Sarah Hartley

Archive for January, 2009

Salford Uni launches first social media MA: Interview

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SALFORD University is to become the world’s first to offer a Masters course in social media.
The new course was, appropriately enough, announced on Twitter via the city’s Social Media Centre, earlier this week.
I caught up with the academic behind the idea, Associate head of Media, Music and Performance, Gareth Palmer to find out just what is going to be on offer when the first 20 students start in September.
He told me that now is the right time for such an area of study due to social, or participatory media, platforms such as Facebook, Bebo, Twitter now being the dominant source of news, information and entertainment for an emerging generation of so-called digital natives.
OFCOM recently reported that students are more likely to be online than watching television and traditional media courses are not taking this into account.
“I’m very excited about it because it’s a really good idea and Salford has already been involved in plenty of firsts for degree courses – popular music, graphics and documentaries for instance.”
The course will be restricted to candidates living in Salford and Greater Manchester and is aimed at attracting students who want to engage with their local communities and are interested in exploring new forms of expression.
“We want to show that this university isn’t a place on the hill. If I could sum it up with one phrase it would be ‘to give the local an idea of itself’” said Mr Palmer.
“Social media can give the community a means of expression about stuff that would never make the dominant mainstream media, raise issues that would otherwise be ignored.”
Mr Palmer explained that while the course would include teaching on some more traditional areas such as interviewing, camera techniques and other basic skills the aims was to find new and different ways to engage people in storytelling which was likely to appeal to people wishing to pursue careers in a whole range of industries.
“We hope that people can find new ways of telling their stories.”

So how will industry receive these new story tellers? I asked three very different experts for their take on the course.

1. The educator
Mark Comerford teaches on the journalism leaders course at UCLAN: “This sounds like an excellent idea. My hope would be that the course actively involves the community(ies), digital and physical, in planning both the syllabus and active story-building. My concern would be that a number of applicants might see this as a short-cut to a journalism degree.”
2. The PR guru
Jon Clements is partner at Staniforth PR and a blogger.
“It will be interesting to see what comprises a social media MA as the field is evolving at a pace not seen before in communications, with new social networks, tools and ways of working springing up as soon as you think you’ve mastered the last lot.
”But building a more formalised expertise on top of what people are learning organically – using Facebook or Bebo for example – should be a great asset for communities and companies trying to make themselves heard and understood via the medium of the Internet.”
3. The social media officianado
Chi-chi Ekweozor runs social media consultancy Real Fresh TV: “It’s great that the University of Salford recognises that the media and marketing graduates of tomorrow are living in a world where just across the Atlantic, their counterparts have their President as their Facebook friend, watch his weekly address on YouTube and happily upload their video comments in response.
Any opportunity to allow students to learn this ‘by doing’ in an academic environment can only be welcomed.”
What do you think? You’re welcome to post your comments and links below.

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January 30th, 2009 at 8:00 am

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Blog of the Week: Run Paint Run Run

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There haven’t been as many art blogs in the city as you’d perhaps imagine there would be given the amount of students passing through the various university art schools and the wide range of exhibitions and artists studios that you find in Manchester. That’s why I was so pleased to find “Run Paint Run Run”, named after a Captain Beefheart song, it’s written by Ella Wredenfors, an art history graduate, and it modestly defines itself “as a blog about arts, culture and comics in Manchester.”
As with all the best blogs, you can see a personal passion in place; and rather than just being a local “culture show” type thing, it reflects the authors’ interests. So Ella writes about comics – very much an art form – as well as paintings, galleries and the like. Ella’s been busy on the blog recently, and she links to the fine photographs that another blogger, took at the Cornerhouse’s new Darwin-anniversary exhibition “Interspecies.”
Ella, who has recently started looking after Oldham Coliseum’s new media presence blogs about all the things you wish you were seeing, reading or doing yourself but haven’t got round to.
She has a light touch writing about the art exhibitions she visits, saying “I have got drunk in galleries almost as many times as I have visited galleries. It’s not big or clever – but it’s an unacknowledged fact that art exhibitions nearly always go better with a glass of wine on hand” – which nicely punctures any pretentiousness that might be had writing about art; but she’s also got a real enthusiasm for her subject – and, as a regular at the Manchester Social Media Cafe - in blogging about it.
In our culturally rich landscape, it’s hard enough going to all the things that you ought to in the city, and so to find time to blog about them as well, is not just a private enthusiasm, but a public service. Anyone who’s got an interest in the city’s cultural life should bookmark Ella’s blog, another well-deserved “blog of the week,” and a nice arty antidote to the plethora of geek things happening in the city at the moment.
We will be hunting around for blogs or websites to feature here and add to the blogroll as well as in Saturday’s print edition of the MEN so, if you’ve got one to nominate, submit a link to the below. The only criteria is that they have some connection with Manchester.

