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Entries by Emily Chapman (108)


Watch, Read, Make: LOLing at SEO with Wine!

Watch, Read, Make is our weekly summary of cool things for your weekend.

Watch: David Mitchell, for those who are not familiar with him, is a British comedian who has made a career out of being stodgy. So, his defense of the use of "lol" is fun to watch. He draws the line at emoticons--he is "unfine" with them because they encourage ambiguous writing. Though this is the most appropriate-for-HackCollege episode of the Soapbox that he has up on YouTube, he has many others covering a wide variety of topics. He's also on Peep Show, a sitcom that makes me more physically uncomfortable with awkwardness than does the entirety of The Office. (Also, here he is discussing cheese.)

Read: SEO for Non-Dicks combines my favorite parts of internet writing--a snappy title and good advice! None of the advice is incredibly novel, but it's good to check if you're doing everything you can to attract viewers without being just awful with self-promotion. (If these techniques fail, though, feel free to write about Lady Gaga's Gay Marriage Love-child with Justin Bieber, or whatever.)

Make: Credit for this goes to my lady-bro and fellow writer Laura. If you're living in a dorm or apartment or are simply to lazy to carve a pumpkin, this is the craft for you! Take an empty wine bottle and turn it into a jack-o-lantern. You should have all the supplies that you need except for, perhaps, the spray paint. Charm your hall mates and horrify your RA for under five dollars!


TweetMemeFace+: Three Ways to Stay Current on Campus News

The other tip here would be "don't go to a school with a person name." Makes your results confusing.

If you're trying to use social media to keep track of what's going on on campus but beyond your immediate circle of friends, it can be difficult to know where to begin. On stranger-friendly social media (Twitter and Google +, as opposed to Facebook), it's difficult to actually find fellow students or campus organizations that you aren't already familiar with.

But, if you can manage it, social media gives you a much easier way to find out about what's happening than your other option--long email newsletters from various campus groups. However, it can be done! Here are three simple ways to find out what's going on around you.

Find out who your university follows: If you're looking for official club accounts or prominent alumni, look at who your official university Twitter account is following. Those people are more likely to be affiliated with the university in some capacity (unlike the account's followers, who may just be spambots or unaffiliated), and if you're looking for news from more specific parts of your university, like on-campus committees, this is where you'll find those accounts.

Search for mentions of your university: This is a good way to keep track of what people are doing right now near your school. For example, a cursory search for Emory on Twitter returned a bunch of tweets about the two big things on campus tonight: free cupcakes near the dining hall, and a social media forum hosted by CNN. On a Friday or Saturday night, this search will likely turn up news of an interesting party or concert that you would otherwise not know about. If you're stuck in a rut, use this method to find new things happening within the next day or two.

Look for your fake university account: Chances are high that if your university can be made fun of, someone is doing it over at @FakeYourSchool. Sometimes this will be a bust--the account will have died, or it will be angry rather than funny--but if the person managing your school's fake account is doing it well, their tweets will give you a look at what issues are bugging students on campus and aren't able to be addressed in the school paper. It's like an on-campus version of The Onion.

None of these methods can substitute for actual human interaction, but if you're looking to stay abreast of what's happening on your campus without slogging through email after email, social media can be a lifesaver.


Schedule Your Homework Six Weeks in Advance for Ease of Mind

You don't want this. No one wants this. Image courtesy of Flickr user Samat Jain. Licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.

Here at HackCollege, we love a good discussion about planners. However, even if you're a nose-to-the-grindstone planner user, things can sneak up on you, particularly this time of year. I have several friends who, because they do their planning in week-long chunks, have inadvertently wound up cramming for midterms or writing papers over their fall break. It's not that they were wrong--they were just thinking in an inconvenient time frame.

If you've found yourself having difficulty seeing the trajectory of your semester because you can't look ahead at your workload, this hack is for you. Pick a convenient Sunday and write down on your planner all of the non-class things you will be doing for more than a few hours this semester. Think visits from your parents, school breaks, or a formal for your Greek organization--times when you don't want to be doing homework. Then, go through all of your syllabi, writing down what homework you'll be doing on each night for the next six weeks.

Move things around so that--by reading ahead--you can avoid having to do homework during the time when you'll be busy. You can also even out your nightly homework loads so that you don't have nothing to do one day and 400 pages of reading the next. It takes twenty minutes, but by the end of this process you'll know when your tough weeks will be, when you're free to travel or chill out, and when you need to start studying for exams. Best of all, you won't be stuck studying when you won't be able to. Make a note of when you stopped scheduling your homework, and start the process again once you're at that point.

