Sarah Hartley

Archive for March, 2009

links for 2009-03-31

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March 31st, 2009 at 8:01 pm

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Twaffik, titters and pic sharing for #smc_mcr

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Next week’s Social Media Cafe event is shaping up nicely with some practical examples of how participative media is impacting on life locally.
Sessions next Tuesday, inevitably it seems, have a heavy focus on Twitter’s uses with the creators of Manchester’s travel service Twaffik and the fund-raising efforts of TwitterTitters taking centre stage alongside a look at picture sharing.
I am away from the office for a week now and so will be handing you into the capable hands of The Mancunian Way’s blog buddies. See you all next week at The Northern on Tuesday, April 7. Don’t forget, you do need to register to attend this free event.

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March 31st, 2009 at 12:37 pm

links for 2009-03-30

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March 30th, 2009 at 8:02 pm

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Big Chip entries mapped and funding success from Dragon’s Lair

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While the rest of economy nosedives, it seems there’s no stopping Manchester’s tech community. Here’s a couple of quick updates;
* It turns out there’s been a record number of entries to this year’s Big Chip Awards. PushON has devised this map which shows the wide geographical spread of company locations entering Big Chip Awards 2009. A spokesman said they’ve received 226 entries in total from 165 companies, all battling it out to win prestigious awards to celebrate North West companies excelling in the use of digital technology.
Entries came from across the region, ranging from Penrith and Kendal, to Blackpool and Newcastle-on-Tyne, and even Bristol. There were 93 entries from Manchester, 21 from Liverpool and 26 from Cheshire. Submissions from Lancaster, Salford and Greater Manchester towns such as Bolton, Bury and Oldham were also high.
* He faced the Dragon’s Lair last week and has now secured Venture Capitalist backing for his idea. John Lewis of DCS presented his ideas for proximity-based marketing at last week’s Northern StartUp 2.0 event. Re-cap on all the pitches here.

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March 30th, 2009 at 7:59 pm

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links for 2009-03-29

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March 29th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Roadtesting the Flip Mino HD

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I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on the new (to the UK) Flip for a trial this week. Here’s what I found.

First up it looks, and feels, lovely. Very ergonomic, no instructions provided (or necessary) on how to get started – it’s as intuitive as an iPod, light, easy to drop into a handbag.

So how does it perform?

The first job I put it to was a series of close-up interviews with a group of local students preparing their own film for BBC News’ School Report. I was able to stand close to the interviewees but there was a lot of background noise with excited children talking loudly all around us.

I was surprised to find that most of the background noise disappeared, leaving the interviewee clearly audible – you can hear and see the results for yourself below. I was particularly impressed with the depth of field the HD element provides.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jkgNhlIBHM]

The second assignment was more tricky. A  formal event with participants at either end of a fairly large room. I had no option but to sit in the middle and point the camera in either direction. I had no idea whether this would work and used the zoom to hone in on the subjects.

The audio did pick up – but was very quiet due to me being more than 10ft away from the subjects. However, when the videos compressed, it seems the audio was automatically balanced to a more acceptable level. Amazing!
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_0WRGlXvkw]

On the editing side. As someone more used to the full editing software of Premier Pro, it was immediately obvious that the Flipshare environment which automatically loads when you plug the USB into the computer is a totally different kettle of fish.

It doesn’t appear possible to separate the audio and visual tracks, making all the GVs I filmed during the first job surplus to requirements. But once ypu know that, you film things differently – in short self-contained clips. The interface makes trimming individual clips at either end easy by the use of a slide tool and then each individual clips is added into a sequence.This means there could be a certain amount of twiddling about required if you had multiple bits of a clip to extract out – short is best for this camera.

There is also the option of adding a caption at the start and credits which is a nice touch as is the one-click upload to youTube.

My Verdict; Flip makes it easy to do something simple – film a subject, join clips together and publish. If you want to do something more complicated, then a more comprehensive editing package would be better suited but at least you’d still be benefiting from the HD quality of the footage. Apart from ease of use (I referred to the “help” menu just three times), the built in microphone is remarkable . Not only does it bring in crisp audio but also its ability to filter out a great deal of general background noise and no channel inputs and outputs to worry about or lugging round the choice of microphone for the right situation. Plus the whole thing is less heavy than your average mobile phone.

I loved it! Will certainly be on my Christmas wish list.

