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Infographics

Latest Blog

All about mapping right now

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All about mapping right now ——————————————— I’m currently working on a handful of map-based projects for clients. Two of them are using Tableau to create maps about funding in relation to demographic information. I’m leaning heavily on Mapbox (https://www.mapbox.com) to create personalised maps The other is a map-based infographic for a new educational client (HINT: a well known top-notch University!) (note the image above is NOT my map – more on that later) We have 8/9 key statistics to get across, each of them relating to different groups at the University – e.g. The students, the staff, spin-out businesses etc. The aim of the map is to highlight the connections with the local community so I’ve decided to put these on a stylised map – with the statistic connected to an area associated with those people e.g. The mainstudent living areas. The risk now is to avoid the map turning into just a map – as there is a desire to add more locations attatched to the wider project. I’ve been exploring vairous approaches to the map > flat > stylised > computer-game style I have come across a great app (http://ift.tt/2ntpUke) that turns any area into a Sims style world – great fun but probably not overly helpful for this project. Watch this space

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Quick posting to WordPress from a Mac

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Studio Diary Post – Saturday 8 Apr 2017 – 8:55am – What a palaver! ——————————————— Currently working on: Trying to set up a quick way to create and publish blog posts from my desktop Notes: I recently set myself a challenge to start blogging more. I know that I won’t sit down and create a long post on a regular basis, but sometimes there are thoughts, ideas or products I want to share quickly. So i needed something I could get into quickly, with no distractions. I know from experience that I work well with Mac desktop apps. I already use these for WhatsApp, FB Messenger, Instagram and a few others. Having an icon in the menubar just works for me. However, there is not a decent simple WordPress app, so I looked into my old friend IFTTT and how I could use this with Tumblr (to them share to WordPress). Sadly there isn’t a decent Tumblr app for Mac either, but it got me thinking. After some too-ing and fro-ing and some experimentation, I nailed it. Tools —– Wordpress account Designated Tumblr account Social Shoutings app IFTTT account TextExpander (useful but optional) 1. Link a separate Tumblr account to WordPress using IFTTT 2. Install Social Shoutings and connect Tumblr 3. In TextExpander design a post-template, which allows spacing / black space to create a suitable header inside WordPress (SocialShoutings doesn’t have the option to set a header, so it takes the first characters instead) (Add: I actually made entry of the title and content even easier – by adding creating a single line FillIn for the title, and a multiple line FillIn for the body I can clearly see what the psot is going to look like (instead of working in the small SocialPostings window). Alternatively I could write the post in a notepad app and simply paste it into SocialShoutings. This is perfect – now it’s all set up I can simply click on the SocialShoutings icon in my menu bar and start typing. I can add images too! Some minutes later the post will appear on WordPress thanks to IFTTT.   Note: whilst I can’t add links to the post within SocialShoutings, I can head into WordPress afterwards to add them. For me the benefit of this system is that I quickly get the thoughts out of my head and onto WordPress.

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PROJECT: how to create an animation in Illustrator and Photoshop

WHAT An animated gif of an album cover (Eat Yourself Whole by Kingmaker) WHY I’ve wanted to learn animation for a while. I’d really like to be able to offer simple animated graphics to my clients. Many of them ask for small images to use on social media, as well as full infographics, so I’d like to be able to offer an animated version as well. Social media is so busy with images, so a GIF that plays and reveals information will help the post really stand out. I’ve also been feeling creatively dry recently – I’ve had a lot of work on and no time to explore and play with new ideas and methods. After some Googling I came across this great article about creating animations in Illustrator and Photoshop.   I followed that article to create my first animation  – a cheeky robot – using an icon from Noun Project. I specifically didn’t want to spend excess time thinking about the icon itself (I’m no illustrator) so borrowed this cute one and added some simple movement.   HOW Next, I wanted to create something more detailed – but again using a current image. I was a big fan of Kingmaker in the 1990s and remembered their album cover was illustrated and fairly simple  – so in theory possible to illustrate with my new skills. I wasn’t sure what I wanted the image to do, but this was more of an exploration of what was possible.   Step 1 – Prepare the Image it wasn’t hard to find a copy of the album cover online. I dragged this into Illustrator (artboard 400px x 400px) I quickly counted the colours that were used, and used the Image Trace tool to vectorise the image down to 6 colours. After expanding the image I was left with the entire cover broken down by colour area.   Step 2 – Creating Layers The first step was to break the various elements down into separate layers. the black background The pink circle The 4 spermy things The monster The drips around the monster tongue The text One thing to remember is that the image existed as a flat shape – so the pink circle layer has some very unsightly gaps (see below). The same went for the black layer – which has the outline of the pink circle.   By this point I’d decided I wanted to rotate the pink circle which, in it’s current state, would have left ugly white spaces as it moved round. My solution was to recreate the black background and pink circle. The black layer was easy – I simply deleted the old black areas and replaced it with a solid black square that filled the space. The pink layer was harder – it retrospect I should have simple counted the number of points, however I went through quite a longwinded trial-and-error process to work out the correct number of points. Once I had completed this I was left with the following layers  

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> NOTES from Reasons To … conference Brighton, 2016

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In Sept 2016 I attended the Reasons To … conference in Brighton, UK. Read more about the conference here During the 3 days I jotted notes, ideas and references into a large Moleskine. Worried my notes may make less sense over time, In’ve transcribed them below. Enjoy. Key person to find / follow etc.  book/ article wikipedia link  something to search  random notes  my thoughts / questions  Image / photo reference  website link  music / band  Action / do something  random / unknown / huh?  image  video   Nelly Ben (speaker) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelly_Ben_Hayoun / http://nellyben.com/ Paul Virillo  Open Sky Roland Barthes – Mythologies  Willam Borroughs – Invisible Generation (PDF here) Invisible Generation  – associated art project  ‘critical design’ ‘Theatre of Cruelty’  UX design of infographics – how much can we challenge the reader? Why does everything have to be easy for the reader? Could we convey additional emotion / understanding by making a layout challenging / longwinded / complicated etc?  Total Bombardment – Nellys approach to her work  infographics in every field – using the communication through their visuals    Diagram of Greek Tragedy    http://www.howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow.com/ International Space Station music with Sigor Ros  Disaster Playground    Disaster Playground Teaser from Disaster Playground on Vimeo.  find Disaster Playground soundtrack from Prodigy  The Life The Sea and the Space Viking    Charlie Prangley (Charlie Marie)      Be a hungry designer – appetite creates more impact?  Atomic Agency, Holland  plotting and scheming – contemplation, collaborative, new practices, explore, impact  Am I hungry? Do I know any hungry designers?   Go to a design meetup – meet agencies  Step 1 – collaborate  Step 2 – reduce confirmation bias (throw away our comfortable ideas that we like. Do rapid ideation. Rapid prototyping  Step 3 – embrace centre stage – trust, responsibility, bigger budgets  Look for a digital prototyping tool? Do i need one? Or are post-it notes perfect?  the struggling designer – no prototyping. don’t get attached to your own ideas  prototyping lets you work out your UX/UI and layout  am i afraid of failure?  Failure is progress  How do I repackage failure? Process  – share, test – ideate – repeat  John Lieberman – conference talk on UX tools – shaping design  dopey ideas. Embrace them. How crazy are they?  Cheltenham Design festival – is this still a thing?  Do I have dopey ideas? DO i share the,? I need to create the environment to share them  Plussing – when you give positive feedback to have to give constructive advice as well    Gavin Strange  Doomtree  Strangebristol.com  DO I want to do what I do?  I should explore and have more fun in evenings and weekends. Take a week off every month to play and explore?  Do lectures – Do Fly – Gavin Strange  motion graphics – try something fun and silly  Mister Cartoon?  develop a consistent process which can be applied to all projects. Calendar template? Is this possible?  example template – research, brainstorm (word association), thumbnail sketching, detailed sketching vector drawing    Erik Kessels  charts as illustrations- bars of bar chart amongst letters?  I need

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Dudley CVS – report infographics

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The Brief: to turn a series of standard tables and charts into engaging graphics for a printed report. You can see the full report below

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First month in Brighton

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  It’s been a month since I moved to Brighton from Birmingham. I know the city well, having gone to the University of Sussex back in the mid-90s. However, I’ve never had a ‘proper’ job here, so I was keen to jump into the creative / freelance world as soon as possible. Co-working space Joining the Skiff was a great decision. It’s know for being one of the cooler and more social co-working spaces (and also one of the more expensive) but it’s been well worth it. I pay £99 + VAT per month to use the space 2.5 days a week, although they seem fairly laid back about how you use those. It’s all self-managed, so it’s up to each member not to use it more than their membership level allows. I’ve also met some great people through their fortnightly Friday beers. Free booze and a chance to meet other Skiff members from 5pm has meant a couple of boozy nights out and getting to know my office mates.   Chamber of Commerce I purposely did not get involved with the Chamber of Commerce in Birmingham. Having interviewed various organisers in the past I felt it was aimed at “men in suits” and the more traditional business world. However, my pre-move research into the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce branch showed they were embracing the creative vibe of the city and doing some relevant and interesting events. Within a week I’d attended the “new members” event, where I found out that anyone can host a bitesize learning session. I’m definitely considering hosting an infographics workshop in the future. I”m also in conversations with the Chamber organisers to help visualise their most recent survey results.   Change in Attitude I don’t know if it’s the weather, the proximity to the beach or the general Brighton vibe, but I’m a LOT more chilled out here. I’m still getting things done, and staying on top of work, but I’ve lost that feeling that I have to work every minute of the day. I’m still working early mornings, but I’m far less likely to work into the evening. Instead we’re doing things – like walks on the beach, swimming at a lido in Lewes and Pokemon hunting!   Creative Vibe Don’t get me wrong – Birmingham is a GREAT city. However, anyone who’s visited Brighton will know it’s an incredibly vibrant, creative and inspiring place. From the art shops on the beach (like Castor and Pollux), the alt coffee shops like Presuming Ed and the bohemian and vintage shops in the North Laine I’m finding inspiration on every corner. I’m already noticing a change in the colour choices in my work, as I go for more wider palette but with more muted tones. I’ll be interested to see if this sunnier climate will affect my work long term.      

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Why data is more than just numbers

Why we should think about data as information, not just statistics

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Studio Diary: 20 Apr 2016 – new ideas and girlpunks music

 20 April 2016 06:00am My desk Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham Listening to: Aphex Twin – On Spotify – Discover weekly Playlist Whip It Soundtrack   Quick update today – half day in the office finishing off a project then heading home (for a change of scenery) to work on some admit bits and pieces.   Arts research Final day of work on this mapping project, which has turned into a bit of a report layout job. This has led me to consider offering layout as an additional service. I’ve always turned work like that down, but I really enjoyed tinkering with this clients text, and whilst there wasn’t time (or permission) to do a full rework, even some colours, smart font choices and smarter ways to show data has made all the difference.   That’s it for design for today. Going head home and get on with some admin tasks   – blog post on Report Beautifying (defiintely needs a new name) – finances – I tend to throw all my accounts in Tableau and visualise them because I’m a data nerd! – rework some PDF’s I give to attendees of my training sessions on Tableau, Piktochart and RAW. They’re a bit out of date and could do with redesigning. I’m then going to offer them as incentives to sign up to my mailing list. Which reminds me … – I need to write my first email for my mailing list  :-S   Over + out    

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Studio Diary: 19 Apr 2016 – Levellers, text-wrangling and hi-res images

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 19 April 2016 10:45am My desk Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham Levellers, Levelling the Land Amorphous Androgynous     I’m working on a couple of fairly straightforward infographic projects today. I prefer to have several projects on the go at a time – it means I always have something to work on, even if some are with clients for review.   Arts report I’m creating 5 A4 graphics to be inserted into a Word report. These 5 pages are made up of stylised maps (of a town, a region and the UK) with points referring to a directory of artists / organisations. Working over several pages has been interesting (most of my work is single page) and wrangling this much text has been fun. I’ve also got to use cute icons and to aid navigation across the page.    Recruitment one-pager 18 months ago I worked with a Birmingham recruiter to create a series of infographics to share their key statistics and contact details. Now I’ve been asked to modify one of the pages for a different department. My design skills have improved in 18 months and I’m having to fight the urge to redesign the whole thing. I’m also getting to work with a subtle texture on the page, which really adds something special to the image.   Public health survey This has been a long running project with some major rethinks along the way. We’re 99% there, and after toying with data visualisations and interactive tools, we’ve now settled on a set of 3 infographics to show the key data from this sexual survey. I’ve wanted to use a hi-res photo background for an infographic for a while, and the image worked perfectly. Bonus that it was one of my 7 free images from Adobe Stock.  

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Relocating as a freelancer

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Five things to to consider if you’re relocating whilst working as a freelancer.

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This week: waiting waiting waiting

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4 Apr 2016 update.

It’s all about waiting this week. Waiting for new projects and most importantly, a move date.

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Freelancers: pricing structure options

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One of the hardest things to get right as a freelancer, is pricing. I have a range of pricing structures depending on the project and client.

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Top 30 Studios in the UK: interactive

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Interactive tool allowing the user to discover information about the top design studios in the UK

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My Route: interactive touchtable

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Interactive touchtable created for heritage project, using historical data.

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Paxlife / Cloud 10 – graphics for explainer video

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Graphics for animated infographic / explainer video. A collaboration project

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University of the First Age: Theory of Change

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Diagram one-pager designed to explain the processes, and statistics from the University of the First Age. This is used to help representatives explain the organisation and it’s work.  

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CATH: collaboration diagram

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Complex flow diagram created to show collaborations during the CATH project

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Sunday Mirror: crime supplement

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Series of infographics for publication in a Sunday Mirror crime supplement.

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Wiley: report infographics

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Multi-page infographic report showing survey results

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Ignite Brum: subject icons

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Series of theme icons created for Ignite Brum, a speaking event in Birmingham, UK

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What We Do In a Year: Copeland Borough Council

Infographic created for Copeland Council to demonstrate the range of services they carry out. The client specifically wanted the infographic to appear busy and varied.  

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BestByWM: report infographic and footers

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Series of footer and full-page infographics created for a social media research report

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Reliable Witness

Reliable Witness was a transmedia project for Birmingham Book Festival 2012, culminating in an interactive storytelling installation. Participants were asked to make several choices for the characters, affecting the final outcome I was asked to plot the various storylines, also showing the use of real-world media and social networks.  

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Walsall Council – media mapping

I was asked to research and create an infographic showing the media landscape in Walsall in the West Midlands

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Resources v Celebrities

As part of an Information is Beautiful challenge, I created this infographic showing the depletion of resources over time.  

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Where’s Werrity?

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Map and diagram showing the trips taken by Adam Werrity, friend to Dr Liam Fox

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Infographics training at the Press Association

I’m back at the Press Association delivering an infographics one-day session in May. If your organisation is looking to improve your infographics then this is the course for you. I’ve received excellent feedback, and with only 6 attendees, there’s plenty of opportunity to ask questions about your organisations specific needs. The course combines hands-on training, discussion and group work.   Find out more about the course, and book your place, here

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Stop: you’re doing infographics all wrong

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Infographics can be a really effective way to communicate, but some people are getting it very, very wrong.

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5 Big Things of 2015

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A quick look back at some of my highlights from 2015

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Why I’m loving …. Momentum app

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I was tipped off about the Momentum app thanks to the weekly email from Tim Ferris. It’s works of a very basic principle – guilt. Install and when you open a new tab in Chrome (presumably to waste time noodling around on Facebook) a full page picture appears asking for your name, email and “What is your main focus for today?”. Complete these simple requests and each time you open a new tab you will see a full screen version of this.   Nice huh? it’s a different background and quote each time, but it’s basically reminding you that you have stuff to do. In a pretty font. Of course you can move onto your original destination but not without a pang in the old guilt-gland.   Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer and trainer – get in touch for more details    

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Thank you to …

I know as Brits we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but it seems as good an opportunity as any to send out some THANKS of my own. I’ve been running my own business for several years now (after a career change brought on by redundancy from my job in commercial radio) and I still have to pinch myself today when I think about all i have achieved.  Yes, I work hard, yes I’ve been savvy, but I could not have achieved what I have without the support and kindness of the people I’ve met along the way. The people named below have gone above and beyond in supporting and promoting my business in their respective worlds and in some cases, teaching me invaluable skills. Thank you to each and every one of you.   Paul Bradshaw (Twitter)   When I left my radio gig in 2009, I immediately signed up as one of the first students at Birmingham City University‘s MA in Online Journalism. I was looking to shore up my online skills, social media, blogging etc and planned emerge the other end most likely “doing web stuff” for a radio station or newspaper. Little did I know that I was about to be pulled into the world of data journalism – an area that would shape the job I do today. Course leader Paul Bradshaw was (and still is) incredibly influential. Not only did he teach me some seriously handy skills and introduce me to a whole new area of journalism, he continues to recommend me for work today. Paul and I still work together today on data projects and the occasional training session. I must also give mention to the “Bradshaw Effect’  -when Paul retweets something of yours, you know about it!!!   Andy Mabbett (website) It was Andy’s invitation to speak at Brewcamp back in 2000-and-something, that threw me headlong into the world of local government comms. I gave a brief talk about my infographics and data work, and was introduced to a handful of people who would go on to be some of my biggest clients and recommend my work to their colleagues. For the last few years local government has been one of my biggest client sectors. Andy is always supportive and friendly, as continues to share my name throughout his network, leading to a host of new work even today. It is much appreciated!   Dan Slee and Darren Caveney (website) Dan and Darren were two of my first clients during their time at Walsall Council. I met them at the Brewcamp event I mentioned above and immediately they approached me about some work. Both Dan and Darren have not only hired me directly, but they have pushed me in front of their significant networks and directly led to a massive amount of work. Both Dan and Darren have been incredibly supportive, and I thank them no end of their ongoing kind words and mentions.   Pete Jackson (IEWM) I enjoy working with Pete Jackson. His constant enthusiasm about the design

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Hitting walls with a project? Going in circles? Try the Stuck Wheel

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There are times in projects when you get completely stuck. You may find yourself going in circles, with a million reasons why you can’t continue. These could be the fault of the client, overload of tasks, or a general bad feeling about how it’s all progressing. For example you’re: waiting for more information from someone else not enjoying the project struggling to understand the clients needs overwhelmed by too many tasks Every way you turn there is another reason NOT to progress, so nothing gets done. This happens to me from time to time. I am often working on several projects at a time, and it can be easy to keep heading towards the easier ones than the harder ones. As a freelancer I don’t have a line manager to talk to, so this is one of those times when I need to play both roles. That’s why I started using a Stuck Wheel. Some of this stuff may seem really obvious, but it’s helped get me out of a stuck project many times.     You Will Need A4 sheet of paper / large notebook 2 pens of different colours   Stage 1 Write the name of the project in the centre of an A4 sheet of paper and draw a circle round it. Then, creating a ‘spider diagram’ (and leaving space between each entry and the edge of the page) write down each of the problems you are facing with the project. All of them. They can be an insignificant or as personal as you like, no one else is going to see this. The idea is to capture all of the BLOCKS you are facing with this project. Think carefully about all the things you need to do, and why you can’t do them right now. Remember: there are no stupid entries here, so if you just hate the project, and don’t want to work on it any more, write it down. Just make sure its not the ONLY thing on your wheel! Connect each problem to the central circle with a line.   Stage 2 Now it’s time to act like a boss for a moment. Using the other pen, go through each of the problems and write a response to them. for example:   BLOCK: waiting for a response from client ANSWER: email or call client for a response   BLOCK: don’t have the software i need ANSWER: set aside some time to download and install the software   This seems pretty obvious, but it’s amazing how often these little easily solved problems can sit and fester, and halt the whole project. However, when I do the STUCK WHEEL there are always some emotional blocks as well. The answers to these will depend on the particular project but could go as follows:   BLOCK: I’m worried XYZ will happen ANSWER: it might. Plan for XYZ to happen by doing ABC   BLOCK: I don’t feel like doing this right now ANSWER: (if the project is not urgent) – schedule a time to do this in the future, forget about

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Need a Tableau dashboard? Here’s the information I need

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This post discussed my use of Tableau Software. For more information on Tableau visit the official website I’ve always used Tableau to quickly get to grips with a new data set and play with different chart types until I come across something effective. I’ve also created several ‘personal’ projects using this tool. More recently, I’ve been talking to several clients about creating Tableau dashboards or interactive infographics for them. These are the questions I ask myself / them at the start of any new Tableau project, on top of the usual design questions (which may form another blog post at some point) Feedback / thoughts welcome via Twitter.   CURRENT USE Do you currently use Tableau? Do you use dashboards and / or storyboards? What version of Tableau do you use – Public, Desktop, Server etc Is Tableau part of your usual workflow, or something you use for standalone projects Is there one person who uses Tableau in your organisation, or are most people skilled in Tableau? Do you use Tableau to generate your calculations, or is the bulk of the statistical work done in the original dataset? Can you share files, links or screenshots of how you currently use Tableau?   THIS PROJECT (what we are creating) What are your aims for this project? (i.e. “to create a dashboard to let our staff see our monthly statistics”) Is there a particular challenge/problem your are looking to solve? Who is your intended audience? is the dashboard just for internal use? What do you envisage to be the final outcome of this project? – i.e. a single dashboard, multiple dashboards (story), a single visualisation, an interactive infographic   VIEWING THE PROJECT do you want the project to be viewable online by anyone? will the project need some explanation/wider context? will the project need some instructions or will all your users be familiar with Tableau?   THE DATA is the data for this project part of a larger data set already existing in Tableau or are we starting from scratch? is the data ready to go, or does it need more work to get it into shape? is the data already public? is it ok for the data to be accessible/downloaded by anyone who accesses the project?   THE DESIGN is it important for this project to meet corporate branding guidelines? does this need to be suitable for mobile use?

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My Route – touchtable design

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My Route was a heritage project based in Birmingham. I was commissioned to design a touch table that would show the changing history of the Stratford Road, one of the key routes in the city, from the 1940s to today. You can find out more about the whole project in this short film After several months of research and trialling, I began developing a map that would allow users to see the businesses along the road in 10 years intervals. Using the Kelly’s Directories, phone books, Yellow Pages and other research, I created a giant spreadsheet showing the business name, type and category. Working with digital agency Substrakt, and touch table developer John Sear, we created an interactive touch table that was placed in a local community centre and a library for several weeks for the public to use. The touch table shows a selection of the businesses, with audio, image and video content. Users interact with the touch table by moving the coloured “decade” lenses over the road, and icons appear when there is content available. Touching the icon reveals the content.    

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Alzheimers Society – infographic and social media images

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Client: Alzheimers Society Brief: to create a full length infographic and a series of social media images to promote a new report into the dementia research community Visible at:  ow.ly/Snzeq 

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Terry Pratchett #dataviz

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I’ve been meaning to do a literature dataviz for a while, and the sad passing of Terry Pratchett seemed a good opportunity to explore the storyline groups in his Discworld novels.

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If you needed any more proof that I am a data visualisation and productivity nerd …

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In order to keep track of the various projects, I use an Excel spreadsheet. This calculates project hours, rates etc. The spreadsheet breaks each day down into 30 minute blocks, into which I paste a coloured block and code – which helps calculate the running totals. As well as being useful – it also generated this bonus visualisation! I started this in Oct 2013 – So now, I present, my work diary from Oct 2013 – Dec 2014.  

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CATH – Collaborative Arts Triple Helix

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http://www.cathproject.org.uk/ I was asked to create a visualisation of the Collaborative Arts Triple Helix Project – which saw higher education institutions, SME’s and SCO’s come together to work on a project. This diagram shown the groupings of the participants, and the collaborations.  