Though not strictly GTD, this follows some of the same ideas--by writing out weeks of homework at a time, you autopilot it. That's one less thing to think about and stress you out, and it means that you can just do what you need to do, secure in the knowledge that you're not forgetting anything.


Watch, Read, Make: Maru, Jobs, and Baking Soda Pits

Welcome to Watch, Read, Make, our weekly list of cool things to start off your weekend.

Watch: It's been a bummer couple of days. You know what will cheer you up if you have a soul? Maru the cat sliding into things in boxes, that's what. For an extra dose of fun, play this video in a room with another cat. It freaks them out in ways that are pretty truly excellent. (If you don't have a cat, a drunk roommate substitutes in pretty well.)

Read: This Wired obituary for Steve Jobs is good on a couple of levels. On the surface, it's a well-written, moving tribute to a man who--despite his avid fan base--was harsh. It's great long-form personal journalism. However, even if you don't want to read another tribute to the man, it's worth checking out for the detail that the author lavishes onto how Jobs got to where he is and how he managed to be an abrasive person to work for and still rise to the top. Reading biographies of remarkable people is always an interesting experience, particularly if they're someone who's human enough that you feel a personal connection to them. If nothing else, it will give you an idea of how you, too, can become a computer-company-founding-wunderkind.

Make: Georgia is currently in the middle of that delightful autumnal weather transition where it's too cold to go outside in the morning sans coat, but it's too hot by the middle of the day for my punky hippie deodorant to really be doing much for me. If you are in the same predicament, check out this XOJane piece on DIY deodorants. She concluded that baking soda applied to your pits after a shower does a freaky-good job of warding off odor. Try it and let me know how it goes! (I'm curious if I can quit paying redonculous prices for deodorant, because that shiz is way more expensive than it needs to be.)


TweetMemeFace+: Making Stuff and Doing Things

So, that happened.

And it was sad. And it blew up my twitter stream to a degree that was sort of unprecedented. And it completely dwarfed Sarah Palin's news. This says something, I think, about the value people place on quality content, even in an era of overshare and personal branding.

Steve Jobs' personal brand was, in part, distinctly impersonal--he didn't talk about his home life much, and only shared news about his illness when his company made him. What the people on my news feed are talking about, instead, are the products he created and the ways that he changed his industry. People respect people who build quality things.

Remember that when you're building your personal brand or rocking the social media yacht that for most people social media is a tool. It helps you get out news and build relationships around the cool things that you do. But, in order for that to happen, you have to actually do things. You have to give life to whatever ideas you're interested in pursuing, rather than reblogging what folks have said about them.

You have to do the work.

You will probably not be Steve Jobs. But, you might do something cool. You might even make life a little bit more awesome for someone. At the very least, you can put a dent in the universe.

So, go make some things. Dash out of your midsemester slump, go for a walk. Make stuff and do things. (If nothing else, use that book's recipe for wine.)

Social media isn't an end. It's a tool. Make something cool with it.


Sick Day: Make a DIY Shot Glass Neti Pot

Gross? Yes. Satisfying? Totally. Image courtesy of Flickr user Debris Design. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

There is no more unpleasant feeling in the world than having a stuffed-up nose. Particularly if you get sick in the next few weeks--the middle of midterm season--you're likely to have to suffer through the sniffles while sitting through lectures. However, cold medication can take a while to work, and can be ineffective if your nose is really and truly stopped up.

It's these sort of problems that a neti pot is designed to solve. For those not familiar with the device, its basically a tea pot designed to (gently) shove saline solution up your nose and through your sinus cavity in order to flush out whatever grossness is in there.

However, most college students don't own a neti pot or want to shell out for such a single-use device. Luckily, a shot glass and some patience can produce much the same effect.

The way the shot glass neti pot works is pretty simple. Fill a cereal bowl or microwaveable cup with a mixture of water and non-iodized salt. Microwave it for 20 seconds, until the salt is dissolved and the water is warm. Standing over the bathroom sink, take a shot glass full of the mixture and pour it slowly into your clear nostril. Make sure to breathe through your mouth so that you don't feel like you're being waterboarded, and stand over the sink so that any spilled solution doesn't get you wet.

Once the mixture has gone in, blow the solution out of your nose and into the sink. Repeat it a few times in each nostril, and you will be feeling 100% less awful, along with having the grim satisfaction of seeing what comes out of your infected head. Though it's gross, the shot glass neti pot is really quite effective at making you feel less horribly ill before class or sleep.

