Finding and mapping the center of your world(ish)

This is the center of Preston.

The center of Preston.
The center of Preston.

No really. The exact center of Preston.

I made that discovery as I pondered a post I saw a little while ago.

The article came from The Londonist, who ran an experiment to find the center or London.  It was a repeat of an experiment they did in 2010, things were a bit make do and mend…

We pasted a map of Greater London onto cardboard, cut out the map, and then tried to balance it on a pin-head. The balance point, also known as the centre of gravity, can be said to be the geometric centre of London. 

But for the update they went a bit more high tech.

Step forward Tom Hoban, who’s now refined the method and thinks he’s found the centre of London to much greater precision. Rather than using cardboard and scissors, Tom traced an electronic map in AutoCAD software. He was then able to find the shape’s centre of gravity digitally, removing the imprecision of our balancing-on-a-pin malarky.

I thought the ‘malarky’ of the pin and card was really nice.  Very hands on. But it got me thinking about how easy it would be to work that out for other places.  (that’s how my brain works)

Find the shape

The first challenge is finding the ‘shapes’ of a city to work with.  In these days of data journalism and digital mapping, I wondered if that kind of ‘data’ existed and it does; kind of. There are plenty of data sets that offer shape files; the data needed to ‘draw’ the shape of a city or (more commonly) electoral ward, county or country.  You see these a lot in visualizations of data like voting records etc. So it was just a case of finding one with about the right detail I needed.

The Office of National statistics maintains quite a nice list of  files with boundary information, which have that data included.  I chose  the Boundaries : County_and_unitary_authorities_(E+W)_2013_Boundaries_(Full_Extent).zip file.

Find the centroid!

As you expect these shapes are not uniform, they are polygons, so it took me a bit of Google work to find that the ‘center of gravity’ of  a polygon is called it’s centroid.

In mathematics and physics, the centroid or geometric center of a two-dimensional region is, informally, the point at which a cardboard cut-out of the region could be perfectly balanced on the tip of a pencil, assuming uniform density and a uniform gravitational field.

So it was a bit of piecing together.  I know you could easily map shape files using Google tools like Google Fusion tables etc. and I know that you can do some clever maths using scripting so the next step was to put it all together with more Google around ‘calculate the centroid of a polygon in Google maps‘.  Which, by a country mile,  is the most technical and intelligent sounding thing I’ve googled in the last 10 year.

Some time later…

Cutting a long Google very short, I ended up recognizing that doing it with Google maps was going to be hard – at least beyond my skills.  But my searching revealed that there was some good mapping software or GIS  available that might do the job. What’s that then

A geographic information system (GIS) lets us visualize, question, analyze, interpret, and understand data to reveal relationships, patterns, and trends.

I ended up using QGIS, an open source mapping program that works on PC and Mac.  I won’t lie, it’s a bit of bind to set up.  But once it’s done you have a pretty powerful set of tools and one that would be worth a look  for people doing a lot of mapping .

What’s great about QGIS is that once the ‘polygons’ are loaded in, it has a very neat menu item that calculates the centroids. Instant centers of all the areas on the map in one click!

Here’s a quick how-to:

This is shape file
This is shape file
  • Download and unzip the mapping data. If you look in the unzipped folder you’ll see a file with a .shp extension. That’s the one we want.
  • Open QGIS


  • Click the Add Vector Layer button or pick Layer > Add Vector layer from the menu
  • Browser to the shape file (.shp) from the unzipped folder and open
  • A nice rendering of the shape file appears similar to the one below.
Don't worry if your colours are different. It's random
Don’t worry if your colours are different. It’s random Contains National Statistics data © Crown copyright and database right 2013
  • Make sure the layer you have created is selected and the select Vector > Geometry Tools > Polygon Centroids



The system offers a dialouge box. It wants to save the data as a new file. I saved mine in a new folder called centroids but you can put it where you like.  Make sure you check the Add Results to Canvas option or you won’t see the centers.  The result is something like:

Contains National Statistics data © Crown copyright and database right 2013

That’s all the centroids calculated and plotted.