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Sunday Mirror – crime supplement

Infographics created for Sunday Mirror crime supplement

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Museums, tube lines and handwritten notes – Marches network infographic

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A few months back I was invited by Glynis Powell and Sue Knox of the Marches Network (a group of museum development officers working across the West Midlands) to create an infographic to show off their work. The information was a mix of statistics and text-based information on the various projects and successes throughout the year. Quick Links: Grouping the Information The Lines Moving into Illustrator Design Considerations Colours Textures and Ephemera Ephemera Typeface The Finished Infographic The Layout Grouping the Information My first job was to look through the information for groupings  – a way to sort the data and allow the reader to approach it in an organised manner. I settled on 6 category titles: volunteers paid staff economic governance visitors collections These neatly covered all the areas of work  – and all the data fitted into at least one of these categories – with some falling into more than one. This led to an interesting challenge, showing crossovers, and shared categories. I’ll confess, I’ve been dying to try a tube style map for a while, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. The Lines My normal process is to scribble a few words about each “bit” of information onto a post-it note, and spend a good amount of time (1-2 hours) rearranging them on my desk until a pattern or structure appears. However, in this case I felt Gliffy was a better tool. Gliffy is an online mind-mapping/flow diagram tool – and the main benefit for me is the ability to attach connection lines between 2 boxes, which move as you rearrange the boxes. perfect! I created a series of boxes, one for each section of information, plus one header box for each category and started drawing the connection lines. See the diagram below. Note: as with any information – these connections were based on my understanding of the data  – the client made some changes and further advice on how they felt the data should be grouped  – so this diagram does not match the finished piece.  Moving into Illustrator This Gliffy diagram gave me a great point of reference – when moving into Illustrator. Gliffy allows you to export as an SVG file, which can be very useful in Illustrator, however i this case I simply printed off the image and had it next to me as I worked. I created a grid on my Illustrator page to give me an idea of how large each “text box” should be, and then started creating the individual elements. Once the tex boxes were in the right place I used the pen tool (with a 2mm curve) to create the lines.   Design Considerations Colours There was some time between getting the brief, and receiving the information, so I spent this time working on the theme and colours I’d use in the infographic. Along with this infographic, there was also a set of 7 infographics I was to create in the future, so wanted to settle on a strong colour scheme that would work across all

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Pink for girls and blue for boys

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Every time I need to create a gender-related chart, i.e. the number of men or women doing XYZ and I need to use colour to define between them, I always ask the same question?
Should I automatically use pink for girls and blue for boys?

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Brand Guidelines and Infographics

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I’ve been considering the relationship between brand guidelines and infographics recently.  I’d love your thoughts on this – tweet me! A lot of infographics created today are wholly standalone from the rest of the company’s materials. Is this right? Should infographics be 100% branded, partially or not at all? (of course, it depends on the use, right?) In my experience there are 3 potential scenarios: client wants the infographic to strictly adhere to their brand guidelines client would like fonts and colours used correctly, but is open about design style client want’s something completely different to their brand guidelines   Scenario 1 – a client will furnish me with their data, creative brief and brand guidelines. They are insistent that all fonts, colours and logos are used as stated and want an infographic that fits wholly within their communication materials. I can understand my some organisations would want to maintain a clean, consistent brand: especially if it’s particularly strong. The infographics would be easily recognisable as being from that organisation. They can be used in presentations, reports and alongside other communication materials whilst maintaining a united approach. However, is there a risk of the infographic appearing too-corporate?  If the company has a fun brand style, then it may work well as an infographic. However, a more traditional, staid, (dare we say it boring?) brand could end up looking like a corporate presentation. If you’re trying to reach a new audience, for example younger or more ‘hip”, this brand may not work in this case.   Scenario 2 – this tends to be smaller clients, or those who do not have a defined creative “look” for their organisation. They may not be in the creative or tech industries (i.e. engineering or manufacturing) and are less concerned with their corporate identity. In these cases I tend to lean towards using the colours in their logo. As they are less defined about their brand, I would want anything I create to fit, in some way if only colour, with their other communication materials. The risk here is that the client develops a disjointed approach. Yes, the infographic may have been effective in it’s own right – and perhaps that’s enough. However, if the client is considering using the infographic long term, or developing their corporate brand, it may be wise to spend some time thinking about the overall look and feel of the organisation and bring the infographic in line with that.   Scenario 3 – I have had clients who have wanted to try something completely new and move far away from their corporate identity. This tends to be more traditional organisations who recognise that their brand is either not suited to the infographic or would not be well-received by the public. I am yet to come across a client who wants an infographic without their logo (although I can imagine a public body, for example, may want the focus to be on the message, not on the organisation behind it!) Organisations that have a range of

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Infographics for Housing Associations

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It’s been all about housing associations recently! I’m currently working on an annual report infographic for Thames Valley Housing (covering their key statistics) but was also recently invited to speak to a network group of National Housing Federation communications professionals in the West Midlands. I delivered a 45 minute talk on infographics including: why infographics the process of developing them some key tools. What I find interesting at these events is hearing about what the individuals are doing, and thinking how infographics / information design could fit into their communication plans. Quick Links: Newsletters Annual Reports Leaflets / Flyers Process Documents Environmental Newsletters There was an interesting discussion about newsletters. It seems many of the HA’s still post out a physical newsletter as opposed to email, as some residents don’t have internet access. These newsletters seem to cover the main events and news since the last issue was released. Infographics would be a great way to engage readers in the developments of the HA, and the changes in their environment. Each issue could include a really simple diagram or chart giving a snapshot of the demographics of other residents, for example, or the number of new homes acquired. Using a similar style in each issue, and having the infographic on the same page, could become a really interesting destination for readers. Annual Reports As I mentioned above, I’m currently working on an annual report infographic for Thames Valley Housing. This will sit within their full report, but will also work as a standalone graphic. Annual reports are chock-full of standalone statistics – i.e. customer demographics, number of homes, moves . new lets, size of homes etc. This is perfect for the infographic layout style. Leaflets / Flyers Leaflets are a great way to distribute information, especially to a less digitally-active audience. If you’re trying to drum up interest in a subject, for example – a change in rent, a new development or to highlight a particular problem area (i.e. anti-social behaviour) you could turn the leaflet into a fold-out infographic, or use small diagrams to back up the text/argument. Process Documents The housing process can be a stressful time for new residents. The paperwork and process can be confusing so HA’s could head off any tension by creating a series of documents with infographics to explain what, when and how things will happen. For example, a timeline of the application process will allow people to understand how long it will take, whilst a chart could explain what the rent covers and how often it needs to be paid. Residents could also learn about the various housing options with infographics showing demographic breakdown (i.e. are there other children nearby for mine to play with? or is it a particularly young area). Environmental Take a look at the image above! There’s no reason to keep infographics on the page or screen. Tidy Street in Brighton plotted their electricity use on the road itself for a few months back in 2011. Read more about this

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Sunday Mirror – Justice on Trial supplement

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Last weekend I was incredibly proud to see a series of my infographics appear in the Sunday Mirror newspaper. I had been commissioned to work on the graphics, in collaboration with the Ampp3d data journalism team and the editorial staff at the newspaper. I think it’s fair to say it’s my most high-profile piece of work to date, and the staff at the paper were incredibly pleased with the results! You can see a few of the pages below:  

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The Independent on Sunday’s Happy List 2014 [interactive map]

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The Independent on Sunday’s list of people who have made other people’s lives better – mapped and interactive

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Best Rock Anthem of All Time? [interactive]

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This visualisation was created as a bit of fun one weekend – and is not an official Kerrang! product a few points: quite telling of the Kerrang! brand that these are largely very new bands very few “classic” bands made it into the top 100 Learn About Tableau

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Accessible Infographics: information for everyone?

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Infographics are a big deal. However, they are images, so aren’t really accessible to people who are visually impaired.
Here are some thoughts and ideas of what designers can do to make things a bit easier for everyone.

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CB Ltd infographic used in winning business award entry

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Great news! One of my recent infographics design clients, Engineers Mate, picked up the Young Business Award at the Express and Star business awards last week. Check out the work I did for their entry

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I speak: Creating Usable Content event video

If you picked up my recent blog posts, you’ll know I took part in the Creating Usable Content event in Cardiff a few weeks ago. It was an event for local gov and  health comms professionals, and  I delivered a workshop on Infographics, which went down really well, by all accounts. There was a camera crew at the event recording sessions and interviewing the workshop leaders. Watch out for my pals Dan Slee and Pete Ashton.  Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

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Engineers Mate – infographic and slides

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Engineers Mate are a West Midlands engineering supply company, who recently approached Caroline Beavon Ltd to support their entry for the Express and Star Business Awards 2014, where they went on to win the Young Business Award. The company wanted a one page infographic to explain the growth of the company over the past 12 months, as well as a series of slide images to use during their presentations to the judges.  

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Euraxess Infographic

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I was commissioned to create a series of infographics for Euraxess, to promote their promotional tour.

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My Week – 5-9 May 2014 / big screens, walls and audiences

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 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details It’s been another one of those funny short bank Holiday weeks – but here’s a quick summary of what I’ve been working on in the infographics design world, and training! SCIENCE CAPITAL On Tuesday night I spoke at the Science Capital “Doing Business With Data“ event at Millennium Point in Birmingham. The focus of my talk was Presenting Your Big Data, where I was keen to stress the importance of thinking about the audience. Highly technical and numerate crowds often forget that the people they’re communicating with may not understand data as well as they do. It’s important to engage the audience, connect with them, help them understand, reveal the data through navigation and allow the audience to make their own discoveries through exploration. You can see my slides here Ahead of the event I was collared for a quick interview with Paige from The Information Daily. The interview may be appearing on the Information Daily website soon – I’ll share the link when it goes up! The presentation was delivered on the Giant Screen at Millennium Point which I wasn’t a huge fan of – no slides look good at that scale and some of the audience looked a little too comfy in those big cinema seats! I did get the change to have an interesting discussion with Vernon Blackmore about the use of infographics and diagrams in academic documents. Several organisatons are still reliant on heavy text and documentation. A phD student (Stuart?) who joined our chat admitted that his attention span was low and he struggled to tackle weighty tomes! Vernon suggested that there could be some greater encouragement of visual communication within academia, where students are encouraged to  demonstrate their learning through diagrams instead of text, and he’s already recommending tools like Infogr.am to help them present their information! MYSTERY CLIENT X (image The Happy Show at Design Exchange, Toronto) I’ve also spend quite a bit of time this week researching environmental graphic design after a potential client asked be to quote for creating a wall-based infographic for their new building. This is an interesting area. Museums and galleries are already adept at using their space to relay information but until now my experience has been either on a flat surface (paper or online) or in an animated interactive space (touch table). The added challenge with this brief was to allow the infographic to be up-dateable on a regular basis (ie monthly) as the statistics change. After seeing her speak at the Design Festival in Cheltenham, I was taken with Morag Myerscough/Studio Myerscough‘s huge scale graphics, and have been inspired by her use of text, colour and usability.  You can see some of the images I’ve pulled together as part of this research on Pinterest The job would include actually putting the infographic onto the wall, so I’ve also been looking into various techniques for adding lettering and design to a surface – ie vinyl letters, stencils etc. Fingers crossed

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Appearing soon at …

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I’ve had a flurry of invitations to speak in public recently and, as one of my New Years Resolutions was to say ‘yes’ more, I’ve agreed to all of them.

Over the next 2 months I’ll be appearing at the following events – ticket details below, and if you’re already going, do say hi!

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Bits and Pieces: design-related podcasts

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I’m a big fan of podcasts.I’m only sad that I don’t have more time to listen to them (for example, I can’t listen whilst I’m working, just when I’m at home, travelling or driving). I use the Pocket Casts app on my iPhone, which is a very smart, easy to use app and for the past 6 months I’ve been listening to a lot of design-related podcasts – here are my favourites (in no particular order!) Quick Links: Adventures in Design The Stack Section D 99% Invisible Data Stories Design Matters The Deeply Graphic Design Podcast Adventures in Design (website)(iTunes) Format: 3 presenters with chat, occasional interviews and Q & A Tone: casual, yet informative with occasional (ok, quite a bit) of swearing Usual length: 1 hr 40 – 2hr Frequency: weekly When I was working alone at home, this podcast acted as my colleagues, with enough banter and interesting facts and tips to make me feel human again!! It was great to hear 3 guys chatting about every day designer issues and moans, with some smart ideas and advice thrown in. Recently the podcasts were recorded on the road as the crew took a trip to the Flatpack Festival in Austin, Texas as part of SXSW with some genuinely funny moments!   The Stack (website) (iTunes) Format: Studio host, with guests, reports and discussion Tone: informative, intelligent and ever-so-slightly smug.  Usual length: 25 – 40 mins Frequency: weekly The first of 2 offering from Monocle, publishers of the high-brow monthly magazine. They run a radio station, but the shows are also released as podcasts. This has been a long-time favourite of mine. Usually presented by Editor-in-Chief Tyler Brulee, its a 30 minute look at the world of magazine publishing. Guests bring along their favourite titles, and discuss design, content and the wider industry. Section D (website) (iTunes) Format: studio host and reports from global reporters Tone: dips a toe in the water of every type of design – a good overview Usual length: 60 mins Frequency: weekly The second podcast from Monocle, this time the design-focused Section D. A recent change of presenter has improved this no end, with a more relaxed style. Covering graphic design, architecture, fashion and everything in between all over the world, it offers an interesting insight into the industry. 99% Invisible (website) (iTunes) Format: radio programme on a different design related subject each week Tone: highly produced, intelligent with comic asides.  Usual length: around 2o minutes Frequency: weekly A recent funding push has meant this brilliant radio series is now weekly, maintaining it’s high standards. A high level of production and presenting means recent topics such as “barcodes”, Pizza Hut buildings and number stations, become fascinating subjects. Data Stories (website) (iTunes) Format: 2 hosts + guests Tone: incredibly friendly, passionate and geeky in places  Usual length: 45 – 120 mins Frequency: monthly (not regular) I adore this podcast because it lands exactly in my wheelhouse – data and design. The hosts, an academic and a professional data designer, clearly enjoy the podcast and create a friendly and warm

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5 Things I Discovered at Cheltenham Design Festival

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Recently I visited the Cheltenham Design Festival as part of my ongoing education into art and design. The structure of the day meant attendees had to choose between a selection of great workshops and presentations and I found the day incredibly interesting and inspiring. Here are the top ideas I heard/learnt today: 1. Infographics Are Not Dead Which is just as well! I was starting to get a little nervous. Not only has the infographics world been inundated with tacky, cheap and low-value infographics, but this mashup of content and design seems to have very low credibility within the design field. (Is it considered a low-brow artform? Or are graphic designers simply not interested in the presentation of content literally?) One of the sessions I attended covered viral marketing, newsjacking and how to make your content “stickable” – the session was appropriately called “Super Sticky Snackability” presented by Jon Burkhart from Urgent Genius. Following the session I asked Jon, as he had briefly touched on the subject, whether the influx of cheap infographics had killed them. Thankfully Jon backed up my feelings, that there will always be a place, but the content has to be strong, but also that interactivity is perhaps a still under-saturated area. He added that it’s very hard to kill something, despite claims to the contrary (TV and print live on, for example despite the death knell!) Phew! 2. It’s OK to Have Fun! (Image: HomeofMetal_Fox_0711 by Guy Evans, on Flickr) I love what I do, but it’s often easy to get caught up in deadlines, and the process of what you’re doing, and forget all that. So it was great to see how much passion surrounds the design industry, but the subject of having fun was covered heavily by two of the speakers. First, Morag Myerscough (site) (pictured left) during her presentation “Design can create belonging“.  It’s hard not to be cheered up by her vibrant design work but it was great to sense her genuine passion and joy about her work, and see photographs of her laughing with work colleagues as she actually gets her hands dirty doing the painting work on her huge scale projects. The second dose of “loving the job” came from Nick Eagleton from The Partners. His background was strongly founded in exploratory arts (including some adventures in taxidermy, wire sculpture and studios within studios) although now he has a more structured branding role. However, his sheer joy at being able to bring his passion for surprise and exploration in design was evident – keep it fun!! 3. Meet Your Audience Another tip from Nick Eagleton (see previous point). He explained how he was sent to the Falkland Islands to research the design for a new standards logo for produce from the island. Prior to his trip, the team had developed a series of logos all featuring the penguin, a well-used icon in Falklands merchandise. It appears on mugs, websites, hats and mittens! However, when Nick arrived in the Falklands and began speaking

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UPDATE – courses, quickies and connections

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I’m constantly pleased to see the number of organisations thinking about visual communication. Over the last 6 months I’ve been busy with a series of “Influential Analysis” training courses for Understanding Modern Government, where I have been (hopefully) inspiring people to rethink how they communicate information both internally and externally. Organisations attending the public courses, or booking in-house sessions, include various NHS trusts, Lincolnshire County Council and even the Department of Transport – all of them equally open and welcoming to new ideas for communicating their data. I’ve been working with the brilliant Ian Taylor, from Flying Binary who is now taking over the courses. It’s been great working with him, and I’ve learnt a lot. I’d recommend signing up to the next public course if you’re battling with your data.   ————————————- On the subject of training – I’m testing out an interesting new half-day workshop at Coventry City Council next month. This is a variation of my full-day Data Visualisation training course, but instead of delving into the theory, I’ll be spending 3 hours guiding them through the process of building an infographic from scratch. I’m interest to see how this is received. I am always preaching that tools like Piktochart allow anyone to create “something” visual – but does it allow them to make something good? With my guidance, I hope so.  ————————————- I’m also keen to turn my focus back to my design work – which is my real passion. I’ve had a few long running projects on various back burners and these are now springing back into life. I’m currently working with Lara Ratnaraja on a data-visualisation for the CATH (Collaborative Arts Triple Helix) project. This sees 3 sectors … higher education institutions small-medium enterprises cultural organisations … working together on a range of really interesting projects, and we want to show those collaborations on a data diagram for the project report. We’re dealing with around 50 organisations, so the trick is to make sure the full complexity of the project is demonstrated, without the chart appearing cluttered. I’m planning to use RAW to generate an alluvial diagram (above) – but I need to have all the organisations grouped and categorised before I start. The organisations have received the groupings list today and we’re just waiting to get final approval on the copy.   ————————————- It was also nice this week to receive a “quickie” request – in short, to create an infographic for a PR agency in Germany within 24 hours. I don’t want to tempt fate (the graphic is currently with the client for approval) but the agency are pleased with the image, and glad I managed to get something turned around so quickly. I’ve normally shied away from this kind of work, but there is definitely a market for these “emergency infographics”!! They provided all the information, which I shaped and edited down into a structured form that could be transformed into an A4 infographic.  ————————————-  Whether you’re after in-house data visualisation training, a data visualisation or something quick

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Information Designer for Hire: what to expect

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 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details Whilst organisations may have had experience working with graphics or branding designers in the past, the process to develop an infographic is very different. Ask any graphics designer who’s been asked to convert a 20 page report into an image, and chances are they’ll tell you that designing an infographic requires a whole new set of skills. I think of myself as a designer-meets-journalist-meets-number cruncher – as the content needs editing, selecting and crafting, and *then* designing. Your input is vital to the success of the project – you know what you want and you know your industry – it’s up to you to point out the important information and decide on your message. Here is a run down of the process structure I use: Quick Links: Initial Decision Initial Contact First Discussion Full Quote First Drafts Work In Progress Final Proof Image Proof-reading / final tweaks Final Image Initial Decision So you’ve decided your company needs an infographic. You may have a strong idea of what needs communicating (ie you’re end of year finances, a new process or a summary of your work) or you may have simply heard the word, and feel you should get on board. Knowing what you want communicating (the concept as opposed to the specific content) is important and will save you time . It’s also worth thinking about a few key things, as they will be useful to know at the start of the process: what are you trying to communicate? You can read more about this here who is your audience? age, knowledge, gender, nationality is this for online, print or both? what is your deadline? what is your budget? do you have the information, or do you want me to source it? You will be asked more questions as the process goes on but these are a good starting point. Initial Contact Normally via email or social media asking about prices and timescale Much of my work comes in via email, Twitter or Linkedin – with a client contacting me with a tentative query about costings. It’s such a new area of design that the pricing structure is an unknown – and few designers (including myself) put prices on their websites. (This is because every job is different. Pricing is based on final output, amount of research required and how quickly you need it). I’m usually happy to give a ballpark figure but always ask for more information before giving an official quote. Many designers quote by the hour – I quote per job. I find this puts everyone at ease (including myself). Of course, I have contingency plans in place if the project spirals out of control through changes by the client – but these are explained fully with my initial quote. I’ll give a full and detailed price quote once we have completed the next stage, the initial discussion. First Discussion An opportunity for us

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Work in Progress: The Warriors plot-map

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Intro If you follow me on Instagram  you may have seen a picture I posted recently. To most people it would have looked like a random arrangement of squiggles, lines and terrible sketches. In fact it was a draft sketch of the plot of  The Warriors, a film that came out in 1979 (trailer) The plot is set in a slightly-futuristic New York, where gangs in theatrical-costume uniforms roam the streets defending their turf. After being called to an all-gang powwow in the Bronx, the Warriors, from Coney Island have to make their way home with all the other gangs after their blood. What follows is their route south, to Coney, via the subway network and the highly controversial* 1972 Massimo Vignelli map (right) features heavily. (*the map was controversial as it followed the London underground style of being geographically inaccurate but focussed on connections within the system). So boiling this down – the film is not only set over a series of locations (as with most films) but the specific locations are crucial, have different gangs attached to each area, and the movement between these areas is central to the plot. ————— I’ve always admired highly detailed “infographics”, or information design – where extensive time has gone into turning something conceptual into a visual finished piece and I felt the location-centric Warriors plot would work well overlaid on the New York subway map. However, it would not be enough to simply plot their route across the city, but i wanted to show the key clashes with the other gangs and key plot points. I have since added another series of elements – key lines from the script at the relevant locations, and the route of the individual Warrior members, if they peel off from the rest of the gang, or are killed. I was also inspired to use the same effect adopted in the Minard Napoleon campaign data visualisation – where the width of the line denoted the number of men in the army. This diagram (left) shows the outgoing army via the brown line, as they march to Russia, with the returning army shows in black. The depleted numbers are clear. The diagram also shows how some peeled off from the rest of the group. This is a great visualisation and very effective and I want to adopt a similar idea for my map – although in this case we have 9 “soldiers” depleted down to 6 (plus an addition). This is still a work in progress, but here are a couple of screen-grabs of the work so far:          

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Infographics? Infovisuals? Stop and think

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Visual communication is nothing new. Man has been daubing on walls and scratching into rock for centuries. Whether it’s “5 Ways to Catch and Skin a Deer” or “The River Styx: Everything You Need to Know”, visual representations of information have been the simplest way to pass information from one person to another. Nowadays, the data explosion has meant there is not only more information to be conveyed, but an increased demand for access and understanding. We want price checks, reviews and evidence before we hand over our money and companies have to work harder to gain our loyalty. There’s also the decrease in trust of power – public organisations have to be transparent, as each member of the public becomes as hungry for facts and proof as the most voracious reporter of the past. Add the internet and especially social media into the mix and you have the perfect transportation method for this information. Of course, with every shift in human consciousness, there are those who misunderstand, misuse and abuse this shift. The demand for infographics has reached fever pitch and organisations are now jumping on this dangerously overcrowded bandwagon. If you’re one of those people thinking, “we need to get visual” but aren’t sure how or why – read on.   What are you visualising? I’ve been approached by organisations in the past who want infographics creating, but have no idea what the content will be. They’d simply heard the phrase and wanted a piece of the action. Your visual communication must be driven by content. Would you write a press release or blog post, with no idea at the start what it’s for? Of course not. An infographic or data visualisation must be part of your overall communication message. If you’d like to use visuals, take a look at your current projects. What kind of information are you dealing with? For example, are you dealing with numbers/stats, the most common form of content for visual communication? Charts and data visualisation are tried and tested methods of explaining numbers. Great for showing prices, budget cuts, population counts and user demographics. Perhaps you have location data. Maps are the most obvious way of communicating geographical data, as we understand how maps work and can instantly put ourselves into the picture – we can see how the data will affect us directly. New store locations, country of origin of products, transportation routes all work well mapped. Many organisations overlook the third type of data: time and dates. Visit a museum and you’ll probably come across a timeline – again, a tool that allows us to put concepts into a visual form for us to understand. If you’re trying to explain the growth of your company, future development plans for an area or a events schedule, a timeline allows the user to access this data in a logical way. There is another form of data that does not fall into any of these categories, but often requires the most explanation: systems and processes.

