Ag Communication Web Services

Tech info, tips & tricks

The Short and Shorter of Instructional Design

Can you communicate useful instructions in 140 characters or in a six second video?[Read More]

Another Successful Communication Camp Completed

Last week, NDSU’s Agriculture Communication staff hosted the second-ever Communication Camp (CC) for Extension Service staff. We jammed in a whole lot of work in three days, but came out with some great tangibles; most notably, some new videos posted to NDSU Extension Service’s YouTube Channel

The purpose of Communication Camp is to work as a team to gain  skills, better understand communication and education in the digital age, and produce text, Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Conceptimages and video that can be used in educational programs. Like the first CC in June, participants represented a variety of programs. This time: the Parent Resource Center (PRC), Food & Nutrition, and Financial Management/Aging.

The agenda was tight but we had to fit it all in, in order to meet the goals of producing:

·  1-2 Web content items

·  a draft news release for a topic or event

·  several images for use in online and print content

·  a short video on YouTube

Each team had a liaison that participated in the last CC, and helped with the current group.  I was the liaison for one of the PRC’s. I think my group would agree the hardest task at camp was one of the first things we were asked to do: nail down a few key messages. We could not move forward with writing a news release, picking keywords or creating a video until they found something that was actionable and educational, and not a marketing message. It was like putting a puzzle together - you can't complete it without using every single piece. After a lot of discussion and brainstorming, my group’s key message was to show ways to avoid bedtime meltdowns with kids.

My group worked well together and shared best practices.  Through those conversations their messaging became relevant and usable. Through learning and hard work, they came up with a great final product. Check out the video here.

Communication Camp is intense but we have received positive feedback from our first two groups. Supervisors choose who attends the camp, so now you know what it’s all about if you get tapped on the shoulder to attend. If you can’t make the camp, check out all the resources here. From start (defining your key message) to finish (uploading a video to YouTube) you can promote your message.

If you have any questions about Communication Camp or any of the resources listed in the agenda, please contact me.

Sonja Fuchs
Web Technology Specialist, Ag Communication
North Dakota State University

Photo credit:



My Firsts at Fall Conference

I knew the annual Fall Conference this week would be a big deal and looking back I sure learned a lot. This was my first Fall Conference with NDSU Extension Service.

It was really great to get to meet people face-to-face. I think making that connection makes it easier for some people to reach out to you. I networked with a lot of people and handed out my business cards at the trainings, so hopefully my email and phone will be blowing up soon. I already have one meeting next week with someone who wants help with his web site on the Ag CMS.

Team spirit was evident everywhere. There were many smiles and I got a sense that people really enjoyed working with each other. And people seemed proud to be part of NDSU Extension Service.

I was on the program to co-present with Bob Bertsch but in truth, he did most of the materials prep, presenting and answering questions. I still learn something new from his trainings, even though I’ve taken them before. GREAT JOB, BOB!

I did my first training to Extension with Monday’s Facebook Pages breakout. Some people were happy to hear about scheduling posts in Facebook – a real time saver, while others were still hesitant about starting a Facebook Page due to the complexity of needing to have an individual profile in order to create a Page. The Facebook Presentation can be found here.

The iPad training went well. Thank goodness for my co-presenter CJ Johnson. He’s used the iPad a lot longer than me and was able to share some pretty neat tips and tricks to even the seasoned users (do you know about the 4-finger swipe?). I covered the pre-installed apps like email, notes, etc. and he covered the fun stuff like apps. And that’s ok because he has more experience with apps. Just got my first training evaluation in, and it looks like my part was boring while his was more “helpful”. He’s got great presentation skills and I really enjoy working with him.