Getting the data on to a google map. 

For a number of reasons I wanted to make sure I could share the results on a google map.  One of the easier ways to to get any complex location data into a google map is to use Google Fusion tables. They play nicely with location information saved as a KML (Keyhole markup language) file.

QGIS makes short work of this.

  • Select the new layer with your centroids in
  • Select Layer > Save As
  • Pick  Keyhole markup language KML from the Format option
  • Select a location and filename to save the content. Make sure you keep the .kml extension.
  • Repeat the process with the original layer (with the local authority areas on it)

The process to get the files in to Google Fusion tables is pretty easy. Here’s a slightly amended version of what Google suggests:

  1. Go to Google Docs. Sign in to your Google Account or create a Google Account if you don’t already have one. (Note that you while can use a Google Apps for your Domain account for Fusion Tables, you will not be able to create maps.)
  2. Click the “Create” button.
  3. Click the “Connect more apps” bar at the bottom of the resulting list.
  4. Type “fusion tables” in the “Search Apps” box and hit the “Enter” key.
  5. Click the blue “+ CONNECT” button, then click the “OK” button in the confirmation dialog box.
  6. Click “Create > Fusion Table (experimental)”.
  7. In the Import new table dialog box, click “Choose File”.
  8. Find the KML file you created from  QGIS
  9. Check that the data is formatted correctly and click “Next”.
  10. Give your table a name and click “Finish”.

Once it’s imported you can click the Map tab and you’ll see the elements mapped (either the outlines of the areas or the dots that represent the centroids.

You can embed the map straight from google fusion tables like this

Or you could use something like the Google Fusion Maps Wizard to mix together layers into one map. Like this:

Once you have it on a map you can also take advantage of the satellite view and the Street view tool on google maps to get a good look at the center of your world.


This may all feel like a sledgehammer to crack a pointless nut! I guess it is. It’s a bit of fun that spiralled. The best I could say is that it falls in to my find a tool that answers a question methodology.  But here’s some observations and what I learned  along the way:

  • The center really does depend on the boundaries you pick. The picture at the start of this post is based on the Urban Audit of Greater cities boundaries for Preston (data). That’s different from the center that the Unitary and Borough boundaries throws up. (that’s in a field just near the M55 junction on the M6)
  • Picking the The Full Extent version of the files does skew things a little as it describes the shape of an area even if some of it stretches into the sea! So the methodology isn’t rock solid on a number of counts
  • There are lots of data sets to play with. Qgis means you could load loads up and compare.
  • Using QGIS ties you to the desktop – not great if you’re in newsroom with locked-down IT.
  • Using QGIS opened my eyes to the power of GIS software in general and how it could be part of a data journalist’s toolkit. But if you’re doing a lot of data mapping (rather than mapping) I do think something like Tableau is the better place to focus your time.

Finally, and most importantly I’m bound to repeat that all of this post contains National Statistics data © Crown copyright and database right 2013


Pages of pages: Journalists and (self)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.


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’

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

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

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

And not everyone thought it was a problem.

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

But there was also some good advice for career progression.

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

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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Living stories comes to wordpress

You may remember a that Google trialed a bit of code with the New York Times and Washington Post called Living Stories:

Living Stories are a new format for presenting and consuming online news. The basic idea of a living story is to combine all of the news coverage on a running story on a single page. Every day, instead of writing a new article on the story that sits at a new URL and contains some new developments and some old background, a living story resides at a permanent URL, that is updated regularly with new developments. This makes it easier for readers to get the latest updates on the stories that interest them, as well as to review deeper background materials that are relevant for a story’s context.

It wasn’t long before the code became open source for people to tinker with. You need to be prepared to tinker a lot if you want to run it on anything other than Googles AppEngine (and even then you’ll be tinkering for a while). But now that tinkering may be over.

