Warning: This is an archived course website that is part of my teaching portfolio, so some links may no longer work. Please contact me with any questions about this site.

Welcome to Writing for the Web!

Welcome to ENGL 4814: Writing for the Web. This website will function as the online headquarters for our class this semester. Each week, I will post an update to the website with details about coming week, deadline reminders, links to helpful resources, etc… I plan to use Virginia Tech’s Scholar site to record your grades, but otherwise, everything related to this course will be posted here. And given that this class is about writing for the web, it seems appropriate that you should help me build this website as the semester progresses. (We’ll talk more about that goal soon.)

A bit about me: This is my first semester at Virginia Tech, and I couldn’t be happier to be here. My research focuses on how people use rhetoric in online environments, and all of the classes I teach have something to do with technology. I have been building websites since 1999, and I do some web consulting for small businesses and nonprofit groups that need help getting (or getting up to date) online. When I’m not staring at a computer screen, I love to cook, read, and spend time with my wife, a brilliant freelance writer, and our two daughters.

After I gather your input in class on Tuesday, I will finalize the syllabus and add it to the website before our next class. In the meantime, please complete the following tasks before you come to class on Thursday:

  • Read pages 1–60 in the HTML & CSS book, and come to class with any questions you have about the reading.
  • Create a Twitter account, if you don’t have one already. (We’ll talk about using Twitter in the coming weeks, but for now, you just need to create an account, add a photo, and customize your profile.)
  • Create a Dropbox account, if you don’t have one already. (Again, we’ll talk about how to use Dropbox effectively as the semester progresses.)
  • Bring an electronic copy of your current résumé to class on Thursday.

Finally, a quick note about this website. Throughout the semester, we’ll be holding class discussions on this website. To help you get comfortable with that process, please add a comment to this post that introduces yourself, links to your Twitter profile, and answers the following question: What is one specific thing you want to learn to do in ENGL 4814? Before you post, a couple of warnings: (1) Your classmates will see what you write, so don’t include anything intended just for me. (2) This website is public, so we will stick to using first names only. Also, please be sure to use the same email address every time you post to the class website. Once I “approve” your first comment on the site, you will be able to post comments for the rest of the semester without waiting for me to approve them.

Posted in Weekly Updates
18 comments on “Welcome to Writing for the Web!
  1. David says:

    Hey, I am David Kistler; a senior in professional writing. I call Hickory, North Carolina home, but Blacksburg is my favorite place by far. I would like to become efficient using more mark-up languages and would like to have more coding skills.

  2. Juliane says:

    First and foremost – my twitter is @Juliane_I_Am. Hooray for having a reason to use it!

    My name is Juliane and I am a *super* professional writing senior. I hail from Manassas, which is by the DC area. Or, better known down here in Blacksburg, “NOVA”. I love Tech, and honestly can’t believe I tried to go to another school first.

    To be honest, I think the biggest thing I’d like to learn is some general knowledge about web writing. I’m coming into this class with a clean slate, so I look forward to leaving with a real grasp on the subject. My goal is to go into magazine editing so this class is more than likely going to help me achieve that.

  3. Anne says:

    My name is Anne and I am a senior Professional Writing and Political Science double major. Oh, and my twitter is @annerochele13.

    I am originally from the Northern Virginia area but I pretty much call Blacksburg my home now. I am looking forward to learning about web writing in general. I feel like being able to design web pages is a very desirable skill to have today.

  4. Rachel says:

    My name is Rachel, and I am currently a junior, electronic print and journalism major, with a minor in professional writing. My twitter name is @rsaenzVT.

    One thing that I would like to accomplish by the end of the semester is to be able to completely build a website from scratch. I wish to go into the broadcast field and having a personal website is becoming the standard within the industry.

  5. Keith Pillow says:

    Whats up everyone. You can find me on twitter @DJGingerSnaps14.

    My name is Keith and I’m from Fluvanna County, VA (some people are more familiar with the town of Palmyra; it’s about 15 minutes south of Charlottesville). I’m a senior in professional writing but I will be pursuing a career in medicine upon graduation.