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January 29th, 2009 at 10:14 am

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Write-up from Northern Startup 2.0

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Before setting off for this month’s Northern Startup 2.0, I saw a weather forecast that suggested our current spell of mild weather would soon be disrupted by a “Continental cold front” that will cast us into a deep freeze next week.
Apt, I thought.
Right now, the IT sector – and the web community in particular – is actually quite buoyant, but we know it won’t last and the financial cold front that has affected so many other businesses recently is headed our way.
Tonight’s theme at an event that has become a regular sight on the local technology scene – subtitled ‘Beating the economic blues’ – might seem ill-timed for some of us, but the reality is we know things are about to get chilly.
In fact, the mood was generally upbeat. The general feeling seems to be that the very best ideas are often borne out of times of economic hardship. Necessity breeds innovation, after all.
You can see a running commentary via Tweets tagged ‘NS20′, but I thought I’d give an overview for those in a hurry trying to piece it all together.
The first speaker was Mike Butcher from the infamous TechCrunch UK, who observed that the web sector seems to have passed through a peak in 2007 – “our 1968 Summer of love” – but that the European market is complex and can not be simply understood in terms of peaks and troughs of launches, acquisitions or failures.
That said, he also pointed out there was no serious exit (i.e. being bought or floating on the markets), for start-ups in Europe for at least three years and that one venture capitalist had apparently recently suggested to him that most companies will find their best source of funding via their customer base.
Wait, what?
For those of you used to traditional business models, expecting customers to pay for services or products might seem obvious, but in Whacky-Web-World, that kind of talk gets you sent down to the crazy farm. We live in interesting times, it would seem.
Mike went on to highlight business models he was noticing emerging, some of which I know for a fact are being readied for launch by Manchester firms right now. The ones that caught my eye out of the list were:

  • Niche Social Networks – instead of everybody being on the same site, we start to use sites that hit specific niches. Examples I can think of might be people with common hobbies or interests, but also people in certain industrial sectors. This could be built on existing social networking sites, but the power of niches can be irresistible if done properly
  • Advertising getting smarter – Facebook has opened the flood gates for advertisers. It’s possible to target a demographic with dizzying specificity (e.g. “males, 18-24, working for IBM in the UK, interested in cinema” is possible), and advertisers are catching on
  • Return of professional content – apparently the amount of traffic sites are getting for showing professionally produced content for things like sewing buttons on shirts is astonishing. Who knew?

And what about more generall? Mike put it as “Web 1.0 was about ‘Finding’, Web 2.0 was about ‘Friending’, whilst Web 3.0 [don't shoot the messenger, he said it] will be about ‘Following’”. In other words, if you want to see the future, it’s already here.
His final synopsis was upbeat: Europe has better venture capitalists (we’ll come back to that), our technology platforms around mobile are more mature and more standardised, we seem to have a deeper well of talent. Our only weakness seems to be a fear of failure.
It was in similar upbeat mood that Ed French of Rising Stars presented, pointing out that the 300 tech deals done in Europe in 2007 were completed by almost 300 different investors, showing that the European tech scene was “not a sausage machine”, a criticism often levied at the US tech investment scene.
In fact, the venture capital markets in Europe are much more accessible, stable and seem (from data given in another talk) to be growing whilst the US markets are in sharp decline. That’s not even taking into account the vast network of business “angels” in the UK and EU that seem much more humane than their US equivalents appear to be.
Ed went on to give a detailed explanation of a graph I confess I was a little baffled by – I had consumed a bottle or two of beer at this point, so (hic!), please forgive me – that seemed to plot an investor’s return on investment as a multiple of stake against the risk of failure. I told you it was baffling. It suggested Google was good, and Bebo was bad, so I’ll go with it.
Fortunately he summed it up as a set of three actions for us to follow to build great tech companies: add great people to your business, which means people who suit what you do and love what you are trying to achieve; focus clearly on what it is you’re trying to achieve, and stick to it; communicate what you’re doing effectively.
James Brocket from CalibreOne also reenforced the point about suitable investment in people, offering a wide range of advice on how to “seduce” the people we need into our businesses. Talk later on this subject of “hire slowly, fire quickly” felt a little post-Lehman Brothers for my taste, particularly from a recruitment consultancy, but the culture of Google’s and Apple’s recruitment processes (that can take 20 interviews to be got through before being hired), was what I think the general point being alluded to: be picky about you hire.
Neil Parking of Business Link North West discussed a range of options open to small start-ups to find finance and support during difficult times, despite some of them having “gone tits up recently”, in his words. Even so, it’s surprising quite how much support is out there – I’ve always advised start-ups to take a look at the Business Link website, although anecdotal evidence is that the person-to-person advice is often more suitable for traditional business sectors.
The other speaker squeezed into the bursting schedule was Dr Zoe Lock of the Technology Strategy Board who discussed the huge bags of cash they had available to invest at sector level over the next 3 years. If that’s your bag, go dig. If it isn’t, just be pleased that there is still money there for the really big ideas to take off in times of recession. You might argue £1 billion spent on an open-ended ‘innovation’ brief right now is a bit rich, but compared to what is being spent on banks just to keep the lights on, it seems a bit of a steal.
The evening wrapped up with a panel session dominated by business-focused questions (I tend to turn off when people in suits talk about “ICT”), followed by a “ask the audience”-style Q&A session about an attendee’s start-up – I’ll save you the detailed discussion on this as the “problem” seemed to be something like “we’re profitable and have lots of opportunities and just don’t know how to take advantage of all of them”. I’m genuinely pleased for them it looks an interesting product, and I wish them the best for the future, but if that’s their biggest problem perhaps the only way I could offer help is by crying them a river?
It was in the panel discussion that Mike stabbed in one last point about being noticed by blogs like his: be extraordinary, be a Black Swan or a Purple Cow, and you’ll get noticed.
I think the one thing we all took away from tonight was that not only was it possible to be extraordinary, but many of us fully expect to be so in 2009. For Manchester’s technology scene then, it’s going to be an interesting time, no matter how blue the economic – and actual – climate outside may get.

