Just to let you know: we won’t be using Facebook any more. ……..
“They won’t let pages contact or even view their own fans (really!), so nobody knows how many fakes they really have – except Facebook, and they’re not telling. They won’t allow an independent audit of their advert system either.
Just part of the message to its former Facebook followers from Piccadilly Gardens based cloud computing firm Charity Engine’s CEO Mark McAndrew.
He tells Business Insider how he believes Facebook is hiding fake users behind its policy of restricted access for Page owners.
Facebook has responded with information about its system for deleting fakes but, in this post at least, doesn’t address the issue of limited access, and therefore limited ability to generate revenues, from large Page followings.
I wonder whether this development will encourage any others to follow suite? Recent conversations with another large northern Facebook Page would suggest a general unhappiness with the level of control the American giant wields over access to communities which have been hard-fought to build and retain.
Hello mobile world
The home page layout
As flagged on this blog on New Year’s Day, Johnston Press are rolling on with their plan to deliver news through apps and today: “The Yorkshire Evening Post has launched new iPad and Android tablet apps, offering the latest news throughout the day as well as complete electronic copies of the newspaper.”
The launch piece online today doesn’t include a review or a clickable link to subscribe – but here are a couple of screengrabs showing the iPad edition this morning.
It’s not clear whether there’s any content unique to the new format – any Leeds readers fancy reviewing the app, let me know.
The whole idea of a community-owned journalism outlet or model does appeal – not least it won’t be run by some of the big corporations that currently rule regional press and it seems to me at least to be an extension of the hyperlocal movement of bloggers, which is so eloquently described in Damian Radcliffe’s excellent Here and Now report for Nesta. Could mutualisation yet prove an answer?
John says he’s ‘intrigued’ by the possibility of setting one up in Leeds with journalists and/or bloggers and asks that anyone interested in having an initial discussion in confidence to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tributes to north east journalist The Northern Echo reports that retired reporter Dennis Robinson, of Sedgefield, County Durham, has died at the age of 84 following a long illness.
“For six decades, he was a regular contributor to The Northern Echo and its sister publications and was happiest when covering grassroots community news.”
York’s tadgram style video viral
If you thought you could escape the Gangnam Style phenomenon with the dawning of a New Year, spare a thought for Adam Dawson who has found ‘fame’ with his spoof dance video for charity.
He tells the York Press:“It’s hard to even think of 220,000 people [who’ve viewed the clip]. To be going to the supermarket and being in the local shop and have people wanting to have their picture taken with me is surreal.”
This is the presentation I rather rushed through in the two minutes alloted at the News Rewired event in London yesterday. It really wasn’t long enough to go into any details about the Talk About Local project to experiment with public service content in the augmented reality environment so see below for some links for more info.
Slides 2 and 3: Ar selling sofas with CSL
Slides 4 and 5: Heinz prompts a recipe book using ingredient.
Slides 6 – 10: mainstream publishing using AR from News International.
Slides 11 – 15: What the Talk About Local project looks like in the AR layer.
After producing and testing the prototype to to feed hyperlocal content into the AR environment, the work with Talk About Local continues to expand this further to help people achieve an easy to use and low cost solution.
Contacts – in the end, they’re all there is. If Mae West had been a journalist, rather than saying ‘keeping a diary will keep you in the end’, I like to think she might have instead spoken about keeping a contacts book with the same reverence.
Any time spent on creating and building contacts is never wasted, which is why I’ve included it so early in the process. It also won’t stop here, this post is simply a process to get started.
So where to start?
Setting up a website or blog from scratch is just like starting a new beat as a reporter. You’re looking for contacts who know everything that’s going on in their field. Well-placed people. Some of those will be people who are paid to communicate with the public eg. Press and PR but many will be people who hold a position of authority, or have volunteered for a role and who don’t necessarily know about public participation. Your contact with them will need to be handled slightly differently to explain clearly the context of what you are trying to set up.
