One Man and His Blog: July 2011 Archives

July 2011 Archives

July 28, 2011

Estates Gazette launches iPad app

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The good folks at Estates Gazette have launched their first iPad app. The Special Edition focuses around the property issues (and property people) involved in sporting events like the Olympic Games, coming to a London near you next year.

There's a real mix of images, text and video, and the whole shebang is free to you on the App Store, thanks to sponsorship from property firm CBRE.

A few more screen shots:

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July 27, 2011

Twitter account ownership, logic lessons and what the BBC really lost

So, earlier in the week, the world and her husband tweeted and linked this piece, suggesting that the BBC had lost, lost I say, 60,000 followers because Laura Kuenssberg took her Twitter account with her to ITV. The horror. And the predictable warfare between the "social media is a personal medium" and "social media is about marketing messages" camps broke out. (FWIW, I'm firmly in the former camp, for reasons we'll go into later in this post).

Cue much discussion, wailing and bemoaning and evangelical posturing about who should own what in social media. Ugh. It's rapidly becoming the new journalists vrs bloggers discussion.

Thankfully, there is some new thinking in here.  I think Martin Belam really nails it when he attacks the other part of the proposition, which no-one else seems to have questioned:

If you take TV as the analogy, when a series on BBC2 that has been pulling in 1.2 million viewers ends, we don't generally go around saying that "the BBC has lost 1.2m viewers" and assume they are totally lost to the BBC. We expect that they still consume some other BBC programmes, and probably some of them still on BBC2.

Spoilers: based on his sample, the answer is that the BBC lost nowhere near 60,000 followers. Check out his arithmetic and stuff on currybet. So, Martin's wee bit of anlysis suggests to us that the whole underlying argument of the piece is flawed. The BBC may have lost 60,000 Follows, but Follow does not equate to Follower, because people are capable of following many people. It's a classic logic error which, admittedly, makes for fantastic linkbait.

So where does that leave us? Well, certainly not with the message that media outlets should own absolutely the Twitter accounts of everyone tweeting for them. John Bethune has some intelligent thoughts on how to address the situation.

Here's an additional thought: if the BBC had claimed the account, and switched it to @BBCNormanS for Kuenssberg's replacement, how would the people who found themselves suddenly following a person they did not choose to follow feel? Would they be annoyed that the BBC had forced them into following someone else? Quite probably, in some cases. And there's a chunk of relationship damage that almost certainly outweighs the costs in terms of Follows inflicted here.

Brands are accumulations of people in the end; people's work, personalities and output. And any brand that puts all of its eggs in the basket of a single Twitter user or account in putting all its eggs in one basket. That's foolish. A brand which spreads itself across multiple social media accounts of its staff - of its constituent parts, if you like - benefits not only from reduced risk of loss, but also benefits from the multiple relationship streams developed as a result.

Tom Callow's piece seems, to me, to be a classic example of the "command and control" approach to brand marketing clashing with the more personalised, distributed nature of social media. And that's a fight that's going to be going on for a long time to come, I suspect. But, we can see the outcome already. However much people might like to claim that people do, I don't have conversations with brands, I have conversations with people. And if they're good people, I think that much better of the brand.

What the BBC has lost is not 60,000 followers. What they have lost is Laura Kuenssberg's relationship with 60,000 people. And no amount of Twitter account claiming could allow them to retain that relationship. Guess what? Your staff just got more important.

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How do we report the feelings of suffering?

Bit off my normal patch, but a fascinating read:

Within the swathe of responsible reportage and post analysis, trying to convey an hour and a half of fear, human suffering and "being there" is something journalism in its present form attempts, partially succeeds (to degrees) and also struggles to convey. Within the boundaries of realism and journalism of probity it claims rightly so to make sense - a matter of semiotics and narrative.

David Dunkley Gyimah meditates on ways of capturing the emotion from horrific events beyond traditional journalism.