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5 key elements of a freelance career

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I was recently invited to speak to BA students at BCU about enterprise – and specifically, how I managed to forge a freelance career for myself. Having retrained (I used to be a commercial radio journalist) I think there are 5 key areas I focused on to make it PEOPLE People have to be the main focus of your freelancer career – you work alone so you have to generate all your work yourself. Social media is a brilliant tool for finding new contacts and maintaining those relationships. I keep an active Twitter account (3 actually, but that’s for another time). I make sure I regularly share interesting links AND reply to people, so my account isn’t just broadcasting. I certainly don’t talk about my own work all the time, although I will tweet when I have a success (i.e. a piece of work doing well in an awards) or about things I am working on. I have regular conversations online and try to be engaging. However, it’s very easy to rely on social media and never leave the house. As a freelancer you need to be getting out to see people. Talk to people in your field, and look for meetups and groups you can go along to. It’s great to have someone else to talk to, especially as you’re probably on your own all day. However, don’t fall into the trap of *only* hanging out with people in your field – remember, they’re not likely to employ you (unless you can secure sub-contract work from them). Who are your potential clients? Where do they hang out? If you offer a valid service to different business sectors, offer to talk about your services to them  – but don’t just promote yourself, promote the general benefits to them. You’ll be amazed how much work will come your way. I am eternally grateful to Andy Mabbett (aka @pigsonthewing) for inviting me along to speak at Brewcamp over a year ago. Brewcamp is a local Government comms meetup, where very forward thinking people look for new ways to help councils. I was initially sceptical of the benefits, but that 20 minute talk has led to a host of work and a real reputation in this sector! Thanks Andy! MONEY There is a very active campaign right now to protect interns and young people from exploitation in the work place. However, I’ve always believed that there is too much focus on money. I always recommend students get  job to pay the bills (bar work, waitressing etc) and spend their free time working for little/no pay in the area in which they want to work in the future. So, forget, “don’t work for free” – it’s all about “don’t work for nothing”. Working for a business can increase your employability no-end by giving your actual experience teaching you new skills meeting new people boosting your reputation A year ago I decided I needed to learn a little more about how design agencies work – I

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Sampad Annual Report 2012-2013

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Sampad asked me to update the graphic I created for them last year, with this years statistics for their Annual Report. You can view the PDF of the report here

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Copeland Council – “What we do in a year”

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Infographic created for Copeland Council to demonstrate the range of services they carry out. The client specifically wanted the infographic to appear busy and varied.                                                                          

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bestbywm infographics

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#bestbywm is a white paper investigating social media best practice in the West Midlands, UK. Find full report here: Following a survey of local authority communications teams I was invited to generate a series of infographics for the report. This included: * a full page results infographic * a series of footer infographics showing social media stats * a simple infographic showing the cost of communciation channels        

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Is my local library in Birmingham open today?

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Interactive map allowing users to see if their local library is open on a particular day

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Tableau Public – creating a map for someone else to update

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A quick post explaining how I created a Tableau Public map for someone else, so they could update the data in the future

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The Kernel Returns [updated]

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UPDATE Well, blow me down with a feather …  new look The Kernel is  definitely worth a revisit. I was always put off by the overly-snarky comments (see below) and it appears I wasn’t the only one. The  site has managed to shift from vicious bile to playful teasing  – and it works. It’s definitely back in my RSS feed – I just hope the many tech power-players they took pot shots at in the past are willing to let bygone be bygones. In terms of content, they are taking full advantage of the benefits an online presence gives them; being able to take a 360 look at a wide variety of issues and giving relevant content the space it deserves (without being tied to filling x-number of pages). However, the most heartwarming part of this whole experience: receiving a friendly, humble and honest email from The Kernel founder and Editor-in-Chief  Milo Yiannopoulos asking for my feedback (in reaction to the post below) Classy move. ————————————- I must admit, I was never a huge fan of the Kernel (the weekly technology newsletter, sharing some news and information, but mainly gossip and judgement). Actually, that’s not true. I enjoyed the information it shared, but not the snarky way in which it did it – coming across like a bitter and twisted lunatic throwing rocks at those working in the real world. There were some very public spats with some high profile tech journalists (including The Guardian’s Charles Arthur) which drip fed into several tech podcasts leaving a pretty nasty taste in my mouth. Plus their editor had, what I felt, was a vicious pop at the chaps at Birmingham City University, for their Social Media MA course (a course I am involved in)… and that wasn’t on. (Sadly the website is now down so that post is probably lost forever). Eventually I cancelled my subscription and thought no more about it. Back in the Kernel camp things were going a bit awry (to say the last) and it finally went kaput Until this arrived. The Kernel is back, with a new company behind it, and seemingly a new focus. (my highlighting) I’m going to give it another go – often the journalism was insightful, and I hope the bumps they’ve had in the road have knocked a few holes in their smuggery. Although I’m not holding my breath. ——–     ———   Technology magazine The Kernel to be relaunched with fresh investment, new commercial team   BERLIN, 3 June 2013.—BERLIN42, parent company of Axel Springer-backed event series hy! Berlin, today announces it is to relaunch The Kernel, the online technology, media and politics magazine originally launched by high-profile technology journalist Milo Yiannopoulos in 2011. The Kernel suspended publication in March after exhausting personal investment by Yiannopoulos and failing to secure further funding. BERLIN42 has acquired The Kernel and will operate newly founded publishing company Kernel Media from Berlin. Acquisition terms have not been disclosed. Editorial operations will remain in London. Yiannopoulos will

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10 Ways I Stay Productive

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As a freelancer it’s very easy to fall into bad habits – working from home, lots of different projects and being my own boss means long days of low productivity, and no clear division between work time and free time. Since I left my “proper” job in 2009 I’ve been trying a host of ways to get things done – these are the things I’ve learnt work for me. 1. Find Your Work Hours It’s taken me a while but I’ve found I am super productive early in the morning – irrespective of how tired I am. I had several years working on a radio breakfast show so getting up at the crack-of-dawn doesn’t terrify me, but the point is – find your optimum working hours. I know people who prefer to work in the evening or overnight … whatever works for you, make sure you stick to it 2. Go to Work One of the perks of working in an office is the division between hometime and work time. I miss the walk to work, those few minutes (in my case) to prepare for the day. Even wearing work clothes changes your mindset. This is lost when you stumble from bed to sofa in your PJ’s. Eventually I plan to have a home-office, but for now I have a rented desk not far from where I live. I’ve also found co-working spaces, sneaky corners in coffee shops and other locations really handy. In short, don’t work jn the room where you live. 3. Reboot in-between tasks This is something I’ve only recently discovered, and is good for both me and my laptop. I reboot my computer when I change projects. My jobs tend to be very varied, infographic design one minute, and planning social media training the next – so it’s good to have that mental refresh. Plus. I’m often dealing with big files and my laptops not a robust as it used to be – so a reboot is a useful way to stop it grinding to a halt! 4. Next Task Approach This is a trick I leaned during my time working for Think Productive. Don’t make endless to-do lists of tasks that can’t be done because they depend on something else happening first. Ie: No point adding Book Plane Tickets to my todo list, when you haven’t Booked Holiday yet. I only have tasks I can achieve on my list, and replace them with the next doable task when it’s completed! 5. Keep a separate project list As well as a todo list, I also have a list of all my current projects, and the stage they’re at. I use a great Ipad app for this, called Sticky Notes. It’s essentially a series of pages with digital post-it notes. I have 2 pages: Page 1 contains post-its of 4 colours Each post-it contains my Job Code, job title and the price I’ve quoted for it. PINK – currently working on GREEN – confirmed projects but not

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10 Rules for Using Icons on Infographics

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  Icons, pictograms, smileys, dingbats – call them what you like – visual language is a fascinating area of design. Yes, varieties of visual language has been used for years, with varying degrees of success, and it’s likely that icons will one day be relegated to the “naf bin”. For now, thought, there are a range of icons out there that can really spice up your website, infographic or presentation But use with care – here are my 10 tips: Don’t use them for the sake of it Use logical icons – don’t make the reader work out what you’re trying to say Do use them to break up lots of text Don’t use them to fill up space – get more content or make your infographic smaller Avoid using icons from radically different sets – try to keep the same theme throughout Use them if your audience may not understand the text (ie young, international) Consider using an icon OR a word, not both  – i.e. avoid EMAIL word and an EMAIL logo Use an icon to illustrate a long header/paragraph Try to use icons appropriate to the audience – classy for business, cute for children. Why do we still use the traditional “telephone” symbol for phone, when no phones look like that any more? Don’t be naf/cliche – bored of “toilet man”? Try using a different style character If you want to find some good handy icons, give these font based ones a go (by sharing these links I’m not vouching for safety of anything you download – virus scan folks!) http://www.dafont.com/ http://www.fontspace.com/category/dingbats http://cooltext.com/Fonts-Dingbats    

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Off-the-peg infographics – Easel.ly V Piktochart

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Fancy giving one of these “infographics designer tools” a go? Check out my quick review of Easel.ly and Piktochart, and find out why they’re not always the best option

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Telling Stories with Data

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When was the last time you sat down and read a fairy story?

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Moseley Exchange – a new way (for me) to work

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  Since I started working for myself, I’ve been on a hunt for that *perfect* place to work. I tried the various coffee shops around Birmingham (read my findings here) but working in a coffee shop 5 days a week is not financially viable. (In order to stay in a coffee shop guilt-free all day you’d need to buy at least 3 drinks and some food  – totting up a daily spend of around £10.) Plus all that coffee isn’t good for you. I experimented with a bunch of other locations and blogged about them here I hunted for a small office/office share in the Jewellery Quarter, but the places were either too expensive  or lacked vital services, like running water or wifi. So I decided to return to a previous haunt of mine, Moseley Exchange, a co-working space in this leafy-suburb of Birmingham. I’ve blogged about this place before, where I raised a couple of queries about the etiquette of a shared space. So far so good. quiet – oh so quiet. I am constantly plugged into Spotify so don’t hear the general office noise, but  conversations/phone calls are kept short and meetings held in the adjoining lounge.  self-conscious productivity – at home I may stick on a TV show whilst I work – but I just wouldn’t do this at Moseley Exchange Journey to work – I’ve always missed the walk to work – it sets the start and the end of the day Set working hours. I’m glad Moseley Exchange isn’t open longer or I’d fall into the same trap as at home – working slowly and for longer periods of time. With an opening time of 9am and closing at anywhere between 6pm and 8pm, it means I can have a solid work session. Plus it’s a really big deal if I have to put my laptop on when I get home Free tea and coffee. requires no explanation The plan is that when I buy a 2-bed place, I won’t need Moseley Exchange as I’ll convert the second bedroom into an office – but we’ll see how I get on!

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Twitter: autoposting, shortlinks, hastags and mentions

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Following on from my previous blog post on corporate social media use, here are a few tips to writing good messages on Twitter (or tweets). A similar post about Facebook will follow.   No Autopost If you have blog, it may be tempting to set up autoposting. This means the site automatically spits out a tweet (if you connect your account) with the blog post title and the link. Sounds useful enough but there are a few reasons NOT to use it if you publish your blogpost at midnight, that’s when your tweet will go out. Who will see it? Your headline may not be snappy enough for a tweet It won’t make use of hashtags or tagging (see below) If you post, then go to bed/go out – you won’t be there to manage any responses   Shortlinks I know you don’t *need* to use shortlinks any more (now Twitter allows long links) but I still think they look tidier, don’t you? Its the difference between: The Elements of Corporate Social Media http://carolinebeavon.com/2013/03/17/the-4-elements-of-corporate-social-media/ and The Elements of Corporate Social Media http://bit.ly/XPITmZ If I’d wanted to write much more, the tweet would have looked like this New blog post > The Elements of Corporate Social Media – comments welcome http://carolinebeavon.com/2….. Use the Bitly service to shorten your links – this service also helps you keep track of clickthroughs!   Hashtags A hashtag is a handy way to add your tweet to the messages about a certain subject. Twitter works by showing you the messages by people you follow. However, if you had a particular interest in, say, Leverson, then you could search for the #leverson hashtag and see everyone who’s been tweeting about that subject and using the hashtag. It also means you can block the hashtag (on some Twitter clients) if you’re not interested! (ie #xfactor) (Note: interestingly, Facebook is reported to be introducing hashtags to updates very soon!) When you’re writing a tweet, do a search for relevant hashtags on this story, and add one or two to your Tweet (if you can embed them in the wording even better, you’re saving yourself characters!) The Elements of Corporate #SocialMedia http://bit.ly/XPITmZ Corporate Use of #twitter and #facebook http://bit.ly/XPITmZ Don’t go overboard – multiple hashtags is a waste of space and makes your tweet look spammy!   Mentions / Tagging If you start a tweet with someones Twitter handle, the message will only be seen by them, and the people that follow you both. If you put someone’s Twitter handle into the middle of a message, it will be seen by all of your follows, and they will be alerted to the message. If you are sharing a blog post – make sure you @mention any companies, people or organisations featured. This will alert them to the content, and hopefully they’ll retweet it. Similarly, if you are simply welcoming a new client, celebrating an award or talking about a person – try to find their Twitter handle and use that in the

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The Elements of Corporate Social Media

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This is a work-in progress – feel free to comment below! Thanks   I am very interested to see the variety of different ways companies use social media. Some use their Facebook pages to promote their Friday snacks, others use Twitter to talk up their company products and values. Both of these uses have their place, but should form part of a wider social media personality. Think of the social media forum as a party – don’t be a wallflower whispering in the corner, but don’t be the braying loudmouth in the centre of the room lecturing anyone who will listen. I like to think of social media covering  4 main areas – each one of them defined by the type of company: Promotion This is the most common reason for companies jumping onto social media – to sell their products and services to an audience – so lets get that out the way first of all. Of course you want to sell things, you need to make money to pay the bills after all, but sitting there broadcasting about your achievements and products will be a massive turn off to your followers (remember that guy at the party banging on about his new Range Rover? Don’t be that guy). Make use of the information or biography section of your profile. Facebook has a whole range of boxes and options for pages nowadays,  and don’t forget to add your offline contact details (telephone number!). On Twitter, make sure your profile description has a link to your website. If you haven’t visited your LinkedIn profile for a while, it might be worth a visit. They’ve introduced a host of new features, including a products page – get on there and start explaining what you do. I’m not saying you shouldn’t tweet or post about what you do – but offering examples or showing you “at work” is often more interesting to a potential client than just, “buy this”. Don’t assume everyone who has come across your account wants to buy your product today – Facebook isn’t the Yellow Pages. Someone hasn’t necessarily come across your page after searching for “plumbers in Tipton”. But that doesn’t mean they they might not want a plumber in the future, in Tipton.  If they like you, they’ll remember you. The People Which brings me to the interesting part. You. Customers demand their companies have a human face – we’ve had too many years of automated phone lines and anonymous corporations – now we want to do business with a person. Social networks give you a chance to show what you’re like. If you’re going to be heading into someone’s house to do their plumbing, they’d like to know a bit about you first. A photograph of you and your staff is a good starting point with an introduction of who’s who. Remember how the supermarkets show you staff member of the month posters? Why not keep that in the staff room? because they recognise the

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Posterous Spaces Closing Down Email

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I’ve just received this email from Posterous Spaces about the service closing down. I paste it below Hi Caroline,Posterous launched in 2008. Our mission was to make it easier to share photos and connect with your social networks. Since joining Twitter almost one year ago, we’ve been able to continue that journey, building features to help you discover and share what’s happening in the world – on an even larger scale. On April 30th, we will turn off posterous.com and our mobile apps in order to focus 100% of our efforts on Twitter. This means that as of April 30, Posterous Spaces will no longer be available either to view or to edit. Right now and over the next couple months until April 30th, you can download all of your Posterous Spaces including your photos, videos, and documents. Here are the steps: Go to http://posterous.com/#backup. Click to request a backup of your Space by clicking “Request Backup” next to your Space name. When your backup is ready, you’ll receive an email. Return to http://posterous.com/#backup to download a .zip file.   If you want to move your site to another service, WordPress and Squarespace offer importers that can move all of your content over to either service. Just remember: you need to back up your Spaces by April 30. We’d like to thank the millions of Posterous users who have supported us on our incredible journey. We hope to provide you with as easy a transition as possible, and look forward to seeing you on Twitter. Thank you. Sachin Agarwal, Founder and CEO You’re receiving this email because you signed up for a posterous account. —————————————————————————————————————- Related articles Posterous will turn off on April 30(posterous.com) One year after being acquired by Twitter, Posterous shuts it all down(venturebeat.com) Posterous Is Closing Down – Users Advised To Back Up Before April 30th [Updates](makeuseof.com)

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Bham Council to cut grit bin numbers – but where are they now? [map]

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A few weeks back I was inspired to map the grit bins in Birmingham, due to the *very* dangerous icy pavements around the Jewellery Quarter. This appeared on my hyperlocal Tumblr blog, This is the JQ. Now the Council bosses say they’re going to cut the number of bins, in a cost-saving exercise – so this map will need redoing at some point View Birmingham Grit Bins location in a full screen map

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The Oldest Intern In Town

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Recently I took the decision to become an intern. I spotted brand agency Orb were on the hunt for a creative copywriter intern, and thought it was too good an opportunity to miss. Now, I’m not your run-of-the-mill intern. I’m 37 years old, for starters. I’ve been working as a journalist since 2000 and now specialise in information design and social media/online content. So, why be an intern? – I hear you ask. Good question. Despite my experience in journalism, I have no formal experience in working for a design agency – and as most of my work nowadays is infographic/information design, I thought I’d gain a lot from seeing how the big boys do it. Specifically, I believe I need to boost my skills in 1. understanding a brief quickly 2. presenting ideas to a client (without spending hours on completed designs in the early stages) 3. monitoring time / pricing structure I’ll spend one day a week in the Orb studio copywriting – but as it’s a small office, and the whole team are involved in the project process, I can see how work develops every step of the way. Some of you may think I’m taking the opportunity away from someone younger, who needs a start in this business – I say, I’m starting out in a new industry, my need is as great as theirs. Some of you may have a major beef with the internship process – that it’s slave labour and exploitation. You may know my thoughts on this. In this case, I’m being paid for my time (a basic wage, but fantastic considering the opportunity). Has anyone else done an internship later in life? How did it work out?

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Google+ – do you hangout? Would you hangout?

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  In one of my roles as a social media / content manager, I am currently looking into the world of webinars, and online group discussions – and specifically the pro’s and cons of Google+ The idea is to schedule a regular event for discussions around particular area of business. The content/format is still under discussion, but I am more concerned right now with the broadcast method. When Google+ launched, I was as excited as the next geek, (but then I was excited about Google Wave, nuff said). Plenty of people seemed to be using it for one-off events, regular scheduled hangouts and general chatting. However, I wonder if the hype had passed, or if people were put off from using it, if they were not a Google+ user. I took to Twitter, to find out: View the Twitter responses on Storify, here My concern is that it is does appear to be “social media” people who are currently using it. Is it a barrier to the less techno-lusty? (this business is not focused on social media, so will need to cross a wide interest and ability level)   I’d love to know your thoughts? If you have hosted a hangout, have you found your users are happy to get onboard?  

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Hello Culture Data Visualisation

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A data visualisation / infographic showing the results of a survey of young people about their arts activities The graphic was created for a downloadable PDF report about the Hello Culture conference The colours matched the corporate branding of the Hello Culture brand, and the division between live and non-live was decided by the client. The chart was created in Tableau, and manipulated in Adobe Illustrator  

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Will this app solve the Jewellery Quarter parking woes?

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It’s no secret that parking in the Jewellery Quarter can be troublesome. 18 months ago the council introduced a new parking permit system giving residents and local businesses access to more spaces. However, this really doesn’t encourage visitors to the area, who will inevitably spend a frustrating Saturday afternoon trying to locate a space. Now the US iPhone and Android app Parker has landed in the UK  – and is trialing it’s service in the JQ. Using data from sensors in the road, the app can report on whether the parking bay is in use – allowing drivers to zone in on roads with spaces. Sounds simple doesn’t it? There are plans to roll this out into areas of Birmingham city centre if it is successful.

