites proved to
be a more complex and challenging project base to work from, as it
requires higher levels of technical knowledge, for instance basic
understandings of html were required to embed some items and
adjust theme settings. When comparing Google Sites to Tumblr it
appeared that they both complimented their projects, Tumblr
allowed me to create content easily and rapidly, and in many media
formats, whilst Google sites encouraged me to experiment with
different technologies through allowing greater flexibility in the
presentation of my project.

As an extension of my profesional style project, A deconstructed.


Experiment, I created a personal page, Michael At UOW, detailing
who I am, my past career and work experience, and what work I am
currently doing for a variety of sources. In our DIGC101 lecture Chris
best described it as our ‘online CV’ and that’s what I attempted to
make it, a personal website as a professional presentation. I
included my current details, links to my social networking accounts,
items that I was currently working on for uni and work, as well as
my in class blog for DIGC101.

To better utilise the web technologies I was integrating, I also found


ways to combine them and present them together, as one
embedded in another. This is how I presented my class blog on my
personal Google Site. I used Scribd to host posts that I had written
on Tumblr and embedded them as a series of blog posts on ‘Michael
at UOW’. This increased the visual quality of my content and made
my site more of a collection of web technologies that were
integrated and inter-related, rather than operating separately of
each other.

A key component of my second web project was to make the home


page interactive and regularly updated without it becoming
tiresome and routine. I solved this issue by including a RSS Feed
onto the home page of my personal page, Michael at UOW. This
would display the titles of any new posts from my Tumblr account,
which I regularly updated with class blogs and links to A
deconstructed Experiment. This linking of project-to-project-to-class
blog made my project link in a lot better than my first project, And
For Tonights Main Act.

Comparing the two online projects I completed during this semester


I have come to realise that they represent two different approaches
to presenting yourself online. My first blog, And For Tonight’s Main
Act which was based on music critique, and promoting bands on
Triple J Unearthed, represents a content-based design. Tumblr
promoted this arrangement by providing an easy-to-use interface as
well as multimedia entries. Its customisable themes, fonts and
menus allowed presentation flexibility and contributed to my online
project. An advantage of bloghosting sites like Tumblr is that they
allow for the development of communities. I took advantage of this
by participating in other blogs and sources related to Triple J
Unearthed.

My second project, A deconstructed. Experiment, was a professional


blog, based around a relatively new style of marketing, known as
push marketing. It focused on the quality and diversity of content,
as well as integrating web technologies into a seamless
environment. My aim was to have these web technologies working
together and looking like they belonged, rather than a disjointed
collection of information. Incorporating new styles of presenting
information like YouTube, Scribd, Delicious, Flickr and RSS Feeds
into a Google Site meant I was uniting these technologies onto a
customisable platform. Google Sites as a platform offered flexibility
and ease of use, but it required a higher level of knowledge,
especially in web design to get the most out of its features. Overall,
I believe that quality of content and integration of web technologies
allowed A deconstructed. Experiment to have a much stronger
online presence. Focusing on the presentation rather than the
content allowed me to utilise much more of the available technology
on the web, therefore still allowing mass content to be displayed.
References:

Keen, A, 2007, The Cult of the Amateur: How Todays Internet is


Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy, Nicholas Brealey
Publishing, London