Week 9 – Kickstarter and Sock Monkeys

For this week’s assignment, we were asked to visit Kickstarter and find a project that interested us. I quickly learned that I could waste multiple hours looking at fascinating ideas on Kickstarter. There was a wide range of quality postings from DIY to full-fledge marketing campaigns. After hours of randomly searching, I came across a project that speaks to one of my guilty pleasures – sock monkeys. 🙂

A woman named DeLana Mead makes her own handmade sock monkeys. I quickly noticed that she was from Michigan – where I grew up; so I felt a bond between us instantly. I was also intrigued by her sock monkey designs. She was offering one of her custom designed sock monkeys for a pledge of $90 or more. This seemed a little steep for a sock monkey, but she doesn’t mention in her video that it takes 20+ hours per sock monkey to create. She was raising money to purchase a sewing machine to help speed up the construction of the custom clothing and for more sock monkey materials. This seemed like a pretty reasonable request from DeLana. I would be willing to pledge money to her cause, but I wanted a sock monkey (Socksquatch) that she shows in the pictures, but does not list as a pledge reward. I decided to send her an email to see if it would be an option if I pledged. Fingers crossed!

sock monkey


Picture courtesy of:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/728993194/pirates-zombies-boxers-and-more

As for myself, I have contemplated starting a Kickstarter campaign. I have been fortunate to be able to travel the world for a living. I have images from over 40 countries and I would love to get them bound into a book to share with others. I would even add in reviews and travel information for each location. Overall, it would be a large book with high definition images, maps, restaurant and hotel reviews and fun travel quotes. When I did a search for this type of idea on Kickstarter, it didn’t seem to get many pledges. I’m wondering if people aren’t interested in this type of thing or if the campaign wasn’t marketed well enough. I’m guessing that I would have to find that one thing that made my book special. I feel that travel books are usually all pictures or all reviews. I want to create something in the middle yet make it fun and quirky. Maybe, when I get a break from grad school, I’ll try putting a campaign together.


Week 8 – Google Me!

I am no stranger when it comes to Googling myself. I’ve done it in the past just out of curiosity but not to the level of depth for this assignment. I’m one of those rare people that my parents both wanted ownership over me, so I have a hyphenated last name (which I hate). It does come in handy though with trying to “hide” on the Internet.

For most of my life, I have only gone by the second half of my hyphenated name unless I have to use my full legal name. I started my google search there. When I searched on Ashley Shields, 11,700,000 results reported back. I quickly realized that I share a name with a WNBA star player. The WNBA player also played for the Detroit Shock, which is very close to my hometown, Flint, Michigan. I did not appear in any of the links within the first 10 pages of the search results. I decided to move on to images to see if I was revealed there. I did find one image of me about 13 rows down from my Google+ account. Most of my image results were overtaken by images taken by the famous photographer, Tyler Shields (no relation). I found these results to be surprising since all my email and social media accounts are using this instance of my name. I guess I have a very popular name and therefore hide in the weeds on the Internet.

Next, I tried googling my full legal name, Ashley Branhut-Shields. Bam! First page results that are tied to me and 44,000 results were returned. Most of the links were tied directly to my move to the United Kingdom and there were records of my imports/exports of personal goods. On top of that, it revealed my interests in soccer (player history for the Northern Virginia Adult Soccer League) and running (marathon results). I found it very interesting that none of the Google Images were mine.

Lastly, it was time to search on my email address. There were only 6 results and yet again, none of them were related to me. I also found this surprising since I don’t have a ton of email addresses and I primarily use this one for everything.

Overall, I believe that the accuracy of the results on yourself is due to how prevalent and how active you are on the Internet. It appears the more blogs, forums, and social media you are on, the more you show up in search results no matter how popular your name is.

Week 7 – Athleta Mobile App

For this week’s assignment, I chose to download the Athleta application to my iPhone through the App Store. Athleta started as a catalog order only company. Not until recently, did it actually open up storefronts. The mobile application now allows the user to shop easily from their mobile device.