    In terms of this course, I feel that I will be starting completely blank. Although, I look forward to building on my previous knowledge of the web and learning a lot of new things that I can use in the future.

  6. Kyle says:

    Hi, I’m Kyle. I’m a senior Professional Writing major from Richmond. I’m graduating in December and looking for a career in web design or editing.

    From this class, I hope to learn how to use HTML much more proficiently, which will help me look for a web design career.

  7. Kayla says:

    Hello, I’m Kayla. I’m from Northern Virginia, like many other students. I’m a senior in professional writing. I hope to learn more about website building, especially integrating more interactive elements into pages and creating more dynamic pages.

  8. Tony says:

    Hi class, I’m Tony. My twitter handle is @TonyBagsliaro so follow me because I will post hilarious and/or insightful stuff all the time.

    I’m from Rockville which is about 15 miles north of DC in Montgomery County, Maryland. Growing up with parents who were both Federal Government employees has left me with complicated feelings about the DC area and government in general which may escape my mouth at times, but it is a very nice area nonetheless. But it’s got nothing on Blacksburg obviously.

    In this course I hope to learn how to design a webpage that looks good enough to POP and draw people to it, and is also user-friendly in functionality.

  9. Ethan says:

    Hi guys, I’m Ethan. I am a fifth year in professional writing. I don’t know much about html or css, so I’m looking foward to gaining some knowledge through this class. My twitter is @bordshorts2work.

  10. Brittany says:

    Hi my name is Brittany. I am a senior studying English with a focus in professional writing and pre education. I want to learn how to use a drop box account and blogs. My twitter is @britpb6.

  11. Madeline says:

    Hi everyone I’m Maddie. I’m a lit/lang/culture and professional writing major.

    I took introduction to the internet last semester, but clearly after taking the “quiz” last class I realize I remember very little except some of the more obvious HTML tags. During this semester I want to learn how to create and manage a website, and also how to use twitter in a more productive way!

  12. Mary Kate says:

    Hey everybody, I’m Mary Kate — senior (sadly) professional writing major. Graduating scares me because it means I have to figure out what I want to do with my life. I’ve always been really into technology and I embrace our generation’s obsession and dependency on it, so I’m pretty excited for this class. I’m intrigued by the magical world that is the internet and feel like a general knowledge and skill for web building will come in handy in the intimidating world that is “post grad”.

  13. Samantha says:

    Hi, I’m Samantha. I’m a junior professional writing major. I’m looking forward to this class, because all of my friends are into making websites and building computers, and I’ll finally be able to understand what they’re talking about! My Twitter username is @elodealeaf.

  14. David says:

    twitter handle is @dkistler1

  15. Shelby Ward says:

    Hey, so my name is Shelby Ward. I’m a super duper senior, majoring in English and minoring in 21st Century Studies.

    You can follow me on Twitter @sheliseward. I’m already addicted to Twitter. Those of you are new to it, let me tell you the addiction doesn’t come all at once. It comes slowly, and then all of a sudden you’re thinking in 120 characters before you realize it.

    I am disgrace to my generation when it comes to technology. But in this class I am really looking forward to challenging myself, and learning new and valuable skills that will make me more marketable in the “real” world.

  16. Jessica Pittman says:

    Hi, I’m Jessica. I am a senior English major on the pre-education track. I would like to learn how to build websites from the ground up and learn to convert files to html. You can find me on Twitter at @JessicaPittman3

Where am I?
This is the class website for English 4814: Writing for the Web, taught by Quinn Warnick at Virginia Tech in fall 2012.
Worthwhile Reading
The links below are the most recent additions to my collection of bookmarks that are relevant to this course. You can find a complete list of ENGL 4814 bookmarks on Pinboard.