July 22, 2011

#likeminds Business Book Club: Making Ideas Happen

Like Minds Book Club Scott Belsky

Those who know me are aware that, on the whole, I prefer the arrive late/ leave late approach to work. I skip the worst of the commuting, get more done befoe I leave home, and generally feel better about life. In my world, the early bird might catch the worm, but it gets grumpy and doesn't eat it because he feels a little sick.

But some things are worth getting up early for. I'm a big fan of the Like Minds events, and the idea of a business book club from them could just be tailor-made for me. And so, I dragged myself out of bed early enough to join them at The Hospital Club this morning to hear Scott Belsky talk about his book Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality.

After a rather scrummy bacon buttie and some pain au chocolat (which are pretty much worth getting out bed for, frankly), we settled down to hear him explain how the hell to get creative people to actually buckle down and deliver.

Scott Belsky

Most ideas never happen, suggested Belsky. He wishes for an idea meritocracy, where only the best survive... Don't we all? And he, like the rest of us has become convinced that ideas don't happen because they're great. That takes away the romantic notion that a great idea will come to fruition.. Most ideas never happen because of the double-edged sword of creativity. When an idea strikes, energy and excitement is high. But it subsides as you get into execution, eroded by the drudgery of project management. How do you escape the drudgery and return to the excitement? To many of us just come up with a new idea and get excited by that instead, so things never get completed.

One shouldn't understimate the gravitational force of operations, suggested Belsky. The demands of the grind take over, and the ideas never get executed. A strategic offsite gets overwhelmed by daily life. Creative people tend to be disorganised. So, getting ideas in all about defying the odds. Some teams are able to do that again and agaimn - how?


You have to overcome reactionary workflow, the endless stream of communication that can blight our lives. We're in the era of reactionary workflow, pecking away at the inboxes of our lives and trying to stay afloat. Belsky gives the example of a friend who commuted by car, and found himself a deep thinking/sacred space while driving. Then he got a new car with iPhone linkage. Goodbye non-stimulation time. Creating windows of non-stimulation where you ignore social media and e-mail inputs and focus down on the things you want to achieve can be incredibly helpful.

And you should spend time on organisation. The equation:

Creativity x Organisation = Impact

It doesn't matter how much creativity you have, if you don't invest time in organisation, you will have zero impact. For the last three years Apple, a company reknowned for creativity, has won an award for the best supply chain management. Many have speculated that COO Tim Cook is as important to the company as CEO Steve Jobs.

Other ideas:

  • Organise with a bias to action
  • Go into creativity workshops and focus on the action steps
  • If meetings lead to nothing actionable - replace them with an e-mail? A stand-up?
  • Culture of capturing action steps.
  • Surround yourself with evidence of progress

Communal forces

Three base types of people:

  1. Dreamer - something new all the time. Goes to bed happy when there are new things in the pepline
  2. Doer - says "no", extinguishes ideas. Goes to bed happy with nothing new in the pipeline
  3. Incrementalist - rotates between the two. They create too much and never scale them.

Value the team's immune system. Doers can extinguish distractions. Dreamers bring new things. Empower different people at different times based on which of these three groups they fall into.

Share your ideas liberally and allow others to comment on them. Those which garner the most reaction are probably the ones you should focus on.  Chris Anderson just pushes all his ideas on his blog (both internal and external.) Is there a risk of premature sharing, and your ideas being nicked? The benefits outweigh the costs.

Fights force people to explore each other's opinion. However don't let these fights push people into apathy. When you stop exploring opinions, you stop performing.

Other ideas:

  • Don't be burdened by consensus.
  • Overcome the stigma of self-marketing
  • Curate because it attracts attention, and then people will listen when you have something new to say.


And he finshed on a note that I found particularly compelling: gain confidence from doubt.

"If 99% of people think you're crazy, you're either crazy or onto something. We shun people before we celebrate them. Status quo is the grease on the wheels of society."

But sometimes, status quo is another word for terminal decline...

It was a good talk, and I'm now throughly lookiong forward to diving into the book. Scott Gould has already reviewed it, and comments from the other book clubbers should start flowing over the week. Ve Interactive blogged the event, too. 

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July 19, 2011

Google+ hits the iPhone

Google+ for iOS

Composing in iOS

The Google+ app for iPhone and iPod Touch is here.