Begin by listing any personal contacts you have as these will always be the strongest ties – family and friends. Then start with the main institutions in your town. Here’s a fairly typical list I’ve started for my town:
Mayor and councillors
Council press office
Police, fire and ambulance press offices.
School principles and heads of governors
Leisure facilities – cinema, theatre, operatic society, sports centre
Museums – Green Howard’s , Richmondshire
Neighbourhood policing panels
Town council clerk
Local MP’s constituency office
Existing campaign groups – Friends of Richmond CCTV
Having identified some of the local structures, time to put some research into finding the people behind the organisations and starting to build that contacts book.
Back in the day this meant a succession of well-guarded index tabbed notebooks – these days it means a database.
Taking the time to set up a spreadsheet right at the start of the process means an invaluable resource that can be easily updated as you progress. If there’s a group of you working on a project, it also makes it easy to share resources too. One word of caution on that – do ensure you understand the implications of the Data Protection Act when dealing with any data which isn’t in the public domain.
Using excel, googledocs or similar, layout your new contents database with column headings something like this. Organisation. Name. Email. Phone. Notes. First contacted. Response.
If there’s a group of you doing this, you’ll need a column for who is to make the 1st contact too.
The heading ‘notes’ is for anything useful to know about contacting the person eg.’ Don’t call on Thursdays as child-minding’ or ‘strict vegetarian’ if you’re likely to be arranging a venue to meet.
The column first contacted is for recording a date so you can easily set a date for follow up conversations to track without bombarding someone with annoying repeat information.
All set – time to hit the phones and introduce yourself. Far better in person or over the phone as these are people you need to build relationships with.
If you do find a need to email to many people, just remember not to reveal people’s email addresses to everyone else in the list (without their prior permission). Use the BCC field of email to keep those addresses private.
The next instalment in this series will be some ways to approach ‘competitors’.
Data journalism isn’t a much-used term in Turkey where I’m currently coaching on a weekend for news entrepreneurs as part of the #MADETurkey project.
The country is advanced in its Internet use – it’s the fourth biggest worldwide user of Facebook for instance – but journalism is still very much in a transition process to digital and the opportunities scrutinising data offers to journalists just beginning.
After giving a short introduction to data journalism session yesterday, including three very different examples of projects in other parts of the world – wikileaks, HomicideWatch and ArtCast – it was time to demonstrate something practicle and this is the proof of concept that Megan Knight from Uclan put together.
Using a few of the figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists’ The map was created in a very short space of time to illustrate that points that 1. The tools to create something like this area freely available and 2. The skills required are ones all journalists have ie. gathering and processing information, albeit using slightly different tools.
The last reported figures show that 76 journalists are believed to be in prison in the country.
Against this backdrop a group of independent news entrepreneurs will be getting together to work through startup ideas this weekend.
The MADETurkey initiative is from University of Central Lancashire backed by Google IPI and funds coaching in every aspect of running a news enterprise.
In addition to participating in a workshop about community and social media, I’m also running a session to introduce aspects of data journalism to the group.
This afternoon’s sessions include lessons from Turkish case studies before delegates get stuck into the business planning aspects with Stuart L Morris, Henley Business School from Henley Business School and Gillian Morris, e-commerce entrepreneur and independent consultant.
This the first in a series of blog posts where I shall document the hyperlocal initiative www.richmond.n0tice.com as a step-by-step process that is intended to be helpful to anyone setting about a similar project – shared experiences and tips most welome.
‘Why?’ really does have to be the very first question for anyone setting up a hyperlocal website or blog. The reasons for getting involved in any community publishing venture vary widely and I’ve come across many over the years – maybe there’s a specific issue that needs addressing locally, perhaps there’s a lack of news provision generally in the area or poor local information? maybe it’s a business opportunity you’ve spotted in these freelance and DIY days?
All valid reasons and ones that it’s important to understand and be able to articulate before setting about any enterprise which could become a passion, a profitable enterprise or a lot of fun on one hand but, if it all goes wrong, a depressing timesink or costly mistake.
