Digital Guyana

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To round off the course and consolidate the learning of the previous weeks, we ended the course with a quiz. 38 points were up for grabs and we were pleasantly surprised by how much all the groups got into it. There were some pretty high scorers too, so they must’ve all been paying attention.

Here are the questions:

HTML

1. Which tags open and close an HTML page?

2. What are the tags for?

a) Paragraph
b) Bold
c) Italics

(3 marks)

3. What does HTML stand for?

4. Name a web browser.

5. <img src=”pictures/photo.jpg”></img>

Is the above an image, link or table?

CSS

6. what does CSS stand for?

7. Here is some sample code for linking a .CCS document to a web page:
<link href=”….css” rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” media=”all”></link>

Which of the following tags does it belong between?

a) <title></title>

b) <head></head>

c) <body></body>

8. Here is a style attribute:

background-colour: blue;

However, there is something wrong with it, what is this?

9. List two more style attributes. (2 marks)

10. What will the following styles do to a web page:

body {
background-color: black;
}

h1 {
font-size: 18pt;
color: yellow
font-family: verdana;

p {
font-family: arial;
font-size: 9pt;
color: white
}

(3 marks)

Social networking

11. What does ‘open source’ mean when referring to software?

12. Name three social networks.
(3 marks)

13. What is the name of the free, user-created Internet encyclopedia?

Blogging

14. What’s the difference between a ‘post’ and a ‘blog’?

15. What is a ‘blogroll’?

16. Name an online service for finding blog posts written by others.

17. What does ‘SEO’ stand for?

18. Why are links important in blogging? Give one example.

19. Why should you avoid using ‘click here’ as anchor text in links?

20. How many bloggers had signed up with WordPress.com as of Sunday evening, 9 August 09?
153,000, 207,000 or 378,000

Good content

21. Scannability refers to the tendency for peoples’ eyes to skim around web pages more than they would with a printed article. Related to this is the 10 second rule. What is the 10 second rule?

22. Which type of fonts work better online than print, Serif or Sans Serif?

23. Why is it a bad idea to use blue writing on a purple background?

24. Why is it useful for websites to use taglines with their titles?

25. Why is it a bad idea to use really long paragraphs?

26. Name one way you could you check for spelling mistakes?

27. How much slower do people read on the computer screen than print? 25%, 50% or 5%?

GIMP

28. What does the crop tool look like in Gimp?

29. Name two ways to resize an image in Gimp?
(2 marks)

30. What is the keyboard shortcut for undo?

(Maximum 38 marks)

Tags:

On the last day of the course I asked Matt a few questions about the project and his experience in Guyana.

Pontus was only able to make the first two weeks of the project but was an indispensable part of the team, developing the HTML, CSS and advanced HTML parts of the course.

I put a camera in front of Pontus and asked him a few questions at the end of his stay:

Now I’m back in England (and in an office with an incredible broadband connection) I’m able to upload some of the video that I took while out in Guyana.

I’ve got interviews with some of the other guys to come. In the meantime, here’s some footage of us (mainly Pontus here) feeding the manatees in the Georgetown National Park:

For more info read Pontus’s earlier post about the manatees.

In an earlier post I said that a crew from NCN had come to interview us for a feature about our project. Well, here’s the feature itself:

It’s a shame that Hugh’s contribution wasn’t included – most likely due to someone noisily starting up a van’s engine mid-interview.

Big thanks to NCN for airing the feature out and for giving us a copy.

Tags: , ,

This was a half-day session aiming to build on the blogging lessons from the main course. The idea being to build on the students’ basic knowledge and introduce them to

Tools of the trade

We used WordPress.com in the lessons, but there are other blogging platforms, each with slightly different features.

There are comparisons of the various services at Online Journalism Review and TopTenReviews.

Other useful services that we discussed include:

  • Facebook – a social network
  • Twitter – a flexible micro-blogging tool
  • Delicious – a ‘social bookmarking’ website
  • Google Reader – useful for reading blogs via their RSS feeds
  • Firefox and Firefox plugins – a web browser that is preferable to Internet Explorer in many ways and allows for customisation via easy-to-use plugins.