Google have announced the release of a special theme and collection of plugins that allow you to create a version of their Living Stories using WordPress as the base.

I’ve had a quick play and (once I got over a mistake with the installation. I’m a donkey!) it certainly makes it’s presence known. Look at the updated  dashboard!

The post page becomes redundant as you get a choice of a raft of different content types organized in to stories by assigning categories.

You start by defining a category for the story and then creating an event. You can then add other elements and, hey presto, it starts to package it up.

There is no fancy timeline but the way it breaks the content up would make for an interesting approach to group work on a project.

Worth a play.

HT to Charles Arthur (@charlesarthur) for the head up to this one

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Digital job hunting

Last week I gave a short lecture to broadcast (and a smattering of magazine) students about using the web to help find a job.

I tried to sum the whole thing up in a pithy slide:

It was really about fitting digital in to an already well established pattern for job hunting – traditional ad’s with a good slice of what and who you know.

That’s why I started with a list of job sites offering a digital way of doing that long slog of working through the job ad’s.  No surprise there then.

But I made the point that looking for work in a converged world mean’t a bit of a change of perspective.

Even though you may come from a broadcast tradition and your target job may be in a traditional environment (radio newsroom for example) the market is increasingly varied. (as my highly technical diagram shows) Your skills carry across boundaries in a converging world. You could end up as a radio producer at a newspaper working on their podcasts or working for an online only publication working on video.

Increasingly that converged mindset is what you have to cultivate to get work. But I think it’s also  the mindset to apply for job hunting. Don’t limit yourself to one sector. Instead of starting in one of the circles, position yourself in the middle and aim at all of them. You never know what might crop up. So my tip around searching for jobs also included searching for jobs.

By searching for something like radio OR broadcast jobs UK you get a rich and broad pot that you can then start to refine and filter. To develop your searches, think laterally. Add phrases that are specific to your area of interest or that would be unique to a job : radio OR broadcast ~job +salary +enps uk.

Remember the aim here is not to get Google to simply churn out job ads; the jobs sites will do that. It’s also to introduce an element of serendipity in to the mix that will richen your understanding of the market.

Of course the introduction of a broader range of sites means more content to wade through so you’ll also need to consider ways to manage the flow. Simple things like setting up a Google Alert based on the search terms you enter can help. But you may also want to get your RSS reader working for you to pull all your job related feeds in to one place that you can search and filter.

If a speculative google search throws up an interesting company (who don’t have jobs but you might want to keep an eye on) then search for an RSS feed to subscribe to. Then when a job comes up you know what they have been up to.

When the orginal slides went up in a post on, John Thompson pointed out a way to get custom RSS feeds based on custom searches.

In the top left-hand column on most of the pages on, you will see a panel headed “Job of the week”. About half-way down there is a dropdown menu that allows you to search by job type. For this example, select “editorial assistants and trainees” and click “go”.

On the subsequent search results page, you will see at the top of the central column an advanced search form. This allows you to make a more detailed search based on sectors, categories, salary and location. You will also see an option under format to “return search results as RSS feed”. Select that and also tick “editorial assistants and trainees” under the “categories” section.

Click the search button and, voila, you will be presented with a customised RSS feed containing only editorial assistant and trainee vacancies.

Josh Halliday got in touch via twitter so say he has put together a combined RSS feed of popular job sites that you can subscribe to. (thanks Josh)

I’ve put together an RSS bundle of just five of the UK’s most comprehensive media jobs listings sites: GorkanaGuardian JobsHold The Front Page and the Editorial Jobs Twitter feed (it’s RSS is borked).

And don’t forget that there are other ‘oldschool’ ways. Sign up for email newsletters like the Gorkana alert

The Shmoozing bit.
In the media people will often tell you that it’s about who you know rather than what. So whilst the broad searching will tell you what jobs are available and give a broad view of what’s going on we need to get next to some real people.