I’ve come up with the five questions below to think through the ‘why’ before getting started. There’s no correct answers, it’s as much about the process of answering the questions to help establish the way your hyperlocal proceeds and provide a framework or bare bones of the project.
Producing this basic list can be a vital piece of documentation to return to in the future as things develop and can help stop you getting blown off course.
My answers in connection with my own new venture are in brief below.
Five questions to consider before starting any hyperlocal project
1. Is there a need? This could be a general need ie. nowhere to find what’s going on or a specific need eg. The dog fouling in this town is appalling or why does no-one ever stand for council election?
2. What is the site to be for? Events? news? conversation? photography? It can be all of the above, or a combination, but it’s important to think through the primary aim as there will substantial differences in the decisions taken down the line between, for instance, a site set up to express a sense of place and one investigating local issues or a forum for conversations.
3. What existing provision is there? Relates to point 2 – is there already activity locally and in which aspects? Identify who else covers the patch in terms of blogs and twitter as well as mainstream media in print, broadcast or online. There’s no point in re-inventing the wheel so if there’s some good content out there, understand where to find it.
4. Do you seek to receive any income from it? Again, some of the decisions coming up will be dependent on this answer. Even which platform to use for publishing, as well as business structures and status.
5. What does success look like? Yes, a cheesy management line in some instances, but this will help form the guiding principles for your site and is a vital conversation to have if a group of people is involved. A lot of potential later friction can be avoided by thought and detailing at this pre-launch stage.
My answers in brief
The need I identify in the town is primarily around the transparency of local decision-making with a secondary one of finding out what’s on. There are already some sources of information (identified in point 3) but nothing specifically aimed at people using digital tools and platforms who are empowered to participate online or via mobiles. I have noticed very few members of the public turning out for meetings on important local issues and local elections are poorly attended. On a parliamentary basis, the constituency must be one of the safest Tory seats in the country, currently held by foreign secretary William Hague.
The site is for sharing. That’s a simple aspiration but one I know from experience it will be hard to achieve. The last thing I want to prompt is a top down service – this is to be a set of tools to enable people to share the local information important to them. As an engaged local person myself, I’m also keen to participate where I can but, it is not MY site!
As far as mainstream news provision goes, the town is one of those places that’s on the edge of everyone’s patch – a factor I’ve noticed in quite a lot of other hyperlocals. In print, two regional dailies , The Northern Echo and The Yorkshire Post both have the town in their sights – occasionally. Reductions in staff, budgets, offices etc. have inevitably taken their toll as their readerships have fallen to 38,479* And 37,833* Respectively. Richmondshire has a population in excess of 47,000 and each of those publications includes several large and very newsworthy cities in their patches. The free newspaper, The Yorkshire Advertiser has a distribution of 23,716* but again, has much larger places within its patch and so provides a limited number of stories relating specifically about the town. The excellent weekly paper, The Darlington and Stockton Times fights a good fight and publication is still eagerly awaited by many in the town but even that only serves : 21,829* (down 5.2%) across a large geographical patch. Broadcast-wise, the town falls into the BBC Tees are which has its heart on the industrial towns and cities of Teesside and the forces radio provides a good community serice for those based at nearby Catterick Garrison. TV is again, on the edge of everywhere with residents likely to choose to receive Tyne Tees or Yorkshire regions depending on work or family background. There is another online service, RichmondOnline which provides a good what’s on service in addition to producing a local business directory. (* Newspaper figures from latest ABCs.)
No. I intend this to be a project for the benefit of the local community and will be doing this as part of my other activities in the hyperlocal publishing sphere so I don’t need it to provide me with an income.
Success would ultimately look like something that can exist and thrive without me. Although I am very keen to participate in the life of the town (and love doing the sort of local reporting I’ve been involved in for 20+ years now), if the site isn’t valuable enough for people to also want to engage in and contribute, then it won’t have succeeded in the terms I measure it.
The story of the open journalism toolkit n0tice.org became the focus for a session at one of Europe’s big broadcast conferences that I was invited to attend this week.
