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PROCESS POST: PEER REVIEW #2

Today I am taking some time to review my classmate Tessa’s blog. Her blog is called Tessa’s Thoughts , and it contains essays, experiences, and film/TV reviews. From what I gather, Tessa’s blog reflects who she is – her interests, struggles, and joys.

I quite enjoy Tessa’s theme. There is lots of white space, beautiful and relevant pictures, and it is obvious where I should click and when I should scroll. I like that each post on the home page shows a short block of text with a call to action that says “read more.” I think this entices people to click on her posts and explore her blog further. Additionally, I appreciate how clear the Categories are on the right side of the page. It is straightforward where I can find each section of the blog. One suggestion I have for the home page is for Tessa to hide her posts that are under POSIEL so that only her blog posts are showing.

The typeface for the titles of Tessa’s post is great. It’s bold and legible. I also like the typeface for her posts, however, something that she might want to think about is how legible it is. Considering the font is quite light and the letters look similar, it may not be accessible to everyone reading. Mauvé Page, a guest speaker in our PUB101 class, suggested that typefaces with clear letter differentiation are often a better choice. One suggestion I have for Tessa’s blog is to change the typeface and colour of her header. A more unique typeface would catch the eye, which I think is important because it is the first thing I see on the page. Additionally, the current colour of the header does not contrast enough with the background. Tessa could possibly highlight the text black and make the font white to achieve a higher level of contrast.

Design Machines by Travis Gertz  is a reading that we had for PUB101. Gertz (2015) outlines touches on how the art in layouts should not replace content, but it should give us a reason to explore the content further. I think that if Tessa incorporates this philosophy for her header media, it would really push visitors to explore the amazing content she has on her blog!

The layout of Tessa’s page is easy for my eyes to follow. The picture of clouds in her header represents “Tessa’s Thoughts” well, almost symbolizing a daydreaming theme. I particularly like how her posts are on the left side of the page, and they stay on the left side of the page when you click on them. I like this because my eyes naturally go to the left side, so I found the content on her page quite fast. I also appreciate how her Instagram is previewed at the bottom right of her page, with a call to action that says “follow me!” It shows a few of her pictures, which fit well under the brand of her blog. Since Tessa’s Thoughts is about her lived experiences, I believe her Instagram reflects that well.

Another article from PUB101 called Affordances by Victor Kaptelinin explains the concept of affordances. Affordances are basically indicators of how something should work (Kaptelinin, n.d.). Kaptelinin writes that “when affordances are taken advantage of, the user knows what to do just by looking: no picture, label, or instruction needed.” This is one of the things I appreciate most about Tessa’s Thoughts. This blog makes it clear where to click for what content. There is no confusion when it comes to usability, and I think that visitors of this blog will value this immensely!

Altogether, Tessa’s Thoughts is a great blog and has a ton of potential when it comes to design. I think that Tessa offers intriguing, relatable content, and I think that a few design boosts will allow her content to be engaged with at a greater capacity.

#1 Rule: BE KIND TO WOMEN

I was graced with a warmish fall evening for my first night at NightShift. I parked outside NightShift’s offices around 6:30, as instructed by the email they sent me earlier that week. The street people were already hanging out around the facility, casually talking to one another. It was fair to assume they were awaiting their meal that night.

Something you should know about me is that I am a very observant person, and this comes across as being shy at times (which I hate). When I enter into a new setting with new people, I often sit back and watch what is going on around me before making myself heard.

I walked into the building, ready to meet my team for the night. The first person I meet is Sue, who is the team leader. She is vibrant, kind, and on top of things — the exact kind of person you would want for a team leader on a night like this. In our team meeting, she introduces me to everyone.

“Everyone, this is Mariah. She’s new, which might explain why she looks like a deer in headlights. Make sure you get to know her this evening. We’re excited to have you, Mariah.”

My observant nature didn’t seem to be translating too well. Sigh. I internally told myself to straighten my posture and act more confident.

Sue gave me the duty of serving juice and coffee with another lady on the team, which I was happy to do. We all walked outside to meet the people that were hanging around the offices earlier when I first walked in. As I guessed, these people were waiting for a warm meal. On tonight’s menu, pizza!

