A little observation I wanted to share. Over the summer I went away for a few weeks and put my out-of-office message on. At the same time I had a few students emailing me questions about assignments and I was surprised that some of them replied to my out-of-office as if it was a real email. It made me think about norms of communication.
Out of office messages are a common part of my working life – not much of anything gets done without email! But I know that email isn’t the main form of communication for my students. It’s conversation that is the norm. So it shouldn’t really be a surprise that any response is seen as a ‘live’ response. That’s underlined by the number of emails that have no title or any of the usual ‘dear andy’ or ‘hi’ that you’d expect. They are the next line in an asynchronous conversation. In future, I know I’ll have to make it clearer that an out-of-office is an automated response not a status update.
Let’s be clear. I don’t think that’s a ‘problem’ with students not getting email or somehow not being good communicators. It just underlined for me that there is no normal any more.
There needs to be communication between me and the students but I don’t want to dictate what form it should take. At the same time, I can’t change some of what I do. We need to meet somewhere in the middle, but the landscape moves so fast finding a middle-ground feels more challenging.
Its getting to that point in the academic calendar where I’m writing documentation for the modules I’ll be teaching this year. Looking back over previous years, I’ve noticed how bits of information appear and disappear in the guidance notes I write; notes about certain types of kit have been replaced with general advice about phones; Reading lists become increasingly digital.
Be courageous when holding those in power accountable
Avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest
Avoid pandering and sensationalism
Recognise that private individuals have a greater right to an expectation of privacy than public officials or those who court power, influence or public attention
Practice discretion when writing about those who may be adversely affected by blog coverage.
Recognise common standards of decency
Seek approval for content distribution of any material which is not your own
Sometimes it feels like we spend an increasing amount of time thinking about how to ‘do’ and less on how to ‘be’ online. So it’s nice to reflect that even when the form changes, the basic approach can still stand.
I know that blogging is fast becoming a bit of a legacy concept, which I think is a real shame; I still think a blog is about the space to say why you think something in a world of people saying what they think in 140 chars or less. But the sidelining of the concept doesn’t undermine the usefulness of Stefenac’s advice. So I’m going to keep it in. Relevance might dictate that I replace blogging and blog with publishing and publish, but they still work for me as a guide for being online.
You may have noticed that I’ve been posting about Open Data a lot recently. It’s mainly because of a project that I’m working on as a researcher called Media Mill. One of the things I’ve been doing is pushing out a weekly email newsletter to the project members with related open data, hyperlocal type stuff. The project focus means the content is not as broad as some open data newsletters so I’ve not pushed it to a wider audience; It’s never been private, more under the radar.
But it’s always open to new subscribers and now that it’s on it’s 15th one I thought I’d let people know about it. You can see the archive online and subscribe if you like the look of it. It’s out every Wednesday at 11:30ish. Feedback always welcome.
Open Data Presentation.
As part of the general conversation around open data, I hear a lot about innovation by SME’s (small to medium size enterprises) – companies building their business on or with open data. I’ve been pondering whether the knowledge of open data amongst SME’s is up to making good on that promise. So I gatecrashed a networking event by the universitie’s Northern Lights project (thanks folks). I did a quick presentation about what open data was and why people thought SME’s should be interested.
It wasn’t evangelising or trying to sell the idea of open data. I wanted to ask them if they knew about open data and if they thought it might be for them (hence the slightly crass show me the money bit which was more impact than money). I asked if they’d do a little questionnaire for me and given that Northern lights have over 500 businesses on their books I’m hoping for an interesting overview of SME attitudes to open data. I’ll share when I have more. In the meantime, heres my slides from the event, you can also get them in an editable form over at canva. They are CC0 and if I’ve missed any attributions set me straight.
It’s the brown envelope stories that invariably get the headlines (and the data-J love) and, although I think it gets the best bang for it’s money, there aren’t that many doing the collection from the crowd one that well. A look at majority of stories that ‘use’ data shows that it’s FOI that does the heavy lifting. But when you look beyond the text at infographics, interactive and visual data journalism it’s open government data that provides the backbeat to most data driven content.
In the UK, the ONS are the mainstay of much of the casual data journalism you see out their. Data from the census for example, underpins a good deal of the comparative work of data journalism. The food standards agency hygiene ratings do a roaring trade in local newspapers. What’s surprising is how little of the data, and the subsequent data developed from it is shared, let alone open.
acknowledge the source of the Information in your product or application by including or linking to any attribution statement specified by the Information Provider(s) and, where possible, provide a link to this licence;
Data from FOI requests does not carry any copyright restrictions (unless the original data carries copyright) so there shouldn’t be too many barriers to sharing that directly – being more open and transparent.
Journalism is pretty good at attribution – we know where it’s data comes from,. But we very rarely get to handle the data. We see it, in charts and interactive pieces, but the days where news orgs happily gave us a link to a spreadsheet seem to be long gone (Data champions the Guardian’s list of data sets ends at 2013) It would be great to see newsrooms, as users of open data, be a little more open with the data they collect. But in the first instance it would be great to see newsroom simply acknowledge sources for data more fully and more accessibly – working links, licence details etc.
