Category Archives: Internet

I’m the Trinity Mirror ‘Student Journalist of the Year’ 2008!

I recently won the Trinity Mirror  ‘Student Journalist of the Year’ award, and went to dinner with a few of the local media folk.

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Paul Bradshaw, for supporting me and guiding me through my final year university project, and making it possible for me to be even considered for such an award.

I haven’t been blogging on this site for a while, mainly due to being frustrated at not being able to land myself a job in the media industry. Even though I have won the above award, I’m still trying to make my first steps in the industry and I’m finding it very difficult.

I recently interviewed David Miliband for Yoosk, which was an amazing experience, and I really hope that I am considered to do such work again.

Other than that, you can follow where I am, what I’m doing, and who with on my Twitter page, which I update more frequently.

Hopefully I’ll have more to tell you very soon!

What myself and Juande Ramos have in common

This is the first time I’ve written a blog post straight from my iPhone so please ignore any glaring errors in grammar!

Since the last post there hasn’t been much to report. I’m still ploughing on hoping to make my first steps in the industry but finding it difficult to get a result – hence the title of this post.

I’ve started twittering as much as I used to now, mainly to make sure my contacts don’t forget who I am! Ive downloaded a few clients to the phone so now I can keep on track with what’s going on while I’m away from home – something I couldn’t do before.

I’ve secured myself some work experience tomorrow in Sheffield and I’m hopeful that i’ll get an interview soon.

I’m writing this brief post to get myself back on the blogging wagon, and so my readers, if any, don’t forget me! I’ve managed to keep up my portfolio by writing my football teams match reports and getting them published on the league website.

Hopefully by my next post I shall have made progress and will have more to tell you.

This industry is a tough one to get into.

The trials and tribulations of a (budding) online journalist

Excuse my absence from blogging for a while, there is no excuse other than there simply are not enough hours in the day at the moment for me to process thoughts and whatnot, be it in video, or text form. I did recently record a seesmic video where I ranted and raved, and got all of my frustrations out – only to find out that the video didn’t record properly and the sound was patchy. Not cool.

What’s new?

…I hear you ask. I would like to be able to say that I have walked straight into a job in the industry, but like many graduates, this wasn’t the case for me. A colleague of mine, Todd Nash, graduated with a first class honours from the journalism degree, and is now a Community Moderator at The Guardian. A huge congratulations to him, he definitely deserved it.

As for myself, I have had a few interviews in London, but all of them to no avail. I missed out on one job because of putting a decimal point in the wrong place, such is the fine line between success and failure.

I even turned down an interview due to the fact I couldn’t relocate to another part of the country on a low wage – I’m hoping that isn’t a decision I will regret this time next year.

I’m finding searching for the right job difficult. I tailor my application for several jobs to make it unique to the position I am applying for, and explain why I think I’m suited for the role, yet still, the lack of response is amazing.

In other news:

There is some positive news to relay, however. I recently won the Trinity Mirror ‘Online Journalism Student of the Year’ award. I was very surprised when I found out I had won this award, and I’m sure this came across in the dinner I recently had with Marc Reeves, Joanna Geary, and Paul Bradshaw.

It’s been a while since I’ve done some networking, both on and offline – and it was even more refreshing to hear how the guys got into the industry. Jo said she had had several setbacks before she got the right job, but it was all worth it in the end.

Marc even filmed a short video from his mobile of part of our discussion, no doubt that will turn up online soon.

I’m afraid that’s all for now folks. Guess I have to keep ploughing on, and hopefully there will be a light at the end of the long tunnel that is employment after graduating.

I’m not giving up just yet.

4iP Pre-launch thoughts

How do I sum up an event that promised so much and delivered so little?

Channel 4 were set to pre-launch their £50 million pound 4iP (Innovation for the Public) fund yesterday (June 27th) at Corbet Place Bar, in London, billed as ‘MiniBar’.

