Category Archives: Tech / Online

10 Nov

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

This post discussed my use of Tableau Software. For more information on Tableau visit the official website

Tableau logo
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?
02 Jun

The Kernel Returns [updated]

kernel

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 be re-employed as founding Editor-in-Chief of the relaunched publication, while BERLIN42 founding partner Aydoğan Ali Schosswald will serve as founding CEO.

The Kernel will shift focus from startups and startup culture to digital lifestyle and the effect of technology on society, politics and culture. All site content will be published in English.

The Kernel will commit resources to more video and photo content and investigative journalism in areas such as modern warfare, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, pornography and space travel. The “Nutshell” subscription newsletter will not return.

Schosswald said: “BERLIN42 continues its mission to build, accelerate and connect global businesses in technology & media with this latest venture. We are tremendously excited about what Milo and his team can achieve with fresh commercial backing.”

Yiannopoulos said: “The Kernel was a terrific editorial success. I’m thrilled to be getting a second chance at making it work commercially, and on a much larger scale. Hans and Aydo at BERLIN42 understand what I was trying to accomplish the first time around and I could not have wished for a better team to help me build the company into a global media brand.”

Under its former directors, The Kernel incurred debts which were settled by Yiannopoulos privately in April. Six contributors from the previous incarnation of the magazine, including Ezra Butler, James Cook and Greg Stevens – are returning to write for the site, which goes live on Monday 12 August 2013.

 

Press enquiries and interview requests:

Milo Yiannopoulos

press@berlin42.com

+49 179 6088 788

26 Apr

Telling Stories with Data

(an edited version of this article originally appeared in the HyperWM newpaper, Nov 2012)

 

Once upon a time …

Alice I by Katratzi, Flickr

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

It may be a few years, but I’m sure you could tell a few of those childhood stories from memory. Whether it’s the interesting characters, the exciting storylines, the emotion you felt or the moral lessons you learned; the stories stick.

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

I’m guessing, never?

Unlike a fairy story, a spreadsheet has no characters, no thrilling plot, no emotion and no lesson to be learned.

You probably skip straight to the end, check out the total and close the book – you certainly don’t print out all those pages, and take them home for a cosy night by the fire.

 

However, there IS a story in that spreadsheet – it’s the story of a situation, a rise or a fall, a pattern or a trend. It may be a thrilling rollercoaster of a ride, it may be a fascinating insight into the current landscape. Unfortunately, it’s hidden behind all those rows and columns of numbers.

This is where visualisation comes in – taking those statistics and turning them into something the human eye can fathom – colour and shape, placement and size. By presenting these numbers in a visual way you create something that anyone can understand, irrespective of their literacy, numeracy, language, background or prior knowledge of the subject.

Through bar charts, pie charts, line graphs and full-on infographics, the story is revealed, we can see the characters (the different elements) on their journey – we can see the changes, the excitement and the disappointments.

That story will provoke a reaction – anger, satisfaction, joy or disgust – all emotions that will prompt our next move. Do we stay on the same route, or does something need to change?

Without clear and simple representations of the information, there will be many people who simply don’t get it.

And in the current climate of transparency and accountability – data is only open, if everyone can access it.

Once we reach this point, we can all begin to make clear, informed decisions about our future and the future of others and, hopefully …  live happily ever after.

23 Jan

Google+ – do you hangout? Would you hangout?

google_plus_logo

 

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?

 

06 Jan

Will this app solve the Jewellery Quarter parking woes?

JQ Parker screengrabIt’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.

05 Jan

How do you blog? Just do it

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?

wordpress-webtreatsetc

 

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

tumblr-webtreatsetcBy 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

blogger-logo-square-webtreatsetcIt does require a level of bravery to just “put it out there” – you’re opening your self up to criticism and potential ridicule.

What if people think I’m biased or an idiot?

You know the answer?- be honest, tell the world that you are just “putting it out there”

Start your blog post by explaining what you are about to say – ie “I’ve been thinking about XXX. I know there’s a big debate there – here are some of my early thoughts but I’d love to know what you think”

Immediately the reader is not expecting a well-formulated article, but a jumping-off point – a debate that then can get involved in.

Keeping Client Work under wraps

It makes sense that, if you are working on a confidential client project that you would not want to blog about it in small bites.

You don’t want to breach a confidence – and that’s commendable. However, you may attract more work if you show you are actually doing something.

Talk to your client – you never know they may be happy for you to write about your experiences and work in progress.

