Directors' blog

Links, thoughts and updates from the directors of Dim Sum Digital.

Aside from the BBC, what’s the culture secretary’s plan?

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It could have a been a slip of the tongue. The second slip of the tongue, in fact, during his non-probing interview with Andrew Marr on BBC1 this morning.

But something left me feeling that the culture secretary John Whittingdale chose his words carefully when he confirmed that ‘national museums’ would remain free to entry. The point was further re-inforced by his clumsy reference to London as a ‘country’. (The segment can be found on iPlayer at minute 38).

What would become of all the amazing museums and galleries that are not either in the capital or represent national collections?

I turned to the Conservative manifesto – just one line (P41) refers to the issue but yes, the same phrase: “keep our major national museums and galleries free to enter.”

‘Major national

And the minister’s sign off on the topic provided no comfort either – highlighting the capital’s museums and galleries’ role in increasing tourism.

While tourism is a welcome side effect of engagement with our cultural institutions, it’s worrying if that’s to become the ultimate measure of a museum’s success. What about our cultural identity, our education and understanding our heritage?

Any limitation or change to the free access rules wasn’t the expectation of the Arts Council ahead of the election. In April, it understood the commitment to be:

“The Conservative manifesto commits to maintaining free access to museums and galleries and supporting plans for the Factory in Manchester, an India Gallery at Manchester Museum, a Great Exhibition in the North and a new concert hall in London. They also promise to maintain and potentially extend tax reliefs for the arts and creative industries and deliver free Wi-Fi and support for e-books in libraries.”

So was it simply a lack of expansion in the minister’s communication on live television or a signal of something more worrying to come? Time will tell I guess.

I realise there will be some reading this blog post who consider museums and art galleries to be a fluffy luxury of the middle classes. Maybe some who don’t see the value in ‘these times of austerity’.

To those I’d say, museum’s aren’t simply repositories of old stuff for overseas visitors to enjoy, they are living, changing reflections of our society, an important part of the fabric which binds us together even in our modern times.

There’s a reason so many were started by Victorian philanthropists – they knew that access to culture provided for a more peaceful and productive working population.

To use an extreme example, there’s also a reason IS so determinedly destroy cultural artefacts – they are not mere trinkets, cultural destruction is one of the surefire ways to destroy a society.

The UK is fairly unusual in Europe with the free entrance introduced in 2001 and it has been widely enjoyed by many. It’s worth remembering that the initial moves were only legislated for those ‘major national’ institutions. But then, as the Museums Association discovered, the move had a detrimental impact on those independent museums and those outside London:

Free entry at national museums has inevitably had an impact on the rest of the museums sector – particularly on independent museums, which rely on charging. This has led some to argue that free entry amounts to unfair government subsidy.

There is some evidence that charging museums – particularly those near newly free museums – have experienced a decline in visitor numbers. There was also a perception that free admission was weighted heavily in favour of apparently already wealthy London museums with little benefit to the whole spread of museums throughout the UK.

The pressure from those that had been excluded in 2001 led to changes from the DCMS of the time which allowed more museums, including University museums and galleries, to introduce free entry in 2005.

That’s how we got the decade of free entrance we’ve all since enjoyed. Let’s hope Mr Whittingdale can find the time to travel abroad (outside that London country) to understand how important that has been and ensure the next decade of free access.






Written by sarahhartley

July 19th, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Culture

A visit to Robben Island in pictures

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It’s taken me a long time to get round to editing these photographs. I took them in February at Cape Town’s infamous Robben Island. The former prison is now a tourist destination and I choose to spend my birthday there.

Of course I knew it wouldn’t be a fun trip – but I hadn’t expected quite the impact it had on me.

The first thing hits you on arrival is the stench – sea birds stink! Then there’s the stark contrast of the scenic landscape of Cape Town’s mountains in the distance, the sunshine and the sea versus the stark prison buildings, the barb wire, the cameras. And an overwhelming sense of futility.

Our guide spoke with a passion, someone keen to tell the story of the place which set men like Nelson Mandela to work on bashing stones and we met his jailer – a man who has since sold books about the friendship he struck up with his captive.

I was glad to have made the journey – but I never want to revisit. What a place, what a waste of human endeavour. I can understand why the museum carries the strapline ‘a symbol of the human spirit over adversity‘.

