MMOGs and Social Media Report

As I explained Wednesday night in class, your social media reports are due the first class after spring break, yet all of your first half reading blog entries are due by class next week. Entries completed after Wednesday, March 4th, will not be accepted. You do NOT have to have done any of your optional blog posts yet, although frankly you should have an entry or two done just to pace yourself over the course of the semester.

From last night’s class, here’s the graphic that Mollie asked for me to post. Let me know if there are any other links from class you ever want posted or emailed to you.

For the social media reports, I’m going to be looking for at least 15 social media sites spread across at least three of the four following areas: Blogs/Microblogging, Wikis, Social Networking (including both sites and groups), and Social Media (Vlogs/Podcasts/Citizen Journalism/Audio/Video). If you have picked a subject that doesn’t get you 15 sites in three areas, you need to change your definition or pick a new topic.

Write up a brief description of each site, classify it, the URL, any traffic details or size numbers you can track down, as well as some analysis of the level of engagement. Don’t forget some of the resources we’ve used like TruthLaidBear and Quantcast. Here’s an example entry for a Facebook group that I belong to that would be useful if I was researching Vermont:

Site: Vermont State Society Facebook Group
URL: http://harvard.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8156815255
Type: Social Networking Site
Traffic: 83 members in group; Facebook ranks 15th on the web according to Quantcast
Description: This semi-active group supports Vermonters in Washington and members post job listings and news stories of interest to it. It is an open group which anyone can join with a single administrator. No one other than the administrator has posted to it. There’s some minor wall activity—about one post a month.

I want your paper to be written on dead wood (paper) and handed in during class on March 18th. Since you’re getting extra time on this assignment, I’m going to have particularly high expectations for you. Please put real thought into the sites that you select. I don’t want you to just list the first 15 sites you find—which ones would be most useful? Which ones are active? You shouldn’t expect to get full credit for the assignment if you list 15 inactive blogs and Facebook groups. Where is there activity online around your chosen subject? If you were setting out to build a community in your chosen area, where would you turn?

As for class, we’re going to be looking at gaming. Online gaming (and related consoles like the Wii and Xbox 360) is quickly graduating from a teenage past-time to a massive industry, partly because the generation raised on Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers is aging and still playing games. Adult gaming is huge today. Movies today can gross more from the associated games than from the movies themselves. XBox’s Halo 3, which released in September and allows people to play joint missions from multiple locations connected online, had the biggest release in entertainment history—grossing some $170 million in its first 24 hours.

Massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs) are a huge business today—they’re even being used by the U.S. Army to recruit (as well as train new soldiers). They are also complicated stories, almost mini-novels.

Second Life is probably the best known of the various games and it has spawned a massive economic industry within it (although the benefits are questionable). Before class on Wednesday, please sign up for a Second Life account (basic membership is fine), download the application, and email me with your chosen account name. Spend a total of 45 minutes playing in Second Life, so you can at least master the basics of walking, talking, and flying (!). Read the Wikipedia page carefully so you understand the game (tech subjects like this are where you can trust Wikipedia better than just about any other source). BusinessWeek also had a good cover story on this phenomenon last year (make sure to note and listen to the podcast). If you love this and are interested in journalism, then go ahead and join the reporting staff of the Second Life Herald, the game’s virtual newspaper, or become one of the game’s embedded reporters. Also check out the Second Life Showcase to see some cool things going on in the game and listen to a podcast or two. Confused? Don’t be. Very few people understand how this world works and what its impact could be; that’s especially true of groups with an agenda.

Beyond Second Life, World of Warcraft is probably the second-best known, with a huge passionate following. How huge and how passionate, you ask skeptically? Try roughly 2 million North American players, 1.5 million European players, and 3.5 million Chinese. That’s some seven million PAYING users.

Companies are beginning to realize how big gaming is and how influential games can be in helping people make decisions, as well influencing decisions and policies. The North Carolina firm Persuasive Games is probably the leader in online game development. Go ahead and play a couple of them. Blog about your experiences. Are the games effective in getting their point/message across? What surprised you about this week’s readings?

As for next week, a reminder that you need to be all caught up on your blogging. It’s the eighth week of class, which means that you must have six (6) blog entries. One each on the following:

1) For your first blog entry, write about whatever aspect of Dan Gillmor’s book you found most interesting. For this and all future “response blogs,” please start your blog title with “RESPONSE #1:” and then the title of your post. In future weeks, use “RESPONSE #2:” and so on, through #13. This is to delineate for me which blogs are in response to questions and which ones are free-form blogs. If your entries are not properly labeled, please do so by Wednesday. I will not give full credit for entries not properly labeled.

2) Talk some exploring podcasts and Vlogs and what you chose to listen to. Do you regularly  listen to any podcasts?

3) Should we be afraid of Google?

4) Do we need a Bill of Rights for the social web?

5) Where, in your personal experience, do you see the long tail playing out online? What interests/tastes/hobbies do you explore or use the web for that would have been difficult in the pre-web era?

6) For next week’s class, write about your experience playing Second Life. If you know how, illustrate your post with a screenshot of your character in Second Life. What do you make of this new world? What do you make of MMOGs in general? Second Life in particular?

If you are all caught up, I’d strongly encourage to work ahead on an extra blog post or two. You can’t do them all at the end of the semester. If you don’t have all RESPONSE blog entries done by next week, you won’t be able to make them up.

Phew. That’s all for now. Go forth and conquer!

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