Written by sarahhartley

March 28th, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Location, location, location for tech start-ups

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Services employing GPS technologies were high on the agenda at last night’s Dragon’s Lair event for tech entrepreneurs.
A panel of experts heard eight pitches from companies looking for investment cash or just help and guidance at the session organisation by Northern Start-up 2.0.
Of those, three showed the varied use that geo-locative technologies could be put to;
Captive Portals demonstrated how its product could quickly swamp a location with geo-locative information using wi-fi to create a hot spot for mobile phone users.
• A mobile marketing platform where users subscribe to receive special offers and deals in a location – think a large shopping mall such as the Trafford Centre able to administer its own advertising platform delivered to people’s mobile phones was put forward by DCS.
• Finally MapMe.At pitched a way of tracking personal history based around location which could incorporate data such as photos, a person’s tweets, friends’ tweets and activity in a community which could have uses varying from corporate events organisation to a closed circle of a stag night.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7S0hKB3Stc&hl=en&fs=1]
Entrepreneurs also pitched projects which would make the everyday easier. Paul Banks of Image Alchemy has come up with a way to make domestic printing a lot cheaper by the invention of a PC printing device which is refillable and contains a lot more ink for your money.
And David Hawdale of RecycleLocal wants to bring together an online community which would help you live a greener life in the credit crunch.
Other projects from the evening were an electronic invoicing system (PostDox), a data management application (DataNovata) and a travel site for independent and adventure travellers (TourDust).
The event led to expressions of interest from some of the Dragons with more networking continuing over a few pints so it’s going to be interesting to see how each of these initiatives develop over the coming months.
As organiser Manoj Ranaweera points out – unlike the television programme – the Lair is often just the start of the process.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_0WRGlXvkw&hl=en&fs=1]

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March 27th, 2009 at 4:41 pm

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Is this g-Government?

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At yesterday’s Eurocities Knowledge Society Forum the focus was on ICT and climate change. Manchester is an enthusiastic member of this network of European cities – and its important to remember that cities, and their governance, are going to be absolutely key to widespread adoption of energy efficiency and energy reduction. For it is urban areas, in Europe and beyond, where much of our carbon is released into the atmosphere, and where much of our energy needs are concentrated.
Our urban infrastructure – power stations, national grid etc. – was developed primarily between the 1940s and 1960s and is coming to the end of its life. As we renew these vital services, futureproofing them, and making them green – both to meet the Kyoto targets, and, with the Copenhagen conference on Climate change taking place this year, even more targets in the future – becomes vital.
In many ways, we’re at a similar stage as we were in the late 90s, with e-Government. Although it was international and national agendas that drove e-Goverment, when it comes down to implementation – or interaction with citizens – it is at a local level that this most often takes place. What we are beginning to see now is a similar pattern with “green” issues. Listening to the speakers yesterday, I thought we might need a g-Government agenda to drive things forward, because as with the apoption of ICT, “joined up” thinking between departments, agencies, services and even countries is vital.
Europe, as Linda Mauperon, Member of Cabinet, European Commission, made clear, wants to guide and direct the agenda. For ICT – its a contributor to greenhouse gasses as an industry itself, as anyone who has worked in an office full of PCs will know too well (never mind the manufacturing and landfill implications of such short shelf-life goods), but its also an enabler of efficiencies through better metering technologies and the idea of “smart” technology in managing our power and water resources. There’s was a fascinating panel looking at “the challenge for business”, where, noticeably, it was only a question at the end that brought up the “credit crunch.” Lynda Shillshaw, Director of Property for the Co-op, was fascinating in discussing how the Co-op has long advocated green policies across its business, buying the majority of its energy from “green” sources. Also, as Britain’s biggest farmer, she made the point that they already farm wind as well as crops and hope to extend this. For Manchester, they are looking at their own real estate within the city, and their plans for redevelopment will be much broader than just new offices, and will see “green” issues at the very heart of what they do.
It’s probably rare for the Co-op to be on the same panel as CISCO and IBM, but this highlights how the world is changing. Paul Johnston is CISCO’s Head of European Public Sector Team, and gave a fascinating insight into how they approach projects. Inevitably, across the world, it is in the areas of construction and transport that major attempts are being made to have a more sustainable approach. Johnston spoke of how “joined up” any new implementations need to be, such as their work in Seoul on traffic control. It is not enough to give people the information, say, about when the bus is due, but to transform the experience. For cities – and residents and citizens of those cities – partnership between the private sector and the city authorities is vital. In the week that Manchester’s next generation broadband project was also launched, the synergies between this and the green agenda were clear. ICT can begin to offer the control and monitoring systems to enable far smarter use of our city’s infrastructure assets – it’s roads, it’s power consumption, it’s public spaces, and offices and workspaces – but requires the fast broadband that can make this happen.
It was a fascinating day, and it was particularly interesting to see Arup’s Virtual Manchester, a 3D model of the city that has grown over the last three or four years, since I first saw it, to cover most fo the area in the inner-ring road in great detail. As a tool for public consultation it is increasingly invaluable.

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March 27th, 2009 at 9:49 am

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Ambitious plans for BBC online in 2009

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Bigger, faster and more personalised – that’s the direction the BBC news website is travelling in according to head of editorial development and multimedia journalism Pete Clifton.

