Author Archives: Paul Bradshaw

Lessons on using WhatsApp for publishing – an election experience

whatsapp election

A screenshot of the BirminghamEastside WhatsApp channel

During this year’s general and local elections a collection of my Birmingham City University students used WhatsApp to publish regular updates throughout the two days of voting. Frankly… they nailed it. In the process they learned a lot, so I thought I’d share some of the things that came up throughout the process – as well as the experiences of the person responsible for the Mirror‘s political WhatsApp account in the week leading up to the election. Continue reading

UPDATED: Ampp3d and UsVsTh3m: 9 of their best moments

Zuckerberg dance

Trinity Mirror are closing Ampp3d and UsVsTh3m. Here are just 7 9 of their best moments, in reverse order. Are there any you think should be here too?

9. More people may have died building venues for Qatar 2022 than will play in the 2014 World Cup

Qatar worker deaths graphicMary Hamilton describes this as “the single best interactive I have ever seen for mobile.” At the time I wrote a whole post about it: This simple piece of visualisation will have you rethinking what you know about impact and mobile: Continue reading

The legacy of Ampp3d, UsVsTh3m and Row Zed

It is perhaps a sign of the success of Trinity Mirror’s web-savvy projects Ampp3d, UsVsTh3m and Row Zed that reports of their closure have generated such strong reactions from journalists across a range of titles.

UsVsTh3m launched in early 2013; Ampp3d towards the end of the same year. The launches themselves represented a fresh approach to mainstream publishing online: standalone teams free to innovate without the baggage of print costs, systems and cultures.

The projects were initially given 3 months to prove their worth as separate projects but ended up becoming part of the Mirror site and sticking around for 2 years.

On those grounds alone UsVsTh3m, Ampp3d – and Row Zed in 2014 – have been a success. They achieved what they set out to do, and more.

But they have also had a massive influence on the wider industry – an influence which may have contributed to their closure. Continue reading

Data journalism at the 2015 UK General Election: geeks bearing gifts

bbc election quizThis has been the election when the geeks came in from the cold. There may be no Nate Silver-style poster boy for the genre this side of the pond – but instead, I believe we’ve finally seen the culmination of a decade of civic hacking outside the newsroom. And if anyone deserves credit for that, it is not the Guardian or the Telegraph, but MySociety, Tweetminster, and Democracy Club.

Looking back at my review of online election reporting in 2010 it’s striking how much has changed. Back then data journalism’s contribution was all about interactive presentation of results, but little else.

In the time between that election and this one, however, two things have changed within the news industry: firstly, a more code-literate workforce, including dedicated data project teams; and secondly, the rise of mobile, social media-driven consumption and, as part of that, visual journalism. Continue reading

Create your own parliamentary team – Fantasy Frontbench and other Voting Advice Applications

By Agustin Palacio

Who would be in your MP fantasy team? Fantasy Frontbench (FF) is a voting advice app which has been exploring this concept for the last few weeks, in the lead up to the General Election.

Using the tool, users can build a team of 22 politicians based on features such as gender or the university where they studied, but also how he or she voted in Parliament on particular issues.

“I felt as so many people were already familiar with the concept of a ‘dream team’ that it had a real chance of capturing the imagination of people who are not generally interested in politics,” says Project Manager Matthew Smith.

The app not only includes MPs elected in 2010, but also those politicians with high profiles during this campaign, like Natalie Bennett (Green Party candidate) or Nigel Farage (UK Independence Party).

There are also politicians from the smaller parties who have a chance to win their seats.

Smith works as learning technologist at University College London, where he is exploring ways in which information can be presented “in a more interesting and engaging way.”

FF claims to have had 15,000 unique visitors, with the average time spent on the site being roughly 2 minutes.

The 8 volunteer members who run the non-profit project say they are happy with the figures but that a large audience is not their main purpose.

Smith says:

“In my view, even if the site had only helped one person raise their political understanding, the project would have been worthwhile.”

Taking advantage of Voting Advice Applications (VAAs)

According to Smith, this election campaign has been “the first where Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) have reached a level of maturity where their use can no longer be said to be insignificant.”

In fact, FF comes from around 3 data sources which are open to everybody, through which it is possible to get information related to different candidates and issues. Here are those 3, plus some others Smith recommends:

Matthew Smith also recommends Democratic Dashboard:

“The way they have visualised data ranging from share of the vote and past MPs, to forecasts and party spending is truly excellent. A perfect example of the adage ‘simple but effective’.”

Tips on choosing the right Twitter hashtag: a tale of 5 hashtags

brumvote related tags

What do you do when you’ve been using a hashtag for some time and another one comes along with the potential to be more popular? Do you jump on board – or do you stick with the hashtag you’ve built up? How do you measure the best hashtag to use for your work?

That’s the question that a team of my undergraduate journalism students at Birmingham City University faced last month. And here’s how they addressed it. 

First, some background: in February this year the students launched their election coverage under the hashtag #brumvote.

The hashtag worked well – it took in everything from BuzzFeed-style listicles to hustings liveblogs and data-driven analysis of local MPs’ expenses and voting patterns.

Then last month a similar hashtag appeared: the BBC launched their own youth-targeting election project, with the hashtag #brumvotes.

At this point the students faced 3 choices:

  1. Keep using the #brumvote hashtag
  2. Adopt the new #brumvotes hashtag
  3. Use both

Changing hashtag would involve changing dozens of posts from previous coverage, but would the clout of the BBC mean missing out on a potentially more successful hashtag? Continue reading