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January 29th, 2009 at 9:51 am

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New show for city’s online community radio station

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Manchester’s online community radio station launches a new show today dedicated to Forever Manchester.
Manchester’s online community radio station launches a new show today dedicated to Forever Manchester .
The Forever Manchester fundraising initiative, currently rolling out across social media and online, today started the first of its now twice weekly shows at ManchesterRadioOnline.com.
The radio slot carries the same ethos as the rest of the activity which aims to raise cash which will be spent to improve the lives of those in Greater Manchester.
So there’s no big name presenter and instead there will be guests, comedy, music and local entertainment – as one of the organisers told me this morning, the show’s schedule is “chosen by the people, for the people of Manchester”.
You can catch the programme from 2pm until 5pm tonight and then every Wednesday between 1 and 5pm plus Sunday’s from 1pm to 3pm.
Forever Manchester is currently also tweeting away on Twitter @4EVRManchester and plans are afoot for a whole lot more online activity next week – I’ll keep you posted here.

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January 28th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

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GMP reveals UEFA’s wanted on Facebook and youTube

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uefa.jpg Greater Manchester police is using a range of social media websites for maximum effect tonight by timing the release of 49 photographs of people wanted in connection with the UEFA trouble to be an hour ahead of the mainstream media.
News organisations are on a strict embargo not to release the information until 10pm but web users will be able to access the information across a range of media an hour earlier at 9pm tonight.
The official website states: “Greater Manchester Police will be releasing a website at 9pm this evening featuring pictures of 49 people they want to speak to in connection with the violence surrounding last year’s UEFA Cup final.”
GMP wants the public’s help to identify those they believe were involved in the large-scale disorder.
You’ll be able to see the images and appeal for help at 9pm at the following places;
* On Facebook at the official GMP page.
* On the GMP youTube channel.
* The official GMP website.
* At the GMP Bebo page.
Members of the public can also phone the dedicated Operation Gale hotline on 0161 856 4034.

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January 27th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

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Did local TV unwittingly screen a UFO this morning?

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Were you up early enough to spot what is claimed to be a UFO in the background of a Granada TV bulletin this morning?
YouTube user kiuhy7 is convinced that’s exactly what appears behind the presenter. He told me he filmed this between 5 and 6am this morning on the ITV regional channel.
He said he was so busy filming the action in background, that he can’t recall what the story was about. Suffice to say it wasn’t flying object related.
Since he posted it on youtube just a short while ago it’s been doing some flying around the interwebs across platforms and already clocked up 160 views at the time of posting.
What do you think? Did you see it too? Hoax? Plane?
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12OdLdSgoKE&hl=en&fs=1]

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January 27th, 2009 at 4:41 pm

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Collaborative journalism in action plus, any spare change for Twitter?

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A couple of things caught my eye this week.

The first, on the face of it, seems such an obvious way of doing things that in some ways it’s surprising  to consider it revolutionary but then………..yes, any links to UK examples of same gratefully received!

As Josh Korr starts in his post A revolution begins quietly begins in Washington State.

“The discussion about journalism’s future so often focuses on Big Changes — Kill the print edition! Flips for everyone! Reinvent business models NOW! — that it’s easy to forget how simple innovation can be.”

He goes on to detail how journalists from four different newspaper organisations were able to pool talents to provide the best possible coverage of a flood in the locality.

He concludes:”Doing this isn’t complicated. In an email, Brianne (one of the journalists) described the extent of her planning: “I follow the others on Twitter, and they had started a hashtag, #waflood, and then mentioned using the same tag for publish2 links.”

