One Man and His Blog: September 2009 Archives

September 2009 Archives

September 29, 2009

Volunteering at Box Hill

Here's a little video of my colleagues hard at work clearing a rare chalk meadow habitat last Friday:

September 28, 2009

The Brighter Side of Corporate Life

RBI staff helping out on Box Hill
It's awfully easy, in this perfect storm that besieges publishing, to be rather negative about traditional media companies - even my employer, RBI. So, once in a while, it's worth taking a few moments out to remember the very positive things.

For example, last Friday, I spent the day on the National Trust's Box Hill site with about 20 of my colleagues. RBI gives us two days a year we can devote to charity or community activities, and we spent the day helping clear a chalk meadow - a fairly rare habitat - of encroaching trees. Damn hard work, and I slept like a baby that night, but it felt like a worthwhile way to spend a day.

Brain Food at Procter Street And then, earlier today, I was in an hour-long, open invitation discussion session thinking through the likely impact of Google Wave and Sidewiki on our business. To be fair, the concept were met with a great deal of "huh?", but some good discussion followed and it gives me hope we're starting to put these new concepts into our thinking as they emerge, rather than when it becomes and absolute necessity. And that's progress.

How's that for a cheery post to start the week? 

September 26, 2009


Nice thought from Valeria Maltoni:

Social is not new, businesses have known about social for a long time. It's the greater access that we now have (potentially) to learn more about how to do stuff well through collaboration that we are excited about - or we should be. Imagine if you could connect with people who think like you throughout the organization
Imagine indeed...

September 25, 2009

The Role of the Corporate Blogger

This video from one man social media whirlwind Andrea Vascellari is well worth your time. It's a talk in which Skype chief blogger Peter Parkes takes a thoughtful look at the role of the corporate blogger:

September 24, 2009

Why You Need Comments on Your News

Any news organisation that's serious about being accurate needs to read the tale of BBC woe Paul Bradshaw spins. Here's the money quote:

Of course having comments on the story would have allowed this discussion to take place in public, from the start, and provide readers of the article with some critical context, turning a single-source 'He Said' article into a 'He Said-She Said' piece at the very least. That's a technical issue that is being addressed, but in the meantime the BBC brand suffers.
But you should really read the whole thing...

Social Business Ahoy

I admit it - this blog is all but moribund. But I thought I'd sneak a post or two on here before James takes it away from me.

The discussion about use of social software in businesses seems to have risen up people's radar significantly in the last month or so, and there's some really interesting discussion starting to build around it. This post by Euan really caught my attention:

Why do I believe this? Because I believe there is a fundamental change in how we do business heading our way. Driven by the networked communication tools flourishing on the web, tools like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, not only how we communicate with those who benefit from our services but also how we organise ourselves to produce them will be changed forever.
The post is about as good a summary of the changes in the air as any, but it's the discussion in the comments on the post that really make it fly.

TEDxTuttle: The Movie

Nice video from the team, talking to some of the speakers from the event the other week. I appear, busily liveblogging, in the opening moments...

H&M Gets Embeddable

Interesting. H&M is allowing you to embed interactive graphics of its latest ranges in your blog:

The expectation of embeddable content spreads a little further...

September 21, 2009

Proportion of Readers That Will Pay For News: 5%

Sometimes, a good graphic says all that needs to be said:
pcuk-harris-poll-paid-content-reader-intentions-o.pngLoads more data on PaidContent UK, plenty of good analysis on PDA and some related thoughts on the problems with content charging on Strange Attractor, if you don't feel that the graphic does all the work. :-)

Why Good Bloggers are Good For Print

Here's a piece of news that's all over the journalism blogosphere this afternoon, and which surprises me not at all:
Last week, though, the prominent political blogger Andrew Sullivan used his forum on to tell readers to subscribe to the print edition of the magazine.
It worked. Within two days after last Monday's post, Mr. Sullivan's appeal pulled in 75 percent of the subscriptions that the Web site draws in a typical month, the magazine's publisher, Jay Lauf, said.
The AtlanticHere's the thing: social media is all about the first word there: social. Over the years, Sullivan has built up a rapport with his readers, one that stretches back to before he was blogging for the magazine. With every link of his they follow and find interesting, with every piece of analysis that they find compelling, they come to trust him. The relationship between blogger and reader grows stronger.