First impressions? Looks good, has some features that the desktop version doesn't - back lacks some from the website, too. It'll take a few days' testing to really form an opinion.

July 18, 2011

Essential reading: Reuters on the NotW culture

Compelling stuff:

"We used to talk to career criminals all the time. They were our sources," says another former reporter from the paper who also worked for Murdoch's daily tabloid, the Sun. "It was a macho thing: 'My contact is scummier than your contact.' It was a case of: 'Mine's a murderer!' On the plus side, we always had a resident pet nutter around in case anything went wrong."

Provided that Reuters' Georgina Prodhan and Kate Holton have properly sourced all of this, and I'd be amazed if they haven't, it's damning.

Morning Coffee Reading: 18th July 2011

Commuter's Delight

For the first time in a little while, I caught the train from Shoreham-by-Sea to London for a day at Procter Street. That gave me the chance to catch up on my RSS feeds, and here's a few things of note:

Coffee from the wonderful Toast by the Coast. ;-)

July 14, 2011

Google+ : Who You Know Changes Everything

Google Circles

I'm coming to the conclusion that it's very hard to make sweeping statements about Google+ right now.

I'm seeing three principal reactions from people who are using it:

  1. "It's great. Love it." - this was my reaction in my post yesterday, and you can see more of it in this public thread I started earlier today.
  2. "It's dull and empty" - this is summed up by this cartoon. It's principally a social problem right now - these people have yet to find interesting people on the service to follow.
  3. "The user experience is a real problem"

Initially, I struggled to understand that last response. It just wasn't congruent with my time spent in the service at all. And then I spotted something in my RSS reader that made it much, much clearer.

Joanne Jacobs has written a long piece of criticism of Google+. There's much I agree with in there - the current mobile interface is a joke, for example, and the lack of search functionality is shameful - but also bits I disagree with. She's right to point out that posting from Tweetdeck or Seesmic-like clients would be great, but I think she does Google a disservice by not mentioning the fact that they've promised an API for this until the comments. I think it's perfectly justified to not want to lock down an API when they're still field testing the service. And I'm not sure I agree with her point on the user experience issue, simply because this statement is just not my experience of Google+:

G+ enables long form posts with long comments.  Sure, this means you can explore an issue in more detail, but because most posts are long, the amount of scrolling you have to do to access new information sources is just unusable.

My stream is largely populated by shorter posts and links, and not with longer posts at all. I've hardly seen any in the last fortnight. This, perhaps, suggests that Google+ really is a framework for interactions, and if your social circle choose to primarily engage in long-form interactions, the service is, in its current form, not the place for you to be doing so. Mine aren't, so it's working OK, for now.


But on the other hand, people clearly are using it for long-form posts, including some people (in what looks suspiciously like an attention-seeking move to me) are even switching their blogs over to the service. And so Google clearly has a design issue to deal with, because people are using the service in ways it doesn't appear to be intended for.  Now, if Google really doesn't want it used this way, it'll be a self-limiting issue. Those who try will eventually be driven away by the frustrations (or their audience will). Problem solved.

But thing's don't often seem to happen that way. Those of us who joined Twitter waaaay back in 2006 will remember a system without any supporting apps, which had no support for hashtags and no support for @replies. The last two were both user innovations which Twitter only supported later. In the case of @replies, they actively resisted the move for a long time, before acquiescing. When it came to retweeting, Twitter effectively bulldozed the user-created style with their own native retweets.

Google+ is even earlier in that cycle. It's only a couple of weeks into a limited field test - a 0.1 release more than a 1.0.  They're evidently listening and learning, and with significantly more attentiveness than Twitter ever has. But I don't envy them trying to build a system that people are forcing into such widely varying use cases.

July 13, 2011

Confession: I was wrong on Google+

Google+ in action

I owe Google an apology. When I first posted about Google+, I gave in to the snark impulse. And, to be fair, i had reason. Google Wave was an over-hyped road-crash, and Google Buzz was just a road-crash. The company's record in Social was poor.

