Category Archives: Uncategorized

NewsWire Update

I’m going to switch to self-hosting WordPress at the end of the month, hence the reason why I haven’t been blogging as much.

Until then, my activity on here will be very low!

I’ll still be twittering away and on Plurk every so often.

See you on the other side!

ENO: An amazing first month!

It’s been a while since I last posted a blog, I have been attempting to catch up with my dissertation, which means I’ve had to put ENO second for a while – which isn’t good..!

This week I’m getting back on track with the site, and I’ve collaborated all of what I have done so far – In the form of research and my planning.

Technically, the site is sound, and is running fine at the moment. The main issue is that while it has been the easter break, the level of content going into the website is not what it once was – this is understandable, as many of the journalists will have wanted to take time to take stock of what they have done so far, party away, and ‘recharge’ for the next phase of ENO.

The Back Door is Open Again

A few weeks or so – (and I hope he hasn’t forgotten me!) I was speaking to Alex Gamela, who provided me with a very handy link to a website that offered very professional looking Joomla! templates. Sometime over the next few weeks, my main aim is to:

  • Install and manipulate a basic template, by myself, so that I can improve my understanding of CSS and also learn how modules are positioned, amongst other things.
  • Providing I succeed, I will then attempt to install a more advanced template, so that the site looks even more professional than it already does, and it continues to attract viewers to the site.
  • There are a few add-ons for ENO that I have stealthily bookmarked on my laptop, which I will attempt to install soon. Right now, I don’t want to give away too much in case they don’t work!

Impressed By The Page Impressions

I was absolutely shocked when I found out how many viewers the site had in it’s first month – 8,000! – EIGHT THOUSAND! I never thought that in its first month, my website would attract so many viewers.

This definitely serves as a good motivation for me because now I know that ENO is reaching a bigger audience than I thought it was. I had an interesting conversation with Matt, of Second City Records who may be interested in setting up a website for the record label. When he found out that ENO had 8,000 hits in its first month, his reaction to it was:

“How much do you sell advertising space for?”

This was an interesting thought: If I sold advertising space on ENO, I could make myself a tidy little profit. But there lies the problem; where do I set the boundaries? This is clearly an issue that I need to think about more, as it could have big implications for ENO in the future – any comments are welcome!

Reflections on JEEcamp

Well, I’m sure over the coming days that many of yesterdays attendees at JEEcamp will no doubt be posting their views on how yesterday’s event went.

EDIT: Tom Scotney already has – see what he took from JEEcamp here.

A success

There is no doubt in my mind that yesterday’s event was a success. I personally took a lot of information, and insight from it (more later in the post), and others will have taken their own opinions away from it.

I was part of the blog team, along with a few other students, who were relaying the day’s events to the viewers of a live blog, (via CoverItLive), and others were twittering away as the speakers delivered their speeches and pitches.

An RSS feed of all of the attendees twitter accounts, and anything tagged ‘JEEcamp’, can be found here – some of it makes for some very interesting reading.

436

Rick Waghorn, founder of myfootballwriter.com, began the day’s proceedings with a keynote speech about how his business came to be, amongst other things.

Rick said that his site attracted 33,000 unique visitors in January – and whilst that may be down to the transfer window opening, it is certainly impressive.

The more interesting figures that Rick mentioned are 436 – the average number of seconds that a single user spends on the site, and 3.5 – the average number of visits his site will get in a month.

Laura Oliver of journalism.co.uk has written more about Rick’s keynote speech, which can be found here.

Funding

Once the speech was over, the conference split up into its discussion groups, which included Online News Models, Communities, Legals, Fundings, and Business Models. I covered funding, which was hosted by Rick Waghorn.

Alex Gamela has given a brief overview of the other discussions, and key points to come out of yesterdays events.

The main things to come out of this discussion, other than a sustained attack on Google’s advertising models were:

  • To be successful, you need a five year financial forecast. Rick uses iReport, for which CNN bought the domain without even giving it a thought, or doing anything with it. Rick hasn’t an idea what his domain is worth. (He paid £16 for his site.)
  • Why doesn’t the Trinity Mirror set up a fund like the Knight Foundation for smaller companies?
  • Some local papers panic and put everything online, in an effort to keep up with the nationals.
  • You have to earn over $50 with Adsense before you can claim your money
    How many sites must there be UNDER that threshold?
  • Demographically, if you took out everybody over the age of 60 in local newspaper circulation, where would you be?
  • The fundamental challenge is to persuade potential investors to invest in your product/site, without OVERspending or releasing too much equity into the project.

Pitches

The most well recieved of the day’s pitches was Nigel Eccles‘ project Hubdub – a news prediction website where users bet on the outcome of certain news stories using ‘play’ money. This clearly has the potential to grow very quickly and Nigel was a man who was most definitely in demand after his speech. (It had 42,000 unique visitors in its first week!)