I tend to blog about my client design work on a Tumblr site but I keep it very theoretical, never revealing the final art work (until the client has) but I simply muse about the process and any hitches.

Talk to your client – you never know, they may be glad for the extra exposure.

Keeping your BIG PROJECT under wraps

Say you’re working on a big TV documentary, launching a start-up or writing a book.

Why on earth would you put all that online for everyone to see, when someone could easily steal your idea?

Writers sending pitches to large media organisations are always encouraged to mail a copy of the manuscript to themselves as well, a trick that can be useful for future copyright claims.

Think about this: if you blog about this – you’re automatically taking ownership. You’re telling the world that this is YOUR idea, and that you are already working on it.

In addition – by showing you’re working-out (like you were encouraged to in maths and science exams) you’re showing you are genuine, knowledgeable and open.

And who wouldn’t be interested in that?

 

Writing is your “thing”

I know writers. For them, putting anything out into the world that is not completed, polished and a masterpiece would be a crime. For them, writing is their thing, and everything they put online is their portfolio.

Maybe the answer here is multiple blog sites?

Despite all my musings on “short blog posts”, most of the ones on this site are structured ideas (albeit written in one sitting)

However I tend to use my several Tumblr sites for less structured brain dumping.

If writing is your craft, and you want to keep your portfolio site pure – why not branch out and use a separate site for more informal musings? Link to it, don’t link to it – that’s up to you – but it does give you an outlet to relax a little

 

So come on then – what about you? How do you blog?

31 Dec

New Year Resolutions – Social Media and Blogging

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

Social Media

Health and Well-being

Productivity

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I use social media a lot, but sometimes it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and become distracted with ineffective activities.

As someone who is trying to build a freelance business, I need to be more focused in my online actions.

So, this years New Years Resolutions are:

  1. Rethink my social media presence
  2. Blog more regularly
  3. Comment more
  4. business branding

Rethink My Social Media Presence

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

As a freelancer working in a range of fields, and having changed careers radically in 2009 (from radio to digital content) I think it’s important to keep track of social media presence, and if necessary, have separate accounts for separate interests. I’m aware that some people I’ve connected with have NO interest in certain areas of my life

  • This means I sometimes hold back on  posting
  • There is the potential to lose some people along the way

I have recently set up a series of accounts purely for my infographics design work

I will then occasionally retweet these to my main account as well, if of wider interest.

But do I need to go further  – should I separate personal and work accounts completely? Do I need a social media presence for other elements of my work?

The New Years Resolution

Conduct a social media audit

  • what accounts do I use
  • what do I use them for
  • what works well on the various accounts
  • do I need to stop using anything? (might be knocking on your door, Pinterest)
  • set up new accounts if necessary

Have you done anything similar? What are the pitfalls? Any advice?

Blog More Regularly

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

I’m always telling people to blog more regularly  – “you don’t need to write a full article” I say, “just pull together an idea and get it up there”.

It’s a great outlet for showcasing work, knowledge, for sharing ideas and connecting with people – and as a freelancer it’s always good to be visible.

The New Years Resolution

I’m going to take my own advice and revive this blog with more ideas and thoughts.

I’m going to do what I promised months ago, and start blogging for MyJQ – a Jewellery Quarter hyperlocal blog in Birmingham

Put more ideas on my design blog (although I’ve not been too bad at doing this recently)

 

Comment More

Even though I do get excited when someone comments on a blog post of mine, I am woefully lazy when it comes to commenting on other peoples. Maybe it’s because I do most of my article reading on my mobile, and it’s difficult to comment via mobile. Maybe I’ve been put off by the few times I HAVE commented and either being attacked, or the website has crashed and my well crafted comment has been lost in the ether.

The side effect of thinking about commenting, is that I will read the article fully, not skim it, and take in the information.

The New Years Resolution

Consider commenting on every article I read, and if I have something to contribute, do it!!!

 

Business Branding

Now I have a cbviz website, Twitter account and Facebook page – it might be a good idea to tie them all together with a logo and some business branding.

I am critically close to the end of my business card stash and have just set up a business bank account, so all in all, it’s a good time to get some new stationery printed off.