And, to my surprise, I find myself using Google+ more than I use Facebook or Twitter right now, and having more interesting conversations. It sits neatly between the two services, being slightly more functional than Twitter, and a lot less cluttered than Facebook. For me, that's proving to be a sweet spot that makes it a more useful part of my day to day routine. I dip in and out of Twitter to see what's happening generally. I dive into Facebook once a day or so, just to see what friends are up to. But, right now, I'm going into Google+ periodically through the day for good conversations. And, in that, it's a truly successful social product.

Now, to be fair, my experience with those older product meant that I went into the Google+  environment forewarned. I've not added very many people at all whom I don't know, and am ruthlessly segregating into Circles at the moment I add them. And that's what's made it such a productive environment, because I've got so much more control than I do elsewhere. And possibly, that's going to be the differentiating feature of this product - the control it gives the user.

Here's a few specific things I've noticed:

  1. I have Friends in Google+ who aren't even in Facebook. There are people who are very, very anti-Facebook, and this offers them the core functionality of the service without much of the cruft that comes with it (mainly, the endless, horrible app-spam).
  2. Circles is more significant than some people think, being less about privacy per se as about control and filtering. Being able to select only certain groups of people to see or share with at any time makes it a much more efficient social environment than Twitter or Facebook. While you can create lists in both of those services, they were retro-fitted and aren't in the core of the application. Conversely, in Google+, you have to put people into a Circle to follow them at all, so the segregation is built into the use of the application. Plus, it's fun.
  3. Noisy celebrity types, with huge numbers of followers are actually a definite minus in this service. I've dropped a couple of "web celeb" types, just because their streams cause too much noise in my own stream.

So, sorry Google. And good work.

You can find me on Google+ here, if you fancy joining in.

July 11, 2011

Jon Snow on phone-hacking and the decline of the press

Fascinating post from Jon Snow on the whole Politics/Press/Broadcast issue thrown up by the phone-hacking saga:

The relationship between print and broadcasting has always been tense. We both resent and depend upon each other 'out on the street'. But these days, the power of print is reducing so fast, that that tension is becoming less obvious. This is one element in what has happened with News International. Amid the dog-eat-dog world of journalism, despite News International's vast multinational well-connected strength, it has become more possible to risk questioning what is going on.

Decline begets decline...

I give up. You win, Amazon

Kindle kindling

After NotW: what might the future of media look like?

I'm loathe to join the general mob of bloggers posting about every little twist and turn of the phone-hacking scandal, and the closure of the News of the Screws World. That market niche is filled sufficiently. I'm more interested in trying to discern the long-term consequences of what's happening now; how this might change the media landscape over the next 10 years or so.

Here's three things playing on my mind right now:

Regulation's Rise

In one area, I'm distinctly worried, as I suggested on Friday. The regulation system for journalism is under review, and it looks awfully like the days of the PCC are numbered. And what will replace it?

I can't say I'd trust either main party on this - New Labour was just as busy sucking up to News International's brands as Cameron's Tory party has been, and it's worth bearing in mind that for all the left's accusations that Murdoch's papers are essentially right-wing, they've supported Labour for three out of the four most recent general elections... As one of my colleagues pointed out over lunch, the LibDems have no skin in this game, but only because they were never considered significant enough.

Our politicians are smarting from the expenses scandal, and now they're having their overly cosy relationship with elements of the media pulled apart. Will they respond with honour, justice and a regard for the good of political discourse in this country? Or will they try to emasculate the press so that an investigation like the expenses one would no longer be possible? Hope for the former, prepare to fight against the latter.  And maybe the LibDems have a chance to start redeeming themselves in the eyes of many of the public here.

And there's a bigger challenge for them to consider: how can any regulation framework possibly function without some oversight of online-only publications? And how do you separate the powerhouses like Guido Fawkes and (possibly) the Huffington Post UK, from the thousands of independent bloggers doing their thing? Is it even feasible?

