Archive for May, 2011

Tuition fees for 2012…Google Map style

The Guardian‘s Data Blog has essentially released a massive customised Google Map detailing a selection of universities throughout the UK and what they’ll be charging next year.

Granted, it’s a little more complex than what we did in class, but I still can’t help but chuckle, knowing I can do one of these Google maps too 🙂

Worth a look – another topic that will no doubt endure further debate and heated discussion well into next year…

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The death of Osama bin Laden: NYT plots reactions on an interactive map

One of the most exciting and entertaining element of online news, for me, is our ability to harness data and display it like never before.

I’ve been a massive fan of the website Information is Beautiful for many years, and I really like the Guardian‘s Data Store, which features great visual guides to the most recent topics in the media.

Reactions to the Alternative Voting System (or AV) according to the gospel of Twitter. (Image courtesty guardian.co.uk)

The New York Times is another publication which produces some amazing multimedia work and today I came across this:

The Death of a Terrorist: A Turning Point?

It invites readers to plot their reactions to two questions: How much of a turning point in the war on terror will Bin Laden’s death represent?  and What is your emotional response? The former is gauged from significant to insignificant; the latter from positive to negative. It’s a really easy way to see people’s reactions – it’s well worth a look.

Information, particularly comment and opinion, can take on a whole new meaning when it can be turned into something visual and interactive – it’s so much easier to understand and even analyse and it’s a brilliant way of transforming the mundane into an issue worth further discussion.

Osama bin Laden’s death will be the talking point of many debates over the next few weeks and months.  ‘A Safer World‘ a discussion held at  The Front Line Club this evening on the ramifications for Pakistan, Afghanistan and the West, sold out in hours and just earlier this afternoon I was listening to a podcast from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation discussing about the effects Osama’s death could have on Obama’s presidential campaign for the elections next year.

The NYT shows that this type of information could be valuable in determining how the public feel about these issues, not just the ‘experts’.

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Critical Evaluation – Group Project

Group Project: Yesterbeer – a pub review site with a difference!

For this task I worked with Paul, Rita, Matt, Conor and Taneha.

The idea: An interactive website reviewing pubs in London with interesting historical significance – they could have been frequented by an interesting or famous historical figure or a historical event may have taken place there.

It was Rita who originally came up with the idea to do a blog reviewing pubs with significant and historical, er, histories. The concept then eventually evolved to cover OLD pubs only and strangely most had something to do with Charles Dickens. We decided to not only have visuals of the pub, but to also combine the reviews with a brief history of the place. We wanted to include links wherever possible. We thought this would be a fun way to incorporate a little bit of everything we’d come to associate with blogging. It could be individual enough so that our reviews reflected our own writing styles, while we would also include photos, videos, twitter feeds and mapping – basically we wanted to include everything we’d learned in AWJ.

Target audience:We determined quite early on that our target audience would be rather, shall we say, niche. We appreciated that this kind of site would work for tourists or people who fancied heading to a pub that wasn’t an All-Bar-One type venue. As I wrote in our initial pitch “it will be geared towards an older audience, as we don’t expect younger boozers to be interested in the history of pubs”.

Social media used: I created a Twitter account and a Facebook group and we incorporated these into our blog. During our group pub crawl – in which we also produced a video/slideshow – I tweeted at each pub we visited. Ideally, if the site was still up and running, bloggers could log on and tweet whenever they discovered a new pub etc, so that the site was almost constantly updating through Tweets.

My role: My role was originally Art Director but towards the end I feel I played more of an Editor role, particularly as Paul was away (and he was our designated Editor). I really did put in quite a few man hours getting this blog up and running and I’m really happy with the results. I wanted our focus to be on design and visuals because historical pub information can be found on Google – our point was to aggregate this information into a fun easy-to-use website.

