One Man and His Blog: November 2012 Archives

November 2012 Archives

November 30, 2012

A silence, and an anniversary...

On the Finnish DockApologies for the sudden outbreak of silence around here - look on it as the lull before the storm, if you like. This week is likely to be quiet, as I'm deep in a deadline crunch or five, with Hazel's christening and a trip to Paris coming up soon. Next week, of course, will be the normal storm of liveblogging from Le Web...

Things have been so busy, in fact, that I missed the anniversary of my redundancy on Wednesday. A year before, after lunch, I was pulled into a meeting in an anonymous little HR meeting room, and told that my days with RBI were over. At the time, all I could think was that I was in the middle of buying a house with my first child on the way, and suddenly I had no job. A year on? I'm too busy to note the passing of the day. Between flying to Helsinki with some brilliant people, working with the next generation of journalists, and keeping up my commitments to various other clients,  things are busy, fun and reasonably profitable. Oh, and I'm living in that house, and spending more time than I would have otherwise with baby Hazel.

I'm not prepared to say that being made redundant was the best thing that ever happened to me - the timing was too appalling and stressful for that - but I will say that the way I've spent the year since has been so incredibly rewarding that it more than makes up for it. Certainly, I'm enjoying life, work and family far more than I was this time last year, and I'm significantly more optimistic about the future. 

And that has to be a great thing, right?

November 24, 2012

Paris: the city of the internet of things?

Le Web logoIt seems slightly unbelieveable that, in just over a week's time, I'll be in Paris for Le Web. This year has gone unbelieveably fast, but I'm looking forward to attending for the first time entirely on my own behalf - no agonising over attending a session that might be useful to my employer over one that would be more interesting for me and you guys. I'm attending entirely under my own steam, from my own pocket and as an official blogger once more.

This will be my seventh year at Le Web Paris, and my eighth Le Web, counting Le Web London earlier in the year.  

This year's theme is the internet of things. It was a strong theme at this year's NEXT Berlin, so I'm looking forwward to seeing how the thinking has developed in the seven months since. NEXT is very much a bleeding edge conference, Le Web is where those ideas start hitting the mainstream, so I'll be looking for some more commercial applications of the idea of pervaisve internet-connecetd objects to emerge from the conference. 

No doubt I'll be prinicipally doing my normal thing of liveblogging the sessions as they happen - but I enjoyed my brief sojourn into something a bit different last year, so expect a bit more of that this time around. And if you're going to be in Paris for the event - let me know. I'd love to meet up. 

November 23, 2012

Can we stop the Android/iOS fan war, please?

android-ios-love.jpgI don't often go out of my way to link to stuff I write elsewhere  - but this once, I'm going to. 

I've done a piece for the NEXT Berlin blog on why I think the iOS versus Android fanboy wars are deeply unhelpful, and obscuring the debates we need to be having around the way handheld computing is changing the way we live. 

It appears to be something that's beginning to bubble up in the collective tech blogging conciousness. Marco Armet explores the anti-Apple anger evident in some of the debate, in a piece for his new publication The Magazine. And Brian Hall pkes at some of the stupidity of the coverage in a blog post from earllier today. But both of these carry a pro-Apple, anti-Android slant, and I'm not really very interested in taking sides. 

I think Jeff Eaton summed it up nicely when he kindly retweeded the link earlier:

I'll leave it up to you to decide if my words are wise, but I think there's a palpable difference between being a reasoned advocate of a product and a blind fanatic, loyal to his or her product tribe. And I object to the latter group polluting a discussion they are not capable of engaging with. 

November 22, 2012

When viral marketing eats itself

Last night I tweeted this:

I'm not going to link to the site in question directly from here - you can follow the link in the tweet, if you wish. But I do want to talk about what it represents.

For those who don't want to follow the link, it's a chunk of software for WordPress that forces people to share a link to your content before they can read it -  a sharegate, if you like. That's right - they have to recommend this content to their friends BEFORE they've actually read it. I find the level of disrespect built into that concept staggering. Let's look at the reasons:

  • No respect for the reputation of your reader. You're asking them to put their reputation on the line for something they haven't read.
  • Marketing trumps content. You are blatently making it clear that the marketing is more important to you than the value of the content.
  • Arrogance - you're assuming that everything you create is worth sharing
  • Say goodbye to authenticity or relationship. This is a straight transaction - their reputation for your content.
  • Worse, perhaps, is that you are asking them to swap their friends attention for your content. They - in the short term - aren't even the ones paying... 