The Age of Social Publishing

However important or not you feel the role of social media was in the protests against the News of the World, we're almost certainly seeing a shift in the relationship between the traditional media and the people formerly known as the audience. The advent of Facebook, Twitter and other forms of low-input social media has actually brought into being the concept of everyone being able to publish. While the visionaries of a decade ago might have envisaged the idea of one man, one blog as the primary means of creating that mass publication environment, social networks have actually delivered on the promise. Before now, people's only option to show disapproval of journalists was not to buy the paper - and The Sun in Liverpool is a good example of that. Now they can target the advertisers, and other buyers of the paper, who might be unaware of what's happening. And they can help bring down an entire newspaper.

The model of active publishers and passive audience is broken, and this is just another example of the "audience" beginning to wake up to its own power, and flex its new muscles. And, for us in the media, it's a warning shot across our bows, a reminder that we'll have far more success in the future working with the audience - Rusbridger's "mutual media" - that merely talking at them. And that may require a different sort of journalist. The NotW crisis has been fuelled by that particular breed of news journalist for whom the adrenaline hit of getting the story outweighs everything else - morality, legality and relationship. This byline junkies can be incredibly powerful force in society if harnessed carefully - and an amoral disaster in the wrong context. We need journalists like these, but in an audience-empowered age, we can't afford to let them run the show. That needs to be in the hands of those who understand and respect their audience, and know how to work with them.

A Habit, Broken

Also, I wonder how many of the people who were buying the News of the World are just going to walk away from newspapers? Will they just transfer their purchasing affections elsewhere, and perhaps return to a putative Sun on Sunday, or will they just use this as a "jumping off point" for the whole concept of Sunday newspaper buying? Will this be the critical event that breaks the habit?

Thanks to Paul Bradshaw for some impromptu post-publication subbing of this. ;-)


July 8, 2011

Worth Remembering: What Good Journalism Looks Like

What does Cameron's statement on the News of the World mean for journalists?

Charlie Beckett nails what's been bothering me since I saw the Prime Minister's press conference this morning:

But the bigger story is the proposed review of the whole relationship between the press and power.

Cynics will say that the Prime Minister is using the idea of a review of British journalism as a way of kicking current problems into long-term long grass. But let's take this at face value. British politicians have traditionally kept well out of commenting on the news media, let alone trying to change it. If you mess with the press you risk getting bitten by the hand that feeds you electoral success (if you see what I mean). But now Murdoch is on the run, politicians have become emboldened. Public opinion really does seem to be in favour of stopping the worst abuses of press behaviour. So politically, it is now possible.

Early days yet to see if this will be for good or ill, but I suspect that the longer-term impact of the News of the World closure will be felt in this change, rather than the firing or imprisonment of current or former News International execs.

Polis is holding an event to discuss what happens next. Might be worth attending...

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July 6, 2011

HuffPo and the market value of journalism

Huffington Post UK

OK. I'm irritated now. Perhaps it was inevitable that the media response to the launch of Huffington Post UK today would be dominated by the fact that the majority of the content contributors don't get paid. Or rather, and here's the heart of my irritation, they're not getting paid money.

I would suggest that our professional expectations are skewing our view of what the Huffington Post is offering. There may not be any money changing hands, but there is still a transaction. The bloggers provide content, the HuffPo provides exposure. And for people who make their living in other ways bar writing, that exposure can be very valuable. As Neville Hobson puts it:

It also means that I’ll be writing for a mainstream medium. That traditionally means you need to be a journalist, which I’m not. I don’t know yet who any of the other bloggers are who’ll be writing for the UK edition, but my guess is that a majority will not be journalists.

This isn't a new model. Many business to business titles publish expert comment or advice from industry professionals, who contribute copy for exposure. In effect, they are advertising their expertise. It's a transaction that works well for publishers, writers and readers, and has for, literally, decades. The only difference is that the HuffPo is doing this in a bigger and more mainstream way.

I think people are misreading the situation. The market value of content is impossible to define, because it's too wide a category. The market value for journalism is a more interesting issue, because a lot depends on what you mean by journalism. If you mean reporting - finding out unpublished things, proving them and publishing, well, I think the market value is largely unaffected by what the HuffPo is doing. If you mean spouting your opinions at the world - well, I think this launch makes the market value for that very clear indeed.