Shopping on this application was easier than I expected. I was amazed at the speed at which the app worked and how fast all of the pictures of each clothing item were presented. The interface was very simple to interact with since they categorized all item by type. When looking at a particular item, I could zoom in on the picture, select a size, add to my shopping bag, reserve items to pick up at a store, read reviews, and see other product recommendations.

I went one step further and actually bought a bathing suit that was on sale through the app. The checkout process was very simple and I enjoyed how when I went to type in my address it started to auto-fill by using the global positioning option. At the end of the checkout process, I was provided a code and was notified by email that my order was placed and that I would receive a second email when my order has shipped.


The application does not offer any discounts or coupons. I have never seen Athleta offer discounts or coupons. They will mark down clothing items at the end of a season, but I have never see promotional efforts.

The application does include global positioning. There is a navigation item that helps users find a store near them. Using global positioning, it provides a list of the closest stores. When clicking on a particular location, it further details the address, directions, phone number, opening hours, and store events.

After this week’s reading assignments, I found it interesting that the Athleta app has a QR code scanner built in to scan Athleta barcodes. I bet Athleta included this option if a particular store is out of an item that you can order it immediately on your phone without trying to guess if you found the right item by searching.

Lastly, there is a customer service option for return and exchange information, ordering and shipping information, and tracking orders.

I found this app to be extremely useful. I used Athleta as my SEO project as well. I’m very pleased at the marketing department at Athleta. Not only do they design to their end user, but they are also utilizing the latest in technology to make Athleta relevant in today’s market.

Week 6 – Second Life

This blog post is an observation of my first experience in Second Life. I spent 4 hours creating my avatar, transporting to different lands, and chatting with others. After this time, I do not feel the need to continue interacting in Second Life. I prefer spending time in my own life interacting with real people. I found two things very interesting about Second Life: the interface and the interactions.

The interface for Second Life has a pretty steep learning curve (and that’s saying something from a computer science major!). I spent a lot of my time trying to alter my avatar, so I didn’t look like I was just created yesterday and so people wouldn’t treat me like a noob. Thankfully, I met multiple nice people who offered to help me with this task. I had residents offer to send me free clothes, objects, and gestures. I also transported to various locations but stuck to the ones that were recommended for newer residents.

My final avatar look.

My final avatar look.

Rizzo Giadelli became my saving grace. She instantly recognized that I was new at Second Life and wanted to help me. She taught me how to alter my avatar. She sent me new clothing options, hair, and gestures. I actually ran into Rizzo on multiple occasions. On my second interaction, I found out that Rizzo along with others take enjoyment out of helping new residents. Rizzo admitted to being on Second Life for a few years and that a man named Spud Parkin helped her get started. She stated, “He does more than anyone I know”. Apparently, Spud has built a group where people use dressing rooms as homes until they get settled, where some stay for good (like Spud) or some leave. She even admitted that Spud goes around buying free outfits just to pass out to new residents. I must say I was shocked at the level of hospitality I found instantly in Second Life.

My buddy Rizzo (in the purple dress)

My buddy Rizzo (in the purple dress)

I can’t say my entire experience was as enjoyable as my interactions with Rizzo. Within seconds of joining Second Life, I was offered a briefcase full of sex toys from wildboyfreak. This is what I was expecting from Second Life, I just didn’t realize it was going to happen so fast. I also witnessed an interaction in one of the public chat rooms that seemed pretty personal, yet the resident felt comfortable enough sharing it with the whole group. I found it to be pretty funny, so here it is:

[15:10] Neal Goodfellow: i remember going to sea world when i was 8 and i was the last kid to go and see the big whale fish thing up close his name was Shamoo or something and he raised his tail and splashed me ;/ had to walk around sea world for the rest of the day in my underpants and vest, so embarrassing, i hate that whale

My four hours in Second Life were eye opening. I must say that there were parts I liked, but overall, I enjoy my First Life more than my Second Life.

Week 5 – The Results Are In!

The results are in! The purpose of my survey was to first find out what social media sites are being most used by particular demographics (indicated by sex and age) and why. First off, I was surprised at how well I was able to cover all of the demographics. I was able to get a fair amount of men and women, but the majority were women.

