28 Apr

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

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 Twitter, and bobbies on the beat do not have access to the internet whilst they are out and about (although West Midlands Police are looking into Android phones to solve this problem). Particular mention, however, to CI Mark Payne who DOES have an official Twitter account, which he uses for both professional, and personal tweets.

The discussion also revealed some more interesting developments being investigated by the force, including a website where the public can upload pictures to help them solve crimes.

However, it seems we’re still a way off yet from the “police online” levels reached by the force in Beijing who, as we heard during an earlier presentation. They have designed a cartoon officer who moves across your computer screen with a friendly warning should you venture into forbidden web territory – and judging by China’s current attitude towards content – the poor guy must be exhausted.

26 Apr

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

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?

08 Apr

MA Online Journalism: Multimedia Journalism Breadth Portfolio

Journalism – (noun) The occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business

This traditional definition of journalism (Dictionary.com http://bit.ly/dCdXBa) despite massive leaps forward in technology and attitude, still sums up exactly what the profession is about today: in short, getting the news out there.

Unfortunately, some are reluctant to accept these changes to the industry: old school hacks refusing to interact with readers online, newspapers not utilising video, radio stations limiting themselves to audio broadcast, whilst, behind them, there is an army of citizen reporters armed with iPhones, Youtube, Flickr, Audioboo and Bambuser ready to step in and take over the gatekeeping of the worlds news.

These are exciting times, and at the start of this educational trip into multimedia journalism, I expected to focus on video, with a brief (and required) nod towards to audio and Flash.

Little did I know.

The toughest challenge from the outset was finding inspiration for projects. As a working multimedia journalist, that decision would be handled by the News Editor, who would give you a brief and a deadline.

So, I decided to play the role of a working multimedia journalist. Switching on Sky News, I took the first story that interested me, and ran with it.

FLASH

JONNY DOREY (link to page)

Jonny Dorey is a British student, currently missing whilst studying in the USA. At this point the story lacked data (i.e. dates and times) so a simple roll-over flash animation showing the various elements of the story seemed the best option as a starting point with this media.

Ideally, with more knowledge and artistic skill, the story would have benefited from something a little more intricate (along the lines of the BBC visualization of the Jean-Charles de Menezes shooting in London). This visualization is outstanding, with the image zooming in at each stage, and moving markers to show the relevant parties. However, the level of detail here was high due to the evidence revealed in court. At the time the information regarding Jonny Dorey was scant – although since then there have been suspected sightings of him – which would have worked well on a map based animation, as well as his possible route taken. Youtube appeals, photographs and other multimedia content could then be embedded into this map. A multimedia tool like this may have been useful in spreading the word about Jonny’s disappearance, and getting people involved in the search.

FESTIVAL MAP (link)

The Jonny Dorey project broke down the story and made it easier to digest, but Flash is also a useful tool for solving problems and aiding decision making.

Over the last few years the UK has become the centre of music festivals, with hundreds happening every summer. There are also dozens of websites that claim to centralise all this information (lineups, festival dates etc.), but none of them have managed it in a clear and visual way.

A Venn diagram would have worked well in showing the overlap between different bands playing the larger festivals, but, as yet, I am unable to find such a visualization tool that will achieve this. In retrospect, a clickable map showing which bands are playing where and when, was a lot more effective.

Featuring the 6 big festivals, and just the stage headliners (a manageable number, in order to get the project completed for publication), the map allows the user to click on a band’s name listed alongside, and points would flash on the UK map, with the festival name and date of appearance.

A second tier to this festival map would have been useful, where the user could click on the Festival point on the map and be shown all the bands playing, unfortunately the map was too crowded with “hotspots” and became unusable.

However, this information is constantly being updated and this does bring up the issues of maintaining and updating Flash sites. Would it be easy to ADD to the map, or would it make more sense to make a data map instead, with the information automatically pulled in from a feed?

The Maps Channels Events site handles events on a map excellently (even thought the interface is a little basic and ugly). You can search for a date, artist or venue  – and it shows the location on a Google Map.

There is definitely scope to explore something like this, as festival websites are big business, and I could see one of the key sites, or music magazines, taking up this idea.