At this point it’s worth stressing that this is not about using digital to replace the process. You still need to get out there and meet people. But we can build our own networks online that help us connect and experience the churn or views and news from the industry. It could be eavesdropping on the latest gossip to build up ‘intelligence’ or even using the community to help you get a job.

But if it’s about who you know, how do we know who to connect with?

This is where social networking sites like Twitter come in to their own. They offer an easy way to find and connect with people in your community. Take a look at MediaUK’s twitter page (@mediauk). Obviously a popular follow and the kind of thing that a lot of people in the industry would look at. Now we could go through the list of people that follow and are followed by @mediauk to find useful people; use their contacts if you like. But notice their lists

Mediauk's twitter lists

They are nicely split in to sections and make following a glut of people in your area easy. If you find someone on the list who really resonates with you or fits right in to your area then look at their lists (if they have them) and build your network.

The same logic (if not the same mechanics) work for other social networking sites. Take a look at LinkedIn or even Facebook. Connect with one person or join a Facebook group and you’ll open yourself up to more connections.

Of course, the key to success in social networks is to be an active part; Share, listen, help, participate. All of these things will build your profile. And profile is important as it doesn’t just build your recognition within the community (the most valuable part) but it also makes you more visible online.

The lists from mediaUK are actually generated from user submissions – you can go to their site and add yourself. That’s an easy way to be pro-active about building visibility. For some this might fall in to the ‘rampant self promotion’ section but it’s a way of getting your name out there.

That’s why I think a blog is still a valuable tool in your job searching kit.

Many people are leaving blogs behind in favour of the more dynamic ‘statusphere’ of twitter and social networks. But a blog offers something a little more stable, a more permanent place for you online. It offers you a chance to reinforce and expand your online identity. (I will always look at the link that people put in their twitter profile to get more information about a person.) To start with you could use it simply as a static CV/Portfolio site that you can point people to when applying for jobs. But it could soon expand to offer more. More active posting about your experiences and interests attract audience.

The most popular blogs within the journalism community tend to be the ones that share experiences – Think about Josh sharing that list of RSS feeds. It’s journalists trying things and showing their working out. Thats valuable to the community and people remember you for that (you’re playing an active role). That’s one of the reasons I linked to Adam Westbrook in the presentation. Like Josh, he’s a great example of someone who plays an active part in the community.

You could ask ‘why a blog and not a static website?’ My first response is that blogging is one of those things that you should have experience of in a converged world (back to my point earlier). But there are some, more practical reasons.

There are lots of great website builders out there (I’d add Jimdo to that list ), but blogs offer a lot of under the bonnet stuff that helps promote your stuff and make it easy to share. Built in notification of search engines and automatic RSS feeds are just two of the things that will help spread yourself around the web. They may be the thing that gets you popping up in a search engine when a prospective employer searches your name and it will link them to something that sells you appropriately.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet telling you how you can tweak a blog to start showing static pages rather than the more dynamic posts. You can change it later on when you are ready to go down the more dynamic posting route.

Given that this presentation was to broadcast students I also looked at the problems associated with multimedia on free sites and blogs. I’ve listed a number of third party hosts that you can try to get round some of those restrictions. Using a third party site also has the benefit of getting your work out there on another platform to another audience.

So, there it is. Use the web to sign up to job sites but don’t stop there. Use it to broaden your horizons, think multiplatform in where you look. Be part of and visible in the community and your profile will grow and that can only be a good thing.

I hope it made sense and if you have any questions then drop me a line.

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No such thing as free money to save the local press

As I was leafing through the Guardian on Saturday morning I came across an article with the rather alarming headline

Google news tax could boost local papers, report says

Google and other websites that carry news they do not produce should be taxed and the money generated used to prop up local newspapers, says a report which warns control of the media is concentrated in too few hands.

