Ivory tower dispatch: Social networks are personal

Get off my land

Over the last semester I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the use of social networks; how and why they might be useful/important/problematic to journalists. But over the months I’ve been hearing an increasingly common complaint from students. The gist of the complaints is something like this:

Stop telling us to use social networks. What we do with social networks is up to us.

The implication is that social networks are personal and not up for grabs as part of the syllabus. Us telling them what to do with their social network would be like us telling them who they could be friends with or what to where. Butt out of our personal lives!

I had to think a little about whether I actually was telling people to use social networks and, reflecting on it, I have to say that yes I was. A bit.

I was telling people that they should sign-up and explore things like Facebook and Twitter because I felt that they were important things to experience and understand as journalists and not just as users. But what I’ve never done is say that people must use their own social networks for that.

In fact I’ve made a lot this year of how you might separate the two things; How important it is that when you do use social networks as a journalist, you do think about how much of you (as your personal social networks represent you at least) you want to see. That might mean, for example, creating a new Gmail account and using that to build new accounts that are ‘work’ related.

The response to that is often, I don’t want another account to manage. Which I find quite an odd thing as it kind of suggest that because you use Facebook to manage your social life you’ll never be able to use it as a journalist  What a missed opportunity!

Person or professional? 

For me, understanding the line between personal and professional is really important when it comes to social media and journalism. There have been numerous examples of people falling foul of social media searching at job interview. And things don’t get easier once you have the job. Stories of journalists coming in to conflict with their masters over social media use are increasingly common. But, thinking about it, maybe there is a case for intruding a little on students personal social media habits.

It’s not just the old standard of employment if you saw you on Facebook, would you give you a job? I sense an increase in the numbers of people finding the content of their personal accounts putting them in a legal (and often moral) line of fire. So in this post-Leveson world where, journalists are having to aspire to higher moral and ethical standards than the audience, isn’t it fair to say that the personal is also up for scrutiny?

OK, in reality, that’s a line I wouldn’t cross. I’m not going to demand to see (and grade) students social media output to assess professionalism. What students do in the privacy of their own social media world is up to them – at least I hope they have thought about the distinction between private and public!  But the idea that this means I can’t talk to them about and yes, maybe make them, temporarily at least, sign-up for Twitter or Facebook is not something I can buy in to. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the developing norm is that social media isn’t where journalism should be. Maybe we should all just be people. Maybe social media is now ‘another country’ where different rules apply.

What do you think? Am I getting old? Just not getting it?

Picture: Nic Walker on Flickr

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Ivory tower dispatch: Free online video editing

This week, amongst other things, I’m pondering video. I tried to write about some of the more contextual thinking around video in a earlier post, but it’s the practical side that’s been upfront for the last week.

In the workshops for my Digital Newsroom module I’ve tried to find open source or free resources to use over and above the resources available to the students via the uni network.  I wanted them to explore the possibilities (and limitations) of using free resources and compare the workflows to the more established stuff.  In many cases the free stuff is what the industry are using; slideshare, audioboo and soundcloud for example.

When it comes to video editing the choice of free apps is pretty limited. Most are clunky affairs with a limited range of compatibility with the range of video file formats most things are spitting out these days.

There are downloadable options. If you’re on Windows for example then you can take advantage of the feature-film-ready Lightworks.  A monster app that’s truly industry standard, but there isn’t much else. And if you’re on a mac…well….

So I went looking for online video editors. Sites that offered video editing through a web interface. The results were limited.

Youtube

Youtube has a pretty decent clipping editor as part of its standard enhancements. If all you want to do is adjust the start and end times (a top and tail) then the enhancements section of the editor is pretty good. You can also add audio. But there is very little in terms of even the basic functionality you’d expect from a video editor. This is sub-windows moviemakers stuff.

It’s more advanced video editor is a little more useful but let down by a lack of audio control.

Filelab video editor

Filelab video editor

Along with its audio editor, Filelab’s video editor looks like a really good bet. The ‘problem’ is that its windows only (and you need to install a plugin). That makes it a no-no for our network and, I’m guessing, for many corporate networks.

WeVideo

Wevideo is my current fave. It’s flash driven which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it does need a flash player above 10.2. But beyond that I think, for free, it’s pretty handy.

You can see that the user interface is pretty standard but it does offer nice touches like rubber band editing on audio levels and video transparency and there is a nice collection of open source audio and video files to add.

It plays well with most video formats ( I downloaded one of my videos from youtube and uploaded that) and a jpeg graphic created in powerpoint rendered nicely. It’s limited to 500MB max file size but for short video that’s no hardship

Exporting is pretty easy. The free version will create a watermarked standard definition 480p video file which you can send across to your youtube or vimeo accounts. You’re also limited to 15 exported images a month.  The watermark isn’t obtrusive but you could buy an HD 720p version for $4.99. You can pay $10 a month and get no watermark, higher resolution and 2 hours export a month. The plans themselves seem a little limited in that respect but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more granular offerings and the pricing plans are split across personal, education and business.

 Collaboration and mobile

One of the neatest parts of Wevideo is the option to integrate with Google Drive and the option of a mobile uploader.