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How do you blog? Just do it

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As part of my recent New Year Resolutions I mentioned blogging – and more specifically, how I’d like to blog more. Here are a few of my thoughts about the process. But I wonder – what stops you from blogging more often?   What I like about blogging is the fact you don’t need to spend hours slaving over an article, creating a story arc or creating a masterpiece – you just need to get the information out there, whether that takes 3/4 paragraphs or a photograph with  comment. However, that’s one of the hardest things to teach someone else, whether it’s a student or a client who wants to develop their own blog. Students or clients will always produce a “print style” for their first few blog posts. Also, I’m not saying that you should NOT write long form posts, just don’t wait weeks to post, if you have a nice thought buzzing around your head.  The problem is, unless you are an experienced writer, with hours to spend, this long-form writing style is VERY time consuming. I don’t know the number of blog posts I currently have in DRAFT mode, because I ran out of time I ran out of ideas The idea was never “finished” In fact, if I’d simply posted the bare bones of the idea I may have received some interesting feedback or ideas to move the post forward. So why are new bloggers so reluctant to post short unstructured updates? habit personal satisfaction professionalism keeping client work under wraps keeping work-in-progress under wraps writing is your “thing” Habit By the time young people reach university they have (more than likely) just finished 4 years of exams. If they are coming across me at Uni, there’s a good chance they’ve been studying humanities – traditionally the more essay-based subjects. For them, producing a piece of work is about the introduction, content, summary and conclusion. Similarly, clients I work with are still locked into the idea of long-form reports, and even hark back to the days of university or school essays. PLUS, people are still tied to this “newspaper/magazine” article idea – even the younger generations – as they’re as exposed to long-form structured articles via sites like BBC News and newspaper sites as the rest of us. Every piece that appears online is a long form essay, or article. Personal Satisfaction There is something fulfilling about writing a well structured article. It’s the closest thing many of us  will get to being “published” – and it’s a rush. We all know that a paragraph featuring some disorganized ideas or random ramblings would not end up in The Guardian, so why should it end up on your blog? However, if you get around to writing one brilliantly-structured article, then what are you proving? Not much. You can show off your ideas, your creativity and your writing talent just as well with short, more frequent posts. Professionalism It does require a level of bravery to just “put it

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New Year Resolutions – Social Media and Blogging

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I’ve decided to group this years New Year Resolutions into several categories

Social Media

Health and Well-being

Productivity

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Links [27 Dec 2012]

A collection of the articles I’ve been reading and sharing recently … Interesting Sites The Noun Project Buffer – A Smarter Way to Share on Social Media Open Data Portal http://www.quandl.com – open data sets Interesting Articles / Finds 10 Confidence-Building Exercises for New Freelancers Amazon Book Reviews Deleted in a Purge Aimed at Manipulation – NYTimes.com First trailer for BBC’s clone drama Orphan Black looks intriguingly insane  How To Handle Personality Conflicts At Work 16 Simple Rules for Living a Successful Life #Steampunk wrist-keyboard in a leather buckler Interesting design / From my design blog Low-Poly [Isometrics] on the Behance Network Incredible thermal colour-changing business report | Graphic design | Creative Bloq  Nice use of thermal-colour changing design in a brochure NerdGraph Infographics)  Animated infographic video Pointillist Butterflies by Matt H Booth 15 Superb Minimalist Posters of Children Movies « Graphic Design Blog – An Ultimate Resource for Graphic Designers Interesting / New Apps / Tools ColoRotate  A useful design tool? ColorRotate for the ipad cbviz, tools, colours Sticky Note (iPad) BlogEnergizer for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad

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IPad App Review: Sticky Notes

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  Sticky Notes on the App Store here Cost: Free An app that seems silly and gimmicky – but is actually VERY useful! Great if you use your iPad as a second screen / organiser And these post-its won’t fall off your monitor!! Possible Uses Daily todo lists – different notes/colours for different groups (ie email, phone calls, errands) Presentation notes – one for each slide, then email or share on Twitter afterwards Organisation planning      Good Points Easy to use – enough options to make it useful, not not too many that it becomes confusing/messy Choice of colours – good choice of note and font colours, so you can categorise easily Font choices – not as useful as colours, but it’s still nice to use your favourite font for your notes Font size –  changes with a WYSIWYG bar not with a font-size drop down (so you can see how it looks) Scale – good use of 2-finger scaling of each note. Font increases as note does Easy to edit fonts afterwards – changing font changes whole note so easy to edit Email feature – grabs of whole board and individual notes can be shared Twitter share – share individual note or entire board via Twitter Things to Improve On Can’t sync to another device (so maybe not so useful for shopping lists etc if you’re mobile) Fiddly to delete individual notes – you need to edit note, then click cross then confirm delete No way to clear all notes – if you’re using if for lots of temporary projects, you can’t bulk delete notes Copy Notes – no way to copy notes, which would be useful if you had a template for a particular note Extras Photos and camera through in app purchase – 69p (incl add photos and save to photos) Unlimited page with upgrade – 69p  

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Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest

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 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details In this post I discuss how I personally use image services Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest.  You can see my Flickr images here, you can follow me on Instagram here and see my pins on Pinterest here Designers? How do you use these sites to promote your work? (I’m working on a future blog post about this) Quick Links: Instagram Flickr Pinterest There has been a lot of movement between Flickr and Instagram recently. (did you move?) This has been due to: Instagram changing (then changing back) their T’s and C’s to suggest that users photographs could be sold to advertisers. Flickr giving their iPhone app a long-overdue facelift, making it both more social and easier to use. So people have been threatening to close their Instagram accounts, and move to Flickr – and I have seen a flurry of new contacts as people make use of the “find friends on Twitter/Facebook” facility. However, I have no intention of quitting Instagram – because they both serve different purposes Instagram For me, Instagram is a (thankfully) watered down version of the-heydey of Facebook pictures – when, most Saturday mornings I would wake up with a notification “Karen has tagged 25 photos of you”. I use it to snap things that I see and I like – nice street art, a cosy coffee shop or even a favourite chocolate bar. This site is not for mass photo-dumping. I like the Instagram app: it’s easy to use and it’s possible to make a picture look pretty darn good with filters etc. Using IFTTT, I bounce all my Instagram pictures onto a Tumblr page (for no other reason than I like Tumblr and like IFTTT and I like to see automation happen!) I also use Instagram (on a photo by photo basis) to tag venues (via Foursquare) and to share pictures on Facebook or Twitter. Flickr Flickr is a very different beast for me. I do not add images to Flickr from my phone I use it to show off my design work – so it has evolved into a portfolio site In the past I used it to host gig photos taken with the terrible-phone-brilliant-camera Sony Ericsson Satio I have also used it when I am employed (by companies like Podnosh) to cover conferences as a digital reporter. Cue lots of shots of conferences, whiteboards and post it notes. However, I am wondering if I could be doing more with my Flickr account? Question is: how do people browse Flickr? If I suddenly added non-portfolio pictures to my site, could it affect business if people are looking for work? Do I set up a portfolio site on Flickr – potentially losing bookmarked link traffic and current contacts? Pinterest I thought I’d give Pinterest a mention, as the third image service I use. This is more about sharing content I find online, rather than sharing my own images (although I do share

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PROJECT: Sampad Annual Report

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You can see more of my infographic and data visualization work here   A few months ago I was invited to create an infographic for the charity, Sampad. The challenge was this: to show some of the key statistics from their year of activity, in a small area on a single or series of small infographics. (They were keen to reduce their annual report in both page-size and page-numbers, but didn’t want to reduce the amount of information on display). The statistics included the number of events held, audience statistics and educational ventures  -as well as a series of geographical locations showing their relationships across the world.   You can view the Annual Report PDF here   Interested in the design process? A few notes/thoughts here          

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7 work locations for the home working freelancer

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As a stay-at-home freelancer, I’m always looking for different places to work. It’s a perk of the job that you can take your laptop anywhere, so here are my favourite places to get stuff done INSIDE THE HOUSE 1. Bed Good for blogging, social networking and social sharing/bookmarking This is a surprisingly productive place to work. It’s comfy – so why would you get up an wander off somewhere else? Any attempt to move will result in a cable-duvet tangling scenario it’s relaxed – so perfect for creative ventures You can flip between sitting upright and lying on your front if you need to (yes I know, both terrible terrible postures) Downsides Terrible for your posture If you’re tired it’s hard to get motivated/not fall asleep Definitely not for Skype chats!! 2. Sofa Good for email answering, planning, to-do list writing and inbox clearing Less productive than the bed, as it’s far more tempting to put the telly on, do the washing up etc. However, sitting on the sofa in a bright living room is still a valid place of work   With a bright airy room, you’re less creative but more switched on to tackling simple but useful tasks there are a variety of positions available similar restrictions to moving as “bed” – cables, comfiness etc Downsides Not ideal for long working sessions Distractions of household chores/TV 3. Desk Good for design, report writing I currently do not have a desk (long story) but I always found it the best place to get the “big project” done.   if set up right, a desk is a comfy, “good posture” place to work There is a sense of purpose on a desk, and the hours can fly by You have all your stuff near you – pens, staplers, printer etc. Downsides Not very creative space (I always have my design books in another room so I can step away from the desk and into a different coach to get some inspiration) 4. Bath Just kidding   OUTSIDE THE HOUSE 4. Coffee Shop Good for blogging, social networking, link sharing Find the right coffee shop and it can become a perfect place to work. I blogged about some of the best working coffee shops in Birmingham here Despite being a public space, there are actually fewer distractions than in your own home. No washing up, no television. There is a sense of time limit – no matter no friendly your coffee shop is, they will close eventually. regular breaks as you get up to buy more drink Once you’re set up, you won’t want to move again for a couple of hours Downsides Noisy – (especially around lunchtime) unreliable wifi can ruin your session Too much caffeine! Potential to eat cake and carb-heavy food all the time!! Expense People you know “popping over” for a chat   5. Library Good for non-online writing, research, concentration, data entry I’ve always had a soft spot for my my local “big” library – the

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Infographic Christmas Cards

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I have now sold all cards – but you can still pick up packs in Brewsmiths in the Jewellery Quarter Or click on first 2 card images (below) to order via Zazzle          

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Reliable Witness Story Infographic

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Reliable Witness was a transmedia project for Birmingham Book Festival 2012, culminating in an interactive storytelling installation. Participants were asked to make several choices for the characters, affecting the final outcome I was asked to plot the various storylines, also showing the use of real-world media and social networks.

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Walsall Council – media mapping

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I was asked to research and create an infographic showing the media landscape in Walsall in the West Midlands  

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Reliable Witness – Pt 1: setting up the social media accounts

Reliable Witness was a trans-media project, commissioned  by the Birmingham Book Festival, during September/October 2012. Managed by Red Lantern’s Lauren Davies, the project saw a live performance and social media begin a story that the audience would be invited to finish, during an interactive installation. As Social Media Manager I was responsible for running the Facebook and Twitter accounts for the project, which included: the project accounts the character accounts Method Set up the accounts Set up a method for posting and responding to messages Giving the characters “character” Introducing plot points and storylines Phase 1 – setting up the accounts When I was brought into the project the writers were still in the early stages of developing the story – but the key characters had been defined. Darren – the boyfriend Amy – the girlfriend Ross – Darren’s best friend Clare – Amy’s friend Fiona – Ross’s girlfriend Nadine – Darren’s ex girlfriend The brief was to create and run Twitter and Facebook accounts for these characters – and make them appear as real people. I set up each character with a Gmail email address, which would later prove useful for posting messages. Facebook Page or Profile? Should the characters have Facebook Pages or Profiles? Profiles are traditionally kept for individuals, not businesses, brands or products – these are encouraged to use the page facility. Initially I had intended for the characters to have profiles – however Facebook have certain sign-up requirements (such as the need for a mobile phone number) to prove legitimacy and reduce spam accounts. Whilst there are websites that can generate mobile phone numbers for this purpose, I was reluctant to venture into this territory. In addition, Facebook has also been known to shut down profiles that are considered to be acting inappropriately/outside their terms of use: You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission. You will not post unauthorized commercial communications (such as spam) on Facebook. Although highly unlikely, I was concerned that the Facebook accounts were at risk of being closed down, and so I opted for the more legitimate pages option. Why Facebook Pages Worked Experience has shown me that people tend to use Twitter for business/less personal interactions, whilst Facebook is for real life friends and family. Hence, people are far less likely to befriend someone  they don’t know on Facebook, thus reducing the activity and impact of the characters. Introducing the characters as pages was essentially admitting that they were not real, but users are more likely to follow pages than connect as friends, with someone or something they don’t know. Setting Up the Pages Information – Setting each character up with a page meant I had to decide how to classify them. I decided not to choose “fictional character” (so as not to make it blatantly obvious that these were made-up) but instead use  the range of professional occupations allowed within pages – ie business person,

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I am the Resurrection [infographic]

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Inspired by the reunion of The Stone Roses, I created this infographic showing a timeline of some key bands, who have also reformed.

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Stock Check: Sources v Celebrities

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As part of an Information is Beautiful challenge, I created this infographic showing the depletion of resources over time.  

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Gateway Family Services – Postcards

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Brief: to create a series of postcards demonstrating the targets reached by Gateway Family Services, third sector organization. The images were printed onto postcards for use at meetings and eventsthe services on offer, and contact details

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Is Rock Dead?

Final Project for MA Online Journalism, Birmingham City University, 2010 Interactive data project investigating the music album charts from 1970-2010 The brief to discover if rock music really is on the decline using Official Charts Company Data Tools used included: Adobe Flash, Adobe Illustrator, Tableau Desktop Sources, bibliography and references

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Social media and blogging – presentation for Oxfam Media Training Day

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On Sat 15th Sept 2012 I was invited to speak to a group of Oxfam volunteers about the use of social media and blogging Here is the presentation- any feedback welcome – I will update with any last minute changes I make Oxfam social media & blogging from carolinebeavon

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Wifi jockeying around Birmingham’s coffee shops UPDATED

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It was a distinct lack of breakfast in my cupboard that prompted my decision to have a coffee-shop working day. Co-working and coffee shop working are obvious choices for the stay-at-home freelancer, where the temptation of Jeremy Kyle or a mid-afternoon siesta is too great, but how feasible is it? And to to push it, Hunter S Thompson style  – could I do it ALL DAY? Breakfast – Brewsmiths The day started at Brewsmiths – located on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter and home to a dizzying food menu. Whether it’s a sausage and bacon platter you’re after, or something a little healthier, there is something here to satisfy. For me, a mug of tea and 2 slices of  Marmite and toast – keeping it simple. Apology was made for the lack of artisan bread but the 2 slices of white were more than adequate! There was an initial wobble with the wifi, but after a swift reboot it worked a treat, allowing me to clear a batch of email, reply to tweets and write my to-do list for the day.The vibe was relaxed, despite the comings and goings of the morning customers. The service is always pleasant, and even the pigeon who wandered in looking for crumbs was treated with respect and courtesy whilst being shown the door. Brewsmiths is a nice location to work in – especially if you can nab one of the plug sockets around the wall. The music is a mind-boggling mix but entertaining none the less, and the general attitude welcomes the wifi jockey! Mid morning – Home is Where (technically a coffee shop? probably not?) This is a real gem of Birmingham. Gloriously decorated and luxurious in both feel and mood – this large cafe and deli was buzzing when I arrived at 9:30am. Definitely more “breakfast meeting” and “ladies that lunch” than the hardcore laptop-coffee crew, still this is one of my favourite places to work. Most of the smaller tables were taken, so I set up camp on the large co-working table in the middle of the room. (no plugs nearby … why do coffee shops put co-working tables in the middle of the room?) Fridays mornings in Home is Where is a regular thing for me. I meet fellow freelancer Mark Steadman, share rounds of drinks, catch up and get stuff done. There are some very special features that make Home a nice choice. The free water on the table is a genius idea, the soundtrack seems to have been lifted directly from the ipod of a 30-something indie kid and the staff range from nicely polite to downright bubbly! A productive morning was had (I got most of my to-do list cleared) 3 pots of tea drunk, and it was only a VERY irritating trio shouting loudly at the table next to us that prompted us call it a morning. Lunch – SixEightKafe And so to seek out some delicious lunch and a visit to the very cute

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10 Ways to Use Infographics: part 2

Please note: not all images are mine  – please click image for source You can see more of my infographic and data visualization work here     In 10 WAYS TO USE INFOGRAPHICS: PART 1, I talked about using infographics for linkbait, journalism, article illustrations, annual reports and postcards/posters. This time I’ll be looking at video inserts, explanation, audience analysis, adverts and presentations Video – bring the numbers to life It was inevitable that the next stage of business demand would be animated infographics. This brings in a whole new dimension to the statistics, and requires a different set of skills: animation, use of audio etc. This example, by the New York Times, shows the statistics behind Olympic mens swimming. Click the image right to watch the animation. This animation starts with a simple bar chart. Each bar is then turned into a swimming lane, turned on it’s side, add some fantastic design, movement and an audio track and this is a quality tool for showing the facts. There is also the option of animating the visualizations themselves – here is a great example. http://youtu.be/WgwboxatZPw Explanation – simplify a complex/unfamiliar situation http://youtu.be/mkJ-Uy5dt5g We’ve all seen company organization charts – normally a tree shape, with a lone Chief Executive at the top, middle management, and the rest of us at the bottom. These are designed to simplify a complex organization and make sure   employees know where they fit in the “big picture” By why stop there? You could use information design / infographics to explain a whole host of useful knowledge to current and new employees. Office staff overview – gender, structure, age, nationality shown with “person icons” Office seating map and contact details Office facility map – location of WC’s, kitchen, printers, recycling, water fountain Local transport information Company overview – map of other offices, financial information Information flow / work flow – use a flow diagram or map I’d love to have a go at designing a series of useful induction infographics … let me know if this appeals to your company. Audience Analysis: know your visitors Music festivals, venues, clubs and pubs all generate a huge amount of data. Whether its ticket sales, audience location (from ticket order postcode), social media stats (RT’s, mentions and likes) and amount spent. The map to the left (click map for original) was created Zarino Zappia from Scraperwiki at the recent Devlab event in Birmingham. Using data from the south asian arts organisation Sampad, the map shows the location of the audience (from ticket order postcode) and location of the events. This shows exactly where Sampad has an impact and which areas could potentially benefit from more promotion. Taking this a stage further – we could add socio-economic and ethnicity data from the census. This would show whether those areas were populated with Sampad’s target audience (as an South Asian arts organisation). For other organisations a combination social data, ticket sales and events would be a great way to show where your brand is

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Olympics Torchbearers – working on a collaborative data project

I was recently asked by Paul Bradshaw (online journalist and founder of Help me Investigate) to create an infographic as part of his investigations into the Olympic Torchbearers – and more specifically, who got the places? The investigation has not appeared both on The Guardian DataBlog (read it here) and Help Me Investigate Olympics And – if you’re feeling in a generous mood, the whole investigation has been turned into an ebook, with a donation option – raising money for Brittle Bone Society.  

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10 ways to use infographics: part 1

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Part 2 here Please note: not all images are mine  – please click image for source Infographics are hot property right now. Many companies use them and image sharing sites like Pinterest and Flickr are full of them. Here are 10 ways you could bring your information to life in an interesting and accessible way. 1. “Linkbait” – sell your services This is THE most popular use of infographics. Most of the ones you see online fall into this category. They tend to be long thin images, stuffed full of interesting facts on a particular subject. They also bear the name of the company which has commissioned the infographic, to promote their services/business. If the infographic gets some traction online, and goes viral, then the name of the company goes viral along with it They key is to not overdo the promotional message. The infographic has to be interesting in it’s own right otherwise people will not share it.  Also, think about the subject – pick a topic that will be of interest to potential customers. Example:The example to the right (click for full image) is an interesting infographic showing a range of education statistics. I can imagine this being of interest to teachers, education decision makers and funders. These also happen to be the audience who would have a say about the resources used in an educational institution. Scroll to the bottom, and you will see the infographic has been commissioned by Microsoft, to promote their Education services. 2. Journalism – tell a story A growing area for infographics. A major part of journalism is communicating the details of a situation to an audience. Infographics are a perfect way to show facts, structures and timelines in a different  way. Journalistic infographics  tend to be more stylised and have space to show the detail. They are are often designed to be examined over a longer period of time than the “snapshot” infographics shown above. The Guardian do great work with animated data visualization (see Reading the Riots) There are also opportunities to use video and animation (I created an animated map to demonstrate the The Spread of Tech over time). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyBEzhhyhIs&feature=player_embedded 3. Graphic – illustrate an article Not many magazines are using infographics instead of photographs for print or online articles (the trend tends to be “infographic instead of written article” or use standard bar and line charts if stats need explaining). Communicate Magazinefeature an article every month focussing on a reader survey. I create several quarter or half page images, each one deals with 1, 2 or 3 particular questions in the survey. Flick through the magazine and the article stands out – the images are a stark difference to the photographs and adverts. If your subject does feature statistics, consider moving away from a dry, Excel-chart format and make better use of the space you have. More Communicate work here 4. Annual Report – revive your statistics Annual reports are a great way to show off your company’s work over the past

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Communicate – latest issue out now

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I am delighted to say that the latest issue of Communicate Magazine is out, featuring a handful of my latest infographics. As their in-house Visualization Specialist, I create graphics from various research data for their monthly issues. For this issue, the focus was the attitudes of the PR industry and the media to digital trends, including use of email and social media. I created more images than the ones used in the article – the rest are going to be used in another publication, a report for researcher Broadland Maingate and for an online animated project. See my previous work for Communicate  

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Update > 18 June 2012 – busy busy busy!

(this post was written weeks ago – just getting around to sending it now) Well it seems that freelancing is like waiting for a bus. After a few weeks of not-much-at-all, now I’m going through a very promising patch. Active Projects I am currently working on 3 dataviz projects – one for the London Fire Brigade (an infographics on cuts and spending), an infographic for Walsall Council and a project for regular client Communicate magazine. The Communicate project should be an interesting one, as my work is going to be turned into animations – watch this space! Compass Today I found out I was to become part of the Compass Design team. I will be helping out with social media, online content and some design bits and pieces, as work comes in. This came from a chance meeting at Birmingham City University, during an MA Social Media class. I was leading the class, whilst Rachel McCollin (from Compass) had been invited to speak to the students about dealing with clients. Over coffee today we decided it would be good to work together. DevLab The recent DevLab event was another boost to my freelancing opportunities. The event took place on Fri 15th Jun 2012 – Sat 16th Jun 2012 at the Old Library at the Custard Factory in Birmingham, with the aim of bringing together developers and general techy-geeky types with arts organisations keen on investigating the digital world. As well as some very interesting conversations with several organizations on the day (including Walsall Arts Gallery, SAMPAD and Capsule) I was also lucky enough to work alongside Zarino Zappia, from Scraperwiki on a quick-turnaround project for SAMPAD. The aim is to mash up the organisations mailing list data, with socio-economic data from the region. This should help the organization work out why they are not hitting certain areas of the city (are they a target audience or not etc.) I’ve never really got on with Scraperwiki (this is a HUGE understatement), and my contibution to the hack was sourcing the extra data, but I get the feeling my conversations with Zarino are not over – I’ve already bent his ear about a WYSIWYG version of Scraperwiki for non-coders like myself.

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Open Data Strategy Release Schedule Dashboard

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Interactive dashboard created for the Mercia Open Data group, using the June 2012 version of this document. Open Data Strategy Release Schedule. This dashboard requires updating, but is an illustration of how a dashboard can make a spreadsheet like this accessible. Click on dashboard below to access external link on Tableau Public

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Got an online community? Here’s how to work with Facebook and Twitter

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Are you in the lucky position of having a very active online community on your own website? A busy comments section, or a chatty forum? Bravo – in today’s world of Facebook and Twitter fever, it’s often hard to get a dedicated community involved in a discussion on your own site. It’s a powerful thing: the discussion is likely to be focussed and relevant to your user and all the discussions go on under YOUR brand’s name. The user knows where they are, who you are and what you stand for. There are also obvious benefits to your on-site advertising revenue as well! However, a forum on a specialist website, or post comments, can easily become a walled garden. Your community is active, but may not be growing. Despite the increase in sharing tools (eg ShareThis) members rarely flag up their activity off-site so potential new users may not even know you exist. If you want to maintain the rich discussion on your site, whilst also promoting it to the outside world, you could try setting up accounts with the big boys – Facebook and Twitter. (Note: several of these ideas may not be relevant if your forum runs on a membership-only basis, or deals with particularly sensitive or private issues.  In these cases I would suggest setting up a friendly, simple introductory page explaining who you are, the purpose of the site and the forum and why members get involved and linking to this as opposed to particular discussions).      Keep Branding Consistent Marketing 101 this, I know, but you’ll be amazed how many companies do not have consistent branding across all of their accounts. Use your regular logo/images and use descriptions (or edited version) from your website so people know the site is genuine. If you are not already on these networks, chances are someone else has set up an unofficial page  – make sure your new account stands out as the official one. (If someone has set up a fan or unofficial site – make contact with them, they may be happy to promote your arrival!) Be Open Don’t be tempted to match a members-only environment on your site with one on Facebook or Twitter. You are not trying to replicate your on-site community – this is a tool for promoting the discussion and you want it to be as visible and discoverable as possible.  Don’t Cross-Post Everything The benefit of the larger social networks is that they’re SO easy to access via phones, tablets and of course, computers. If you replicate all the discussions on Facebook, you are giving your customers an excuse NOT to visit your site.   Keep your unique selling point – the fact that all the conversation happens on YOUR site. By selecting occasional content to flag up on FB or Twitter, you are saying “here’s what you’re missing, get involved”. Be smart with your messages Don’t just cross post the title. Instead, draw new audiences in to your community with

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The Spread of Tech [animated]

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Key: RED: fixed broadband internet BLUE: mobile phone subscriptions YELLOW: internet users GREEN – telephone lines (all per 100 population) STORY OF A VIZ: Altered last minute to the deadline for the Guardian / Google Competition This gave me 2 hours do something with a range of data available, to address the issue of the worldwide recession and how national behaviour protected against this, or aided recovery. THE DATA Due to the limited time made quick decision to use a simple Excel data set Data World Bank dealing with technological advancements around the world over time. I edited the many (20+) categories down to 4 – mobile phones, internet users, fixed broadband access and telephone lines. I felt there was a clear link between these, and would give a good demonstration of how technology has moved on. The categories I decided to eliminate included electricity generation, motor cars, paved roads and access to water.   CREATING THE VIZ I then posted the edited spreadsheet into Tableau (paid for version – not public) NOTE: I could have used the entire database in Tableau and simply used the bits I needed, but I often find it easier to edit the base data first (avoids crashing too) I knew straight away that I wanted a animated map showing the spread of these tech elements over time. Tableau has an option called Pages, which I haven’t used massively  – so the bulk of my time was spent changing the options (right) to create the right set up. I was not able to remove the ZERO values, which gave those small red dots on every country when the animation starts  still need to solve this issue Another issue to take into account was the order at which circles appear: in order for the latter circles not to appear beneath the earlier ones, they had to be ordered (in Indicator Name) in reverse order  – latter elements first. By sending the animation to Tableau Public, I would be able to embed and link to the animation. Or so I thought. I attempted to embed the animation into WordPress but usual iframe issues impeded this (seriously – this needs sorting out). It was now 11:45 – I was running out of time.  I initially settled on linking to the Tableau Public but sadly the Tableau Public version was not an animation, simply a manual click through option – not quite as good looking. CREATING THE ANIMATED VIDEO I then decided to make a VIDEO of the viz. I briefly considered exporting then individual screenshots  into Moviemaker but this would definitely lose some impact. Then I remembered some screen-recording software I had recently used to create a vidcast – Screencast-0-matic Screen Recorder. By playing the animation from Tableau Desktop, and selecting just that element of the screen, it produced a relatively nice finished result. I just need to remember to turn off the mic next time and think more carefully about the font I used (the menu was a little unclear)  

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How long should online content be?