Sue’s husband, Greg, announced that we were going to start. “What’s the number one rule?” he said.

“Be kind to women!” I heard a street person say from the background.

Although that was not technically the number one rule for the night, I thought it was a good one.

As I served juice and coffee throughout the evening, a man named Wes parked himself beside me. He offered me great jokes, movie lines, and imitations — my kind of company. He was kind and sweet. I gathered that he was a street person who had been around for a while.

Coffee was more popular than juice that Thursday evening. People kept saying that they were cold, and that’s why they opted for the warm drink. At first, I was wondering why they were so cold. It was a warm night, I thought. Then I remembered that when the body lacks proper nutrients, it gets cold easily.

A woman came through the line and told me that she had just completed her first day at her new job. She was ecstatic; beaming with joy and thankfulness to have somewhere to work. I became aware of how much I take my job for granted.

I feel like our world tries to put a scary mask on street people. They want us to think they are not like us — they are people to be avoided and pushed to the margins. But as I looked in the eyes of each person that came through for juice and coffee, I saw people just like me. People with struggles and victories. People with stories.

Throughout the night, one of the volunteers asked every person that came through the food line up if they had any prayer requests. Some people politely said no, others shared pain they were dealing with, and others expressed a gratefulness for NightShift. At the end of the night, we stood in a circle and prayed for each person’s request. Slowly, street people trickled in to fill the empty gaps of the circle and offered some of their own prayers. It was a special few moments.

My first night at NightShift exposed me to a wonderful group of people who carry a deep compassion for those on the street. It also exposed me to another wonderful group of people who reside on the street each night, yet walk with a spirit of kindness and hope.

I cannot wait to see them again.

 

PROCESS POST: Design and the changing world of publishing

I am so glad that Mauvé Page came into class, because I was able to critically reflect on the design of my blog. Design is one of my weakest points. I do not have any background in design, and I find that it is hard for me to accomplish what I desire to have on my blog.

One of the things I am on changing on my blog is the background picture. Currently, it is a picture of some bare trees at dusk with the moon peeking out. Although this picture is visually appealing, I have come to the conclusion that it does not fit with my brand. Since my blog is called “Street Stories,” I figure that I should have a picture that involves a street.

Additionally, I want to change the home page of my blog. Mauve brought to my attention that it is not obvious that a visitor has to scroll in order to see my content. So, I plan to put an arrow that points down and a call to action that says “scroll” to indicate that visitors must scroll to see posts.

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I found one of our class readings for this week quite intriguing. Contents May Have Shifted  by Erin Kissane writes about the changing forms of the webpage, the newspaper, and the book. The one that stood out to me the most was the changing form of the book.

“Books don’t live in one place anymore,” Kissane writes.

How true. Books are not just pages between covers anymore. They aren’t permanent, they aren’t consistent or the same. With the rise of audiobooks and e-books, we have found a new ways to retain information. It doesn’t always look like holding something in your hand and flipping pages. Now it may look like tablets, or headphones, or aux chords.

Kissane also touches on how the internet has allowed for the underlying mysteries of books to be exposed. Clarity can be given to anyone who does a quick search. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is different than how books have generally been read and shared among people.

The publishing world is changing in a lot of ways. Do we push against it, or accept it? Is it good, bad, or is it just how it is?

PROCESS POST: PEER REVIEW #1

Today I am reviewing a blog created by my classmate, Sadie Schwenneker. Her blog is called The Bunny Barn, and it is about her passion for bunnies with a focus on her own pet bunny. Through looking at Sadie’s blog, you can tell that she absolutely adores her bunny and aims to show the rest of the world why bunnies are the best pets you can get.

A lot of elements of Sadie’s blog do a great job of creating a personal cyberinfrastructure that supports her main theme and idea behind her content. First of all, the title The Bunny Barn gives a solid idea of what her blog is about. Second of all, the pictures included on the homepage of the blog showcase her extremely cute Netherlands dwarf lionhead mixed rabbit named Butterscotch. Lastly, the About Me section has an adorable description about both Sadie and Butterscotch. Additionally, her posts do a great job of telling the story behind Butterscotch and giving tips to bunny owners.