Conclusions

All in all I think WeVideo is a very neat and user friendly solution to editing video in the cloud. Of course there are apps for your phone, ipad and other platforms and the flexibility of something on your desktop – FCP, Avid, Lightworks or premiere – is always going to be better. But as something to get you out of a whole, create a quick edit or tidy something up, I think it’s pretty impressive. I’ll let you know what the students think.

 

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The Ivory tower dispatch: defining multimedia journalism

This week in the ivory tower I’ve mostly been looking at multimedia.

I’ve been building on the idea that, regardless of the approach you take (the fast/slow journalism split I created last week) , chunks of multimedia are going to be you building blocks.

Of course there are the practicalities to consider, but I spent a bit of time thinking about the broader context and what that meant in terms of roles within a digital newsroom.

Something that’s become clear in my pondering and looking around is that there is a belief in two distinct forms of journalism - audio journalism and video journalism.  These are not just variations on a broadcast theme. The rhetoric being used clearly indicates a belief that they are new forms of journalism and that was all a bit worrying.

Audio Journalism

Even though a large part of the audio on the web is produced in much the same way as broadcast (a kind of pre-medium specifics is you like) proponents of Audio Journalism  identify two forms of content as core to the definition:

  • Podcasts
  • Audio Slideshows

The form of podcasts is pretty flexible and there is no one clear format – short, scripted and snappy or round table – that’s been agreed on. In fact the development of the different styles suggests that the form has outgrown it’s platform-derived title. They are different from broadcast in a number of ways not least in the business model. The big challenges now are metrics and return on investment. The battle ground is tablets where app delivered podcasts can be monitored more effectively   So, podcasts clearly provide the established framework – the mode and form – that helps set audio journalism as a definition.

In that sense podcasts are the solid, practical output. So it would all be a little technologically deterministic if it wasn’t for the intellectual weight that Audio slideshows  add to the definition.

Benjamin Chesterton’s take on Audio slideshows (as reported by Kevin Marsh) in response to the question “Why would you choose a slideshow when you could use video?”

with moving video, the viewers eye is centred – broadly, locked to the framing of the video camera. With still images, the eye roams. It stops and moves and stops and moves. Frozen gestures and expressions kick off a cognitive process – thinking – that moving images simply never do.

 

Something similar is true of good audio. The best audio blends reportage (‘being me, being here’) with the kind of aural cues that make audiences think and wander off down their own pathways while still engaging with the sound.

Put the two together – great audio documentary and great still images – and you have something that is potentially MORE than great storytelling.

It works on a whole different cognitive level to video.

It’s a take on audio slideshows that I’ve seen echoed around the audio journalism community. The claim of a more cerebral and deeply cognitive experience is quite seductive and calls on much of the deeply long-lived and traditional practices of photojournalism and image editors; the power of an image. But am I being cynical in seeing a reading of video as shallow and surface? Are we seeing a similar rhetoric to the slow/longform journalism? Video is surface and temporal. Pictures are deep and connected.

It’s a hard position for me to feel any real affinity for and one that often feels laboured (not by duckrabbit I might add). When I see advice on the five shots that make great slideshows I see a version of the 5 shots you need to make a good video package. In my view neither is better or worse, but with more in common than the broad demarcations suggest.

The discourse that’s used to define audio journalism is one that’s familiar to me as someone who has had more than a passing interest in online video.

Video Journalism

I’ve watched the concept of video journalism shift from a technical revelation, a rush to embrace a new platform, all the way through a new business model, via snake oil, to be a kind of new wave of film making.  It’s clear that it’s supporters feel it’s something different from broadcast.

The films are often authored, they are commonly open about a bias or particular viewpoint, they often cover stories away from the mainstream. But in form they are often best defined by their difference from standard broadcast fair than any general innovation.

That’s not to say there isn’t some compelling, editorially excellent, important and often, downright beautiful stuff going on out there. But beyond experiments with the form – none linear narratives and presentation – there’s little innovation. Maybe a good deal of disruption, but not innovation; using afterFX in a documentary is not innovative. It makes the claim for a new form of journalism a little hollow especially when a lot of it reflects such good journalism.

I know that the biggest regret of many VJ’s (unless your selling the dream not living it) seems to be that it isn’t taken seriously by broadcast journalism. I can see their point. The shocking lack of strands for documentary has pushed the good stuff online – it was only a matter of time.

Things are changing for VJ’s in that respect; without mainstream broadcast (which is their loss). But in my travels I still found pockets of identity crisis and concerns about a lack of recognition – why is that so important if there is a new (and better) form of video journalism I wonder.

Multimedia journalism

The concern over recognition is one that spreads beyond audio and video to those who prefer the title multimedia journalist (they chose the title rather than it being their job description).I was genuinely saddened to read Mark Kelly’s blog about his experiences of trying to do video in a newspaper context, bemoaning the ‘sea of crap’ he has to work with

I believe we’re about to see a huge surge in mobile phone footage shot by print journalists. And we all know what happens next, multimedia producers like you and I get given the footage and asked to turn it into something usable. But you can’t polish a turd can you?

It’s clear Mark has a deep commitment to producing quality stuff, but In another post he explains the exit route and maybe reveals the problem all in one:

Interestingly the majority of multimedia journalists are actually broadcast journalists who’ve ve set their sights on a future in TV and are working for online platforms as a way of gaining experience, a good plan given the growing number of channels and the lack of quality content available.