I tweeted it and got a number of interesting replies:

The report comes from the Carnegie trust UK’s commission on Making Good Society. It does indeed set out a suggestion for Industry levies citing Institute for Public Policy Research research that a 1% levy on pay TV providers of 1% “bring in around £70m a year”

A similar fee imposed on the country’s five mobile operators could generate £208m a year. Making Google meet its full tax liability in Britain would boost the pot by a further £100m.‘ The same IPPR report argues that ‘such sums could save many local newspapers and web sites from closing down, could stop the destruction of local and regional news on ITV and could help new media start-ups to plug these gaping holes in public service provision – all without the taxpayer having to stump up any more cash and without having to raid the licence fee.’

But the report also makes it clear that the money would come with something of price

Levies on the use of aggregated material have the potential to generate significant revenue to support the production of new public service and local content, involving civil society associations. If this form of funding were to be explored, changes in regulation would be needed to ensure that revenues go to original news producers and not just to those who present and disseminate material. Original news reporting needs to be supported so that it is financially viable; this could require charging those who are not authorised to use and distribute this material.

Not quite free money from a google tax.

The whole report makes for an interesting read (I mean genuinely interesting not that other academic definition of interesting)

It’s pretty wide ranging but it singles out “democratising media ownership and content as one of it’s four main areas where “a stronger civil society could make the most difference”

A whole chapter (chapter 3) is devoted to trying to understand the pressures on and drivers of news production and the impact that has. They are clear that technology plays a key part citing radical cultural shifts associated with pervasive technology and the rise of ‘digital natives;’ as an uncertain driver of change. But the discussion is a bit more broad ranging:

…[D]espite the proliferation of online platforms, more of the news we receive is recycled ‘churnalism’ and aggregated content. Trends of concentration in media ownership and increased pressure of time and resources have narrowed the sources from which original news derives. Moreover, the centralisation of news production and neglect of local issues has particular repercussions for access to information across the UK and Ireland, especially in the devolved nations.

And it’s clear where the problem is:

…the central issue affecting traditional news providers is not the decline of audiences or interest in news, but the collapse of the existing business model jeopardising the democratic role of journalism. According to the National Union of Journalists: ‘The media industry is essentially profitable but the business model is killing quality journalism.’

Media concentration.
When I first read the Guardian article I bristled at the idea of a google tax of newspapers. Why? Because we would essentially be propping up commercial organsiations who still work at a profit. It would be akin to a bail out. So I found myself drawn to the areas of ownership and centralization in particular. The report is pretty robust here.

The challenge of creating original content and the diminishing number of newspapers is further compounded by the concentration of media ownership in relatively few hands…..with four dominant publishers controlling 70% of the market share across the UK

That concentration of ownership and the influence it exerts is cited as a “key obstacle to transparent policy-making which incorporates a sustainable role for civil society associations” Which comes from the ‘continuing and intimate relationship between key corporate interests and policy-makers; a relationship whose bonds are rarely exposed to the public’

Their suggestion seems to be that the Scott Trust/Guardian model is more likely to serve the development of a pluralist media landscape than a purely commercial one. But it sounds a note of caution

While independent funds directly supporting journalism can come with strings attached and endowments are not immune from economic pressures, philanthropic funding can help preserve journalistic independence and secure guarantees on public service content.

General suggestions.
The big ticket suggestions like tax breaks and levies are balanced by some more specific suggestions that form the main discussion of the chapter.

  • Growing local and community news media.
  • Protecting the free, open and democratic nature of the internet.
  • Strengthening the transparency and accountability of news content production.
  • Enhancing the governance of the media.
  • Protecting the BBC.
  • Redirecting revenue flows to promote diversity and integrity.

Their ideas for strengthening transparency include the suggestion of a Kite mark that shows no dis or mis-information. Good luck with that one.

But back to funding, the last three points are interesting in themselves.

When they talk about enhancing the governance of the media they say that”

“All news organisations in receipt of public funding should actively engage with the public and with civil society associations, through their governing bodies as well as through their daily practice.”

Which could only really mean the BBC right? But in developing the suggestion of redirecting the revenue flow they:

…want to see new funding models explored: for example, tax concessions, industry levies or the direction of proportions of advertising spend into news content creation by civil society associations, or into local multimedia websites.

