How lovely! Taken at about 7am this morning – it’s now 11.30 and it has started to melt, but this field now has six snowmen in it!
Bambuser is a service that can stream live video from a webcam or mobile phone onto the Internet. I was shown it for the frist time in Preston by one of my tutors and today got a couple of Brummie bloggers (Pete Ashton and Stef Lewandowski) trying it out too. The result was quite entertaining – three windows with three conversations going on.
I like Bambuser and can see its potential for opening up the newsroom – perhaps streaming news conferences or getting journalists to check in with readers.
As with Qik, the mobile function also allows journalists to stream events live and to allows readers a chance to ask questions.
The blogs are starting to get a few comments: Roshan Doug, James Treadwell, Stef Lewandowski and Terry Grimley have recieved good-quality responses. Terry’s is longer than his actual post, which is both unbelievable and wonderful. I’ve always had a feeling that Terry would make a good blogger… he has said he plans to respond to comments soon.
I’m so nervous…it feels so scary to have to wait to see what works and what doesn’t.
I’ve already realised that we might have been slightly guilty of letting form get in the way of content, with some very good blog posts ending up in some very odd blog sections. It’s nothing that can’t be changed with a bit of aggregator wizardry… but it’s a lesson learnt.
I just hope our bloggers keep up the good posts!
As an aside, I’m still looking to cover a few more areas in the blogs, namely: music, sport and politics.
It has been pointed out to me more than once that there’s not a strong right-of-centre voice amongst our current team. I might disagree, but still… there’s certainly room for more controversy…
So… there it is. The shiny new Birmingham Post website is now up and running.
There’s still a lot to do and more bloggers to add tomorrow (!) but I’m pretty pleased. We’ve all worked really hard…
…which is why I am now going to go home and sleep.
So I was woken up an hour ago by shaking walls and the crashing of books falling off their shelves. It looks now as if the UK has been hit by an earthquake. Reports so far vary suggesting its magnitude was between 4.7 and 5.3 [edit: modified to 4.9 at 0245].
It’s the second time the earth has moved for me in Brum – the first being the Dudley earthquake in 2002.
The difference this time (as well as it being bigger – rumours are that this one was the largest earthquake in the UK for 20 years) was that I could confirm instantly that there had been a quake by logging on to Twitter, whereas I spent hours in 2002 convinced the rumbling must have been an explosion. As my Twitter account demonstrates, there were a fair few of us wondering what had shaken us out of our slumber.
It was interesting too that the first report I saw about the earthquake from a news organisation was via a tweet from Bounder. Through Twittersearch he had found a report from Twitter-based Dutch news service BreakingNewsOn. I then found other links to sites including a Seesmic (apt name for this) video blog from Midlands-based Documentally. [this was blogged seconds after the quake, I am told] I even tried to put my not-so-great skills into a Google map of the epicentre. [which, according to Podnosh, scooped Sky News!]
More on how the story unfolded from ReadWriteWeb. I’m off back to bed!
As the countdown to the website launch begins, I don’t expect to be getting much opportunity to blog over the next few days.
Yesterday was spent tagging up some of the stories that have been imported over from the old CMS. It’s a funny job – my instinct is to just tag everything and anything that is mentioned in the story. But, when you remember that these will appear in the “related stories” box on the page, you have to be a bit more tactical with your tags.
Steve (our multimedia editor) and I have been building up a few internal rules as we go along. As, when the website launches, journalists or sub-editors will tag the story, I imagine we’ll develop a stronger set of tagging conventions. Apprently this, according to people wiser than I, is called a folksonomy. But, of course, it’s a folksonomy that will be created only by the content creators, rather than the users.
I am curious to know if this will effect the way things are tagged and, if it does, whether that is a bad thing or not? Should there be a way for readers to submit tags? Would they even want to? And, if they do, how would you stop that creating a tag cloud as large as the moon?