I suppose there’s nothing worse than being a frustrated broadcast journalist having to lower yourself to working with newspapers, apart from maybe being the newspaper journalist in that equation.

One commentator thinks the world of broadcast will have more respect for his skills:

Fortunately I’m leaving newspapers for the world of broadcast. There, they seem to recognise the breadth of talent, creativity and man hours that go into something worth watching. Maybe newspapers will learn that one day too.

The people who march under the video journalism banner would maybe have some different advice for them.

Conclusions

So why was all that worrying. For me it’s encapsulated in the plight of multimedia journalists. In trying to define themselves as different from the (traditional) norm they exclude themselves from all the groups. Perhaps it’s the environment that doesn’t respect the skills that pushes that banding together – maybe one day there will be a union!

But mostly all of the debates and definitions around multimedia (and you can use what term you like here – audio, video, multimedia, visual journalist) reminded me a lot of a section from Life of Brian (some bad language here)


 

 

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Creating audio slideshows using slideshare (and more)

I’ve just been putting together a workshop which fits around some discussion about audio journalism and audio slideshows in particular (more about that in the Ivory tower dispatch later this week).

In trying to put something practical together you soon get to see the limitation of the form within the kind of ‘freeconomy’ that exists for most web output.  Publish on a WordPress.com blog for example and the lack of ability to upload and embed files means daddy of slideshow builders, Soundslides, brilliant as it is,  is often a closed book unless you go the route of exporting to video.

There are work-arounds. You could use Dropbox to store the files and then generate  some embed code, but good luck embedding in wordpress!

So I was interested in exploring ways to pull together an audio slideshows together that gave you editorial control but didn’t require too much expensive software. So, that rules out but doesn’t dismiss using video editors as the platform to create the slideshow. I know a lot of people who use things like FCP to create image movies. You certainly see the influence of that with the greater prevalence of mixed-media stuff that’s coming out now. But  image movies miss that navigation you get with Soundslides so…

These are couple of solutions I worked through.

The Slideshare option.

  • Record your audio using something like Audioboo or soundcloud.  I chose these platforms because they had nifty apps for my iphone so I could record the audio and back it up at the same time. There’s nothing stopping you using native audio recording apps.
  • Create a PowerPoint file containing the images, in order, for your slideshow. Because I’m using Slideshare, PowerPoint is pretty much required. What’s nice about is the collection of tools you have to add text etc. The slides don’t need to be a set length etc. They only need to be in order.
  • Upload the finished PowerPoint to Slideshare. 

  •  Upload your audio to Slideshare. Locate your presentation in your list of slides on slideshare. Then click the Add Audio. You can either link to an online file or upload one. One of the original reasons I used Audioboo was because it was easy to get a direct link to the MP3 file (just add .mp3 to the end of the url) but Slideshare didn’t seem to like the link and wouldn’t pull the file from AudioBoo directly, so I uploaded a version that I download from Audioboo!

  • Use the Slideshare editor to match your audio and slides. This is, and I’m not underselling this part, a bit frustrating. The editor uses a kind of windowed timeline which makes moving things around a bit of a pain, but it’s not a deal breaker. Some clicking around and you’ll get the feel of it. However its biggest failing is the patchy preview which is unpredictable. I often found it easier to save and check it in the normal view.

Hey presto! You have an audio slideshow. Embedding in blogs is pretty easy and there is a tried and tested shortcode for wordpress.com/org blogs.

The Windows movie maker option

The second option I toyed with was the video route. I know, I know, I said I ruled out the video route but WMM is free!

I’ve blogged before about using WMM to create slideshows before, so I won’t go in to that process other than to flag up two things:

  1. I used Powerpoint to generate the images in the slideshow. I just saved the presentation as a JPEG and it gives the option to save each slide as a separate image.
  2. I had to convert my audioboo MP3 to a WAV format. WMM doesn’t like the variable bit rate of the MP3 and syncing sound to pictures was impossible. I used Audacity to do this.

Once I had created the movie I uploaded to Youtube.

The other advantage of youtube here (rather than the image movie fave Vimeo) is that it offers a chance to put some of the interactivity in to the slideshow. Youtube’s video annotations (which may notice on the video above) give you the chance to add a level of interactivity to the video and the captions option also opens up some possibilities for adding more depth.

 Conclusions

Aesthetically the slideshows are not going to please everyone. The restricted aspect ratio of both forms might offend the more cinematically minded in the multimedia journalism community for example. But small amount of faff aside, they are easy and free solutions and the exploration of the form (which is more what I’m interested in) is still there.

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Ivory tower dispatch: Fast and slow journalism and innovation must die

Al Jazeera English newsroom

The Al Jazeera English newsroom – Not available as a google app  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A diverse range of things in the ivory tower this week.

Balancing personal and professional social media identities was still on the agenda – the mantra was you might not use it but your boss might want you to. Thinking ‘how would I do this if I was doing it for someone else’ when you use social media as a journalist is, in my view, a good discipline.

But it also got me thinking about the perverse way that social media allows a newsroom, even with limited resources, to spread themselves far and wide and then begins to squeeze those resources all the harder in managing that reach.

From a personnel perspective sites like IFTTT and other social media aggregation tools and apis help. But often they strike me a bit like consolidating a debt. You get so many social media outputs that you have to pull them in to one place. The you start to ‘spend’ until you need to consolidate again.  Put that in a newsroom setting and the problem can get worse. Imagine the social media debt you could get in to if one person holds all the details of your social media account then leaves!

