Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Letter To My Most Influential Teacher

Because I am now old enough to be friends with a lot of teachers/educators and those with such aspirations, I wanted to share this letter that I recently wrote to one Mr. Cedric Magee in the hopes that it will inspire.

Dear Mr. Magee,

                 I wanted to send you a personalized graduation invitation just to let you know how much you have meant to me over the years. I'll try to do so without taking up too much of your time. Due to a clerical error in the days before I was to start the 6th grade, I was not assigned a 6th grade teacher. Luckily, my mother and I had come to the school the Friday before classes began (as was our custom back then) and we had met a few of the teachers, including you. I had never had a male teacher before, so the choice was an easy one to make. Little did I know, it would turn out to be one of the best decisions of my life. I got much more than a male teacher when I joined your class. I got a friend, a mentor, an ally, and a role model. In a society that didn't resemble what my parents and spiritual leaders were steering me to become, I finally was able to see an example in action. From watching and closely following your lead, I began to realize that being a righteous gentleman was not only possible despite what others around me did, but it could be "cool," too (and that's a very important lesson for a young man to learn). I found that there is an appeal to be gained by being a respectful and respectable male (and an African-American male, at that) that is completely unmatched. Furthermore, I was able to see how much time, hope, and influence you invested in me and in my success (including a College Algebra book that you began to work through with me a bit as I prepared for the ACT that year; I wish I had used it more). Now that you are a principal, I know that your job may seem quite thankless as the young people, parents, and educators you seek to empower may not always realize the value of your work. For that reason, I'd like you to know that I appreciate who you are. Your integrity, your dignity, your hard work, and your unwavering consistency over the years are very valuable and rare personality traits which I strive to emulate every day. More importantly, I'd like to thank you for being my blueprint and to apologize for failing to tell you these things more often over the years. Most importantly, however, I hope this message provides some encouragement to continue to do what you've always done. I guarantee you that someone is watching you, patterning himself or herself after you, and will be able to reach great success in large part due to your influence and example. Thank you for adding value to my story.

 Yours truly,

 Christopher James

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Google Site - Funnel Cloud Stereo

Funnel Cloud Stereo

Me, 2.0: 4 Steps To Building Your Future

First, let me start by saying out of the couple of book options I had originally posted, I can certainly see why this book was chosen as my assignment. It incorporates nearly everything we've talked about in class in the framework of personal branding. The author, Dan Schawbel, has a natural talent for personal branding, marketing, and brand development and he utilized those to determine that he has a passion for all of the above. In his book, he details the steps toward crafting one's very own personal brand.

This seems to mainly incorporate planning and deliberate, strategic moves both online and offline. Schawbel suggests that your brand has already begun developing, as the emotions and traits expressed with the brands that you select and endorse help to define you and how you come across. Thus, you must choose your brands and products carefully, and make sure they are consistent with what you want to say. From there, he talks about developing a strategic plan for yourself, complete with short-term and long-term objectives and a personal brand statement. From these, one knows just how to market himself or herself. Next, it's time to get busy on the Web - specifically Web 2.0. Social networking is very important here, and should be consistent with the personal brand statement from status updates to pictures, to friends. Schawbel also recommends blogging, learning HTML, and networking - including personal e-mails to bloggers and journalists who write articles important to your field of study or interest. Keywords, search engine optimization, social networking, and the more traditional things such as appropriate attire, interviewing, and communication/interpersonal skills all culminate in developing a powerful personal brand.

Chapter 6 is all about actually creating your brand. Specifically, it speaks of online brand presence, from how to create a resume, video resumes and podcasts, and digital portfolios to distinguish your online presence from the countless others out there searching for jobs or networking online. Further, it suggests that everyone learn HTML programming or use basic tools to create a website, and suggests that websites will soon take the place of resumes. After this, the chapter delves heavily into blogging; what it is, why it's important, how to do it, and how to get the most out of it. Again, specifically he says to e-mail bloggers personally with compliments on an article you found useful. He also suggests posting interviews with your favorite bloggers (by e-mailing them questions). It is also important to evaluate the competition in order to find a niche as well as to emulate key features or aspects of the successful blogs in hopes of repeating their success. After that, he talks a bit about social networking profiles and how Avatars are important, as are real names. He suggests personalizing these things as much as possible and making them professional and consistent (i.e. your LinkedIn page should have the same picture as your Facebook page and they should have the same name), making you easier to find. Finally, Schawbel says that it is important to be consistent with one's online persona during offline interactions.

I don't disagree with much that the author said here, except that he talks about using a real name in place of a username in order to gain marketing leverage. It seems that a username that contains elements of one's given name but also shows personality or highlights a certain strength can make one stand out even more and may be even more distinguishing than using an actual name, especially if the name is a fairly common one. Beyond that, the author seems fairly redundant throughout the book, coming back to a lot of the same themes and saying some of the same things in different ways.