Addressing students and academics at Salford University this afternoon, Mr Clifton gave a presentation to demonstrate what’s in store for online users – and for media jobseekers in the region.

He said that journalists being recruited in the future would all need to have online skills as well one other specialism, but he thought that would not seem unexpected for graduates from courses such as Salford’s journalism course.

And he said the move north would undoubtedly open new job opportunities for journalists in the region.

“The MediaCity expectation is that we will be able to work across more platforms. Online skills will be the other skill that everybody has to have,” he said.

Users of the website can expect more of social media feel to the site in the coming months. A project called Identity will open up the possibility of a passport-type registration which allows users to travel into different services and another called Spaces, which will give users their own pages.

But he assured the audience that the BBC would not become another Facebook. He said: “We want to make the site feel more social, make the activity of others obvious. We won’t be turning ourselves into a social media site, but giving more of a feel as to what others are doing on the site.”

And the site will continue to be underpinned by an improved breaking news service.
He said: “A lot of audience testing came out with the updating of stories being an issue.

“A fundamental of a successful news site is how we deal with breaking news. It has to be at the very forefront of that. They have to rely on you to do breaking news really well. Yes there’s all the polishing after that, contextualising and analysis but you have to put up the stories quickly.”

The site redesign will make it more obvious to users which stories have been updated and when, even if the running order of the pages has remained constant for an hour or so.

Some of the other developments coming up in the next year for the BBC sites include;

* Bigger video players and more profile on the front pages.

* Larger pictures and galleries which are navigated by thumbnail pictures to encourage users to stick around on the site.
* A new look for the local site which is currently being tried out in Norwich and aims to hold the news elements and local sites together better.
* Moving the management of the mobile sites into main news CMS to make uploading quicker.
* After the success of bloggers such as Robert Peston and Nick Robinson, the blogs are being redesigned, they are wider templates and we’ve learned a lot about how effective they can be about telling stories and letting people know what’s going on.
* Taking inspiration from the work carried out by the meta data team at the New York Times, BBC journalists will be expected to start putting more meta data tags around our stories. “When you start to do that you can start to do many more things automatically than we can at the moment,” said Mr Clifton.

It sounds like an ambitious lists of developments and one which has an ethos running under it which will encourage consumption of content in places other than the website – expect widgets, sharing options and embeddable video.

Written by sarahhartley

March 25th, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Salford students hear of BBC online plans

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Bigger, faster and more personalised – that’s the direction the BBC news website is travelling in according to head of editorial development and multimedia journalism Pete Clifton.
Addressing students and academics at Salford University this afternoon, Mr Clifton gave a presentation to demonstrate what’s in store for online users – and for media jobseekers in the region.
He said that journalists being recruited in the future would all need to have online skills as well one other specialism, but he thought that would not seem unexpected for graduates from courses such as Salford’s journalism course.
And he said the move north would undoubtedly open new job opportunities for journalists in the region.
“The MediaCity expectation is that we will be able to work across more platforms. Online skills will be the other skill that everybody has to have,” he said.
Users of the website can expect more of social media feel to the site in the coming months. A project called Identity will open up the possibility of a passport-type registration which allows users to travel into different services and another called Spaces, which will give users their own pages.
But he assured the audience that the BBC would not become another Facebook. He said: “We want to make the site feel more social, make the activity of others obvious. We won’t be turning ourselves into a social media site, but giving more of a feel as to what others are doing on the site.”
And the site will continue to be underpinned by an improved breaking news service.
He said: “A lot of audience testing came out with the updating of stories being an issue.
“A fundamental of a successful news site is how we deal with breaking news. It has to be at the very forefront of that. They have to rely on you to do breaking news really well. Yes there’s all the polishing after that, contextualising and analysis but you have to put up the stories quickly.”
The site redesign will make it more obvious to users which stories have been updated and when, even if the running order of the pages has remained constant for an hour or so.
Some of the other developments coming up in the next year for the BBC sites include;
* Bigger video players and more profile on the front pages.
* Larger pictures and galleries which are navigated by thumbnail pictures to encourage users to stick around on the site.
* A new look for the local site which is currently being tried out in Norwich and aims to hold the news elements and local sites together better.
* Moving the management of the mobile sites into main news CMS to make uploading quicker.
* After the success of bloggers such as Robert Peston and Nick Robinson, the blogs are being redesigned, they are wider templates and we’ve learned a lot about how effective they can be about telling stories and letting people know what’s going on.
* Taking inspiration from the work carried out by the meta data team at the New York Times, BBC journalists will be expected to start putting more meta data tags around our stories. “When you start to do that you can start to do many more things automatically than we can at the moment,” said Mr Clifton.
It sounds like an ambitious lists of developments and one which has an ethos running under it which will encourage consumption of content in places other than the website – expect widgets, sharing options and embeddable video.

Written by sarahhartley

March 25th, 2009 at 7:37 pm