DATA

GLASTONBURY (link)

Glastonbury Festival is famously the UK’s largest music event, and I was keen to investigate how it has grown over the years, along with the price to attend (data acquired from official Glastonbury site)

Using Google Docs Spreadsheet and the ManyEyes visualization tool I created a scatter chart. ManyEyes has the limitations of not linking to live data, so if statistics change the data has to be re-pasted into the site but the choice of graphs and the interface made this a perfect tool for this project, and others.

I expected the chart to show a gradual increase both in capacity and ticket price, but it did flag up a drop in capacity after they took a break in 2006. It is this kind of anomaly that would work well illustrated in a timeline/chart mash-up – with landmarks in the festivals history (license issues, poor ticket sales, bad weather) – something akin to The Times Eating Chart, where the user rolls over the years, and sees the various developments.

There will be more on the issue of flawed data later in this document, but this chart does raise the issue of finances in charts over time  in relation to Inflation. How does a £8 ticket in 1981 actually compare to a £185 priced ticket today? Does this make a mockery of statistics if the price is not converted into a standard “worth”? This issue has been seen recently with claims that Avatar is the highest grossing movie of all time.

More interesting  was the comparison between the official capacity of the festival and the actual number of people attending. Glastonbury has had a  long running battle with gatecrashers (or fence-hoppers) and as a news story this is an interesting set of data.

A bar chart suited this project, with the 2 capacity figures alongside each other, and showed just how dramatic the problem of “fence hopping” has been for the festival.

Unfortunately, actual capacity stats are hard to come by (as they are tricky to monitor) so “guestimated” figures were found in news reports (e.g. BBC, newspapers) and blogs, although I accept these figures are largely speculative and may be inaccurate. An FOI request has gone into Avon and Somerset Police, who should have some official estimated attendance figures.

Using estimated and reported data for a project like this also comes with a moral responsibility. Despite recent successful measures to prevent gatecrashers, according to some reports thousands of people are still getting into the site without paying. There is constant scrutiny of the management of the festival and I did feel uncomfortable publishing speculative figures that could be taken out of context by critics (including the local council who approve the license for the event).

However, there was definitely room here to investigate any correlation between the price of the ticket and the numbers of people trying to get in for free – are people driven to jump the fence as the price goes up?

Unfortunately I simply did not have enough data (9 years worth of unofficial capacity stats) to hand to make this work effectively and will retry it if my Freedom of Information Act application to Avon and Somerset Police is successful.

ITUNES LIBRARY

As a more personal project, and to test some other charts on ManyEyes, I decided to make use of the data from my ITunes player.

By cutting and pasting the relevant columns (“artist”, “song”, “genre” and “plays”) into a spreadsheet, and using the ManyEyes Bubble Chart visualization, there was an instant display of the most played genres.

“Alternative” was the largest category – whereas most of the music I listen would fall under rock, electronic or industrial.

Tweaking the data, switching genre for artist showed that it was a classification issue, not musical taste, which had completely distorted the data. Celldweller, an industrial artist, had been categorized as alternative. I spotted the problem as I know the subject, but what about data from an external source?

How can we always trust the classification of data is correct? Even the rawest of data has still been analyzed and gone through a personal “opinion” filter. There have been examples of crime stats being skewed by personal opinion (whether it’s at face value, from the PC attending the call, or the data builder designing the charts) or even simple geography boundaries.

IAN HUNTLEY ATTACK

The recent attack on Soham killer Ian Huntley earned some interesting reaction online, with such high emotions it seems the public are still happy to see to man come to harm.

Using a Google spreadsheet and the command (=importfeed(“http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=huntley”, “”, “”, 20), I searched Twitter for all the tweets mentioning “Huntley” (as opposed to “Ian Huntley”, which would have limited the search to the more formal tweets from news outlets etc. “Huntley” picked up the casual, public point of view)

This created a spreadsheet of the latest  15 tweets containing the word Huntley, which were then copies into Wordle in order to create a WordCloud. This was not a particularly useful or interesting experiment, as it only highlights which words have been used the most – i.e. “Huntley” and “prison” – the more emotive words were used in smaller numbers so were not significant on the cloud.