The New Years Resolution

Design a logo – apply to Twitter, Facebook, other social media accounts and website

Get business cards printed

31 Dec

IPad App Review: Sticky Notes

Ipad app Sticky Notes Post It Notes app icon

 

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

  1. Daily todo lists – different notes/colours for different groups (ie email, phone calls, errands)
  2. Presentation notes – one for each slide, then email or share on Twitter afterwards
  3. Organisation planning

Organiser_post_its.JPG  Post_it_presentation_notes.PNG  Post_it_structure_planning.PNG

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

 

22 Dec

Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest


 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

linkedin


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)

[toc]

There has been a lot of movement between Flickr and Instagram recently. (did you move?) This has been due to:

  • instagramInstagram 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

Instagram photo of Loco Lounds in Kings Heath, Birmingham 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 exampleFlickr 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

Pinterest example

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 my design work here  – so sue me!)

I use this to save images I find interesting, and they are grouped into boards, such as Infographics, Interiors and Cute.

I deal with subjects here (such as Interiors) that would not fit into the subject of this blog, for example.

However, I am losing interest in Pinterest, rarely using it to browse and my posting is becoming more and more infrequent.

 


 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

linkedin


29 May

The Spread of Tech [animated]

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)

 

CONCLUSION

I am pleased with what I achieved in this short time, and discovered a new way of producing video animations.

However, I do accept that the chart, as it stands, does not really answer the brief.

It was fun tough and proves what can be done in a short period of time!

05 Mar

Six Ways to Spice Up Your Podcasts

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, or sections to the show. It keeps interest up as you change subject, tone and pace.

Example: A news style bulletin for airport customers could be livened up by adding travel advice, health tips and local recommendations. Also, advice on facilities in departure lounges etc. This would make the podcast a lot more interesting and popular. 

 

 

24 Nov

Wave Goodbye

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

17 Nov

Become Master of your Email Inbox

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 / lunchbreak or an entire day before you feel up to dealing with it. First, be honest – are you just procrastinating, or does this really need some thought? If so, allocate yourself a time of the day/week to deal with emails like this. End of the day perhaps? Start of the day – before things get to hectic? Set yourself a timed reminder, or a morning todo list, archive the email and forget about it until then.
  • Are you waiting for a specific date? – either archive and set yourself an calendar reminder, or  – if it’s an email that needs sending – does your email system have a DELAY email function? (you could also give ifttt.com a go – this allows you to schedule emails to a specific person through your Google Calendar – very geeky and very clever). There are other email schedulers available  – these seem to allow a small number of free emails (eg 10 a month) but for larger amounts you will need to pay.
  • Are you waiting for an email from someone else? – if so, archive the email currently in your inbox – the email from them will remind you to deal with this
  • Do you need to have a phone call/conversation/meeting with someone else first?  – do you know when this will be? If so, you could either set yourself a calendar reminder for the date you will find out the information, or a reminder for the deadline when it has to be dealt with.

A few more things you can do …

  • Turn off social network notifications – if you are on Twitter / Facebook all day anyway (or have an app on your smartphone) do you really need an email alert as well?  If you’re like me you are signed up to a lot of accounts, so the notifications are endless!!  Also think – what’s the point of getting a Facebook alert if you’re at work and can’t do anything about it? Turn them off, save yourself the frustration!
  • Preview setting on mobile email readers – I miss important emails because I review them on my mobile, but can’t deal with them. Now I use the “PREVIEW 5 lines” function (IPhone) so I can get an idea of what the email is about, without having to open it (which marks it as read). It will then remain in your inbox unread, until you get to office/home etc.
  • Similarly, review your the “mark as read” setting on your desktop email – change this from “mark as read as soon as open” to something that means you have really processed with it. It means emails will stay as unread until dealt with.
  • Reduce the time you spend receiving emails. This takes self-control and is definitely not suited to every role. Decide how often you will check your email (2/3 times a day) and set an autoresponder (out of office reply) explaining this fact. Also spell out WHEN you will be replying to the email, if one is required. This will cut down on email “ping pong” – when an email turns into an entire conversation as senders will be a LOT more concise and it won’t turn into a conversation.
  • Mailing Lists – consider changing the settings of these. Do you really need to receive ever update of an email list – or would a daily / weekly email be enough?

NOW ITS TIME TO BE RUTHLESS

Go through your emails and decide – are they:
  • dealt with – then delete
  • contain important information – archive or remove info (ie contact details) and delete
  • pending – process as above … archive and setting dated/timed calender reminders
Also – depending on your workflow, I would say bulk archiving emails before a certain date is a good move. Think about it, they’ve probably been resolved now anyway.

NEED MORE ROOM?