However, a key point raised during his pitch was ‘Should Hubdub place ethical restrictions on its questions?’ – because currently, a user is able to sign up and pose ethically incorrect questions, such as something regarding a missing child. We posed this question to the viewers of the live blog – 42% agreed that it should, while 58% didn’t).

This was the most well recieved of the three pitches (Which included scribblesheet, and qotz – a project still in development).

Panel Discussion

The day ended with an informal Q&A session with Mark Comerford, Martin Stabe, Kyle MacRae, and Sarah Hartley.

This was definitely where I picked up most of the key points from the day.

The panel believed that advances in technologies, such as mobile, RSS, and broadband – just make people use what was originally present more often. Mark believed that traditional media have no real strategy for utilising output on mobile phones, and as a result “Newspapers aren’t dying – we’re committing suicide”.

The panel then went on to discuss Qik – software for mobile phones that allows users to stream video directly from their mobile phones. They believed that such software changes everything, and anybody can now walk around with a live TV camera in their pocket.

Such advances allow journalists to change the way they tell their stories – and it allows the public to tell their stories back to journalists. Mark believed that journalists are tired of being seen as ‘the voice of the people’, when they are simply A voice IN the field (of journalism).

This raised the age old debate of ‘Do we need Journalists?’ which was quickly answered with ‘Who is a journalist may not be as important as “What is Journalism?’. The panel agreed that it was an issue of trust – and if journalism isn’t transparent, the public will go to a news source that is – which may not neccessarily be a journalist.

If journalists want people to engage with them, they need to bring the stories TO the public, rather than waiting for the public to go to the press. Most news organisations clearly try to get UGC (user generated content) for free, which is detrimental to the medium. What they should be doing is working together to become part of a ‘sharing partnership’ – which would benefit both freelancers and news organisations.

Young Journalists – The future?

Mark’s final point was the one that really drove home with me.

He mentioned that young Journalists are more technically skilled than their older superiors, but they are being put into difficult positions – where they have the neccessary journalistic skills, but not the power or the experience needed.

“It’s the same as leaving a bunch of kids in a car park for long enough and then expecting them to know how to drive.”

Referring to my final year project, and a discussion that I had with Pete Ashton at the end of the event – Initially I was worried that I had to design and run a website and a CMS – and that was my biggest stumbling block.

I realised by the end of the event that I shouldn’t have been worried about how the website might look or how and where I was going to get it online – I should instead place more of an emphasis on how I’m going to drive traffic to the website and keep users coming back to it.

The very last point from JEEcamp was also VERY relevant:

“Now is the best time to be a journalist. The demand is for journalists who WANT to tell a story. All of the contacts, features, etc, are in place to become a great journalist. This is THE time to be a journalist. It doesnt get much better than this.”

And that is pretty much that, roll on next year!

PS – I also gave a video interview to the European Journalism Centre – I’ll link to it once they get it online.

I pwn the h4xorZ – and we’re going public!

NB - I pwn the h4xorZ = “I own the hackers” – More later…

So, another eventful week has passed by with ENO, and it hasn’t been without it’s problems.

Templates, Mambots, Components and Modules

I finally understand now how to add…extras, let’s say, to the website.  Last week I played around with a few different templates, and extra components and modules.

Features that I have added recently include:

  • TinyMCE WYSIWIG Editor – An easier text editor that allows the less technically sound reporters to upload stories much quicker than with the standard Joomla! editor.
  • mXcomment – A feature that allows readers to comment on stories on the website.
  • A social networking component that includes links to sites like Digg, Facebook, MySpace, etc – so that users can bookmark (and save to RSS) their favourite stories.
  • Two new themes (none are active now).

Disaster

Of all the outcomes and possibilities I had (tried to) plan for, I never expected what would happen when I installed one of the themes and tested to see how it looked.

Memory fails me which particular theme/creator I used, and at the risk of exposing myself to serious legal issues, I won’t name the template creator/template in question.

I installed a theme, applied it to every page, and saved it. Then I went to the front end of the site to see how it looked, and realised I needed to tinker a little with the CSS code. Then the problems started.

I kept being ‘locked out’ and ‘denied access’ to the administrator page of the website – may I remind readers that this is a website that I own! I realised very quickly that I had been hacked and I needed to find a way to get back into the back end of the website quickly, and delete the theme, and whoever kept clicking ‘Force Logout’ on my username.

Fortunately, ten minutes later, the hacker(s) decided to give up, and I managed to get back into the back-end of the website and remove the theme and the new usernames they attemped to create.

Needless to say that was an experience for me, and it does raise serious questions about whether Joomla! should do more to verify template designers and creators before featuring them on their website.