This was being actively promoted by Guy Kawasaki on Google+. He's fallen a long, long way. 

The link between photography and curation

Natalie Lloyd:

Seeing through another’s eyes is one of the perennial wonders of photography. Between the frames of an image, we are invited to consider a constructed reality offered by the photographer; what they chose to include, exclude and deem worthy of record or consideration. For those very same reasons, the art of curation often shares the same point of interest: the chance to explore someone else’s vision.


November 21, 2012

Social media for carpetbaggers

I laughed and I laughed and I laughed - and then I became a little depressed at how accurate this is about some people "in social media": 

Matter: is its long-form science journalism worth reading?

Matter partyNearly a week ago, I spent the early evening at the Royal Institution, celebrating the launch of Matter. A few months ago, Matter created a minor sensation in journalism circles by raising many times it goal on Kickstarter to bring its vision of long-form science journalism for the digital age to life. I was a backer of Matter (but not a huge one - it was in the early stage of my freelance working, and I was being careful with my cash), and as a result got immediate access to the new book - the first product of Matter's funded publishing operation - when it was launched early last week.

Reading MatterI've held off on writing about it because I wanted to see the actual result first, to read the matter, as it were, and be able to give you an honest appraisal of how it's developing. I downloaded the first Matter ebook - Do No Harm - to my iPad, and read it on the train into London. And didn't think about anything else until I'd devoured the whole thing.

It tells the story of Body Integrity Identity Disorder - an unusual condition where sufferers feel that one or more of their limbs are alien - something that shouldn't be attached to their body. It also tells the story of one person's journey to deal with this situation through amputation, meeting some of the significant people in the field as a result. 

Make no mistake - this is journalism. It's storytelling and research mixed together into a compelling experience. Author Anil Ananthaswamy intertwines the narrative of one sufferer of this disorder on his journey to resolution, with the meat of the current scientific and political thinking on the condition. It deserves the length - both the story and the science are compelling, and at any more parsimounous word count, one or the other would have been neglected. In a way, it reminded me of the very best of quality magazine journalism - happy to tell a human story, unafraid of examining something in depth and unflinching in the face of something people will find isturbing. 

Was my Kickstarter investment in Matter worthwhile? Based on the quality of this release - yes. The test will be how well they can sustain this level of reporting in the coming months, but I'll certainly be awaiting the second release eagerly. 

You can buy Do No Harm from the Matter site for $0.99, or the book is available as a Kindle Single: Do No Harm: The People Who Amputate Their Perfectly Healthy Limbs, And The Doctors Who Help Them for about twice the price from Amazon. 

Go on, treat yourself.

Niching the social network

SAY Media declares that this has been the year of the niche social network:

There was a time when the conventional wisdom said that there was no need for any social network other than Facebook; those days are long gone. Now that Facebook has become a wasteland of app invites, political shouting, and re-shared pictures of kittens for literally everyone and their mothers, it has come to pass that people want social networks centered around a shared interest or community.

This was inevitable. Just as we saw with blogs and forums back in the day, the tendency is for these things to fragment into smaller groups around inch interests over time. The internet still remains the place where a million niches bloom, rather than a land of giants.

SAY has a list of nine small networks that prove its point

How to close an online service gracefully

Festive AdamThe problem with today's startup-centric web culture is that increasing numbers of services fail or get sold, and they close down, taking their content with them. DailyBooth was a hot site, particualry amongst teens and 20-somethings, a couple of years ago. It encouraged you to shoot a daily photo of yourself using your webcam and upload it to the service. I played with it a little, and then it dropped from my conciousness.

Well, the service is now closing, and they dropped users an e-mail with insturctions on how to grab their content. I did so, and then left it as an archive in my downloads folder for a while. I finally got around to dealing with it this morning, and found, to my delight, not just a folder of images, but a set of HTML files with the photos. One quick upload to my server later, and you can now see my (brief) history with DailyBooth captured for posterity.

The contrast with online polls service Vizu which sent an e-mail saying that the service was closing - and that we should screengrab or print out - on paper no less - our polls is rather marked...

November 19, 2012

I remember...

Blogosphere...Hugh, of course. 

Building up to something - but not quite ready to write it yet...

November 15, 2012

Magazines on tablets: publishers' painful lessons

The Adobe Digital Publishing Summit

This year was meant to be the year where I was deep in the production of tablet editions of various B2B mags. Life didn't work out that way, but when I was offered the chance to attend the Adobe Digital Publishing Summit this morning, I couldn't resist the chance to see how things had evolved since I was last involved in actively researching it. The answer?

