Teachers, Professors make use of Areavoices in the classroom

One of the trends that I’m loving here on Areavoices is our growth in classroom blogs. Having students publish their schoolwork (as part of their schoolwork) is gaining in momentum.

I’m so glad teachers and professors are seeing the value in having students log into their own blog and publish their thoughts and projects.

Not long ago, I told you how Dr. Julie Mach, an associate professor of chemistry at Concordia College in Moorhead is utilizing Areavoices in her Neurochemistry course. Students are required to post their reflections on topics in Neurochemistry in a way that the everyday reader could understand. (Thanks guys!)


It’s been fun to see the students weigh in and publish their own works.

Now Carrie Anne Platt is utilizing the platform for her Gender and Media class at North Dakota State University. The students were required to set up blogs specifically addressing issues concerning media influence on teens and tweens and their work has been really interesting. Here are just three blogs that stand out:


New registration method is here!

I happy to tell you we’re up and running with our new registration system for Areavoices blogging.

We’ve made it easier than ever (and, I hope, more glitch free) to start a blog on Areavoices.com.

Just go to Areavoices.com. and click on Start Your Blog. Then you’re directed to a form. Once you fill out that form, it will be reviewed and the blog will be started in  a day or two. What this form is doing is making it less likely that spam blogs get into Areavoices and muck up the system. You know they say about one bad apple. Spammers caused the platform to slow down. But with this new method, you should find Areavoices will run faster.

If you have any questions, just let me know. tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com



New way to start your blog!

Hey everyone!

Here’s a heads up for you! If you’re still interested in starting a blog, by golly, we want you to join us here on Areavoices!

We have thousands of you now blogging and it tickles us pink! Our blogs are featured in newspapers across North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin which attract almost 2. 5 million people a month. It’s the place to be!

But as with death and taxes, change is inevitable. We’re changing the way you start your blog. The spammers of the world are wreaking havoc on the registration process. So to make things run a little more smoothly, we’ve changed the process.

We’ll eventually have you fill out a form with information we’ll need to start your blog. Simple and easy. Your name, email address, proposed user name, and blog title. With that info, we can get you started. We’ll also ask you what your blog is about so we’ll know if it’s something our editors might wish to pick up in their papers.

All of this will be accessible through a form that will automatically pop up on the page after you hit “Start Here” at areavoices.com. But it’s not here quite yet. Details to follow.

In the meantime, you can still start your blog by emailing me at tracy,briggs@forumcomm.com. I’ll need your name, email address, user name and blog title. From there I can start your blog and you can customize it as you wish. I’ll keep you updated as to the registration process changes. Let me know if you have questions!



If you write an Areavoices blog you’ll want to see this


So you’ve been writing your blog for awhile…everything is fine. But there’s something missing. The magic is gone. Cue the melodramatic music. Okay, I won’t go that far. But the fact is, sometimes we roll along and blog the way we always do and end up feeling like it could all just be a little bit better.

Well, then along comes help in the form of a fabulous man named Shane Mercer. Shane is the Community Content Coordinator for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He describes himself as “The Forum’s blog guy.” Anyway, over the past few days Shane has been posting some great tutorials about making your Areavoices blog even better. His topics have included how tagging helps organize your blog and make it easier for readers, cool things you can do with menus, and how to use the text widget. 

Great advice for anyone using Areavoices. There are two places you can find these tutorials. Shane’s blog or The Support Blog.

Thanks Shane! And if you have specific questions, let us know. We can put together a tutorial to answer your question.



Growing Pains can wreak a little havoc sometimes

And no, I’m not talking about the 80’s sitcom with Alan Thicke. In this case, I’m talking about Areavoices.

Throughout the last couple of years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in both the number of people writing blogs and the traffic these blogs are attracting. People are loving what they’re reading in our blogging community and Forum Communications is happy to be the vehicle to bring this blog content to you.

But with the tremendous growth, sometimes we’re stretched pretty thin trying to keep up. More spammers are trying to gain access to our readers and our spam filters are having to work overtime. The result is sometimes legitimate blogs get marked as spam. If that’s happened to you, just let me know as soon as possible and we’ll get you unmarked.It’s a quick fix.