So I spent some time looking at using things like Google apps to help create shared resources to manage this kind of thing. Simple things like having a spreadsheet that has all of the social media accounts of reporters and journalists in one place and delegation of gmails to share accounts. But on the whole managing a newsroom might not be as easy as it sounds with Google apps as the sharing of resources and the capacity for accessing multiple accounts is not as straightforward as you’d think.

If you’re thinking about using Google apps (like Drive not the enterprise stuff) to manage the newsroom, my advice is to look hard at your newsroom structure first.

Quick, slow ,quick, quick slow

Paul Bradshaw’s 21st Century newsroom redux was a timely and useful addition to my lectures around the idea of digital narratives. That was the rather broad title I set myself as I thought about the two (opposing) views of digital storytelling;  The fast and furious, stream driven, exploded pyramid of news Vs more considered long-form journalism.

In principle its easy to contrast the pressures of diving in to the stream with all it’s risks with the apparently more considered and (to some) more journalistic long form. I took a little step back in to the idea of slow journalism. It’s a thoroughly pompous concept in my view, but it’s interesting (and frustrating) to see some of the same discourse applied to support long-form.  It was an interesting coincidence that one of ‘slow’ journalism’s early suporters was none other than David “£2 pound tax” Leigh.

Ultimately though it’s a contrived contrast. In practice you can (and often have to) approach the process of journalism wary of both sides of the coin. Paul’s update to the model helps reinforce that – amazing what more arrows can do! – and was required reading this week.

The whole exercise reinforced for me the idea that in a broad context, thinking multimedia is the way to go when approaching digital narratives. Note the word digital there, not online. Yes, online is a unique medium. For journalists, who are mostly dealing with the stock website page, it comes with some very specific requirements for writing and story construction. But if we are looking to embrace the full opportunity of rebuilding our content across platforms then we still need to address the issue of how we create and curate our multimedia not just our interactions with the audience and their interactions with our content.

All of that echoed several lectures/conversations I had around more general concepts that I thought where touchstones in digital thinking at the moment:

  • Social media
  • Curation and real-time curation
  • Community
  • Data journalism
  • Multiplatform
  • Innovation
  • Entrepreneurship

Nothing ground breaking there, but I think there is an increasingly clear narrative to connect them. Think about how long-form relies on curation and an understanding of community to create content that takes advantage of tablets (where much of the time-shifted reading people engage in happens). It’s a narrative I’ve been trying to get straight for a little while. You can ask the students if they think I’m getting there. But if you want to see a first go, this is me at this years Nordic media festival giving it a go (it’s also the first time the Journalism is a diagnosis not a profession idea get’s an airing)

And finally, in discussing this, and perhaps trawling through endless kickstarters brandishing their slow journalism credentials like a battered copy of fear and loathing, made me realise just how much I hate the word innovation and how hollow it is.

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The commercial blindspot:Funding news

The idea of the weekend – a £2 levy on broadband that can be used to pay for journalism.

There are almost 20m UK households that are paying upwards of £15 a month for a good broadband connection, plus another 5m mobile internet subscriptions. People willingly pay this money to a handful of telecommunications companies, but pay nothing for the news content they receive as a result, whose continued survival is generally agreed to be a fundamental plank of democracy.

A £2 levy on top – collected easily from the small number of UK service providers (BT, Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk etc) who would add it on to consumers’ bills – would raise more than £500m annually. It could be collected by a freestanding agency, on the lines of the BBC licence fee, and redistributed automatically to “news providers” according to their share of UK online readership.

The logic being, I suppose, that all these big broadband companies make all this money from our hard-earned content, isn’t it about time they paid. Oh, and you consumers need to get that idea of free out of your mind as well.

Roy Greenslade thinks it’s a great idea but there are problems.

Of course there are problems to overcome, such as persuading the various service providers – BT, Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk et al – to become “tax collectors” for news outfits. But a case can be made that they benefit from news production.

The other concern is about big media getting benefits unavailable to start-ups. But I imagine there could be a mechanism to distribute a portion to them as well.

I’m not surprised by the prevailing argument – the web is stripping journalism of it’s inherrent value so they should pay. As much as people would love to think we are beyond it, the anti-digital curmudgeon class still exists in journalism.

I’m more surprised. No staggered by the willful act of ignorance required to simply dismiss the issue of what would essentially be a bail out .

It’s a chilling thought that some of the best, most respected and senior journalists around can still flick a switch in their heads that separates the ‘journalism’ that they do from the organisations that they work for. That somehow journalism transcends the reality of money.

I’m not sure if it’s a blindspot (so steeped in journalism they fail to see the building and infrastructure around them) or blinkers (that many still have a hard-on for making evil digital pay). Whatever it is the idea is as sad for the attitudes it highlights as it is misguided.

Update: Dominic Ponsford has decided that David Leigh’s broadband tax plan is bonkers . But his article is just as bad. Instead of taxing broadband he wants to tax Google.

How well would Google do without all the free editorial content which it is indexing I wonder?

I think (and I might be wrong) they’d be ok, but I digress. Yes, the media benefits from Google…

But with Google UK ad revenues set to top £3bn this year the newspaper industry owners are increasingly looking like householders who, having been woken in the night by burglars, rush downstairs to make them a cup of tea before helping them into their van with the flatscreen TV and the silverware.