Well, not quite as much as I was expecting. The stats delivered by Guy Philippson of the IAB weren't a huge surprise - huge growth in mobile traffic, tablet as the dominant force in second screen viewing, tablet use big in the evening and weekends. All things we've seen before. However, he did show some interesting research that showed that users view static ads as annoying interruptions, but actually quite enjoyed playing with interactive ads. Sadly, the later presentations suggested that most agencies just aren't up to delivering these yet, so once again the industry is playing catch-up to the consumer. 

Revealingly, he suggested that over 50% of search traffic will be on mobile devices by next year - a figure he was so impressed with that he asked people to tweet it around, in what I hope was a jokey aside. 

Then came the meat of the day for me - presentations from three publishers actively engaged in creating tablet editions. 

Here's my key takeaways from the event:

Pageflippers are now, enhanced apps are the future.

Dennis doesn't "send all its kids to university" - only a handful of its apps are enhanced apps, rather than magazine replicas. IPC produces mainly replica apps, with a handful of bespoke special editions. Both talked very clearly about a gradual customer migration to enhanced apps, though, meaning that the current page flipping replicas are seen as a stopgap during the early stages of transition. Thankfully, publishers are moving away from the half gigabyte downloads by streaming video instead of embedding it... 

The results are, at best, OK at the moment. 

Dennis's Tim Danton was a little downbeat on the success of the PC Pro enhanced edition on iPad. He said subscription numbers were in the "thousands, not the tens of thousands". However, it is bringing in benefits in incremental increases in subs and advertising revenue. The enhancements he showed off were fairly perfunctory - some basic animations and the like, so I was left wondering if the lack of enthusiasm from the market was the problem, or a less than exciting product. 

Workflow is key

The event organisers Adobe must have been wincing throughout. Pretty much every speaker talked about the workflow problems involved in producing tablet editions. Condé Nast has experimented with both split production desks and integrated one - and surprisingly has fallen on the side of split desks. Their experiences seem to prove that it works better, and that integrated desks tend to become effectively split over time anyway. The roadmap for the Adobe DPS product suggested that there are ways of making this easier already in place - but not being used by the publishers. I'd love to know why. 

Tablet diversification is a real problem...

Liam Keating of Condé Nast made it amply clear that the rise of the cheap Android 7" tablet is causing problems. Publishers can no longer rely on the tablet having the power under the bonnet to handle all the enhanced features they add to magazines - and the 16 by 9 ratio of the screen means another redesign. In the end, they've solved the problem by abandoning dual layouts. Their mags now only work in vertical format, meaning that they only have to design for the two form factors, not for two orientations of two form factors, for four sets of design in total. 

...or is it?

One shocking figure came from Adobe's senior director of product management, Zeke Koch. He said that of all the downloads of Adobe DPS-powered magazines, a grand total of 3% were on Android. 3%. Not 30%. 3%

That suggests that the figures that show that Android users browse the web less than iOS users - and buy fewer apps - apply just as much to magazine tablets. Working on the assumption that the Kindle Fire accounts for the majority of magazine sales, the rest of the ecosystem is essentially dead to publishers right now. 

November 14, 2012

Google Authorship, analytics and the personalisation of search

Authorship analytics in Google+

John Pozadzides of has spotted something interesting - Google has started including authorship analytics in some people's Google+ pages

Authorship, you might recall, is the markup you can add to your webpages, that "claims" them as your work, and which can lead to them appearing in Google with your profile pic, like so: 

Authorship markup

This change means that authors now have access to the sorts of analytics that you had to be a site owner and user of webmaster tools to have before. Great news for journalists who want greater insight into the performance of their work - and a fascinating insight into how Google is incorporating social into the way it works. 

If this is rolled out universally, it's another major step in Google stepping away from the website as the core unit of the web, towards the page and its author - with authorship and author reputation a core part of how search works. 

Google's adoption of social looks like its embedding itself very deeply into its core search product. 

November 13, 2012

On guest blogging and Google

Matt Cutts weighs in:

So, the basic message is "if you're going to do this write/accept, good, rich original content, don't just churn out shoddy content to multiple sources". Put some genuine effort in - get the reward. This is a simple idea, and yet so many people still insist on trying to cheat the system. 

