Category Archives: Web 2.0

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!

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.

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.

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!

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.