Also, on occasion some of our bloggers are getting an error message when they try to log in. Again, the result of high traffic. Here’s what Product Development Manager Chris Welle says,

 Right now the issue is that during the morning – due to high traffic – the site will become very slow to respond. This will make it incredibly difficult to post new content in the morning. My short term recommendation would be to try and post your stories in the afternoon while we continue to isolate and implement other solutions.
One longer term solutions that we will be reviewing is to see if we can’t put parts of Areavoices behind a CDN to help relive the amount of bandwidth it takes to host the site. The hope is that by moving parts of the site to a CDN we can save on bandwidth to make the site more responsive during peak traffic. We know by following WordPress.org’s example that their fix for running their own software is to continuously throw more hardware at it when issues arise — that isn’t a luxury we can always afford so we will need to get creative.
Other potential fixes will be to run some updates to Areavoices WordPress software – we are a few revisions behind at the moment.
There is one issue that we can’t ‘fix’ per-say and that is the issue of spam, though we have taken steps to relieve the amount of spam posts, comments and blogs that are created (which can chew up it’s much needed resources) we can only do so much. Spammers are sophisticated creatures and it’s a continuous cat and mouse game between the anti-spam programs we use and the spammers, as a result there will be times when the spam will get through. It’s annoying but it is something we will need to live with when running an open platform like Areavoices (our third largest site in the FCC Network).
In closing, we’ve been trying to determine what can be done to alleviate the morning issues and will be working towards a few solutions over the next few weeks. Also, if there are times where you’re not getting responses via the support email please feel free to reach out to me directly.
So, thanks for your patience. Areavoices is a fantastic way to get your content out to the thousands of people reading our Forum Communications Papers. We value having you in our Areavoices community and hope to make it even easier in the future.

Looking for a speaker for your group?

One of my favorite parts of my job as Digital Content Development Director here at Forum Communications is the chance I get to meet with people in the community and tell them not only about the benefits of blogging on Areavoices, but give them a few tips about social media usage as a whole.

I’ve meet so many nice people (and had many nice complimentary lunches) at Kiwanis clubs, Rotary clubs and the like.

I wanted to let everyone know I’ve put together a new presentation that I’d love to share with your group or organization.

It’s called, “So You’re on Social Media, Now What? – Tips for more effective Areavoices blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting and more.”

I think it will help those of you who’ve gone to the trouble of signing up for all of these platforms but still aren’t quite sure what you should be doing.

Let me know if you’re interested in learning more.

Why is an NDSU student writing blog about Fighting Sioux hockey?

To be fair NDSU junior Bri Gefroh’s blog isn’t just about The Fighting Sioux, it’s about hockey as a whole. And more accurately her love of the sport. She writes:

For the Love of Hockey is a female-run blog about the best sport in the world, hockey. There will be news and analysis of course but also interesting/entertaining things I find from the world of hockey. After all, hockey is a lifestyle.”

She concentrates on covering teams in the Dakotas and Minnesota. She even interns for the Bismarck Bobcats.

It’s an unusual turn for a girl who grew up loving another sport:

“I’ve taken a journey from hoops to puck. I always knew I’d grow up to become a WNBA player… at least until I quit basketball in eighth grade. When I was in elementary school, if you’d have told me that when I got to college, I would fall in love with hockey, I would’ve thought you were on drugs. But nonetheless, here I am.”

She calls herself a UND Fighting Sioux hockey fan “on a campus that bleeds Bison green and yellow.”

She says it can be awkward to wear the Sioux gear to school, but she says it seems to help when she tells people she loves Bison football as well. Maybe that blog is next!I


Why didn’t I think of that?

Every once in awhile, I run across a blog that makes me think, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Rose’s Pin-Tests is one of those blogs: http://rosespintests.areavoices.com

The blog is written by a college student who takes ideas she finds on Pinterest then actually tries them out. Then she follows it up with a review.

I LOVE this idea. Maybe it’s because I’m the Queen of Pinterest. Or rather the Queen of pinning-things-on-Pinterest-then-never-actually-trying-them. That’s why I love this concept. She has “Made it myself Monday” for crafty pins and “Foodie Friday” for food pins (my favorite kind). And it’s a free for all the rest of the days of the week.

So check it out! Maybe, she’ll inspire you to actually make use out of all that stuff on your Pinterest boards!






Real Oilfield Wives and more new blogs!

