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Flipboard: Changing The Way We Find Content

I’ve been playing with this on my iPad this morning (like the rest of the social web, it seems):

I’ve been waiting for a game changing content app to emerge on the device since I laid hands on the iPad – far too many apps are still rooted in the print model of consumption. It’s the logical meeting point of social sharing and the interface of the metaphor of the iPad, allowing you to read and view what your friends are sharing in a beautiful layout. 
I’ll write more about this app, without any doubt: 
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The Social Media Grafting Process

I’ve been very busy with community-related stuff since I got back from my hols.

For one thing, I’ve also been taking a long, hard look at the attempts of gaming company Blizzard to retrofit social networking concepts to its massive online game World of Warcraft. You can see my analysis of that over on my WoW blog, but be aware that it’s written in a very gamer-centric way. I think it’s an interesting model of the dangers of getting community wrong as a corporate entity, in a way that many publishers do when they try to add “community pixie dust” to their existing content sites.

Talking of retro-fitting, I’m finding the efforts to recreate blogging in a social network’s image fascinating. Six Apart have been banging on about this for a while, and the new Typepad is very much a blog-centric social network. But it’s been displaced in traffic terms by one of the new social-centric blogging platforms, Tumblr. Posterous is going though huge growth, too. (Rather ironically, in many ways these services resemble evolved version of Livejournal, the very first blog platform I ever used, back in 2001).

I’ve got a gut feeling that the wheel of innovation is turning away from the self-install blog platforms (of which WordPress is the predominant example) towards the hosted services. Posts like this are becoming more and more common:

Personal yak-shaving over the weekend was mostly tidying up a bunch of non-SVNed WordPress installs that were woefully out-of-date (for various values of woeful) that were busy guilt-tripping me. Next time, it’s hosted software all the way (Tumblr, I’m looking at you).

And has been interesting seeing Posterous rather cheekily marketing itself against most existing blog platforms with posts and e-mails like this:

We’d be crazy to declare war on WordPress. It’s the most popular blog platform in the world — gazillions of bloggers have custom WP installations with plugin functionality that Posterous won’t touch anytime soon.

But WordPress isn’t for everyone, a fact supported by the thousands of WordPress users who have switched to Posterous in the last two weeks. So we thought we’d let some of them tell you why they switched.

I’m seeing more and more interesting new launches on hosted platforms, and I have some thoughts I want to explore about how publishers can work alongside the networked communities on these services (hello, New Yorker on Tumblr. And to test and explore that, I’ve been busy signing up for, and reactivating accounts:

One Man’s Social Blogging

You can find me on:

Feel free to follow me on any of those networks if you play there, too…

Social Media Style

So… which bloggers “get” social media best, according to Google?

Google thinks fashion bloggers understand social media better than those covering other industries. So one of the world’s most powerful companies is tapping the brains of some of the world’s most powerful bloggers in order to get a better sense of how they consume and use media. Google is calling the program GStyle.
Interesting, because the reflexive assumption would be that it’s the tech industry. But then, personal experience has show that there are vast swathes of the tech industry that don’t “get” social media at all.


As I mentioned last week – I’m in need of a break. And I think, for my sanity, it’s worth taking a break from this blog, too.

Expect little or no activity here for the next ten days – and see you the other side, hopefully revived and refreshed. 😉

news:rewired – Future of the Niche – #newsrw

Hannah Waldram

Graduated from Cardiff just as the recession hit – so went home and set up Bournville Village, a local blog. Worked with Podnosh. Is now The Guardian’s beat blogger in Cardiff. No office, just her and her laptop. Teamed up with mysociety to provide information which encourages civic engagement.

Kit: laptop, smartphone, handheld cameras and a gorillapod. Uses Google Reader, and Twitter trends, tags and saves in delicious. WordPress for blogging, ScribbleLive for liveblogging. Bambuser for live video, Vimeo for uploads. Just started using AudioBoo. Has a great Flickr community, and also uses TwitPic. Accesses open data sources, like mysociety, Help Me Investigate. Many Eyes and ZeeMaps aren’t very user-friendly but are useful. Scribd great for letters or documents.

Philip Trippenbach

Challenged the assumption that stories are everything. They impose a false narrative with characters, plotline, etc that doesn’t suit everything. People learn more when they engage with things rather than just read them – Civilization (a game) is being used to teach history. Maybe games are the future of journalism?

Kevin Anderson

The story as the atomic unit of journalism is denying us commercial opportunities. There are no easy answers – if anyone tells you that, fire them. In 2000 there was an IndyMedia guy live streaming police from a black MacBook. We’re too slow to take advantage of new tools.

There’s a project to publish a newspaper just using free and open source tools. That’s what we need to be doing. In 2008 he ran social media coverage across America during the elections from his mobile phone. People are running a newspaper purely using free or open source tools.

However, the lack of innovation spreads further than just the newsroom. The commercial side is as bad. The FT is doing good commercial innovation in the UK – but how about the News Room – a combine newsroom and coffee shop?

Suzanne Kavanagh

She’s talking about the significant changes in journalist skillsets – Core journalistic skills, surrounded by degrees of specialisation is different platforms and tools for spreading news. People need to play to their own strengths – don’t try to be everything, specialise and train in what you’re inclined towards.

