Tag Archives: Politics

AllSides’s John Gable: from the Dark Ages of the internet to bursting bubbles


AllSides uses a bias rating system

As part of a series of articles on the innovators tackling the filter bubble phenomenon, Andrew Brightwell interviews John Gable, founder and CEO of AllSides, a website that has devised its own way to present alternative perspectives on American news.

When a man who helped build the first successful web browser says there’s something wrong with the Internet, it probably pays to listen.

“The internet is broken.”

John Gable’s diagnosis has authority: he has more than 30 years in the tech business, including stints at Microsoft, AOL and as a product manager for Netscape Navigator.

Now he is founder and CEO of AllSides Inc, a news website with a distinct mission. Visit AllSides.com and it offers the news you’d expect on any US politics site, except that its lead stories include a choice of articles: one from the left, centre and right.

 “The headlines are so radically different that even reading [them together] tells you more about that topic than reading one story all the way through.”

Continue reading

Hyperlocal media and engagement with political parties: what’s been your experience?

One of my abiding memories of the 1997 General Election involves bumping into a candidate from one of the major parties in a beer cellar. The candidate was supposed to have been on air at the time, participating in a live hustings for the small local radio station I was working for.

During a short conversation with them it quickly became clear that they felt an informal meet and greet with a bunch of bemused students was a better use of their time.

That was until I gently nudged him in the direction of the nearest cab…

A decade and a half later I hoped this sort of incident was a thing of the past. But is that the case? Continue reading

Famous Twitter users: who gets the most click-throughs – and why?

Famous Tweeters - percentage of followers clicking through

Famous Tweeters – percentage of followers clicking through

In the third and final post of this series Patrick Scott had a look at the click-through rate (CTR) of some famous individual Twitter users and found that those who do best tend to be political.

Follow @Patrick_E_Scott

In the first post of this series we saw that regional newspapers that tend to do well on Twitter follow a larger proportion of people relative to the number of people following them.

Conversely, in the second post of the series we saw that this ratio of followers to followed is less significant for magazines. The successful magazine accounts tended to be more personable than personal and gave their followers a clear engagement pathway to go down.

In this post we will see that, like the regional newspapers, famous individuals with a higher CTR tend to have a better followers to followed ratio, although there are a couple of notable exceptions to this. Continue reading

SFTW: How to grab useful political data with the They Work For You API

They Work For You

It’s been over 2 years since I stopped doing the ‘Something for the Weekend’ series. I thought I would revive it with a tutorial on They Work For You and Google Refine…


If you want to add political context to a spreadsheet – say you need to know what political parties a list of constituencies voted for, or the MPs for those constituencies – the They Work For You API can save you hours of fiddling – if you know how to use it. Continue reading

SFTW: How to grab useful political data with the They Work For You API

They Work For You

It’s been over 2 years since I stopped doing the ‘Something for the Weekend’ series. I thought I would revive it with a tutorial on They Work For You and Google Refine…

If you want to add political context to a spreadsheet – say you need to know what political parties a list of constituencies voted for, or the MPs for those constituencies – the They Work For You API can save you hours of fiddling – if you know how to use it.

An API is – for the purposes of journalists – a way of asking questions for reams of data. For example, you can use an API to ask “What constituency is each of these postcodes in?” or “When did these politicians enter office?” or even “Can you show me an image of these people?”

The They Work For You API will give answers to a range of UK political questions on subjects including Lords, MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland), MPs, MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament), select committees, debates, written answers, statements and constituencies.

When you combine that API with Google Refine you can fill a whole spreadsheet with additional political data, allowing you to answer questions you might otherwise not be able to.

I’ve written before on how to use Google Refine to pull data into a spreadsheet from the Google Maps API and the UK Postcodes API, but this post takes things a bit further because the They Work For You API requires something called a ‘key’. This is quite common with APIs so knowing how to use them is – well – key. If you need extra help, try those tutorials first. Continue reading

Hyperlocal Voices: Darryl Chamberlain, 853 Blog

853 blog

Having worked for the BBC News Entertainment website for a decade, Darryl Chamberlain took voluntary redundancy and set up the widely successful 853 Blog. As part of the Hyperlocal Voices series he shares some of the secrets of his success.

1) Who where the people behind the blog, and what where their backgrounds?

853’s all mine. My background’s actually in showbiz news. I worked for the BBC News website’s entertainment desk for a decade in a variety of roles – mainly sub-editing and being the daily editor, but also reporting and feature writing.

I took voluntary redundancy and a career break in 2009 – standing in a council election in May 2010, and doing odd bits of freelance work. While standing in an election will probably leave me hopelessly biased in many eyes, it helped introduce me to local issues which simply weren’t being touched, and potential contacts of all political hues. After my glorious defeat, I realised I could do a bit more for my local area by sticking to what I was good at – finding things out and writing about them. Continue reading

Ultralocal Blogging Roundup. Talk About Local ’09, Guardian, Wired Mag

There have been several events and reports worthy of note in the last week in the world of local blogs and websites .

Wired Magazine Intelligence Briefing

Recently I gave an interview about current directions in the world of local blogging, for one part of a Wired Intelligence Briefing, to @jamiedouglas.

The whole presentation identified “10 current trends in 20 minutes”, which characterise our environment:

  1. We the people – isolation of the political class.
  2. Abundance creates scarcity of attention.
  3. Serendipity and shared experiences – where discovery happens.
  4. Everybody is local – enrichment of neighbourhoods.
  5. Collaborate and listen.
  6. The media is unpoliceable.
  7. Watch out, sport.
  8. Social networks have a half-life.
  9. Google’s Achilles’ heel.
  10. An era of etiquette.

