Category Archives: UGC

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!

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.

 

What should every company be monitoring?

Just came across a very interesting blog, Started by Cameron Olthuis on his blog, Pronet advertising:

  1. Company name
  2. Company URL
  3. Public facing figures
  4. Product names
  5. Product URLs
  6. The industry “hang outs”
  7. Employee activity/blogs
  8. Conversations
  9. Brand image
  10. Competitors
  11. Images/video like YouTube, Flickr, TVEyes, Google Video and Yahoo Video
  12. Tags and Social search tools like del.icio.us
  13. Social Voting tools like digg.com
  14. Memetrackers like Techmeme.com
  15. “Advanced Listening”
  16. Feedback URL and link threads
  17. “Voice of the Customer” log to track sentiment, instance, and/or voice.
  18. Develop new roles to such “Brand Monitor” or “Blogosphere Watcher”
  19. Self-clipping services like Google or Yahoo alerts for keyword mentions, but also audio and video hits as well…services like PODZINGER for example to ascertain conversational audio levels
  20. Media mentions by news features in search engines such as Google or Yahoo
  21. Relevant media news wires, such as Reuters (Intl.), AP News (U.S.), U.S. Newswire, CCN Matthews (U.K., Canada, Intl.), CNW Group (Canada), Mercopress (South Africa), allAfrica (Africa, general) and HR Net (Eastern Europe).
  22. Utilize RSS and aggregators like Bloglines in order to aggregate, integrate and assimilate all relevant incoming and outgoing moments of truth.
  23. Use wikis like PmWiki to discuss and debate pretty much everything from 1-19 and most importantly attempt to turn all the talk/conversation into walk/action.
  24. Repeat steps 1-20 to look outside of your own circle. Evolve the perspective from yourself, through your direct competitive set to your indirect competitive set and ultimately to your aspirational/non-endemic/non-competitive set. This is where you want to follow the leaders so to speak – Apples, Nikes, Googles or whichever company you admire.
  25. Create a PROACTIVE capability/budget in order to QUICKLY execute against everything you’re monitoring.
    Conversely, have a REACTIVE process in place to comprehensively and compellingly respond, especially when you’re on the bumpy receiving end of the stick.
  26. Search Term Volume
  27. Search Term Rank
  28. Relevant Wikipedia Entries
  29. Third Party Influencers
  30. Key Stakeholders
  31. Press release pickups
  32. Blog pickups using services like Technorati

What are your thoughts on this list? Would you add/take away anything?

Building an Online Community

An interesting Online Journalism class, (as part of BCU’s journalism degree) yesterday.

I had the pleasure of meeting Nick Booth, aka podnosh – Podcaster, and blogger. We had an interesting discussion about improving Environmental News Online (ENO) as a brand, and improving its community – this is due to the fact that the level of content on the site is steadily declining – something which me and Rachael need to address.

Building an Online Community

The idea of building an online community, and in turn, increasing online presence, centres around a few key points.

  1. Have clear policies, but invite users to build.
    This is a simple point really.  ENO should be making sure that it’s policies are clear – which they are. ENO should also be doing more to invite more users to have more of a say with the website.
  2. Actively recruit new members.
    I think that this is something that ENO could be doing a lot better. As an online community, when a unique user views content on the website, we should encourage comments, and also registration.
  3. Welcome new people.
    Following on from the last point, new users should be made to feel welcome and part of the community instantly. Their online reputation will only increase once they start commenting on other stories, other blogs, and other websites – this will not only help the individual user, but it will also help with SEO, and driving traffic back to the website.
  4. Provide a range of ways to participate.
    This is simple. Users should be able to have endless opportunities to contribute to the website. From filling out a simple ‘contact’ form to get in touch with the webmaster, to commenting on other content, and also being able to upload audio and video.
  5. Highlight the good contributors and reward them.
    Registered users who use the website frequently, and deliver high quality content, as well as commenting on other content should be recognised by other users of the website as a quality source of information, and reliable too.
  6. Anticipate problems.
    This simply means to be aware, and anticipate any problems that may arise so that proper procedures are in place for if/when they do happen. It also means to be aware of subjects or issues that are being discussed on the website that may be a potential minefield, such as high profile stories, or stories around race, or different cultures, etc – the wrong portrayal can lead to problems.
  7. Go where the reader is.
    This involves me knowing what else interestes the users of ENO, and tailoring the website to suit those users needs, and giving them a more personalised experience.
  8. Go offline!
    And finally, spend some time AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER! After all, we are only human – and spending so much time keeping track of what’s going on online isn’t really…healthy, is it?(Thanks to Paul Bradshaw for the resources to write the above points.)

