Info

A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

“Bangs” (Muireann Carey-Campbell) asks Oh, Blogging, where art thou?:

I always thought of blogging as a way to give voice to the little guy (or gal, or non-gender conforming individual). We had a chance to create our own media, to be the antithesis of everything that frustrated us about the mainstream. Now every other thing I see in my timeline is an influencer spouting how much they love whatever their brand of choice is that day, with professionally taken photographs, Photoshopped within an inch of their lives.

With all the tools and opportunity to create a media of our own, we’ve become walking advertisements for brands. Ethics and values – all up for the highest bidder.

Yet, even that can go wrong

It’s my blog anniversary (blogiversary?) and today, this blog is…

14.

Yes, fourteen years old. Terrifying. 14 years since I published this drivel. I’m one of the longest-running bloggers I know of now, just through sheer bloody perseverance. Once you get past the decade, it’s hard to see exactly what would stop me, short of serious illness or death. I’ve now been blogging here longer than I’ve lived in a single house. The blog is older than my marriage – if only by a few months. It’s certainly a lot older than the work I do now – but it might be responsible for it.

I’m not quite sure why I feel the need to make this a part of my week pretty much every – but I do.

So, here’s to 14 years of bloody-mindedly writing for internet. I’ll probably carry on doing it for years to come. Don’t moan. Nobody’s forcing you to read…

14 image by Deb Etheredge, and used under a Creative Commons licence

Liveblogged notes from the “Fake News” event at City University, co-organised by The Media Society and the Student Publication Association. Prone to error, inaccuracy, horrible typos and screaming crimes against grammar and syntax. Post will be improved over the next 48 hours.

Jonathan Hewett, our chair, isn’t keen on the phrase “fake news”. What are we actually talking about? Intentionally produced misinformation, that’s designed to be propagated.

Megan Lucero and Jonathan Hewett discussing fake news

Alastair Reid, ex-First Draft News, now independent digital journalist

First Draft was initially set up to deal with user generated content from breaking news events – and the verification of it. But over the last 18 months the rapid growth of misinformation and disinformation has shifted that focus.

Megan Lucero, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism

That phrase is not one she’ll be using. It’s being to delegitimise the press, and so we shouldn’t use it. Yes, a small sliver of it is bad journalism, but there’s far more misinformation, propaganda and so on. There’s a glut of information – we need more journalists to sift through it.

James Ball, special correspondent, Buzzfeed

He’s writing a book on bullshit and “fake news”. The web is full of hoax sites full of deceptive news. It’s the pantomime villain behind this era of bullshit. You can make a distinction between fake news and hyperpartisan news, or accurate stories spun out of all proportion. Lots of people on the centre left are sharing stories about “Trump’s secret plan”, the same sort of conspiracy theory thinking that we criticise the far right for. But this isn’t going to be solved by Google withdrawing ads, or Facebook tagging content.

How did we get here?

AR: Social media has a huge role in that. Anyone can publish anything they want to. The barriers to reaching thousands or millions of people have collapsed. Five years ago everyone was hailing the Arab Spring as a wonderful example of social media use. But that freedom has now been weaponised by those with an agenda. 15 years ago blogging was being talked about in the same way.

ML: It’s exploited a very beautiful part of humanity: trust and integrity. People trust what they read. Your world view was the paper you subscribed to. We have to change that. We need to critically assess what we read online. (more…)

It’s awards time. No, not those ones. These ones:

Yup, Blogosphere magazine is launching some blogger awards:

There are ten categories in the awards, including the eight different sections we have within the magazine, a community award and… drumroll please… the Blogosphere blogger of the year award. The winners of each category will be featured in issue 14 of the magazine, with the Blogosphere blogger of the year winner taking the FRONT COVER. Yes, you heard us right, if you win blogger of the year, you’ll be our September issue cover star.

Nominations kick off on March 1, so if you’re in the fashion/beauty/lifestyle/food/cooking blogging axis, prepare to start motivating your audience…

Me? I’ll sit it out until business bloggers get added. 😉

MG Siegler on almost being able to switch full-time to his iPad – but not quite:

This is especially frustrating to me because I see glimpses of the computing future I could have. Tonight, for example, I brought only my iPad to a cafe to write this. I didn’t have to bring a big bag to lug my laptop. I just grabbed the iPad and walked out the door. The writing experience with the external keyboard cover for the iPad Pro is fantastic. No distractions.

But when I publish this post, I’ll still do so when I get home. From my laptop.

His argument is that the iPad is 90% of the way to being a laptop replacement – but that last 10% matters. I suspect there are a lot of people, myself included, in his position. We’d like to go iPad first (and maybe only) – but it’s not there yet.

As trailed a while back, Instagram has now added the ability to upload multiple images or videos to a single post:

It’s an interesting move, as it shifts the service even further from her it started. In the beginning it was an image sharing app, that tended to focus on people creating “arty” effects via the inbuilt filters. That faded somewhat as the filters were toned down, but it still remained a crafted photo-centric service. But the net effect of this and the rapid growth of Instagram Stories has turned it into a general purpose visual communication and relationship maintenance tool.

Still, might make some verification work easier. One image is much easier to fake than 10.

