A big “thank you”

…to all of you who have commented on the post about the new Birmingham Post website.

I have been blown away by the eloquent and erudite feedback you have given me. It’s also impressed others at The Post and I can promise that everything that has been posted here has been read and taken seriously by people on the development team.

In fact my job this week is to pull together everything that has been said and put it into a summary document. I will, of course, upload it for further critique from you all!

Today I spent three hours(!) in a meeting with Marc our editor and Steve our head of multimedia bashing out what content we would like to see on the site.

Not sure how much I can give away, but a lot of it follows what has already been said on this blog.

For me, the most important thing is that the site is uncluttered, simple to use and searchable. All the bells and whistles can be added later, but it’s about getting the fundementals right.

We’ve got a nice head start in that we will be using a similar template to other papers in the group such as the Liverpool Post, Liverpool Echo, Daily Post (Wales) and Daily Record (Scotland).

Ours, however, will have a very distinct Birmingham Post feel.

Del.icio.us

Under the recent comments in this blog’s sidebar, you will find that I have got me a new del.icio.us widget displaying my account. (Thanks to Pete for the suggestion)

I signed up to del.icio.us a few weeks ago and haven’t used it a great deal… until now. This weekend I started filling it with things I think might be useful for our meeting on the new Birmingham Post website.

Is there anything I’ve missed?

Anyone want to help design the Birmingham Post website?

Yes it’s true, it looks like the days might be numbered for icBirmingham. We are finally getting a new website!

When Trinity Mirror decided to keep the Post & Mail, part of the announcement alluded to the fact that an upgrade in IT and our websites was on its way.

Now it looks like a shiny, new Birmingham Post website will be launched at some point next year.

To my surprise and delight I have been picked to be part of the development team (I guess it was a good thing those bigwigs were reading my blog after all!).

Part of my job is to shape what sort of content the site should have. I’m going to be studying what’s out there on the web already to see if there’s stuff I think could be useful – and to try and avoid some of the mistakes that others have made.

Now, I know there are some things I want from a news website: a home page that is constantly updated with breaking news; rss feeds for categories of news that I’m interested in; email alerts for breaking stories; an easily searchable archive and the ability to post a comment at the bottom of a story. I am also stupidly addicted to links to the day’s most read and most emailed stories.

I also think there’s a place for video content, especially if it’s giving a slightly different angle to a story – maybe showing the drama of breaking news or, perhaps, the human side of a business deal. One video that caught my attention was a feature from the New York Times on Paypal founder Max Levchin. That really worked for me (except the damn stupid ad before the video).

Speaking of ads: My ideal news website would also have its advertising in a sensible place and certainly NOT have any of those horrible things that follow you around when you scroll.

But, the thing is, I’m just one person.

How I used news sites is different to how others might use them. I know, for example, I’m very biased towards the news side of things. But news websites can also provide other content too (features, share prices, weather, traffic information, directories, etc.)

So, I wondered, what sort of content do other people use news websites for? What features do other people find useful? I guess this post is a call out to people to find out what you might want from a new, improved, Birmingham Post website.

We’ve got a meeting on Monday to start putting all this stuff together. I’m really excited about it as we could soon have a website that I’m proud of, rather than one I have to constantly apologise for.

[Edit: If you want to see the sites and features I've been looking at, I've bookmarked them on del.licio.us tagged as Jo'sResearch. I'll be discussing these at the meeting on Monday. Is there anything I've missed?]

Birmingham: The Anthem

B:iNS suggests Birmingham needs it’s own anthem.

While I shudder at the thought, it reminds me of my heady teenage days living in Sussex.

Back then we had Terry Garoghan, the unoffical mayor of Brighton. He created Brighton: The Musical and bestowed an anthem upon the then town:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=My5K1GWzcls]

Could Birmingham attain something of equal majesty, I wonder?

The Sunday shift

I was “2pm ’til 10pm” girl today, but actually ended up enjoying myself.

Not only did it allow me to walk home in the snow (and have the olbigatory snowball fight), but it also produced quite an interesting story for the front page.

It all centres around this. See if you can figure it out!
[Edit: well you won't be able to guess now as it appears that after our article today, they've edited the document!]

More lolcats, perhaps?

So here is a question:

Should I be linking to more lighthearted stuff?

I’ve noticed I don’t do the regular list of links that many blogs do.

As I’m now kinda accepting this blog exists partly for me to write and partly for people to read, is anyone that bothered about the posts, memes and other random gubbins I stumble across on the web?