Male or Female

I was most shocked that I was able to get respondents from every age category. I knew there would be an overwhelming response in the age 30-39 group, since that is the age group that I fall into and therefore, most of my friends do as well.


Since I posted my survey on Facebook and asked others to share as well, I knew Facebook would most likely be the most widely used and would introduce a bias to the results. It would be interested to conduct the same survey over email only to see if Facebook is still the most widely used. I did not receive any users that said they didn’t use social media. In hindsight, since I was advertising the survey on Facebook, I could have eliminated that response. I also received multiple “other” responses to include: Yahoo, Myspace, Friendster, Snapfish, and Whatsapp. Here is a breakdown of the results on social media use:


From last week’s blog responses, there was an interest in what demographics used Vine and Google+. From my survey response, Vine had no consistent demographics associated with its use. I had three responses for Vine and they were from females in the 20-29 and 40-49 age group and a male in the 30-39 age group. For Google+, there was no consistent demographics, but did have a stronger response from the 30-39 age group across both genders.

I received an incomplete response from a female in the 20-29 age group and a male in the 60-69 age group when they got to the third question and was asked to rank responses. Apparently ranking social media may have been asking for too much recollection from the respondents. I was not surprised by the rankings of social media sites. It appears that the well-known social media sites all ranked slightly similar.


There was an overpowering response on why people use social media. The overarching theme was the need to stay connected with friends, family and with those people have had lost touch with. This relates directly with the uses and gratification theory of interpersonal relationships. There were 8 responses in “other” category related to:

  • News / Sports
  • Procuring quotes
  • Concert Listings
  • Recipes
  • Blogs
  • Finding Lost Pets


The question I was most shocked at the results was related to why people choose not to use social media. I thought the majority response would be due to privacy concerns. From the survey results, it looks that people are concerned with privacy but also are cognizant of how much time they are wasting on social media.

No Social Media

Most people chose to skip the free text question at the end of the survey, as expected. I did receive responses that spoke to how great social media is to connect people, but also received responses talking about the amount of “junk” on social media you have to sift through and how it is a waste of time. As social media evolves, social media platforms should allow more filtering options to clean up the “junk” so people can more effectively go through the news feeds.

Week 4 – Surveys

This week’s assignment is to create a well-crafted survey to answer a research question. The purpose of my survey is to first find out what social media sites are being most used by particular demographics (indicated by sex and age). Once I have a wide demographic covered, I’d also like to understand why each demographic are drawn to certain social media sites over others. For instance, why do women age 30-35 tend use Pinterest more than Facebook? I also want to understand why certain demographics do not use certain social media. If you aren’t using Facebook, is it because of security or privacy concerns or just plain lack of interest?

I started my survey with two demographic questions to gain trust of the respondents. I am asking for the sex and age range of the respondent. I designed the age question to be less intrusive by listing by decade than a more specific age range.

To ease into the first social media related question, I designed a question that is easy for every respondent to answer. What social media sites do you use? I decided to give a list of popular social media sites to pick from so the respondent doesn’t have to think too hard. If they are part of a social media site I did not include, they have the option of a write-in response. I also included the option of None as a screening option. If the respondent selects None, they will be transferred to the last question of the survey asking why they do not use social media. The list of social media sites I included are:

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Google+
  • Snapchat
  • Tumblr
  • Flickr
  • Vine

Based on the information selected on the previous question, respondents will then be asked to rank the social media sites in the order they spend on each one. I decided to have respondents rank the sites rather than try to quantitate how much time they spend on each site. This will reduce the amount of over-demanding recall questions. It is much easier for a person to rank than think about how many hours they spend on social media.