And so, when he recommends that they subscribe to the magazine, they do so, because they trust him. And as long as the print product repays that trust with a strong, compelling and unique proposition (which I think The Atlantic does, as a long-standing subscriber to the mag), then it is actually stronger as a paper product for having a social media operation.

I've long suspected that magazine brands are on their way to becoming metadata, a piece of information that is tagged onto the individual voices of its journalists, and which tells you a little something about them and what they write about, and which is, in turn, defined by the aggregate voices of its journalists. This is just one more piece of evidence to support that.

September 20, 2009

links for 2009-09-20

September 19, 2009

On News, Communities and Journalists

More essential reading for Saturday morning (time for a second cuppa), this time about the relationship between news and online communities:

Our comments routinely point us in the direction of new angles for stories, and in many cases commenters have become sources for future pieces. They do fact-checking for us, which we should be grateful for. And they let us know which stories they care about and which they don't, which is invaluable market research. But those aren't the only reasons why comments are important. Giving people a place to talk about important issues has value in and of itself, and the more we restrict that and impose limits on it, the more we risk losing the trust of the people formerly known as the audience.

Social Networks Eroding Forums?

Forrester's new Social Technographics Profile report hit the interwebs a few weeks back. (I'm catching up on my Safari tabs, can you tell?)

A couple of key points in the accompanying blog post:

As for Critics, those who react to content, this group hasn't grown at all. Looking deeper into the data, this is a result of a small but actual decrease in the number of people contributing to discussion forums. Why? Probably because much of this activity has been sucked into social network sites like Facebook.
I'm quite surprised by that - social networks largely offer discussion between people who already know each other, while forums allow the building of new discussion communities. Perhaps our understanding of forums is imperfect?

The explosion in Joiners from 35% to 51% of online Americans reflects the appeal of Facebook, as both press coverage and invitations from friends suck more of us into social networks. Meanwhile, Spectators -- those consuming social content -- reached all the way to 73% of online Americans, which should end any remaining skepticism about whether this social thing is real.
Social is becoming the default way of viewing the web.

Evolving News Online

OK. Saturday morning task for those of you really interested in the future of online journalism. Grab a nice, strong mug of coffee (or other suitable beverage) and sit down to read this:

By and large, news websites still reflect their print heritage. They make the classic mistake of rigidly reflecting their own structure while ignoring the semantic connections that cross desks and departments. Most news web site interfaces obscure the vast amounts of information we produce as journalists. Good interfaces go beyond design and search to issues of information architecture, user experience and discovery.
It's not light-weight reading by any means, but it strikes at the heart of the issues that most online publishers aren't yet addressing.

A Defined Online Identity Boosts Engagement?

This cropped up in a post about the latest improvements to Typepad:

Improved comment experience
Based on some impressive performance on the beta blogs, we have added a few popular social web icons -- TypePad, Facebook, and Twitter -- on the comment forms. We tested this design in beta for a few weeks and saw a dramatic increase in the commenting activity. By encouraging people to sign in and become a "real" person, we have seen a significant increase in comments. 

If that's true, that's very interesting. The ability to sign in with another system, pull across profile images and set some sort of link between your activity across the web encourages engagement? That's pretty significant for anyone working in community development.

And Dave Winer was musing on the importance of Twitters user icons just the other day...

September 18, 2009

Goodbye to the London Paper

And so the paper that started the London evening freesheet war is gone:

The London Paper says Goodbye
I doubt this will be the last high-profile casualty of the changes sweeping through out industry.

September 17, 2009

#TEDxTuttle: Alan Patrick

Alan Patrick
Our genial host, looking amused. 

This space was reserved for his summing up of the afternoon - but as there wasn't any, I'm off for a drink.

TEDxTuttle: Measuring Social Media

Mat Morrison of Porter Novelli is giving a fascinating talk about how you build metrics about social media. 

Our Audience has an audience

Matt Morrison
If you think how many brands and NGOs and political parties have tried to get you to share their information with their friends, you'll know what I'm talking about.

If you only think about social media as publishing, you're missing the point. Social media is a response to the ease of publishing - there's too much information. 

Social media is our filter.

