Category Archives: Paul Bradshaw

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.



10 Days Later – The Site is LIVE!

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


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.

Green light for Environmental News site

It’s been a while since I last blogged, but it’s only because I’ve been researching my final year university project with such depth!

My aim is to create a fully functional Content Management System (CMS) so that the second year online journalism students on my course are able to access it (ideally from anywhere) and add their stories to it as part of their module.


Initally, it didnt all go smoothly. I tried the idea of creating and hosting a local server on my laptop, using Apache, MySQL, and PHP, in that order. I encountered several errors, even though I was being ably guided through the process by two books:

I kept encountering errors as Windows Vista (Ultimate) isnt user friendly, and doesn’t like it when you try and go through the back door.

However, during this process, it wasn’t all frustration. I improved my knowledge of PHP and MySQL, and Apache to a certain extent. When I started the project I had no idea of what these programs were, and how and why they are related.

Now I can safely say that these programs, and their languages, are so popular that they make up for 80% of what is on the web today – these stats are according to the PHP site, so don’t quote me!

Back to the drawing board

However, the project has taken another step forward. After being pointed in the right direction earlier by my lecturer, Paul Bradshaw, I now know how this project is going to work.

Later tonight I’m going to buy some webspace and hosting, through GoDaddy!, and start playing around with Joomla! on there. The aim is to get a fully working CMS for the Online Journalism students to play around with, by mid-next week.

Excellent how-to guides

Two guides I will definitely be taking a look at are New.Journalism.Review, and Andy Dickinson‘s. Both attempted to create similar projects to mine, setting up a news website using a CMS, the only difference in the two being their choice: New.Journalism.Review opted for Joomla! and Andy Dickinson opted for WordPress.

My lecturer, Paul Bradshaw, has another website which he has created himself using WordPress – JournalismEnterprise, and from looking at his and Andy Dickinson‘s, it’s quite clear to see that WordPress is extremely user-friendly – but I’m still more tempted by Joomla! as I have come across what seems to be several million websites with additional features, ‘hacks’, and things to do with it. I’m sure there are just as many for WordPress too.

Keep checking back to my blog for updates on how the project is going, no doubt I’ll be venting frustration several times over the coming months!


Hopefully, by the next blog, I aim to:

  • Purchase a domain/hosting option
  • Install Joomla! or WordPress
  • Play around with the CMS
  • Have a basic ‘shell’ of the site, so that the students can play around with it in the lecture.
  • Have developed a better understanding of CMS’s and how they work.

But for now, the Green light for the Environmental News website is definitely on, and I’m (potentially) on my way to something quite special.

UGC on the rise as TV channels allow users to make the news

Well, it’s a bold move by terrestrial television channels to say the least. I noticed that ITV Central created their ‘Uploaded’ feature to allow users to create short news clips and post them online. I was definitely going to blog about this – but Paul Bradshaw beat me to it!

Five have also done the same – but for a larger television channel compared to a regional programme, it doesn’t seem to have had a lot of publicity in the way that Uploaded did.

Five are expanding their ‘Your News‘ section to include clips created by members of the public that are uploaded onto Friction TV. Users can then ‘Fire Back’ to the video by either text or video.

This seems like an excellent idea – we can actually have an opinion – but Paul Bradshaw thinks otherwise. Paul argues that it is the news channel who decides what gets shown, and the whole segment will only last around 60 seconds. He says:

“ITV choose the topic, choose the responses, and, by the sounds of things, even choose the correspondents.”

A wise point – but surely if enough people raise the same point we might actually even end up with a whole show of UGN (User Generated News) or maybe even a whole television channel in the future? UGN – Sounds quite catchy! Who knows?  News is always changing.

By the way, if the public actually get their own channel/show, and call it UGN – I’ll be angry!