On paper, this was definitely an event that seemed like it wasn’t to be missed, with all 300 allotted spaces being allocated very quickly.

The speakers for the event were:

I arrived at the event over half an hour early, to give myself time to get acquainted with the venue, check for WiFi, have a coffee, and maybe get the chance to chat with Christian, the organiser of these regular monthly ‘MiniBar’ events. Unfortunately he was busy making last minute arrangements to the venue, so this wasn’t possible.

The venue didn’t have any wireless connections, and the only few available were too weak to pick up inside. Of the four people who had bothered to bring laptops, only two had a 3G card – a smart move.

By 6pm, the venue started filling out, slowly but surely. Naturally, I took advantage of the free beer, and waited for the presentations to begin, an hour later. During my free hour I decided to set about networking, and meeting some of the people who were there.

The event listing stated that there would be some big names in the industry. As far as I had noticed, there were none of those people to be seen.

Before the event, I had an eye-opening conversation with Deji, who owns LondonFreeEvents.com. The premise of the site is simple; it is a directory that lists free events in London. The site has been live for three weeks, and has had 5,000 hits each week – not bad going. I naturally asked him if he advertised, and he said no. Fair enough, I thought, as it has only recently launched.

I asked him if he used, or planned to take advantage of social networking, and Twitter. He wasn’t interested in social networking and didn’t know what twitter was – neither did quite a lot of the people I managed to speak to. He didn’t seem to know what the event was about, but he did have strong views about technology and the web:

“I was around at the time of the first dotcom collapse and it’s only a matter of time before all of these social networks and popular websites (like Twitter, and Facebook) die out – Fuck Web 2.0, it’s just a phase.”

I disagreed with his views, and was explaining why they might not be true, when I was saved by the announcement that the presentations were going to begin.

Matt Locke was the first speaker, and because all of the attendees were still networking, all anybody could make from his brief speech was that Channel 4 are about to launch a new £50 million pound fund for public/digital media development. Really?

The second ‘presentation’ can only be described as bizarre. The School of Eveything came to the stage, and it went a little something like this:

SoE: “Who can speak another language?”

Man: “I can, Gujarati.”

SoE: “Right. Who wants to learn how to speak Gujarati?”

At this point, after a weird silence, in which myself and the other attendees there wondering what relevance that had to anything 2.0, Matt Locke, of Channel 4 duly obliged. The following five minutes was more like a stand up act than any presentation of any relevance to the digital media industry (the premise of the site is around teaching others things). Matt Locke learned how to say (in Gujarati) how simple it is to access their website.

The funniest point was when the Gujarati speaking man attempted to translate the word ‘Folksonomy’ – after not realising what it meant, he decided to say it with a very strong Asian accent – something that wouldn’t look too out of place in Goodness Gracious Me.

The third presentation was of a project being funded by Channel 4, which is still in development. It’s called ‘Phantasmagoria’ – a social network for younger children, of around 13-16 in my opinion. This website is going to be everything it promises it isn’t.

It is aimed at the ‘scene kids’ – or ‘emo/greebo’ as we know them. The presenter brought up a slide of the target audience for the website, and stressed to the members of the audience who bothered to listen that the target market for this website was not emo/greebo/rocker kids, even though it had a very depressing, and dark edge to it.

The subsequent slide then showed pictures of young children, dressed in black, covered in black make up, attempting to make sad look cool – if that isn’t the perfect description of an ‘emo kid’, then I really don’t know what is.

The final presentation was from Gi Fernando, of Techlightenment – and, as I tweeted, they are one of the companies you have to thank for the ridiculous Facebook application requests, as they create Facebook applications.

Gi demonstrated ‘The Bob Dylan Application’, which was simply an advertising application of what I assume to be a flash version of Bob Dylan holding cards with words on and dropping them – very similar to that scene in ‘Love Actually’ where one of the characters reveals his love for Keira Knightley by showing her a series of messages on cards.