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How long should online content be? According to this Writinghood article, the perfect length is between 500-800 words; other people say shorter is better; but surely there’s more to it than that? For personal/fun blogging I say do whatever you like, but for something more structured and professional , here are a few things you might want to think about: (feel free to add your tips/thoughts in the comments below). What is the content? For example, is it an introduction, a product description, a technical report or an opinion blog post? Each of these has a different purpose and require different treatment.  Thanks to @theaardvark  (via Twitter) who said that posts explaining complex issues (in his case VAT) need to be lengthy in order to achieve their purpose. What are you hoping to achieve? Do you want to impress the reader with your literary prowess, or prove that you are a snappy, swift communicator who cuts to the chase?  If you are selling something, which will convince the reader/customer? How much have you got to say? Are you getting stuck into a big topic, or making a short comment? A great rule of thumb from several people via Twitter, including @pigsonthewing “I stop writing when I’ve said what I have to say” What is the subject area? Some interesting research here into the average length of articles from some of the larger specialist sites. Tech stories tend to be shorter, politics and financial tend to be longer. Just text? Have you created a block of text, or will you break it up with bullet points, images, diagrams, video or audio? Additional content will keep the reader’s attention and make the article easier to read. @hainsworth tweeted: “Can it be read in three minutes, or can it be bulleted or paginated to more than one post? 300 words is usually enough” Page layout – How much room do you have? Do you want to go “below the fold” (will the user have to scroll down to continue reading?). Look at the page layout, font size – how will it look when it’s published? How long is the other content on the site – what works, what is the reader expecting? Are certain length articles more popular than others on the site? (Check analytics). (If this is a new site, see 8.) What are other people in your field / the competition doing? Are they right? Is it working? Are they getting shared/commented upon? Do you want to be different? Could you use the length of your articles to compete/make a point of difference? How often are you posting? Are you writing daily, weekly or monthly? It may be impractical to deliver 10-page articles every day, and your reader may struggle to keep up. Mobile – with the increase in mobile browsing, we cannot ignore the necessity for even shorter posts. They are prepared to scroll, but not endlessly. How many users visit your site from mobile devices? Is it worth tailoring content for them? Do you have anything else you would consider, when writing online? Further Reading: You might

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SEO Copywriter – a move to the dark side?

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In the next few days I have an interview for an SEO Copywriter position – which has prompted a very unexpected reaction from my friends and colleagues. My background: broadcast journalism – 10 years of writing news scripts and documentaries. More recently I have “gone digital”, completed an MA in Online Journalism and worked with clients on social media strategy, content and data visualizations.  It is not a huge leap for me to consider roles which require some technical understanding of the internet, search and content. So, WHY has there been such a dismissive reaction to this particular role? Three letters – SEO. The ones who know what SEO stands for (Search Engine Optimization, for those who do not) are what I call the “good” people of the internet. They are journalists and hyper-local bloggers, trainers working with not-for-profit organizations and university lecturers. They do worthwhile work. They are good people. To them, anyone who actively goes after search engine ranking via SEO is, as one put it, “creating all that crap online”. You Give SEO a Bad Name Yes, there are some very unscrupulous activities online – web marketing is a big business and naturally companies will be tempted to take the fast-easy route. Various black-hat techniques, link baiting, hidden text, cloaking an, of course, spamming, are a blight. However, as Google improves its crawling techniques, and its spiders evolve more “human” sentiment, so the cracks will show in traditional “black hat” techniques. It was interesting to see that content was a particular focus of Google’s latest update (nicknamed Panda) and sites that were using article spinning, anchor text and paid links saw their rankings hit. Google process of judging a website’s content as a reader would, has the potential to drive content quality UP, instead of down. It’s just a shame that this does not necessarily mean the end of link-farms and poorly-written, keyword stuffed articles. Google is not the only search engine, and some companies get enough business from the less-fickle Yahoo and MSN to not worry about quality content. Reader or Crawler? I find the worst web content has been written for a crawler – to generate a high page ranking. However, with the increase in popularity of social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), and bookmarking tools (e.g. Delicious, Instapaper) the reader now plays a much more active role in the process. They are now much more than just a number, boosting impression rates. They now have the potential to share, recommend, link to and blog about content they like, whether that is to their friends, or to a niche, specialist circle. An interesting piece of copy with the relevant material highlighted, tagged and organized will keep the crawlers, and your readers, happy.   See also: Buying Social Media Followers > quality V quantity

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Communicate – Problems

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Examples of work created for Communicate Magazine – creating using research data generated in-house

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Should you buy social media followers?

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Can you buy friendship? It’s an interesting question and one even more relevant today as friendships now exist online as well as in the real world I recently got into a (mini)debate about this subject over on LinkedIn, where a fellow user posted an article, offering a service of buying Twitter followers. (See discussion on LinkedIn comments  – note: exists within a group – membership required) To summarise  – the poster was offering to get followers for your brand / product via click-sites like Twiends, You Like Hits, Add Me Fast. These are a simple, fast way of getting a lot of followers. However, I wonder – what is the VALUE of those followers? You may find a small handful who are interested in what you have to offer but the vast majority won’t be. You are doing the equivalent of the junk-mailout, hoping enough will stick to make it worth your while. With a mailout, you are hoping the recipient doesn’t throw your letter in the bin and acts upon it. With a mass-follower approach, you are hoping they follow you back, and act. But act on what? Are they going to follow you back – because you followed them? Some may. Others will look at your tweets at ask “what’s in this for me?”. If your Twitter stream is full of sales messages, or even worse, nothing at all, it is unlikely that they will let you into their circle. (and even if they do follow you back – an unfollow is likely if you bombard them with sales pitches) Are they going to buy your product after a simple Twitter follow? Are they going to be so impressed that you’re found them, that they’ll immediately switch to your brand? You are not generating any form of loyalty by engaging in mass following. Social Media is “social” My advice to any client is to treat social media in the same way you treat making friends/contacts. You do not walk into a dinner party, hand out a load of flyers with your phone number, and walk out again. In reality you have conversations, engage and entertain. With social media you need to literally “make friends” with your followers. You need to nurture those friendships, avoid upsetting them and keep the conversation going. Ironically, one of the Twitter follower websites mentioned by our friend in the original article, seems to actively promote this “quality over quantity” approach. (See infographic left – click for original) There is some excellent advice here – which all point to the social element of social media It’s a shame that clients are falling for this “mass clicking” approach, when – in the long run – it won’t benefit them at all.  

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Current Projects – mystery clients, Olympics, forums and rockin’ maps!

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After a relatively quiet period, recently I’ve had a flurry of work  and opportunities – and some very interesting ones at that. Excuse the lack of client names, but many of these are active projects. If you are interested in hiring me – you can find me on Twitter (@carolinebeavon) or email carolinebeavon at gmail.com Thanks PROJECTS Infographic > Local Authority Olympics I was recently asked to create an infographic of information about the Olympic Torch relay, for a local authority. This was an unusual project for me as it involved text instead of numbers. Instead of creating charts and diagrams, the project involved illustrating blocks of text and using colour and glyphs to support the issues. Whilst this infographic was concerning the Olympic Torch Relay, the client was not an official partner of the event. Hence, there are a host of restrictions on use of logo, branding, symbols and colours. You can read the official guidelines here – and I was genuinely surprised at the extend to which these restrictions extend. For example – the Olympic rings, even if used in silhouette, are restricted, as are the Olympic colours used together in a design. Working with the client, and based on a website they had already drawn up for the coverage, we opted for simple red, white and blue theme and avoided ALL Olympic shapes or suggestions. Multiple data graphics  > Communicate Magazine Communicate Magazine is a monthly B2B (business to business) magazine within the Stakeholder Relations field. As their in-house Data Visualization Specialist I work with research data and create 3/4/5 quarter page graphics to support articles in the magazine. You can view past work for Communicate here The task at hand here is not wrangling a huge dataset. In fact, it is often a small set of numbers and the challenge comes in making a few results look appealing and interesting. The focus here is definitely on design, that works at a small quarter-page scale. Over recent issues I have used the official brand colours (shades of red) but I was delighted when the client asked for a change – using blues and greens instead. Infographics > Mystery Client I have also had the privilege of being contacted by a well known international tech brand (my lips are sealed) who asked me to create a few simple infographics for use in a ideas pitch to a 3rd party. My contact was based on the West Coast of America, so the time difference has led to a few phone calls at 11pm at night – no problem for me! Fingers crossed it comes off as it would be a fascinating project to work on. Infographic > Kerrang! Radio As a very quick favour to my old friends at Kerrang! Radio, I was recently glad to help out with a map visualization of listener postcodes. I initially gave some advice to the in-house designer/web dude on tools that would be able to create intensity circles on a map (using

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Client Work

I work for a variety of clients – including B2B publishers, statistics websites and local authorities. COMMUNICATE MAGAZINE Communicate Magazine is a B2B (Business to Business) magazine specialising in Stakeholder Relations As their in-house Data Visualization Specialist I create graphics from research data for publication within longform articles. GATEWAY FAMILY SERVICES I was comissioned to create  a series of postcards to be used at a corporate event. These were to show some of the key success statistics for this organisation.

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Covering a live event: a quick guide

Covering live events can be a chaotic, stressful and sometimes unfulfilling experience. Battling with the digital elements can mean the finished product is disappointing. However- there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself (feel free to comment with more below  – I will also add to this as ideas come to me!) Background Research Find out as much about the event as you can. Where is it? – how are you going to get there? Public transport? Where can you park? When is it? – what time does it start? What time do you need to be there? Where will you be – do you have an allocated desk? Will space be tight (should you get there early to secure a good seat?) Who is running the event – are you on the event mailing lists? who is going – try to get a list of speakers / delegates beforehand. This is useful to make contacts and arrange interviews ahead of time! Make sure you have all the information with you and easy to find. I often make a crib sheet for myself of the address, directions, contact names / numbers etc. See more on content and research in Live Blogging, below Power With the increase in laptop and smartphone use at events, the demand on power outlets is great. Always take a power lead for your device and a LONG extension lead (this means you can share one plug amongst many devices – great for charging phones, laptops etc at the same time). Internet Connection Vital if you are going to live blog, tweet or in any way cover the event online. In the days before the event, check with the venue/event organisers if there will be free wifi available and that you will be able to use it. Don’t rely on 3G (especially in old buildings where often traditional mobile coverage tends to drop off). If there is no wifi available invest in a 3G dongle (although often these struggle in old buildings / internal rooms). If you are worried, try to visit the venue ahead of the event to check internet coverage. This gives you time to solve any issues.   There are several ways you can cover an event – a straight forward article written after the event for online or print, social media updates (eg Twitter, or Google+), web streaming, audio capturing and live blogging As with any form of reporting, preparation is key. However, with live blogging especially, ANYTHING you can do to make your job a bit easier once the event gets underway, the better. Live Blogging If you are using a live blogging tool such as CoverItLive  – save as MUCH content in the tool library as you can: photographs of speakers build a quick contact sheet for each of them, with Twitter links, websites etc which you can paste in when they begin talking links to statements, policies, etc. running orders presentations – easy to embed and link

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Communicate – various

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  A small selection of images from my work with Communicate Magazine (a B2B magazine, covering stakeholder relations). Each month they conduct research among their readers into a variety of issues – and ask me to present the results in a series of data visualisations for their latest issue.        

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Six Ways to Spice Up Your Podcasts

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Are your podcasts limp and lifeless? Then try these tips to spice up your audio output … Location Location Location Get out there!!!  You might think that you need peace and quiet to record a podcast, but remember  – the joy of a podcast is that you can get to the centre of a situation or story. Sometimes silence just sounds strange. Example: If your podcast is about farming – why not record it in a field, with the sound of the wind, sheep and birds? Use appropriate background noise (known as wildtrack)  It not only sounds more interesting, it gives the podcast a sense of authenticity and makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about. Music / Jingles / Sound effects Have fun with these. They will make your listener smile, and can be useful to break up different segments of the podcast, a change in subject or mood, or simply to illustrate a point. Just be careful where you get music from due to licensing laws. It’s a grey area but it’s best to be safe.  I haven’t used these guys, but looks promising (Magnatune) Example: You’re creating an audio podcast for kids – teaching them English languge basics, How about using sound effects to illustrate the words you are saying – a baaaa-ing lamb, for lamb (lambs again!!!). Its even harder to keep kids interested, but this will definitely help. Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Stop going on … Think about where people will be listening to your podcasts. It could be on the way to work, in the car, on the bus … how many people have an hour-long commute? Some do, but not everyone. Listening to a speech based podcast for an hour may be a commitment too far for some people. Think about “chunking” … breaking it up into smaller pieces. In addition, trying to do an hour long podcast regularly will be difficult. Spread out your content or you’ll lose interest over time. Signposting People like to know what to expect. You could start your podcast with an introduction and an audio menu of what’s coming up. Then people can decide whether it’s for them, and what to listen out for. Similarly, you could post a written version of this running order, with times, so people can scroll forward. Example – The DataStories podcast use this effectively   Interviews You’ve landed a great interview for your podcast – a real find. However, resist the temptation to put the whole interview unedited into your podcast. It will slow the whole thing down. How about playing some clips from it, then putting the whole interview (the “raw”) as a separate podcast? Refer to this in your podcast, and you’ve got them coming back for more! You could also split the interview over a series of podcasts – imagine saying “more from Dave next week”. Mix it Up Have a think who’s listening to the podcast, and what do they want? Think about bringing in different features,

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Data journalism: more than numbers and charts

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    I have been a Visiting Tutor at Birmingham City University on and off for more than a year, but today I experienced that mythical “sense of satisfaction” that teachers talk about. I held a short data visualization workshop for some 2nd year Online Journalism students today  – who were incredibly hungry for the information. For the past few weeks they had been gathering spreadsheets and reports and were now desperate for interesting ways to show this. Some were also concerned that they didn’t have any data as such, just lots of information   data is not just numbers – it is information, lists, reports, structures, things you’ve found out  – anything that could be displayed visually expand the data – add new information – i.e. bring value to a list of companies by adding company type, location, size etc. shrink the data – a list of spending at every university could be rehashed into a smaller dataset of spending in the West Midlands – compare across region. compare the data – download the same dataset for previous years, so you can compare over time. confused.com? – untangle a complex situation with an organisational chart – help the reader understand who does what. processes – have you found out how something gets done? Then, why not create a flow chart showing the process – ie the flow of money, responsibility, communication  missing information? – start a partial organisational chart – flag up where data is unavailable due to corporate privacy protection – ask why tell the backstory – create a timeline showing key events. Helps the reader understand the context of the story compare lists side by side  – a list of UK universities by League table position, next to a list of UK universities by satisfaction rating  – draw lines between the same establishment in each list, and you show any general patterns, are satisfying universities generally the best performing? Word Clouds – not to be used for academic/journalistic analysis but definitely interesting as a bit of illustration/front cover.  

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The Age You’re Most Likely to Win a Brit Award

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Checking the latest data from the Brit Awards (courtesy of the Guardian Data Blog) is seems 24 is the age a musician is most likely to win a Brit Award Since 2005 12 awards have gone to pop stars at this age including Amy Winehouse, Kate Nash and Ellie Goulding. Similarly, Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine and JLS all tapped in at this age when they picked up their awards. Could it be down to our education system, 3 years at uni, where they perhaps form a band, and 3 years focusing on it when they leave? Is it the power of the Brit School (London’s very own pop factory – which has produced Brit Award winners Adele, Amy Winehouse, Jessie J, Ed Sheeran and more) putting its alumni on a sure fire Brit success route within 2/3 years of them leaving? (see Brit School chart below) Or could it simply be a co-incidence? Other Charts It is also interesting to see the spread of ages, over the last few years. It’s no great surprise to see the 20’s (olive green) is the dominant age group, but it is interesting to see the gradual shift to younger artists (although 2012 bucks this trend slightly). This chart also shows an increase in age coverage as a whole, as the bulk of the chart takes a triangular shape, with younger and older artists being represented. (the average age of the charts, however, remains the same. How about by category? Well, again – no great surprises – although it is interesting to see the change in categories over the years (a removal of genre specific awards, for example) Issues with the Data As I worked out their age from the year they were born, as opposed to the exact date, their exact age at the time of the award is a guess. Hence there is a very real chance that the actual date is a bit wonky. However, I had problems finding the YEARS of some peoples birth, finding their exact birthday would be a bigger job for another time. What I would like to do now is explore more interested elements – perhaps carry out a an age study of the album charts (using the data from my MA Project) and see if there is a similar pattern. The Brit School

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Actors Working in Teams [infographic]

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Sometimes I’ll start a data project, and duing the process one of several things may happen: I lose interest something more important comes along I realized it’s just not “working” The latter happened as I was working on a piece for the latest Information is Beautiful challenge – which involved chomping through a large and very interesting data set regarding Hollywood movies. These challenges encourage you to use a data set provided by the website to create either a visualization, napkin drawing ( sketch) or an interactive piece. After several hours of looking through the data, looking for interesting angles, and hunting for more data I could add to the set (via Google Refine) I settled on looking at the connections between the actors involved in the top films. Ask anyone who’s watched a film with me and they’ll tell you that I have a VERY annoying habit of opening Wikipedia to find out where I’ve seen a particular actor before. It’s annoying in everyday life, but for this – it was a dream. I was also intrigued by the success of the films starring Seth Rogen / Jonah Hill et al, and the idea of teams working together – and how prevalent this was across other areas of Hollywood. (see below for more details and why I eventually shelved it)       What it Means Yes, it’s a bit of a headache isn’t it? The original dataset with featured the films coming out of the major studios, over a certain time period. I added actor information to the cataset from Freebase (within Google Refine) and worked out which ones had appeared in the most films over the time period. I then cross referenced the films and created the above chart. I had originally intended to give each film a different colour but this became unworkable – so I limited the colours to the films featuring 3 or more actors on the chart. The rest I coloured in grey. Why It Didnt Work For one, it was too damn complicated – no chart should take 3 paragraphs to explain. Kinda defeats the point, right? Secondly, the choice of resulting entries was nonsense. Original Data (limited to major studios) Actors added to each film (according to Wikipedia, via Freebase) Top 26 hardest working actors selected (based on original list, so ignoring independent or smaller budget films) And thirdly – it didn’t really say anything. I always put the success of my last Information is Beautiful entry down to the quirky subject matter (comparing the lifespan of important earth resources to celebrities). This didn’t have that element. Yes, it was interesting to see which actors work together, but the dataset was too limited to show any major patterns.  I eventually decided to stop working on the design (hence a few wonky areas) and shelve it. So why am I publishing it here? Because I spent all day on it, I like the IDEA and design and I wanted to share my experiences of

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Who is my data idol?

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There must be something in the water …. twice this week I have received emails from online journalism students asking for my thoughts on data journalism – and more specifically, my data idols. The first was an email from Germany – or student Katarina Bons to be precise – asking for information about any studies into data journalism in the UK and who the key players were. During the completion of my final MA Online Journalism project, during a desperate need to relieve tension, I pasted the text of my MA final dissertation into Wordle. Whilst I regrettably did not save the final image there were some surprising, and not so surprising results. Data, was of course – one of the most commonly used words (so much in fact that the A key on my laptop broke off and flew across the room). Another word that cropped up, worryingly often, was McCandless. Poster boy for the data generation, but not without his critics, David McCandless is definitely my data-crush – his simplistic yet visually stimulating work is a definite inspiration to me and – in times of creative drought – I have asked – “what would McCandless do?”. (to make the shortlist of an Information is Beautiful challenge was one of my personal highlights) Then I received an email, a few days later, from BCU MA Online Journalism student Duarte Romero Varela asking for a recorded interview about data journalism. Being an alumni of that particular course, and a self-confessed data geek, I was more than happy to hold forth. Meeting in Cafe Blend in Birmingham, Duarte interviewed me for a podcast (listen here) covering a range of issues including: Q: who is my data viz hero? (A: see above) Q: what tools do I use? (A: Excel > Tableau > Illustrator) Q: what is more important, how clear a viz is, or how it looks? (A: both – a clear ugly chart is like a badly written article – who’d want to publish it?) This question was of particular interest to me – the tide does appear to be turning against data viz / infographics at the moment, thanks to the tsunami of terrible examples finding their way into web content, newspapers and onto billboards, bus stops and the side of coffee cups.  There are cases, and I am definitely guilty of this at times, of being seduced along a path of beauty, and forgetting about the practicalities and the journalism. Here’s how I see it … Journalism: what are you trying to convey? What is the story? Clarity: it has to tell that story Design: it has to look attractive for people to want to interact with it   It’s a shame that there are so bad examples out there, outweighing the good and giving the whole area a bad name. There is a real need in some cases for highly complex information to be reworked into a visible format and it would be a shame if we threw

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Adventures #1 – SoLoMoDEN

In something of a mid-February resolution, I’ve decided to do more day-to-day blogging about the various online activities I am involved in. You have been warned —– Yesterday I found myself at the SoLoMoDEN conference in Manchester. Right in the heart of Media City, it was hard not to be inspired about the future of the profession – even though there was a slight Legoland feeling to this regenerated part of Salford. The “DEN” bit of SoLoMoDEN, stands for the Digital Editors Network – a group for anyone with an interest in online journalism ventures. Entrepreneurs, reporters and students rub shoulders, exchanging business cards and ideas. (As someone who has been to a large number of these new media journalism conferences, this is still my favourite, due to a very friendly crowd, accessible subject areas and free ticket (donation is optional) The “SoLoMo” part of the event title captured the buzz phrase of the moment – Social Local Mobile … the holy triumvirate of online news innovation – and the event focussed on these issues specifically with presentations on the findings from the World Newsmedia Innovation Study how newspapers are adopting online activity Guardian n0tice Sky Local Help Me Investigate Welfare / Education / Olympics /  Health use of local data Check out the live blog of the event here One of the chaps behind DEN, the softly spoken (but don’t be fooled) @Francoisnel is an academic interested in sustainability of online news models, and he used the event to launch his latest venture MADE – an incubation support project for such ventures. However, it was the presentation by Greg Hadfield (@greghadfield) that certainly got me, and a few other people, all of a flutter. Firstly, it was great to see someone so genuinely excited about open data – but refreshing to see it applied to both social good, and commercial viability. Secondly – as I was in the process of writing my application for the role of Electronic Editor at the Express and Star, it gave me some fantastic ideas. The evening ended, inevitably with a few drinkies with a nice crew including @foodiesarah, @alisongow @paulbradshaw + some new friends, before Paul Bradshaw and I legged it for a train at Manchester Picadilly back to Birmingham.