One thing I found that Sadie blog does really well is that I can tell the content behind it is an extension of who she is. In one of our class readings, Why I am Not a Maker by Debbie Chachra, she explains that she gets frustrated when culture tries to make our identity about what we create (Chachra, 2015). Instead, she thinks that our creations should show a part of who we are as people (Chachra, 2015). Rather than Sadie’s whole identity relying on The Bunny Barn, she has created this fun blog to express some of her passions.

As mentioned in our class reading from Wired, social media is now a central place where people go to find other content (Hempel, 2016). A suggestion I would like to make for The Bunny Barn is to connect social media, so that other bunny lovers (and maybe even bunny skeptics) can enjoy the wonderful content Sadie produces.

I have a few suggestions that would help Sadie’s blog become easier to navigate and produce a cyberinfrastructure that clearly communicates the passion behind her content. The “Home” and “PUB 101” tabs on the top menu of Sadie’s website do not lead to anything. I think it would be safe to get rid of that menu bar completely, considering the menu bar on the right hand side is quite clear. However, it may be worth adding a “Home” button to that side menu bar because once I click on a post, I found that I cannot get back to the home page.

Also, the URL only works if there is “/blog” in front of it. I am not sure how to fix that, but it will be worth looking into for sharing purposes. To add, the tab on my desktop says “Butterscotch – The Bunny Barn” and I think that could be changed to simply “The Bunny Barn” if that’s Sadie’s blog’s name. Lastly, I the header picture is a little blurry, so it could be worth finding a higher quality picture. It also would be cute to have a picture of Sadie and Butterscotch together somewhere on the home page!

Overall, Sadie’s blog was a pleasure to review. I love that through the cyberinfrastructure that makes up The Bunny Barn, I can learn a bit about who she is as a person. I think with some simple fixes could help viewers navigate the blog much easier, and I also think that adding social media will be crucial to drawing bunny lovers to her site! I hope my suggestions are useful for the future of this blog and all of it’s bunny cuteness.

Mini Assignment #2: Peter Parker Living in Surrey

Hey Everyone! It’s your friendly neighborhood citizen of Surrey, B.C.

This morning I poured myself a cup of much needed coffee and sat in my apartment, thinking about Surrey. I wondered about ways that I could be a better citizen of my city. Where was the need, and how could I fill it? I looked at my window and gazed at the people walking on the sidewalk below me. Each of them had their own lives, families, stories, and struggles. As I’m not one for attention, I thought of ways where I could quietly make an impact.

I looked at my watch and realized that I was late to meet a friend at the library for a study session. I have a chemistry exam tomorrow. Although it is one of my strengths, I like to go into exams feeling extremely prepared. I threw on my jacket and rushed out the house, making sure not to forget my camera in case I saw anything worth capturing on the my journey to the library.

I walked out into the sunny-yet-cool fall day. The trees were beginning to turn brilliant colours, as they like to do once September hits. I walked past Walmart, and saw a mom with tattered clothing push her jacketless toddler in an old stroller through the automatic drawers. I got closer to the library, and I saw beggars lining the street. I saw people walking past them, ignoring them. My heart stirred. There must be something I can do to give a voice to these people, I thought to myself. Everyone was walking around completely involved in their own day, refusing to acknowledge anyone in their determined paths.

I got to the library, but before walking in I took a photograph of what I saw outside of the building. People lacking basic needs, and people with more than they will ever need.

I walked into the library to meet my sweet friend MJ and study for our chemistry exam tomorrow. Maybe I will tell her what I saw on my walk there.

Catch ya later!

WHO IS NIGHTSHIFT?

Who is NightShift? How did they come into existence?

Like I mentioned in my previous post, NightShift serves the vulnerable, addicted, and homeless people of Surrey 365 days a year. They serve them with soup, sandwiches, love, and a sense of belonging. It is a registered not-for-profit society with a small staff of under 10 people and a mighty volunteer system containing more than 2,500 people. Their offices are located in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Surrey on King George Boulevard, very close to the skytrain. Serving each night takes place right outside their offices. NightShift offers meals, clothing, crisis counselling, basic nursing, a mobile library, prayer, and loving community contact. Additionally, they offer support groups, extreme weather response, Bible studies, and counselling.

