Category Archives: Environmental News

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!

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

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.

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!

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.