November 12, 2012

PubSubHubub: fat pings for publishers

Here's an issue many people aren't aware of:

He's right, but there's a way around it - something you've probably noticed if you subscribed to feeds from certain services, like Google searches or most big blog platforms. What if, instead of waiting for services like Google Reader to check your feed, you push updates to it? Well, there's a solution that does exactly that, which publishers should be using: PubSubHubub

PubSubHubub was a protocol created back in 2009, as a response to the rise of services like Twitter which "push" updates out to users. Google Reader and other RSS readers only poll their source feeds every hour or so, a schedule which was once unimaginably fast, but in the real time web age seems embarrassingly slow. 

PubSubHubub was designed to solve that problem, by sending out full content "pings" to subscribing sites - like Google Reader - as soon as the content is published. I use it on this blog, and I can see my posts pop into Google Reader within seconds of me updating. 

While I alluded to it in a couple of links back in 2009, I've never really written about it, despite the fact that I implement it on every site I create. I use a Movable Type plugin to implement it here, and there's some perfectly good WordPress options.

Support for this - which was built into most blog platforms a couple of years ago - is what separate those who know their publishing tech from those who don't. Does your site support it?  

November 11, 2012

Silent Sunday

An orange boat in the Adur

Almost entirely disconnected today, because I spent the whole day connecting with my baby daughter, including a lovely walk around the Beach, with her strapped to my chest. I haven't even looked at my e-mail. Blissful. 

November 10, 2012

The professional photographer and his iPhone

Time  shot on an iPhone

Great interview with the photographer who shot a Time magazine cover with an iPhone and Hipstamatic:

I asked him if it was embarrassing as a pro to be carrying an iPhone when most of his colleagues are into Nikon and Canon gear. "People don't think twice about it," Lowy told me. "It's a fast little camera and I do like that on a tough assignment." At times though, he says, "pros will push me aside" assuming he is a tourist or amateur.

It's a nice counter to the gear fetishism that seems to be rampant at the moment - and maybe always has been. 

November 9, 2012

Are smartphones now essential for journalism?

instagram-election.pngBetween hurricane Sandy and the US presidential elections we now have confirmation, if you needed it, that Instagram is a big social player. I can see why Facebook bought it - there's plenty of evidence that people interact more around photos than anything else on Facebook. Instagram -  as a pure photo social network - has an obvious appeal. And people are using it to share so much material around big news events that reporters just can't afford to ignore it. 

Instagram skills are pretty much an essential part of the social media journalist toolbox now. Last week I did some work with the Interhacktives on verification and identification of images from Instagram. It was a good session - but it did expose a problem. A few of the students had BlackBerries or older model Android phones that didn't support Instagram. How could they participate? Some universities now set compulsory tech standards for their students. That might have to expand to phones, if services are going to stay mobile-only, like Instagram. Now, that service is starting to make it a little easier to access material via the web (here's my Instagram feed) - and there are tools that allow you to interact with hashtagged content directly -  but this trend is only going to continue. 

Right now, it feels like an Android or iOS smartphone is pretty close to essential for anyone serious about using social tools as part of their journalism. But am I missing something? 

On journalism and scale

Felix Salmon:

And there’s another inconvenient fact for would-be acquirers of the FT: journalism doesn’t have economies of scale. The bigger that journalistic organizations become, the less efficient they get: salaries rise, new layers of editors and managers appear, and per-person budgets grow all everywhere, for everything from IT to travel expenses. Journalism is a world of diminishing returns: size matters, but it’s also very expensive.

One of the biggest single problem traditional publishers face in the digital transition…

Going Native

Tumblr's iOS app

Tumblr, on its iOS app store description:

We're so thrilled to tell you that our app is now completely native! Get ready for a faster, smoother, and more responsive Tumblr Dashboard.

So, another major social app follows Facebook in abandoning an HTML wrapper app and going full native. The message seems clear: if speed matters, go native.

November 8, 2012

Coffee: doomed by global warming?

Small Batch Coffee at TEDxBrighton

Time to start panicking:

Researchers at Kew believe that the wild arabica coffee bean, whose cultivated cousin is the basis of most of the coffee drunk around the world, could die out in the wild within 70 years. If it does, a main source of genetic diversity, essential in maintaining the health of the cultivated crop, will be lost.

So reports The Times today [£]. Something must be done - future generations of Tinworths will need their coffee as much as I do. 

Still, it's strangely reassuring to know that Kew has a head of coffee research...