We're using our social relationships to make instantaneous, unconscious, social decisions about what to read. It's not just the headline - it's who sent it to you. As marketers, we want to get through those filters. 

Influence = "how do I talk to as few people as I need to to reach as many as possible" <--- but may not be the case in social media.

One measure is popularity - the size of my social graph. In PR we start at the high numbers of friends end and work back to those with fewer. But that's an old media model of how to influence people.

Continue reading TEDxTuttle: Measuring Social Media.

#TEDxTuttle : Ben Walker on Twitter(ish)

Ben Walker
Ben Walker is doing such an amusing presentation on Twitter that I almost forget I should be blogging it...

He's taking as his thesis the assumption that Twitter is Babble - and that babble + context = conversation, and that's where the value is.

Twitter is Babble?
Oh, to hell with it. This is a presentation you'll have to wait for the video for. Sorry.

Liveblog FAIL. 

But at least I got to see a live performance of this.

#TEDxTuttle : Tales of Tuttle

Lloyd DavisTuttle Club curator and founder Lloyd Davis is talking about what Alan Patrick just described as the "Groucho Club of this" - this being social media. Tuttle has survived for 2 years despite being open to all.

Lloyd is comparing running the Tuttle Club to running a children's party - stop bad stuff happening early, and make sure the goldfish are safe...

Diversity and inclusion are key - anyone can come along (despite people e-mail every week to ask for permission - no need!). But he's not trying to create something for everybody - just for anybody. Lloyd feels that he has to carry uncertainty for the group - someone has to say "it's going to be OK - I'll keep coming here. Even if it's just me, it'll be on."

"I know more about people, but not in a creepy way, because I see them every week." That leads to more opportunity for serendipitous meeting and connection. No advertising campaigns. No brands. The best promotion is to do cool stuff and talk about that on the internet, where we live. It's been supported by the rise of things like Twitter. People always criticise online networking for taking you away from real people - and that's why we do Tuttle. 

Deliberately, the only time we have everyone's attention is at 11am when Lloyd does the parish notices. What we do on Friday mornings were meant to be a prototype for the Social Media Café - and they still are. There's a consulting arm up and going - and the client is lapping it up. There will be more of this. We have an opportunity to start working together, and doing something of economic value and use. 

We're going to do more and more cool stuff. 

#TEDxTuttle : The Future of Buildings

Rachel ArmstrongRachel Armstrong is talking about the future of architecture

She likes architecture because of its scale - it's the biggest things we make. And it's the footprint we leave behind. Architecture has always been a technology. The materials we chose in architecture have been there to wall out nature. This creates belligerent architectures that oppose nature.

Buildings are 40% of our carbon footprint, and are still largely built using Victorian techniques. Sustainable architectures needs to be connected to the natural world. Living systems are in constant conversation with the rest of the world through the chemical processes of metabolisms. Imagine if the surfaces of our buildings have metabolic functions - how much difference could that make to the environment?

Low tech biotech: different from most biotech, which is expensive technology created in sterile laboratories. We don't know what all bacteria in urban landscapes actually do - which of them are actually beneficial? Could bioluminescent bacteria be used to light parts of the cities?
Continue reading #TEDxTuttle : The Future of Buildings.

#TEDxTuttle : Maggie Philbin & Tomorrow's World

Maggie Philbin
Ah, Maggie Philbin. My inner 10 year old is just dying right now. She's kicking off the TEDxTuttle event with a series of clips from Tomorrow's World, to prove that (a) sometimes they got it right and that (b) what people think is going to be successful (or unsuccessful) is often way off base.

The 1987 first appearance of the CD was met with cynicism from a vinyl-loving presenter, but in 1983 they predicted DNA fingerprinting's importance. BBC health & safety thought that the laser in the first bar-code reader was dangerous, so they had to pre-record it - and it was so bad that Philbin never thought it would catch on.

I can't really catch the humour of Philpin's talk (mainly from the clips), but I think she's created a brilliant (and somehow very British) bit of stage-setting for a basically technophile crowd - predicting the future is hard. Looking at what we have now, and figuring out what we can do with it - that's intriguing.