It’s been awhile since I’ve given you my recommendations for new blogs to check out here on Areavoices. But three new blogs have crossed my path and I felt compelled to share them.

The first is called Real Oilfield Wives. This blog is just getting started but it’s based on an already popular website, Realoilfieldwives.com. It’s written by two women whose husbands work in the oil and gas industry. Melissa and Christy know the life of an oilfield wife isn’t always easy.

They describe in the about section of their site:

“We all know how lonely this life can be… long nights, days on end with no adult conversation, holding down the fort on our own for weeks at a time. Even though sometimes it’s nice to have all that ‘free time’, getting back into a groove together after so long isn’t always fun! Really, it kind of sucks.

So, welcome to ROW. We whipped up this site as a supportive community where women can find advice, friends, support, and maybe a good online sale tip every now and then!”

We’re thrilled that they’ll be sharing just some of their thoughts on our platform and with Forum Communication readers. Please welcome them!


The other two blogs that caught my eye are:

Inner Focus: Melissa Schaff calls her blog, “humorous and insightful messages based on my spiritual, emotional and energetic journey.” She’s a great writer and her blog is attracting a lot of fans already.

Also, be sure to check out our newest faith blog. Unitarian Universalist Church of Fargo Moorhead.


Three Great Teams=Three Great Blogs

Okay, I realize not everyone will agree with me that all three of these teams are great! (Commence the arguing Packer and Viking fans) But the fact is The Minnesota Vikings, The Green Bay Packers and The North Dakota State University Bison all find themselves in post-season play this weekend, so all rivalries aside, one could argue these are pretty awesome teams.

To keep you in the loop, I wanted to recommend three Areavoices blogs that you’ll want to see. They provide in-depth analysis, injury reports and those little details only rabid fans would notice. Check them out:
And finally: Who are you rooting for?


Gregor’s Packer Analysis: Packer news and reports from fan Greg Gillis.
Gillis provides a detailed recap of Packer action from week to week and previews what’s to come.

The Armchair Kicker – The Best Minnesota Vikings Blog in the Western Hemisphere. From the author: “My name is Mark Walters. Originally from Hibbing, Minn. My obsession with Vikings football started when my father took me to the Metrodome for the first time in October 1983. Win or lose, I bleed purple”

And for Bison fans, you need to get plugged into the Bison Media Blog. Forum sportswriter and columnist Jeff Kolpack and WDAY-TV sports director Dom Izzo run down the action (and occasionally each other) in this very popular blog. It usually in our top five most read blogs.


So enjoy the games this weekend everyone. And if you’re writing a Vikings, Packers or Bison blog you think we should feature or would like to start one, for heaven’s sake just email me. I’m happy to get you started. tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com


Looking for the area’s messiest desk!

Packrats everywhere claim that “a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind.” If that’s true we are about to introduce you to some very healthy people.

The Messy Desk is a celebration of the messiest desks in the region. We want your pictures! Share just how bad it’s gotten. Do your co-workers, family, and friends make fun of you, cracking wise about finding Jimmy Hoffa in your desk drawers? This is your chance to show your pride for your desk. If it can’t be cleared off, it might as well be celebrated for being the pinnacle of clutterdom. Just send your pictures to me at tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com and I’ll post them to this blog.

Help might be on the way for the messiest among you!

Consider this story for inspiration. Back in the early ’90’s a co-worker of mine lost his father. His job was to clean out his father’s office. As a college professor, his father was known to have saved a lot of old papers, tests, and documents. But my friend couldn’t imagine just how bad it was. My friend found a memo on his father’s desk from 1974. 20 years old. I know some of you can relate.

So show us your clutter and celebrate MESSYDESKITIS!




Divas on Areavoices!

I love the first few lines on the new Diva Connection blog:

We believe if angels had access to a social network, instead of using their profiles to show off how high they can fly, they would use this connection to ask: What can I GIVE to help you fly? We can all be angels on Earth and together help others fly higher.

That’s the whole idea behind Diva Connection.

“Diva Connection is a non-profit organization that CONNECTS women who aspire to GIVE their Time, Talent and Donations to women who are yearning to RECEIVE the fulfillment they need in the areas of Personal Support, Health Enhancement, and Career Empowerment.”

