Today sees the conclusion of a project that I’ve been involved in over the summer – a new app to explore the engineering gems of King’s Cross got the Mayor’s office approval at a ceremony in London this morning.
The app was commissioned by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) as part of its centenary programme focused on attracting more young people into engineering.
The app draws the attention of users to some of the the remarkable structures in the area through fifteen videos and utilises the n0tice platform. More on that at the n0tice blog.
It was an unusual project to work on and also demonstrates how the n0tice white label technology can be applied to a brand for a bespoke app.
My involvement was to direct the editorial content and undertake the interviews alongside a brilliant editorial team who all deserve a mention;
Video – Ben James
Project manager (and some lovely stills photography) – Kathryn Geels
Sound engineer – Jack James
Location runner – Francesca Dumas
We had a lot of fun along the way – including a bit of ghost hunting inside the amazing German Gymnasium – and I think we are now so familiar with King’s Cross that we could all do competent guided tours!
I’ve enjoyed playing around with the beta version of picture licensing site – Picfair this week. Created by former Guardian colleague Benji Lanyado, the idea is that the copyright holder of an image (ie. the photographer who took the shot) names the price for a licence to reuse the image.
The licence is a good deal simpler to understand than many and the presentation is clean and intuitive to use. The USP is the fact the seller names the price but, like other services selling to mainstream media (eg Demotix), the proof of its success for photographers will be whether the demand is there from the media buyers.
It’s fun to use, interesting to browse and it will be fascinating to see how it develops once everything goes public tomorrow – if you didn’t get an pass for the beta, you should be able to give it try sometime on Monday.
Once again the whole issue of filming public council meetings has been dominating my blogging activity.
The map now records ten experiences from people around the UK. Please do let me know if your local council should be included.
Crowdmapping issues using the Maptastica tool shown in the map above was one of the elements featured in this week’s newsletter I write for n0tice.com on a Tuesday. This week’s also featured the slideshare below which can be used as a tutorial with guided groups during a webinar or face-to-face session to get started with n0tice.
I was an avid GoogleReader user – for many years – so I’m one of the people this is going to inconvenience. However, I had already started migrating some feeds to a platform I’ve been working on called n0tice.com – in part to test it, but also because it was easy – plus, for hyperlocals, it’s got the added advantage of geo-tagging.
One of the things I used GoogleReader for was simply to monitor the activity of some sites and blogs I’m interested in keeping an eye on but didn’t want the bother of visiting several times a day. As an alternative I set up feeds into a dedicated Noticeboard and simply let it run, checking in via mobile or desktop every now and then.
Still in beta, it provides an opportunity to play around a bit and see how it might fit into the whole suite of geo-tagging related tools being developed.
Being one of those involved in the team developing this I wanted to get straight onto trying it out so I’ve created a very simple spreadsheet of the locations and opening times of Manchester’s city centre toilets. The data comes from the Data GM store. Creating the spreadsheet took the longest time, the set up and ingestion into the noticeboard probably 10 mins at most. Quick and dirty toilets mapping as it were!
You can see the items and click on items to get a map view here, http://atyourconvenience.n0tice.com but, as n0tice is primarily a mobile experience, the worth of this type of information is more obvious when viewed via the app where users will encounter the information in a serendipitous way due to their proximity to the location. (Alternatively a feed of the info from the api could create something in a different platform or publication.)
I’d like to think that when I use those four words in the subject line of emails it provokes a little spark of interest in my colleagues (possibly they just evoke a fearful uhoh!) but this time I’ll try it out on you.
The latest ‘thing’ I’ve messed with is an experiment to distribute news from the north into the mobile space using some of the tools available at the platform I’m working with, n0tice.com.
It means that any mobile phone user who has the n0tice.com app downloaded will discover the news headlines and links from their local newspaper to click straight through to the provider to find out the full story, explore their site etc.
It runs off the news organisation’s public RSS feeds with the addition of geo-tagging to the town or city where it is based so – a person walking around Manchester will be able to serendipitously receive news from the MEN, in Newcastle the Journal, Sheffield The Star and so on.
The content is created via the app Feedwax.com and then fed into an online noticeboard which becomes the way the stories are ultimately accessed via a mobile site, Android app or iPhone app.
All of the content can be seen in one go at this noticeboard although it’s unlikely that anyone (perhaps with the exception of journalists for monitoring purposes) would want to view it in that rather random way. Instead, it really is intended for mobile discovery where the location of the user provides the context.
You can download the apps to test it out here – android, iPhone.
Once logged in you can set your location and see all that’s been geotagged around you (notices) or restrict to everything via the Northerner noticeboard (boards).
A few things I learned from doing it:
some news sites make it really difficult to hunt down the RSS feeds – why? They’re the building blocks for people to make things which have the potential to find new audiences.
it wasn’t possible to tag the stories to the locations mentioned in the copy due to a lack of geo-tagging at source. This is an area I’m working with on a few different projects (including augmented reality) and one which I’d be interested to hear from anyone looking to incorporate it in their regular journalism work or content management systems.
The feeds currently included are: The Guardian’s Northerner blog, MEN, Middlesbrough Gazette, Newcastle Chronicle, Liverpool Echo, Lancashire Evening Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Carlisle News and Star, York Press, Sheffield Star, Northern Echo.
should it include local blogs? Any newsy-based bloggers out there who’d like to be included, please give me a shout and I’ll add you in. Likewise, anyone currently included who would rather not have their content exposed to a mobile audience – just let me know and I’ll drop it out. It’s an experiment, I don’t want to annoy anyone.
If you’d like a similar thing for your own blog or website – basically it’s like having your own mobile app – the tools used are available to all here www.n0tice.org and I’m on hand to offer some help or advice if needed.
Computer assisted reporting…..now there’s a phrase I haven’t written or uttered for quite a while. Where data journalism seems to have taken off, poor old CAR just never did catch the popular imagination as a term…..
Whatever you call it, the gradual opening up of data in computer readable formats brings with it more opportunities for journalists and I’ve been fiddling around with feeds to see how some of the new features launched with n0tice 2.0 works.
I’ve shared my efforts – and a step-by-step guide to curating feeds with these tools over at the n0tice blog today – see here.
Having already made some decisions on the type of local site you’re setting up, the first major decision to take is which platform to use. The right platform for you will depend on the activity you intend and considerations such as whether advertising is part of the mix and who will be involved in the creation/management of the content.
For the hyperlocal site that I’m getting started (www.richmond.n0tice.com), the decision was in effect made for me – I’m using n0tice.com because it’s a platform that I’m also working on to develop for independent publishers and so using it for this can help inform that process.
The most commonly used platform for this type of publishing would probably be WordPress.com – for sites which don’t require advertising options – and the self-hosted version WordPress.org for those that do.
But there are plenty of other options depending on your needs. I’ve started this spreadsheet of some of those I’ve come across with details of their particular properties.
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 ( firstname.lastname@example.org) 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!