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#BINSgate > a few thoughts

An interesting spat broke on Twitter this morning. At the centre of it all, wannabe Birmingham mayor (yes, Birmingham is in the process of deciding if it wants an elected mayor not not)  Gisela Stuart (@giselastuart) took an open pot shot at the local website, Birmingham: It’s Not Shit Note: in the spirit of transparency and all-that, I must now insert some form of disclaimer here that I know the chap behind BINS – @bounder, and my better half  (@probablydrunk) often pens articles for the site. However, I have been aware of the site for years, often interviewing Bounds as a response to the yearly poundings of Birmingham in various travel guides.   Get a Grip I’m not even a Brummie (I am originally from Wolverhampton) but even I feel incredibly proud of this city. Yes, it has it’s issues (which urban area doesn’t?), and the city is constantly on the back foot defending itself from it’s industrial, grubby past but anyone who’s stepped foot in the city (especially after a long absence) is genuinely surprised at it’s transformation. Which Brummie hasn’t puffed their chest a little when someone from “out of town” nods their head approvingly at the Bullring or Brindley Place? What makes us different from the host of other rejuvenated cities such as Newcastle, Manchester and Belfast, is that we don’t shout Birmingham’s name from the rooftops. Instead we take the knocks on the chin and wait patiently until someone notices our new hairdo. For years Birmingham, and in fact most of the West Midlands, has been seen as the dirty, noisy, arguing folk living next door to the glamorous south. It’s something people in this city have grown to accept with a huge dose of grace and humour. Close it Down?? Which brings me to Birmingham: It’s Not Shit – and Stuart’s call to for it to be closed down. For starters, it is a website run by a fiercely proud Brummie who uses a tongue-in-cheek style to draw attention to the good things happening in this city. Accusing @bounder (and his writers) of a lack of pride is an enormous insult to the people actually doing something to change perception, both inside and outside of the city. Secondly, she called for the site to be “closed down” (then “renamed” in a later tweet), revealing a lack of understanding. I can’t work out if she’s misread the title, didn’t visit the site before commenting, or simply has no sense of humour – either way, it was pretty badly handled. ADD: Gisela Stuart has now apologized to BINS (“Apologies to @BirminghamiNS and thanks all for putting me right!”) and the matter is now put to bed.

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My adventures with Evernote Hello

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In this post I explain how I got on with Evernote Hello  – not for you? Try these other posts on Evernote Or have a free months trial of Evernote Premium here   ——————————————————————————————————————————————————— Recently Evernote launched a series of new apps  – Evernote Clearly (a plugin for viewing the text from web pages  – great for cluttered sites) Evernote Food (for those fetishists who like taking snaps of meals) Evernote Peek (for learning) and … Evernote Hello (for collecting information to help you remember people you meet) As a well-documented Evernote bore, I had to give them all a go. I have no real use for Peek, have used Evernote Clearly and Food once or twice – but I was keen to give Evernote Hello a go. It’s a great idea. I am useless at remembering names (great a faces, which means I know exactly WHO’s name I’ve forgotten) and am always looking for new tools to beat this affliction. How it works Evernote Hello encourages you to formally gather information about a person when you first meet them via an iPhone app. In a traditional setting, you’d receive someones business card during the conversation, which ends up in your pocket with all the other business cards to gather dust and become a notepad for other more pressing bits of information (train times, phone numbers etc). This app allows you to gather the Twitter name, email address and telephone number of the person AND, most importantly, a photograph – which will then sit within the app, and within your Evernote account. It also logs where you met them, and allows you to link this contact to notes within Evernote. So far so good. But … (and this is the entire crux of the app) … I must admit to being far too polite to ask to take someone’s photograph, on first meeting. It just is not in my nature to do that. Asking for their Twitter name, or email address is one thing – a photograph? …  a step too far. Is this just a British thing? Are other nationalities more easy going about this? It is interesting to see this issue raised on the Evernote forum (post here) Starting to Use It There have been multiple opportunities for me to use to use this app  – the recent News:Rewired journalism conference the major one. However, I am no point felt it was the right time, during a conversation, to whip out my phone and take a strangers picture (and it would have been even more creepy to take a picture of them on the sly) This week I began teaching  a new class (MA Social Media) at Birmingham City University as a visiting tutor. I will be working with them for several weeks so it was a great chance to test this app out. As a small group of tech-friendly people – I hoped they would be open to me gathering their information at the start of the class so I could begin

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Using Evernote for Email > tried, tested and failed

 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details Quick Links: The Method The Positives: The Negatives (and why it eventually failed as a process for me) The Solution I wondered – could I use Evernote to manage my emails? (this post requires a basic working knowledge of Evernote – have a free months trial of Evernote Premium here) It is no secret that I am an Evernote fangirl. I love the fact I can send pretty much everything I find online, into one huge vat of stuff. Recently I decided to take this one step further and use Evernote to read and process all of my emails. The Method Use the FORWARDING feature in Gmail to send all emails to Evernote Tell Gmail to keep the email, but mark as read (this means I can still access the messages via Gmail if I need to, but they won’t show as unread in my inbox on my phone) Within Evernote, you can SHARE notes, so simply paste the email address into the SHARE facility, and reply to email. The Positives: EASE – Evernote is far less clunky via desktop than Gmail IT WORKED – I had been having problems using Gmail through Thunderbird and other desktop email apps, but Evernote worked TIME – I was forwarding so many emails, it seemed to make sense to forward them all, and delete the ones I didn’t want. ATTACHMENTS –  You can merge notes so send several attachments to one person (easier than adding attachments via normal email) INTEGRATION – Sending my emails into Evernote immediately puts them in the mix with my documents, PDFs, articles etc  – where they can be easily searched and grouped. TAGGING –  being able to integrate your email with other information I had stored, documents etc meant I could group project information together, and tag items that required action. The Negatives (and why it eventually failed as a process for me) SPACE: I use Evernote premium (which allows you 1GB of uploads per month) and for normal usage, this is perfect. Unfortunately, this month I have found receiving a much higher volume of emails (due to several projects and the subsequent discussions). I have already used a quarter of my upload quota and I’m only a few days into my month. REPLYING: when you receive an email in Evernote, it shows the SENDERS email address, which means you simply need to copy this and paste it into the SHARE box. Simple. Unfortunately, as Evernote is not an email system,  it does not show when the email has been CC’d, so they would miss out on any replies. In the end I was having to use my old system for replying to group emails UNRELIABILITY: Several times emails have simply not arrived. SPAM – Some of the emails were ending up in spam, and some users were not spotting this – so the email was not received. CLUTTER – Again, as Evernote

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How journalists can follow the story/find contacts online

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A few notes/ideas of using online resources for journalism from a recent 30 minute workshop with 2nd year Online Journalism students

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New website launch > The Hidden City

An interesting project to emerge in this time when questions are being asked about the role of the mainstream media is The Hidden City. It is a website covering the hidden stories of Birmingham through audio slideshows (a slideshow of relevant photographs with an audio track underneath). The brainchild of the guys behind Fourseventy Media, a local media production company specializing in audio, The Hidden City is a not-for profit project funded by donations and sponsorship. All money raised will go back into the project to cover costs, (eg travel expenses) With local newspapers shutting down and broadcast newsrooms co-locating out of the region, this site hopes to focus attention back on the local people, stories and events happening across the region and are inviting the public to submit story ideas. Once these ideas are submitted, the site will either assign it to one of their reporters, or help the member of the public to cover it themselves. Checking the site out at today’s launch, at Brewsmiths Coffee shop in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, there are a handful of stories up there, as produced by the FourSeventy Media guys, and a small army of local media/tech students from Birmingham City University. Reports currently on the site deal with subjects including squatters rights, the history of UB40, an old-school barbers shop and street sport. Right now these are accessible through “pins on a map”, housed on the front page (See screengrab below) – although they are not categorized into subject area/themes. (there are plans for themed/colour coded pins in the future) I was concerned about the issue of quality control. Right now, the site houses some top notch content – produced by a professional company, and students trained by them. I was assured that content standards would remain high, and that all submitted work would be either produced entirely in-house, or under supervision/editorial guidance from the in house team. There is also common sense here – with the guys clearly going for quality over quantity – there will be 2/3 audio slideshows (or audio/video in the future) uploaded her month. Overall, it is an interesting project and I wish them all the luck!

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The Changing Role of a Journalist – a few thoughts

What is the role of the journalist in today’s world? During the Birmingham riots, when a huge amount of rumour and speculation was being passed around the social networks (Riot rumours – Guardian), should the local media have also stepped in to set the records straight? (check out this fantastic visualization of Twitter rumours by The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/interactive/2011/dec/07/london-riots-twitter) Many believe that journalists should only deal with news — a rumour is not news, and should be left alone. This may have been the case before the era of social networks and citizen journalists – when the journalists had the monopoly on the information reaching the public, and to mention “rumour” was to give it credence. However, today – thanks to the power of the online world, rumour has credence without the journalists being involved. Consider this example: a station is evacuated due to a suspect package. Word breaks online and spreads quickly. Traditionally we would turn to our the established news outlets (local radio, local newspaper website etc) for confirmation or, at least, information. However, if they are saying nothing about it because nothing has been confirmed, then that organization will quickly lose its reputation. Concerned parties will instead continue to believe the information being passed around online. Those local news outlets should be on Twitter and Facebook saying what they know about this situation. They should besaying that the station has been evacuated. They should also be passing on information as they receive it.  Granted, it probably won’t make a story, but people are talking about it – hence it deserves attention. Now we are left with a situation where minute-to-minute updates are handled by the sources themselves (police, Government, NHS) and an army of citizen journalists. It is no wonder that local/regional news outlets are losing their grip on their regions – when there are other sources of information not concerned with filling pages, and maintaining exclusives.

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Uni applications drop off – but which subject area is hardest hit?

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Thanks to a hike in tuition fees, there has been a drop off in the numbers of people applying to UK universities, compared to the 2011 figures. Usefully, the Guardian has posted the numbers on their Datablog and I’m starting to munch through the data Here’s the first set of findings – by subject area grouped into discipline, thanks to Wikipedia’s List of Academic Disciplines

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MP’s subsidized dining rooms [visualization]

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So MP’s are expected to pay the equivalent of “high street pub” prices when buying food in the subsidized restaurant in House of Commons are they? (Telegraph) Let’s see if that’s the case. Taking 5 dishes mentioned in the article above – I compared them to an equivalent TYPE of dish at Wetherspoons, Walkabout and All Bar One. (click for larger image) Sources: http://www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk/ http://www.allbarone.co.uk/ http://www.walkabout.eu.com/ And special thanks to @keridavies (http://www.keridavies.net)        

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The embargo > a few thoughts

Embargo: a request by a source that the information or news provided by that source not be published until a certain date or certain conditions have been met News embargo – Wikipedia  A lot of talk recently about embargoes, after a journalist for the New Yorker posted a review of the new David Fincher film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ahead of an agreed embargo date.   You can read the email exchanges between the reporter – David Denham and Sony here  but Denham’s points appear to be: They were trying to spread reviews to avoid a “jam up” of articles featuring the large number of important movies released at the same time His review was positive – he says he would not have broken an embargo with a “bad” review “madness” of early publication dates in the run up to the Xmas period and a need for serious content for this particular edition. Sony retaliated by accusing him of doing  “a deeply lousy and immoral thing“, that the glut of Xmas films is nothing new and that the needs of the magazine should not come ahead of an agreement. — Embargo’s are designed to structure the flow of information between a source and a journalist within an environment of trust and it is important that they are maintained. They not only offer an obvious benefit to the source (by controlling coverage) and the wider situation (e.g.protecting  police operations, court cases etc) there are also definite benefits to the journalist. A journalist who is given access to embargoed information is working within a privileged position. The source considers their, or their outlet’s reputation to warrant this trust and in return the that journalist is given time to absorb and develop the story. With the online information-explosion thanks social networks and blogging, it is important for traditional news outlets to play to their strengths. Whilst many are excelling in breaking news in innovative ways, they still have a definite advantage when it comes to their access to information. This head-start gives the perfect opportunity to prepare a well-researched, in-depth piece ahead of time. A journalist who breaks an embargo is often punished in the future by missing out on information – it would be a shame if this becomes a habit and more journalists ignore this agreement that is there for the greater good.  In the future, will the embargo become a more important tool or an obsolete tradition?

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Dataviz – Junior Schools by Religious Denomination [visualization]

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Interactive map showing the distribution of faith schools across the UK Click to interact … Powered by Tableau

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Wave Goodbye

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Just received this Email from the Google Wave guys … Despite my ups and downs with Wave, it’s still sad but good for Google for giving it a go! ——- Dear Wavers, More than a year ago, we announced that Google Wave would no longer be developed as a separate product. At the time, we committed to maintaining the site at least through to the end of 2010. Today, we are sharing the specific dates for ending this maintenance period and shutting down Wave. As of January 31, 2012, all waves will be read-only, and the Wave service will be turned off on April 30, 2012. You will be able to continue exporting individual waves using the existing PDF export feature until the Google Wave service is turned off. We encourage you to export any important data before April 30, 2012. If you would like to continue using Wave, there are a number of open source projects, including Apache Wave. There is also an open source project called Walkaround that includes an experimental feature that lets you import all your Waves from Google. This feature will also work until the Wave service is turned off on April 30, 2012. For more details, please see our help center. Yours sincerely, The Wave Team

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Become Master of your Email Inbox

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Is your email inbox bursting at the seams? Overrun with nonsense,? Drowning in newsletters? Here are a few easy tips to get your wayward email inbox whipped into shape. The idea here is to reduce the number of emails in your inbox, so the important ones aren’t forgotten about. Before you clear out your inbox (we’ll do that later), LOOK at the emails in there – they should fall into one of four categories: EASY TO DEAL WITH EMAILS  Deal with them … right now. Sounds silly, but the rush you’ll get by just getting it down will be worth it Alternatively, if you’d prefer and have the facility – convert the email to a task UNWANTED EMAILS: Unsubscribe from them. There should be an unsubscribe option at the bottom. It seems like a hassle now, but think – how many of these emails do you delete every week? Trust me – it’s worth it. If you are receiving unwanted emails from individuals simply ask to stop receiving them. A polite email explaining why (i.e. your job role has changed, your interests have changed, or you get the information from other sources etc.) should do the job. This also applies to chain email that at some point applied to you, but don’t now. You could also set up a filter to delete unwanted mailouts before they even enter your inbox BUT be warned: in the future you may want to resubscribe to this service, so you will need to remove the filter if so. Also, the more specific you cna be with your filter, the less chance of other emails being caught. “NEED LATER” EMAILS These re messages you don’t need to see now, but will need later. The answer here is to FILTER. If you use a free-mail service, like GMail or Hotmail, or Outlook, make use of the filtering / archiving process which skips the inbox and moves the emails directly into a folder. Examples: newsletters from fashion stores / vouchers etc. can be hidden away until your next shopping trip work documents that I will need for a future task but don’t need reviewing now job alerts – I file these away, and set myself a calendar reminder to check that folder every couple of days so I don’t miss anything important PESKY EMAILS (aka All the rest …)    These emails will annoy the hell out of you, and make you feel bad about yourself until you can deal with them. Often these depend on other people/situations. My solution is to remove it from your inbox but set up a reminder to deal with it, when you know you’ll be able to. In order to do this – think – what’s stopping you from answering it immediately? You need to consider your response  / it’s not urgent and you’re busy right now – Sometimes you’re just not in the mood, right? Sometimes it’s just not a priority.  Sometimes that difficult email needs an extra cup of coffee /

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6 Tips for Using Evernote

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Here are 6 ways I use the productivity tool, Evernote Feel free to add yours in the comments below Or have a free months trial of Evernote Premium here Quick Links: 1. A DESKTOP FOLDER 2. GOODSYNC 3. SYNC ICLOUD to EVERNOTE 4. IFTTT.com 5. GMAIL FILTERS 6. GOOGLE CHROME EVERNOTE PLUGIN Evernote is the equivalent to an external hard drive, on the cloud – so you can archive important / interesting information – read more here (http://www.evernote.com/) There are hundreds of different ways you can use Evernote – here are my top 6 tips: 1. A DESKTOP FOLDER In Evernote open Tools > Import Folders Here you can specify ANY folder, and files within that folder will be automatically imported into Evernote I decided to create a folder called “For Evernote”. This sits in my Documents folder, but by creating a shortcut on your desktop, you now have a place where you can drag files for quick importing. I also specified this folder as a FAVOURITE so it is easy to find when I am saving a file from another program. I had been hoping to specify a Dropbox folder as an import folder, but this is not possible – hence, Tip #2 2. GOODSYNC Goodsync – a very useful desktop tool anyway for backing up files/moving etc, but great for syncing Dropbox with Evernote. I wanted to use this to automatically backup my portfolio as I develop it, but it could be used for anything (images, documents etc). Point Goodsync at the source file, and again at your Evernote desktop shortcut, and viola! (you can also alter the settings  – so you can have a 2 way sync (not useful here), backup or move (ie delete file from source location) I have also used this to move a host of images from my IPhone and IPad (before I upgraded to IOS5) to Evernote. By installing the Dropbox App I uploaded ALL my images to my Dropbox > Evernote folder, and they are  – one by one – moved (and then deleted) from Dropbox to Evernote Import (by Goodsync) then moved (and deleted form source) into Evernote automatically. (I currently use this to move my IPad screen captures into Evernote) 3. SYNC ICLOUD to EVERNOTE (Disclaimer: I’m not entirely sure HOW I’ve achieved this. I set up a LOT of different syncing techniques and I’m now unable to find out which one works .. but I think this is it – but apologies if it doesn’t work for you) ICloud is Apple’s latest product to sync items on all of your kit – Ipad, IPhone, Mac etc. I used Goodsync (above) to link your C:UserssonyPicturesPhoto StreamUploads folder to my Evernote import folder (as set up above) Now this only works when my laptop is on, but that works for me: Goodsync moves all the images that appear in my photostream into Evernote This is useful for keeping track of snaps I take, but ALSO, more importantly for me, screen captures I take on my

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Project: Datamud

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And so it begins > hunting for a job (CV added)

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Having put my MA Online Journalism to bed on Friday with the submission of my final assignment cbviz (plus support blog here) I now have the task of getting out there and finding a job. There is certainly no shortage of jobs in the digital field, but the trick will be finding one that suits my editorial background. Please find my latest CV here Having worked as a broadcast journalist (most recently on bulletins and documentaries for Kerrang Radio) for 10 years I can certainly tick “communication” as a skill. Thanks to my studies I can now also add a dizzying number of technical skills including: CMS – WordPress, Blogger Online Content  – writing for the web, SEO, layout and design Data Journalism – Tableau, Outwithub Social Media – to discover and share news content Social Reporting – audio, video, Storify, audio slideshows So the hunt begins. I’ve seen a very interesting digital editor role going (local too)… I’ll most certainly be throwing my hat into the ring for that one. In the meantime I’ll be boosting my CV by teaching myself some more key skills: – I’d definitely like to get to grips with Scraperwiki – adding to my experience with Adobe Illustrator would be great – design: with no formal art background, but a good eye, I would like to firm up my knowledge of design basics Any more suggestions of good CV additions feel free to comment below. If you are in the market for a digital content person with a fetish for visualisations, data and general social media goodness, feel free to drop me a line via Twitter @carolinebeavon or carolinebeavon@gmail.com Over and out

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Dear Delicious User …(email)

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Dear Delicious User, Yahoo! is excited to announce that Delicious has been acquired by the founders of YouTube, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. As creators of the largest online video platform, Hurley and Chen have firsthand expertise enabling millions of consumers to share their experiences with the world. Delicious will become part of their new Internet company, AVOS. To continue using Delicious, you must agree to let Yahoo! transfer your bookmarks to AVOS. After a transition period and after your bookmarks are transferred, you will be subject to the AVOS terms of service and privacy policy. Reasons to let Yahoo! transfer your bookmarks • Continue uninterrupted use of Delicious. • Keep your Delicious account and all your bookmarks. • Enjoy the same look and feel of Delicious today plus future product innovations. What happens if you do not transfer your bookmarks • Delicious in its current form will be available until approximately July 2011. • After that, you will no longer be able to use your existing Delicious account and will not have access to your existing bookmarks or account information. About AVOS AVOS is a new Internet company founded by Chad Hurley and Steve Chen who, in 2005, founded YouTube, the world’s largest online video platform. Before YouTube, Hurley and Chen were early employees at PayPal, a leading online payment service that is now part of eBay. Delicious will become a part of AVOS, based in San Mateo, California. Thank you for using Delicious. Yahoo! has appreciated having you with us, and we are pleased to be able to transfer Delicious to an incredible new owner — you’re in good hands. The Yahoo! Delicious Team Please do not reply to this message. This is a service email related to your use of Yahoo! Delicious. To learn more about Yahoo!’s use of personal information, including the use of Web beacons in HTML-based email, please read our Privacy Policy. Yahoo! is located at 701 First Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94089. RefID:lp-1028425

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Statement: Demand Media acquires CoveritLive

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Demand Media acquired CoveritLive in February: Many of our biggest customers already know this but for those of you who didn’t…surprise. It’s all very very good for us and for them. Given that Demand is a publicly traded company, I can’t really talk too much about the acquisition other than: a) it made us all happy; and, b) it will make all of our customers happier. Live Gaming is Live: We’re crazy excited about this. Customers love our Polls feature where they can ask the audience a question and get instant votes back. Take that idea, but now it’s a Trivia Question and your readers earn points on a live scoreboard. Imagine the engagement you can drive with that. We even created a version where you can take live ‘bets’ (no, not real money) on things like, “who will score first tonight?” or, “Who will the Bucs take in the 5th round?”. Your readers will be stuck to their devices earning points and having fun. Like all things we do, no setup required…just click the tab under Polls & Interactive and you’re live. Android App is Live: We’re sorry it took this long. Really. But now that CoveritLive is part of Demand Media, we have more resources for development and testing which means more cool stuff for you. We know iPhone users love mobile coverage with our iPhone app but now Android joins the party. It’s a really good first version with more upgrades, as usual, to come quickly. Go to the Android Marketplace to get it today. Facebook sharing and Polls: Live Polls are an extremely popular feature and now your readers are prompted to share their votes on Facebook immediately after they vote. Their friends come back to your site. Last, I wanted to personally, as best I can, thank the many of you who helped make CoveritLive the company it is today. Your feedback, patience and support has meant a lot to me personally and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching so many customers around the world engage audiences with what we’ve built. The acquisition does start a new chapter for us (sorry, not sure how to say that without sounding corny) and it should be a great one. Keith McSpurren President, CoveritLive @coveritlive

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Top 10 Crimes of Online Writing

 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details Are you blog posts not getting the attention they deserve? Check out these points to improve your writing and reduce that bounce rate Quick Links: 1. Too Clever/Too Boring/Too Complex Title 2. Images to big/boring/stock photos 3. Epic Paragraphs 4. No Header / Subheader 5. No links / links not working 6. No Lists 7. Fact and Figures 8. Tagging and Categories 9. Spread the Word 10. Feel free to suggest a Number 10, below … 1. Too Clever/Too Boring/Too Complex Title The title of an online post needs to be clear and succinct – no clever tabloid puns or vagueness here please! Avoid figures, but use place names, people etc. they will catch attention. The difference between: “Birmingham man falls into pub-cellar after night out” and “Down the Hatch” Avoid long titles, they’ll drop off the end of tweets if people share your story. Rethink your focus if you are struggling to write a clear title. 2. Images to big/boring/stock photos Images are a useful way to not only break up a story but also to improve traffic. Have you ever seen a story posted onto Facebook? Often the article IMAGE is the first thing you will see. Remember that! Size: Don’t automatically use the original size. Unless the image is VITAL to the article (i.e. if it is illustrating a point) keep it small, and wrap the text around the image to avoid white space. Location: Does that image REALLY have to be at the top on the left hand side? Would it work better further down? Consider using it to break up a block of text, or illustrate a particular point in the article. Multiple Pictures: Instead of ONE picture, how about several? How about an embedded Flickr slideshow? A gallery? Diagrams: Not all images have to be photographs. Is the story complex – would it benefit from a diagram? How about drawing your own with an art package (even Paint can work for simple diagrams), then save it and embed. (If it’s a personal blog, how about taking a photograph of your own doodles, flow charts, schedules etc and posting those up?) 3. Epic Paragraphs It’s a common mistake of print journalists – they simply paste their copy online, add an image and have done with. The eye simply cannot cope with the same about of text on a screen. Also, image if someone is reading the article on a mobile phone. Keep paragraphs short One idea, one paragraph. People will scan the article – they will glance at paragraphs, and move on if it does not interest them. Don’t bury the facts in a paragraph they may not read. 4. No Header / Subheader If the article is long, breaking it up into sections will help the reader find what that want quickly. See how this article is divided into sections? Did it help you find what you wanted?

