Monthly Archives: February 2010 and the ASBOrometer – video interview

Here’s a video interview by Conrad Quilty-Harper with the creator of the ASBOrometer app for iPhone and Android. The app pulls information available through, allowing you to see levels of antisocial behaviour (and other data) near you. More broadly he talks about the potential of going forward. Obvious implications for local and hyperlocal journalism…

What do your RSS feeds say about you?

Ben Harrow, a student in my undergraduate online journalism classes, has written a blog post about the environmental news RSS feeds of some of the national newspapers.

It appears that the Telegraph ‘recycling’ RSS feed hasn’t been updated in 3 months (even during the Copenhagen talks), while

“The Daily Mail has upwards of 30 RSS feeds, each updating you on a celebrity of your choice. But no environment feed. Nothing.”

So what does a newspaper’s RSS feeds say about its priorities? Any other examples?

Teaching blogging: the Social Media Treasure Hunt (#bsmth #snowbrum)

Today I’m trying an experiment with a group of students on my undergraduate Online Journalism module – a ‘Social Media Treasure Hunt’ on their patch: Birmingham.

The students are all reporters who will, next week, be reporting for the environmental news website Birmingham Recycled. Last week they set up their systems – RSS reader, Delicious, and Twitter – and this week they are setting up their blogs. They’ve already had the lecture about the theory – now comes the practice. But instead of the usual workshop-in-a-computer-room, I’m taking them into their community.

This year I’ve made a significant change to how I teach blogging. The focus is explicitly on social capital, and ideas of sharing their processes. So here’s what I wanted to do:

  • Get them meeting people in person rather than virtually – a much more effective way of building social capital
  • Get them away from a desk. It seems to me that most people approach online journalism as a deskbound job – actually, it opens up enormous opportunities for production on the move: moblogging, liveblogging, photoblogging (one student has already tried all 3 in one go).
  • Get them to open their eyes, ears and noses. These students have spent 18 months learning how to be journalists – looking for angles, structuring a story. Now I’m asking them to unlearn some of that when they approach a blog: put out unfinished material; observations; raw material. Sharing – not processing. That can be a hard habit to get into.

Oh, and of course I want to make it fun and engaging. So…

The Social Media Treasure Hunt

At 9am this morning a group of around 15* 7 students will gather at Coffee Lounge in Birmingham city centre. They all have phones with web packages and/or laptops with wifi. I will make sure they are all set up with a blog, and are able to post to it from their phone or laptop.

They will then be given, in pairs:

  • A map of wifi coverage in Birmingham
  • A name
  • The rules of the game

The rules of the game

  1. You have been given the name of a person with a social media presence in Birmingham (e.g. blogs, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook etc.).
  2. You must find a way to contact that person, and arrange to meet them as soon as possible, today.
  3. When you meet them, you must find out about them – then ask them to name another person in Birmingham that they think it would be useful for you (as an environmental reporter) to meet. (If you are unable to meet any person, contact @paulbradshaw for a new name)
  4. From the beginning of this process you must keep your eyes, ears and noses alert – and comment on what you see/hear/smell…
  5. …As you travel, you must generate as much content as possible on social media – tweet; take and upload pictures; bookmark webpages; record or stream video or audio; and of course: write blog posts containing all of the above. The purpose of this hunt is to share as much as possible – experiences, insights, opinions, questions – so that others can get to know the city – and you – through your senses.
  6. Tag everything that you do #bsmth (Birmingham Social Media Treasure Hunt) – and follow all the other material using that tag.
  7. You cannot ‘hunt’ a person who is already being – or has been – hunted by someone else.
  8. Points are awarded as follows:
    1. 100 points for meeting someone named;
    2. 50 points for meeting and finding out about someone else;
    3. 20 points for every blog post;
    4. 5 points for every other piece of valid* social media generated.
    5. *Material generated to ‘game’ the contest (e.g. flooding with meaningless material) will not be counted

Winners will receive a prize of non-monetary value…

So that’s the Social Media Treasure Hunt – I’ll blog about the results in due course. Meanwhile, you can of course follow the tag on social media…

*UPDATE: We had a couple inches of snow overnight, which disrupted transport (yeah, I know – just a couple of inches) and prevented around half of the students from taking part, so I adapted by starting a second meme, #snowbrum, for those who were housebound. This was overseen by Birmingham Recycled’s editor, Natalie Adcock, and I’ll blog about that in due course too.

