As we enter our third month of operation here at the Packers Lounge, I wanted to take a moment to share with the readers how this fine place of ours came about. It is a long and detailed story–enjoy.
This post, is actually serving as my final project for a college course. As most of you are aware, I am a thirty-six-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin Stout. I am currently in the fourth year of my six year plan and things have been going well. This semester I took a class called “Writing for Multimedia.” Although I expected the course to revolve solely around writing, in the end it turned out to be much more. So much more, that it inspired this website.
I have wanted my own Packers website for quite some time. The reasons for this are numerous and many, but ultimately I wanted a place where I had creative freedom to talk about my passion, while allowing others the opportunity to both enjoy and contribute to that experience.
Enter Dr. Matt Livesey, professor and director of the Technical Communications department at the UW Stout.
Dr. Livesey was the instructor for my asynchronous course this semester. For those of you not familiar with the asynchronous learning, it simply means that half the class was on campus, and the other half viewed the class through a video feed. I was a member of the latter.
Here is a small screenshot of what I saw every week.
You can faintly make out Dr. Livesey in the yellow shirt on the right. He was a great instructor. I think he is from California or somewhere out west. He has that California feel to him, and (don’t crucify him) has absolutely no clue about Packer football. That is okay though, he knows a lot more about a lot of other stuff than guys like me could ever hope for.
Anyway, now that I have sufficiently kissed enough butt, I will move on to the class and how it all fits together here.
You might think that sitting at home watching class on television sounds pretty easy. You would be terribly wrong. Holy mother of Greg Jennings, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When I first started the class, this website was just starting to bud in my head. I didn’t know if I was going to get around to building it considering I had absolutely no knowledge of computer programming, buying a dot com, or any other training in “dorkeneese” that would be necessary to accomplish my goals. Not to mention a new semester of school was on the horizon.
As the class and the website progressed, I quickly realized the amount of work that Dr. Livesey had in store for us this semester. I remember looking at the syllabus and thinking there was no way I was going get this all done. It was a monumental amount of work in my eyes, but being the trooper I am, I proceeded to dive right in.
We started off the semester learning about copyright law. I wasn’t pleased about the subject, and initially was pretty unhappy I even had to deal with it. On the other hand, one of the main reasons I wanted my own Packer website was directly relevant to the subject.
I have always written a lot of sports related stories. In order to get that writing out for people to enjoy, I often had to post it on others sports forums and open source sports networks. In doing so, I gave up all the rights to my work. Now, places like Packer Forum and Packers Home had full privilege to both make money and use my work as their own. I found this unacceptable, and if some of you remember, I got quite angry about the whole thing at one point.
Then I would be introduced to Keith Winstein, a MIT instructor in the basics of copyright law.
One of our first assignments was to watch a series of lectures from MIT. Now, there is no way I am going to get into MIT, so I was semi-excited to get an opportunity to be a part of this course. If one was to pay for such an experience I imagine it would cost several thousand dollars at the very least. The lectures were pretty dry, but they inspired me enough to start Packers Lounge. In case anyone is interested in watching all eight or so hours, you can find the lectures below.
It certainly wasn’t a fluffy subject at all. The lectures were loaded with information, had numerous pages of reading that accompanied them, and were pretty dry altogether. However, they did open my eyes to some of the finer points of copyright law, and how I could apply them to this website. I had to finish that section of the class by turning in a brief lecture of my own on copyright law. Naturally, I made mine into a podcast.
We are not yet infringement free. We still use the occasional picture that is not entirely approved, but for the most part we try to keep our content self created. I try to make most of the banners by hand, keep the use of the Packer logo to a minimum, and also am proud that we use all podcast safe music when we record our cast each week.
You might also notice that we have joined the Creative Commons (CC) movement. Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally, while allowing people to share those works. We are very anti cut and paste around here. If you are going to use someone else’s work, give the attribution and link them up.
At the same time, we didn’t want to prevent people from spreading around our content either, so Creative Commons was the perfect thing for us. Here you are free to spread our writing and other creations around, as long as you take a second to give us the credit for it, and aren’t using it for commercial purposes. We hope in the future to be completely copyright safe, and strive everyday to get a little bit closer. I want this site to grow with the original content we create, not someone else’s.
After a long battle (and much swearing) we eventually got through the copyright portion of the class and moved on to the very difficult world of Flash programming.
If you are not familiar with Flash, it is an Adobe software product that is used to create many of the well, “flashy” intros and presentations you see on websites all over the place. We don’t have a Flash product on the site as of yet, but the groundwork has certainly been built.
If you have never used Flash, I personally found it extremely detailed and difficult. I watched several days’ worth of tutorials, and eventually was able to do a few basic things.
I was able to create some simple projects and it started out kind of rough. Eventually I was able to design my first project. Yes, I know it looks kind of amateur, but I challenge anyone to get into Flash and try it sometime. It is not easy. I learned a little bit more every time I used it, and was able to create a word-free quote, a clock using action script and finally, a button that plays back Jordy Nelson’s first NFL touchdown. I know it’s nothing ultra fancy, best rest assured that hours and hours of time was spent on those four projects. Those hours have paid off as I now find myself with the basic knowledge to use Flash if I ever find the desire to do so.