The price of public money.
My reading of the report was that nothing comes for free. In an earlier chapter the financial sector comes in for a real battering. But though the media orgs are more delicately handled the implicit message is still the same. All the money that could come from tax breaks, funding and other sources comes at a cost. That cost is de-centralisation, openness, stronger regulation and in transparency (a phrase that seems to disappear mid report to be replaced by integrity)

Would be nice but I can’t see it happening.

The full report is available here.

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Google translate: Sports Journalism in any language

Don’t be a Google Stranger (Image by Jacking.c via Flickr)

Amongst the marking and other stuff a few things have been pushing the ponder button. One of the the things was the recent updates to Google Translate.

Even if you haven’t used the tool itself you will have probably spotted the odd option to translate search results. If you use the Google Toolbar you may have even been surprised to be offered a version of the page you are reading in its original language.  It’s like a lot of things on the web these days, a background thing.

But I have been pondering it lately for two reasons. The first comes from the increased amount of contact I have working journalists who are getting to grips with using search tools and other online stuff in a more structured and journalistic way. Sitting in a room full of journos and seeing the mixture of awe and surprise at just what you can do with an IP address these days, for example,  just underlines how much of this stuff can pass you by if you don’t have a bit of headspace to explore.

The second is thinking about how, when training, I can make this as relevant to all the flavours of journalists I come across. It’s often the case that after a session of looking at searching council websites and the like, sports journos feel like there isn’t much in it for them. Most team websites have no RSS and the online presence for many official bodies is pretty slim. I get much the same from the Sports journalism students I teach.

Searching in another language

Of course, when you get on to community stuff, forums and blogs etc. some of the sports journos are pretty adept at finding and working with those communities. But I’m always on the look out for stuff for that search part of what I do that will peak their interest in the basic stuff which, I think, is really valuable. Google translate does just that.

Here’s an example picked at random.

The rumour mill throws up that Italian football coach and radio pundit Nevio Scala is pitching for the Scotland Manager’s job.

Interesting stuff. What’s this guy about then? We could push a few searches through Google:

Starting with  “Nevio Scala” or building on the search with information about his other clubs. e.g “Nevio Scala” +Parma or “Nevio Scala” +Spartak will turf up a lot. But it’s in English and this guy is Italian. So what do the Italians say about him?

We can push Google to search Italian sites by selecting Italian in the Language option of the advanced search. Which gives us some lovely results with the Translate This page option. Click there and we get translated results.

The language option in Googles advanced search
The language option in Googles advanced search

We can take that step further with Google’s Translated search option.

All you do is tell it what you are looking for, what language to search in and what language you speak. Then tell it which language you want to search in. The results are slightly easier to digest as you can see the options side by side. We can use the search to dig a little deeper.

A translated search from Google
A translated search from Google

Back to the Scala example. I want to delve in to the fan chat during his short spell at Spartak. Setting the results language to Russian means we can plug in a search like  Nevio Scala” Spartak OR Spartacus +forum and throw-up forum discussions around Scala on Russian football sites.

Of course doing this is not just limited to Sport. It’s not uncommon to find someone from your patch appears in the foreign press.  Take “meredith kercher” OR “Amanda Knox” as a  translated search in Italian as an example. But given the international impact of sports, especially as the world cup comes in to view and I think sports journos have plenty to play with here.

Translating from the Toolbar

For me though the real flexibility comes when you use the translate options in conjunction with the Google Toolbar.  By installing the toolbar you can translate pages on the fly.  That makes searching in another language a lot easier.

I tried the same search for “meredith kercher” OR “Amanda Knox” in Google news but with the location set to Italy.  All the results come up in Italian but a quick click of the translate button and I have a better idea of what I am looking at. Then I can continue browsing in (Googles best approximation of) english.

Using the pages

Using the toolbar translation also means you can take advantage of the basic functions on the page.

