A screenshot of the Slack group for MA journalism students at Birmingham City University
For a number of years I’ve been using Slack with students on both the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism, and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. As a new academic year begins, here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years – whether you are a lecturer considering integrating Slack into your teaching, or a student considering using it in a journalism project.
First things first: why Slack?
Slack is a professional chat app used widely in the media industry to organise projects. It has a number of advantages over other options for communicating between colleagues, whether that’s chat apps such as WhatsApp, or traditional email. These include:
The ability to take control over opting in or out of communications (rather than being endlessly ccd in on unimportant messages)
The ability to have ‘office hours’ and customise notifications based on your priorities and availability (rather than getting notifications for all communications)
A particularly powerful search functionality for finding documents or messages from previous communications
The ability to set yourself reminders
Automation of aspects of work, such as alerts
When it comes to teaching and learning there are two obvious selling points: firstly it empowers students to manage their own communication (with attendant benefits for mental health).
Following a request on the Bureau Local Slack channel (join here) I created a tutorial on how to create a Slack bot which would post alerts whenever a new House of Commons or House of Lords event was added to the Parliamentary calendar (this can be adapted for any events calendar that provides an RSS feed). I thought I’d share it here too…
Slack is a great platform for organising a team — and it’s very easy to integrate with bots that will post alerts to a channel whenever something happens. Here’s how to do that using the free tool IFTTT. Continue reading →
Here, then, are some reflections on the 10 pieces which did best in 2016 (there were 100 posts across the year), plus the older posts which keep on giving, and a comparison of some pieces which did far better on Medium than on OJB. Continue reading →
2016 was the year of the bot in journalism. In this edited extract from the forthcoming second edition of the Online Journalism Handbook, I outline what bots are, how bots have been used by media organisations from early Twitter bots to the recent wave of ‘chatbots’, and some tips and tools for getting started with journalistic bots.
‘Bots’ are ‘robots’ – only on the internet. Without the mechanical body of their physical counterparts, all that leaves is a disembodied computer script, normally created to perform repetitive tasks.
This broad description takes in a whole range of activities, and so the term ‘bot’ is used to talk about very different things in different contexts:
In search you might talk about bots used to index webpages, such as the ‘Googlebot’.
In finance and commerce you might talk about bots used to monitor information online and respond to it by buying or selling things.
And in advertising and politics you might talk about bots being used for nefarious purposes: for example, to make it look like more people are viewing webpages, clicking on adverts, or arguing for a particular candidate.
This article isn’t about any of those.
In the context of journalism and publishing, the term ‘bot’ is normally used to refer to something which users can interact with. Examples include: Continue reading →