It’s no longe enough to have the core skills – you need to pick’n’mix in the digital space, too.

Basic Skills

SK: The core skills are the same, but there’s also a need for basic skills, say, filming with a Flip cam

PT:  Everyone needs the ability to connect, to work together, to use collective intelligence.

KA: Not some much skillset as mindset. If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard “it’s not my job”, I’d be rich. It’s the art of the possible. I can’t code, but I know when an Interactive might be appropriate.

HW: Shorthand, chatting to contacts are still core to what I do. Not everyone has to learn how to use audio, but you can learn to use a Flip in 10 minutes – you turn a red button on and off.

KA: There’s a disenchantment with the everyone does everything approach. Move to playing to strengths, and a multi-skilled team.

Karl Schneider from the audience: There’s still an instinct to go “what shall I write about this?” That mindset needs to be broken.

General agreement that it’s about choosing the appropriate medium for the story, rather than forcing the story into the medium.

Just got sucked in, when someone said that we have standards that set us apart from the amateurs. Yes, we do. And sometimes they’re lower, more abusive and more exploitative than the amateurs. There’s plenty of great, high principled amateurs out there.

PT: If I was (through some huge error) in a position to hire journalists, I’d ask where they blog. If they didn’t, goodbye. iPhones now have 720p HD video, soon it’ll be on every crappy mobile phone. There’s no excuse.

KA: We take data and structure it into a particular story. There’s nothing you can do with it after that. There are businesses who are built on adding back in the metadata that we take out of the story.

PT: You can convey the function basis of an activity through interaction without any narrative. That’s the link with games. A game like Budget Hero – where you had to cut the deficit – could teach the situation.

Audience Member: That’s not journalism: that’s education. Your teaching people someone, but are you informing them? (Me: how can you teach without informing someone…?)

KA: There’s a problem with the value of writing over the value of reporting, and they’re not the same thing.

If you were starting today, would you join a big company, or go entrepeneurial?

SK: I’d go small and go netrepeneurual

PT: I used to think that the BBC is like an aircraft carrier, really hard to turn around. I know now it’s like a planet, it creates its own gravitation effect. Your plugged into something huge and powerful, but you’re a tiny part of it.

KA: I’ve seen it all from a tiny newspaper in Kansas to the BBC. Some of the things I want to do require a level of autonomy you can’t get in a large audience. I’m an autonomy freak. WHen I joined the BBC website, I was part of a very well-funded, very collegiate start-up.

PT: It’s not like that any more.

KA: Now there’s just as much risk in a big company as there are in a startup.

HW: I’ve done both. I’m being paid to do something local for a big company.

And we’re done – can I have a beer now, please?

news:rewired Interactive Graphics

Key points emerging from the Interactives session:

  • Interactive graphics need a clear defined purpose. Understand what the users can get out of it, and what makes it different from a static graphic.
  • They take time to produce, so think in terms of updating them to keep them useful over time.
  • Pick a concept that has “legs” in the first place – that won’t get old fast.
  • Coders and designers are different – and you need both
  • You can use human curation of information into the interactive display to add value
  • Old content can be valuable in them – all the BBC’s stories around the 2012 olympics will get new value when the Games start
  • Do you want users to “consume” or “interact”? Pick.
  • It should be a story in its own right, not an addendum to one.
  • People still mainly using Flash (despite iOS issues). Take up for Silverlight-based infographics has been awful.
  • If you don’t trust the data, don’t use it.
  • As you do more and more, you start developing a code library that can speed up later projects.
  • Useful tool: Freebase
  • Book recommendation: The Tiger That Isn’t: Seeing Through a World of Numbers
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news:rewired – Marc Reeves keynote – #newsrw

Liveblogging highlights of a speech. Prone to inaccuracy, omission and typo

By bundling together thousands of readers with one publication, publishers deluded themselves into thinking they had a single community. On local papers,sports readers followed those oases but rarely read the rest of the paper – where the ads were. Online, that became clear as they went straight to the latest news about their team without going through the home page.

Traditional modes of ad and ed splits are outdated. Advertisers are part of the audience. It’s always been about the relationship with the readers – and we deluded ourselves into thinking that it was about the content.

Other businesses are encroaching on our territory – why shouldn’t we encroach on theirs?

If you want to serve a niche, get out of your comfortable journalism role and become a business person. We know our audience isn’t cruising the net all day – so we concentrate on the times that they most often use the net. Mainly it’s the pre-9am e-mail which drives 80% of the traffic to the story.

Marc reviews signups every day that he can, so he can monitor the audience – are some companies under-represented. They’re ruthless about dumping activities that don’t attract views or revenue. If they spends ages wiring on a feature that no bugger reads – they won’t do that again.

Not surprisingly, the questions have started by questioning Marc’s attacks on journalistic received wisdom. Can you go to companies for advertising even which you’re covering them, asked one. Yes, says Marc. He doesn’t use freelancers, but would if they came with a compelling business idea. He thinks national newspapers’ structures cripple them and stop them making money online. He works in the heart of his readership so he’s always bumping into them.