The logic might appeal if you are frustrated at the lack of solutions to the complex issue of sustaining journalism. But replacing broadband with google is just as simple and transparent.

More: This response to the original idea is brilliant.

 

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Social media for journalists is like The Generation game

This week (as a earlier post suggests) I’ve been kicking off teaching with a look at social media and how journos can use it to create a presence. That presence isn’t just about promotion, it’s about connection. It’s about putting your virtual self in front of the audience and the stream of content they produce.

That got me thinking about The generation game.

For those who don’t know it, The Generation game was a UK game show that started in 1971 and ran, on and off, till 2002. It’s big finish was the conveyor belt game. The contestant would be sat in front of a conveyor belt loaded with consumer goods (and a cuddly toy) which they would have to remember. Then they would have a minute to try to recall all the items. Whatever they remembered they kept.

The whole thing struck me as an interesting analogy of the process of managing information for journalists and how it has changed.

In journalism terms the old solution to the game would be to take notes (in shorthand) of what went past. The digital solution would be to subscribe to the RSS feed of the conveyor belt and filter it later on. Job done. Walk away with the booty.

But now the whole thing is more like the end of the game.

When the contestant sits down they get a bit of time to consider the content but then the audience begins to shout. And shout. And shout. It’s noisy. Often helpful but more often than not the helpful stuff is drowned out by repetition and distraction.

The conveyor of news

The proliferation of places where you might find yourself in front of a virtual audience is a bit of a blessing and a curse. Social networks make it easy to build profiles – it’s easy to get yourself to these virtual places –  but managing the sheer amount of information/interaction that they demand is more challenging.

Information overload is nothing new to journalists on the web, which is why I used to spend  a bit of time looking at things like RSS as a means of controlling information. But RSS has, for many, been replaced by the stream  - the realtime flow of information from the connections we make on social networks.

RSS answered the challenge of how we manage information. That’s still the challenge, but now it starts with how we manage the interaction with people who find it for us. Filtering the filterers (maybe).

There is so much value in there, but the prize is for those who can handle the thousands shouting “cuddly toy!” to get to the detail.

 

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Pages of pages: Journalists and (self)promotion

promotion

Shouting about yourself on Wikipedia is not big or clever (Photo credit: Platform4)

I’ve been putting together some basic social media workshops to get my returning students back in to the swing of things. One of the areas I looked at was using social media (and social networks) as a base from which to promote themselves and their content.

Most of the stuff around this tends to settle on the old favorites – Twitter and Facebook. Recent banter also pulls in Reddit (Don’t know why. Anybody would think the President of the United states used it or something). But it was whilst pondering the idea of personal and professional identity that I found myself thinking of Wikipedia.

Multiple pages

Making a distinction between your personal and professional life online is key as a journalist. Platforms like Facebook make that easy – you can have more than one profile. You can also create a little public place for your ‘journo identity’ in the shape of a Facebook page.  A great way to gather and promote content under your chosen ‘brand’.

You can also set up a page on Google+. Now I know that there isn’t very much love for Google+ but hey, if there is a chance to get some of your information in to the biggest search engine in the world, why not!

Connect them all together with something whizzy like if this then that and you have a veritable multichannel-brandgasm of content.

Wikipedia

Of course the grandaddy of all sites with pages about people and things is Wikipedia. So it occurred to me that  a page about ‘journo you’ on Wikipedia might be an interesting thing to have.

The general feeling (when I did a quick twitter-pop) was ‘don’t do it’

@ because 1) it is against site terms and 2) you’ll look like an egotistical fool if you get caught.
@currybet
Martin Belam

But the whole T&C’s thing was a a bit grey.

@ If the subject of page definitely meets WP's notability guidelines, asking an existing member to create a page is allowed.
@JonathanDeamer
Jonathan Deamer

And not everyone thought it was a problem.

@ - if wikipedia is truly a content-neutral platform then so long as the content is true and the individual 'notable', why not?
@simonjgray
simon gray
@ I think if it for transparency re their journalism and what they bring to it, fair enough. If just self-promotion then crass
@BrunelJourSarah
Prof Sarah Niblock

But there was also some good advice for career progression.

@ but they should probably create one for their boss ;)
@paulbradshaw
Paul Bradshaw

So in general the advice was to avoid it:

  • It’s against the terms and conditions (as well as the spirit) of Wikipedia
  • It’s a bit sad

I can say from a quick tootle round Wikipedia it hasn’t stopped some from trying (the history tab in Wikipedia is great)

 Know who you are

I’d be interested in what people think about the whole wikipedia thing. But in general the exercise has just underlined a few things for me:

  • If you don’t know who you are why should your audience – having a clear idea in your head of the kind of content/journalist you want people to see online is key.
  • Be consistent – people will find you in the oddest places so make sure you as consistent a message across as much as you can control
  • Control is not the same as hiding stuff - The ability to control your profiles is not a reason to make stuff up or hide things just as transparency is not a requirement to lay your whole life bare.

 

 

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News sites should be Islands in the stream

Islands in the stream
That is what we are
No one in-between
How can we be wrong

Dolly Parton! Well, actually the BeeGees (well if we are being really pedantic Hemingway). What the hell is that about Andy!

