One Man and His Blog: January 2011 Archives

January 2011 Archives

January 28, 2011

An experiment begins, Daily

News International's next experiment with paid content is about to begin:

Apple and News Corp. sent out invitations to a February 2 event to unveil The Daily. The press event will include News Corps. Chairman & CEO Rupert Murdoch and Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of Internet Services. The duo are expected to provide all the juicy details on the iPad-based newspaper and confirm the product's 99-cent weekly pricing.

Daily still seems like a very strange concept in the internet, publishing-on-demand age.

January 27, 2011

Can social media get you a job?

The answer, according to former colleague James Garner, is "kinda":

Too much can be claimed at times about the power of social media and its transformative affects. However, I firmly believe that social media is partly the reason why I started a new role, so soon after leaving my last, timing, luck and good-old fashioned networking were also a big factor.

Social networking doesn't replace traditional face to face relationship building - it complements it. And that's why anyone who contrasts online relationship building with "real" relationship building is an idiot. ;-)

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An Oatmeal gift for Tumblr

I love this kind of thing:

Giant blogging platform Tumblr has decided to adopt cartoonist Matthew "The Oatmeal" Inman's suggestion for a "fail whale" down-time graphic, the artist said in a Twitter message this afternoon. Inman posted the image of TumblBeasts taking over the servers this afternoon and said "please oh please use it" to Tumblr. Four hours later, Inman said he'd received an email from Tumblr's founder agreeing to use the image.

I wonder how many "traditional" media sites would have accepted a gift like this?

January 25, 2011

Mapping my LinkedIn Community

LinkedIn Network Map

These are all over the blogosphere today, but they're interesting, so why not join in? :)

The image is a visualisation of my LinkedIn Network, showing the people I'm connected to, and the relationships between themselves.

I'm fascinated by how clearly some groups stand out, and how some seem more complex. For example, the huge blue blob on the left contains my RBI colleagues past and present. The small grey island up in the top right is a group of folks I worked on a Student newspaper with back in the 80s and 90s. However, the green/orange section in the top centre are pretty much all commercial property folks, with some RBI folks who are closer to their industry than their colleagues thrown in for good measure. However, they're distinct enough to the algorithm to stand our as separate group - and I'm trying to figure out why. I have two theories right now:

  1. The more orange coloured ones tend to be advisors to the property industry
  2. The green ones are property people with strong links to Estates Gazette staff

Whatever the truth proves to be, it shows how easily visuals can identify patterns in data, doesn't it?

Creating a New Yorker cover

Lovely video of a cover illustration being created:

We need more really great magazine covers.

[via A Hundred Dance Moves Per Minute]

January 24, 2011

Finding web simplicity where none exists

Antony Mayfield succinctly captures what I've been feeling about people's attitude to the internet over the last year or so:

The other problem we have is we fixate on platforms, like Facebook, Google or Twitter and use them as proxies for the complexity of the web.

It would be better to recognise that these are access points to the vast network of networks that is the web, the web that is connecting up all of humanity, all of our knowledge, increasingly all of our objects.

Just one gem in his presentation from TEDxBrighton.

Carnival of Journalism: All The Uni Posts

coj

David Cohn has linked to all the Carnival of Journalism posts on the role of universities, in an epic piece of aggregation. There's some meaty writing in there, that's worth spending some time on over a coffee break.

There's a conversation getting going in the comments on my post, which I invite you to check out, too.



January 20, 2011

Research and radical reinvention: universities' role in journalism

Carnival of Journalism: It's back, and this time it's personal... David Cohn has brought the journalism blog carnival back from its grave. For those who haven't experienced blog carnivals in the past, they're an excuse for a group of bloggers who specialise in the same subject to all post about the same topic once a month. This month's topic is the role of universities.

Would you recommend that someone took a journalism course right now? In Britain, course fees are going up while the number of journalism jobs is going down. You're likely to rack up debt while you head towards an uncertain job market. Could you put your hand on your heart and say that it's the right decision?

For the past few years, the poor students of the Cardiff University post-graduate journalism course have had to endure my ramblings for an hour of their lives. (I've heard rumours that Glynn has to lock the doors to keep them there, but I discount this on the basis of pure ego.) And every year, I've told them the same thing: I'm jealous of them. They've got a year to experiment and learn, before launching themselves into the most exciting period of journalism since the first newspapers were born in the coffee shops of London. Everything is in flux, the formats are changing, as are the business models. They are the generation who will start to pin down some of the answers, and recreate the world of reporting in the digital era. I'm an aging old hack, with aspirations to a coastal home, with kids and mortgage to match. My room for risk is smaller than theirs is, and should be.