On the other side of the podium (so to speak) I attended “ND Needs More Cows” with Chuck Fleming from the ND Ag Dept. I took it to get out of my comfort level. Enough of Facebook, iPads, etc. Bring on the cows! But it was interesting to learn what Chuck is working on. He’s come out of retirement to make the cow industry an economic force in ND. He praised Extension’s work and asked that they help him promote Cattle in ND. Sounds like some of our beef pubs online need to be updated so if you need help with that, please let me know. Chuck would like to link to them.

The awards ceremony was great. It’s nice to be recognized for years of service and the programs that were awarded were outstanding. Keep up the good work.

As the week winds down I’m viciously trying to take notes on what could go better next year. I’d like to be more prepared with my presentation materials (have them ready a week in advance instead of a day in advance!) and have evaluations ready to go right after the conference. Momentum drops off sharply after an event is done so you need to wrap things up quickly while it's still fresh in mind. I’m eager to see what the event and training evaluations are.

Thanks to all those who worked so hard to make the conference happen.

Share your thoughts on the trainings and conference in general in the Comments section.

Sonja Fuchs
Web Technology Specialist/Agriculture Communication
North Dakota State University


Mundane Tweets Show Why Twitter Is Great

The crap on Twitter isn't a reason to stay away; it's the reason to dive in. The mundane, inane and profane demonstrate the incredible diversity of the Twitter network, and that diversity leads to an increase of great things.[Read More]

Caution When Using Google Images

chick pea dish is not peppermint bon bon ice creamI’ve re-organized our photo resources page to make it easier to search images to use in websites and social media. Any time you post something online, there should be a corresponding visual to compliment the post, Tweet, story, etc. Online posts with an image are much more interesting and can hook your reader into reading more (many studies confirm this). If you’re going to Fall Conference, be sure to check out Bob Bertsch’s breakout session on Nov. 7: The Art of Being Seen: The Visual Web.

I bet that for most of us, we first go to Google Images to find a photo. It will certainly return the most results and it’s pretty inherit, having used Google to find other information. But did you know that you are not free to use just any images from Google images? In fact, re-using an image can be illegal without consent of the owner. To ensure you have permission to re-use an image, go to Advanced Search and narrow your results by those “free to use and share”. This will probably decrease your results drastically, which illustrates that most images are NOT free to use and share. Check out this quick screen cast of how to do it.

Another problem with Google Images is that sometimes you don’t get relevant results. Why is it that when you Google “peppermint bon bon ice cream”, you get some images returned for rocker Jon Bon Jovi? It’s because both were tagged with “bon”. It can be time consuming to sift through all the images when they aren’t relevant. A way around this is to search on exact terms by placing them within quotation marks.

I recently worked with Ron Smith on a Facebook post for transplanting perennials in fall. I was surprised that we visited numerous sites on the photo resources page but weren’t coming up with any decent images. Most images that were returned were of beautiful fall flowers, but we were looking for an action shot of someone actually digging up perennials. We finally did find a relevant photo, but only by searching on “garden gloves” and “dirt”. Successful searching is an art – how you think something should be tagged is not necessarily what the sharer tags a photo as.

We spent well over a half hour trying to find the right image. Here’s some tips I have for getting your image faster.

1. Build your own library of images. Get out and take photos, tips here. You know your subject matter best and can build your own relevant library. Organization is key of course. And you don’t need to worry about permission to use.

2. Use and contribute to the NDSU Ag Comm Flickr collection. There’s a lot of great photos to use, and sharing yours helps out others.

3. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the above to example, next try the Agriculture Photo Resources. Here’s where like-minded Ag people can contribute and use Ag-related photos.
4. The last section on the page references general image sites to choose from. Here’s where you still want to narrow your search by “free to use” and may spend some time figuring out search terms.

5. Last but not least, be sure to cite the source of the image not only as a courtesy, but because most of sources require it. A free image doesn’t really come free without citation.

It sounds like an exhaustive effort just to find an accompanying photo, and it can be. But with practice, you’ll probably develop a preference for a certain site and become a pro at for finding legal, relevant images. 