All of this archiving can put a strain on your email account size – even giant accounts like Gmail have a limit, and corporate accounts are very limiting when it comes to how much you can archive Consider an archiving / filing service like Evernote / Springpad (useful list here).
These are cloud based and will store your files, emails etc. so you can retrieve them from in different ways (i.e. computer, smart phone, tablet etc.).
I use Evernote, and as it comes with an email address, I now forward a lot of emails to this automatically, and also manually when they arrive. (using Gmail filters) but there are others available (both free and paid for) – find the one that suits you the best!
08 Nov

6 Tips for Using Evernote

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

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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 Iphone (and soon IPad)

4. IFTTT.com

Ifttt is a very useful website (a little clunky in places) but  great tool for moving pretty much any online content, to somewhere else.

  • I currently have it sorting certain GMmail messages. Pro: You can specify the Evernote folder in which the item will be moved Con: 1. Sometimes it cuts off the body of the text 2. It does not delete the original message. For some emails now I have reverted to Gmail Filters – see next tip)
  • I have it moving anything I post to my Tumblr images account (http://www.carolinebeavon.tumblr.com) as an image into Evernote
  • Articles I “star” in Google Reader are now moved to Evernote – this does not copy the body, just the title so this is not perfect for reading but useful to a degree
  • Messages I “favourite” on Twitter are sent to Evenote
  • Anything I send to Instapaper (I have a magazine reader on my Ipad that does not have an Evernote link) i import to Evernote.

5. GMAIL FILTERS

> using a filter to forward / move certain emails into Evernote

As stated above – the con of this system is that you cannot specify which Evernote folder the email goes into but it is a trustworthy system.

  • Find your Evernote email address – within Evernote
  • Set up a filter to forward and keep (or forward and delete) emails into Evernote
  • When you log into Evernote you will have to deal with them in your default folder

6. GOOGLE CHROME EVERNOTE PLUGIN

Such a useful tool and I’m sure IE and Firefox have a similar thing.

It’s a button that sits in your toolbar, that lets you grab  webpage and send it to Evernote – allowing you to grab bits of pages, entire pages or URL’s of the page you are looking at. You can also specify the destination folder AND add tags as you go.

Now, what are you tips for using Evernote?

 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

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28 Apr

Dear Delicious User …(email)

20110428-062857.jpg

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

20 Apr

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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04 Mar

Top 10 Crimes of Online Writing


 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

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Are you blog posts not getting the attention they deserve?
Check out these points to improve your writing and reduce that bounce rate
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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? Good.

5. No links / links not working

Links are vital – and useful.
  • they give the reader a chance to find out more about a story
  • they give your story credibility
  • the linked person will know you’ve linked to them – creating interest and a possible link back
  • you can keep your article short by linking to a resource elsewhere (read more here, see full list here etc.)

Never post a full link into your article – it looks messy and amateurish. Instead create a LINK within the article using relevant words (more here, for example).

See below (Spreading the Word – for details of creating short links)

6. No Lists

What would you prefer to read?
The company has created websites for Exfan, Doldoran. The Burmese Artichoke Foundation, Sandcastle Equities, Danders, Phirman Enterprises and Zhulom Corporation
or
The company has created websites for:
  • Exfan
  • Doldoran
  • The Burmese Artichoke Foundation
  • Sandcastle Equities
  • Danders
  • Phirman Enterprises
  • Zhulom Corporation

And don’t forget to use those bullet point as LINKS to the relevant page.

7. Fact and Figures

Above I mentioned how diagrams were a useful addition to an article to explain a point. If your story is very NUMBER heavy, how about using a table or a chart to explain the figures?
For WordPress, I have discovered that creating the table in Word, then “pasting from Word” places the table into the post with no strange formatting.
A B C
Dave 3 8 6
Archie 5 6 1
Charles 3 4 2
Also think about a chart – input the data into a spreadsheet program (ie Excel) create a chart, copy it, paste into Paint and add as an image to your article.

8. Tagging and Categories

These are crucial. They allow people to navigate your site, and flag up what the article is about.
If your articles have a lot of links and tag words, consider using Zemanta (no students, we can’t have this on the uni computers). It finds possible links and tags and allows you to add them automatically. By no means does this pick every link, but saves a lot of time with the obvious ones.
Add tag words that a relevant only – don’t add everything – you don’t want to be using tag words to get people to your article under false pretenses.

9. Spread the Word

If you don’t tell anyone about your article, no-one, apart from your mum, will read it.

