Sarah Booker

25/08/2011

#hhldn : Sex, lies and digital news

Sex, lies and instant messenger

If you don’t want your partner to catch you cheating don’t use the internet. This was Alec Muffett’s advice at Hack/Hackers London’s August gathering.

There was a serious message behind Alec’s advice on keeping your illicit affair and dodgy porn habit a secret. Anyone who needs to keep a secret, a dissident or whistle-blower, needs to consider how they communicate.

If you need to keep a secret don’t use Skype, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, smartphones, applications with pop ups, iTunes, massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), work hardware etc. All this can come back to bite you.

Skype shares everything with any machines you’ve installed it on. Even if you delete and re-install, messages they come back from the dead.

Facebook ends up everywhere, as does Google. These companies also comply with US law, which means if the National Security Agency (NSA) asks for your data, it’s handed over.

Smartphones also have comedy potential. Alec told a tale of a person whose boyfriend was sending saucy messages which their boss read when details popped up on their iPhone.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Create a complex password only you know.
  • Use a very boring pseudonym such as Edward Wilson or Carole Smith, because anything unique will come back to you.
  • Avoid linking identities and never describe yourself.
  • Use a different browser for day-to-day use and keep Firefox for your naughty secrets.
  • Log out of Facebook.
  • Clear cookies, don’t accept third-party cookies.
  • Switch off everything.
  • Don’t bookmark.
  • Don’t save passwords
  • Do not leave voicemail.

Illicit affairs and unusual kinks provide plenty of entertainment to geeks like Alec. It is amazing what is retrieved from hardware sold on eBay, he said.

His slides of advice are here: dropsafe.crypticide.com/article/5078

How digital destroyed the news cycle and what you can do about it

Demand for newspapers is falling but people still clamour for information. Tools from Twitter to Tumblr are quick ways to share information. As Martin Belam pointed out, there was one event he was following on Twitter when official sources had no details at all. (It was something about football I didn’t understand).

Digital has destroyed the traditional news cycle, but it has created a new one. Print newspapers are an enjoyable read but are always historical. Online is live and as up-to-date as possible, although social media sources can be unreliable.

Martin simplified the news cycle as write newspaper, print newspaper, wrap fish and chips in newspaper, before adding embellishments including sub-editing, layout, legal checks and loading everything online. The Guardian has a digital first policy and publishes across a multitude of platforms from iPhone to Kindle, with iPad, Windows phone and Android apps, due for released soon (nothing for Blackberry). The way the newspaper presents its product on different platforms is something Martin says needs to be addressed.

“Stop the shovels”, he said. Mobiles are not tablets, tablets are not desktops and we don’t read the stories as PDFs online. One of the frustrations facing user experience architects like Martin is making content work for a multitude of mediums. He highlighted problems with visualisations on the Telegraph and Guardian’s websites, which required a mouse, not helpful when you’re on an iPad, or copy is exported without the through for the medium with notes guiding readers to images from print which aren’t online.

Interactivity has changed the way the Guardian works.  When there are mistakes “we are subbed by the comments very quickly”, Martin explained. Journalists are actively using Twitter as a news-gathering source. Paul Lewis was asking where trouble was flaring up during the recent riots, which resulted in his reports from the thick of the violence.

The Guardian is known for its liveblogging. It is a platform Martin described as a “native digital format”. Throughout the day there are political, sport and TV liveblogs generating a huge amount of traffic and an engaged readership interacting with the information.

Digital is part of storytelling now. Martin was critical of a report compiled by the NCTJ* where editors ranked web skills and social media below time management as key skills for journalists.

“It is unfair to be equipping young journalists for a job they would have been doing in the 80s and 90s.”

He pointed out the survey shows the entrenched attitude of people in control of newspapers. “They’re not interested in turning the tanker around,” Martin said.

When I teach online journalism, I tell the students I am providing them with the skills they will need to be employed in five years time. Martin has the same opinion and advised journalists to keep learning and developing as he knows digital is the future.

His summing up of the future of news raised a round of applause from the crowd:

“Let the digital people get on with saving this business properly.”