Google TranslateUsing the Nevio Scala” Spartak OR Spartacus +forum search I found a Spartak forum which I wanted to search for any mentions of Scala.  I could find the search box but sticking Scala in won’t work as it’s English not Russian cyrillic. So I used the Google translate tool to convert Nevio Scala in to Russian (Невио Скала) and went directly to the original Russian version of the football forum. The toolbar translate option converted the page in to english so finding the search box was easy. Then I plugged the Russian version in to the search box.  Bingo.

Ok, so the translation is pretty hokey sometimes and we need to be mindful of the different standards of journalism (legal and ethical) that we might encounter. But it’s a great opportunity to get a different perspective. I think this is especially important in sport. There is always the other team and if they happen to be from another country then it would seem a shame to miss their perspective.

The next step

The next step is to integrate some of this stuff in to your “passive aggressive newsgathering” by finding the best in foreign language sites and then using a site like Mloovi to translate the RSS feed. Then you really are doing international journalism.

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Cool google and wikipedia mashups

A map of population centers generated using wikipedia

I do like a nice mashup and they are not just the preserve of techies as an ever increasing range of tools means the humble journo can mash with the best of them.

In that spirit I wanted to share a great post by Tony Hurst where he explains how you can  ‘Data scrape’ Wikipedia with Google Spreadsheets to get a map like the one above.

[W]e have scraped some data from a wikipedia page into a Google spreadsheet using the =importHTML formula, published a handful of rows from the table as CSV, consumed the CSV in a Yahoo pipe and created a geocoded KML feed from it, and then displayed it in a YahooGoogle map.

As Tony says ‘Kewel :-)’

It may sound arcane but don’t be put off by the seemingly techy.  Tony provides a reallu usable tutorial and the key thing is to experiment with data that’s relevent to you.

Go on, release the inner geek and have a play

Interesting stuff for Tuesday


I thought I would start with a “guess the object” comp. Answer at the end.

Wendy Parker has some good advice about getting started with blogging –Beginning blogging for journalists: Get started, already!

On the geek side of things JVC Pro debuts solid state camcorders for Final Cut Pro editors which could solve the problem of intermediate timelines ( a common affliction of FCP users)

Less geeky but still video related is a post by Chrys Wu outlining 10 golden rules for video journalists. These come from Washington Post video journalist Travis Fox at a recent “Creating Video Narratives” workshop at Beyond Bootcamp. Solid stuff.

From the sublime to the ridiculous.  Joe the plumber is going to ‘report’ from Gaza. Old news I know but, honestly, you couldn’t make stuff like that up could you. Next Obama will send Hillary Clinton over and they will do battle like Mothra and Godzilla over Jerusalem. What makes me more mad about that, and in a more serious tone is that journalists are being hacked to death. Much as I hate to question Joe’s motives. Man, journalism has to be taken a bit more seriously than ‘joe the plumber’.

Maybe that re-inforces Bob Steele’s point as he worries about Ethics Crashes on the Digital Media Highway over at Poynter. It’s a thoughtful piece but the tone doesn’t recover from “Too often we give unjustified credibility to bloggers who are, at best, practicing amateur journalism or simplistic punditry.” Recent events in Mumbai and now Nepal, plus the countless other incidences of violence against journalists and bloggers reporting the world around them should be making this kind of them and us redundant.

On a lighter, but no less interesting, note though is Mark Hamilton who explains how he could get behind some of Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s recent rambles about journalism

The ever brilliant Martin Belam continues to pick apart media sites and their web presences by looking at  how the sites appear when people search for them in Google

And more UK goodness from Lindsay Bruce giving more valuable lessons in community in part 9 of an invaluable series on Paul Bradshaws Online journalism blog

Meanwhile Pat Thornton calls for more innovation in the user interface of news sites. I think he is right but it may be a difficult balance between convention – already established – more depth which you could deliver as effectivly with a better relationship with the print product. But that takes us multi-platform and away from Pat’s point. Worth a read

Read/Write web’s How to: Build a Social Media Cheat Sheet for Any Topic has been popping up across the place with glowing recomendations. Well worth a look. As is their article on Mobile TV.

