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Tech Thursday: OGP

18 December

This week, we just have one question: You down with OGP?

Please enjoy this rap about microdata. Need a bit of background? See our previous serious video on microdata.

Lyrics and Rapping: Nicole Ouellette
Video capture and editing: Kassie Strout

Here are the full lyrics:

OGP, how can I say it
Take it like Facebook takes it
An online information system, I’ll explain it
O is for open
G is for graph
P is for protocol like how things work.
Together it’s internet two point oh, let me explain
Facebook invented this so when you share a link
Facebook’s prepared to know just what to think
Like if you have a song and want to say the album name
how long it lasts, and who the artist is
OGP let’s you put it in your code to tell it like it is

Get down with OGP
Facebook knows me
Get down with OGP
LinkedIn knows me
Get down with OGP
Websites know me
Come on come on let me show you what I’m talking about

I’m using OGP like a broader concept
Schema code’s the same idea but still a bit different yet
It’s a markup code that covers a few more things
Like has products and people settings
Have you ever see someone’s recipe in your Pinterest search
With a list of ingredients as part of the written work
Click their pin and you see their blog and all their creds
That’s data being collected and spread.
How does Google know I’m the Nicole Ouellette
that writes the articles on this very concept?
I had to add the markup code all up in my site
so search engines come index it and place nice.
You web types know what I’m getting at?
Think Google has the time to figure where you at?
Then you don’t understand what Moores law’s all about
The internet doubles every 5 years so stand out!
OGP and Schema also means when your friends share
Your website on a social media, the info follows them there
Microdata for social and search is what you gotta know, if your website’s gonna grow

Schema and OGP
Google knows me
Schema and OGP
Bing knows me
Schema and OGP
Yahoo knows me
Schema and OGP
Everybody knows me
Schema and OGP
The Internet knows me
Come on come on let me show you what I’m talking about

When I hear a brother talking metatags or keyword domains
I know his information is old like old school days
Doesn’t know search engines have changed the rules
Since ‘94 we’ve got lots more tools.
Knowing Schema and OGP can get your famous
No room for keyword stuffing SEO B.S.
If you want on-page optimization that plays by the rules
Those ignoring microdata are playing fools.
So whether your peeps are on their phones
Or sitting at their computer all alone
They look for information and OGP and Schema hook them up
And your website is what’s coming up.

Peace. Breaking Even represent. Old school’s cool for rapping but new school’s cool for websites.

The Joy of Missing Out

16 December

This is the time of year when everyone gets frazzled, spreading themselves as thin as possible to maximize the amount of social interactions and parties they attend. As an indecisive person, I can appreciate the relief that comes from saying “Yes” to everyone rather than having to say “No” to a few. Some people grapple with the whole “the grass is greener” mentality that comes with being forced to choose between events (i.e. committing to one party, only to spend the entire time wondering how much more fun the other one is). It’s 2014, you’d think someone would have figured out how to be in two places at once by now. Until then, we’ll just have to cope with holiday season FOMO.

The idea of FOMO started a few years ago, and is defined by Wikipedia as “a form of social anxiety, whereby one is compuslively concerned that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event.”   The article goes on to explain that the root cause of this social anxiety is our strong connections to social media and technology. For some people, when their phone dies or they find themselves without internet access, it’s an incredibly stressful ordeal. They feel like they’re missing something…and it doesn’t really matter if they can’t articulate that “something”- the anxiety, for whatever reason, is still present.

The dependence and anxiety attached to social media and the desire to check in constantly has also been described as addictive behavior. Given the right situation, I can absolutely relate to the behaviors they describe- checking Facebook just one last time or Ok, I’ll set my phone down now- OH WAIT did it just ring?!  Somewhere along the way, our brains are rewarding us for this behavior, so we keep going. Attached to FOMO is also the idea that if we turn down one invitation with a group of people, then they’re NEVER going to invite us out ever again, or have such a great time that they completely forget our existence. Is any of this rational? Probably not. But, it is happening.

To emphasize the irrationality of FOMO, there’s this video from College Humor from a year or so ago. It takes the whole idea of FOMO and turns it into something we can all laugh at (for those of us who weren’t laughing already).

Less than a year after the dawn of FOMO came JOMO, or the “Joy of Missing Out.” As the name suggests, JOMO is FOMO’s alter ego. It’s a night when, sure, you’ve maybe gotten a few invites out, but staying in and reading or binge-watching whatever you want on t.v. is more appealing, so that’s exactly what you do. Sans regretJOMO is being comfortable admitting, “Yeah, I’d rather to hang out at home tonight,” and be cool when other people share pictures on Facebook (or wherever else). It’s about being confident that your decisions are bringing you joy, even if they aren’t “exciting” or “worthy” of a status update.

Along the lines of JOMO, this article argues that social media works best when it works to improve relationships among humans. Check out Tom and Donna’s interactions below. Sure, they’re a tad social media obsessed, but they’re having fun, even if they’re methods of interacting totally baffle Ron (and probably a lot of other people).