The Multimedia Meets Radio event for members of the European Broadcasting Union looks at initiatives in other countries and media which could spark ideas, inspiration and innovation in radio as broadcasters move towards a more digital, engaged relationship with listeners.
This is the sideshow I presented during a session on the theme of User Generated Content and interactivity. The other speakers were Brett Spencer of BBC Radio2 and Yan Luong, social media manager at RTS. (There’s some notes from their presentations and others here under the #mmr12 tag).
- slides 1 – 14 look at some of the thinking behind the n0tice project, its beginnings at a hack day trying to solve the problem ‘what’s happening near you’ , the general environment it operates in and again making the point that it’s a platform and not an editorial product for one publisher – a point I often find difficult to properly get across due to the fact n0tice is supported by GMG.
- slides 15 – 27 show some of the current user case studies, namely the noticeboards for bridport.n0tice.com, the Guardian’s crowdsourced investigation privatepublicspace.n0tice.com, the ability to collaborate and crowdsource by the platform’s tagging ability eg. #yarnbomb, #streetart and finally the Northern Landscapes photography challenge.
- slides 28 – 32 gives brief details of upcoming initiatives for the n0tice team such as experimentation in augmented reality environments with Talk About Local, assisting local Uk campaigners with important community issues such as High Street renewal and finally , of course, spreading the word more widely.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the tools available at n0tice.org for your community project, news enterprise, major media organisation or whatever it is you do, please feel free to contact me.
Happy to take questions here on the blog, via email ( email@example.com) or arrange workshops or talks with you.
Google searches reveal very little experimentation in this area – in fact an article by former colleague Mercedes Bunz way back in 2010 is almost the final word on the topic. There’s a couple of conclusions that you could arrive at about the current state of play around perceived ease of access to these technologies but maybe the overriding factor is a perception that there’s not enough mainstream take-up of the technology to make AR commercially viable for big news organisations to get involved with so therefore work by journalists to experiment in this area isn’t yet an imperative.
One of the frustrations with talking to journalists and others about AR, is that it’s harder to describe than it is to use but sharing the experience isn’t easy to do remotely like this. (William Perrin made this video in an attempt to get over this problem.)
But leaving those issues aside, how about its use as a tool for stories told in a new, non-linear way?……….here AR could be a completely different scenario for those individuals who want to explore the new ways no/ low cost mobile technologies can help to engage people in their stories, maybe even develop a mobile-native form of journalism?
To explore this I started by thinking about the well-established building blocks and then attempted to identify the differences AR could make to this set up. To my mind history has previously shown that the counter approach to something new in the space I.e. taking material from an existing structure and expecting it to play out using a new technology in the same or just slightly altered /re-purposed way doesn’t take full advantage of any new technology – just think back to the shovelware approach to online which newspapers took in the early days which denied the interactive opportunities the www made possible.
So if AR was to become more than just a distribution channel for content already created somewhere else, what would that look like? What would be an AR-native piece of journalism?
Starting with the building blocks drilled into every journalism student, every story is to contain the following basic pieces of information;
- how or how much
The traditional structure for this information is an inverted pyramid with everything considered important as near to the top as possible and lesser information moving towards the bottom. A structure devised for the specific purposes of print so that copy could be chopped to fit from the bottom to fill spaces on pages in hot metal before the computerisation of layout.
Despite the advent of Internet-native forms such as live blogging, a huge proportion of journalism consumed via mobiles is still structured like this today. In the best examples an important new dimension has been added into the thinking ie. the audience - the collaborative addition. This removes the start-end of the piece so you end up with a cycle more like this one described as a ‘news diamond’.
But that doesn’t take into account any aspect of the experience being about mobile technology per se, rather, the journalism encountered on a mobile is using the device merely as a distribution channel albeit with concerns given to its design eg. For a small screen, multimedia etc.
What if that ‘where‘ element of the news story became the most vital part of the content experience instead of simply being one element? GPS technology and AR means we are no longer bound to a location as a non-dynamic word in a story, we can actually go there, we can experience the place via our handsets rather than just a picture, our imaginations or prior knowledge. Could the old model be blown apart to create a completely different way of exploring a story thanks to this technology being deployed?