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Anti-Microsoft Rap … (video)

Dan’s Facebook: http://facebook.com/itsDanBull Twitter: http://twitter.com/itsDanBull MySpace: http://myspace.com/danbull Download the mp3: http://www.mediafire.com/?8x7bgvlshax… Get Dan’s album here: http://itsdanbull.com/shop

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Text speek – innit

Yes, I’m old. Actually, no – I’m not old. I still have all my own teeth, wear converse, own, and know how to use, an iPhone, and have a vague idea of new music. I am, however, at that stage when certain phrases, terms and vocabulary are completely alien to me. It’s perfectly understandable as the younger generations strive to create their own identity and language. It creates a sense of membership and, at times, exclusivity for the cool brigade. Unfortunately, it means the rest of us are clammering around trying to work out exactly WHAT that message from your niece means, or whether that person on Facebook is insulting you or not … He’s a short list of some of the most useful, interesting and strange abbreviations (as provided by the listeners to Kerrang! Radio) AFAIK – As Far As I Know IDK – I Don’t Know Lmao – Laugh my arse off Btw – By the way Tbh – To be honest Atm – At the moment Brb – Be right back PMSL – Pi$ my self laughing Wuu2 – what you up to wua – what you at SNM – Say No More IMO – in my opinion lyam – love you as a mate RTFQ= read the fucking question Smdh….. Shake my dizzy head TB – Text back

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… for hire

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT Services include: Set up of Twitter/Facebook/Myspace account Transfer from Facebook profile to Facebook Pages (as required) Syncing between Twitter/Facebook/Myspace (if required) Sending/scheduling of informational messages Interesting posts – polls, opinions and discussion points community management – answering/responding to messages Set up of Flickr/Youtube account Membership on music sites (eg Last.fm BLOGGING Set up / design of blog site (via WordPress) Hosting of site regular content blogging (daily, twice daily, weekly) with a casual style promotion via Facebook, Twitter Embedding of video Use of music playlist sites (eg Spotify) INTERVIEWING video/audio interviewing Basic top and tailing or more professional editing hosting and embedding on your site via YouTube (or Vimeo if preferred) Promotion via social networks/blog/website LIVE BLOGGING Set up of CoverItLive blog Integration of Twitter feed Coverage of your event – either Notetaking or Opinion format or a mix of both. CLUB DJING Indie/rock/alternative DJ with an extensive collection. DJ from CD’s (note: I do not own decks, so you would have to provide these)

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Y-not? Embedding YouTube

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I’m intrigued as to why some record labels still don’t allow embedding of their music videos on Youtube. Surely Youtube is a KEY viral marketing tool, which means your artist’s music is spread around the net and promotes the album? MP3’s yes – restrict those all you want if you believe it will impact on album sales (a whole other debate that I won’t go into now), but videos? Unfortunately you restricting embedding won’t stop the videos being shared, all you’ll get is people making their own copies (whether ripped from online or even videos via phones from TV video channels) and sharing those instead. This means poorer quality, 3rd generation videos are doing the rounds, and end up being used by bloggers/journalists and fans on their social network profiles.    In this day and age, surely sharing videos is key?

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INTERNSHIPS: slave labour or opportunity?

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This post was written in November 2010. I am now no longer a member of the NUJ. However, my feelings on internships have not changed. There has always been some discomfort about the idea of unpaid internships, work experience etc. However, in the media they are considered something of a necessary evil. Image via Wikipedia The NUJ have launched a campaign highlighting the fact that anyone who’s worked as an unpaid intern over the past six years COULD be entitled to minimum wage back pay – irrespective of the terms of the internship at the time. (They make a clear distinction,however, between internships and work experience. Internships tend to be longer and you make a contribution to the company. Unfortunately individuals on work experience often slip into an internship role, if they have anything about them they will do all they can to make a contribution to the company) I am a fully paid up member of the NUJ but this concerns me. Yes, companies DO take advantage of unpaid workers but don’t believe that this is entirely a one way street. With so many teenagers heading to university nowadays, and coming out with a range of weird and wonderful degrees, anyone serious about getting into the media can’t rely on a Desmond in Media Studies any more. I actively encourage students to get as much work experience as possible. Not only are they, as I did, putting themselves in a prime position for any vacancies that DO come up, but they are making contacts, learning about the industry and picking up new skills that their university may omit to teach them. You simply cannot put a price on that. This added pressure on media companies concerns me because it could … 1. put those  who have used interns in the past in a dire financial situation if they had to dig deep and find back pay 2. discourage others from offering internships in the future Don’t think that companies will immediately start finding money to pay interns in the future, they won’t. It simply means the opportunities will close up and there will be fewer chances to get a foot in the door for the media workers of the future. On the other hand, as I explained above, there is a distinction between Intern and Work Experience. Maybe we’ll see a drop off in internships and a shift to work experience. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad thing? I also have concerns when young people complain they do not have time to intern. Yes, they find time to go to football on a Saturday, see their friends a few nights a week and still have time to watch TV, play computer games and sleep. It comes down to how badly you want it. I understand that not everyone has the luxury of supportive parents. But I do wonder how desperate you are for a role in this industry, if you are not prepared to give up some of

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Making Online News Pay – Pt 1 paywalls

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I am currently exploring the various avenues for making money from online news as part of my MA Online Journalism. Over a series of Posts I hope to explore the various methods of generating revenue from online content – looking at the various issues, and pitfalls along the way. The Project My idea is a website that offers short, exclusive video interviews with bands – often bands that would not get mainstream coverage elsewhere (e.g. radio and television) but have a small, but cult, following. The Money Making Options Paywall Standard Banner Ads Ad-content (more on this in future posts) Paywalls First, then – the big talking point of the moment, Paywalls. I would not even consider a paywall model, were I providing standard, general interest news that could be read anywhere. Why would people want to pay for my content, if they could read it for free on a rival site? The beauty of the internet is the sheer volume of material out there, and the means by which to get at it. Websites, RSS feeds, email, social networks – they are all serious competition now for the news outlet. Image by tripu via Flickr The Times is attempting to do exactly this with their paywall. Initial figures are not healthy (losing 2 thirds of their online readership). Of course, that means a third of their readers are happy to pay £2 a week for online news – and those figures may eventually work in their favour, who knows. This is The Times, however, they had more readers to play with in the first place. A small local paper that attempted a paywall would be looking at 33% of not-very-much – an impossible situation. There have been more successful attempts at a Paywall, all of them offering something unique to the reader (the old ad-men phrase of the USP) be it useful information (in the example of the FT or Wall Street Journal), or “celeb-toriety” (right wing commentator RushLimbaugh in the USA). In fact, many of us already accept paywalls as a way of life – Sky TV subscriptions anyone? Again – offering something that you cannot get for free elsewhere. The question really is not, WILL people pay for “exclusive” content, but how much? The Content The content I am offering is exclusive video interviews with bands. These will be video interviews, which are quick to digest, interesting to watch and entertaining. The bands I am interviewing are small enough not to get mainstream media coverage (radio or TV) hence the content has a unique value The bands have a cult following within their field and there is a genuine interest in their activities Content will tend to gathered in batches (ie at festivals) so there is an opportunity to promote interest between similar bands The Audience This audience are not a business audience – they are music fans (teenagers, early 20’s) who consume their magazines, news etc online via social networks, websites and apps. They will be happy

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Facebook: groups V fan pages

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I am currently working with several companies to develop their online marketing via Twitter, Facebook etc. A new client currently has a profile, which they actively use, and a Group. However, I wonder if this is the most effective way of marketing their company, besides which, having 2 searchable profiles (group and page) is confusing to the searching user and hard work to maintain. I am proposing they focus instead on a Fan page.  However, with more than 2500 members of the group, moving away from it is a big decision. Or is it? I have started investigating the pro’s and con’s of a Page, against a Group, and I am still convinced that, for a business with ongoing activity, a Page is the better option. A Page is Open: once a person “likes” the page, updates will then appear in their News Stream. The only way for Group members to find out what you are doing is for you to invite them to an event or message them. Many people are now event and message weary on Facebook. Cross Promotion: a persons activities within  a Group are not posted onto their wall – so other people are not exposed to the group or it’s activities. A fan page, however, is open and Likes, Comments etc, appear on that persons wall. This leads to free promotion to their friends. Easier to join – like buttons on sites etc automatically add people Clear message – Groups can turn into a free for-all with random people posting random things on the wall. The Group messages are then lost in a sea of irrelevant chat. A Fan page allows the reader to pick JUST the page owner, or page owner and others. The message is more focussed. Remote posting/monitoring – You cannot post to a group remotely (from a 3rd party programme like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, only a Page) For round the clock management and monitoring, a Fan Page is easier to monitor, along with Twitter and other accounts, from one location. Analytics: Fan Pages come with detailed analytics of members, interactions, quality of posts etc so you can monitor how your page is doing. Groups do not have this luxury. How to make the jump: First thing is to HIDE the profile – we still need it as a base for the new fan page – but we don’t want more people to join it. Launch a fan page, Anyone now searching for the product will find the Fan Page NOT the profile – this is what we want. Promote the fan page on the Group and  the profile page encouraging people to LIKE Place a button on every page of the website/other social networks, which people can simply click to “like” Phase out activity on the group but continue to advertise the Fan page Close the group. It may seem like a risky move but the effort currently going into promoting through the group, which people are not reading, interacting with

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5 ways to gather data

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 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details Everyone is talking about data journalism nowadays: creating maps, visualizations and infographics. However, before you can do any of that you need some DATA Here is how I sourced the data for my Datamud project, a look at the statistics behind the big UK music music festivals. Quick Links: 1. SEARCH Official Site Google Governing Bodies Search / Scraping Sites Interest Sites 2. ASK PRESS OFFICE 3. FOI 4. CROWDSOURCE 5. I GOT MY CALCULATOR OUT 1. SEARCH Official Site The last thing you want to do is call up a press officer asking for some stats, when they are there, for all to see, on the website. Dig around in any areas labelled information, statistics, FOI and Press Area. Often companies will post useful statistics if they are often requested,but they won’t necessarily make those statistics easy to find. The Glastonbury Festival Educational Resources area is rich with information. A series of PDF’s contain details about every element of the event – from crowd management, security, stalls, sanitation etc. As the UK’s largest festival is is often the subject of assignments and reports. This was useful as I looked for recycling information to back up the organisers claims that they are a green event. Google Google is a wonderful tool – it not only searches websites, but also blogs, news postings, pictures and videos. It’s well worth checking the NEWS section as someone else may have already done similar research and posted the stats online. Unfortunately a search can return thousands of pages, so you need to be smart when submitting your search. Inverted commas around a phrase will search for those words as written, but combined with simple searches it can be a useful tool. e.g. “were arrested” 2010 Don’t forget to check the later pages of the search too – sometimes you will find some juicy stuff buried on the less Google juicy sites. Governing Bodies Often Google won’t be able to pick up deep linked pages, or documents embedded or linked in pages so it’s always worth looking at official agencies and Governing bodies websites too. Councils and the Government are now much better at archiving their agendas and minutes and whilst the search facilities are still pretty archaic and frustrating, it’s a start. None of the various police forces websites had the crime stats that I needed, although they do often have documents that may be of use e.g. Leicestershire Police Search / Scraping Sites Although I did not use this during this assignment, in retrospect using a site like Scraperwiki to access data from an official site would have saved me a lot of time. I could have used it to draw together all the line ups, for example, instead of a long winded cut-and-paste process, and plenty of cleaning up. Nowadays there are also sites that have done a lot of the work for you, by monitoring

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6 tips for good blogging (and social networking)

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Recently I began writing a blog and looking after the social interaction for a music venue. Here are a few things I have learnt along the way (NOTE: this is a work in progress and will be updated – feel free to comment with any suggestions below): * Polls work. People love them. Asking people for their opinion on something gets them excited. A recent poll asking simply “Which band are you most looking forward to seeing” not only attracted a lot of visits, but also a lot of click-throughs to the ticket selling page. (I’d put links for all the shows below the link to the poll). * Talk / reply / comment – responding to people’s comments is a sure fire way to drum up interest in what you are doing. Even a simple acknowledgement of their response it better than nothing * Horses for Courses: Different bands draw traffic from different social networks. All blog links are placed on Facebook, Twitter and Myspace (which never delivers). The header is also fed onto the venues ticketing website. Facebook and Twitter do pull in readers, but it entirely depends on the band. Almost 100% of the traffic to a Carl Barat story came from Twitter, whereas the bands Exit Calm and Band of Horses pulled in traffic from Facebook. Older bands seem to generate the majority of traffic from the ticketing website onto the blog, not vice versa. I always tag the bands in the post  – LIKE them on facebook, befriend them on Twitter – then use an @ to link to their page. * Buzzwords are great – think, what will people be searching for on a particular day? Events that are going on, celebrities? Without unnecessary shoehorning, a post about the World Cup  or Glastonbury festival can be very effective. * Double tag: working for a venue, it is quite easy to “double tag” a post – i.e. talk about 2 different bands in one post. A review of last nights show, doubled with a review of this evenings works well. * Multiple tag: a new format of post I am experimenting with is the “news roundup”. By following all the bands due to play the venue over the next few months, I put together a “Road to Wolves” post with smal tidbits, links etc about those bands. One post in, and it has proved popular. WHAT NOT TO DO * false promises: it seem to be clever to write the headline “Meet s0-and-so’s support band” – for an introductory piece about the smaller bands on the bill. With a lot of visits I pressumed people were generally interested in finding out more about the support band. Unfortunately a high bounce rate and a glance at the search words (Meet so-and so”) proved that people wanted to know how to meet the headliners. The post was offering something it could not deliver.

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Football-free Pubs in Birmingham

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View Birmingham’s Football-Free Pubs in a larger map

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Datamud

For the past few weeks I have been working on another project for my MA Online Journalism course. This is an investigation into some of the facts and figures of the UK music festivals. The site will be updated over the next few days, so stay tuned and, of cours,e any feedback, much appreciated. http://www.datamudwordpress.com

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Festivals: what would you like to know?

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Crime, weather, value for money? What stats would help you out this festival season?

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Corporate blogging: your thoughts

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I am currently looking into the controversial world of corporate blogging as part of my MA Online Journalism at BCU I have found a massive anti-campaign towards “ghost” or “proxy”  blogging, i.e. writing a blog under someone else’s name.  This is often seen as deception and goes against the transparent ethic of blogging.  However it seems to be big business with more companies realizing they need to be online but don’t have the skills or the time to do it. What about corporate blogging on behalf of a company? Is this equally deceptive? There is another issue: editorial integrity. If you are being paid to blog you are simply a copywriter, right? You are not being paid to criticise the company or the brand – you must toe the line. Are any companies embracing transparency to the point where they are happy to see their own company blog attack them? I’d love your thoughts. Thank you.

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Photographers v Police 1-1 (after 1st leg)

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Photographers are not a happy bunch. If they’re not having their pictures used online without getting credit or being replaced in the festival photo pit by young bloggers waving iPhones, they’re being persecuted by the police and accused of being terrorists. Authority 2.0 (Birmingham City University, 28 April, 2010) was a fascinating event, organised by the MA Social Media students to investigate how the UK’s police forces should be using social media, AND to discuss some of the very real problems today’s photographers face at the hands of officers in this age of terrorist suspicion. For me the panel discussion, 2 photographers (@KarenStrunks and Christian Payne (aka @Documentally) and 2 representatives from West Midlands Police (CI Mark Payne Force CID and Inspector Ian Grundy, Counter Terrorism Unit), was the highlight of the day by sparking a series of interesting debates about freedom of access, how the police handle the public and training of their officers. The discussion started with a, quite frankly, horrifying video recorded by an anonymous photographer as he was subject to some very unecessary harrassment, first by a Community Support Officer, and then by a police officer, as he tried to take pictures in the street. Accused of being “suspicious” and being ordered to give his details, there was mention of “terrorism” and an eventual arrest, which ended in release 8 hours later. If this is as commonplace as it seems, then I am right behind photographers in their fight for acceptance among the police force – and, give them their due, the officers present at the event were just as keen to see a closer relationship. Unfortunately though, these senior members of the force are as likely to have to deal with a suspicous photographer on the beat, as they are parking in Livery Stret Car Park in Birmingham and NOT getting a ticket (in joke, sorry). Instead, the message that people with cameras in the street are NOT necessarily scoping out a terrorist target, needs to be filtered down to the officers on the street, the Community Support teams and the private security firms – all of whom have been accused of bothering snappers in the past. Karen Strunks also highlighted that current poster campaigns asking the public to be vigilant and report anything suspicious has turned everyone into a wannabe Jack Bauer eager to challenge even the most innocent of activities. But surely terrorists ARE walking the streets armed with SLR’s sussing out the best angle for attack? In reality, probably not. West Midlands Police admit they now use Google Earth and Street View to check out a property before a raid, instead of sending officers or the helicopter – it’s easier, and a hell of a lot cheaper. So why would your common-or-garden terrorist be any different? It seem, however, that officers on the streets are sadly behind the times, and sometimes out of touch with modern developments. And is it any wonder? Many forces refuse to allow even their communications department onto

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Do they want you, or your contacts? (updated)

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We’ve all heard the phrase – it’s not what you know, but who you know. But: if your job involves promotion/marketing – where do you draw the line between your friends, and your contacts? In this social-networking world we find we have more contacts than ever before. Many are perhaps real-life friends from school or university, but others may be people you met briefly at a party back in 2007 or, perhaps, you’ve never met them. For PR professionals, a wide circle of influence is vital: being able to pull celebrities to an event, get column-inches in the right magazines and make sure the song is played on every radio station. Social networks  increase that circle even further, but unless you run a strict friends/work division online, your friends soon become your professional audience. I am seeing more and more examples of people being expected to use using their personal social network accounts to promote the product. Are companies employing people because of the size of their friends list? And more’s the point – SHOULD we be expected to use our friends, for our employer? I admit I am guilty of using my personal social networks to promote my DJing work, but I feel this is acceptable to a point as it is “ME” doing it .. but recently I was asked to promote an 3rd party event through my own accounts. I balked slightly, reluctant to thrust this event onto my friends, relatives and acquaintances. By the very nature that some people will use their friends as social (and business) currency, does it prove the point that contacts ain’t what they used to be?

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MA Online Journalism: Multimedia Journalism Breadth Portfolio

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As part of my MA Online Journalism studies I recently produced a series of projects in Multimedia Journalism (which appear on this site). Here is the Critical Analysis for those projects.

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iPhone Apps: RSS READERS

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Continuing in my series of posts about my favourite apps, I move onto … RSS READERS I currently run 2 RSS readers on my phone. I struggled to find one that could accommodate forwarding to 2 different Twitter accounts. iNEWS PREMIUM (£2.39)  I am a big fan of the iNEWS interface – it is fully customisable, so if you are a white-on-black text girl like me, then so be it! I use this app by importing my Google Reader feed. Unfortunately it does not sync – which under normal circumstances would be a pain. However, as I run 2 RSS readers (one for journalism and tech stories – the majority) and another for music news this “flaw” is actually quite useful. I have deleted the feeds from this reader that are not relevant to me, and it does not affect my Google Reader feeds or the other RSS app I use. The app can check for new feeds when you open it, it even “bings” at you when the update is complete. The app also informs you how many unread items you have with a number next to the App icon, which, depending how high that number is, can be a good or a bad thing! The list of Feeds is very clear, with ones that have unread items highlighted for quick viewing. The rest lurk in a shadowy haze, so you can skip them. Click on a feed and it takes you do a list of articles On this screen you can also scroll down, and see all the articles in all the feeds, which can get confusing at times because it is easy to miss the fact that you have moved into a different feed. There is also the option to read the article in full. In full article view, there are some useful share tools: Mail Instapaper Read It Later Twitter Twitter with Comment – you can edit the text that goes out Facebook Delicious – via a link at the BOTTOM of the article (a pain if you don’t want to read it straight away). There is also the option to Favourite, jump to the next or previous article (both carry red numbers to show how many unread articles there are in the current feed and in which direction they are), plus the option to go back to the full list of articles. There is a handy counter at the bottom, showing you the number of unread articles in the current feed. Another feature is SLIDESHOW, which is fairly self explanatory and if, like me, you tend to skip some articles, this is a great device to MAKE you read the introductory text to an article – time-consuming, but good for the soul. There is also another option to view the feeds in a “newspaper” style (left), with each feed it’s on box. I don’t really see the point of this, it does not show you how many upread feeds to you have. Pro mode is

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iPhone Apps: search

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After jumping into the iPhone apps world with both feet, I thought I’d run through my favourites. Watch our for more posts in this series. SEARCH/RESEARCH Google (free) (Itunes link) Image via CrunchBase I am a big fan of the Google app. Not only can you search by typing, but there is an incredibly clever and effective Voice Search tool, which has never let me down. Tell it what you want to find, and it will do it (useful if you are browsing on the move and can’t quite get those words typed in as you walk). There is also an APPS button, giving you weblinks to all the useful Google gizmos and gadgets, Mail, Calendar, Docs, Talk, Tasks, Reader, News, Notebook, Photos, Translate, Maps, YouTube and Earth. It would be helpful if there were also links to the iPhone apps, but you can’t have everything! 9/10 Google Earth (free) (Itunes link) Anyone who has used Google Earth on their PC or Mac will know that it is a very intuitive and useful tool. By using your location, it can pretty much find any business you want and display the results on a map. Perfect for those last minute errands! From this you can access the website, call them or head straight there. However, the one down side is that Google Earth does not double as a SatNav. I’ve found my business, now I need to go there – I have to type the address into my SatNav (either on my phone or my old school NavMan). If Google Earth could team up with a SatNav company, then it would be full marks from me. 7/10 Wikipedia (free) (Itunes link) The Wikipedia App is actually a much better interface than the Wikipedia website. The search is faster, and the pages open already minimized into section headers so you don’t have to endless scroll down through information you don’t need. There is also the option to view the page on the full Wikipedia site, although I am not sure why you would want to! 10/10 IMDB (free) (Itunes link) Ok, so this is a specific search tool for MOVIES, but how many times have you been out and about and needed to settle an argument about who starred in which film with so-and-so and Kevin Bacon? Like Wikipedia, this app is so much better than the full webpage. It opens on a screen showing a search bar and several options MOVIES TV PEOPLE And shortcuts to MOVIEmeter STARmeter New on DVD and BluRay History Plus ABOUT and SETTINGS The search bar is obviously incredibly useful, and I don’t find the MOVIES, PEOPLE or TV buttons useful as they link to US listings and celebrity trivia. The search, however, is fast, easy to navigate and an actor quickly brings up a list of his best known movies, mini biog and a link to his full filmography, whilst “movies” pages show star rating, a few photos, release date, genre, plot summary and top

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Another flash project …

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As I gather my portfolio together for my MA Online Journalism Multimedia module, I discovered my first ever Flash project. Sad story, a British student missing in America, where he was studying. I decided to take the facts of the story and turn it into a roll-over breakdown. It’s basic, but it works. It still needs an embedded link (to the Facebook group) and some embedded video, but it works as a basic test of the theory. [kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”http://carolinebeavon.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/jonny-dorey.swf” width=”550″ height=”400″ targetclass=”flashmovie”] [/kml_flashembed]

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UK Festival headliners map

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An interactive Flash map, showing the headline bands for this summers UK festivals

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Audio slideshow – music news bulletin

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It was only a matter of time before I harked back to my old job of knocking out music news bulletins for the rock loving masses! Instead of a straight bulletin read though, I decided to turn a standard bulletin (recorded into my laptop with a clip on mic and with Audacity) into an audio slideshow. The Process Write the Bulletin Check the main music news websites (including NME.com, Kerrang.com and Gigwise) as well as the press releases I have received, for the top stories of the day. write a short 2 minute bulletin with 4-5 stories, an intro and an out Record the Bulletin Using a clip on microphone and Audacity sound recorder, I recorded the bulletin into my laptop Edit the bulletin for any mistakes/re-recording Add Images Unfortunately I do not have an extensive gallery of rock stars so I have had to use images from the internet. I am aware that this may be in breach of copyright, so I have offered the opportunity for photographers not happy with images being used to contact me via the video hosting website Vimeo. I selected pictures that supplemented the story. For example the image of Pete Doherty with the policeman and Damon Albarn with the cigarette were obvious choices. I used movement throughout the slideshow to add to the story – for example, zooming in on the eyes of Robin Whitehead, the heiress and filmmaker found dead in a London flat. This seemed appropriate in this situation. I also used images to highlight the fact that the lead singer of Killswitch Engage has the same name as 80’s pop star Howard Jones. By putting the WRONG picture up initially, then correcting it, it brought some humour to the report. Uploading the Video Initially I did not want to use a public video sharing site (Vimeo or Youtube) over concerns about using  images  and would ideally have liked to host the video on my site for assessment purposes. Unfortunately it was necessary to use one of these to embed the video into this blog due to the file size. I used Vimeo, and embedded the video into this post (see below) Thoughts I found creating this audio slideshow a very fulfilling experience. Unlike video, which seemingly takes hours to edit, render and upload, this was JUST as effective and much quicker to turn around. As usual, any feedback much appreciated Thanks Music news audioslideshow from caroline beavon on Vimeo.

