Author Archives: Paul Bradshaw

Snapchat Memories is nothing to do with memories – but it changes everything

Snapchat memories

Swipe up from the camera screen to access Snapchat Memories, then tap the camera roll option

Snapchat’s new Memories feature is being pitched as a way to share old snaps and stories — but the real change is what it means for those creating and reporting stories in the tool. Now for the first time Snapchat users can create non-chronological sequences and stories using images or video that they have not taken themselves. Continue reading

All the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry report documents structured by entities and dates

When you’re dealing with documents amounting to 2.6million words spread across over 50 PDFs, you need to do more than just be able to press the CTRL and F keys together.

And yet political journalists across the country will be relying on just that to report on the Chilcot Report into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war (also known as the Iraq Inquiry) this week.

I’ve uploaded all the PDFs to the document analysis service DocumentCloud. You can find them on the site here. You’ll need a DocumentCloud account to see it, but if you haven’t got an account you can also search all 55 documents at the same time in an embedded search I’ve created over on HelpMeInvestigate.


One of the advantages of using a service like DocumentCloud is ‘entity analysis’. This basically goes through the documents and identifies entities such as people, places, organisations and ‘terms’ (for example: ‘chemical warfare’), treating each type of entity separately and creating a little histogram showing where those entities are mentioned in the document.

To view the documents in this way, you just need to click the ‘Analyze’ button in DocumentCloud and choose the view you want:

Analyze buttons: view entites or timeline

Click the Analyze button to see the documents by timeline or entities

‘View Entities’ gives you a view like the one shown below:

chilcot report on document cloud

In the entity analysis view you can see that the Ministry of Health is mentioned a lot towards the end of this document

If you hover over any of those little bars you should see a popup showing the context within which the entity is mentioned…

entity popup

Hovering over this bar shows the text surrounding the location identified

And you can click to see the raw text in full:

selly oak hospital in context

If you choose the Analyze Timeline option DocumentCloud will show you a timeline of events it has identified in the selected documents. This allows you to spot outliers (such as the earliest events in the narrative), clusters, or to zoom into a particular key period.

documentcloud timeline

You can click and drag to zoom in. Again by hovering over any point you will see a preview of the context within which a date is mentioned, and can click on that to see the original text in full.

documentcloud zoom timeline

Those are just some of the basic ways in which DocumentCloud makes interrogating documents much quicker. You can also use Overview to analyse it in other ways, but that’s another story…

overview chilcot

How the Chilcot report looks in Overview

Free investigation training for independent journalists and publishers

CIJ logo

On August 17-18 the Centre for Investigative Journalism is organising some free training workshops for independent community based journalism outlets in Birmingham (and yes, I’ll be helping too).

They write:

Through investigative training; advice and guidance in journalistic practice; and support in building regional networks and sustainable business models we aim to revive local and community based reporting to address the democratic deficit left by a decades-long decline in budgets, staff and overall plurality across the UK local media industry.

The new programme hopes to help independent publishers improve their ability to gain access to information and investigate issues affecting their communities, and to share their findings in the public interest.

Some of the reasons behind the training include:

  • to encourage greater government and corporate accountability at a local level
  • to support democratic scrutiny
  • and to reinforce civil society from the ground up

Birmingham isn’t the only region this will be happening, but it will be the first. If you are interested in being involved, please contact us at

Due to the remit of this project CIJ are only able to provide training to journalists working with a specific community/regional focus on a part-time or voluntary basis. The project has been funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

Google knows what you did last summer: how to use the My Activity page to make it forget

Google My Activity news

Google knows what I was reading last summer

If you use an Android phone, the Chrome browser, or even just YouTube, you may at some point have been surprised by how much Google knows about you. If you haven’t, take a look at Google’s new My Activity feature.

Rolled out this week, the feature allows you to see the videos Google knows you’ve watched; the searches you’ve typed in ( and ‘sound search‘ too); the images you’ve looked for – and which ones you viewed; video search. Continue reading

Journalists learning how to code is just journalists learning how to publish

google pipes

Recently I read some feedback about a book proposal. The proposal included some chapters on coding for journalists, which prompted one of the reviewers to write:

“I think coding is moving [students] away from the core role of journalism — which is content creation not platform creation”

The debate about coding for journalists has been rumbling for some time now, and my own opinion on the issue has changed over that time. The attitude embodied in that quote is not uncommon among journalism lecturers — but the quote above has helped me realise something that, for me at least, strengthens the ‘journalists should code’ argument.

Let me rephrase it to show how:

“I think publishing is moving [students] away from the core role of journalism — which is content creation not platform creation”

You see my problem? Continue reading

Cartogram or election map? The Guardian vs The New York Times

guardian referendum map

A cartogram represents geography diagrammatically. Note above for example that London takes up more space than parts of Wales because it has much denser population

The New York Times didn’t use a cartogram for its EU referendum map, Gregor Aisch explained last week, because they are “too confusing for readers unfamiliar with the geography”.

The Guardian, on the other hand, did use a cartogram. In a series of tweets their visuals editor Xaquin Gonzalez explained why

Continue reading

Don’t blame Facebook for your own filter bubble

As the UK worked through the aftermath of the vote to leave the European Union, Tom Steinberg found himself frustrated. “I am actively searching through Facebook for people celebrating the Brexit leave victory,” he wrote. But to no avail. He called on his friends in the technology industry to act on this ‘echo-chamber problem’.

A day later someone else I know – a former journalist now working in the tech sector – expressed the same frustrations — on Facebook, naturally. It seems we have a problem.

At the time of writing Steinberg’s tweet has been retweeted almost 4,000 times. Clearly there is a desire for connection – and yet…

Why are they making the demand of social media companies — and not news organisations? Continue reading