Aha! Twitter to the rescue once more!

Which brings me onto the next posting. Paul Robinson (who also co-blogs with me on The Mancunian Way) fears for Twitter’s future and wonders whether those of us that love and rely on the service will dig into our pockets to help out.

At his Vageware blog post What on earth is Twitter playing at? he says “For those of us in the industry, it’s even worse: when Twitter goes to the ultimate fail whale, it will completely destroy any chance for us to open up liquidity in the VC or loan markets any time soon.

“It will be so high profile a failure due to its “success” there won’t be an investor on the planet who doesn’t hear about it and think ‘well, if they failed, what chance anybody else in the web industry?’. They are effectively playing Russian roulette on behalf of the entire industry.”

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January 25th, 2009 at 3:54 pm

2009: Good time for a tech startup

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LAUNCHING any business into the current economic climate may seem like a gamble for many, but there’s never been a better time for Web 2.0 start-ups according to the online network Northern StartUp.
Founder Manoj Ramaweera said three factors were providing a good climate for start-ups at the moment – people using redundancy cash to get going, the fact that set up costs have dropped significantly in the past two years and the way difficult trading conditions lead to inventive solutions.
Mr Ranaweera said: “This is a great time for tech startups to innovate, prove concepts and be there strong when the economy recovers.
“Whilst the last three years saw the emergence of web 2.0 startups with no clear focus on revenue generation, the current economic climate is forcing these startups to think otherwise.
“The startups with the right strategy will emerge, grow and have the opportunity to acquire struggling mature companies.”
Northern StartUp will be looking more closely at the opportunities the new year holds at the first of its events next week.
The speakers for the event are; Mike Butcher, (Editor, TechCrunch UK and Ireland), Ed French, (Venture Capitalist, Enterprise Ventures); James Brocket, (Managing Partner, CalibreOne), Neil Parkin, (Sector Broker, Business Link North West) and Dr. Zoe Lock, (Technology Strategy Board).
The Northern StartUp 2.0 event will be held on Wednesday, January 28 at Horwath Clark Whitehill, Manchester, UK.
Visit http://www.nwstartup20.co.uk/jan09 to purchase ticket(s) and view event details.

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January 25th, 2009 at 1:05 pm

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The Sound of the City

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Visitors to and residents of Blueprint Studios can find their ambient noise and random chit-chat as part of a wider UK-wide sonic art experiment that crowdsources sound, to create “The Fragmented Orchestra.” It’s currently on as part of the Ding-Dong exhibition at FACT in Liverpool, but visiting yesterday I was struck by how the piece is far more effective when accessed by the internet, than in situ.
It should appeal to fans of “Revolution 9″ or “Jesus Blood hasn’t failed me yet” but is also reminiscent of how artists like Thomson & Craighead, who exhibited at Futuresonic in CUBE in Manchester last year, take the random outpourings of the internet and fashion something suitably abstract out of it. One of my main criticisms of blog culture is that it has fostered a return to the linear, when in the early days of the web – (for instance, Hypertext poetry) artists and writers were far more interested in its more avant garde possibilities. It’s possible, that as the tools of the web become easier to use, and as mash-ups become more complex, the linear falls away again.
There should be some interesting interactive responses to Darwin, at tonight’s opening of the “Interspecies” at the Cornerhouse, with artists responding to the Darwin anniversary in a number of different ways. And, in a sign that there’s a thirst for the non-linear, innovative Manchester-based poet Philip Davenport launches his new book next Friday at the Chinese Art Centre.

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January 23rd, 2009 at 10:58 am

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Twestival venue confirmed

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MancTwestival.jpg
The place better-known for footballing parties is to be the venue for the city’s first Twestival. Yes, Living Room on Deansgate will be home to Manchester Twitterati’s finest in the name of good cause, charity:water.
The event is being held in the city for the first time (register your interest below) and will raise money and awareness about the world’s water resources as well as being a fun offline event for a group which has formed online using the micro-blogging platform Twitter.
Manchester’s Twestival organiser Katie Moffat said there had already been a lot of interest in the event in cities across the world and in London tickets sold out within ours of being made available online.
“As soon as we announced that there was going to be a Manchester Twestival we had a fantastic response both from individuals wanting to help out and companies offering us donations for the charity auction.
“No one working on Twestival around the world is getting paid, everyone is fitting in the organisation of the events around their jobs and other commitments; to me, the enthusiasm and dedication to make every city Twestival a success, is a clear demonstration of the power a social network like Twitter has to mobilise a group of people into action.”
The Twestival will be held on February 12 from 6.30pm at the Living Room, Deansgate.
If you want to get involved, you can get all the updates at the website or via @MancTwester on Twitter.
Logo design by Jez Poole.

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January 23rd, 2009 at 9:35 am

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