These bright young things need to come out of university with a set of skills, both those taught and those self-acquired, that will give them an edge in this new digital environment. They might use those skills to launch their own sites, or to join traditional publishers and help them reinvent themselves. And that does feel pretty damn cool, if you have an inherent passion for publishing.

But there's a caveat here: it's only worth it if the course is training you with the skills you need to thrive in the real world of 2011, and not the journalism environment of 1991.

Largely, I would suggest, that means teaching journalism students the core skills of journalism, and detaching them as much as possible from the skills of expression. To me, the core streams that Jomec offers - broadcast, magazine and newspaper - seem meaningless in the second decade of the 21st century. While all these streams still exist - at least for now - no a single one of them thrives in isolation any more. TV journalists blog and connect with their audiences on Twitter. Newspaper journalists may spend more time writing for the web than for the dead tree edition. Magazine journalists may be doing more audio (for podcasts) and video than their notionally broadcast colleagues.

And some of those students might well be looking for "none of the above", for a career in purely online reporting. And those careers exists, both in personal journalism startups, and in businesses like RBI, where we now have titles that exist online-only. And I tell you what, when we recruit for those roles we look for both core traditional skills, as well as experience and awareness of everything from data journalism to content promotion and audience engagement through social media.

So, is it worth doing that course? If you use that time as a rapid learning experience, where tutors skilled in the digital era give you core traditional skills, and the mindset needed to innovate in a rapidly-changing environment, then yes. Damn straight it is. You'll rarely get so good a chance to experiment, find your own strengths and weaknesses and build a set of skills to impress an employer or launch your own journalism enterprise.

And, dammit, universities should be able to offer this. Despite the recent efforts of governments of all stripes, universities have always been as much research institutions as teaching ones. Any university which fails to poke at the changes of journalism with a sharp, academic stick is failing in its duty, And the news that people like Judith Townend are now doing good, phd research into the future of our profession is heartening. We need more solid research into the changes in this industry. Too much is anecdote, evangelism and guesswork right now. The more hard facts and evidence we have to shape the publishing choices we make, the better.

So, if you ignore research, choose to just be a passive sponge instead of an active experimenter, and join a course that's still focused on the traditional models of publication, then congratulations. You've just racked up a huge debt for the sake of nostalgia.

iPad over the Atlantic

Using my iPad as in-flight entertainment

A meeting at work this morning reminded me of something I noticed on the flight over to Florida at the tail end of last year and which is worth sharing.

Inspired, possibly, by reading Runway Girl who has talked about this as a possibility, I had my iPad all loaded up with movies, TV and games ready to entertain me for the near-9 hour flight. And it did the job just great. I still had around 40% battery life left at the end of the flight. (Can anyone name the film I'm watching in the photo? :-) )

But that wasn't the thing that was interesting. Here's what was: the guy next to me was also using an iPad (he was watching opera videos). And so was the woman across the aisle from me (playing Fruit Ninja, mainly). And so were two other people in the block of five seats she was sitting in. And so were other people all up and down the plane. As many people were using iPads as were watching the in-flight entertainment - and this was just in the economy class.

We found out earlier in the week that Apple has shipped 15m of these things. And it's beginning to show...

January 18, 2011

The Times opens up (a little)

Talking of RSS, I note than some more changes have hit everyone's favourite paywalled enterprise, The Times online.

First up, the blogs now have a free-to-air front page, and the main page is also available to view. Here's Ruth Gledhill's Articles of Faith, for example.

You'll still need to cough up to see the full posts, though. And the blogs now have RSS feeds, too (again, here's Ruth's, by way of example). They're not full text feeds, indeed, sometimes they're not even the whole of the first sentence, but it's another step towards a more conventional approach to blogging. I wonder if login-protected full text is next for subscribers? It's certainly technically possible.

As I've said before, I don't agree with a lot of what The Times is doing, but I do admire their willingness to iterate and experiment with the paywall. 

Rumours of RSS's demise are greatly exaggerated

So, I missed that whole "RSS is dead, I tell you! Dead! DEAD!" meme that made the rounds a few weeks ago, by virtue of being on holiday. I'm glad, frankly, because attention-grabbing link bait by tech bloggers in pretty low down on my list of "favourite types of blog post".