At some point, we have to take ownership for what’s going to bring us fear or joy. As Anil Dash puts it: “Being the one in control of what moves me, what I feel obligated by, and what attachments I have to fleeting experiences is not an authority I’m willing to concede to the arbitrary whims of an app on my mobile phone.” Unless you’re having an impossible time of trying to change your account settings or something along those lines, it sounds silly to utter the words “Facebook made me sad.”

In other words: it’s your life, do whatever you want (unless it’s illegal or otherwise jerky).

 

Press Release 101: Using Imagery

12 December

So, we’ve gone over the nature of a press release and how to write one. Press Release Part 3 discusses how to add images that tie your words together.

PressRelease_Images

Every picture tells a story.

Include an eye-catching photo that will draw attention to your press release when it’s published.  Make sure you:

  • Send it as a separate attachment
  • Do not embed it in a Word Document. These are a pain to extract, and the quality is often poor and unusable.The best photos will be taken digitally. Some folks will scan a print and send that as an email, but the end result will be a copy of a copy, leading to poor reproduction.Make sure it’s sized correctly. A digital image that’s between 12-24” at its maximum length or height at a resolution of 72 dpi (dots per inch) is more than sufficient. Often news outlets get photos that are merely thumbnails (1”-2” at maximum) that can’t be enlarged without becoming distorted and unusable
  • Make sure it’s in-focus and well-lit.
  • Include the name of the person, or persons, seen in the photo.
  • Provide the name of the person or organization in the photo credit
  • Do not use any special filters or borders such as those seen often on Instagram.

Once you’ve pinpointed the perfect image to go along with your release, it’s ready to be sent off into the wild. What can you expect after hitting “Send”? Stay tuned for Part 4!

Tech Thursday: Microdata 101

11 December

As Nicole says, this week we’re going “meta.”

You may have noticed, some links that get shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. look really great, while others…not so much. Why is that?

Microdata, my friends! Microdata is defined as “a WHATWG HTML specification used to nest metadata within existing content on web pages. Search engines, web crawlers, and browsers can extract and process Microdata from a web page and use it to provide a richer browsing experience for users.”

Tools like Open Graph Protocol, Schema, Rich Snippets, and Twitter Cards help you markup data within the content of your website, so when it gets shared by other people on different sites, it’ll still look good. Plus, it makes people and search engines happy. Win-win!

And, stay tuned for next week- we have a pretty exciting video about OGP coming up!

Website Launch: Community Development Society

09 December

cdsdesktopview

cdsmobileviewWhen a website is meant to serve a lot of people, you have to balance the needs of everyone.

The Community Development Society has hundreds of members worldwide. Many are involved in committees within the organization (so they need access to info regular members wouldn’t get). And, just like any membership organization, CDS has to attract new members and provide enough public information that people understand what the organization does and want to join.

The new CDS website is not only responsively designed but accommodates these separate audiences.

Created in Joomla 3.0, this website not only serves as a resource to thousands of visitors a month but shows what an open source CMS like Joomla is capable of in terms of function and customization.

Member Only Area

All members receive log in information when they join the organization. Once logged in, members see a special sidebar of content only they can access.

Members who want to blog are assigned permissions to do so and they can add and edit their posts on the website without accessing more sensitive areas.

As per the organization’s request, the profiles are connected to an internal social network, allowing logged in members not only to post to forums, create blogs, or see specific content but also create and maintain a profile that others can see and connect with… you know, once logged in. (We’ll be working with CDS this winter on further refining this feature with the help of member feedback.)

cdsloginonlystuff

Tagged Content

The homepage of the website displays the organization’s most important information for members and non-members alike but since the organization does publish content on social issues and about a variety of locations, it was important for this website to be able to have tagged content.

Tagging ensures people can move around the website and browse easily on topics most of interest. (The search feature is great if you know exactly what you’re looking for but tags can let you stumble upon cool content.)

cdsresponsivegoogleform

cdsresponsivegoogleform-mobileviewGoogle Apps Integration

The organization wanted the ability to have forms on their site but, rather than submissions getting sent via email, wanted them in a spreadsheet committees could edit and access easily.

Since they have been using Google Apps over the last year, this seemed like an opportunity to use them to handle conference submissions in a way that would cut down back and forth emails (they are all stored in a spreadsheet) and allow people to access/edit them while keeping a copy of each revision.

Not sure why anyone would want to fill out an in-depth form like this on a phone but it’s responsive too.

Training Videos

Because members are in many locations (and more than a handful of people needed to be trained on website updates), it made sense to make video tutorials on how to do things on the site (in 5 minute increments or less).

Every time someone asks about something, we make a video and put it on CDS’s own private Vimeo channel, in addition to the videos we thought necessary to have at site launch. This way, if someone forgets or a new person takes over, they are a short, fun video away from being able to do something on their website.

Though we launched this site back in May (!), we have only just now had time to write about it. So congratulations to CDS on their site and here’s hoping it inspires not only membership but activism in community development, a worthy cause indeed.

