How to find ‘feeds for leads’ as a journalist

When a journalist gets their first job, or switches role to a new area or specialism, they need to quickly work out where to find useful leads. This often involves the use of feeds, email alerts, and social networks. In this post I’m going to explain a range of search techniques for finding useful sources across a range of platforms. Continue reading

Google’s creepy Allo assistant and our rocky relationship so far

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After playing with Allo’s chat prompts for those too lazy to write their own texts, I began to play with the in-conversation Google Assistant bot. Here are the highlights:

1. You can use the assistant without giving it permission

Whereas other chat apps like Telegram and Facebook Messenger make it possible to interact with bots, Google is making bots central to Allo. Specifically, the Google Assistant.

When you first open the app you are introduced to the assistant. It wants to help, it says, but it will only do so if you agree to give it a whole bunch of creepy permissions. Until you give it those, it will not answer any questions directly. Continue reading

Hello Allo: the first 12 things I learned about Google’s new chat app

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Google’s new chat app Allo is out in the UK, and I’ve been playing around with it.

There are two key artificial intelligence (AI) features that stick out in the app: firstly, the ability to interact with bots (the Google Assistant, which I’ve written about in a second post here), and secondly the way the app suggests responses while you chat.

I took screenshots during my first conversations using the app to see how the AI algorithms were set up before it had begun to learn much from my behaviour. Here are the highlights… Continue reading

Guardian profiles routinely link to PGP keys – why aren’t other news orgs doing this?

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What a pleasant surprise to visit a profile page on The Guardian website and see a big, prominent link to the member of staff’s public key. Is this routine? It seems it is: an advanced search for profile pages mentioning “public key” brings up over 1000 results. Continue reading

FAQ: Cheap readers and the future of local news

Every so often a journalism student sends me questions for an assignment. I publish the answers here in the FAQ series. The latest set comes from a student in Australia writing for Upstart magazine at La Trobe University, and focuses on the local press. 

1. Is the reader not worth as much on the internet?

Readers have always been worth different amounts in different contexts. It’s not that the reader is ‘not worth as much on the internet’, but that most readers on most websites are worth less. Continue reading

How to: fix spreadsheet dates that are in both US and UK formats

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This map by Artem Karimov shows which countries use which data formats

It’s quite common when working with Google Sheets to have data set to US format (Month-Day-Year) without realising it. This is because Google will format your dates based on what ‘locale’ or language you have set – and the default is US English.

Instructions on how to change that are here – but what if it’s too late? What if you’ve already inputted or imported data which, when updated to a different format, will make it the wrong date? Continue reading

German intelligence reforms: will some journalists be more equal than others?

In a guest post for OJB, Christian Mihr explains how German plans to allow surveillance of foreign journalists represent a threat to reporters all over the world.

There is perhaps no author more quoted when it comes to surveillance than George Orwell, and his book 1984. The recently proposed reforms to Germany‘s Foreign Intelligence Service, BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst), however, bear more resemblance to Orwell’s novel Animal Farm.

In the novel, farm animals drive their human masters away in hope of achieving democracy. But once the pigs of the farm seize power they become as tyrannical as the humans that came before them, proclaiming:

“All animals are equal – but some animals are more equal than others.”

Some journalists are more equal than others

Politicians are of course not pigs; however, this single principle of the pigs in Animal Farm seems to be the underlying assumption which led the German-ruling parties SPD and CDU/CSU (Social Democrats and the conservative Christian Democrats and Christian Socialists) to draft the new BND law, proposed at the end of June to the German public.

In the law, those more equal than others are not pigs, but rather German journalists. Continue reading