To date, the closet activity I’ve come across which looks along these lines is the trans media work being done in drama and fiction which uses approaches from gaming technologies to allow the audience of say a television programme to explore story strands in a non-linear way using the ‘red button’ or carried online, into gaming or onto other broadcast platforms such as radio. But what about bringing this approach into the news and information sphere as well?
Playing around with this idea the traditional story format quickly becomes cumbersome and it starts instead to feel as though there should be multiple clusters of story lines emerging. Each cluster of information, response, addition etc. bound by its location rather than a timeframe. Each of these location based story clusters becomes a story in its own right, a way of exploring that aspect further – what does the place look like, who else is at that location, what other information is contained in the streets or buildings around? This isn’t necessarily information the journalist has had to gather, but can be simply that the reader* can explore, reveal and, importantly, add to the story thread thanks to the capabilities of AR.
The story thread and clusters idea immediately throws up some new challenges for a journalist accustomed to creating one main piece containing what’s been sifted and selected to be the most useful information:
- one or more of the clusters could develop off on a completely new tangent thanks to the input of someone encountering it.
- the person encountering it might only ever discover one or several story threads rather than all of them – does this matter?
- how will entirely new story threads be created/discovered in relation to the early ones?
There is an irony that, by blogging it here, I’m having to describe the process on a non-mobile platform rather than demonstrate it via mobile devices which would be much more effective and intuitive.
That’s something I intend to work with in the coming months, see if there’s a better way of showing (rather than telling) how this might work so I’d be very interested in hearing from, or about, any other people experimenting in this area.
* reader – doesn’t seem the right description for someone who is participating at this level does it? But what to call those that read, encounter, browse, add to, take from etc. etc……..
A project I’ve been working on for the past nine months is being launched to world today – n0tice.com has come out of it’s invite-only phase .
This ‘baby’ carries with it the usual hopes and fears of early-days initiatives so I’m expecting to be watching over these first steps with that strange post-launch mixture of anxiety, pride, excitement and over-protectiveness before everything becomes established.
But I thought I’d use my blog to highlight some of the features which can help journalists going about their work. There’s plenty of other things going on in there eg. revenue share on ads, community noticeboards, self-serve events listings etc. (more details on those at the n0tice blog), but here I’ll just pull out three useful tools for journalists and bloggers who might be new to it.
Each report, or news posting, has the ability to add updates as and when required making liveblogging easier – or even simply taking notes at a live event. Updates can be a mixture of media eg. pictures, tweets, videos etc. so it’s possible to create a liveblog which is a mixture of content from a variety of sources and intersperse with direct reporting. In this way n0tice can be used a bit like storify to curate others’ activity. Adding the other media doesn’t require any embed coding, simply the URL so, in the case of tweets, just the timestamp detail is enough to include the full tweet in it’s attributable context. Same drill for youtube, flickr etc. – there’s no need to rummage around for the embed code.
2. Collborative story gathering
Because the updates can be made by any user, not just the report’s originator, there’s a great potential for collaboration here. This could stem from simply being in the same place. n0tice works around proximity to place so, even if you do not know other notice users, this location based aspect means you can easily discover who is nearby. Imagine a scenario where a major event is happening eg. a protest. The first person at the scene may have simply reported that fact however, others in the area can quickly add pictures, video, tweets or whatever to quickly build up the story.
Away from live events, the platform makes crowdsourcing from multiple locations around the world easy too. Having a noticeboard for a project with it’s own URL means that contributors can easily post their items from wherever they are. The Guardian Music noticeboard is a good example of this approach, taking submitted reviews from across the UK, but it could also be used to gather evidence for investigative work too.
3. Mobile reporting
There is already a mobile site for quick reporting which is built in html5 and so will be compatible with any phones. It’s a pared down version of the complete site and makes it easy to post a report from a location without having to worry about all the additional features until you get back to base. In the next few weeks we will also launch an iPhone app which will bring a whole new experience to the mobile reporting – watch this space!