This application has a huge amount of potential, albeit unrealised. There are ten lines of text which are editable, so you are able to make Bob pretty much advertise everything.

Once Gi got to the technical side of his brief presentation, he was very clever with his words. He demonstrated how the words every user types are saved as tags, and then displayed a tag cloud of what people had been using to advertise. It wasn’t glamorous. In fact, his own name made up the two largest words in the cloud, so all 103 users of the application must be advertising Techlightenment in some way.

When asked about the number of users the application had, Gi mentioned that it was popular, and ‘98% of users had used the code on their own sites’ – he didn’t mention how many users exactly. Gi also managed to slip up and admit that a large number of the audience for the application only noticed it because they were searching for a Mark Ronson remix of a Bob Dylan song.

My most interesting conversation of the day was with Olu, of Vigster – A social networking website for computer gamers. He was clearly a man who knew his business, and his market inside out, and explained that he had a solid 5-10 year plan for his website. We exchanged information and tips about advertising on the web, and I made him see sense about using AdWords – my good deed for the day. I also explained to him how strong a tool for advertising Facebook can be.

In my opinion, the event was poorly organised. It had promised so much and delivered so little. The presentations were drowned out by the sound of 300 people networking, and were often interrupted with shouts of ‘be quiet!’, which people ignored.

I only noticed three laptops (not counting my own), but a lot of mobiles. I suspect people weren’t twittering (because hardly anybody I spoke to had heard about it), rather texting friends and telling them how poor the event was. I managed to take a few pictures, but they were nothing special. Expect to see them on my Flickr later.

Overall, it wasn’t a worthwhile event, and I doubt I’ll be attending a MiniBar again. If I do attend a London media gathering, it will most likely be one of the weekly Open Coffee meetings.

Photographs taken at the event can be seen here.

Plurk: The New Twitter?

I’ve joined Plurk today, to add to the growing number of social networking sites that I’m present on.

WikiAnswers defines Plurk as:

“Plurk at the core is a micro-blogging site that allows users to post short messages similar to instant messaging, but charts the messages based on a time-line. The format is becoming increasingly popular with sites like Twitter and FriendFeed becoming more mainstream.”

The format is very similar to Twitter. You have 140 characters to tell the world about what you’re doing, share a link, or a video, and broadcast your life online.

The differences lie in Plurk’s ‘Karma’ system, and ‘Friend Status’.

How Plurk Works

Now, I don’t fully understand how the Karma system works yet, but I assume that it’s another way of boosting your Plurk profile, and your online status.

Every plurker has his/her own karma value. It is recalculated every day and falls within these intervals:

  • 0.00 to 21.00: You are in the state of creation
  • 21.00 to 41.00: You are in the state of maintenance
  • 41.00 to 61.00: You are enlightened
  • 61.00 to 81.00: You are so close to Plurk Nirvana
  • 81.00 to 100.00: You have reached Plurk Nirvana!

Your karma score is directly influenced by you and your friends Plurk activity. The more active you are, the more points you’ll get. Using various features of Plurk such as instant messaging or uploading a profile image will also help.

The more you and your friends use Plurk, the more karma points you get.
Karma points then give you access to little emotion icons that are found in popular chat programs such as AIM, or MSN Messenger.

A friend is essentially another word for your fan; basically a two-way connection with someone. A good thing about Plurk is that you can organize your friends into ‘cliques’, or groups.

You can also control which “cliques” can see your messages. This is a feature that many people want twitter to add, Plurk has definitely pipped them to the post.

The time line view on Plurk is also unique, and very aesthetically appealing. It’s a horizontal time line that you can drag around with your mouse to see the different online conversations in real time. It’s very easy to use and get to grips with.

Is it making money?

Jeff Raskin makes a very valid point about Plurk. Raskin believes that ‘Plurk is trying to follow in the twitter footsteps, that is, get as many users as you can, and then worry about the revenue model’ – which does appear to be true, as there aren’t any advertising or premium features on Plurk.