Blog promotion

Four key concepts:

  • Write good content
  • Post regularly
  • Link generously
  • Comment on other blogs

We also looked at the concept of using other social media profiles as outposts.

It’s worth bearing in mind the basics of SEO – incoming links, keywords in tags and titles, relevant anchor text and regular content are all good.

Also, while online interaction is great, you can’t beat meeting people face-to-face for making longer lasting connections and building relationships.

We also looked at more traditional ways to promote a blog – by telling people about it, adding the URL to email signatures/flyers/posters, etc.

Other tips

The following is a random selection of hints and tips aimed at improving your blogging.

Develop an editorial calendar that will allow you to plan blog posts over the year (including any lead-in/previews).

Consider guest posts:

  • Writing on other people’s blogs will introduce you to a new audience
  • Having others write on your blog will provide your readers with a fresh perspective, a new writing style and it’ll help spread the load of writing new content.

Group blogs are blogs with several contributors. Each contributor may have different topics, days of the week to post on. A group blog spreads the amount of effort required from each person, as well as providing a place for structure and support.

Involve your audience – blogs and social media allow audience engagement in ways that broadcast media do not. By interacting with your audience you can strengthen your relationship with them and learn what content they prefer.

While asking your audience and listenting to them is important, you should be wary of pandering to the vocal minority, whose views may not be representative of all your readers.

Statistics – your can use Feedburner and Google Analytics to discover what your readers (including the silent majority) respond to.

Mix up your blog posts – use video, audio, text and photos to provide a rich and varied experience for your readers.

Write like a person – blogs work well as a conversational medium. It’s much easier to converse with a person than a press release.

Know your target audience – build up an impression of who your readers are, what they like, how they get their information and so on. This will help you write for them. Getting out and meeting your readers face to face (ie at events) will help with this.

Comments guidelines – if you have a lot of people commenting on your posts and moderation becomes necessary, it can be useful to have comment guidelines in place. This will explain to people what behaviour is not tolerated and what action (editing/deleting posts and banning commenters) may be taken if they are breached.

Finally, the best way to learn is to look at other successful bloggers and their blogs and see what they do.

During a break in the lessons last week I picked up a copy of the phone book and flicked through to the web design section. There were only a few companies listed:

Website design in Guyana

Interesting that not all of them give a URL for their website.

The next stage was to try and Google and see which companies I could find. A search for ‘website design Guyana’ listed the following companies on the first page:

There were also results for directories such as ddir.org and Ensure, not companies themselves. My photo on Flickr (above) came up too.

Web savvy companies (such as those in the web design industry) can be expected to be ahead of the game when it comes to search engine optimisation. Not only is it a source of business but there’s a trophy element to showing you can control a strong, relevant search term in Google. It’s demonstration of your SEO services, if nothing else.

Of course, I’ve just taken a snapshot of the situation here – it falls well short of the sort of analysis that could be carried out but it’s interesting to see what the local companies are up to.

WordPress Pumpkin

We asked the students to log in to their WordPress.com accounts and go back to the blogs they had set up the previous week.

In the HTML part of the course we looked at how to make static pages and link them together to form a coherent website. We explained that WordPress allows you to create static pages too and looked at the pre-existing ‘About’ page.

We edited this page to display information that was more appropriate.

We then created a second page called ‘Links’ and compiled a list of links to the other students’ blogs.

As well as being an exercise in creating pages and working with links, this gave an opportunity to look at how anchor text works and the difference between:

The first two being fine, if a little functional. The third being a good example of descriptive anchor text and the fourth being an example to avoid copying if at all possible.

This point was related to the idea of accessibility – allowing content to be accessed by as many people as possible. We also mentioned other examples such as using ‘alt tags’ to describe images.

We also the idea of transparency and being a good ‘Internet citizen’. For example, by being upfront about any reasons for bias (including potential or perceived), not representing yourself as someone else and crediting sources.

