Monthly Archives: September 2010

Playing with heat-mapping UK data on OpenHeatMap

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Last night OpenHeatMap creator Pete Warden announced that the tool now allowed you to visualise UK data. I’ve been gleefully playing with the heat-mapping tool today and thought I’d share some pointers on visualising data on a map.

This is not a tutorial for OpenHeatMap – Pete’s done a great job of that himself (video below) – but rather an outline of the steps to get some map-ready data in the first place. Continue reading

Hyperlocal voices: Mike Atkinson from

Hyperlocal blog

Earlier this year I interviewed blogger Mike Atkinson, who launched in 2008. I wanted to get a feel for how the reality of hyperlocal blogs compared with the perception (there are other interviews to follow). Here are his responses:

Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds before setting it up?

Local villagers (current team is six people), differing backgrounds and interests. I’ve been blogging since 2001 (my personal blog was one of the better known UK blogs in the first half of the decade, and was shortlisted for a Bloggie award), but the others had no prior blogging or website management experience. Most had never even read a blog before.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

Official reason: to promote the fund-raising activities for our proposed Memorial Hall rebuild. We needed to provide evidence to potential funders that we were an active self-organised community, and this seemed like an idea vehicle. Also, we could offer promotion for funding bodies in our Sponsors section on the blog sidebar, which might have been an added inducement for them.

But speaking personally, as the person who first suggested the blog, I simply wanted the blog to help foster and maintain a sense of community in a village whose resources at the time felt under threat – and I wanted to give us an effective voice when presenting ourselves and our concerns to the outside world. Continue reading

Online News Survey – suggestions wanted

Global news provider Small World News Service and online research company OnePoll are looking to undertake a large study which will research how the public access and use news online.

After discussing possible angles to take with the survey, it was decided that it would be good to work with the Online Journalism Blog to crowdsource possible avenues to take with the research.

The goal is to produce a number of studies that can help news professionals, journalists and anyone else with an interest understand the attitude and behaviours of online news consumers.

Our method will be to conduct a survey with a large representative sample of UK internet users.

After the study has been completed we will publish both the report and the data on the OnePoll website and make it freely available.

So if you have any suggestions for questions or possible angles then I would be delighted to hear about them.

You can contact me on Twitter @oliconner or email oli2706@gmail dot com

Lessons in crowdsourcing: Claire Wardle on using Ushahidi for the Tube strike

The following is cross-posted from Claire Wardle’s blog:

Late on Monday night, I wrote a short post in anticipation of the crowdmap I’d just set up for BBC London, which I hoped would provide a useful service the following day for the London tubestrike, 7th September 2010.

It’s now Wednesday morning, and I can write, while still feeling slightly shell-shocked from the experience, that all in all, I’m very pleased with how it went.

I want to use this post to reflect on some of the things that worked, some of the things that didn’t work as well, and some things I will do differently if the next scheduled tube strike goes ahead.

Bottom line was that lots of people saw it: 18,860 unque visitors, and 39,306 page views from 55 countries. 13,808 were from the UK, 3863 from the US, and I can’t get over the fact that we had 2 people form Bermuda, 1 person from Uruguay, and 9 from Kenya, the home of the Ushahidi platform. The power of social media never ceases to amaze me.

We posted 202 reports yesterday. About 50 were sent directly to the map from the audience, either via the web form or the specific SMS channel we set up. The rest of the reports we took from twitter, either tweets in the #tubestrike stream or replies to the @BBCTravelalert account. Continue reading

Charities data opened up – journalists: say thanks.

Having made significant inroads in opening up council and local election data, Chris Taggart has now opened up charities data from the less-than-open Charity Commission website. The result: a new website – Open Charities.

The man deserves a round of applause. Charity data is enormously important in all sorts of ways – and is likely to become more so as the government leans on the third sector to take on a bigger role in providing public services. Making it easier to join the dots between charitable organisations, the private and public sector, contracts and individuals – which is what Open Charities does – will help journalists and bloggers enormously.

A blog post by Chris explains the site and its background in more depth. In it he explains that:

“For now, it’s just a the simplest of things, a web application with a unique URL for every charity based on its charity number, and with the basic information for each charity available as data (XML, JSON and RDF). It’s also searchable, and sortable by most recent income and spending, and for linked data people there are dereferenceable Resource URIs.

“The entire database is available to download and reuse (under an open, share-alike attribution licence). It’s a compressed CSV file, weighing in at just under 20MB for the compressed version, and should probably only attempted by those familiar with manipulating large datasets (don’t try opening it up in your spreadsheet, for example). I’m also in the process of importing it into Google Fusion Tables (it’s still churning away in the background) and will post a link when it’s done.”

Chris promises to add more features “if there’s any interest”.

Well, go on…

Of online audiences and modes of address

One of the mistakes that people new to blogging often make is to write as if they’re addressing a crowd. “Hey everyone!” they shout. “Can any of you help with this?”

Speak to people who teach radio journalism, and you’ll find similar experiences.

Radio and online journalism have this in common: they are typically consumed alone. We listen to the radio in the car, or while we’re painting. We may listen to it in the workplace – but unless it is something seminal, not crowded around the set. We read online news at our work terminal, or on our mobile phone or laptop. It’s not a group activity. Television news is the only type we consume in groups, socially.

Or at least, that’s what I thought until recently.

Because it occurs to me that there are some examples in online media when we are addressing a crowd.

Social media is the most obvious example: if you ask a question on Twitter, should you say “Do you know the answer to this question?” or “Does anyone know the answer to this question?”

Although each user is sat at their computer or phone individually, they are also occupying a virtual social space, in which they are a group.

But isn’t a blog comments thread a similar virtual social space? No.

The key to the issue is synchronicity: if people are occupying that space at the same time, then they can be addressed as a crowd. If it is asynchronous – people occupy the space at different times, and return to check communications – then that mode of address doesn’t work.

Asynchronous communication is the dominant form of communication online: email, blogs, forums are all asynchronous. Live chat, some IM and some social media like Twitter tend to be more synchronous.

In those contexts then, is it okay to address people as a group? I think it is.

FROM THE COMMENTS: @Dubber’s further insights from radio are worth incorporating:

“Most online writing seems to fall naturally into the same mode as radio writing: personal, direct, individual – and, most importantly, conversational. If I was writing a style guide for online communication (including journalism), I’d pretty much make those four elements the fundamental rules.”

The foreign minister of Argentina on Twitter

Argentinian politicians of all parties are now fervent Twitter users, as I stated in my previous OJB post, and they don’t hesitate in arguing shamelessly about all national matters in 140 characters.

The new foreign minister, Hector Timerman (@hectortimerman), is maybe the most enthusiastic Twitter user of all the government officials. Every day you can read him discussing with national journalists – and regular Twitter citizens – the administration’s performance.

So, generally, journalists that don’t agree with Kirchner’s  marriage policies bear the brunt of his anger through Twitter. That’s why Reynaldo Sietecase (one of the top national journalists) asked Timerman in his radio show about the risk of communicating things by Twitter “without any filter”.

The foreign minister of Argentina replied with irony: ¿Dont you think that now, while I’m talking on the radio with you, I’m also doing it without any filter?

The journalist pushed on and asked if Twitter didn’t make him waste time. Of course, Timerman raised the bet: “Actually, I waste much more time talking with you than on Twitter”.