Digital Guyana

Posts Tagged ‘good content

The first part of this specialism on good content focused on writing skills. I came up with four exercises which were designed to get the participants thinking about best practice in terms of writing for the web.

Exercise 1. Titles and taglines.

I split the group up into pairs and gave them three website scenarios (see below). I then asked the pairs to come up with titles and taglines for the websites. As previously explained in my workshop on content skills, a website’s title should be relevant and descriptive – and hopefully memorable too – and a tagline is important because it helps further explain what your website is all about. So the purpose of this exercise was to hammer home these points while getting the participants to think creatively about websites.

1. A friend of yours is starting a blog on nightlife and music in Georgetown. Can you help him come up with a title and tagline for his new site?

2. Adventure junkies, a new Guyanese tour company offering treks to Kaieteur Falls and more has just launched. It aims to attract a younger clientele with the promise of adventure and bargain prices. Can you come up with a catchy tagline for its new website?

3. The ministry of education wants to develop a new website which will help foster web development skills among young people in Guyana. The site will offer free tutorials on HTML, blogging, content skills, picture editing and plenty of links to free open source software. Can you help them come up with a name and tagline for the website?

The pairs then reported back to the group and me and together we critiqued their titles and taglines.

Exercise 2. Shortening paragraphs.

Because it’s physically harder to read online and people scan web pages more quickly than they would printed material (scannability), in general shorter paragraphs work better online. So to get the participants more used to the process of editing down and cutting out words I asked them to shorten these opening paragraphs from the following news stories by five to ten words:

Bald penguin given wetsuit to prevent sunburn
When Ralph the penguin lost his feathers it looked like he wouldn’t be able to swim with his friends at Marwell Wildlife – until he was fitted for a mini wetsuit to stop him getting sunburn.

Chinese women confuse immigration officers after cosmetic surgery
A group of Chinese women who travelled to South Korea for cosmetic surgery baffled immigration officers on their return home when their new looks did not match their passport photos.

Michael Jackson fans flock to see Egyptian model ‘lookalike’
Michael Jackson fans are flocking to a Chicago museum to see a 3,000 year old Egyptian model which looks remarkably like the late king of pop.

Exercise 3. Headline writing.

I then asked the participants to come up with headlines for these news stories. I stressed the importance of brevity, descriptiveness and relevance – clever and cryptic headlines don’t work so well online due to search engine optimisation and scannability.

I asked the participants to show me the headlines they came up with and we had a quick chat about them. I then revealed what the actual headlines were and explained why they were worked well as online headlines.

Exercise 4. Splitting up paragraphs.

Because readers are put off by long paragraphs – even more so online due to scannability and the fact that it’s harder to read on a computer screen – I came up with an exercise that would get the participants thinking about splitting up paragraphs.

I provided them with a travel feature on Guyana which I had removed all the paragraph breaks from and asked the participants to insert thir own paragraph breaks. We then went through the feature together discussing why the writer had put paragraph breaks in at certain points and seeing if they coaleasced with where they had put their paragraph breaks in.

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We sadly had to say goodbye to one our team members on Friday. Pontus, who was only able to participate in the project for two weeks, is now back in London and his job with Futurebuilders.

Before he caught a bit of a kip on Friday night (his taxi pickup to the airport was at 2.30am) we had a few drinks and an unfeasibly large amount of food at a Brazilian restaurant in downtown Georgetown. At said eaterie (we’re not sure if the Brazilian restaurant is its actual name but that’s what everyone calls it) you can either pay 2,500 Guyanese Dollars (about £7.50) for an all you can eat barbeque buffet or pay by the weight. Unsurprisingly, the place is a hit with local volunteers looking to stock up on cheap (and light) veg. The caipirinhas ain’t bad either.

On Saturday, Chris, Matt and me and a dozen or so VSO volunteers travelled to the frontier town of Bartica on the Essequibo River for VSO-er Derek’s 60th birthday party. Derek and his wife Trudie, who also works for the charity in Bartica, had rented out a huge house owned by a logging company on the banks of the river. We shared the building with a nice mix of friendly local volunteers, colourful Barticans and eccentric ex pats, and, all greased by Carib lager and Five Year Eldorado rum, lazed by the pool and the river before dancing into the wee hours.

Swimming pool at large house in Bartica

A memorably fun time was had by all – even if it did feel slightly wrong partying in a former slave house on Emancipation Day with a group of mostly white people. And on the speedboat leg of the journey there and back we passed Eddy Grant’s pallacial residence on his private island – a highlight of the whole trip so far for me!

Teaching as a threesome on Monday felt a little bit strange. But with two of us leading and one of us floating between the two school groups things went really well. Sadly, the local IT technician we’d lined up to help support the last two weeks of workshops now has other work commitments, but if today is anything to go by we should be absolutely fine.

Expect to see this week’s course outlines (Further Blogging and Content and Design Skills) posted in the coming days by Chris and me.

Hi, I’m Hugh. I also heard about this project through an email forwarded from the station manager at Resonance FM, where, like Matt, I volunteer as a broadcast assistant and programme maker.

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The opportunity to travel and share my skills in a far-flung locale sounded really exciting and after doing some research – yes, I Googled Guyana – I applied. I was intrigued by the fact that the country is thought of as part of the Caribbean yet borders Brazil and Venezuela. The ethnic split of Indian and Afro-Caribbean also piqued my interest. (I’d always wondered why cricketers of Indian descent like Shivnarine Chanderpaul – who, by the way, has a street named after him here in Georgetown – ended up playing for the West Indies. And now I know. And, while we’re on the subject, other famous Guyanese include Eddy Grant of The Equals and Electric Avenue fame, cricketer Clive Lloyd and, er, Shakira Caine, wife of Michael Caine and Miss Guyana 1967.)

My web development skills aren’t as technical as the other members of the team but my experience working as a journalist, often online, and a youth worker nicely compliments the other talents we bring.

Back in the UK I’m based in north London. Most of my writing is for the arts and culture section of thelondonpaper and I’ve also worked as a subeditor and in online production for clients including The First Post and the BBC. Since last September I’ve volunteered as a youth worker for east London charity Toynbee Hall, working with 13-14-year-olds on the Aspire project on radio workshops, citizenship and outdoor activities. This has recently led to paid sessional work with a charity called Headliners, which works with young people to produce journalism, where I start working after I return from Guyana.

This week I’ve been helping Matt teach basic animation with the Flash programme at local NGO Merundoi, who produce a highly entertaining and hugely popular twice weekly radio soap which promotes Aids awareness. See Matt’s previous post on how the course has gone (very well).

From next week Matt and I, plus Pontus and Chris (who arrive in the wee hours tonight), will be doing workshops with school pupils, teachers and youth groups on a variety of web skills. The workshops I’m leading focus on photo editing with the open source Gimp programme and what makes good web content and design, plus specialisms which will look at these areas in more detail.

Expect to see many more posts from the four of us in the coming days and weeks.