Next we ran through a list of recommended changes to a WordPress.com blog. The blog provided by WordPress.com is good but is generally considered to need certain initial tweaks, including:

  • Deleting the ‘links’
  • Updating profile information
  • Freeing up commenting
  • Adding social bookmarking buttons to posts
  • Changing the theme and sidebar widgets

Going through these changes with the students allowed us to provide a walking tour of the dashboard and the functionality WordPress offers.

Finally, we looked at ways of finding blogs and blog posts on any subject using Google Blog Search, Technorati and Ice Rocket.

(Pic is WordPress Pumpkin by Eric M Martin)

WordCamp 2009

In the first of the two sessions on blogging we introduced the students to WordPress, explaining that it’s a very popular, free blogging service that comes with several useful features including:

  • A visual editor similar to Microsoft Word (with WordPress handling much of the HTML required)
  • A professional look
  • Flexibility to add static pages as well as blog posts
  • RSS feeds

We also explained some of the basics of search engine optimisation, showing why blogs are effect tools for making content more easily discoverable via search engines.

We introduced the students to various bits of blog-related jargon, including:

  • blog – a type of website where the most recent content typically appears at the top of the page
  • post – the name given to an individual article/piece of content on a blog
  • embedding – taking content hosted on another website and displaying it on your own
  • link – an element on a website (often a bit of text or an image) that, when clicked upon, will send the reader to another website
  • permalink – whereas the blog itself will have a domain name, each individual post will have it’s own unique URL, allowing people to link directly to that post, rather than sending people to a page that will change as soon as new content is published
  • ping – a notification, sent to various directories, that a new blog post has been published
  • comments – on most blogs, after each post, readers are able to leave feedback via the comments box
  • trackback – an automated comment that will appear if someone links to an individual blog post from their own blog post
  • sidebar – the strip down the side of the blog which may contain
  • blogroll – a list of links to related and/or relevant websites/blogs that is often found in the sidebar
  • RSS – a clever bit of technology that puts blog posts in a machine-readable format. Allows people to subscribe to the blog so they receive new updates without needing to return to the blog itself
  • uploading – adding a piece of content (photo, audio, video or document to a website from your computer

After signing up to WordPress.com, the students logged into their new blogs’ dashboard and clicked on ‘Visit site’ to see the website that had been created.

We then talked the students through the process of deleting the ‘Hello world’ post and then writing their own first blog post. These were published so that the student could see them on their blogs.

In the next exercise we asked the students to write another blog post, this time including links to other websites (in some classes they linked to each others’ blogs in order to demonstrate trackbacks).

For the students’ third blog posts the students included an image, taken from Flickr.

In some classes, where time allowed, we introduced the students to the various themes available, letting them pick one they preferred.

Having several students all logging in to WordPress at the same time put a certain strain on the internet connection, meaning that these steps took slightly longer than they would if someone was following on their own at home (for example).

(Pic is WordCamp 09 by seanosh)

This post ties together two previous ones – Hugh’s description of our trip to Arrowpoint and my post positing the idea of a Georgetown Social Media Cafe which I closed by saying:

I’ve seen plenty of proof that there are people hungry to learn and develop their skills

On the way to Arrowpoint we stopped off at Santa Mission, an Amerindian reservation that’s home to a couple of hundred people. We were given a tour and saw kids playing in the river and kicking a football around the main field.

After taking in the school, craft centre and a few other sights we made our way back to our boat, sstopping off at a non-descript building with a small generator sat outside. We weren’t expecting what we saw inside:

IMG_2224

IMG_2223

Roughly half the village’s young people crammed around a handful of computers, eager to learn and play.

I spoke to the volunteer who was working with the children (sorry, his name escapes me). They’ve not got internet access yet but it’s the next step and in the meantime the children are learning basic computer skills and, naturally, playing lots of games.

Our guide explained that although Santa Mission is fairly remote, when the children are old enough to go to the bigger schools in town it’s important that they’re not left trailing behind in such an important area as computer skills.

The good news for Guyana is that the generation coming up is keen to learn – we’ve seen it with the school groups that we’ve been teaching in the capital and we saw it again in a remote village.


Bringing web skills to Guyana

A volunteer project from CYEC (Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council)

Guyana on Flickr