If I were not using an established site for my project, I'd be able to use a lot more of this information to help with it. I think I could use a lot more eye-catching and attention-grabbing graphics and words to get my points across and show some Internet credibility. Also, due to the use of Google sites, my use of Web 2.0 to distinguish the site and product idea are limited. That means that the Google site used for this project will likely only serve as a template for my product, which I actually do intend to attempt to develop and pitch in the near future.

Building my blog into a public speaking platform which allows me to do events and talks around the country is a dream that I have had since coming to college. Because of the detailed list of steps and methods for building a blog in this book (and especially the press kit tip), I think I may be able to succeed to some degree in making this dream a reality.

Friday, March 30, 2012


Reading the article about Codeacademy and then beginning to use it made me very glad that I signed up for this course! These are things that I always wanted to learn, but honestly thought I needed to be formally trained in (say, for instance, by taking a college course or receiving some sort of certification) before I could properly use them with confidence. There are so many things that I'd like to take a stab at with this information that I will probably dedicate a great deal of my summer to learning as much about programming - developing code which allows one to execute commands. The Codeacademy is a free web service that teaches anyone who wants to register and learn about programming, from the basics all the way up to the tough stuff. Because I am a procrastinator extraordinaire, I have not had enough time to complete the JavaScript lessons yet, but I think I have just found my new favorite site!


As far as the Internet goes, all I had ever heard of was the APRANet which I believe is dated at 1969 by most accounts. The most important piece of the process of transmitting and receiving data is the protocol, or rules, that the Internet uses. These include TCP/IP and multiple other acronyms that allow our computers to send data to each other that is readily interchangeable and transferable. I never thought so much about how interdependent and universal online data must be in order to get our information from point A to point B so quickly and seamlessly. Both videos as well as the lecture did a good job of covering the importance of protocol and packets, smaller sequences of data that the larger information parcels we consume are broken down into. One thing which was left out of the lecture that I would've included is the Dot-com bubble and its subsequent burst. Before this point, a lot of people speculated in websites without true business models (or at least without good ones). After the bubble burst, the Internet was able to progress and to become better than ever because of clever problem-solving and useful products and services which were better for people to understand and consume. Going forward, the most important developments will be those which optimize smartphone and tablet browsing and apps, making the Internet even more efficient and useful on the go.

CMS and the Beauty of the Web

What's the beauty of the web, you ask? For TWT (Techies Without [formal] Training) like me, it's that nothing has to be as hard as it may initially seem. There are always all sorts of ways to 'skin a cat,' as the saying goes, and CMS provides us with some tools that allow us to develop premium web content without taking the time to memorize or use tons and tons of code. Of course, knowledge of code is still extremely useful, but it isn't absolutely necessary anymore. Enter Drupal, open source software that even some of the biggest and baddest entities on the Web (such as the White House and Sony) use as we speak. It's free stuff! Incredible what you can do with a bit of tinkering, all thanks to the fact that one of the hallmarks of noncriminal Techie culture is to make using the Web a nearly universally accessible experience. Just finding out about such developments make the task of developing a site seem so much more feasible.

Infosec - Things That Make You Go Hmm....

Mikko Hypponen is an excellent speaker. His first video, about the three types of online attack, really provide very sobering commentary and thoughts about Internet crime and how serious (and lucrative) it can be. As our world becomes more and more digital, it really is bothersome to think that there are a few people or organizations out there with more skills than entire populations who rely on the technology these skilled individuals like to tamper with. Also, it seems to be quite the losing battle to fight, although a very necessary one.

With his second video, on fighting viruses and defending the net, we got to see how complex the issue of internet crime can be, and the type of thinking and resourcefulness it takes to fight it. As he spoke about a more concerted global effort to fight internet crime, Hypponen brought to mind my favorite book series as a teenager, Tom Clancy's Net Force. This group was an online government agency comprised mainly of hackers as well as military forces who worked together to fight online criminal organizations and individuals. There was even a TV movie made of the series, which was discontinued after about 8 - 10 books, which I still have. I wonder if the INTERPOL or other such organizations could draw from Tom Clancy's imagination to develop the type of force needed to fight internet crime?

As far as SOPA and PIPA are concerned, a lot of today's great techies (Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page) have reached rockstar status. These guys have the means to alter our lives, truly, if they want to, and a great many of them did just that in response to Congress's mulling over of those two bills. Because of their very widespread influence, I never did get too concerned that either of these would actually pass. That also brings a book to mind, though (although, one has to extrapolate greatly from the book to think of this). Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, was about censorship, but through the burning of books. Could censorship of the Internet provide the government with the same means of control of the masses and seriously decrease our quality of life, bringing about a dystopian society (perhaps I read too much)?

