New Additions

I’ve made a few additions to my web activity, including two additions to the website, and another service I’m using more often now, so I figured I would let everyone here know about these changes.

The first is a plugin I’ve added to the site to display related posts to the one being currently viewed. If you view a single post (click on the post title), at the bottom of the post you will now see a list of up to five posts related to the one you’re viewing. The “relatedness” is determined by similarities in title, body, and categories. Hopefully this should give you a better idea of other posts I’ve made on similar subjects in the past, and let you get a better overview of my site!

The second is purely aesthetic; I’ve added a picture of me and a short bio to the About page! I think this will make the site a bit more personal, because you can actually see the face behind the words (for those of you who don’t know me!) and learn a little bit about how I found myself where I am now!

Finally, I am making a commitment to take more pictures of my experiences, and use Flickr more often to chronicle them. You can check out my Flickr Photostream, where I will be uploading more pictures from my life. You can also stay updated with my Flickr uploads on my Twitter page, where links to new pictures will be posted!

Do you have any suggestions for how to better use these new features? Suggestions for other new features? Let me know what you think!

Life “Unplugged”

I recently read a blog post by Dr. James Frankel, managing director of SoundTree. Dr. Frankel discussed his experiences going to an “unplugged” concert, and how although the music was all performed without any electronic help (amplification, instruments, etc.), about everything else that occurred in his life that night had an electronic aspect to it, from the purchase of the tickets to creating dinner plans. It got me thinking about what life would be like “unplugged.”

We spend so much time glued to our electronics-computers, iPods, cell phones-that sometimes we miss the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of life. So many of us are so always plugged in that there isn’t a minute we’re not communicating with someone, usually electronically. So I got to thinking-would there be a noticeable difference in my life if I committed to taking a certain amount of time each day and having “unplugged” time?

By “unplugged” time I don’t mean just not using electronics. I mean literally unplugging them. Computer in the off position, iPod turned off and in the drawer, cell phone turned completely off (not just on silent). Thinking about it at first, I think to myself, “what would I do with myself?!” Then I come up with a few things I’ve been meaning to do for a while but haven’t gotten the opportunity to, because I always get distracted by a text message, Twitter update, or Facebook notification:

  • Read more articles from my Poppy’s book, Mosaic
  • Read articles from the dozens of music education journals I’ve received over the past year
  • Catch up on reading for some of my classes
  • Work out, in some way (walking, running, lifting weights, shooting a basketball… SOMETHING to get me off my lazy butt!)
  • Practice! (What a concept?!)

And the list goes on and on. So here’s my goal: thirty minutes a day, five days a week. My initial idea was to do thirty minutes every day, but after thinking about it and talking it over with a friend, I realized that it’s better to start smaller and work my way up. My ending goal will be something to the effect of a one-hour block each day, which may require some modifications to my schedule, but I’m going to try to make it work. For now, though, I’m going to start small, and during the school week.

I will, of course, keep you posted with updates on the progress of my journey into the land of the unplugged with (electronic) blog posts every so often! 🙂

Wish me luck!

Live-Blog of Podcasting Presentation

Tomorrow morning, Kathleen Kerstetter, assistant professor of Music Education at Florida International University, will be speaking to Music Education majors at UMiami about podcasting in the music classroom. This presentation will take place during MED Forum, a class period for discussion and presentation which is attended by all Music Ed majors at UM. Once a month, during this forum-period, the UM chapter of FCMENC has our business meetings.

I’ll be live-blogging Ms. Kerstetter’s presentation from my iPod tomorrow morning, so be sure to check out my twitter stream for my thoughts on her remarks, as well as a possible blog post later in the day recapping it! The presentation will start around 9:00 am EST!

Tweet ya later!

Comment System Revamped

disqus-logoAs part of my slight overhaul of the look and feel of my website, I have added a new system to the site for managing comments on my posts. I read somewhere that “a good comment to a blog entry is just as worthwhile as a good entry itself.” I am a firm believer in this statement, and as I have become a more avid blogger in the past months, I have been making an effort to read other bloggers’ entries more often, and contribute with my own thoughts on the topics they write about through comments. This allows for great conversation to happen on topics that myself and my other blogger colleagues all are passionate about.

One of the problems with the stereotypical current blog layout, though, is that all the emphasis is placed on the post itself, with the comments just intended as an afterthought. In my opinion, it should be quite the opposite, with the post having importance, but the comments having almost the same-if not more-importance than the original entry does! The entire system should function like the conversation, with the original post just being the “ice-breaker.”

Fortunately, the people at Disqus agree with me! They have developed a comment system for blogs that allows the comments to act more like conversations. There are a few main features of Disqus that I really love, and think you will too:

  1. Disqus allows for threaded conversations. In the “old” comment system, if you saw something another commenter posted and wanted to reply with a comment in reference to that, the only way to reference that you were replying to that specific commenter was to state it in the body of your comment. Now, you can actually click a “Reply” link under the comment, and your comment will be indented after the comment to which you were replying-like a conversation! This helps track
  2. Disqus works via email. This applies to both me as the blogger and you as the commenter! I, of course, get email notification any time someone posts a comment to a blog entry. With Disqus though, if you create an account with them and then make a comment, you will be notified if anyone replies to your comment! The kicker? Both you and I can reply to that notification email, and the content of the reply email will automatically be posted as a reply comment to the comment the email originally notified you about! This means that both you and I can participate in the discussion in real-time via email, even if you’re not checking my site all day!
  3. Disqus allows you to keep track of your comments. If you’re like me and you comment on lots of different blogs, Disqus will help you keep track of everything! By signing up with them, you’ll be able to log the comments you make on any blog site that has Disqus installed (over 10,000 as of last May, MANY more now!) on your own personal profile page! For an example, you can see my Disqus page, which lists all the comments I’ve made on blogs, as well as updates I’ve posted to any of the following services-the ones I actively use are bolded: Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, Delicious, Tumblr. This way you can see what I’m commenting on, and I can see what you’re commenting on. Who knows, one of us might introduce a great blog to another person that they didn’t even know about!
  4. Disqus has Facebook integration. I mentioned this briefly before, but now it’s working full-throttle! If you don’t want to get a Disqus account, you can post from your Facebook account, which will allow your Facebook friends to see that you’ve made a comment on my blog, as well as automatically embedding your profile picture in as the avatar. Pretty cool, huh? Just click on the FacebookConnect button and follow the prompts!

One other cool feature to note is that if you want, you can use the “Record Video Comment” link to post a video reply to my post!If you have a “Seesmic” account, you can use this, otherwise you can make the post anonymous. There are many more advantages to the Disqus system that don’t really effect you as a commenter (most of them are aesthetic or technical advantages for me as a blogger/moderator), but I hope that it proves to be as advantageous to you as I know it will be to me!

Do you have a Disqus account? Do you have any good or bad experiences with the service? Do you have a question about it? Try out the new Disqus comment system on this post by letting me know what you think about the switch!