This semester at Furman University I’m doing something I’ve wanted to do since freshman year: I’m taking a course in Digital Communications! Among the objectives and goals as part of the course, I’m going to create podcasts, videos, and all sorts of hopefully great content, as well as learn to be a better blogger and social media guru. I’ve always loved the power of broadcasting and the fact that it is accessible to anyone these days. 50 years ago, I’d never have been able to reach people all over the world or all over the US (unless I was really important and / or had access to a TV studio) but now days anyone can send messages out to the world, and the world can answer back! All this power in the hands of the general public, and really for free. I could contact millions of people and spread ideas far and wide without even owning a house or a computer, I could use a kiosk at the library or Starbucks. I don’t need to own a radio tower to get my message heard, just a WordPress account. I can shoot a video on my iPhone and stream it live over the Internet for free. The technology is there, just waiting for someone to come along and use it.
The only thing that technology doesn’t provide, however, is something to say. Even the most impressive transmission systems won’t write your content for you. The most successful blogs, channels, and photo galleries are the ones that bring engaging content to the table. Without content, you are nothing. I’ve seen many blogs that steal and mirror popular content from other blogs, or blogs that have computer-generated “Get Rich Quick!” content, and they’re never extremely popular. In fact, they’re irritating. Nobody likes reading content that sounds like email spam, and even with all the keywords and metadata in the world you’re not going to get repeat visitors if your content is garbage.
That said, let’s consider this website of mine. I’ve been around since at least 2007, but I’ve never quite had a following. My content back then was garbage. Eventually I made an effort, but my writing skills weren’t quite there, and a lot of the topics I mentioned were related to my life and, while interesting to me, didn’t appeal to a broad audience. I started a video series, an audio podcast with some friends (two whole episodes!) and a crazy web story which derailed quickly, but none of these were particularly great content. In taking this course, I hope to improve my content creation skills and produce more interesting posts, podcasts, and videos.
I chose the WordPress blogging platform for this class since it’s open-source, has a great development community, an abundance of plugins, and since I’ve already been using it for my blog. WordPress is updated frequently, has a slick mobile application, and can be customized to be whatever you want it to be. While big blog hosts such as Livejournal and Tumblr have social integration, I chose WordPress.org’s standalone version to free myself from platform restrictions and maintain complete control over my site. WordPress is completely extendable, and can easily become a static content management system, a microblog, or a whole network of sites without much fuss. Of course, you need to follow conventions when creating a custom theme or a custom plugin, but with all the premade themes out there it’s easy enough to find something that fits your style, or at least is close enough.
In terms of a topic I really want to cover over the course of this semester, I see a great opportunity to write about the technical side of my web design and broadcast work. I feel I could share knowledge about the various technologies that I use and my ideas behind design principles, highlight what works and doesn’t work, and create guides to help others understand concepts I’ve had trouble learning from the usual sources. I follow the technology industry at large, particularly the gadget and video game market, and I’m planning to analyze what I read and write opinion columns about newsworthy products and companies that change the industry.
After I graduate from Furman, I hope to have a job in the technology industry. I like web development, systems analysis, project management, game design, network administration, and programming, and since almost every field needs a computer person, I’d probably be happy working anywhere. I’ve thought of getting a job in radio or TV, but I doubt I’d be on the air, rather working behind the scenes as a tech or someone who managed the broadcasting architecture.
Expect to hear more as the new year starts!