These are all great stories – this isn’t a comment on the quality of the journalism.
I’m increasingly hearing the refrain that data isn’t enough. We need the context, the stories that go with it. This and the tonne of other DJ content out there show how far we’ve come with this stuff. But, the flip side is that if we have the stories then we can’t lose the data – the facts behind the story. This is really important when that data is often second-hand. A number of stories I looked at had data from third-parties i.e. charities. It’s not that the data is hokey but making it available would make it transparent.
I’m not sure that we are getting the best out of this data if it remains locked inside organisations – regardless of it being a government org or a private org. Taking a bit more of an open mindset would start to make the journalism even more usable.
Yesterday, I was introduced to a concept I hadn’t heard of before – rent seeking behaviour. Its an economics term that essentially means that instead of investing time developing things that you can sell, you spend all your money making it really hard for the other guy to sell their stuff. The best analogy I’ve seen for it so far uses pirates – don’t all the best analogies have pirates!
As someone who works in journalism it was nice to finally have a way to describe the approach of commercial news organisations to the BBC. But I digress. I came across it in the context of open data. Chris Taggart Co-Founder & CEO at OpenCorporates used it, saying it was the kind of behaviour that making data open discouraged.
It makes sense. In an information economy we tend not to make stuff other than information and increasingly we build economies around protecting that information. It’s collected and combined (and I’m not discounting the value of that process) but it’s not ‘ours’. As consumers we are becoming more aware through our own understanding or by others efforts to lift the stones, of the value of data. So anywhere there a low level of transparency there’s a risk of rent-seeking that directly impacts us. You can see how open data would ‘bust’ that except that it relies on two things:
it assumes that those that benefit from the rent-seeking in the first place would change their ways. Yes, the logic of diminishing profits is compelling but in a world where we trade at micro-second speed, who’s in it for the long game?
it assumes that the open data ecosystem isn’t in danger of rent-seeking itself.
At the moment, much of the open data economy may not be rent-seeking but it does seem to do a lot of sub-letting *. It borrows data from others to make its own products. It often add a lot of understanding (and value) but often not very much new data.
Advocates of open data would perhaps point at the Government as the biggest rent-seeker in the data market. But open data is now as much a business as it is a movement for transparency and accountability. Instead if using lobbying and legislation of traditional rent-seeking, it’s licensing that seems to be the means of control. So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at the amount of ‘open-washing’ I see in the open data community but it would be a shame if the lobbying took over from the core business of making more data more open.
* I know, the kind of rent in rent-seeking is not the same as housing rent but…
This isn’t meant to be a conference about Hyperlocal data journalism (but it could be!)
It’s a conference about the way that Hyperlocal AND/OR data AND/OR journalism might work together. I think that there are three distinct but related areas where there are new opportunities. I’ve got some basic definitions of the three areas below for you to agree or disagree with (have at ’em in the comments)
Each of the areas has it’s own distinct ideological and practical approaches.
they operate as an identity
they operate as a service
they all have a role to play in social, economic and political innovation
This would be a free conference in Preston and I’d like your help in what it should cover. My idea is to have one day of insight and examples (not an academic conference). But because I know that some people think there’s too much talking and not enough doing, I’d like to have another day that’s more workshop based – practical how-to sessions. Time to think and time to do. Best of both worlds.
If you think you’d like to come then you’d really be helping me out by filling in the survey below.
“Journalism is gathering, processing, and dissemination of news and information related to the news to an audience. The word applies to both the method of inquiring for news and the literary style which is used to disseminate it.”
Except that when I downloaded the boundary files from Lancashire police. Instead of files named after the areas, they had cryptic numbers like D2.kml. Matching the numbers to the area name ended up being a slog through police.uk finding the area and then fishing the code out of the URL. Not great.
The spreadsheet contains links to api calls to pull in boundary data as well as other stuff. It uses a script called importJSON which means you can query the data from the police api directly and have it appear nicely in a spreadsheet. More on that in this article, but I’d recommend a play with it because once you have the script in, and now we know stuff like the neighbourhood ID, we can query the api directly we can pull all sorts of data into a spreadsheet
Update: The data from the WaPo story was challenged by the Qatar Government resulting in an amendment stating that the data was deaths for all migrants not just those working on world cup venues. Something, in a uncharacteristic bit of comment baiting, Roy Greenslade felt the need to point out.
The Washington Post is getting a lot of (social media) interest with a visualisation of the The human toll of FIFA’s corruption. It links the recent FIFA arrests and alleged bribery in the bid for Qatar to get the word cup to the miserable plight of foreign workers building the stadiums for the 2022 event. It’s a compelling graphic and one that makes effective use of scrolling.
The staggering number of deaths of migrant workers means that any visualisation is going to have and impact. The difference in scale in this chart from London Loves Business in 2014 (charting similar data to the WaPo piece), gives you the same scrolling impact:
But it’s actually a plan for an imagined piece of real architecture:
All of this gives me pause for thought.