HTML - "This is a line of text" = "See Spot Run"

The review on was nice and informative while remaining concise. However, that video was painfully basic and elementary. I know not everyone has HTML experience, but as the title denotes, I think the video was the equivalent of See Spot Run. Anyway, the W3Schools site was very good, and I am really enjoying all of these resources that will allow me to shore up my skills in the areas of programming and HTML. One can never be too marketable these days!

View Source is a tool that can be accessed from the dropdown menu on most Web browsers. It shows the source code for a particular Web page, and could probably be used to design a web page which emulates or draws from elements of an existing page. It could also be used to kind of reverse-engineer a page in an effort to learn HTML.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Structures - Barry Cumbie

Type Example Connotation
Firm DSP Start-Up Because this firm was developed within a fraternity, making it a firm seems to note that there is no undue focus on any individual member.
Political Party “Rent Is Too Damn High Party” For a political organization, this name seems to be the only one that would provide legitimacy.
Nonprofit Organization Boys and Girls Club of America Seeking to help mentor, develop, and benefit children without charging their parents makes this just about the only type of organization that makes for Boys and Girls Club.
Multinational Terrorist Organization Al-Qaeda Al-qaeda – translated “the base,”an organization that spans multiple nations and tries to create wreak havoc
Team Los Angeles Lakers basketball team A group of people who join together for a common goal, usually with each member specializing in certain aspects of reaching that goal (i.e. Kobe Bryant – scorer, closer; Andrew Bynum – shot blocker, rebounder)
Comedy troupe Holy Ghost Players Group of individuals who work together to do impromptu comedy, playing off of one another and adding humorous content, hence their name

The One Stop Shop For Urban Wear - Barry Cumbie

NOTE: The design constraints of my blog make it difficult to see the picture. However, if you click the picture, then right click the image overlay that appears and open it in a new tab/window, you should be able to see the image as large as originally intended. has been one of my favorite sites for a long time. I first came to the site because I was looking to spend money from my summer job on some "fresh threads" to wear to school.
Anyway, the site is an online urban clothing retailer, so it targets those who subscribe to the hip-hop subculture, and the many subcategories thereof: athletes, preps, skaters, dancers, etc.
The site is known for its sales, as they are typically much better than any deal one can find on the top notch brands in bricks-and-mortar stores. The sales are not for one item, but discounts typically increase or decrease depending on the amount spent (usually one percentage for under $100 and a higher percentage for over $100). By using these sales - which usually have restrictions (i.e. discounts don't apply to certain brands like Nike or Beats by Dre, which is pictured above) - DrJays can entice customers to spend more. Of course, there is also a countdown timer (although by now, most regular customers are aware that a very similar sale will be up within minutes of the deadline). I don't know how they do it, but the site continues to offer the best selection and quality of clothing/accessories for "hip hop heads" at incredibly low prices. The site also features a blog, celebrity interviews, contests, and social networking accounts including Instagram, where the site encourages customers to tag DrJays and take pictures wearing their new clothes. With great product pictures, product specs, and many different forms of "entertailment" as well as memberships, exclusive deals, newsletters, and responsive customer service, DrJays is far ahead of its competition in providing the best in urban wear.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Warm Up Activity - Barry Cumbie

In “The Myth of Monotasking,”author Cathy Davidson discusses attention spans in the new digital era. She seems to be very complimentary of the new age and ready to do away with the old way of doing things (focusing on one task until it is completed and then moving on to the next one). In fact, Davidson even says that we are more productive when we take social networking breaks and so on. I find it hard to believe that anyone takes “social networking breaks.” What may start off as a break probably becomes an all out social networking binge (which may or may not be interrupted by study breaks). I think there may have been some valid points in her argument, but she seemed a bit too yielding to a generation that, in many ways, can be very lazy and entitled. I agree that laziness can breed inventions and innovations, but I think old-school discipline (and attention) is the best way to develop leadership.

In “Social Media’s Untapped Power” a strictly-for-laughs comment by the moderator became the subject of what I think is the most promising and striking content within the entire podcast, “gamification” and the productivity of games and entertainment. Both Piskorski and Bradley point to the possibility of having great collaboration occur through games. Later, they discuss finding a way to give people what they want in a way that raises your company’s bottom line – a rather old concept, as the moderator points out. It seems that the only thing that has actually changed in business over the past several years is what customers want and the different models and methods by which this could raise a company’s bottom line.

Despite my argumentative tone on the first paragraph, I think the two ideas presented in these podcasts go quite well together. People work better when there are distractions or multiple things happening at once, refreshing the brain and inspiring creativity. Using the info from the second paragraph, it seems that one could inspire a great deal of productivity from making work into a game or distraction itself. The next big break in business may indeed be finding a way to embed learning or working into fun instead of separating the two. As much as people enjoy and find ways to entertain themselves (or at least procrastinate) these days, turning such practice on its ear and giving it an actual purpose would undoubtedly revolutionize business as we know it.