What’s up with the image of the savory dish for this blog post you ask? What does it have to do with peppermint bon bon ice cream? I found it by Googling “peppermint bon bon ice cream" and narrowing it with “free to use and share”. Only three images were returned and this was the most relevant. And by relevant I mean none of them were relevant. Just trying to illustrate that Google Images is not always the best resource for finding legal, relevant images.  Photo source:

Sonja Fuchs
Web Technology Specialist
Agriculture Communication/North Dakota State University


Taking Conferences Social

Twitter hashtags can be used to connect tweets about a particular event like a television broadcast or a conference, extending the reach and the depth of the event. A hashtag at a conference can be a great way for people not able to attend to follow conference conversations. It can help encourage an ongoing conference conversation. It's time to take the NDSU Extension/REC Fall Conference social. Our conference hashtag is #ndsuconf2012.[Read More]

Facebook Scheduling is a Time Saver!

If you manage a Facebook Page for your county, REC or department there’s a great newer feature both Bob Bertsch have been using for the Ag Comm Web Services page. Scheduling lets you set it and forget it!

This feature has been convenient in several scenarios; Bob and I take turns posting to Facebook on a weekly basis (which we manage through an editorial calendar). Rather than having to post something daily, I spend one day reading and finding good information to share for the upcoming week and I can go in to Facebook and schedule a week’s worth of posts, at just one seating. A whole week of posting duties done in just a few minutes!

You can schedule posts up to 6 months in advance, so this came in handy for Ron Smith, NDSU horticulturist, who will be out of the office in the coming week but still was responsible for posting to the NDSU Lawns, Gardens & Trees Facebook page. He was able to schedule two posts, one for when he is gone, and for the week he returns. He’ll probably come back from vacation with many calls and emails to reply to, so his Facebook posting will be one less thing to worry about upon his return.

Through the Activity Log in Facebook, you can view upcoming posts and make changes to the time (up to the minute) the post will publish. Bob and I are able to see each others posts and ensure that we are not duplicating information, as we tend to read information from the same sources.

Do you like working evenings and on weekends? Probably not and here’s where Facebook scheduling comes in handy again. A recent article from Mashable shows that for some marketers, Sunday posts and posts after 8 p.m. bring the most interaction. During your working hours you can schedule your posts and voilà – there it is at prime viewing time. We’ve been using this feature for several months and it’s very reliable.

See the Ag Comm Let's Communicate blog for instruction on how to do Facebook scheduling.

If you need any help with Facebook scheduling, please contact Bob Bertsch or me.

- Sonja Fuchs

Web Technology Specialist/Agriculture Communication
North Dakota State University


NDSU Extension Teams Learn to Create Online Videos

In less than 24 hours, NDSU Extension teams were able to create, post and share their own video. The teams spent one afternoon and the following morning working on their videos and the results were impressive. Check out the examples.[Read More]

PLN in place. Now what? Start sharing!

You're sold on your PLN (Personal Learning Network). You've built it up and read the conversations. Inspired by what read? Have something to add to the conversation? Disagree with what's being said? Share your thoughts and get in the conversation.[Read More]

PLN Barriers - Afraid of Technology

One of the barriers to building a PLN (Personal Learning Network) can be the fear of technology. But it's ok to ask questions. There's no such thing a dumb question and getting it answered paves the way to building your PLN. [Read More]

Learning Networks: source, filter and flow

A visualization of how information can be discovered, filtered and managed in a personal learning network.[Read More]

How I Started my Personal Learning Network (PLN)

Sharing my PLN with you. [Read More]

Take Control of Your Learning

Managing your own personal and professional learning is a must.[Read More]

A Fresh Look at Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

What’s great about a PLN is that technology makes information quick, accessible and easy to share.[Read More]

Getting Your Facebook Page Ready for Timeline

A few tips and resources for getting your Facebook page ready for the new Timeline format.[Read More]

Author: Julie

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