Well, Mary Hammilton (a must follow @newsmary on twitter) highlighted a post by entrepreneur, writer and geek living imploring us to stop publishing webpages and start publishing streams:

Start moving your content management system towards a future where it outputs content to simple APIs, which are consumed by stream-based apps that are either HTML5 in the browser and/or native clients on mobile devices. Insert your advertising into those streams using the same formats and considerations that you use for your own content. Trust your readers to know how to scroll down and skim across a simple stream, since that’s what they’re already doing all day on the web. Give them the chance to customize those streams to include (or exclude!) just the content they want.

I found it a little bit of a mish-mash really. In principle, lots to agree with but the practice was less clear. It makes sense if you’re in to developing the ‘native clients’ but harder to quantify if your’e a content creator.

More interesting was the twitter discussion it generated between Mary and her Guardian colleague Jonathan Haynes (the equally essential @jonathanhaynes) which I hitched my wagon to.  Haynes didn’t agree with the premise of the post and that generated an intersting discussion.

I’ve created a storyfy below but it got me thinking about some general points which are a little ‘devils advocate’:

  • What is this stream anyway – is it the capacity to filter  or is the depth and breadth of content you have to filter. I would say it’s the latter. Facebook and Twitter are streams because of the sheer weight of numbers and diversity of users.
  • Why be the stream when you can be part of it – Part of what Anil posted about was making stuff available to use in streams. I can’t disagree with that but it strays in to the idea of feeding the content ecosystem that, in blunt terms, is often played as parasitic. For all the advocacy of allowing user control, the one thing news orgs are still loathed to do is move people outside the site. Is looking at new ways to recreate the stream experience within a site simply a way of admitting that you aren’t really part of the stream?
  • Are you confusing your consumption habits with your users – whilst the stream might be useful for information pros like journos is it really what consumers want for their news. The stream suits the rolling nature of journalism. Not in the broadcast sense, just in the sense of ‘whats new’. Do your audience consume like you do?
  • Are you removing the value proposition of a journalist? – by putting the control of the stream in the hands of the user are you doing yourself out of a job. I know what the reply to that will be: “No, because the content of the stream will be done by us and  we will curate the stream”. Well in that sense it’s not a stream is it. It’s a list of what you already do. Where’s that serendipity or the compulsion to give people what they need (to live,thrive and survive) rather than what they want?
  • Confusing presentation with creation - That last point suggests a broader one. You can’t simply repackage content to simply ride the wave when your core business different. It’s like calling a column a blog – we hate that don’t we. So why call a slightly different way of presenting the chronology of content a stream?

That’s before we have even got to the resource issue. News orgs can’t handle the social media flow as it is.

So, Islands in the stream?  Well, thinking about the points above, especially the first one, what’s wrong with being something different. What’s wrong with being a page is world of updates.  What’s wrong with being a place where people can step out of the stream and stay a while to dry off and get a bit of orientation.


What should news sites be – pages or streams

Entrepreneur, writer and geek Anil Dash has posted a request that people stop publishing pages and start creating streams.