* Martin was critical of a different website that didn’t link to the report. I would like to point out the piece I sub-edited did have a link to the NCTJ page. However, this does not overcome the issue with the report page which advises people to click on the link to the right…

09/05/2011

links for 2011-05-09

Filed under: Links — Sarah Booker Lewis @ 6:00 pm
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25/02/2010

What’s the point? – Foursquare

Filed under: Web tool review — Sarah Booker Lewis @ 10:06 pm
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For some time now I have been pondering the point of FourSquare.

I joined the sit and started checking in with gusto in December 2009. However, I found myself becoming underwhelmed rather quickly.

I was also uncomfortable broadcasting my location, especially after seeing the state of my Facebook and Twitter feeds after a shopping trip to London.

When the website Please Rob Me appeared with its constantly updating list of tweeted Foursquare updates, it didn’t surprise me.

Since December I have given it a try a couple of times, without Tweeting locations, but the game hasn’t grabbed my attention and I couldn’t see wider application for it at this stage.

Then I read Elizabeth Redman’s article on Editor’s Weblog “What does Foursquare mean for newspapers”.

Redman quite rightly points out Foursquare is a great way to link up with venues for reviews and reader offers.

The New York Times has created a badge for people who “check in” at Vancouver Winter Olympic venues.

Canadian newspaper Metro has joined with Foursquare to link editorial content to locations and send alerts out to subscribers/friends.

Reading this I can see the potential for local newspapers, linking reader offers with a Foursquare to do list. The difficulty is grabbing advertisers’ imaginations.

Something I keep reminding myself is how I didn’t “get” Twitter or Facebook in the early days.

Even now many of my colleagues can’t see the point of using social media to drive traffic to our newspapers’ websites and interact with a wider audience.

But, there is hope as the advertising sales people are starting to ask about using Twitter and Facebook. After all, these sites are our fourth and seventh biggest referrers.

Additional (March 13, 2010) : I am still playing with Foursquare and have become mayor of two locations. There is a long way to go before its potential is realised in the UK.

09/02/2010

Brighton Future of News Group first meeting #bfong

The first Brighton Future of News Group took place yesterday (Monday, February 8), attracting a variety of journalists, writers, bloggers and techy folk, all interested in telling stories and relaying facts in new and interesting ways.

Jo Wadsworth

Our first speaker was Jo Wadsworth, web editor at the Brighton Argus, who spoke about building a community of bloggers writing on specific themes or hyperlocally, the sort of news that might not make it into the newspaper, but will be of wider interest.

Examples included the Bevendean Bulletin, which uses the Argus in lieu of its own website. Student reporters from the Journalist Works gaining experience by writing patch blogs, and others are aspiring writers dipping their toes in the water.

Jo was keen to point out the bloggers aren’t considered a replacement for reporters, but rather augmenting the newspaper’s website.

After all, as Jo explained, these people will be blogging anyway why not utilise their enthusiasm and talent for the paper?

The bloggers benefit from a ready-made audience and technical support, the paper gets street-level coverage.

Jo cited the pothole paradox hypothesized by Steven Berlin Johnston ie. extremely local, small-scale news is interesting to people living in a certain street with pot holes but not to those living a few streets away.

When it comes to looking after a paper’s bloggers, Jo advised giving constructive but honest feedback and never be afraid to turn people down.

I was pretty pleased to hear there was a high turnover of bloggers and some who didn’t even start, as I’ve had similar situations with a number of ex and failed-to-starters.

Simon Willison

The second speaker Simon Willison initially talked about his work creating the  software and database for The Guardian’s MPs’ expenses crowd-sourcing project, where more than 200,000 documents were studied in the search for interesting information.

The structure was put together in a week before 450,000 documents were dumped into the public domain during this act of government “transparency”.

It was a steep learning curve for the team behind the project, but it was developed on for the second release of MPs’ expenses information for 2008/9 and the first quarter of 2009/10.

A few thousand documents were torn through by the crowd. Simon and the team created a wider variety of tags for each page, such as food or soft furnishings.