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Ian Huntley coverage (news and Twitter)

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Following the news that Soham killer Ian Huntley was attacked in prison over the weekend, I decided to have a look at the reaction this story was getting online. First, a quick look at how the story was handled in 2 very different newspapers. Using the ManyEyes Word Tree visualization, I copied articles from The Guardian and The Daily Mail to see how the name Huntley was handled, and which words followed it in the articles. Can YOU guess which visualization belongs to which newspaper? Report 1 was The Daily Mail, report 2, The Guardian. The Soham Murders were a very “Daily Mail” story,  and highly emotive and accusatory language was used. The Guardian’s report was more factual. I was also interested to assess the reaction to the story on the social networking site Twitter. For sake of experiment, I created a spreadsheet of all the tweets mentioning “Huntley”. (I chose Huntley over “Ian Huntley” so the search would not be limited to the more formal tweets from news outlets etc. I hoped “Huntley” would give a more casual, public point of view. I opened a new Google Spreadsheet I inserted the following code in A1 – =importfeed(“http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=huntley”, “”, “”, 20) This created a spreadsheet of the last 15 tweets containing the word Huntley. I now have the option to use this spreadsheet in a variety of ways: cut and paste the tweet contents into a web application export the document as an Excel file publish the spreadsheet create an RSS feed from the spreadsheet Now to visualise the text. First, I decide to use Wordle – a site that created word clouds from inserted text, or an RSS feed. I initially used the RSS feed from my published Google spreadsheet  – which created the following word cloud. Unfortunately, this cloud was tainted with user names, and the subject of the true gist of the tweets were lost (MTF) NEXT: Still trying to nail LIVE data .. a quick news report (recorded and edited on Iphone)- probably from The Computers show on Wednesday night a podcast More on this story: Soham murderer Ian Huntley attacked in jail (guardian.co.uk) Soham killer Ian Huntley’s throat slashed in prison (telegraph.co.uk) Ian Huntley attack: the Soham murders (telegraph.co.uk) Huntley back in jail after attack (news.bbc.co.uk) Huntley attacked by jail inmate (news.bbc.co.uk)

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Producing a video report entirely on an Iphone

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Ok, for my next trick (ok, uni project) I am going to look into filming and editing a video report all on my iPhone. My plan is to record some stuff “to camera” (Ie me speaking and setting up the story), a clip of an interview and some cutaways or establishing shots. My plan it so get something that is tv-news report like, but turned around quickly and uploaded to Youtube within minutes. Has anyone out there tried this, or know of anyone elses work I can have a look at? In terms of a subject, I am hoping to get along to Justin Willis’ album launch party tomorrow at JB’s in Dudley.(Justin’s GotSeeN profile and Myspace), interview him before the event starts, get some video vox pops and a few shots of him performing and have it all edited and uploaded within the hour. Wish me luck! Related articles Musician Produces Entire Album On An iPhone (cultofmac.com)

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Looks like I’m not into metal any more Toto

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Data can be an interesting and eye opening thing. I decided to cut and paste some sections of my ITunes library into Google Docs and create a data set from Artist Track, Genre and Plays. sort tracks by PLAY COUNT remove TIME, BITRATE, DATE ADDED and TRACK NO columns scroll down to the bottom of the tracks with “2” plays select every song with 2+ plays CTRL+C open a blank spreadsheet (I use Google Docs) and CTRL-V into the top left corner of the page the Itunes data appear in the Spreadsheet Obviously this data is immediately out of date, so I am looking now into turning this into a live feed. As a PC user ITunes stats is not an option. Points to Note I often listen to Spotify instead of Itunes at home I only listen to Itunes when I am working – this does not take into account Ipod plays, or CD listening in car genre categorizations on Itunes can be questionable So the first chart: I’m not sure what I find more interesting – that metal is SUCH a tiny category (smaller than Country, worryingly) or that I seem to really like pop. I will investigate this further. Ok – a quick tweak to the options (colour to genre and label to ARTIST) showed that, phew, Ive not turned into a pop-loving indie kid just yet. It’s just that someone thinks Celldweller (industrial drum n bass noise) is alternative (see for yourself). (See, mislabelling , very deceiving) NEXT STOP: Find a way to make my Itunes data public, feed this into a live chart. Create a flash animation using one of these charts, with shooty out bits that play music from that artist or genre … Stop messing around with data for today and make some tea.

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Glastonbury data mashup

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As part of my MA Online Journalism I have been playing around with some data from the Glastonbury festival archives.

I wanted to show the statistical history of the festival, through a visual media.

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Birmingham Social Media Cafe #bsmc 26th Feb

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I’ve missed the last few Birmingham Social Media Cafes. This has been a mix of oversleeping (once) and being slightly put off by being cornered by estate agents wanting advice on using Twitter at past meetups. This week, however, I decided to go along, get stuck in and learn the art of polite mingling! It was a very different social media cafe, and a great one too! Paul Bradshaw (@paulbradshaw) brought along a load of his BA Online Journalism students who didn’t take long to get stuck into things. Bear with guys, it gets easier, trust me! It was hosted by @dandavies, representing the Meshed Media, and kindly supplying the coffee!! Also there, 2 women from West Midlands Police marketing department, keen to find out more about social media and how it can help them connect with the public.(I tapped them up for potential live blogging and events coverage, fingers crossed something comes of it!) I also had a great Apple-themed chat with @jigar_patel  – now I started it by gushing about my new Iphone, but he’s inspired me to purchase some kind of MacIbookpro type thing … maybe in the summer! Also had a good old chat with Jennifer from the Social Media MA! Great – for me, BSMC has got it’s mojo back!

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CSI Experience comes to Birmingham

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As a fan of the TV show I jumped at the chance to have a sneak preview around a new CSI Experience exhibition at Bullring Birmingham. It’s taken over the old space left vacant by the departure of Borders Books, so there is certainly a lot of space! To be honest, I was expecting a museum style tour of the show, the science behind it and the characters. In fact, it’s way way better than that. The exhibition lets YOU become a CSI investigator. There are 3 crime scenes, which you study, take notes and then go into various labs to try to solve the crime … and there are things you might miss to be meticulous! Oh, and if you solve the crime you get a certificate to prove you are genuine geek! (which, it appears I am) This is a really interesting exhibition, and a lot of fun … check out the pictures and a video interview below! Slideshow Created with flickr slideshow. Video Intevew

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Visit to BBC User Generated Content (UGC) Hub

As part of the MA Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, we visited the BBC User Generated Content Hub. They gather, process and distribute images video and audio sent into them from the general public. Matthew Eltringham heads up the department.

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Breaking Waves A Google Waves Experiment

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Link to Breaking Waves: Birmingham Snow Wave Breaking Waves A Google Waves Experiment BACKGROUND OF GOOGLE WAVE Google Wave was previewed to Google employees on May 27th 2009. Described as a “personal communication and collaboration tool” it was gradually rolled out from September 2009 via invitation. A combination of instant messenger and email, users could send messages to their contacts in a chain (similar to Google Mail) but then move back UP the chain, and insert text, images, video etc to add to the conversation. The hype surrounding Google Wave had been immense, yet my initial experiences of it were less than favourable. I found the site restrictive, hard to navigate and slow. However, I was also clear to me that a tool that allows multiple people to edit one document and add content had some potential. It had been widely tipped as a useful tool for businesses, and even education, when the process of the presentation or the lesson is the focus, but would it work for journalism, where traditionally the process is building up to a finished product ‐be that a bulletin, article or a report? MY IDEA In Gatewatching (2009) Axel Bruns described a new sphere of news that was the “publicizing <…> of whatever relevant content is available anywhere on the Web (and beyond)” (Alex Bruns “Gatewatching” 2009 p 2) Today’s journalism is a conversation, not a lecture. I wanted to launch a crowdsourced wave, where people could publish information about a particular story, whether that was images, video, copy, quotes or maps. Most importantly, I wanted to encourage NON‐journalists to participate as well. The number of content sites encouraging the public to get involved in the news process is increasing (e.g. Wikipedia) but I believed my Breaking Waves project was an unusual enough idea to gain some interest.Google Wave can be used as a live chat room, as a live‐blogging tool and as a content editor, and it was THIS final tool that I wanted to investigate further. The focus was very much on news gathering, or rather, content gathering. I was hoping the experiment would take shape as people contributed and that a solution to how this content could be distribution (if at all) would present itself. MY METHOD I started by simply playing with Google Wave, getting used to the systems and experimenting with a few of the installed gadgets (maps and polls as well as the editing system). This was, as I had hoped, going to be more than just a wiki. The fact that collaboration could take place in real time could, potentially, start debate on the site, and content could spring from that. This was not about many people editing one persons article, but users adding content to, essentially, a blank page. The possibilities were endless. I launched the wave with a subject that I hoped would spark some interest and generate plenty of content. At the time Britain was suffering some of the worst snow storms in years, and

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Blogging: what is it worth?

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Bloggers are often considering to be inferior to “proper journalists”. Whether the argument is about training, responsibility, impartiality or audience, they are often treated as second class online-citizens, despite the fact many are competing with, and in some cases, filling a gap left by a declining traditional media. However, there is a definite gray area when it comes to money. Journalists are paid to do their job. They work for a title, receive a salary or a freelance rate whether the are writing straight copy or opinion pieces. Bloggers, however, are often seen as hobbyists – members of the public who have an interest and like to write about it. So can you make a living out of blogging, and if so, how? The problem is, perception. Surely a blogger asking to be paid is like a computer games nerd being asked to play World of Warcraft. They’ll do it anyway, so why pay them? More often than not, bloggers just want to get the word out there. However, the difference between a games nerd and a blogger is exposure. Yes, the gamer may tell all of his friends how great World of Warcraft is, but a blogger may tell thousands. Hence, some advertisers will pay bloggers to talk up their products. Remember the much criticised Pay Per Post site, where bloggers earned money based on how many posts, links and positive comments they made. Why? because people believe blogs. In the same way advertisers PAY for full page spreads in magazines, that look like regular copy, so a blogger with a financial motive can be a powerful marketing tool. A concern about Pay Per Post was that bloggers were not required to admit they were being paid to review that product. Deceptive? More, a loophole in ever developing web that won’t stay open for long. Are these bloggers actually bloggers? Yes they have blogs, that may, in the past have contained their personal opinions, but now they are writing to order. Have these the bloggers become now become journalists, or copywriters? Surely copywriters, if they are being paid to write for the company. Which brings me to my quandry. How do you make that jump from hobbyist to professional moneymaking blogger? And do you have to sell your soul to the man in order to do it? And should you ask a company to pay you, if they ask you to live-blog their event or product for it to appear on your own site?

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Pre-election Question Time comes to Birmingham

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(live blog of event here) Last night saw the first in a series of pre-Election Question Time specials, hosted by Total Politics magazine, and City Inn hotels, first in Birmingham then onto Manchester, Leeds and London for the next three consecutive Thursdays. Chaired by Conservative activist and blogger, and founder of Total Politics magazine, Iain Dale (@iaindale) (who proved to be an entertaining and forceful chair), the panel consisted of MP for Redditch Jacqui Smith, MP for Birmingham Yardley John Hemming, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell and Marc Reeves, former Editor of The Birmingham Post, who has made the headlines himself recently with the launch of a new venture, called The Business Desk. This evening’s debate started with everyones favourite topic: MP’s expenses. Apart from, perhaps, Jacqui Smith who, as Iain Dale put it, has become something of a “whipping girl” after some of her husbands very private video viewing habits went public after ending up on an expenses claim.  The general concensus, however, was that the expenses system is flawed and needs adressing, whilst their pay SHOULD be dealt with by an external body. There was also concern that the expenses scandal has not only damaged MP’s reputations as a whole, but could threaten future democracy if good people are put off from standing as an MP. However the Birmingham faithful were out in force, and the discussion soon turned to more local issues, namely, Sion Simons decision to stand down as MP for Birmingham Erdington and go for the as yet non-existent Mayor of Birmingham position. This was met with some derision from John Hemming, who called him “mad” to give up everything for a job that does not exist. He did, however, say he’d happily go for it himself when it does! A lengthy debate started over red tape and beurocracy for businesses in the region, and how Health and Safety legislation, for example, was not helping in these tough times, whilst proportional representation, hunting and public services got a good airing too. There was banter (unsuprisingly between Jacqui Smith and Andrew Mitchell), telling-offs (Jacqui Smith for using climate change deniers, which Dale felt was too close to Holocaust Deniers for comfort) and uncharacteristic coyness from all 3 MPs (when asked to name their favourite MP from the other side). Another question, odd yet interesting, asked the panel which bus they were going home on that night, I’m guessing a test as to their local knowledge and green thinking. Marc Reeves, ever the down to early local boy, rattled off several bus routes he takes, Jacqui Smith said the train, whilst Andrew Mitchell justified his use of a car to get home by saying it was locally produced. He drives a Jag. (live blog of event here) Next stop, Manchester with Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd, Graham Brady (Altringham and Sale West MP), Mark Hunter (MP for Cheadle) and David Ottewell  from the Manchester Evening News. Get your tickets here

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Election Question Time Special in Birmingham: live blogging tonight from 7pm

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As part of a series of pre-election session around the UK, Birmingham will tonight host a Question Time special at the City Inn. On the panel: Andrew Mitchell – Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Jacqui Smith – MP for Redditch and former Home Secretary John Hemming – MP for Birmingham Yardley Mark Reeves – Former Editor of the Birmingham Post Iain Dale (Chair)

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Grafitti + Twitter = Tweefiti

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As part of a new Birmingham arts project, this weekend that will see one of the city’s grafitti artists spraypaint inspirational messages send in on Twitter. The theme is “life feels better”, and Aerosol Arabic will be outside Bullring shopping centre on Saturday and Sunday creating a unique piece of art from tweets sent into the @lifefeelsbetter account, which will also appear on a Twitterfall. It’s a nice idea, and a nice push for Twitter. However, do enough people use Twitter yet? We all know Facebook is the behemoth of the social networking world (350 million users and counting), but have enough people adopted its more minimalist rival? It’s big news in the media/tech world, but every one else? A lot of my friends join Twitter, then leave again saying “I don’t understand it” or the classic “it’s not as much fun as Facebook”. It’s a great idea, however, and it will be interesting to see the response it gets The Bullring Arts Project launched on 25th January 2010 and Brummies are being encouraged to send in their pictures, artwork, writing or music to http://www.lifefeelsbetter.co.uk [mappress]

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It seems we can’t have it all … hand held video recorders

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I am in a dilemma. I am the owner of a perfectly good (despite the reports) Sony Ericsson Satio mobile phone. The 12 megapixel camera (and other gadgetry) means the picture quality of video recording great for still interviews. The only downside, is the audio. the internal mic is terrible. It is useless for interviews, and makes the subject sound like they are down a mine the handsfree kit mic records excellent quality sound, but it gradually falls out of sync with the video. Option 1 is, well, not really an option. 2 is “get-roundable”, if I have got 2 hours to spend muting the video, adding the audio as a sound file on a separate track in something like Movie Maker, and then edging it back in sync every minute or so. So much for a fast turnaround. I have considered using the phone for the video (because it is so good) and getting a good digital audio recorder, then sticking the two together elements, but again, not incredibly practical. So, begrudgingly, I am going to have to fork out for a handheld mini video recorder. Thanks to a great blog post by @Podnosh (here) it seems to be between the Flip Ultra, Flip Mino, the Kodak Zi8 and the Zoom Q3. I quickly ruled out the Flip MinoHD s it seemed all glitz and not much punch (and doesn’t take AA batteries). I spend my life battling against power. There are never plugs when you need them and to rely on main power (especially at festivals, where I will be using the recorder) would be foolish. The Flip UltraHD, on the other hand, seems more practical on the battery-front but no external mic, something that is useful in noisier environments. For better sound, the Zoom Q3 is an option – these guys know what they’re doing with sound, BUT there is still no external mic option – and I’m worried that at a distance, the audio will be lost The Kodak Zi8 DOES have a plug in mic option but it is not compatible with Windows Movie Maker and needs some faffing around so it can be edited. I don’t really deal well with faff. This is putting me off. However the Zi8 does come with some useful features, including a imagine stabilization, face recognition, good quality video and stills so maybe I can forgo a smooth set up fora good finish. Or maybe phone, Kodak AND laptop will end up out of the window. Tune in to Twitter later to find out …

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A Good Girls Guide to … co-working UPDATED

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Open office (or co-working) is hot news nowadays. The press has been full of it this week, with magazines (Company) and radio (4) running features about this very 21st century way of getting stuff done. So how does it work? Well, either by membership or a one off entry fee, you gain access to an open plan environment, normally with wi-fi and hot and cold running drinks where you can plug in, log in and work. It has become a refuge for home workers desperate to get away from Jeremy Kyle and the washing up. In theory it’s a great idea: away from the distractions of home life, you can focus and increase productivity. If you want to chat, the people around you are vibrant, trendy media or programmer types who want to share their ideas and collaborate on some wonderful magical project that will cure cancer or make Twitter fail-whale proof. In reality, its a bit like being in a library. However, at least in a library you know the rules as they have been drummed into you since an early age. No talking, no mobile phones, no eating and generally don’t be a pain to everyone else or face the wrath of the chief librarian. In a co-working space, do these rules apply? If your phone rings, do you answer it? Should it be on silent? Should you have a spontaneous little creative chat with your co-workers if everyone else is sitting there in silence? Are they all wishing you would just SIT STILL and stop fidgeting? If you work in an office you KNOW the person sitting next to you. You may not like them but at least you know their name. In a co-working space you are sitting next to a total stranger. So when you go to the toilet, should you take your bag with you? Or is that seen as a lack of trust? You wouldn’t take your laptop, but what about your mobile phone? And that nice person that you exchanged a few pleasantries with an hour ago: do you offer them a drink when you get yourself one? It’s a minefield. But at least it’s better than Jeremy Kyle. MORE ON CO-WORKING http://www.moseleyexchange.com/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coworking http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE51G49R20090217 ________________________________________________________________ Recently I began renting a desk at the Substrakt offices.  It’s a great location based at Fazeley Studios in Digbeth in Birmingham and is 50% populated by this very cool creative communications company and 50% by other people, like myself, who just need somewhere to go. It’s early days and I need to decide if it’s value for money, but for now it’s proving to be incredibly good for me. Without my stuff to distract me I am getting a LOT done. I also feel obliged to actually get up and go into the office as I am paying for it. It’s nice to have people around, and you never know, I may get some work out of it. Who knows?

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#BodiesRevealed The Beginnings of Life

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THE EXHIBITION The Bodies Revealed exhibition is currently running at the Custard Factory in Birmingham. It focuses on how the body works, major illnesses and development. Hashbrum headed along to get the full guided tour from Medical Director Dr Roy Glover The Beginnings of Life Stillborn and Neonatal Deaths Charity

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#BodiesRevealed: the lungs

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THE EXHIBITION The Bodies Revealed exhibition has been running at the Custard Factory in Birmingham. It focuses on how the body works, major illnesses and development. I headed along to get the full guided tour from Medical Director Dr Roy Glover Lungs and Smoking Smokefree – quit smoking Cancer Research UK British Lung Foundation

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Thomson Reuters: What Price the News: Live Blog #reutersethics

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Thomson Reuters debate: What Price the News?? Intrusion. Payment. Scandal. Access. Ethics. Rights. Appetite. Celebrity. Obligation. Politics. Duty. Freedom. Harassment. Competition. Privacy. Security. Power. Press. In the last few years the way in which we consume news has changed but so too have the practices of news gathering – stories of plagiarism, cash for news and harassment charges have all questioned the accepted principles of good journalism. Panelists: Ray Snoddy – BBC Newswatch Presenter & Journalist Anne McElvoy – Evening Standard Executive Editor Joe Lelyveld – Pulitzer Prize Winner, Ex-NYT Journalist Sean Maguire – Thomson Reuters Political & Gen. News [liveblog]4[/liveblog]

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Andrew WK on Fox News … wacky wacky wacky

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6H6n_onZI0&feature=player_embedded]

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Rap – what they're REALLY going on about …

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6H0i1RAdHk]

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True Blood opening credits .. great song!!!

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The song is by Jace Everett …. love it! [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxINMuOgAu8]

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Rick Astley vs NIN – The Hand That Gives You Up …

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pLj9BoNb1U]

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About Me

An online professional with 10 years journalism experience and a genuine passion for new technologies. An experienced blogger and social media user I recently completed an MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University I am also a liveblogger for hire. If you would like me to cover your event feel free to drop me an email carolinebeavon@gmail.com CONTACT email: carolinebeavon@gmail.com Download PDF CV here

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train v tornado … incredible footage … stick with it

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azV5bC2br-Q&feature=player_embedded]

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Saturday challenge …

What are your top songs right now … old new, classic, cool, cheezy … whatever .. whats rocking your boat today? —————————- 1. Green Day – The Static Age 2. White Lies – Death 3. Manic Street Preachers – Umbrella 4. Kings of Leon – Red Morning Light 5. Future of the Left – The Hope That House Built 6. Aiden – Scavengers of the Damned 7. The Ting Tings – Thats Not My Name

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