Storified by Andy Dickinson · Wed, Aug 15 2012 04:17:12

Stop Publishing Web PagesMost users on the web spend most of their time in apps. The most popular of those apps, like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Tumblr and others,…
Start moving your content management system towards a future where it outputs content to simple APIs, which are consumed by stream-based apps that are either HTML5 in the browser and/or native clients on mobile devices. Insert your advertising into those streams using the same formats and considerations that you use for your own content. Trust your readers to know how to scroll down and skim across a simple stream, since that’s what they’re already doing all day on the web. Give them the chance to customize those streams to include (or exclude!) just the content they want.
An interesting post which generated some interesting discussion when Guardian Journo Mary Hamilton posted it to twitter. 
@newsmary I *hate* that piece. Am I the only person left who likes the web, and webpages, and tolerates apps whilst sincerely hating them?Greg Callus
@Greg_Callus No, I don’t think you are. But I do think there’s room for other presentations as well as single static URL.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary There is, I just hate the Appify movement & ‘streams’. And there’s a reason Guardian Network Front isn’t RSS feed of our content.Greg Callus
@newsmary Where’s the evidence readers ‘like’ streams & apps? Rather than utility sacrificed for convenience b/c that’s what mobile could doGreg Callus
@Greg_Callus Where’s the evidence they don’t? Don’t think people are using Facebook/Tumblr etc while disliking the approach that much.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary Drop/plateau in Facebook numbers since move from Profile to Timeline? Not universal but thnk his claim they ‘like streams’ not metGreg Callus
@Greg_Callus But significant rise since the introduction of the news feed, which is a stream.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary Touche! Thing is I love Twitter as a stream. Where chronological key, it works (like comments). Where content needs hierarchy, notGreg Callus
@Greg_Callus Yeah, there are def some big issues with streams wrt hierarchy – but also with pages too. It’s not a solved problem.Mary Hamilton
It wasn’t the only chat. Mary’s tweet had already attracted the attention of her Guardian colleague Jonathan Haynes who took issue with the basic premise.
@newsmary no! Much more important is: Stop thinking you’re the medium when you’re the content provider!Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes Different issues, surely? You can be a content provider with a stream.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary what’s a stream Mary, what’s a stream? it’s a load of contentJonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes Compared to a flat page, it’s a different way of organising that content. That’s not a difficult distinction…Mary Hamilton
@newsmary it’s the same content! *head desk*Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes And the point of the piece I linked is that news orgs should present it differently. Struggling to see your point.Mary Hamilton
@JonathanHaynes Compared to a flat page, it’s a different way of organising that content. That’s not a difficult distinction…Mary Hamilton
@newsmary present it how? it’s presented in every way alreadyJonathan Haynes
@alexhern @newsmary *head desk*Jonathan Haynes
I wondered whether, given the content hungry nature of the stream if media orgs had the resource or know-how to take Dash’s advice.
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes also the issue here that stream implies a constant flow. A mechanism of displaying constantly changing content.Andy Dickinson
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes not sure that most orgs can promise that without USB and sm. something most have no talent or resource for.Andy Dickinson
@digidickinson @newsmary indeedJonathan Haynes
Mary didn’t think that was the issue. It was more about what you did with what you had and how people used it.
@digidickinson @JonathanHaynes Not certain that’s true – using a single blog as the example. More talking about customisation & user flow?Mary Hamilton
@newsmary @digidickinson how does a blog show importance? it’s just a stream.Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes Sticky posts, design highlights. Not a new problem.Mary Hamilton
But that still didn’t answer the core question for me – where does the content needed to create a stream come from?
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary that’s about relevance- is timeliness relevance or curation. Can see a case for chronology but still needs ‘stuff’Andy Dickinson
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary stuff that is new to appear ‘chronologically’Andy Dickinson
Jonathan was still struggling with the idea of the stream
@newsmary @digidickinson then how is that a stream?Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes @digidickinson How is a blog a stream if it has sticky posts? *headdesk*Mary Hamilton
I could kind of see Jonathan’s point.
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes slightly different issue there. One to watch as you are talking about subverting (damming it with sticky posts)Andy Dickinson
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes that changes the consistency of presentation for publishers sake, without the users permission. Breaks the premiseAndy Dickinson
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes like twitter being able to keep one tweet at top of your feed when it suitedAndy Dickinson
But Dan Bentley pointed out that there are a number of sites that seem to do ‘the stream’ well. 
@digidickinson @newsmary @jonathanhaynes you can stream content and still tell people what’s important http://itv.co/NDpTxdDaniel Bentley
Latest News – ITV NewsTia accused faces Old Bailey No application for Hazell bail by Jon Clements – Crime Correspondent Lord Carlile QC (representing Stuart Ha…
@DJBentley @digidickinson @JonathanHaynes Good example, that. Cheers.Mary Hamilton
But sites like ITV rely heavily on UGC and that’s a big issue. It still comes down to where you get the content from and if the org is resourced to do that.
@DJBentley @newsmary @jonathanhaynes true but the itv example better illustrates the point I made about where the content comes fromAndy Dickinson
@DJBentley @newsmary @jonathanhaynes it’s curating content but it’s still content and it has to come from somewhere at regular intervals.Andy Dickinson
@DJBentley @newsmary @jonathanhaynes that’s not an impossibility but it is a core challenge for orgs – always has been online esp. with smAndy Dickinson
@JonathanHaynes @djbentley @newsmary think that highlights core issue here-presentation separate to mechanism to create content to presentAndy Dickinson
Another example 
@DJBentley @digidickinson @newsmary @jonathanhaynes Breaking News does similar with their verticals (sorry to butt in) http://breakingnews.com/TomMcArthur
Breaking news, latest news, and current events – breakingnews.comThe latest breaking news around the world from hundreds of sources, all in one place.
@TomMcArthur I like @breakingnews style for streams a lot – suits it perfectly.Mary Hamilton
But Jonathan is not a fan of the ITV approach.
@digidickinson @DJBentley @newsmary ITV site is a car crash though. and how a minority want news presented isn’t necessarily representativeJonathan Haynes
And has an example of his own to highlight that the page is not quite dead…
@digidickinson @TomMcArthur @newsmary @DJBentley most successful UK newspaper website is Mail Online. sticks rigidly to articles.Jonathan Haynes
Home | Mail OnlineMailOnline – all the latest news, sport, showbiz, science and health stories from around the world from the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday…
@JonathanHaynes @digidickinson @TomMcArthur @newsmary is the Mail Online a good news source?Daniel Bentley
Another example pops up later on as an aside to the conversations
The Reddit Editundefined
@newsmary @TomMcArthur The news site of the future looks a lot more like that or http://bit.ly/NDsuHw than 240 hyperlinks and 60 picturesDaniel Bentley
@DJBentley @TomMcArthur Yes, I agree.Mary Hamilton
and Mary takes the chance to voice her view of the term newspaper site.
@JonathanHaynes @digidickinson @DJBentley “Newspaper website” is an oxymoron that cannot die quickly enough for my liking.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes @djbentley agree with sentiment but sadly it is still a very apt description of the general process and mentalityAndy Dickinson
@newsmary @digidickinson @DJBentley touché. sorry, news site.Jonathan Haynes
In the continuing conversations Jonathan is concerned that this might be a bit of the thrill of the new…
@DJBentley @digidickinson @TomMcArthur @newsmary consumption and creation are different. and early adopters are not the norm.Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes @DJBentley @digidickinson Thing is, stream consumption isn’t a minority or early adopter thing any more.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes @djbentley true but danger is going for mode of presentation without considering the mechanics.Andy Dickinson
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes @djbentley number of individuals needed to make a stream vs number needed to present it.Andy Dickinson
So Jonathan asks about a concrete example.
@newsmary @digidickinson @DJBentley so how would that look for "the Guardian" streams works as multiple source and crows editingJonathan Haynes
@newsmary @digidickinson @DJBentley crowd, not crows. what I get from Twitter I want, but I also want websites to show me hierarchy.Jonathan Haynes
@newsmary @digidickinson @DJBentley and content is discrete elements. should be available in all forms but need to be ‘page’ to do soJonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes @digidickinson @DJBentley Let me subscribe to tags; filter my stream on my own interest & curated importance?Mary Hamilton
@newsmary @DJBentley @digidickinson you want to subscribe to tags?! might as well have an RSS feed! ;)Jonathan Haynes
Dan highlighted a problem which, I guess, he would see the stream as helping to solve.
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary @digidickinson I don’t feel current news site frontpages do a particularly good job at hierarchy. Too much stuff.Daniel Bentley
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary @digidickinson Google News or the new digg http://bit.ly/NDuNuc do a better job and that’s mostly algorithm.Daniel Bentley
Google News- As the courtroom emptied after Barry Bonds’ obstruction-of-justice conviction Wednesday afternoon, the slugger stood off to one side, h…
DiggThe best news, videos and pictures on the web as voted on by the Digg community. Breaking news on Technology, Politics, Entertainment, an…
@DJBentley @newsmary @digidickinson too much stuff? and yet you want an endless stream??Jonathan Haynes
But for Dan the stream has a purpose 
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary @digidickinson the stream tells me what’s new, the traditional frontpage doesn’t know what it’s doing.Daniel Bentley
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary @digidickinson Am I what’s new? Am I what’s important? Am I everything that has been written in the last 24hrs?Daniel Bentley
@DJBentley @newsmary @digidickinson no, you’re the carefully edited combination of all of the below!Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary @digidickinson carefully edited? How is 240 links on Guardian and 797 (!) on Mail Online carefully edited?Daniel Bentley
@DJBentley @newsmary @digidickinson *sigh*Jonathan Haynes
Frustrating as it may be it’s a real problem and which Mary sums up with
@DJBentley @JonathanHaynes @digidickinson Part of problem with hierarchy on fronts is trying to be all things to all visitors.Mary Hamilton
But, to be honest, I can’t see how the stream would be any better other than to put the responsibility back on to the user. But I’ve more to add in a blog post….
News sites should be Islands in the stream | andydickinson.netIslands in the stream That is what we are No one in-between How can we be wrong Dolly Parton! Well, actually the BeeGees (well if we are …