It’s a matter of helping women connect with other women. As Executive Director Nicole Phillips says, “Diva Connection Foundation empowers women, not by giving a hand out, but by giving a hand up.”

Founder Chris Linnares says its all about helping women to create healthier and more fulfilling lives so they can become leaders of change in their families and communities.

“Sometimes to start GIVING big things to the world, we need to RECEIVE a little help,” Linnares says.

We’re happy to say Diva Connection is now sharing it’s news on Areavoices through its new blog: http://divaconnection.areavoices.com

Read stories of women empowering women and see if you’d like to join in!

Areavoices blogging, baby…

…downtown, Baby.

We’ve seen the ads on TV.

Downtown merchants and residents touting the virtues of downtown Fargo in two simple words…”downtown, baby.”

Hip, cool, happening.

The fact that downtown Fargo has experienced a rebirth is old news. What was once abandoned store fronts and apartments is now trendy clubs,businesses and high-end restaurants and apartments. It’s pretty cool.

But what is news now is that it just got easier to figure out what’s happening in downtown Fargo. Downtown Fargo is now on Areavoices.


We couldn’t be happier to welcome them. The blog is featured on some of our Forum Communications websites already so you’ll be able to read downtown news right alongside the other news of the day.


Welcome downtown Fargo!


Tickled Pink about Livin Up!

I don’t know Roger Sievers very well. He’s a multi-media producer for the Rivertown newspaper group. We’ve chatted a few times for work purposes and met once while he attended a Forum Comm meeting in Fargo. But I know after watching his new video blog, “Livin Up” that I’d like to get to know him better.

I just love what he’s doing with this blog. He’s highlighting fun ideas, activities, and projects for families. And he should know. He’s the oldest of 12 children and a father to three of his own.

This man knows what it means to keep a family busy. But what’s nice is that he shares his ideas in an easy to understand, lighthearted way. Perfect when you think a lot of parents don’t have a lot of time to spend watching video blogs.

So check him out at http://livinup.areavoices.com


We want your Christmas memories and traditions!

What I love about the Areavoices Community is the opportunity it gives for everyone to weigh in.

That’s what I like most about one of our newest blogs, “Traditions of the Season” 

We’re asking everyone who reads it to weigh in and share your favorite holiday memories and traditions, share your pictures as well. I want it to feel like we’re sitting around the Christmas table with coffee (or egg nog)  talking about what makes the holidays so special for us.

I love hearing what others do to make Christmas “the most wonderful time of the year!”

Please share your stories and pictures by emailing them to me at tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com. I’ll look them over and get them published on the Traditions of the Seasons blog.

A lesson in social media usage from Trollwood

Often times, I  go out and speak to community groups about social media (by the way, I’m taking appointments now, so if you’d like me to talk about blogging and social media to your club or organization I’m available. No charge. But of course, I won’t turn down lunch if it’s offered. I’m not stupid.). Anyway, I tout the benefits of using your Areavoices blog as part of your multi-tiered social media plan.

How you can use it as a promotional tool right along side your website, Facebook and Twitter feeds. Many of our best bloggers do just that.

Today, I wanted to highlight one. Trollwood Performing Arts School does an excellent job communicating with the public regarding their upcoming events. For example, this Monday the school is set to both unveil a new website and announce its 2013 Mainstage Musical.

You’ll notice they’ve promoted it on their Facebook page  and on Twitter @Trollwood. They also sent an email blast to interested people promoting the event and going to Facebook and checking out their Areavoices blog as well.

What’s especially helpful is that they used the blog not just to tease the upcoming event, but to provide further information for the public. In this case, an interview with the website designer from Sundog. (Experienced bloggers themselves. They have a blog on Areavoices as well.) So the reader is left with more than a nugget of news but information that otherwise might never have been heard or seen.

Great job Trollwood!

(And no, this praise of Trollwood is not my way of bribing them into telling me early what this year’s show will be. I tried. They’re not budging.)

This Thanksgiving one woman is grateful for North Dakota

I love Rachel Kelly’s author bio on her new Areavoices blog: Meanderings of a Zealous Mom. 