On the one hand it makes me think of innovation in journalism. Many have noted how innovative Ampp3d was in data journalism. A mainstream news org putting that form of storytelling out there, doing journalism with graphics and, more importantly, emotion, has given others permission to try. I’m not saying the Wapo copied ampp3d. The journalism industry is one that thrives on monitoring and imitation for innovation – look at the use of listicles and quizzes. It’s interesting to see how this helps make new forms of storytelling acceptable and how it filters through.
On the other, and more fundamentally, it reminds me about the challenges of making data from the human experience.
The Wapo piece opens with the line “In the end, it only took a $150 million scandal to make Americans care about soccer.” That’s care about football, not to care about the death of 1000’s of migrant workers; something that’s been reported on for a few years now.
I’m not having a pop at the Washington Post there. It’s really a fundamental challenge in journalism – how do you get people to care about what’s happening to people far, far away who, to all intents and purposes, are nothing like them? In the economics of news agendas, proximity is factor. You need more deaths the further away from market you are if you want to work your way up a running order. Paul Bradshaw wrote about that a while back, pondering the scale at which we can lose the human in the statistic. The Ampp3d piece plays on this nicely – 23 players for 23 lives; 23 people you can relate to for 23 you can’t. It adds context for the audience.
The challenge to convert the ‘impact of the scroll’ into concern for the people that whizz by. As I say, it’s not a new challenge, but one that is perhaps more of a challenge when you’re competing for eyes and the kind of content consumption that creates opportunities in the scroll in the first place.
The socially shareable nature of graphics like the Wapo one can’t be underestimated in their impact. Already people are using it to lobby sponsors on Twitter. So it’ll be interesting to see what impact the Wapo version of the chart (and the story) has this time around with the added FIFA element for context.
As part of my current research activity into hyperlocal and open data, I’m finding myself at events talking to a lot of people in open data circles and a lot of people in Hyperlocal circles. But more often than not they aren’t the same events.
I know there are lots of moves to get hyperlocal’s interested in data journalism (especially with the election fresh in peoples mind). Likewise I know that a lot of open data people are also committed to (or ideologically disposed to ) the transparency and accountability aspects of journalism.
So, finding myself with some resources (that does mean money), I thought it would be fun to get some people in the same room.
So if you’re a hyperlocal, open (government) data person, journalist or local government person involved in data, would you come round to my place for a mini-conference on Making hyperlocal data journalism?
I have some ideas for what we could do…
Some open training sessions in data for hyerplocals
Some awareness raising from government people about what’s happening at a local level in terms of data
Business models for hyperlocal data
Best practice for working together to build data communities at a local level.
can (and should) government tell stories with data
…but I know loads of people are doing some or all of these things already so if nothing else, it may just serve as a chance to get together and share this stuff with a hyperlocal focus.
At this stage I’d love to know if you’d be interested. What would you like to see? What format should it take? Who would you like to see speak or be in the room?
OFCOM have released their Adults’ media use and attitudes report for 2015. It’s a report that is always worth a read through. This is the ten year anniversary edition with a good deal of the content around the release reflecting changes since 2005.
As you may have guessed from recent posts, I’ve got my head in open data stuff at the moment. My focus is on hyperlocal use and the use of, for want of a better term, open government data. So that’s focused my first glance read through.
A few general things struck me. One was how media and internet mean the same thing in this report; 10 mentions of newspaper compared to 119 of social media. The lack of any mention of LocalTV also struck me as odd. I know it’s not strictly what the report was about but given the role of OFCOM in this and the apparent purpose of Local TV I’d have thought it would have been worth putting it in context.
Anyway, predictably, its the data on platform use, mobile in particular, is getting lots of attention. But, given my current focus, the bit that really peaked my interest was section 5.9 Accessing public or civic services . Here’s the intro:
Internet users are more likely than in 2013 to have ever gone online for all public/ civic activities, and a higher proportion have completed government processes in the last three months
Out of the thirty two individual online activities that internet users were asked about six activities that can be grouped under the heading of public or civic services. These are:
1. Find information about public services provided by local or national government
2. Complete government processes online – such as register for tax credits, renew driving licence, car tax or passport, complete tax return
3. Look at websites/ apps for news about or events in the local area/ the local community
4. Look at political/ campaign/ issues websites
5. Sign an online petition
6. Contact a local councillor or your MP online
Number 3 bodes well for hyperlocal, apparently 69% of those asked used websites/ apps for news about or events in the local area/ the local community; the biggest percentage point rise in any of the activities listed. But in general, everything is on the rise.
Where things get a little less inspiring is when that usage gets broken down by age and demographic group
The significant differences for 16-24 and 65+ makes for disturbing reading when it comes to engaging online. As do the lower socio-economic group figures.
Given the new governments view on moving public services online and their approach to supporting those without connectivity, the trends worry me. I’m really sensing a ‘digital divide’ here especially given that OFCOM note that of the 14% (a figure unchanged since 2013) of non-users of the internet, six in ten are aged 65+ and half are from DE households.
It’s not that people aren’t using the services but I don’t think I’m guilty of any conflation when I say the level of engagement of the middle-class connected makes it likely that they are the ones who will be most engaged with.