Raskin belives that Plurk isn’t making any money, and as such, Plurk could just be one of ‘several twitter copycats that are going to be springing up all over the place’.

Twitter is quite clearly, leading the micro-blogging world, and any competitor is going to have a tough time tapping into the market.

My life is on the line

In my opinion, I like the interface, but that’s pretty much about it. The Karma system is what separates it from Twitter and other microblogging websites, and this could also be the source of its biggest downfall.

It’s easy enough to sign up to the website but after that, its like being thrown in the deep end of a swimming pool and being left to yourself.

The theme editing features are quite cool, but all they do is make it look nice. The way it bunches conversations together is interesting, you can semi-organise your timeline. I think combining some features of Plurk with FriendFeed might address some of the aesthetic issues that FriendFeed has – I think FriendFeed is a little too ‘messy’.

Seems to me like Plurk is like having a new toy, it’s nice and shiny when you first get it, and the excitement is apparent, but eventually you’re going to forget about it. The stunning thing about it is that it has been live since January, and in the wake of the recent Twitter issues, has come to the forefront. However, Plurk has been known to go down quite a lot recently too.

If Plurk was to take advantage of Twitter’s ‘growing pains’ – then going down doesn’t give a positive appearance to its consumers. Plurk is clearly quite small-scale for now, but it’s definitely something I’ll be keeping my eye on for now.

Plurk – The New Twitter? Not just yet.

ENO lives on..

This could potentially be my last blog post before the deadline (this Friday) to give Environmental News Online, or ENO, in to university to mark.

As I write this, the website has had OVER 45,000 hits, with over 550 unique hits this week. I did not expect the website to be so popular, and attract so much attention.

I’m really proud of what the ENO team have achieved, and I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank Paul Bradshaw, Rachael Wilson, and the team of ENO Journalists.

Hopefully next year’s crop of Journalism students can use ENO as a benchmark!

Also, while the deadline may soon pass, ENO will still live on. I’ve advertised for more journalists, so if you are interested in writing for us, go to Environmental News Online dotcom, and sign up.

Until next time! From now on I’ll be using my blog more ‘journalistically’ – shall we say, and reviewing certain products and websites that I come across. I’ll still be around on twitter too.

Building an Online Community, Part Two – The Problems

Ok, so you’ve managed to do what I mentioned in an earlier post, and establish a community around your website/blog. It’s not all plain sailing, however. Shara Karasic has gone into much more detail than I have.

Charlene Li has noted that, of all of the users of a particular website, (i.e. the community):

·     A huge 52% are INACTIVE.

·     33% are ‘Spectators’ – They read blogs, and consume UGC.

·     19% are ‘Joiners’ – Meaning that they use social networking sites like Facebook, etc.

·     15% are ‘Collectors’ – They understand RSS, and tag websites.

·     19% are ‘Critics’ – These users comment on blogs, and post ratings and reviews.

·     13% are ‘Creators’ – They publish webpages, maintain blogs, and create UGC

You can see the full, graphic version here.

Whilst it may be (relatively) simple to attract users to interact with a website – it is not as easy to keep them stimulated and make them keep coming back.

Here are a few useful pointers, in keeping your online community happy:

Be online for a reason

Ok, you’ve bought a domain – but for what purpose? You should know exactly why your site exists. Otherwise, you can’t judge the effectiveness of any policy. Even worse, how will the visitors to your website know if they want to sign up, and join the community that you are promoting?

Users attract more users

As the owner/webmaster/digital content manager, it’s YOUR job to attract users. You can do this quite simply by the traditional methods (i.e. SEO, word of mouth, viral marketing, selectively linking, etc) – all of those are simple enough to do. Making sure that your users stay with you, however, is the difficult part.

In a vibrant online community, that ISN’T your job.