To bring this back to Packers Lounge for a minute, by this point we were about one month or so into our startup. I took on Dale Zawada as a partner. Dale is a twenty-four-year-old gentleman from Chicago who is just now realizing that this is the first time anyone has called him gentleman. Dale is loud, crude, likes to drink, and can be as politically incorrect as Howard Stern. Regardless, he is a young man loaded with raw talent, and I hope this website has given him to opportunity to use that creativity to find some enjoyment and hopefully future employment. Besides being a unique talent, Dale also has a keen eye. I would wake up to daily emails from Dale pointing out the subtle flaws in my site design, and would spend hours of my free time teaching myself CSS and other necessities as Dale sought fit.
What Dale didn’t fully understand is that as all of this “we are going to have a cool Packer website” stuff was going on, I was also dealing with all of what you have read above (along with four other classes man). Needless to say, things got tense at times. Dale and I are pretty much the two most egotistical Packer fans there are, so the chances that we ever get along are slim to none.
As my lessons in Flash were ending so was our creation. Eventually, we had a pretty nice looking little blog. Just as I got to start enjoying it, Dr. Livesey decided it was time to move on to the next latest-and-greatest multimedia project–another website.
I was assigned along with a team of other students to develop and enhance the website for UW Stout’s minor program called Women’s Studies. This project would essentially take up half of the semester, and turn into a full blown, multi-based, coordination of efforts. We would have to write the content, supply the video, and address all copyright issues along the way.
It would be essential to effectively communicate with our client, each other, and orchestrate a complete multimedia project on a severely time constrained basis. I was assigned to a content development team, and put in charge of creating a persona for use in presenting usability options to our client.
Now that I have completely lost all of the Packer fans, in a nutshell, usability is determining who is going to be using your website and how. For example, here at Packers Lounge we have a diverse population of members. We have IronMan, who is single and loving the ladies. We also have Mark who likes the stats and the breakdowns, and of course we have guys like Dale who appreciate humor. When dealing with this assortment of characters you really have to think how people are going to use your website, and how to make sure you have something for everyone.
For class, we actually had to break down and write up personas (small biographies) on fictional people we thought might be using the Universities website. I was assigned to write a persona on a young female who had not yet chosen a minor in college. I decided to call her Penny Foust and wrote her persona. We had to convert it into a PDF as this is the preferred and most universal method to format data.
I used this information to some degree on this website as well. That is why you will see a heavy side on pictures of girls for IronMan, footage and statistics for guys like Mark, and let’s not forget to mention Dale’s parody songs for the masses to cry over.
Find out what the people like and use it. It’s really quite simple.
I also had to review a study on the subject and write up a brief summary of the reading. I chose to explore the use of multimedia in a classroom environment. My main point, although well hidden, was to subtly infer to my professor that he should be more active on the discussion boards. I find it invaluable in asynchronous courses to have that kind of feedback along the way. Here is a link to the review in MS Word.
As the class passed the midway point, the website was starting to take off as well. People were enjoying the product, and we were able to focus more on our creativity and not as much on details. This was a good thing, because the project at school was just starting to hit full bore.
Essentially, I was grouped with one guy and about six or so twenty-one-year-old girls. Take it easy there IronMan. They were fun to work with, but in all honestly I am in nowhere the same place as today’s twenty-one-year-old females. It was fairly challenging for me to deal with. The girls took the bull by the horns though and we proceeded to build a multimedia project for our client.
I was assigned to write content for two disciplines: education and management. These paragraphs would appear below pictures and introduce prospective students to the minor. They were then edited for consistency. Here is the finished project on education and management excluding the pictures.
The others in the group worked on their areas, and the project started to come together. One of the unexpected surprises was the opportunity to edit some video. I had never edited video before, but was assigned to edit two short clips for the project. I taught myself how to utilize Windows Movie Maker and eventually put out a nice product. I was able to remove the voice of the interviewer, add subtitles as questions, and edit out rough or in-audible portions. The University also has very strict guidelines on color codes and content. I was able to meet their specifications throughout the venture. It took quite some time to get the hang of it, but it will be valuable as I go along. The rough copies of the instructor interview and testimonial can be found in .wmv form, while the finished products are embedded below.
The final product is due tomorrow, and the rest of the project is for the most part out of my hands. The course was certainly informative, but more importantly useful.
As you can see, many aspects of multimedia have gone into the development of Packers Lounge. It has given me the ability to take something I learned and put a practical use to it. Even more importantly, it has given me an avenue in which to be creative–something I hope the University takes note of.
I encourage anyone who wishes to leave a comment to do so. We always have intended this to be a place where members have a voice. If you have anything to say, please feel free to say it. I ask that you keep it appropriate, and I also invite Dr. Livesey to sound off if he so chooses. Just because you aren’t a Packer fan that lives in the heart of Wisconsin (easy guys) you certainly have a valuable, albeit recently revealed, voice around here as well.
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