  • CodePen
    Awesome browser-based tool for experimenting with HTML, CSS, and Javascript.
  • What Constitutes Good and Bad Web Design?
    NY Times: "Shoddy Web site design is a curse of modern life. The more dependent we have become on the Internet for information, the likelier we are to suffer from its design deficiencies. Bad design can be infuriating, inconvenient or damaging in any field. But it is especially frustrating in areas like this where many of us find the technology so inscrutable that we tend to blame ourselves for being baffled, because we feel unable to judge whether the design is at fault."
  • wireframe.cc
    Free, minimalist wireframing tool, with templates for desktop, tablet, and phone.
  • Yes, learn basic programming
    Derek Sivers thinks everyone should learn HTML, CSS, and Javascript: "If you heard someone say, 'I have this idea for a song. But I’m not musical, so I need to find someone who will write, perform, and record it for me.' - you’d probably advise them to just take some time to sit down with a guitar or piano and learn enough to turn their ideas into reality."
  • CSS Floats 101
    Another great article from Noah Stokes in A List Apart. This one focuses specifically on one of the trickiest parts of CSS for beginners to master: the float property.
  • CSS Positioning 101
    Noah Stokes's A List Apart article is a great starting point for getting better at CSS positioning. Complete with several examples.
  • Modular Scale
    Handy tool for improving typography on modern, responsive websites. (The linked articles on this page are important, too.)
  • Interactive Guide to Blog Typography
    Great tutorial for improving typography on any website, not just a blog.
  • The Basement
    Great photo essay by Cabel Sasser: "And eventually, you crawl behind a corner, and discover a bundle of conduit. Conduit for every major internet carrier you’ve ever heard of. Oh, right. You had almost forgotten. This building, this basement, is the major internet hub for the entire region."
  • Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek
    Beautiful interface for this NY Times article. Perfect integration of video, images, and text.
  • Service Learning Survey
    Students: If you worked with a client from the VT Engage program, please take a few minutes to provide the program with some feedback about your experience.
  • SPOT Survey - Fall 2012
    Students: If you haven't completed the SPOT evaluation for this course, please do so during class on Wednesday. I take this feedback very seriously, and I use it to revise my classes each semester, so please be specific about the aspects of the course (and my teaching) that you found successful and unsuccessful.
  • Standards, not Prescriptions
    Nathan C. Ford: "For standardization to truly continue making the web a more stable place, we do not need more anticipatory specifications, we need solutions. Lots of them. Dumb ones, fat ones, smart ones, skinny ones. Let us embrace them all then watch them fight it out in the field. When the strongest emerge, we can adopt them into our specs and wait for the next batch of victors."
  • Into the vault: the operation to rescue Manhattan's drowned internet
    Dante D'Orazio, writing for the Verge: "Hurricane Sandy's storm surge flooded Verizon's downtown office, rendering miles of copper wiring useless."
  • Responsive Design Testing
    Great little tool for seeing what your website looks like at a variety of screen resolutions.
  • Having a Mobile Strategy is Like Having a Laptop Strategy 20 Years Ago
    John Steinberg: "I do not want to download your app. I just want to read the content on the mobile web and possibly share it if I’m engaged. The constant knee-jerk interstitialing of full-screen app download messages every time I load sites is beyond frustrating. Many site owners seems convinced that this frustration, which no doubt dampens the velocity and volume of content sharing, will convert in loyal downloading app users."
  • Google Data Centers
    Photos, video, and history of Google's physical facilities. Obviously one-sided, but interesting nonetheless.
  • Google Throws Open Doors to Its Top-Secret Data Center
    Steven Levy, in Wired: "This is what makes Google Google: its physical network, its thousands of fiber miles, and those many thousands of servers that, in aggregate, add up to the mother of all clouds."
  • Guidelines, Tools and Resources For Web Wireframing
    A nice list of resources about wireframing.
  • Save For Later
    Fascinating report on a Mozilla UX project by Brian Groudan: "All browsers support two functions: searching and revisiting. My research questions whether constructs like bookmarks really are the right model to support revisiting. I worked closely with Mozilla user experience researchers and designers to rethink how Firefox can better offer 'save for later' in the browser."