The lovely, lovely First Draft Coalition has been doing some excellent work in unpicking the roots of the real “Fake News”, before that phrase got co-opted. In particular, research director Claire Wardle has expended on work by Elliot Higgins to define the reasons why people create misinformation and disinformation, taking his “4 Ps” up to “8 Ps”:

  • Poor Journalism
  • Parody
  • to Provoke or ‘Punk’
  • Passion
  • Partisanship
  • Profit
  • Political Influence or Power
  • Propaganda.

Our consistent vulnerability

Misinformation and Disinformation

Why is this so important? Readers of this blog are surely intelligent, critical thinking people of the world, not prone to being influenced. Well, you more be more vulnerable than you think, as Claire points out:

When messaging is coordinated and consistent, it easily fools our brains, already exhausted and increasingly reliant on heuristics (simple psychological shortcuts) due to the overwhelming amount of information flashing before our eyes every day. When we see multiple messages about the same topic, our brains use that as a short-cut to credibility. It must be true we say — I’ve seen that same claim several times today.

Any student who has had the misfortune to come in my orbit for the last couple of years has had verification as a critical skill drummed into them, and journalists are a key part of that. But we need a more sceptical, more critically thinking populace, too:

We all play a crucial part in this ecosystem. Every time we passively accept information without double-checking, or share a post, image or video before we’ve verified it, we’re adding to the noise and confusion. The ecosystem is now so polluted, we have to take responsibility for independently checking what we see online.

And the work First Draft are doing to understand and unpick the ecosystem are a useful weapon in this fight.

Dale Beran has written a fascinating and compelling long read, drawing a direct line from 4chan springing to life from Something Awful’s forums, to the rise of Trump.

And the bridging factor? Milo. He took the GamerGate movement and connected it up with the burgeoning alt-right via Breitbart, effectively giving Trump another demographic in his electoral coalition. And he did it by battening onto what the Anons were most ashamed of, and making them proud of it:

Here Yiannopoulos has inverted what has actually happened to make his audience feel good. Men who have retreated to video games and internet porn can now characterize their helpless flight as an empowered conscious choice to reject women for something else. In other words, it justifies a lifestyle which in their hearts they previously regarded helplessly as a mark of shame.

It leads to the fascinating conclusion that this part of Trump’s base know that he wasn’t deliver for them – but that’s OK, that’s what they expect. They’re just in it for the lulz.

4chan’s value system, like Trump’s ideology, is obsessed with masculine competition (and the subsequent humiliation when the competition is lost). Note the terms 4chan invented, now so popular among grade schoolers everywhere: “fail” and “win”, “alpha” males and “beta cucks”. This system is defined by its childlike innocence, that is to say, the inventor’s inexperience with any sort of “IRL” romantic interaction. And like Trump, since these men wear their insecurities on their sleeve, they fling these insults in wild rabid bursts at everyone else.

I was familiar with many elements of this story – but I’ve not seen them so well connected before.

Sad news:

Steve Buttry, a journalist for more than 45 years, died February 19 at age 62 of pancreatic cancer, his third major cancer.

If you’re not familiar with Steve, he was one of the most prominent voices exploring the role of digital in reshaping newsrooms, through both his work for the last decade or so and through his blog, The Buttry Diary. I can’t claim to have known Steve (the Venn diagrams of our worlds clearly overlapped, but we were never really in each other’s orbit), but I am deeply familiar with his work.

Unlike too many other of the main voices in that conversation, Steve was deeply embedded in working newsrooms until relatively recently:

Buttry visited the newsrooms of all DFM daily newspapers, visiting some of them in multiple locations as newsrooms moved as well as some weekly newsrooms. In all, he visited 84 DFM newsrooms, leading workshops for staffs as well as coaching editors and other staff members. Two primary focuses of his work at DFM were training new editors in leading Digital First newsrooms and “unbolting” newsroom culture from the newspaper factory model.

The DFM experience ended when the hedge fund that controlled DFM, Alden Global, changed its strategy. Buttry’s job was cut April 2, 2014, along with other members of the company’s Thunderdome newsroom. Brady and Paton eventually left DFM as well.

For the last few years, Steve taught at Louisiana State University. Friends and colleagues are building a scholarship fund in his name. When he announced he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I couldn’t help but shudder. I know from my own Dad’s death from it back in 2001 that, for most people, it’s a short-term death sentence. He did well to delay his passing for seven months.

With Steve’s passing, it feels like another of the elder statesmen of the online journalism discussion has been silenced. Romenesko has retired, Buttry has passed. But, true to his vision, Buttry has left behind his wisdom in digital form, even blogging his own obituary, creating that rarest of things, a blog that ends, rather than peters out.

Thank you, Steve.

I’ve been a Fellow of the RSA for about six years now, invited to join the fellowship because of my “expertise in digital media” – something they were apparently short of at the time. I’ve enjoyed being a fellow, often use the RSA House as a meeting space or a London office, and attend events there. But the annual Fellowship card has always annoyed me – it’s a fragile coated paper thing that barely survives a year of use:

the old RSA Fellowship Card

That’s all gone, replaced with a nicely designed plastic one:

The RSA provides a powerful global platform for independent debate and research, creating a foundation to encourage innovative thinking, which often grows into pioneering action. We wanted to take this concept to bring to life the Fellowship network through illustration.

And this is the result:

Final card image

It’s rather nice – and feels a heck of a lot less fragile in my wallet.

I suspect it also has RFID or similar in it, because apparently we can use it to “touch in” to the RSA House now. I’m look forward to trying that out soon…