Who is the mind behind NightShift? What is the story behind the name?

MaryAnne Connor, a former successful real estate marketer, was struck with compassion for those on the street on one particularly cold winter night in 2004. She soon joined a Surrey church in handing out peanut butter sandwiches and blankets in the middle of the night, providing as much warmth as they could to those without shelter who are faced with fiercely cold nights every winter.

Closely following Connor’s experience handing out peanut butter sandwiches and blankets, she boldly created NightShift. The name of the organization is significant because it refers to the time when emergency response is needed most. On a deeper leve, it describes the shift that happens in humans as we give our resources in service to those who need it in our community – the vulnerable, the addicted, and the homeless. We gain a new compassion for people we did not previously truly see.

What is my place in NightShift?

Currently, I am in the process of becoming a volunteer at NightShift. This process includes an intense 4 day training shift which consists of stories from people who have served at NightShift, and training about addiction, homelessness, and mental health. This training takes place in November, however, NightShift let me come for a pre-training night where I could see if volunteering with them was something I was passionate about. My pre-training night experience will be on the blog next week!

PROCESS POST: My blog design

One thing I really want to focus on is putting pictures in my blog that reflect the content appropriately. Right now, I like the picture I have on the front page but it is low quality. Additionally, I may want to stray away from that style and adopt a more minimalistic approach. This may include using black and white maps of Surrey, pictures of the landscape, or designing minimalistic logos on Canva. I still have quite a bit to figure out on the design side of things, and I feel like my lack of knowledge in WordPress is holding me back in that. On the plus side, I am confident in the theme I have chosen.

The social media channel I want to connect to my blog is my Facebook page. I have Instagram and Twitter as well, but I feel that both of those accounts are unprofessional and have nothing to do with my blog content. My Facebook page isn’t necessarily “professional,” but I know I would promote my blog through it, whereas I wouldn’t with the other social media platforms.

This makes me wonder if I should make a new Instagram or Twitter page for future professional reasons. I’m not sure what I would post on it right now, and I’m not sure if I want to take on the responsibility of another page, but I want to stay open to the idea.

All in all, I hope that this week I can work on the design of my blog so that it complements the content.

MY WHY

Growing up in Surrey, my parents instilled in our family a deep compassion and awareness of the homeless in our community. One of my first encounters with the homeless community in Whalley (a town within Surrey) was on Christmas Eve a few years ago. It was cold, and my parents armed us with plenty care packages and plenty more hot chocolate. We drove to a street that was lined tents. My family of 8 piled out of our car to meet the people of Whalley with some Christmas hope. My first conversation was with a middle aged woman and it went like this:

“Merry Christmas Eve! Would you like a care package?”

“… It’s Christmas Eve?” her shaky voice whispered.

My heart broke. I was stunned that she didn’t know it was Christmas Eve. My year basically revolves around the Christmas season, yet this woman was not even aware of it.

My compassion for the community of Whalley continued to grow when I had a co-op with the B.C. Lions. The organization is based one street away from tent city. For three months I drove into work past the tents. Each day the sharp, cold air hit face and the rain wet my hair I was reminded of those enduring the elements that fall so abruptly offered while I was warm, inside with a cup of tea in hand. Why was I swimming in excess while these people didn’t have basic shelter? I felt restless.

A few weeks ago, I met a girl that works with an organization called NightShift Ministries. NightShift is dedicated to serving the impoverished in Whalley each night, 365 days a year. I had heard about them before, but as this staff member shared more about the organization, I was drawn to their vision. On their website, NightShift says that their “utmost goal is to treat street friends with respect and dignity, regardless of individual circumstances.” Captivated by what they stood for, I made the decision to start volunteering.

So, I am in the beginning of the volunteer process with NightShift. Join me as I tell stories from the street: who the people behind the NightShift’s vision are, and who the people in front of the NightShift’s vision are.