  1. I created the blog in WordPress, the Yesterbeer logo, the brick background, the overall layout and general theme. Paul and Matt did an excellent job at creating the review template and I feel that worked really well.
  2. I created the categories, ensured everyone used these correctly and remembered to tag and link items in their posts wherever possible.
  3. I created the Google maps, plotted everything on these and devised the pub crawl routes. This was very time-consuming but I felt it added value to our site.
  4. I created the site’s pages, and sub-pages so that these would appear as drop-down menus. I then added the text to each page and linked wherever possible (this took hours!)
  5. I wrote the pub listings and summarised with links e.g. Best for History
  6. It was my idea to include transport information and the beer rating – I found the graphics for these, created the template and had the group add these to their reviews.
  7. I proof-read and edited – Paul and Rita also helped with this
  8. I included all the widgets – these included the Twitter feed, RSS links, links and images (the blackboard images I created on photoshop). Through a system of trial and error I worked out that widget images, which must be connected to a URL rather than uploading from your hard drive) can be posted in a ‘draft’ post (so that it never appears on the site) and that by then right-clicking on the image in the draft post, you could get a location URL. You then simply had to copy+paste this into the URL space in the image widget box and hit ‘save’. Voila!
  9. I created a search menu, a subscription button, a TFL journey planner widget (which didn’t turn out exactly as TFL advised but it linked to the website), a calendar of posts, a site map (for easier navigation) and a summary of contributors featuring their last three reviews.
  10. I created the Yesterbeers page and Rita was great in organising a template for each bio and for creating our bio photos.
  11. I created a Vimeo account for our video – which Conor did a fantastic job in putting together. Taneha also helped and it was a great group effort all around.
  12. I added page breaks to each review so that the entire post would not appear on the page – it just made for easier and ‘neater’ viewing.
  13. I did the filming for the video (it wasn’t great but I think we did a good job!)
  14. I created the contacts page as we agreed that ‘in real life’ we would want people to make suggestions for pubs that we could review and potentially put on our site.

Stories I did: Ye Olde Cock Tavern, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, The Tipperary, The Dickens Inn, The Old Bank of England, The Bleeding Heart Tavern

Does it work? Yes, I think it does! It’s not overly professional, but it’s fun. We had originally hoped to do a website, but realised that if we were to constantly update it with reviews, then going in and out of a website program to edit would prove tiresome – it really wasn’t an efficient use of time. I think it’s something that’s easily manageable and that we could honestly continue to work on. It’s a niche subject, yes, but it’s interesting and different from other pub review sites. It would be useful for people who wanted to, say, show friends or relatives around London via pints of beer and tumblers of whiskey!

What might make it better? There is always room for improvement with projects like these but I genuinely think we did an awesome job! We could have had more multimedia and perhaps, in an ideal situation, more interactive maps. This was the dilemma – we wanted the ease of a blog, but the design capabilities of a website loaded with flash and all sorts. We did want to do more pub crawls and film them, placing them on the site so that visitors could go through and see for themselves what the pubs were like. On the Google maps, we’d have more pub routes – perhaps, for example, a Charles Dickens walk, or a pub crawl of places frequented by Jack the Ripper, or a ‘Most Haunted’ pub crawl, that type of thing. But for the time we were given I think we fulfilled our criteria well. I think Reza may have issues with our multimedia, but we never intended our video to be a masterpiece. The site is purposefully built to demonstrate that we’re just a bunch of fun-loving, beer-guzzling peeps that are keen to show some of London’s best and historical drinking haunts!

Have we learned from other projects? We checked out many pub review sites, such as pubs.com. Aside from the established review sites such as Time Out and View London, most pub-specific review sites were pretty crap. Beerintheevening is a good site but we tried hard not to copy any elements – although it was how I decided that including travel info and ratings would improve our reviews and make them a little more ‘user-friendly’.

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Critical Evaluation – Individual Project

My Individual Project: Posh Notes – a blog on journalism trends and commentary on news

‘Yay! Another blog!’ I hear you exclaim. Or are you really thinking ‘Could you be anymore unoriginal?’

