April 2007 Archives
April 26, 2007
I've just noticed that the recently overhauled e-mail link on the sidebar wasn't working right. It is now. So, if you want to get in contact, you can.
Sorry about that.
I'd fire my webmaster but, frankly, he's me.
April 25, 2007
And very interesting it looks too. As described, it's both a place to blog yourself and to gather stories from the paper. A workspace? A social network? A bit of both? From the looks of the pics on Flickr it resembles a blog-centric social network, like Vox. But Shane's not giving too many details.
It certainly has the makings of a significant expansion of a major national newspaper into the user-generated content field, although the legal ramifications of all this blogging under the Telegraph's name must have given them pause for thought.
But, worries aside, it could also be the idea that triggers mainstream adoption of blogging by the British public. And that's pretty damn exciting.
The Media Guardian had a look at the Digital Doorstepping issue on Monday. (I'm reliably informed that doorstepping is the act of going house to house in serach of reaction, doorstopping is where you're getting to the point of physically stopping somebody shutting the door.) The article is, unsurprisingly, somewhat ambivalent about the whole issue.
What's chilling is how journos are staking out Facebook and starting 'tribute' groups to victims as soon as something like this happens. I saw this firsthand when English teacher Lindsay Hawker was murdered in Japan a few weeks ago: I was invited to one of those groups, joined, and was suddenly inundated with journo requests from Closer magazine and others, who thought I was a friend of the girl's and wanted a tell-all interview for their own 'tasteful tributes'. You can imagine my response to the journalists.
Yes, I can.
Is the Telegraph thinking of blocking Google from seeing its news? What a really terrible idea.
The Washington Post has published an interesting article by a law professor about students attending classes with laptops open. It calls into question the idea that the younger generation are as able to multi-task and process as many information sources as we think they can.
Is he being reactionary, or is this going to be a genuine problem?
Ironically, I'm typing this in an internal meeting with my attention on 50% on the proceedings.
Good response to the scare-mongering in the Indy last week.
An attempt to define the top 10 UK blogs based on feed subscriptions
April 23, 2007
I've been called away from the urban delights of London Town to the rural idyll of Suffolk on family business, so my account of the Lewisham Bloggers Drinks last Friday will have to wait until tomorrow. My fine photographs of the event are on my iMac in the flat.
However, it it with heavy heart that I report that it was only the second most important bloggy gathering in London over the weekend.
Those satirical slanderers of stagecraft, the West End Whingers, held a party for assorted thesps, writers and bloggers, and had a fine time of it all.
Bet they didn't have any Adnams, though.
(We really should have a blogging journalists' drinks at some point)
April 19, 2007
And, while I probably won't get a pint of Adnams, you'll find me in the pub on Friday night for the Lewisham Bloggers' Drinks.
Be there, or be elsewhere.
April 18, 2007
April 17, 2007
There's no doubt that the shooting of dozens of students at Virginia Tech in the US was a horrifying event. There's equally no doubt that the few seconds of shaky mobile phone footage of the shootings was far more compelling than then endless professionally-shot scenes of police around the site. That nasty, detached part of my brain that allows me to be a journalist was thinking that this tragedy involve US students, and that means that the events would be widely documented, first hand on blogs, social networking sites and the like. And I was right. Robin Hamman has done an excellent job of compiling the first hand accounts of the shootings.
But equally revealing are the online skirmishes that have broken out as journalists pile into these communities looking for quotes and comments, especially from this Livejournal member. This caught my eye in Robin's post:
A few livejournal users weighed in to pass comment on the media's clumsy approaches with a user, who posted anonymously, possibly saying it best:
"...I also have mixed feelings about having read your blog. On the one hand, I enjoyed being able to cut through the media bullshit and read about the day from your perspective. I read your entry aloud to my roommates since I thought it sounded so much like what would happen at our house. On the other hand, the only thing sicker than what happened today is the way the news outlets are going about contacting VT students. Although you have a public blog, how were you to know that it would attract so much attention? I am really disheartened by their insincere sounding messages and attempts to get the authenticity that your LJ already has, just by virtue of you being an individual in a truly horrible situation.
I can't help wondering if the nature of Livejournal is partly behind the outrage. I'm a Livejournaler myself (here's my somewhat neglected Livejournal); it was where I started blogging. And the characteristic of Livejournal that triggered the creation of this blog was its community nature. Its system of "friends" and the "friends page" means that most Livejournals are read through Livejournal - it's for talking to a circle of friends, not to the world at large. Barging into that community and asking for comment feels not unlike barging into a pub and asking somebody for comments.
Now sure, journalism has a long and dishonourable tradition of doorstopping the victims of tragedies. But in the digital age, the communities around the victims have voices to express their outrage at the media's behaviour - and that's what we're seeing here.
BBC Journalist Alan Johnston has now been missing for over a month. He is believed to have been kidnapped on his way home from his Gaza City office, but there have been no firm reports of his whereabouts or health in that time. Indeed, some of the messages issuing from the area seem contradictory.
Journalists who work in the world's most troubled places put their lives on the line to bring the reality of life there to us. Their work is invaluable in bringing us a greater understanding of the world we live in.
To help raise awareness of Alan's situation, the BBC has released a graphic (which you can see in this post, and in the sidebar on the front of this blog) which you can embed in your blog, social networking site (MySpace et al). The image links to a page on the BBC News website which has more information about Alan's situation and gives readers the chance to add their names to a petition calling for his release.
I'm just in the process of doing a minor update to the software that runs this blog, Movable Type. Hopefully it'll all work…
UPDATE: Done. That was easy. Mail me if there's a problem…
Scoble makes it plain why pulling down posts on a blog is such a bad idea once they're published. A Microsoft blogger has, apparently, pulled down a post comparing the firm's new Silverlight video project with competitor products, such as the ubiquitous Flash. And then pulled it down. As Scoble says:
That behavior always gets me to focus in on what got removed.
April 16, 2007
Given how simple Twitter is, it'll be interesting to see how easy it is to keep coming up with content, but it's still a great example of how blogs can be used by publishers to start covering a new hot topic fast.
Here's a neat reversal of the normal assumptions: blogging and podcasting have spawned their own dead tree magazine called, prosaically enough, Blogger & Podcaster.
So, Code of Conduct, hmm? Setting boundaries on our online debates? Interesting idea. And one I'm late to, I know. I've been letting my thoughts on the matter stew slowly in my brain over the last week. And I keep coming back to a few basic point.
Hasn't it already be done? Libel laws cover online publication just as much as they do print titles. There are laws about threatening behaviour and harrassment, although they probably need a wee tweak to match the digital age. And certainly, I'd love to see more civility in the blogging world. But the more I look at this Code of Conduct, the more narrow it looks to me; a myopic solution to a widespread problem.
Surely, the solution to a problem that we've seen in recent weeks is not to form blog mobs to burn the heretics, nor to bind ourselves in code of conduct, but to do what you would in an offline conversation: refuse to let those people who abuse the conversation perticipate in. I don't chat or debate with those who insult me or my friends in the real world. I ignore them. I avoid them. If people are abusive in the blogging world, ignore them. Shun their blogs. Don't publish abusive comments from them. Don't link to them at all. Turn your attention away from them, because your attention is precious and it shouldn't be squandered on those who don't have enough repect for debate to conduct it in a civilized way.
At its best, the blogosphere is a sophisticated, distributed system for deciding who has something interesting to say, and who doesn't. Let those mechanisms work, and a code of conduct becomes unecessary.
And they do work. Tim O'Reilly has moved a distance from his original proposal based on the widespread feedback from bloggers. A mindset of civilized, intelligent discussion is worth cultivating. I remain to be convinced that rules help develop anything - they merely mark borders to seperate transgressors from the obedient.
April 14, 2007
April 12, 2007
As some of you reading this might be aware, I lost my Dad to cancer five years ago. Now my Mum is fighting her own battle with it.
Both of them have been hugely aided by the local Halesworth Community Care Fund, a charitably-funded local body that provides care and support for terminally ill patients and their families, through both nursing care and equipment.
In many cases, their work allows people to live out their final weeks at home, amongst their families, rather than in a hospital bed.
My brother, Mark, is running the London Marathon partially in aid of this charity. If anyone reading this feels like sponsoring him, it would be very much appreciated.
April 11, 2007
Martin Stabe has some good advice for journalism schools:
Journalism schools need to teach their students that blogs are internet publications like any other. They are public on the internet and can be read by anyone in the world with an internet connection. They are subject to the same media law as any other publication, including libel and fair dealing in copyright.
Funnily enough, the first hurdle I have to get over with teaching journalists to blog is getting over the "online diary/rant" stereotype and getting them to see it as another publishing medium. Sure, it has its own, particular characteristics, but the range of things you can do with blogs is much bigger than most people think.
April 9, 2007
April 8, 2007
The Telegraph promotes commenters to bloggers. And there's more to come…
That survey showing that people read more online than on paper might not have shown that after all.
Having seen at least one unflattering pic of myself from Blogging4business, I shall be memorising this.
So, it's Easter Sunday, and I'm going to do something I rarely do here: talk a (very) little about faith.
First up, there's an interesting piece on CNN about the head of the Human Genome Project and why he has Christian faith. It's not the most compelling argument ever (and it's not meant to be), but it makes a pleasant change from the false "Science is in opposition to Faith" dichotomy that so many of the dogmatic on both sides trot out.
Second (and last) is a piece by Ruth Gledhill of The Times on Somerfield identifying Easter with the birth of Christ. The piece neatly demolishes the idea that some of the more passionate atheists put around that in some, mysterious way, Christianity has a power lock on this country. Uh, no, we're not America. We're largely secular and, as show here, often truly clueless about even the basics of a faith.
For those of you with faith, God Bless. For those who don't, Happy Pagan Chocolate Day.
April 7, 2007
An interesting idea.
Argument of startling clarity as to why some of the reaction to the recent "death threats in the blogsphere" hue and cry has gone too far
April 6, 2007
I'm using the traditional Easter traffic lull to work on a few technical problems in the plumbing behind this site. So, if you see any weirdness, just remember that the blog plumbers are swearing at the sudden tag leaks they're dealing with…
Thanks to the good folks at Technorati for suggesting some reasons that my blog might be displaying incorrectly over there.
April 5, 2007
April 4, 2007
Peter Whitehead, FT Digital Business Editor, said that they discovered over time that podcasts can't be repackaged content from the existing outlets, but something in its own right. Low quality "office chat" or high quality, radio-like atmosphere? Going for the latter, but a long way yet to go.
Trevor Dann, director of the Radio Academy: Podcasting leading the radio insustry. The FT's content is radio, delivered by podcasting. Once you include video, you lose portability — that's the great strength of radio, it's a secondary medium. You can do something else while listening to it.
Peter: not dangerous, not doing live, another channel to distribute our content. The listeners are niche audiences, but very valuable. iTunes putting FT logo on their podcasting homepage quadrupled number of downloads instantly.
Trevor: used to licensed, governed radio. The internet is a fantastic opportunity to converse abouit subjects with audiences. Radio has to be impartial. Podcasts don't. The audience won't want glorified adverts, they want authenticity.
Free vrs paid for:
At moment difficult to monetise. Will come. Might be slower than we'd like.
Time for closing drinks, I think.
Unlike Blogher Business a couple of weeks ago, this is a largely laptops shut conference. I imagine it's a combination of less experienced attendees and lack of technology support for laptop use during the conference.
An interesting panel discussion on marketing and advertising in social media just finished. If nothing else, it was interesting because the conclusions seemed to be that no-one really knew how it will pan out.
Antony Mayfield was busy wishing himself out of a job: he wants to see the end of PR director and search engine marketing as job titles - his former and current jobs! He also thinks that companies shouldn't advertise on blogs (boo!), they should spend the money on understanding them.
More from Mayfield: "Search engine tricks aren't going to work - they're no longer looking for sites that look like the best websites, but those that are."
General warning: Beware the flying penises in Second Life! Users can invade your PR event with some, uh, unconventional interruptions. And Anthony reports visiting branded spaces within the online world, and being the only person there.
And widgets with your brand on them are a brilliant idea, if they're useful, apparently.
If you're running a blogging or social-media related conference, offer free WiFi and power at the desks. Otherwise, you're crippling the ability of people to blog about your conference - and thus do your publicity for you.
Yes, I'm at Blogging4Business in London and, after coughing up £20 for WiFi access, I'm finally online.
The Technorati tag "blogging4business" is worth following, too.
April 2, 2007
We just hit a rather pleasing milestone with blogging here at RBI-UK:
I'm looking forward to indoctrinating the next 100 journalists into the ways of conversational media...