Research actually backs up claims as to the neti pot's effectiveness. For college students, non-medical sinus clearing can be a godsend--cold medication is surprisingly expensive and may make you feel like a zombie in class. Even more worrying, most cold medications contain acetaminophen, which (because it is processed through the liver) is not recommended for heavy drinkers.

Hopefully no one in the audience is routinely drinking in the range that's contraindicated for the drug. However, you may be up a creek if you get sick within a day or two of heavy drinking, when your liver is not at its best. If that's the case, try the neti pot and see if you can't at least get through the night before zombie-walking to CVS.


Watch, Read, Make: I Can't Breathe Out of My Nose Edition

Watch, Read, Make is our weekly column of cool things to make your weekend awesome.

Watch: So, fun fact, I have the worst head cold I have ever had right now*, and I cannot stop humming songs from the They Might Be Giants kids' album because I am maybe a little zonked out on CVS-brand knockoff Dayquil. I present "I Am a Paleontologist," which is my favorite, because I can substitute "anthropologist" in to the last part and it's great. Substitute in your major and annoy your roommates!

Read: Some of the people on staff** make fun of Laura and me for how much we love our Kindles. But without my Kindle, I would not be able to kill time during my illness with this Mark Bittman Kindle single with so very little inconvenience. (I mean, I could also read it on my laptop, but that's hard when you're lying prone.) For $2.99, you get a lovely manifesto about the importance of cooking and--more important for college audiences--an excellent breakdown of what you should have in your kitchen that is cheap and long-lasting. There are also awesome recipes at the end of the book that will allow you to avoid grocery shopping for weeks at a time while still making you look like you know how to be an adult. Mark Bittman has your back.

Make: When I'm sick, I pretty much just want soft sugary things, which results in me subsisting off of peanut butter smoothies for dinner. Since that's pretty much an awful idea, I present to you instead what I will be making for dinner tonight in order to regain strength/stave off scurvy: pear pancakes. Fancy enough that you won't quite feel like you're doing breakfast for dinner, and full of delicious, nearly-seasonal fruit! Nom.

* Not true, but it sucks pretty bad. 

** Shep.


TweetMemeFace+: Using Social Media to Promote Your Club

If your budget's big, just serve them booze. It always helps. Image courtesy of Flickr user Paul Holmes. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

One of the challenges of publicizing an event, club, or cause as a college student is that you likely have a limited (or nonexistent) budget and a lot of other people competing for the time and attention of the student body. Because of this, the free and easy nature of social media can be an asset if you're trying to get the word out. However, it can be tricky--here's how to do it without annoying people or being drowned out by everyone else.

Create a position as social media chair: First step's first--you have to have someone to coordinate your club's social media presence, particularly on Twitter and Facebook, where most students are active. A lot of organizations think that marketing will just sort of happen, but with that mindset it's likely that no one will remember to keep your accounts active. If you have an executive board position with certain responsibilities (tweeting so many times a week, organizing friend lists on Facebook, creating Facebook events, etc.), you're more likely to see results. Find a student who's already active on the networks you're interested in and use them.

Connect with national organizations: This is something that Greek organizations tend to do well--other clubs should emulate it. If you're a smaller chapter of a national organization (like Amnesty International or something similar), follow your national organization and interact with them on Facebook and Twitter. If you tell them you have an event coming up, they're likely to republish your information because it makes them look good--it shows they have active chapters. It also gives you free press.

Follow students on campus: Don't follow everyone you can get your hands on, but if you know of students who are interested in your cause, follow them from your accounts. This will make them aware of your presence, and the ones who really want to keep up with you will follow back and stay abreast of your information.

Get visible: You want people to know that your organization is active online. On all of your paper advertisements (which you should still be posting), include a QR code which will link students to the Facebook event page. Also include your Facebook URL, your Twitter handle, and your website (if you have one). You want to give students as many ways as possible to access your information. 

Unify your members: Tweets and Facebook updates from an organizational account are going to get tiring pretty quickly, because no one wants to read about a faceless organization. So, really strongly encourage your club members to unite in an effort to advertise any events you want to get the word out on. Give them a picture that they can use as their Facebook profile picture for a week. Ask them to post reminders and links to the Facebook event. If you're polite, your members are likely to do what you ask, and their friends are much more likely to pay attention to your event.

Staying visible and being easily accessible are the most important parts of publicizing, no matter what tool you're using. With social media, these goals are a little easier to reach.