Hand-written pages were often particularly interesting, such as a lengthy note from Jack Straw.

My personal favourite site Simon has created is Wildlifenearyou.com where people can share their pictures of wildlife, both wild and captive. It’s an amazing site where people can vote for their favourite pictures of animals, add their own, find creatures geographically. It really is imaginative.

A spin off site is Owlsnearyou.com which has had friends/fans hijacking the American Superbowl hashtag #superbowlday superb-owl-day, geddit…

Simon also showed impressive crowd-sourced maps, particularly a post-earthquake map of Haiti, created by users of OpenStreetmap.org

It was pretty impressive to see what could be created by people with the imagination and skills to make something happen and not just draw ideas out on paper.

Break away

Both talks definitely fired the imaginations of everyone involved who took part in the break-away sessions at the end of the evening.

The four groups came up with multimedia ways to cover Brighton Pride, this year’s general election and transport issues.

A particular favourite of mine was creating a spot the candidate Google map. Now that’s an idea with legs.

Other blogs/posts about Brighton Future of News Group:

A document of all the event’s tweets featuring the hashtag #bfong.

Laura Oliver, editor of Journalism.co.uk also blogged about Jo Wadsworth’s and Simon Willison’s presentations, as did John Keenan.

Judith Townend, from Journalism.co.uk organised the event at The Skiff and put together a summary linked with the first Future of News Group West Midlands meeting, which took place on the same evening.

The original UK Future of News Group was set up by Adam Westbrook.

28/12/2008

Shares, newspapers and future journalism

Filed under: Web journalism — Sarah Booker Lewis @ 8:08 pm
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Nick Hasell’s article “Have faith: after a year of setbacks, I am a sadder but wiser man“, in The Times on Saturday, December 27, looked at the performance of the Tempus Ten, shares selected at the beginning of 2007 caught my eye because my employer Johnston Press Plc is given a kicking.

This year JP’s share price has dropped, dramatically, from a three to single figures.

Hasell’s article suggests it’s the journalists who don’t see the end of print and the rise of the internet.

As someone at the forefront of JP’s web operations in Sussex, I would say the problem is not with the majority in the newsrooms.

Embrace the web

There are many journalists across JP embracing the internet, because we know it’s the future.

Equally there are others who resist with every fibre of their being.

However, JP is moving forward and looking to the web, and taking its advertising platforms with it.

People have a great appetite for news and journalists possess the skills to source and interpret it for mass consumption.

Journalists will still be creating news for websites, as well as print.

Unexpected tales

Even though I consume a lot of news information through the web, from traditional news sources such as The Guardian, The Times, Telegraph, BBC etc, and specialist blogs, the serendipity of discovering something in print, which I wouldn’t necessarily read online, is what keeps newspaper important to me.

American journal Editor and Publisher published an interesting column by Ted Knutson “What I missed only getting news online” (the original is behind a paywall hence the Blogger link).

Ted’s right by pointing out the joy “of running across news I didn’t realize was there by leafing through all the pages of a newspaper instead of just looking at a handful of headlines on the home page of a newspaper’s web site”.

However, journalists and regular older readers will not keep a publication afloat forever.

Chase youth, keep old

Steve Outing’s interesting article, again in Editor and Publisher, My ‘Crisis’ Advice to Newspaper Company CEOs: 11 Points to Ponder” gives the solid advice to focus on the traditional demographic for print, and to chase youth with web.

This is what we’re trying to do at the Worthing Herald series, which is probably why our print ABC is rising along with our eABC.

Sussex Newspapers, the JP division which includes the Worthing Herald series, was one of the company’s best performers in 2008, so we’re obviously doing the right thing, but need to continue to do so.

Resistance is futile

The difficult market conditions and the changes in newsroom structure under consultation at the moment will mean journalists will have to think about their commitment to the web.

In the days before Christmas one of my colleagues admitted to having no interest in learning how to put stories online, hence they didn’t retain the instructions in their memory.

Hasell’s point about the perception that print will die might be the kick resistant journalists need to learn before they become unemployable.

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