Instead I decided to analyse how the story was being covered in 2 very different newspapers, The Guardian and the Daily Mail.

Over the past weeks I have been trying and testing several data visualization tools (Tableau, Gliffy, Graphviz) but have been taken with ManyEyes for it’s variety of charts, including analysis of TEXT

Using the Word Tree visualization, I copied the articles to analyse how the documents were structured, and which words followed HUNTLEY in the text.  The Guardian’s report followed Huntley with “convicted” “forced to fight for his life” “held at knifepoint” and several basic words whereas the Daily Mails article “was given privileges” “supposed to be under constant surveillance” “lured schoolgirls Holly and Jessica”. This text analysis is a useful tool for clearly seeing how the focus of a report is handled, especially, in this case, when the report is written from 2 different points of view.

AUDIO SLIDESHOW

Although initially reluctant to do any form of audio due to my radio background (and not wanting to stay within my field), I did decide to explore the world of audio slideshows.

There are several effective examples of this, and I was impressed by the ability to create emotion through slow moving images (e.g. Duckrabbits). However, I wasn’t personally interested in following the documentary style, instead looking into the possibility of enhancing something that would normally take a simple audio form – a music news bulletin.

With my background in radio I could quickly produce an audio bulletin, and spend the time learning about using images and transitions.

However, sourcing the images legally was of concern to me and whilst images on Flickr via CreativeCommons – is an option, most of the pictures were taken at live shows from a distance, and were not suitable for this project.

Stock photograph websites do not carry celebrity shots and official press shots are hard to come by if their star is in the news for the wrong reasons.

Unfortunately it came back to a simple Google Image search and making use of the  relevant pictures that provided.

The images had to be relatively close-up, of good quality and should supplement the story. For example the image of Pete Doherty with the policeman and Damon Albarn with the cigarette were obvious choices, considering the subject matter.

As an editor,  Windows Movie Maker offers a range of movement and transition options for the images. Movement over and between the pictures added to the story – for example, zooming in on the eyes of Robin Whitehead, the heiress and filmmaker found dead in a London flat. This gave the impression of sadness and tragedy. There was also humour by using pictures to highlight the fact that the lead singer of Killswitch Engage has the same name as 80’s pop star Howard Jones.

This process took around an hour and a half in total, from writing the bulletin to having  finished uploaded piece.

I would like to try to bring more humour into the report, along the lines of Rocketboom, otherwise this will simply be mimicking TV 60 second news style report, with images instead of video.

I would very much like to pursue this project on a regular basis (maybe even daily) but without access to good quality photographs legally, I do not believe it is possible.

03 Apr

iPhone Apps: RSS READERS

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) iNews Premium - gdiplus

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 much easier to use.

iNews is a clever gadget, but for me lacks one facility – to read articles in order of posting. All the feeds are sorted into Alphabetical Feed, not date. This would be a great addition!

8/10

iNews Premium - gdiplus


MobileRSS (£1.79)  MobileRSS Pro ~ Google RSS News Reader - NibiruTech LTD.

Mobile RSS was originally my secondary RSS reader, linked to my CarolineTheDJ twitter account – but the fact that this feed can SYNC with my Google Reader account, has promoted it to top dog over iNews.

The interface is fa less pleasing than iNews, and it lacks many of the features I gushed about above, however, it is a simple reader that gets the job done.

The opening screen shows a list of your feeds, with numbers of unread items next to them. Click on the feed, and you head into a list of all the articles available, with a “show new” or “show all” option.

Another button allows to you Mark All as Read or sort by oldest.

In full article view there are a range of options:

  • Full Screen – which places shadowy buttons across the bottom of the article for navigation.
  • Mark
  • Favourite
  • an RSS button – not quite sure what this does!
  • Share.

The share button is customisable in the App options with the following options:

  • Share with Note
  • email
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • ReadItLater
  • Instapaper
  • Delicious

This is a very clean and useful RSS reader, and if it allowed more than one Twitter account, it would definitely have scored full marks

9/10

02 Apr

iPhone Apps: search

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 representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
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)

Image representing Wikipedia as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

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 billed cast and crew as well as trivia and links to explore more.

Great for settling those annoying arguments with your friends!

7/10

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020