Press Release 101: Writing and Formatting

05 December

Last week, I gave an overall explanation of press releases and their purposes. Part 2 breaks down the writing process and the different elements of a successful press release.

PressRelease_Writing

 Writing the press release

Here’s a breakdown of the components of a standard press release:

Header

The header of your press release needs to include the name of a contact person who is authorized to speak with the press and can answer a few follow-up questions from a reporter, or will at least know who to direct the report to. A phone number and email address are must-haves. 

Authorization

Start your press release by denoting when the newspaper or website is allowed to publish your submitted material. If your press release can be published at any time, start it off with “For Immediate Release.” Otherwise, let them know when the release can be published. Example: “Embargoed until Nov. 14” or “Embargoed until 3:30 p.m. Dec. 23.”

Headline

Keep it short, about 9-12 words. Nine times out of 10, the editor is going to change it anyway to suit their style, or for space constraints. That’s a sad fact of life, but always include a headline anyway.  By catchy without being cutesy. Don’t use clunky jargon in your headline (or in the rest of your copy for that matter). 

Examples:

Right: Springfield farm gives at risk youth another chance
Wrong: It’s not just ‘another day’ on the Farm for local at-risk youth who can benefit by some ‘hard work’!

Right: National Republican leaders to sound off on midterm elections
Wrong: ICYMI: RNC, NRSC, NRCC, RSLC Hold Press Conference on Midterm Election Results (Note: this is a real-life example from an organization that ought to have known better.)

Dateline

The dateline isn’t a date, it’s actually a location, and the only thing you’re allowed to write in all-caps. Include your state in the dateline if you’re in a smaller community.

Example:

BAR HARBOR, Maine

WASHINGTON, D.C.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass.

CHICAGO

OAKLAND, Calif.

NAPILI-HONOKOWAI, Hawaii

Lead

The lead is the first paragraph of your press release, and is usually only one or two sentences long. It includes who, what, when, where how, and why.

The lead can be challenging. You have to convey to the reader — and in your case an editor — why your press release matters to a wide audience in as few words as possible. It doesn’t need to be boring, but it does need to be succinct.

Example:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Clearview Farms in Springfield is giving troubled youth a second chance while giving them some real-world skills. Starting Tuesday, local at-risk students will participate in an innovative program that aids the community and help teens develop a sense of pride in their work.

Body and Style

This is where you can add details and — importantly — quotes. Three or four paragraphs that fills in the gaps left in the lead, and you’re done. Keep it focused on the announcement.

Most news outlets use a specific writing style, the most popular one being Associated Press — or AP — style. AP style is the most prevalent style of writing in news organizations. Even satirical newspaper The Onion uses AP style. Here in Maine, The Bangor Daily News, Portland Press Herald both use AP style. Look to those sources as examples of AP style.

Unless you’re a professional PR firm, you’re not expected to know AP style by heart. But if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll go a long ways to sounding like a pro.

DON’T WRITE IN ALL CAPS! EDITORS FIND THIS REALLY ANNOYING. Remember that most of your press releases will be sent via email and copied/pasted into another document. All-caps creates extra work for the poor schlub that has to retype it. Most papers don’t use all-caps, even in headlines. Plus, it looks like you’re shouting. Don’t shout. It’s rude.

Also, no exclamation marks!!!!!! News stories rarely, if ever, use them.

Like the majority of your press release, your quotes need to be in the past tense. When using a direct quote, use “said,” as oppose to “noted,” “exclaimed,” “pointed out,” “according to,” etc. Punctuation is kept on the inside of the quotes. 

Example:

Right: “This program gives teens a sense of pride in their work which they may not get anywhere else,” said Maura Dwyer, Clearview board chairwoman. “Youth are benefiting in ways we’ve never seen before.”
Wrong: “This program gives teens a sense of pride in their work they might not get ANYWHERE else”, exclaims Maura Dwyer, Clearview board board of directors chairwoman. “Youth are benefiting in ways we’ve never seen before!”

Tag

This is where you can give a little history and background information.

Example:

Clearview Farm is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that has, since 1985, used agriculture as an educational tool for urban and inner-city youth. Located on a historic sugar beet ranch owned by the Kardashian family for 150 years, the 300 acre farm produces organic kale, rutabaga, asparagus, and other vegetables. A seasonal working maple sugar hut produces award winning syrup. Sales from Clearview products found at local farmers markets and grocers go to benefit the Human Fund. Go to www.clearviewisnotarealfarm.com for more information.

Folks who get it right

Take a look at these links for examples of a few press releases done right for inspiration, paying special attention to the body:

Apple has an entire page on their website dedicated to press releases.

Apple has an entire page on their website dedicated to press releases.

…One more thing:

Two eyes are better than one. If you’re a small business and issuing the press release yourself, make sure you get a second person to proof your press release for spelling and grammar before sending.

And next week, we’ll discuss how to use an image to bring it all together.