 

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Taxing community engagement and other thoughts from the BBC’s connecting communities conf.

I spent the day at sunny media city in Salford for the BBC College of Journalism’s connecting communities conference ( #BBCscc12). I had a few observations/thoughts that I wanted to get out of my head.

  • Social media verification is the new community management -  It was clear that the amount of time, effort and commitment, needed to validate social media leads and content is out of the capacity of most MSM outlets. Citizenside co-sponsored the conference and there was a good showing from Stroyful as well and, as services, they get a lot of traction in MSM. That’s a lot like the outsourcing of community management (comment handling etc) we used to see. Another opportunity outside the MSM mothership for social savvy journalists.
  • Hyperlocal is a mixed message - I’m not sure if it constitutes two types of hyperlocal or just competing motivations but there seemed to be some conflicting demands from hyperlocals. All claimed a connection to community (which is fair) and many spoke at length about altruism and affinity. But there was also a strong sentiment in the room that large MSM (the BBC ) should a)recognise (even validate) the ‘journalism’ and b)promote (advertise) them to keep them going. Neither seemed to me a particularly attractive proposition for any MSM.

    In reality I know, it’s a complex mix, profile is important as is revenue. But I just got the sense that, given that more ‘pro’ journos are starting hyperlocals, that more thought needs to be given to the purpose of a hyperlocal proposition Vs where journalists seek validation for the impact. The question I asked was ‘why do you want recognition from the MSM?’. That wasn’t meant to be critical. Think it’s something that needs more thought if you’re going to have a coherent proposition to ‘sell’.

  • Organisations who use communities should be none profit or pay a fee - I was listening to a panel debate on money and resources. At one point I closed my eyes and it seemed like two of the panel members could have been interchangeable. They were all talking about how their engagement with communities ‘changed lives’. It was a bit of an x-factor moment. But when I opened them again only one of them (community media association) was, by law, a not for profit. The other was Archant.

    I wondered if, given the positive value of community involvement, organisations would be happy to operate in part as a none-profit just like community broadcasters. After all they claim the same impacts (Perhaps community broadcasting would like to be released from those rules. Who knows.) Maybe we could release MSM from a need to credit etc as long as they are clear at the point of collection UGC that they don’t and in return take a community media subscription fee from them each year.  Lets say 15% of profit. Maybe a percentage worked out on the amount of UGC in their publications; .5% for every 2% of UGC content.  That could go in to a foundation style pot to encourage innovation.

  • Sometimes the community say it better than any journalist can 
Other perspectives