Special Guests

Last week myself, and the OJ class had the pleasure of meeting Tim Hood (from Yoosk!) and Joanna Geary (of the Birmingham Post). Both had very interesting things to say about Online Journalism, and methods of sourcing articles and reporting.

I was also impressed with Tim’s CMS for Yoosk!, sourced from Vietnam. It’s amazing – I’d urge you to have a look.

Joanna writes in her blog:

“Can you write environmental stories in a way that builds trust between you and the reader? Is the current suspicion surrounding climate change – for example – caused by media sensationalism or poor scientific reporting? Perhaps it’s neither, maybe it’s just human nature to repsond to environmental stories with suspicion.”

She raises a very important point, that not only has implications for ENO, but for the journalists reporting for the website too. Is it possible to draw interest to stories that aren’t featured as regularly in the mainstream media? Does this mean that only a certain type of person will be interested in the website and its content?

I know that if this was last year, and if I was in the position of this year’s Online Journalists, I would be struggling now.

Joanna also gave myself and Rachael an idea about a story she was pursuing along similar lines to the one above – not a bad idea for a podcast I’d say. Check back in week 6 of the project for more (we’re currently in week 4.)

Extra! Extra! ENO is live!

Yes, while I may have mentioned it before – the site is very much alive now.

And the journalists are posting more frequently now – especially in the wake of the recent earthquake. See what Paul Bradshaw thinks of it here.

Bookmark us

Finally, make sure you bookmark ENO, and make sure to keep checking regularly. The site is constantly being updated, and in the coming weeks will feature podcasts and video too.

10 Days Later – The Site is LIVE!

My project has come on leaps and bounds since my last blog post.

Review

To recap, my final year university project is to create and maintain a fully working Content Management System, or CMS, so that the second year Online Journalism students are able to upload stories to the site, and have experience of writing for the web.

I took Paul Bradshaw‘s advice – and went live with the site, in a bid to solve the numerous problems I was having with hosting the site locally.

The ‘L’ Plates are off

Today, the site has gone live for the first time – you can see it for yourselves here. It’s called ‘Environmental News Online’, or ENO for short.

It didn’t go without it’s teething problems however..There were a few issues that needed resolving:

  • The contents and categories for inputting news onto the site were a little confusing to understand, and have subsequently been changed by myself and Paul Bradshaw.
  • Users who try to register to the website with an AOL or Tiscali account will have issues when receiving the email with an activation link.
  • The links to the reporters blogs are currently static, and hopefully in the future will become dynamic and self updating.
  • Some of the students will need to know basic HTML in order to attach and post images to their stories – a point touched on by Martin Stabe, who believes that it is wise to teach Journalism students basic HTML:

    “It would be more useful to teach some basic principles including HTML, let the serious geeks (or failing that, the tutor) set up a CMS-driven site in WordPress, MT, Joomla! or another basic CMS, and then make sure everyone else can keep it running — by concentrating on the non-technical journalism skills, like how to present stories online.”

Defeating the doubters

However, I am enjoying learning about and using Joomla! at the moment. When I started this project I didn’t even know what a CMS was.

I chose Joomla! because while I was researching about Content Management Systems, Joomla! popped up in several places.

This nicely leads to the point of the subheading above. Last week, I had the chance to have a quick chat with Pete Ashton – author of “Created in Birmingham” amongst other things.

Pete popped in to the Online Journalism class to talk about finding sources for news amongst other things, and noticed that I was using Joomla! – cue a sigh.

Last year, Pete attemped to use Joomla! for a project – and didn’t enjoy it at all:

“Now, having had to use it on a daily-ish basis for a while I can honest say, hand on heart, that it’s a piece of shit and a hinderance to my work. At least the interface is. It’s the most unintuitive, frustrating thing I’ve had to click my mouse on since I can’t remember when.”

Suffice to say, he wasn’t alone in his way of thinking. At the time of writing my blog, only three of the thirty people who commented on his post, creatively titled ‘Joomla sucks donkey cock’, actually thought Joomla! was worthwhile.

Pete found that searching for Joomla! sucks on Google brings up 219,000 results – that was in May last year. The same search today brings up 138,000 – maybe people are beginning to change their minds about it?

Time to ‘Pimp My Ride’

Steve Hill has found some excellent additions to Joomla! such as easier WYSIWIG editors (which would help some of the less technically sound students), and even add-ons that allow readers to comment on stories. Anyone for a bit of Web 2.0?

I’m currently looking into extensions for Joomla! that make things easier for the students to use and maintain the site, and also for myself too – (may I politely remind everyone that I’m new to this?)

I’m constantly learning more and more about it, and dare I say it – I am enjoying it, just a little.

Hopefully by May, I’ll be able to say that ‘I came, saw, and conquered’, by creating and maintaining a fully working CMS.

For now however, the project is underway, the site is live, and things are most definitely in motion – make sure you keep checking ENO for the latest Environmental News! The site is always changing.