November 7, 2012

Ghost: blogging

GhostWell, this looks interesting. No, not ghost blogging (I did a very little of that early in the year, and it's not an experience I'm in a hurry to return to). Ghost is a proposal for a blogging platform  - a "lite" fork of WordPress that focuses back down on it as a core blogging platform. Like Movable Type before it, WordPress has become a steadily more sophisticated and powerful CMS - but it's becoming overkill if you just want to blog.

If this goes anywhere, it might finally tempt me to switch from Movable Type.

But then, I'm cautious. I've had great hopes for a fork of an existing blog platform once before, and that went nowhere...

[via PandoDaily]

November 6, 2012

Tuesday night's fine for electin'

Four years ago, on US election night, I was at The Frontline Club, enjoying their election party. Tonight? Keeping up via the interwebs from my mother-in-law's front room. Oh, and it's my birthday, too. I know how to live.

I'm pulling in information from a variety of sources, but one which is consistently throwing up quirky stories - like the sudden outbreak of Brits Googling "electoral college" -  is Maarten's Trendolizer:

The TrendolizerNot quite sure how he's doing it, as it involves Perl jiggery-pokery, but it's surfacing interesting, timely stuff, and what more can you ask for? 

In my case, "a raid on my mother-in-law's whisky supply" might be the answer...

November 5, 2012

The decline and fall of the dictionary

The dictionary definition of declineThe Next Web:

[...] another well-known brand in the print-based publishing sphere is unfurling the white flag and giving in to the digital revolution, with Macmillan Dictionaries ceasing print to go online only.

While we were sorting books to go on the shelves in our new house, my wife and I got rid of most of the reference books we owned - dictionaries and encyclopaedias were the first to go. Lovely as they were, they are so utterly inefficient compared to sourcing the same information from the internet. 

Nostalgia is not a business model. 

November 4, 2012

Communication: here and now

Seaside mobileSunday was always going to be the hardest day to hit the #back2blog challenge. My weekends have utterly changed since I became a father. They're the time I give my wife some relief from the frantic business of new motherhood - and actually get to spend some time with my daughter. Even the spells when she's asleep tend to get sucked into household chores rather than online stuff. In fact, these weekends are the closest I get to genuinely unplugging - and I'm enjoying it. 

Hazel doesn't care at all about the internet or iPads or magazines yet. At the moment she and I are celebrating the fact we've figured out a way to communicate between us about when she wants to be picked up, and see the world from the excellent vantage point of my shoulder. Hazel drags me into the here - and the now. She has little concept of past or future yet, so here interactions with me are purely in and of the moment. It's healthy. I love it.

November 3, 2012

Habits change slowly

Many, many magazines on a newsrack


Once upon a time, when I had time to kill in a station before catching a train, I used to browse the newsagent. This week, while waiting for a specific train home to Shoreham-by-Sea, I realised with a start that I hadn't done this in longer than I could remember.

Instead, I generally go looking for coffee and WiFi, which handily tend to come together at most stations...

If print continues its decline, I suspect this is how it will be. People won't decide to give up print, it'll just slowly fade from their lives.

November 2, 2012

Post-Sandy Silence

Kottke is suspending posting for the time being:

The situation in New York and New Jersey is still dire** so posting stupid crap seems frivolous and posting about the Sandy aftermath seems exploitive. Information is not what people need right now; people need flashlights, candles, drinking water, safety, food, access to emergency medical care, a warm place to sleep, etc.

The message of how bad things are in parts of the hurricane-hit area does not seem to be making much of the mainstream news. I feel powerless - I'm not even sure who I should donate to that will actually help. 

November 1, 2012

Why Journalists Should Escape Their Desks

I don't always practice what I preach. Yesterday's post, which mentioned not keeping drafts in your blog platform? I'm guilty. Below is the second oldest draft I have (of eleven in total), in the exact form it was left on the 28th of April 2008 (catch you below for some commentary):

French Lunch
Graham's recent post on the Word of Mouth blog bemoaning the rise of lunch al desko reminds me 
Graham's thesis is that the desk lunch is a result of a too-distant relationship with our food. I'd suggest that it also suggest that we're far too attached to our desks in an era when technology is liberating us from it. 

The irony of this one is that this is a subject I believe in passionately: journalists are too wedded to their desks, and not out and about in the communities they report for and on enough. Yet, I've left that post unwritten for four years
Shameful. I'll get to it. It's on my to-do list. But right now, I'm far too exhausted after a long day running a content strategy workshop for a client, and this post is basically a lazy way of fulfilling my commitment to the #back2blog challenge. ;-)


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This page is an archive of entries from November 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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