Here are some ways of spreading the word:

  • Post the link on Twitter but ALWAYS use a short link (I use Bit.ly – it shortens the link and allows you to track the number of clicks – great/terrible for the ego!)
  • Post it on Facebook – (useful tip: if you use Hootsuite as a Twitter /Facebook client you can CHOOSE which image will appear next to the link)
  • Are there forums on this subject? Post it on there. – but be respectful of forum policy – forums are notoriously feisty when it it comes to spamming.
  • Send it to the contacts, sources and interviewees that you used – they will like to see it and may post it on their websites. Again, send them a short link so you can keep track of the traffic.
  • Get an email sig that allows you to promote your blog (I use Wisestamp, it adds links to my social networks AND an RSS feed of my blog).

10. Feel free to suggest a Number 10, below …

 


 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

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25 Nov

Why don’t students use Twitter?

I’ve recently been helping out with teaching 1st year Journalism students at BCU in Birmingham.

Dan Davies – who is leading the course – and I are both former Online Journalism MA students, and hence very wired in to the social networks, blogs etc. However, it’s not our background and education which makes us HUGE Twitter fans, but our AGE.

The students we teach are all Facebook afficionados, they use it every day, and often it’s the first site they log into on the computers, NOT their email. So when we got onto the subject of sources, we began preaching about the benefits of using Twitter.

We’d hoped we’d be preaching to the converted, but as it happens, this is not the case.

In fact the response to Twitter has been VERY slow amongst the 18 year old age group. 1 or 2 (out of 25) in each class had accounts, a few others were former users but, as with many people, “didn’t get it” so swiftly logged off. There was also reluctance to sign up to the service, when we asked them. They just don’t like it.

THE FACTS

And it’s not just “our lot”, a recent study ( The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010 | EDUCAUSE) into students use of technology in the US showed some interesting results.

For example:

75% if students have a handheld device or smartphone.

21% of students with handheld smartphones/devices use it to follow ur update microblogs (eg Twitter)
76.9% use it to use social network sites, eg Facebook, Myspace, Bebo or LinkedIn

When it comes to computers, the figures are even more interesting
90.4% of students use computers to access social networks, only 43.5% use it to access microblogs.

21% of students with handheld smartphones/devices use it to follow ur update microblogs (eg Twitter)76.9% use it to use social network sites, eg Facebook, Myspace, Bebo or LinkedIn
When it comes to computers, the figures are even more interesting
90.4% of students use computers to access social networks, only 43.5% use it to access microblogs.

So WHY don’t teenagers like Twitter?

LEAN FORWARD V LEAN BACK

Is Facebook the new TV?, a so called lean-back technology, where the information is pumped directly to you and requires very little effort – think about it, Facebook keeps giving, even if you don’t.

Twitter, on the  other hand, needs participation to yield results: you have to follow the right people to get the right information (which, I know, is the case with Facebook but sheer numbers have given that the momentum now to carry on).

The content on Twitter is hard work sometimes: that extra click to watch that video clip, or read that article may put some people off, and a stream of text could be seen as a turn off. Facebook, on the other hand, is littered with pretty pictures and video to keep you engaged.  A string of words holds less appeal than a brightly coloured link.

All the reasons the Twitterati have shifted from Facebook are exactly the reasons the teenagers love it, the clutter – the bright lights and excitement, the noise and the shouting.

Face it Twitter, you’re too clean for teenagers.

24 Nov

Y-not? Embedding YouTube

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?

08 Aug

Making Online News Pay – Pt 1 paywalls

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.

“The Times”
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 shopping online, and in theory, would be comfortable using Paypal to sign up to a site
  • However, would they see the value of this content? And how much would they be willing to pay for it?

Maintaining the Exclusivity

This is icon for social networking website. Th...

Image via Wikipedia

I would go to great lengths to maintain the exclusivity of this content – attending small niche festivals where no other media is interviewing, locking the content as private on video website Viddler,  and embedding it behind a subscription page on my own site.

The downside of this is that the content itself cannot be shared, passed on or promoted – only the link to the page – for which you would need to have paid to access.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

27 Jun

6 tips for good blogging (and social networking)

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.

Image representing PollDaddy as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

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.

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?

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

07 Feb

Blogging: what is it worth?

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?

04 Feb

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

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)

27 Jan

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

I am in a dilemma.

Sony Ericsson SatioI 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.

  1. the internal mic is terrible. It is useless for interviews, and makes the subject sound like they are down a mine
  2. 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 …

22 Oct

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

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 McElvoyEvening Standard Executive Editor
Joe Lelyveld – Pulitzer Prize Winner, Ex-NYT Journalist
Sean MaguireThomson Reuters Political & Gen. News

[liveblog]4[/liveblog]

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020