She uses several six word phrases to describe herself:

Always looking for The Grey Area.
Meet my best friend, Amazon Prime.
Graduate degree in Blooming Where Planted.
What does boredom feel like again?
My 3 year-old poops in sandboxes.
Unlikely mix of redneck and liberal.
The Bakken: Home of my heart.
Married to Trees, Affair with Sky.
WRITER, Wife, Mother, Friend, Sister, WRITER.

Blogger Rachel Kelly and her children


And what a writer she is. She’s lived in many places around the United States, but this Thanksgiving she finds herself in the rugged oil patch region of Western North Dakota, The Bakken.

She describes her response as people ask her if she really likes it “up there?” For her, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Here is an excerpt:

“Sometimes I feel like I might be living in a dream, like one day I’ll wake up and the adoration I have for this place will have faded like an ill-fated love affair. But the truth is I’ve loved one thing or another about all of the places I have lived, but I have never loved myself in a place more than I love myself here, in North Dakota, where the expanse of land seems endless and unwavering, where rebel dust clouds visit every surface and crevice, where trees, my true love, are as scarce as rainbows, where the biting winds of winter torment my face, forcing me to hide behind layers of clothes. Beneath these clothes which shroud me in protective warmth, I am as free as ever.”

I won’t go on any further. Go to her blog yourself and read what she has to say about her new home. You might find a new appreciation for your own surroundings.



You can’t be too rich or too thin, right?

That’s the famous saying isn’t it?

And at no time during the year do we think this more frequently than the holidays. We spend too much and we eat too much and we’d love to turn it all around.

Two Areavoices bloggers offer inspiration today.


LSS Financial Counseling offers us advice today on how not to overspend during the holidays in its blog Sense and Centisibility. You could save  yourself a lot of money and heartache reading this advice before Black Friday



After the holidays are over, many of us are faced with two depressing things: the bills and the scale. We’ve eaten way too much and our weight backs that up. Celeste Edenloff faced that demon 4 years ago today. She started her blog:

Confessions of a Fat Girl –http://fatgirl.areavoices.com 

Celeste has since turned her life around. You won’t believe her transformation. It’s not just how she looks but her entire lifestyle. Amazing. Inspirational!


And as those blogs get you on the right track toward eating healthy and watching your budget, remember for some people Black Friday is sport. If you’d like to share your Black Friday strategies and memories with us just email me at tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com for publication in our Black Friday blog. http://blackfriday.areavoices.com 

After the week we’ve had we NEED these blogs!

It’s always fun to welcome new bloggers to Areavoices. But in a week that’s been full of tension and conflict, (thank you Campaign 2012), it’s especially fun to welcome two FUN new blogs. Kayley Erlandson’s blog “Media Girl” is refreshing and well-written!

Dr. Melissa Baartman Mork is a psychology professor at Northwestern College in St.  Paul, Minnesota. Her blog takes a closer look at the importance of humor in life. Isn’t that nice to think about after this long week! Enjoy!

Kayley Erlandson examines pop culture and media in this fun and popular blog. This week she reviews “Wreck it Ralph!”
Live.Love.Laugh: Exploring Humor in Life’s Domains – Finding the value of humor in life.
Psychology professor Dr. Melissa Baartman Mork uses her blog to explore topics of humor; specifically, how humor is (or can be) used in life’s various domains — marriage, parenting, work, health and wellness, pain management and more.

Funny Halloween Costumes for Kids (and we want to see them!)

I was googling “Halloween Costumes for Kids” today. Not because my kids are in need of a costume. Nope. They knew what they were going to be weeks’ ago. Halloween is a very big deal at our house. But Forum Community Content Coordinator Shane Mercer and I were talking about how we’d love to use our websites to share all of the cute kids costumes we’ve seen lately. That’s when I found this article that just cracked me up. As you look at some of these kid’s costumes from Pinterest I think you’ll both be amazed and maybe a little frightened at the creative (or is it disturbed?) genius of some parents.

You’ll notice most of the kids wearing these costumes are far too young to object. Do you really think any kid over the age of 5 would agree to be Dwight Schrute for Halloween? Probably not.

Are you more creative than the parents in this article?  Are your kids more decked out? We’d like to help you find out. If you have Halloween pictures of your kids you think are worth sharing, send them to smercer@forumcomm.com. Then he’ll post them in our Kid Pics community blog. You could see your adorable little ghost, goblin or “The Office” character on our websites.

Think about it and have a fun Halloween!