Well, I was thinking the latter, at first, for as much as I enjoy blogging and learning about blogging and how one becomes a better blogger, I hadn’t originally intended to do a blog. Hey, I’m just being honest.

After seeing some of the amazing slideshows and multimedia work on The New York Times’ website, I’d had the idea to create a slideshow and podcast featuring mini bios on some of my friends. The idea was based on my own experiences of  a ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ and what had ensued in the years following. I stared off small with things like cutting off all my hair and joining the gym, but then I realised I needed to make bigger changes: I left my husband, moved out,  forced myself to make new friends (most of mine stopped talking to me after the split), applied for university and was accepted to study journalism – which was a major triumph in itself, as it was a degree I’d started many years ago back home in Australia but had never had the chance to finish (after my second year, I deferred  to travel for 6 months which  turned into seven years travelling and living all over Europe, finally settling in the UK). 

I digress. Right, so a few of my friends have also experienced ‘life-changing’ moments upon turning 25 (some bought a house, some got married, moved overseas, some had babies, changed careers- you get the picture) and I wanted to capture the excitement, the anticipation, the nerves, the joys and the sadness that could come from making such important life-altering decisions at what many would feel was still a young age. I was going to take photos of each person during the interview, combine it with images relevant with their story and then put the slideshow to the audio.

I’m not really sure why I didn’t go through with this. Ah yes, time. I ran out of it.

So I figured my next best idea was to do a…drumroll please….blog.

Here’s a break-down:

The idea: A blog from the perspective of a journalism student, commenting on journalistic trends and things that were happening in the media. The notion was that it could explore issues like ‘churnalism’, or how PR can affect news etc and essentially cover topics that I’d found interesting in class or that had grabbed my attention; elements of journalism that I find interesting, challenging or moving. It wasn’t totally serious – the idea was to keep it casual enough so that I could just log on and type away without worrying too much about how ‘professional’ it appeared. As much as I complained earlier that doing another blog wasn’t my original idea, it’s one that I’d quite happily maintain beyond this project.

Does it work? Hmm. Tricky. I’d say yes, but then I’m biased. Of course there are things that can be improved. It works because it’s something I’m genuinely interested in. It works because I’ve finally worked out a ‘niche’ to my mental ramblings, thoughts and comments. I’ve read alot about what makes a successful blog. Yes, there are technical elements, like your ability to communicate, links, tweets etc – but the one practice I kept seeing being advised was that a blog needed consistency and a theme. If you wanted to write about frogs, write about frogs. In this case, I wanted to focus on journalism and the media from the perspective of someone who was only just being submerged in the industry – from someone who was willing to learn, make mistakes and who wanted to explore and not so much judge or be overly-critical.  I included as much multimedia as possible – from images and videos (I’d expand to podcasts and things wherever possible). I had RSS feeds, links to sites, links to my videos and I organised my blog in a way which I think is easily navigable. I’m hoping ‘navigable’ can apply to blogs and not just waterways!

What might make it better? Twitter. Social media. I need to learn to embrace these more. Perhaps I could have ensured my headlines were better for SEO. I could have posted more. I could have tried to include more original content, although my format was more about comments on work already out there. I love writing, and if I can learn to clear some time in my day, I could probably become quite a regular blogger – but I need to learn to drive traffic to my site – that’s something I struggle with. SEO techniques will help I know – so practice makes perfect. I’m okay for categories and tagging, so perhaps more links and better headlines are needed. It’s a working progress!

Have I learned from other projects? YES! A resounding yes! I’m always flicking through other WordPress blogs, especially the featured blogs on the main site. I’m always curious to read who the bloggers are and what makes their blog so successful. It is generally down to a few elements, namely:

  1. The subject is relevant to a wide range of people. Mum-type blogs are the perfect example. These  blogs always seem to have comments from other mums and become almost community-like writing forums where women share stories of their stressful lives and how adorable their children are. The best ones, of course are funny. Which leads me to point number two…
  2. Entertaining blogs – i.e. funny, ironic or interesting posts – are a sure way of building a good audience. I subscribe to a number of blogs whose owners have an amazing way of turning mundane activities into the most hilarious scenarios.
  3. Niche blogs – such as tech or cooking or travelling – also attract wide audiences.