The following question asks the question of the primary reasons for using the particular social media sites that they selected in a previous question. I am using Pew Research motivations for using social networking sites as the options for my question. The following are the motivations they listed:

  • Staying in touch with current friends
  • Staying in touch with family members
  • Connecting with old friends you’ve lost touch with
  • Connecting with others with shared hobbies or interests
  • Making new friends
  • Reading comments by celebrities, athletes, or politicians
  • Finding potential romantic or dating partners (Smith, 2011).
  • Other

The last question is to ask the reason of why the respondent does not use the social media sites they failed to check in the first question. I am using reasons compiled by a research student in Turkey. Even though the research paper is from an international point of view, I believed the options to be appropriate for an American audience response. The following are the options for not using particular social media sites:

  • Excessive time spent online
  • Lack of Interest
  • Preference for other communication tools
  • Addiction
  • Dislike of self-presentation
  • Being unsociable
  • Privacy concerns
  • Friends’ influence
  • Cyber-bullying (Turan, Tinmaz, Goktas, 2013).
  • Other

Lastly, I will have a free-text option for any respondent to elaborate on anything else they would like comment on in regards to their social media use. I distributed my survey over Facebook. If I do not receive many results, I will send over email to close friends and family.

You can visit my survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HLDH6VS


Smith, A. (November 15, 2011). Why Americans use social media. Pew Research Internet Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2011/11/15/why-americans-use-social-media/

Turan, Z. & Tinmaz, H. & Goktas, Y. (January 9, 2013). The Reasons for Non-Use of Social Networking Websites by University Students. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/3681974/The_Reasons_for_Non-Use_of_Social_Networking_Websites_by_University_Students

Week 2 – SEO Keywords

Athleta is a company that sells women’s athletic clothing. They are well known for their yoga clothing. The Athleta website advertises that their clothing is “designed and tested by and for women athletes.” (Athleta, 2014). Athleta is part of the Gap Brands: Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Piperlime. Athleta top competitor seems to be lululemon athletica.

I started my research by thinking of the top 10 keywords I think of when I think of Athleta. I added in variations of the same keywords and also misspellings. Here is the list of keywords I would use for Athleta if I was in charge of designing their website:

  1. women’s clothing
  2. athletic clothing
  3. athlete
  4. athleta
  5. yoga pants
  6. women’s swimwear
  7. sports bras
  8. workout clothing
  9. work out clothing
  10. women’s activewear

After defining my list of keywords, I searched each of the keywords in Google. I was able to find all of the keywords in the search results except for the term athlete. I used the athlete keyword as an example of an autocorrect or misspelling. This term was also one not found as a keyword on the Athleta website.

There was two other keywords not found on the Athleta website: sports bras and women’s activewear. These terms also did not show up on the first page of the Google search results. This would lead me to believe that Google is still using keywords to rank pages. But, I also saw that there were some paid advertisements for Athleta on other search results. Google may be using a combination of paid advertisements and keywords to rank results.

The following is the results of my research:

Keyword Google Result Number Source Code
Women’s clothing Page 8 Yes – womens yoga clothing
Athletic clothing Page 1, #6 link Yes
Athlete None – went through 34 pages No
Athleta Page 1, #1 link Yes
Yoga Pants Page 1, #7 link Yes
Women’s swimwear Page 1, #7 link Yes – swimwear
Sports bras Page 1, #7 link No
Workout clothing Page 1, #9 link Yes
Work out clothing Page 1, #7 link Yes – workout clothing
Women’s activewear Page 2 No

The following are the keywords from the Athleta website (Athleta, 2014):

<meta name=”keywords” content=”Athleta, athletica, womens yoga clothing, swimwear, running clothing, athletic clothing, workout clothing, exercise clothing, swimwear, tankini, bikini, one piece swimsuit, yoga pants, yoga tops, running tops, running shorts, skort, golf clothing, tennis clothing, special sizes, petite sizes, plus sizes, tall sizes, organic cotton, tights, yoga tights, run tights”/>

I found it very interesting that the Google result numbers were very consistent. If the keyword was very vague, it was lower on the results list. If it was a specific keyword and in the source code as a keyword, it was consistently on the first page of search results.

Overall, I feel that Athleta has a very effective SEO campaign. I was able to find most of the keywords on the first page of search results – therefore, I would say that is a successful campaign.

Athleta. (2014).Home page source code. Retrieved from http://athleta.gap.com