September 16, 2009

The Technology Revolution: Autumn 2009

I'm such a sucker for these things:

They tell a pretty compelling story, though, don't they?

links for 2009-09-16

September 15, 2009

On Twitter, Media and a BrandNew Identity

As well as trundling off to Twestival last Thursday, I also stuck my head around the door of the BrandNew launch event, and jolly interesting it was, too. It's yet another brainchild from the worryingly fecund imagination of Joanna Geary of The Times (pictured above, looking uncomfortable - this is my revenge for her springing a brief speech on me).

Jo, like many of us who have gone from being social media enthusiasts to prominent roles within our employers where our online identity reflects on the emplyer's brand, has found herself questioning the need to split personal and business identities, how free she is to blog while being seen as a member of The Times staff, and so on. I've been through similar battles in the past. I nearly killed my blog stone dead in late 2005/early 2006 when my colleagues began to become aware of it and I set too many limits on what I posted.

brandnewpeps.jpgIt appears plenty of people are interested, as about two dozen people turned up, from organisations as diverse as the Labour Party, and contract publishers. And all are struggling with this clash of the need of social media identities to personal, open and somewhat intimate, as opposed to the managed, staged and often impersonal brand identities of the past. If I had any doubt that companies were about to go through a profound cultural shift as they adapt to this new communications infrastructure, the quality of the questions being asked put that to rest. 

And beyond that, it was nice to catch up with online acquaintances and to meet some new faces (to me, at least). I look forward with some eagerness to the next event. So, when is it, Ms Geary? :-)

Google Fast Flip and our Thumbnail Overlords

I awoke this morning to the steady chatter of the early-rising journo-sphere (or, more accurately, the late-to-bed US journo-sphere) tweeting furiously about the arrival of Google Fast Flip, a Google Labs product that aims to give some of the serendipitous discovery aspects of a newspaper.

FastFlip on the iPhoneAt first I thought it was a joke. And then I saw the number of people who were jumpimg on this idea as the saviour of journalism. (There's a sign for you about how bad things are in publishing right now.) I poked around, and came to the conclusion that it was exactly what it looked like: an experiment in showing stories more visually than the traditional text list, which has piggy-backed onto the current controversy about online content to gain a little interest and use.

So, how to join in this conversation? At first, I thought I'd write something about how this looked like a trap for publishers. And then I saw this. Curse you, Patrick!

I switched tack. Something a bit witty, something a bit satirical, perhaps? Fiddlesticks. Stymied by Richmond and his suspiciously effective postal system.

And so I browsed Google Fast Flip on both my iPhone (a curiously unrewarding experience) and my work PC. And I couldn't help feeling something akin to, well, deja vu.

Is it me, or does this view look a little familiar?

Google FastFlip in ActionA little like this perhaps?

Continue reading Google Fast Flip and our Thumbnail Overlords.

links for 2009-09-15

To LiveBlog or LiveTweet?

I like Steve Jackson. He's a curmudgeon, but the sort of curmudgeon who makes you think. And something he's been quite curmudgeonly about recently, and about which I've come to the conclusion that he's right, is LiveTwittering. It started with a post on his own blog, decrying the pollution of his Twitter stream by hacks tweeting from a Frontline Club event. He followed this up with a post on the Media140 blog, at Dee's invitation.

It's interesting then that when its hacks running the show, and no one to edit, a different tact is taken when social media is involved.

Suddenly there is no concept of news values. Only just how many tools can we use to spread the thin story just about as thinly as possible? There is never any thought of "what is this worth?" or "is this a story?"
Just keep on spreading.

Here's the thing: Twitter is in an explosive boom phase right now, and has been since the beginning of the year. A lot of people are relatively new to it, and they're full of enthusiasm for the new medium. There's been a recurring tendency for people to assume that New Shiny Thing will do everything and replace Old Less Exciting Thing. And over time, that goes away and New Shiny thing becomes just another tool in the toolbox. Look at the recent exodus of all the tech cutting edge adopters to FriendFeed - and their subsequent return to their blogs as the hubs of their activity, with the other services surrounding and feeding that core.

And that's where I'm at.

Continue reading To LiveBlog or LiveTweet?.

