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 →
Snapchat’s breaking news coverage was one of the most significant developments of 2015
It’s that time again: Nic Newman‘s email has dropped asking various people to do some highly suspect future-gazing (at least I got WhatsApp and the election right last time). Here are my answers to his questions, delivered with suitable scepticism…
What surprised me most in 2015?
What surprised me most in 2015 is the enormous surge in ‘civic tech‘ around the election compared to 2010: coders collaborating to make apps and websites to help people make an informed decision on their vote. Continue reading →
A screenshot of the BirminghamEastside WhatsApp channel
During this year’s general and local elections a collection of my Birmingham City University students used WhatsAppto publish regular updates throughout the two days of voting. Frankly… they nailed it. In the process they learned a lot, so I thought I’d share some of the things that came up throughout the process – as well as the experiences of the person responsible for the Mirror‘s political WhatsApp account in the week leading up to the election. Continue reading →
I recently hosted a podcast discussion at Birmingham City University for my MA Online Journalism students on ‘platform publishing‘: in other words, journalism on platforms other than traditional websites.
My guests discussed their experiences of publishing for email, SnapChat, Tumblr, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They were: Continue reading →