But a discussion this morning with Patrick Smith and Paul Hood reminded me of it, and my initial reaction before I ignored the whole business: "Nonsense; I'm using RSS more than I ever did". I'm actually adding to the number of feeds I subscribe to, and not reducing them. And here's why:

feeder sharing

That's Reeder on my iPad. The iPad has completely changed my attitude to RSS, for a number of reasons:

  1. A tablet is a way better form factor for reading blog posts and news articles than a computer screen ever was. I can sit back and enjoy a good read.
  2. Flicking between posts on a touch screen is far more satisfying than clicking with a mouse or hitting a keyboard key.
  3. The sharing options for the new generation of RSS readers that jostle for attention in the app store are intuitive and very useful. Anything I find interesting can be pushed to Twitter or Facebook for sharing with my friends, stored in Instapaper for later reading, mailed to family members, or to myself, if I want to blog about it later.
  4. Syncing through Google Reader means I can keep up with my feeds on my phone, on my iPad, in my desktop RSS software or on the web.

It's an essential part of my job to keep on top of the latest trends in publishing and publishing technology, and the RSS/iPad combination has not just made this easier, it's made it a damn sight more pleasurable, too.

I doubt that RSS reading in this form will ever be a truly mainstream activity. For most, I think, links shared through Twitter or Facebook will be enough. But for those of us who are committed infovores through inclination or professional necessity, the experience of feed reading is just getting better and better right now.

January 17, 2011

We Blog. And weblog posts.

This is a post or entry on a blog. This is not the latest blog on a blogsite. I am the blogger. If you leave a comment below, you are the commenter. Leaving comments on a post does not make you a blogger...

Now, you've probably had one of these reactions:

  • Huh? I though this was a blog. I wrote a blog the other day.
  • Yes! Carry on fighting the good fight!
  • Meh. Too late. Semantic drift has won.

I vacillate wildly between the last two, until I have to run a course or strategy session for a group of people here, and find the word "blog" causes huge confusion. And, with that in mind, I'd just like to cheer on Meg Pickard who has updated and reposted her Blog vrs Blogpost: a note on terminology. And by "cheer on", I mean "link to". Because she is right. And quite witty, too.

Compulsory tech for journalism students

In a recent edition of This Week in Google (I'm catching up on my podcasts), Jeff Jarvis mentioned that they require journalism students at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism to come in with an Apple laptop and "strongly recommend" that they have an iPhone or Android device as well.

I know that a number of British journalism educators read this (and a number of their victi students do, too), and I'd be really interested to hear if they have a "required technology" list, too and, if not, why not...

Online Communities, headed to the (office) wall

I'm back in our Sutton office for the first time after my holiday (I went to Procter Street on Friday, to a wee shock...) and these were waiting for me:

xkcd maps
Yes, they're proper posters of the xkcd online community maps from 2007 and 2010. I like to buy things from online comics I enjoy, as that's a large part of their business model, and I thought these would look great on the office wall. Karl suggested getting them framed, and I think I might well do that...
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January 8, 2011

iPhone, Verizon and US-centric blogging

The current round of hype about the iPhone coming to Verizon in the US tells you everything you need to know about the US-centric nature of most tech reporting right now. The rest of the world, where the iPhone has been on multiple carriers for years, can rightfully yawn and flip to the next blog post. Even the fact that the new VeriPhone will be based on a different technology (CDMA rather the GSM) is pretty much irrelevant to the rest of us, who only have GSM networks anyway.

Mind you, my sense of irony compels me to tell you that I'm writing these words in the US...


January 7, 2011

Quora: Over-hyped and flooding my in-box

Time for a confession: I'm a Quora sceptic. There's nothing specific about the service itself that's causing this - I've barely used it so far - but the way both it and people around it are behaving suggests to me that we have a flash in the pan here.

First of all, my in-box is full of Quora spam. Several people have pointed out to me that the service is replete with granular e-mail notification settings, which is great, but the fact that the defaults are so, well, spammy, just sets my alarm bells ringing. Here's what happens: someone signs up for Quora, adds their Twitter list, and every single person on their Twitter list who is on Quora with default e-mail settings gets an e-mail. With a couple of dozen people who follow me on Twitter joining Quora every day, that's a lot of spam. Dumb.

Also, my gut feeling, as I've blogged before, is that the Next Big Thing, whatever it turns out to be, won't be this hyped. And Quora is really hyped right now. Every previous Next Big Thing, from blogging, through Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and more has gone through an extended period of quiet use by a small, but steadily growing pool of users and evangelists, before the real mainstream growth kicks in. I've never seen a major Next Big Thing on the web go from zero to hero in about 10 days.

I'm putting Quora down and walking away. If it's still looking useful in a month's time, I'll re-evaluate. But I'm not keen to waste time on the Next Flash In The Pan.

January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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