September 14, 2009

How To Lose a Fortune in Social Media

Social media: you're doing it wrong:

NEW YORK - As the bid deadline for ailing BusinessWeek magazine approaches the McGraw-Hill title is revealed to have spent $16m on creating its social networking site, which is generating little cash.
BusinessWeek launched its social networking venture Business Exchange in 2007. By 2008 it had spent $16m on the site, which is estimated by the New York Time to have generated just $600,000 in revenues.
Joanne asked how you can spend that much money on a social network. Here's how: think like a big company. They're a big brand, from a big company. They clearly need a big, expensive infrastructure, or so the thinking goes. Unfortunately, that rather ignores the fact that the products they're trying to complete with run lean and fast, with low overheads and the ability to adapt quickly to changes in their competitive environment.

I've been faced with people arguing for "big infrastructure" here, but so far we've been successful in keeping our blogging and community infrastructure (fairly) lean and focused - and thus in line with the potential revenue. 

All We Have Left: Skill

Interesting conclusion to a post about a story the traditional media failed to cover:

I would also point out one thing which I am sure will be missed by the "Old Media is indispensable" faction, which is that there is no need for any of these amateurs to ever do any journalism again. It is, in my view, very likely that they won't. It will be other amateurs who do and that is a key unappreciated strength of this thing, that each story can be done not by someone who gets assigned to go through the motions, but by a small set of people passionate about that particularly issue.
Journalists had three things going for them in the traditional media age: time, skills and access to distribution.

We've lost two of those. In aggregate, the general public and bloggers in particular have more time available that all traditional journalists put together. And access to distribution is available to anyone with a computer or mobile phone and an internet connection.

So, what can we do with skill, where the other two aren't the defining factor?

Blogging: The New Public Sphere

John Naughton, writing in The Observer on the 10th anniversary of Blogger:

The long-term significance of Blogging is that it reverses a trend that had become increasingly worrying in an era dominated by mass media, namely the erosion of what the cultural critic Jurgen Habermas called "the public sphere" - an area where citizens gather to generate opinions and attitudes that affirm or challenge the actions of the state. Mass media offered the illusion of diversity while narrowing the range of real choices available - the "600 channels and nothing on" syndrome. Blogging has revived - and begun to expand - the public sphere, and in the process may revitalise our democracies.

September 11, 2009

London Twestival 2009

The Hours at London Twestival
I had an absolute blast at the London Twestival last night. Great event.

You can get a flavour of it from my photos on Flickr

Fake Metal in iTunes Genius Mixes

FakeMetalWords.pngIt's just possible that iTunes is a bit fuzzy on the difference between "Metal", "Comedy" and possibly "Scrumpy & Western".

Databases and algorithms: not good at irony.

September 10, 2009

News: Can't Give It Away

I've mentioned before that I think the urban freesheets like Metro and the London Paper have been pretty effectively devaluing news for a while. I'm sat drinking a coffee in Farringdon, as I arrived rather early for BrandNew this evening, and the two distributors stood right in front of me are really struggling to give away their free papers. Some people cross the street to avoid them:

It a salutary reminder that it isn't just free websites that have shaped our perception of the value of journalism.

More on the WordPress Hackings

A couple of interesting posts have cropped up since I posted about the WordPress problems over the weekend.

Kevin Anderson has followed up, looking at the security risks (or lack of them) around WordPress:

Security analyst David Kierznowski at BlogSecurity has a list of more than two dozen known vulnerabilities in all versions of WordPress. A 2007 survey of 50 WordPress by Kierznowski found that only one of the sites was running the latest version of the software, leading him to warn that the WordPress community was vulnerable to attacks. So maybe the question isn't whether WordPress is more likely to be hacked but whether WordPress users are less likely to upgrade.
Meanwhile John August makes a good argument that, at this stage, most people shouldn't be hosting their own blogs at all. It's just not necessary, when there are so many good alternatives out there, both free and paid.

Here's how one Typepad user puts it:

Here's the deal:  I'm running a business - a speaking and consulting business that is focused on the use of social media by entrepreneurs, and this blog is the cornerstone of my content. I need to be sure there is is a team of experts looking out for me - testing technology before throwing it out there to the community, and most importantly, keeping me protected against issues like this one that is wreaking havoc for some Wordpress users.
Blogging is well and truly mainstream now. We're well beyond the tech-centric early adopter core, and for everyone else, using a hosted blogging platform is probably the way forward. Just look at the predominance of Blogger amongst the main UK political blogs. Even Guido is on the hosted VIP platform.