What I have noticed is that personal blogs aren’t generally full of links or tags or even categories. These diary-type posts are just interesting, insightful or entertaining. So I’m confused. There, I said it, but the one thing I can take away is that these bloggers are consistent. Whether it’s writing everyday or just once a week, they maintain their blogs and are aware of their audience. They also appreciate feedback and comments.


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News and social media: Osama bin Laden’s death delivered via Twitter

Image courtesy bbc.co.uk/news

The news of Osama bin Laden’s death will dominate the headlines for a little while longer, yet what interested me most about yesterday’s breaking story was a short clip shown on BBC which featured Americans at a baseball game (I think!) getting the news of Osama’s death on their phones hours before President Obama made his official announcement. Sitting in front of the TV drinking my morning coffee, I was also in the middle of finalising an essay about whether news can survive new media, so this BBC clip really caught my attention.

I’m of the firm belief that news and media institutions aren’t ‘done for’. News organisations need to continue to adapt to a changing society, which they have done – from the printing press, to the radio, to television, to the Internet, to satellite channels and now to web-based news feeds, social media sites and alternative (non-mainstream) news platforms which are all now accessible through a continually-advancing array of mobile media devices.

So this morning when I logged into WordPress, I found this post “The 7 stages of News in a Twitter and Facebook Era”  which seemed particularly relevant to what I was writing about yesterday and provided an interesting commentary on how news develops through alternative platforms i.e. not your established news sources. The article, which features on Gigaom (by Stacey Higginbotham) also provided a concluding thought that I’m totally in agreeeance with:

As journalists, we often get scoops or hear of news and have to make a similar set of judgments before reporting it, but on Twitter, what often starts out as gossip now has the weight of news. As recipients, we have no way to judge at first glance though if it’s real or wishful thinking. Perhaps it’s time we gave ourselves a better set of tools?

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The WNOL blog

Well, this will be brief.

Rita and I helped out the television students. And thanks to that, albeit rather badly put-together, sports update I’m now considering doing TV in my final year as I really enjoyed it!

The end.

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Facebook in China

Will the Chinese finally be able to fully access Facebook? (Image courtesy http://www.techxav.com)

Article published today in Wired on how Facebook would work in China, as the social media site is rumoured to be in negotiations with the Chinese search engine Baidu.

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A new paywall doesn’t come for free

Interesting comment by Peter Preston on paywalls in The Observer online today: A new paywall doesn’t come for free

The New York Times is apparently spending $13m on advertising its new paywall.

Mashable.com published this last month on NYT’s readership pre and post-paywall. Here are the stats:


I thought this was a good point raised by Mashable:

“So here’s the big question: Is NYT‘s paywall a success or a failure? When it comes to this big-picture question, we still don’t have enough information to make a conclusion. The paywall simply hasn’t been around long enough and we don’t have the financial data to see whether the paywall has made up for the loss in advertising revenue. What do you think of the paywall? Is it the future of online news or will sites that use a paywall destined for a slow death?”

Information is a strange commodity – we expect it for free and yet it doesn’t come about for nothing. In my view, the paywall system is something we can’t yet analyse. The results won’t appear overnight. Or maybe even the next few years. I subscribe to The Economist as I find it’s easier for a copy to be delivered to my door than for me to remember to have to go and buy one every week. It’s cheaper too and I have access to their archives. Ease and convenience (and more/better information) is a strong point for paywalls for some of the world’s biggest news publications. I do think they’re strongly dependent on our use of technology and this is perhaps why we can’t quite garner their results. As devices such as the iPad become the norm, then maybe we’ll see that paywalls aren’t as doomed as some would suggest.

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