Author Archives: Paul Bradshaw

“If we don’t move with it then the low-brow side wins”: obstacles to gamification part 2: perceptions, standards and time

http://www.ipadio.com/embed/v1/embed-352x200.swf?phlogId=142401&phonecastId=4593835

Click on the player above to listen to full audio of Alex’s interview

In the second of two guest posts for OJB (read the first part here), Alex Iacovangelo interviews Al Jazeera’s Juliana Ruhfus (full audio above) on the reasons why gamification has not been more widely used in journalism.

What is a game? Why audiences like games, and editors don’t

The word ‘game’ attracts new types of audiences, especially when so many are gamers, but within the news business it can have the opposite effect internally, especially when pitching.

“It was the word ‘game’ that put people off,” says Juliana.

“I’ve tried explaining what gamification is as a process and once you actually break down the mechanics people really get it, but it is the word – because games aren’t seen as serious.

“People raise their eyebrows and I was very careful when I pitched it.”

Continue reading

3 reasons why journalists are wary of gamification: an interview with Al Jazeera’s Juliana Ruhfus

http://pixabay.com/en/video-game-controller-controller-152852/

Al Jazeera’s gamified project’s symbol

http://www.ipadio.com/embed/v1/embed-352x200.swf?phlogId=142401&phonecastId=4593835

Click on the player above to listen to full audio of Alex’s interview

Al Jazeera’s Juliana Ruhfus was one of a team of reporters involved in creating an award-winning news game. In a two-part guest post for OJB, Alex Iacovangelo interviews Juliana (full audio above) in the context of wider issues with gamification that have prevented it being more widely used in journalism.

Why is gamification, one of the greatest forms of interaction available, so slow to be adopted by journalists at a time when engaging audiences is more important than ever?

One of the most recent examples of gamification in journalism is Al Jazeera‘s award-winning investigative news piece on illegal fishing in Africa, which they turned into a standalone educational game.

The story on illegal fishing focused on an injustice that needed to be exposed. But attracting and enlightening thousands of readers to injustices exposed in investigative pieces is a difficult challenge – especially when they are taking place so far from the audience’s home.

Juliana Ruhfus, Al Jazeera’s senior reporter, told us that:

“Quite a few people have reacted positively and I think the process of investigative journalism lends itself particularly well to be gamified because you have the process of evidence gathering, of collecting clues and discovery.

“The vast majority of people who’ve been on the interactive project that we’ve created are first time visitors to Al Jazeera, so it certainly seems that one thing we’ve managed to do is reach different audiences.”

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“I haven’t got time” is not acceptable when it comes to basic data techniques

clock workings

Picking apart the time you spend on things can identify false economies. Image by Vittorio Pandolfi

Yesterday I spoke at the BBC Data Day: an event bringing together people at the BBC interested in data-related issues, techniques and tools. During the question and answer session following my talk one person mentioned a common reason why he wasn’t using data journalism techniques:

“I haven’t got the time.”

For some reason this time the phrase bristled. And later I realised why.

A journalist wouldn’t get away with saying they “hadn’t got the time” to get a response quote.

A journalist wouldn’t get away with saying they “hadn’t got the time” to get the background to a story.

A journalist wouldn’t get away with saying they “hadn’t got the time” to check a key fact. Continue reading

The Scarcity Principle: writing online headlines which ‘click’

Increasingly, when journalists now write headlines for the web or for social media, they specify the medium or format involved. They shout VIDEO and AUDIO in caps at the start of the tweet or post; MAPPED or INFOGRAPHIC; INTERVIEW or LIVEBLOG.

Sometimes the medium or format is implied more subtly, with a call to action: we urge users to ‘Watch’, ‘See’ and ‘Listen’. But we also invite them to ‘Join’, ‘Meet’ and ‘Find out’.

Users choose the medium as well as the message

Why do we do this? Part of it is that we recognise that the medium is something special; that users often make a choice based on the medium itself.

But I think putting the medium/format front and centre is about more than just user preference: it’s about abundance and scarcity. Continue reading

Did St Albans Council give misleading figures on FOI requests from police – and could other authorities be doing the same?

St Albans Council are one of an increasing number of public bodies to complain about Freedom of Information requests. In calculating the cost to the body of a quarter of a million pounds every year, they said that over one in ten requests come from the Metropolitan Police.

But Tim Turner was skeptical. So he asked how many of the police requests actually mentioned FOI. They avoided the question:

“St Albans drew my attention to a section on the Information Commissioner’s website which says that any request for information that is plainly not an EIR or a subject access request should be treated as an FOI.”

The implication being that routine requests for information from other public bodies may be being classified as ‘FOI’ as a way of inflating costs and supporting the case against it – even where they would previously just be routine.

Turner then asked specifically how many of those police requests were made under the Data Protection Act:

They admitted that all of them were“.

Continue reading

HOW TO: Write a ‘Get the data’ article

ft get the data

One of the simplest ways to get started with data journalism techniques is a ‘Get the data’ article.

Start by looking at examples of other ‘Get the data’ articles. A good search for this is:

intitle:"get the data" -getthedata

This searches for the exact phrase “get the data” in the title of the page but also excludes the site getthedata.org (which otherwise dominates results) by using the minus operator.

You can obviously add further terms, such as ‘news’ or ‘finance’, to narrow further.

Here are some examples:

Those three examples show two different types of datablog. The Guardian, for example, take public data which has just been released and make it more accessible to a broader audience. Continue reading

Data journalism books: bundles now available

Scraping for Journalists and Data Journalism Heist

You can now buy ‘bundles’ of my data journalism books on Leanpub for special discounted prices:

Excel for journalists books

If there’s any interest in other bundles I’ll try to set those up too.