My Favourite UK Political Blogosphere Statistics in 2010 so far

During January and early February we have been subjected to a festival of political Satirical Statistics, as blogs reviewed 2009, Tweetminster reviewed political twitter, and commentators reviewed all of these numbers.

Most of it has been fluff and fury, but amongst the noise these are the statistics which I think are worth noting with care.

Labourlist’s lunchtime email newsletter goes to 3500 people:

3,500 people now subscribe to the LunchtimeList daily email update, which gives a quick but comprehensive overview of all the day’s news and views in the Labour Party

That’s after a year of solid plugging, and simply highlights how tough it can be to build email lists from scratch. In my opinion, a focus on email was one of the priorities that Derek Draper got right from day one on Labour List as it is still the most reliable way of building a community. Kudos to Alex Smith for publishing the email numbers; as far as I know no one else has done so and tend to just say ” we have thousands of subscribers”. Usually “thousands” can be taken to mean “two thousand and a bit”.

On an obliquely related note, I received my “free trial” to the Editorial Intelligence “Daily Digest” email today, and – bearing in mind that excellent free media summaries are available from several thinktanks (such as Reform and Ekklesia) and elsewhere – I don’t see that these are sustainable as a paid-for product, unless they facilitate real added value somewhere else in an integrated service (in EI’s case, this is the EI Club).

Comment summary may go (perhaps has gone already) the same way as much reporting and photography – it will slide down the value chain and will become an engagement (rather than value adding) tool.

Most of the traffic to Liberal Conspiracy comes from Comment is Free, Twitter and Facebook:

Most of our referrals now come from Twitter, Facebook and the Guardian website (primarily from CIF writers and commenters).

I’m still reflecting on this. Is this an illustration that Liberal Conspiracy is reaching into the wider media, or is it an indication that writers for Comment is Free can direct traffic to blogs when they try?

The online political niche has not grown *very* significantly in the UK.

In their recent report Tweetminster reported around a hundred thousand people following Members of Parliament on Twitter. That is not significantly different to the 50 to 100 thousand people following political blogs quoted to me in 2007 by people associated with the 18 Doughty Street project.

Anecdotal, but interesting. How will real political engagement be built?

Wrapping Up

I’d welcome further comments and insights.

Fair use and copyright in the UK – how different is it? (comment call)

There’s a fabulous post over at the Center for Social Media on when using copyrighted material in video comes under fair use. If the work is ‘transformative’ then there’s a strong case for fair use. Examples include:

  1. Adding satirical subtitles, fan tributes, parody, critique
  2. Using copyright material for illustration of example (e.g. stages in a star’s career)
  3. Accidental capture – e.g. music playing in the background while someone dances (if unstaged)
  4. Documenting an event or experience, e.g. presence at a concert
  5. Mashups, remixes or collages that create new meaning from old material

But of course this is all under American law. My question is: how far do these same examples go under UK law? I’d love to know your experiences and interpretations.

A media student’s guide to starting social media

One of my undergraduate students, Natalie Adcock, has put together a very useful guide to social media for student journalists. It’s aimed at the team of second year students who will be once again running a live online newsroom this year in my Online Journalism module (which Natalie studied last year), but could be used by any students. If you have any experience of running a student newsroom and want to add anything, let her know.

More 21st century newsroom ideas: the Google Newsroom

The Google Newsroom

The Google Newsroom

Here’s a new contribution to the ‘Model for a 21st Century Newsroom’ concept: the Google Newsroom, by Benoît Raphaël. Based on his experience as editor in chief at Le Post, Raphael makes a number of salient points about reorganising the newsroom in a digital age. He suggests that “we have to forget that old idea of merging newsrooms” and create “one “where everything happens,” that is to say on the web. This is the heart of information system. The rest is just appearance.” Continue reading