As a group of users, the most active users of a website will draw far more users than you ever could. This is because a highly visible, and active user group promotes a greater sense of community, which in turn will attract people who enjoy the company of individuals with similar interests. People like to fit in.

Users can, and will surprise you.

The issues and themes you find important may never really have the same effect with your users. That’s natural, remember ‘if everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other’.

Being proud of ‘your home’ - That sense of ownership

Regular users of your website will develop a sense of community ownership. As a whole, the content that they contribute will probably outweigh what you, as the owner, contributes. This belief can manifest itself in several ways. It can produce a high regard for those ‘at the top’ of the community, with some users expressing an almost moral outrage when facing community changes. These changes may be as minor as adding a new feature to the website or broadening the community’s focus.

Sharing Histories and Cultures

You will know when you have a healthy online community when users comment publicly that ‘this is the best site I’ve ever used,’ ‘I came here because of the content (i.e. the news), but stay around because of the people I’ve met, (through comments and links)’.

This isn’t true of strongly technical communities, like software development mailing lists. They tend not to exhibit this behavior.

People WILL hate you

You will never be able to please some users. Ever. A few will stick around only to see your next mistake, and worse still they tend to be vocal about it. Their pessimism doesn’t make them wrong, however, but it can be grating.

Accept that they are a minority, expect them to make blunt suggestions and honest criticisms occasionally, and try not to be surprised that they don’t leave. (Most people who leave do so quietly.)

People WILL like you

Some users will almost always be happy – no matter what you do. However, they tend not to be as vocal as the pessimists. This is possibly due to the fact that some of these users have just discovered online communities or your specific community, and want to be noticed immediately. They propose grand ideas and volunteer for great schemes. Harness this energy and exuberance into realistic channels.

Always remember..

Most people interact ‘on the fringes’.
Most people read and never write.
Most writers write only occasionally.
Most community members have opinions about the various discussion topics but rarely speak.

Learn to find value in steady growth, and consistent users.

Obstacles can be a mixed blessing

The number of active community members varies drastically with the amount of ‘effort’ – shall we say, necessary for an initial participation. Having to requiring e-mail confirmation before registering a username prevents users from creating blank account after blank account.

The easier it is to join a conversation, the more visitors will become contributors. Communities that allow anonymous participation more often than not, tend to see greater numbers of initial contributions.

Have a usable interface

A strong community can overcome technical limitations. Believe it or not, it is possible to write a Wiki or a weblog in under a hundred lines of code. However, simplicity may appeal to some users. The lack of sophistication (reply notification, searching, revisions, and access controls) may put off some users, and an ugly or awkward user interface may get in the way sometimes, but a community can grow in spite this.

It’s worth making things simpler and more consistent. While social benefits may persuade people to put up with and learn about an awkward posting system, too much complexity halts the rate of new members. Bad news for anyone who wants to attempt to drastically change any user interface, however. (See the notion of ‘ownership’ above).

Mischief

Like any community, your group will have tensions, factions and frictions. These must be handled wisely for the community to survive.

Plan for trouble, though you cannot tell when or where it will happen.

Set simple rules.

Make them explicit.

Apply them consistently.

Start with a list of unacceptable behavior. This will probably include harassing or attacking other users, posting copyrighted or plagiarised material, straying from the topic, and abusing the system with multiple accounts or robots.

Create a list of consequences, which may range from warnings to suspensions to being banned. Communities with a ranking or levels system might use demotions and the loss of privileges. You can ignore, obscure, or delete potentially illegal material.

Choose your response before it’s needed.

Don’t Stop There!

Even if you have graduate degrees in sociology and psychology, the dynamics of human communities will still surprise you. Be very clear about your goals and the rules. Manage your expectations about user participation and groups wisely. Allow a little chaos. Use your common sense and best judgement. If there’s an audience for your conversation, you’ll find a community.

Some information courtesy of the O’Reilly network.