Talk About Local ’09

Also worth a look is a report in the Guardian about the Talk About Local ’09 Unconference, held on Saturday 3rd October in Stoke-on-Trent:

Almost 100 people left their bedrooms, home offices and local community halls for talkaboutlocal’s inaugural unconference this weekend. Some attendees in Stoke-on-Trent are professional journalists, starting out on their own against a backdrop of local and regional press lay-offs and closures, some have a political cause to fight while others quite simply want to give a voice to a community not well-served by a newspaper industry retracting and centralising.

Definitive numbers of these hyperlocal sites are hard to come by but the website www.nutshell.org.uk has already listed more than 50.

The event organiser, William Perrin, from TalkAboutLocal.org says: “People have always wanted to get involved to make things better and suddenly they can do it for themselves. The web 2.0 tools provide platforms that are incredibly easy to use, without any real cost.”

In the Guardian, the report author mentioned the practice of Stoke City Council to treat “Citizen Journalists” as being different from ‘real journalists’:

The town hall which PitsnPots set up to scrutinise has been less welcoming. Stoke Council’s head of PR and communications, Dan Barton, explained that bloggers would not be invited to briefings and are excluded from sitting at the press table in the council chamber.

“Opinion should be encouraged but we do draw a distinction between what is news otherwise we are in danger of de-valuing the role of journalists,” he said.

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is currently updating its guide to include the rise of social media networks but looks unlikely to change the definition of who gets treated as a journalist. A spokeswomen said: “We can say anecdotally that we would encourage councils to treat only accredited journalists as journalists. And treat citizen journalists as citizens. But that does not stop citizen journalists making enquiries in the normal way … And there is no reason why media releases cannot be available to everyone as they are public documents.”


The comment from Dan Barton seems to imply that the content of newspapers is “news, not comment”, and that the content of blogs is “comment, not news”.

I’d suggest that this is a ludicrous position to take, bearing in mind the extent to which news and opinion are mixed in the local (and especially the national) media, and also the miraculous range of howlers and planted stories which appear regularly. To mention just two that I have covered in the the last 5 weeks, remember the non-fact-checked Mayor of Baltimore spoof, which appeared in half a dozen national media outlets, and the Alan Sugar on Terrorism Death List story, which was invented out of the air and swallowed by the Sun?

I’d assert the opposite position: that thoughtful and careful bloggers, whether our beat is “local”, “subject-based”, “professional”, “political”, “technical”, or anything else, have potential to increase significantly the range and quality of niche coverage, due our tighter focus and our freedom from a need to work tightly to deadlines and volume of output requirements.

There are two clusters of issues that we need to address:

  1. We need to make sure that we do work to a level of quality which is equivalent to, or better than, our colleagues whom Mr Barton is willing to name as “journalists”.
  2. We need to make sure that it is impossible for the councils we are scrutinising to refuse to accredit us for any reason.

I’ll cover these issues more in a future article, but I think it is time for local bloggers to go on the front-foot; the decline in local media has left the gate wide-open.

Two places to start are firstly to write for other outlets, such as your local newspaper and sites which are regarded as “media” not “blogs”, and to see if you can get a UK Press Card. There are a range of bodies which issue UK Press Cards, and some people may come within the rules who do not realise that they do so.

Matt Wardman is an online consultant, and edits the Wardman Wire group political blog and Nutshell directory of local blogs and websites.

BBC Free: Help us persuade the BBC to open their RSS feeds up

The internet blows my mind. Ryan Carson opened my eyes to the power of it a few months ago. We can sit down and create a blog or web application and have it instantly accessible to the world. That’s unique, and it’s exciting.

We’re asking the BBC to join us in this creativity. Today, we’re launching BBC Free – it’s a campaign to convince the BBC to offer full article RSS feeds.

Current short bbc feeds

Currently, their feeds are just a single line or two and this hurts your RSS experience, and it also hinders creativity in online news. RSS feeds are machine readable and a ton of great startups base their news products off that content. By making the feed “full article”, we can be far more creative with how we improve your online news experience.

We’re not asking the BBC to create an amazing news API like The Guardian. The BBC doesn’t run adverts, any users of RSS will appreciate this change, and people who don’t use RSS won’t know anything has changed.

We’re imploring you, internets, to help us with our campaign. Full details are at our site http://bbcfree.net – the twitter hash tag is #bbcfree and you can follow the campaign at @bbcfree.

— Peter Clark, CEO of Broadersheet.

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I smell a government rat in my news

As traditional media outlets close down, the relative importance of non-market players becomes more important.

Governments around the world were quick to see the opportunities for their news agencies. From Xinhua (China) to ITAR-TASS (Russia), from AFP (half of its budget comes from state subscriptions) to Voice of America, governments are trying to shape the world’s public opinion.

The coverage of Gaza by Al Jazeera is a case in point. They produced quality journalism no other outlet could dream of. Now, viewers should keep in mind that money for such newsgathering comes straight from the pocket of the Emir of Qatar. Believe me, I’m sure Al Jazeera’s journalists keep that in mind too.

To help you measure the amount of government-funded journalism, I built this little app, I smell a government rat in my news. Just type in any query and you’ll see the share of articles produced with state funds. Continue reading

Obama’s way around mainstream media

She was trying to make sure media (literally) used the “right” image of Barack Obama during the campaign. Jodi Williams was one of the many young brains behind Barack Obama’s media campaign.

Jodi Williams, who was part of Barack Obama's press team in the presidental campaign. (Photo: Bente Kalsnes)

I met her at the Digital News Affairs conference in Brussels to talk about the digital changes in campaigning and dealing with the media. She had no doubt that all the new digital tools made it easier for political candidates to communicate independently from mainstream media, on their own platforms. Continue reading