Blogs and their Communities

The team of journalists that write for ENO already have a strong sense of community, with regular traffic coming to their blogs. When asked in the class how they think they could use this to create a more active community around ENO, this is how they responded:

How the journalists who write for ENO might improve the online community around it

So, where does the site go from here? – I’ll blog soon about an update on how the Joomla! SEO is going, as well as improving the ENO online community.

 

SEO for Joomla – The ENO Guide

NB – This is the first time I’m writing a post with the new WordPress WYSIWIG editor, I must say – I’m indifferent towards it.

I have recently been reading up on how to make the ENO site more Search Engine Optimised (SEO) – so that I can try and push the site higher up in a Google search.

The ‘Top Joomla SEO tips’ I found, were:

  1. Using keywords in the Title tag:

    The number one factor in ranking a page on any search engine is the title tag.
    These are the words in the source of a page in <title> and appear in the blue bar of the browser.

    “Choose the title of an article very carefully. Joomla will use the title of the article in the title tag (what appears in the blue bar). It will also be the text used in any insite links (see also 5 and 6).”

  2. The Anchor Text of the Inbound Link

    Anchor text is the text that appears underlined and in blue (unless it’s been styled) for a link from one webpage to another.
  3. Global Link Popularity of the Site (PageRank)

    How many pages are linking to ENO is called link popularity, or in Google, PageRank.

    “The more sites link to you, the better. Joomla is a CMS that helps you add content quickly. Create one quality content page per day. Quality content is the most important factor to getting bound links. For a site that will perform well, you eventually need 200 odd pages of content. This is the important point. QUICK SEO IS DEAD. The only way to perform well in SEO now is to have a rich content site.”

  4. The Age of the Site This one is self explanatory – ENO hasn’t been live for very long, so it would be foolish to expect it to be on the first page of a Google search. Sites that have been live for longer will naturally have more content, which means more links, which means they will be higher up in Google searches.
  5. Link Popularity WITHIN the Site This refers to how many pages link to the main website from inside the domain. The more links there are to a particular article will improve its relevance in Google search results. If an author of one article links to another related article on the same website (pretty much as you would with a blog) – then ENO will appear higher in a Google search.
  6. The ‘Topical Relevance’ of Inbound Links, and the Popularity of the Linking site

    To improve the ranking of ENO, it is imperative that the incoming links to the site (i.e. sites that link to ENO) have a high PageRank in Google. This means the links have to be from a site that is topically related to ENO, and one that has a high rank too.

  7. Using Keywords in the Body Text

    This refers to the keyword density of the phrase that you are optimizing for, in the content of the page.
    A German study into this, identified some interesting results:

    Targeted keywords in the first and last paragraphs. There is a simple trick here, write your quality content, and then use the tool of your choice to find the keyword density. THEN, take the top three words and add them to the meta keywords in the parameters part of the page (in Joomla admin). This is somewhat backwards for some maybe, it optimizes a page for what you actually wrote, rather than trying to write a page optimized for certain words (which I always find difficult).

    Keywords in H2-H6 headline tags seem to have an influence on the rankings while keywords in H1 headline tags seem to be getting less valuable. Modify the output of the core content component through a template override file.

    Using keywords in bold or strong tags – slight effect, same with img alt tags and filenames.

Hopefully, using these methods that I’ve found, and asking the Journalists to do the same, I can drive more traffic to the website. I think that I should be more closely monitoring the traffic to the website so that I can possibly tailor particular pages to suit specific users.