Five (random) thoughts about phone-hacking and ethical standards

Phillips, Hari, News of the World. Not been a great week or so for journalism, has it?

Five thoughts, and then I'm stepping away from this for a while:

  • You really don't need 1000 words from me on this topic, because every other journalism blogger will already have done it.
  • Journalists are normally quite ready to tar whole groups of people with the same brush: football fans, bloggers and immigrants all know this well. Yet, suddenly, when it's our reputation on the line, it's important to distinguish the bad few from the good majority…
  • Those old arguments about journalists being so much more professional and ethical than bloggers have had a grave dug for them by Johann Hari, and the News of the World folks are busy burying the coffin.
  • It's natural that journalists have a slightly skewed sense of how important "the story" is. What's building suggests a systemic problem where "the story" becomes more important that ethics or facts. Our industry needs a perspective check.
  • The Guardian deserves respect for pursuing the phone hacking story with such vigour, and the New Statesman has earned my respect for not letting Hari off the hook just because he's "one of" them.

Of HuffPos, blogs and journalists, of bloggers and kings

Tracey Ullman, of all people, perfectly catches the media dynamic of our age in (inevitably) HuffPo UK:

When King George V died, his time of death was withheld so that the The Times could break the news rather than the late monarch suffering the indignity of having the evening papers run the story. Can you imagine if a rogue chamber maid had blogged back then: "They're telling porkies, he's been cold for bleedin hours!"

Can you imagine that not happening now?

July 5, 2011

Blog all about it…

HuffPo - Blog all about it

Just walked past Holborn station on my way to get a coffee and saw this being waved in my face everywhere. It's on the back cover of the free Stylist magazine. Huffington Post UK is clearly getting some money spent on its launch… published my pre-launch thoughts on it yesterday. Tomorrow, when it goes live, I'll probably have more that 140 words to contribute.

July 4, 2011

Why future media businesses might not look like current ones #1

Of note:

Parenting site Mumsnet has launched a network of blogs by writers including high-profile names and parents. The Mumsnet Bloggers Network will provide bloggers with exposure to its members. Revenue from advertising will be split between the blogger and Mumsnet, based on how many page views each blog generates.

Reporting by Charlotte McEleny for New Media Age

You can see more detail at the Mumsnet site. Rival site Netmums has something similar.

These don't look much like the parenting magazines of old, do they?


Essential reading: Gruber on attribution

Essential reading for journalists this morning: John Gruber on the subtleties of online attribution:

Not even including a link to the source of a story is dishonest. My problem with Fried’s “an Apple enthusiast site” attribution is more nuanced. That attribution, including a link, is not dishonest. But it is severely slanted, and it is disparaging.

Why do we put bylines on stories in the first place? Because writers deserve credit, obviously. But bylines also serve the reader. All work is better when it is signed by its creators.

If the Hari business proves anything, it's that journalists need to stop talking about how damn professional we are compared to bloggers and actually be professional…


July 1, 2011

Of Paywalls and Cupcakes

It's the tail end of the day, and I'm just emerging from a long meeting with my boss. It was a good meeting, but I'm tired and ready for a weekend.

And then reception calls. A very puzzled security guy tells me there's someone down there with some "pastries" for me. Uh, what?

As it happens, this:

Cupcakes celebrating the Times paywall's subscribers

Cupcakes. Cupcakes spelling out 100,000 in fact. And why's that?

Well, The Times paywall has crossed the 100,000 paying subscribers threshold. And understandably, they're celebrating. And they appear to be sending people who've written about it some cupcakes. Which is nice.

And, yes, this is something to celebrate. I have some issues with The Times approach, and some things I like. I can't be a paywall-sceptic, because I work for a business that makes money off them. But, in a more positive vein, I am in favour of business model experimentation, and some stuff they've done is really quite smart. So, in a spirit of celebration and experimentation, I'm about to stuff my face with a cupcake or two.

If you want more cogent analysis of the news, can I refer you to George Brock?



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