The rest of my pictures are in a Flickr album here.

Written by sarahhartley

July 18th, 2015 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Journo stuff collected on 07/16/2015

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Written by sarahhartley

July 16th, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Journo stuff collected on 07/14/2015

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Written by sarahhartley

July 14th, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Journo stuff collected on 07/13/2015

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  • “Among these are techniques of traffic building, video processing and information aggregation. The most sought after category in “content employment” is in social marketing — that is, as someone who can work the underlying system of social media, most specifically Facebook, to attract traffic. There are more than 50,000 such jobs listed on LinkedIn.

    These new journalism and content jobs may one day produce real profits, but their value is now equivocal. In fact, judging by the ever-declining price of advertising, and the per head worth of a user in most digital media, the value of those techniques and of the digital journalism craft as a whole rather appears to be in free fall.

    tags: journalism trend digital media youth career

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Written by sarahhartley

July 13th, 2015 at 4:31 pm

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Journo stuff collected on 07/10/2015

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Written by sarahhartley

July 10th, 2015 at 4:31 pm

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Journo stuff collected on 07/02/2015

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Written by sarahhartley

July 2nd, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Theft is theft – baked beans, diamonds or photos, makes no difference

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Some of the stolen content

Copyright theft – it’s a topic I’ve written about plenty of times in the past but this week I’ve experienced it first hand as well.

Right on my doorstep, a local website decided to take a large chunk of my published article and photographs and pass them off as their own content.

It was a wholesale attempt to populate a site which seeks advertising with content which I’d published for community benefit at the hyperlocal website I set up a few years ago (

Once the initial shock had worn off I set about getting my ten articles and two photographs removed from And here’s where the first of the problems arose – zero contact details.

Despite the fact the site purports to sell advertising, there’s no hint about who runs the site or any contact details.

As they also publish on Facebook, that seemed to offer the best route to redress. I posted on their page, pointing out the content had not been authorised for use on the site. Then started the Facebook process to report copyright abuse.

At this point someone responded – maybe the possibility of a Facebook takedown is threat enough to get a response, these days.

Whoever it was gave this cryptic explanation: “Hi very sorry about that, Sever has been moved, auto poster was gathering richmond data and posting it via rss, Having few technical issues after migration won’t happen again, all post have been deleted off the site.”

So, an apology when caught red-handed. But as far as I’m aware, an apology doesn’t count for much when a burglar makes off with some jewellery or a shoplifter legs it out of the store.

An apology, doesn’t make it any less of a theft and blaming it on technology is not only lame, but also still doesn’t make it any less of a theft. And while my content has now been removed, I see the site is still populated with plenty of content from national newspapers and others with no attribution, links or explanation.

This cavalier attitude towards copyright ownership is annoyingly common it would seem. North News picture agency boss Ted Ditchburn put his finger on it when I wrote about his problems with photo thieves for Prolific North.

“My own view is that this is a problem that arises in part because people seem to feel copyright theft doesn’t count as serious theft for some reason.”

On sharing my woes on Facebook, I also encountered a sort of resigned acceptance that this is simply the way of the world – that publishing a picture online will very likely lead to it being stolen. Shrug.

But in what other area of life would we find that acceptable? “Well I bought an expensive TV so it was bound to get stolen” or “I made a beautiful piece of furniture –  thieves. Never mind.”

I don’t think we should just accept that’s the way things are, it doesn’t have to be like this.

But in order to take any action, the first step is to find an actual person to deal with. In this case the anonymous Facebook responder refused to give me the site’s business address – claiming it was personal! Update: We have since been in contact and I now have assurances this won’t happen again.

As ‘Buster’ pointed out on my previous story:

“There is a Copyright small claims court (IPEC small claims track) that will deal with cases up to a value £10000 without the need for a solicitor as it, like other small claims courts, is designed to allow the parties to represent themselves. If the photographer is an NUJ member they can get help and advise from their union. There is no “good faith” or “I did not know” defence for copyright infringement as in general, ignorance of the law is not a defence.

He also recommended this article on the subject which I’m sharing here in case any of you are unfortunate enough to find yourselves in a similar position.