September 9, 2009

links for 2009-09-09

September 8, 2009

So Long, And Thanks For All The Print

Some really excellent advice here for publishers trying to get to grips with the structural change in the industry: 

...let's think about what might happen when magazine publishing is no longer a river in its own right, but is just a current in the digital ocean. Magazines are starting to appear on the Web, but since they are just a number of interconnected pages in a world of interconnected pages, the boundaries between 'magazine' and 'not-magazine', or indeed between 'magazine A' and 'magazine B' are, from the Web browser's point of view, rather vague. Once we drop the idea of discretely bound and sold sheaves of glossily processed wood pulp from the model, what do we have left? Anything useful? 

The thing is, that was written by the late Douglas Adams in 1999. And Alan has loads more vintage Adams that people still haven't got their heads around a decade on. 

Video Journalism: Harvesting, Editing and Gadgets

That last video from the Caterer folks reminded me about just how diverse the range of video we're doing in RBI is right now. Here's a few more examples to while away the last few minutes of the working day: 

Farmers Weekly's Emily gets hands-on with some big equipment:

Stacey from Estates Gazette interviews her new boss, to introduce him to the market:

And Faisal from Computer Weekly takes on the iPhone versus the Nokia N97 debate:

Chef Phil Howard talks about his drug addiction

This is a nice piece of work from the Caterer team:

The full interview with Phil Howard is up on their site.

September 7, 2009

dConstruct09 for Publishers

My bosses' boss went to dConstruct last week, and all I got was this list of links and thoughts

September 6, 2009

The WordPress Attack, Competition and Blogging Innovation

First of all, a note to the fanboys: this is NOT an attack on WordPress. WordPress is an excellent piece of blogging software, and undoubtedly the best option for non-technical users looking to self-host. And therein lies the problem.

Back in 2003/2004 Movable Type was pretty much the predominant blogging platform for the self-hosters. And then two things broke its dominance in the market-place: a rather dumb pricing decision by Six Apart (which was rapidly corrected) and the growing wave of spam, which Six Apart was slow to get on top of. After all, there were a lot of MT blogs out there - it was worth the spammers targeting it. 

Fast forward 5 years, and WordPress has throughly usurped Movable Type's position as the leading self-hosted blogging platform. And lo, the weekend has been full of people tearing their hair out as their WordPress blogs were hacked seven ways to Sunday. Reading about people having to export, destroy and recreate their blogs was painful. Blogging is over a decade old. We should be better at this stuff by now.

But you could see it coming. It only takes a cursory search around the web to find blogs running on ancient platforms - a Movable Type 2.x here, a WordPress 1.x there.  And then the complaints started about the repeated waves of updates to the 2.8 version of the software. When people are complaining about updates, that means some people just aren't bothering to do it. And that means security vulnerabilities are staying wide open. The the odd savvy user like Suw got hacked. By Saturday, tech celebs from Robert Scoble to Andy Ihnatko got hacked. Twitter was full of the wails of the hacked, and the retweetings of the warning.

As I tweeted, WordPress has become Windows - so dominant that it's a huge target. And this is only going to get worse - access to millions of websites through attacking a single platform? That's just too tempting a target. 
Continue reading The WordPress Attack, Competition and Blogging Innovation.

September 5, 2009

Peston: Blog at centre of all I do

Journalists really need to read this post by Robin, where he highlights the speech the BBC's Robert Peston gave where he explains how central blogging is to his work. 

September 4, 2009

Networks and Sociology

This is worth a viewing:

September 2, 2009

Of Link Rot and Personal Blogging

Every now and again I take a little time to tidy up the ever-growing archives of this blog. Tidy up the appearance, check for link rot, correct years-old spelling mistakes, add tags to posts published before Movable Type had a tagging system, that sort of thing...

I've just done January 2006, and I've bee struck by two things:

  1. The link rot is pretty bad, for three and a half years. The BBC and national newspaper links are all still good, as are most of the blog links. But Channel 4's links are long gone, as are most to the start-ups of the era. The permalink is nowhere near as perma as we would like.
  2. My blog was so much more personal back then. Less of a focus on journalism, although it was still a major theme, but a lot more random stuff that would hit Twitter or The Rest of My Life these days. I miss that random element a little.


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

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