To give you an idea of the sort of stuff you’d be getting:

Ne nostra in fundamenta subeamus (Let us not climb up our own bottoms)

Ok, I’m back.

This time prompted by sheer enthusiasm, which I have promised myself is the only way I will blog in future.

I’m excited to hear that Matthew Parris is enamoured with our fair city and echos the comments made by Trevor Beattie in my interview with him the other week.

In his column for The Times, Matthew mulls over a new motto for the UK (it was mooted some time back that Gordy was looking for one). Inspiration came during his speech at Birmingham Foward’s annual dinner:

The perfect national motto. It came to me while addressing a dinner given by the Birmingham Forward association of regional businesses. Birmingham is looking great these days, and I said how much nicer it was to encounter a city where people undersold themselves, than places (but let’s leave Manchester out of this) that were up their own bottoms.

An MP and archetypal young thruster of a Government minister, Liam Byrne, had recently bewailed what he called the West Midlands’ “malaise of modesty”. Modesty a malaise! How very new Labour. A pleasantly low-key attitude to themselves is one of the great assets of West Midlanders. So I suggested a new motto for Birmingham, which the audience seemed to like.

Philip Howard, the classicist of The Times, has helped me to translate it into Latin, and the five-word motto would be splendid, in fact, for Britain itself – except that it undermines the whole Brownite constitutional project.

Ne nostra in fundamenta subeamus: “Let us not climb up our own bottoms.”

It’s true that, in many ways, Birmingham has undersold itself through modesty. Trevor Beattie suggested that if we could temporarily adopt the arrogance of the Mancunians, then we might raise our profile a bit.

But I think perhaps it isn’t arrogance we need. I think it’s confidence and a little bit of self belief.

We’ve taken the knocks because there are some idiots that insist on judging the city using anachronistic stereotypes. And, perhaps, that’s made us play safe on some issues.

Yet, in my experience, Birmingham has masses of talent, passion and creativity. Perhaps we just need to be a little braver and give less of a stuff what everyone else thinks.

With a bit of self belief we could use our modesty to our advantage. After all, being great isn’t about shouting the loudest, it’s about doing things better than everyone else!

From (the rather appropriately named) upyerbrum

More Blog Angst

So, there I was: ploughing through my Google Reader in an attempt to find something to blog about.

I found something on Martin Stabe’s site about the NUJ possibly admitting their first full-time blogger.

“Ah-ha!” thought I, “something that would work as a blog post”.

Then I realised what I was doing.

It’s all gotten the wrong way around. The thing is this whole blogging marlarkey was meant to be a repository for the thoughts I was having during my day-to-day life. It was NEVER supposed to be a hungry monster that I had to feed with new material.

I think the problem has arisen because (through uncontrolled events) this blog appeared on the radar of Post & Mail bigwigs rather early on. Too early on, to be honest (sorry, to those I know may be reading this).

I had hoped to keep it relatively quiet for a few weeks, maybe months, to find my feet with it. Perhaps that was a bit naive really.

And, to be honest, it is great how supportive and enthusiastic everyone has been and how happy they are about letting me get on and do my own thing.

BUT, of course, knowing that these people are reading the blog has sort of messed up my perception of it.

It’s gotten even more complicated since I blogged about the NUJ and started appearing on their radar. Don’t get me wrong, the debate has been fun – I’ve always longed to have the opportunity to thrash out my views in this way.

But the result is that it’s changed the way I approach the whole blogging thing. I realised the “let’s blog about the NUJ story”, was me doing what I’ve been trained to do – writing specifically for those people I think are reading.

That’s turned my blogging into out-and-out publishing and I don’t like that at all.

There are things I like – the Any Qs and Answers for example. But I don’t want to feel bad or guilty about blogging about fireworks, my cold or something someone said on the bus. They may be the last thing other people want to read about, but then this wasn’t really done for anyone else.

I’ve liked the fact that I feel part of a community of people online, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should have blogged anonymously. I don’t really know, maybe I’m just trying to have my cake and eat it.

After 50 days of blogging, I’m back feeling angsty about the whole thing. :(

Talking to Donnacha

It may be noticeable that, since I commented on Greenslade’s departure from the NUJ last month, this blog has lurched into a discussion on the future journalism and online content.

To my surprise, there has also been an exchange of comments between myself and NUJ multimedia commission member Donnacha DeLong – the chap who sparked off the debate in the first place by writing an article entitled Web 2.0 is Rubbish.

I’m dead chuffed he has taken the time and effort to post – so I thought I’d link to the conversation here.