Written by sarahhartley

June 28th, 2015 at 7:28 pm

Posted in Journalism

Tagged with ,

The importance of the writer profile

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I’ve put this blog post together with Contributoria writers in mind, but the points made here would be valid for any of those occasions when you need to put a ‘bio’ together for your online activity. As someone who inwardly groans at every request for profile details, I hope this approaches the task in a straightforward way.

The writer profiles on Contributoria are particularly important as they are the number one way that members of the community and publishing partners can sum up a writer’s abilities when deciding whether or not to back their story proposals and, as that leads to commissioning and ultimately cash, it’s worth making some effort.

Ten essential points when creating a writer profile

  1.  A sensible name
    Your own name is always best as it helps people check you out in other areas of the online world. Failing that a nickname is OK but avoid user names that are unmemorable number sequences or similar. Don’t forget that Contributoria is a community and so is made up of humans supporting other humans – we tend to respond coldly to number droids. Your name should appear in the first sentence of your profile so the reader understands what they are looking at – just like being introduced to somebody, you will often start with your name and then move onto the matter in hand. I have been asked in the past about using a pseudonym – for all the reasons above, using a pen name makes you something of an enigma. It’s a bit like sitting down the pub in a balaclava. But of course there can be valid reasons around personal security for using one and in those instances I’d ask that you get in touch directly for further advice (
  2.  Use a picture
    Just a straightforward head and shoulders shot will do the job. Just like your name, having a profile picture will help people build up a picture of the person behind the story. Just as with the social networks, people tend to regard the absence of a picture as dubious in some way, it instantly creates a trust barrier that doesn’t need to be there.
  3. Location
    Adding your base location, or the locations that you write about, can help make a connection. This is particularly important for those people who are looking to back stories from certain parts of the world for instance. But it could also be beneficial in making connections with other members of the community who perhaps live nearby or have a particular interest in a region of the world and might want to get in touch.
  4. Third person or I?
    It’s always slightly awkward talking about yourself in the third person but doing so makes it easier for the reader to take in the information. There’s no hard and fast rules and in fact there’s currently a mixture of first person and third person on the platform, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the Contributoria writer profiles also automatically appear in the footer of story proposals. Having it in the third person reads a lot better for the casual visitor who may not have looked you up on the writer page.
  5. What length?
    For Contributoria, the ideal length for the profile is up to 200 words. That should allow for all these points to be included while also keeping it reasonable for the footer of proposals. On other platforms it would be worth checking if there is an established style. Some sites ask for a short statement (i.e. one sentence, like Twitter) while others expect a mini CV.
  6. Include other work
    If your work has been published elsewhere, it’s well worth mentioning the different publications where people could look you up – you can also drop URLs into the profile and it will hyperlink . It’s also worth mentioning membership of any professional organisations and groups.
  7.  Other non-work
    If you’ve a passion for something – let people know. There’s no telling what serendipitous connections can flow from outlining your hobbies and interests after all, they are part of what makes you, you.
  8. Contact details
    End your bio with your contact details or hyperlink to ways that people can contact you such as Twitter, blog or your LinkedIn profile.
  9. Read and rewrite
    As with everything, there’s always that stray apostrophe or typo which it’s easy to remain blind to so having a friend to proof your bio before you publish it is recommended.
  10. Keep it up to date
    Remember that your bio is a living document and you should review it on a regular basis. As it’s fairly short it won’t take you too long to make changes that can be quite important to the reader and that all important potential backer.

Written by sarahhartley

June 25th, 2015 at 11:51 am

Posted in Journalism

Tagged with , ,

Journo stuff collected on 06/22/2015

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  • “From Boston to Ferguson, Baltimore, and Charleston, one thing has become crystal clear: To get real reporting—and to get it fast—you’ve got to switch off cable and go local. It’s here you’ll find the scoops, the sense of place, the authentic compassion; it’s here you can avoid the predictable blather from a candidate, or pundit, or hack filling airtime. It’s here you’ll find out what’s really happening to a particular group of Americans who have just been shoved into a tragic spotlight. Turn off the TV and Google the local paper on your phone. Find their Twitter feed. Follow their journalists.”

    tags: journalism local

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Written by sarahhartley

June 22nd, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized