One Man and His Blog: August 2009 Archives

August 2009 Archives

August 31, 2009

Using Disqus for Blog Comments

Disqus Logo
From this post onwards, I've replaced the commenting system on this blog with the Disqus Comments system. Disqus is one of the breed of external comment providers that have become popular in the last year or so, that include Automattic's Intense Debate, Six Apart's Typepad Connect and JSKit Echo.

Why have I chosen Disqus? Well, it's the only one that syncs comments back to my Movable Type database right now, thanks to a new version of the plugin that was released with Disqus 3. And that's important to me. Should Disqus go away, or I decide to stop using it, I don't want to lose the discussions around my blog posts. This way, I can easily revert back to the native comments without losing anything. It might seem counter-intuitive for companies to offer this, but, for me, it's actually made me try out their service, which I'd never have used otherwise.

Beyond that, it's nice for someone else to handle things like using Facebook or Twitter logins to leave comments on this blog. There are Movable Type plugins that handle this, but they need some integration work, and, frankly, I'd rather leave that effort to someone else. The service also offers commenters the chance to start tracking their comments through the Disqus Profiles service.

Unless anything horrific goes wrong, I'm planning to have Disqus on here for at least a month, to see how it goes. I'll report back. 

August 28, 2009

Should Hyperlocal be Hyperniche?

I'd like to share something with you. Something that has made me very happy. Something, in fact, about sheep. This sheep, in particular:

Record-breaking Sheep
You see, this "tup", as the livestock breeders call 'em, was sold for a staggering £230,000 yesterday, a story that's being covered from the BBC to the Daily Mail. But where was it broken?

On the Farmer's Weekly livestock and sales blog, that's where. But it was the above photo that really got the commenters going.

I mention this, both because I think it's a fun story, and because I think that blog in particular illustrates something that I think is missed in much thinking about the future of news. We keep talking about hyperlocal, and that's a thought process that's rooted in the geographic nature of most newspaper circulations, particularly in the US. What our experience in RBI is teaching us is that hyperlocal is just a subset of hyperniche - and that there are many niches calling our for good, community-focused journalism.

Something to chew on over the bank holiday weekend. With some mint sauce.

Good Listening: This Week in Google

This Week in Google Logo
I've just been reminded by a discussion on our company Yammer that I meant to recommend a new podcast called This Week in Google. It's the latest offering from the TWiT stable, is hosted by Leo LaPorte, and features journalism blogger Jeff Jarvis and smater-working blogger Gina Trapani

Why do I recommend it? Well, it's really good at putting the changes coming to journalism in the context of what's happening in the rest of the web. All four published episodes are worth listening to, but I recommend episode 3, with Anil Dash of Six Apart, in particular. 

Excellent brain food. 

August 22, 2009

Job: Web Community Manager

Estates Gazette Logo
I don't normally do this sort of thing, but I have a feeling some good candidates for this job could be reading my blog.

Estates Gazette, one of RBI's leading magazines, is recruiting for a web community manager.

This is a great opportunity to join a team determined to transform the online presence of the magazine, as well as help an online community develop from scratch. Experience with Movable Type and Community Server an advantage.

All the details are on Total Jobs.

August 21, 2009

Location Good, Tracking Dumb

A good idea in publishing:

Geolocation information in Twitter, and here's why it's a good idea.

A bad idea in publishing:

Tracking scripts in content, and here's why it's just plain dumb.

The Murdoch Plan: A Consortium

And so, the Murdoch plan for content charging begins to become clear:

As newspapers across the country struggle with declining readership and advertising revenue, News Corp. executives have been meeting in recent weeks with publishers about forming a consortium that would charge for news distributed online and on portable devices -- and potentially stem the rising tide of red ink.
So, it's a consortium model. And that's interesting, because it runs the risk of running afoul of cartel legislation, and because it immediatly creates a significant dividing line between the new low cost, free to air business who live and die by links and engagement and the old high cost, paid content businesses, who huddle together behind a paywall designed to protect their traditional business model. 

If it succeeds, it will change many of the assumptions about the way that the internet operates. If it fails, it may well be the killing blow for many old media institutions. 

Beat Blogs and Topic Pages

Steve Yelvington has posted an absolute must-read entry on his blog, where he breaks down the two major types of visitors and the ways you should serve them:

The beat blog focuses on the small circle, offering speed, depth and conversation among the reporter and people with high interest in the subject matter. While regular users are the primary beneficiaries, there is a secondary benefit to the casual user: the reporter gets better at his or her job. Better leads, better feedback, better ideas can lead to more interesting journalism.

And then there's the topic page, which is what your less engaged, occasional visitor wants. Go read.

Video: Social Media Revolution

This video has been making the rounds of the company this morning:



The pleasing thing is that it wasn't me that started it, as it would have been 6 months ago. The times, they are a'changing...

August 20, 2009

The Hole in the “Twitter is Inane” Argument

Good piece of analysis from danah:

Twitter - like many emergent genres of social media - is structured around networks of people interacting with people they know or find interesting. Those who are truly performing to broad audiences (e.g., "celebs", corporations, news entities, and high-profile blogger types) are consciously crafting consumable content that doesn't require actually having an intimate engagement with the person to appreciate. Yet, the vast majority of Twitter users are there to maintain social relations, keep up with friends and acquaintances, follow high-profile users, and otherwise connect. It's all about shared intimacy that is of no value to a third-party ear who doesn't know the person babbling.

Perfect for showing the sceptic that falls back on the inanity argument.

Why Gatekeepers and Sticky Sites Fail

This has been said many times, and in many ways, but Dave Winer has put it very clearly, and in a way traditional publishing organisations should take to heart:

A long time ago I discovered this fundamental rule of the net -- People come back to places that send them away. Places like Google, Yahoo, Craigslist, Youtube, even Twitter. These are the mainstays. You go there to get somewhere else. Sites that try to suck you in and hold you there, no matter how cleverly, go away. While it may seem like a good approach at first, long-term it's a losing strategy.

August 19, 2009

links for 2009-08-19

August 12, 2009

Making Panoramas on an iPhone

The observant amongst you might have noticed the appearance today of a handful of panoramic shots of the venue, like this:

Outside at Fazeley Studios
And, indeed, this:

be2camp session
These are the result of me acquiring a rather lovely little iPhone app called AutoStitch. That does all the picture matching, assembly and cropping actually on the phone. It's one of the first apps I've come across that really takes advantage of the fact that the iPhone is basically a computer with a camera attached to really offer a new photographic opportunity. You'll probably be subjected to a good few of its results until I get bored of it...

A Taste of #be2camp

The somewhat oppressive heat at be2camp has stifled my enthusiasm for liveblogging (I never thought I'd miss Le Web's cold...), so to round out the day, here's a very brief video flavour of the event:

be2camp Brum vignette from Adam Tinworth on Vimeo.

A brief flavour of be2camp Brum

#be2camp - Building Value on Open Mapping

Talking Open Street Map

I've just deleted my notes from this session, because just typing up what was said won't actually be very useful.

Here's what to do. Got to http://www.blurtonvision.co.uk and see how different data layers can be placed over the map to build a set of information about what the community is doing.

Then look at Walking Papers and see how that same mapping can be useful to, and developed by, walkers.

Cool, isn't it?

It's all built on Open Street Map, which is, if you like, the Wikipedia of mapping.

#be2camp : Internal Use of Social Media by Lend Lease

Dave Glennon - collaboration manager at Lend Lease

  • Web 2.0 is a key part of land Lease's ICT strategy, from knowledge management to recruitment.
  • Martini approach to ICT - any time, any place, any where...
  • Aim is to be a connected information organisation and knowledge workers

Konnections is their knowledge platform. The Knowledge Incubator was set up, but not advertised internally. A few people found it, liked it and its use grew internally through word of mouth and evangelism. 

The blogs have been interesting. Every 2/3 weeks most senior people have put up blog posts (they're internal blogs, as far as I can make out). There are also individual pages for each person in the company. 

Forums were harder to get going, as people were reluctant to get involved, but use has grown. 

Wiki has been a useful tool for breaking down language barriers in a global company, and invaluable for dealing with the rise of acronyms...

Is it genuinely the senior people blogging? Yes. They are passed through the communication team, but are actually written through management.

Buy in: full and frank discussions or bland? Started bland, but getting more active and more opinions being expressed. 

#be2camp : Construction Talk Podcasts

Victor Tsemo from the West Midlands Centre for Constructing Excellence podcasts is up next, talking about, well, podcasts. (They're available on iTunes)

Not a huge amount here that's specific to the built environment. It's more of a set of general podcasting tips:

  • plan
  • keep it short (15 to 25 mins)
  • Have a major name interview subject
  • Not too frequent (once or twice a month)
  • The chair is very important, because she must manage the guests
Some discussion on Twitter about Victor's suggestion that podcasting is expensive. Many people's experience is absolutely counter to that - you can produce good results cheaply and simply. But here's his recipe for doing it:

Construction Talk Podcast: How We Do (overview) from victor on Vimeo.

#be2camp : Bscape - Birmingham in Second Life

David from Daden - a virtual worlds consultancy.

They will build bespoke worlds for you, if you want. But, for exploratory projects, you get the most bang for your buck in Second Life.

Birmingham Island in Second Life.

Bscape city didn't want to buy their own island - so we gave them some space in our own island. Other people started making video of it and putting it up on London.

Bscape from DadenMedia on Vimeo.

Bscape on Birmingham Island in SL

Worked with the Digital Birmingham and the new Library team, and there was enough space to build the new library on the island.

Continue reading #be2camp : Bscape - Birmingham in Second Life.

#be2camp : Campers

be2campers

#be2camp : Visualising Cities Digitally

Next up: Dave Harte  - Digital Birmingham

He's going to talk about 3D visualisations of developments. (Sure I was writing about this in EG back in 2004)

Digital Britain's eim is to be a (the?) leading digital city by 2010? 

How to use visualisation as a consultation tool. Can use engage the public using digital tools to create a more open city?

Every project has a "digital" bit. Something like public arts schemes, sums in developments set aside for digital realm improvements...

His role is to spot opportunities in new development projects that could help creative and digital business in the area. 

Existing initiatives:

  • Big City Plan / Talk
  • E-petitions
  • Social media in constituancies
  • NI4 driving initiatives

These are the sorts of ideas he'd like to talk about:

  • 3D models
  • Maps
  • Games
  • Virtual worlds

Crytek 3D game engine used for visualisation:


Some game engines don't work as visualisation tools - they're based around inappropriate (tropical!) settings. But others can render to a high degree of accuracy, but not to the detail that some of the measurements are made.

Not been used in planning consultation yet, but the city is exploring use of digital recreations.

Key challenges are identifying the visualisation and engagement innovators and being genuinely open, by sharing digital asset data. 

Continue reading #be2camp : Visualising Cities Digitally.

#be2camp : Save Your Energy video

We've just ben shown this video at be2camp:



Couldn't really see or hear it, so I've embedded it here for future reference.

#be2camp: A Digbeth Urban Oasis

Fazeley Studios, Digbeth
It's been a long time since I was blown away by entering a building, but our arrival at Fazeley Studios in Digbeth caught me on the hop. We wandered through decaying industrial street, with the first signs of the sort of art and creative business that lead the regeneration charge into such areas, and passed through an unprepossessing door. And the view above is what greeted us.

One of the attendees at the event described it as an "an oasis in the desert". I'd go with that. 

#be2camp Brum Begins

be2camp Brum
I'm up in Birmingham for be2camp, a bar camp style event for the built environment industry.

Live blogging will commence soon...

August 11, 2009

The 3 Minute Guide to Social Media

This is an excellent summary of why you should care about social media:

(Warning: implied profanity throughout)

The News Industry's Dunkirk

The Guardian's published a superbly-written piece by Simon Jenkins today, that catches exactly what I think about paywalls, the state of the publishing business and our route out of this quagmire:

At present the newspaper industry is like the British army retreating on Dunkirk. As before Wapping, it asks only how many boats might there be for survivors, two titles or perhaps three? Erecting paywalls may delay the retreat, but I sense that as long as online news media are selling just information and comment, they will be vulnerable to Bailey's web attrition.

The key must be to learn the lesson of the most tightly competitive medium of all: popular music. It has cast off its enslavement to recording studios and recast itself, almost in Victorian mode, as a mass movement for live audiences. Music online is all but free. Live costs a fortune. Young people will pay more for a gig in a club than for a Led Zeppelin CD.

The comments, sadly, are of the normal Comment is Free low standard, but the article is well worth a few minutes of your evening. 

August 6, 2009

Around the Blogs: Murdoch and Paywalls

A few reactions to the News International news from earlier:

The Second Paid Content Experiment Begins

So, it's happened, as we all knew it would. Rupert Murdoch is taking his online sites paid-for. From the BBC story on the announcement:

In order to stop readers from moving to the huge number of free news websites, Mr Murdoch said News Corp would simply make its content "better and differentiate it from other people".
The word "simply" is doing an awful lot of work in that sentence.

August 5, 2009

A Brief Flirtation with Daily Newspapers

I've been doing something for the last few weeks that I don't normally do: I've been buying a daily newspaper. And here's why:

Free Book with The Times
The Times has been giving away free Penguin paperbacks in selected outlets - I've been grabbing mine in Caffe Nero. And, frankly, 90p for a classic book is an absolute bargain. Today's offering, The Big Sleep, is a book I've meant to get around to reading for years, and am really looking forward to getting into it. 

However, I realised this morning that I haven't been buying a newspaper with a free book, I've been buying a dirt-cheap paperback with a free newspaper. And sometimes I just don't bother to read the paper. The Times giveaway may have boosted their sales for a few weeks, but like the Evening Standard give-away of a few months back, all it has done is persuade me that I really don't need to buy a daily newspaper. 

links for 2009-08-05

August 4, 2009

The Silly Season Cometh

I said that the silly season was on its way on Friday, didn't I?

Well, I now have evidence:

Big Fish Dies
"Big Fish Dies" above the fold. Serious journalism. 

It's a strategy day!


It's a strategy day! on 12seconds.tv

So blogging is likely to be light...

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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