Aspiring web journos can get a glimpse of life as it could be as the NYtimes profiles the renegade cybergeeks who may just save the paper. (wasn’t that the plotline of the last Die Hard?)  It feels a bit 90210 to me. By which I mean, this is how the beutiful people do journalism. But read it with a less cynical eye and there is some nice insight.

And the picture? It’s one of several arty shots of Fabian Mohr’s new FlipHD. He has more nice pics and some test movies on his site. Go and have a look.

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2009 is the year of the journalist – Carnival of journalism

It’s Carnival of journalism time again and having sat out the last one (sorry Adam) I thought I better get my hand in again. This month’s ringmaster is guru David Cohn and his topic – Positive new media predictions for the year 2009.

Now there’s a challenge given the current climate! But I think there is some stuff to be positive about.

As media brands loose value, individual journalists will become more valuable
As media brands loose value, individual journalists will become more valuable

This will be the year of the journalist
That might sound odd given the layoffs happening all through the media. But I think that we are at a transition point.  The large media ‘brands’ are loosing ground to a more diffuse audience but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a need for content. That means that journalists will be no less important.

Whilst the idea that demand for content outstrips the supply of those capable of creating may not ring true for most it’s clear that a journalist with some web savvy, a good presence online and an understanding of their audience is an increasingly valuable proposition.

As organisations downsize we will begin to see a new layer or ‘freelance’ journalist who are bought in to deliver specialist content. If you are in broadcast you’ll recognise this model as the kind of producer/contract working common in the industry.  The smart organisations will keep a kind of halo of these people around them, bringing the audience they cultivate in to their orbit. The individuals keep a level of autonomy but everyone benefits as the media brand and the individual brand work together.

Europe will step on Google
Paul Bradshaw has already highlighted some issues with Google and the opportunity for new media start-ups, trad media included, that may bring. But (and maybe this isn’t as positive as the first one) given the attitude of ‘because we can’t, you shouldn’t’ attitude of many media orgs, the press in particular, I think we’ll see some moves by the EU to begin to put boundaries on  Google a la Microsoft. Why the media orgs would see this as a sensible prospect rather than finding ways to work round or with Google beggars belief,  but it will happen.

The positive? Well, whilst Google, the EU and large media orgs slug it out, there will be plenty of space for the smaller operators and, as Paul points out, they’ll be ripe for the picking.

So, two predications as possitive as I can make them.  I have some broader and perhaps less positive things to say about video but I’ll save those for another post. For now, based on the first prediction, you shouldnt be listening to me blather on. If you are a journo you should be setting up your own blog and building an audience.

French Media say Non to Google help

Eric Scherer at AFP newsnet has an interesting roundup of the French media’s reaction to the head of Google News, Josh Cohen as he asks what role will Google play in the news ecosystem?.

He’s got this nifty video of the twitter coverage as well as some very juicy quotes and debate about the impact of Google

From Emmanuel Parody, publisher of CBS Interactive in France:

Clearly, because Google is now controlling trading routes, it’s in a position of fixing prices. This is the problem

To Pierre Conte, president of PubliPrint, advertising branch of Le Figaro newspaper group

“We see you now as a danger for the life of our companies”, said Conte. “The CPM has collapsed, and the growth of the Internet has been hijacked by search. We are no longer able to pay professional journalists to do their work. “

Plenty of food for thought but Scherer picks a nice tweet from Jay Rosen to end the piece.

I am certain that Eric Schmidt will get a thorough de-briefing on Cohen’s Paris trip. As Jay Rosen commented in a recent tweet, “Google people tell me: we know we have to support the news ecosystem. But they don’t want to prop up messed up organizations.”

via Newspaper bailout: what role will Google play in the news ecosystem? – AFP-MediaWatch.