This ties in to a conversation Marc (my editor) and I were having the other day about the transparent newsroom. He’s written about it on his blog. I have been really taken with what the Spokesman Review is doing in the US (see right hand column on their homepage). They have been experimenting with a variety of different techniques to open up the process of newsgathering and writing, with varying degrees of success. [found via the World Editors’ Forum weblog]
I love the idea that I am not only directly answerable to the people who sign my pay check, but also to the people I purport to be writing for and, if we would make any of the things the Spokesman Review is doing work on our paper, I’d love to try them.
But, as with the tags, would anyone really be interested in taking part? If so, how?
I have been bad! Twelve whole days without a single post!
Would it surprise you that I can blame my lack of blogging entirely on… well… blogging?
Over the last two weeks I have been immersed in the creation and organisation of http://blogs.birminghampost.net. It has been a fantastic thing to get stuck into – if not a little hair-raising given the time schedule!
The brief has been to create a blog section for The Post that links into the sectors that we hope to cover. But, within that brief, there was quite a bit of flexibility. Would we just have staff writers? Would we ask for volunteers from outside of The Post? Would we have one blogger per sector, or more?
I had one big aim for the blogs – to get a bigger blogging presence in the West Midlands. My attention has been drawn to the BBC Manchester Blogs Project (thanks Craig and Francois), which includes guest bloggers (some who blog already, some who do not).
It’s an interesting and innovative approach and I like the way it draws people in and allows them to test the water. But, when some only post once and do not have their own blog, it seems to limit the conversation that can build up.
I also looked at some of the approaches that other newspapers have taken to blogging.
Many seem to have labelled blogs as online columns, choosing one or two people to be their “voices of authority”and sticking to them. It has always been an approach that has annoyed me, there’s something quite dictatorial about it.
Newspaper blogs that take this approach also often end up covering rather predictable topics which are probably more interesting to journalists than their readers: an editor spouting forth his wisdom in a “I know better than you” kind of way, a grumpy old man talking about how things aren’t as good as the old days… of course, I’m generalising here, but I think it’s a pattern others might recognise.
Another approach newspapers seem to take to blogs is to open them up to all their staff as an ultra-niche publishing platform for their interests. While many hobby blogs can be great, you can often end up with a collection of blogs that have nothing to do with anything else that appears on the newspaper’s website
So, I’ve been spending the last two weeks putting together a plan and doing a spot of recruiting both inside and outside of the paper. I wanted us to have a mix of experienced bloggers and complete beginners and I wanted them to be covering issues that loosely made sense within the context of The Post. Those who are completely new to the platform will be given help and guidance when and where they want it.
The response has been great… actually better than great. We have a mix of young and old from journalism, business, academia and the creative and cultural sectors. We’ve even had to start a waiting list!
I am under no illusions, however, that everyone who launches a blog with us will stick with it. Blogging is not for everyone, but I’d rather people had a go to see what worked for them. Because we want to keep things flexible for our first wave of Post bloggers, we’ve (hopefully) designed the blogs in a way that factors this in. If they post once or twice and never again, so be it, although I will be working very hard to get them as hooked as I am!
I hope too it’s something that can grow and change as it develops. If we have a demand for niche hobby bloggers, then we can cater for that, or if our site gains a substantial following for a particular topic, we can deal with that too.
Obviously I’ll be relying on you all to tell me what you think when we launch!
So, one of the rather major things that happened last week was that our sister paper, The Birmingham Mail, launched its new website.
Bounder has also provided some fantastic constructive criticism. This made me smile:
One problem that illustrates the peculiarity and the difference about content online is the journalists/subs use of “today”, “tomorrow” etc. in headlines – we don’t have the context online that we have with the physical copies “is that today’s Mail?”. Use of airy times online, where content can stay on a page for longer, means that “FOUR unsigned Midland bands are battling it out in Birmingham tonight” can’t work.
Sometimes it is the most simple of things that can elude us.
Now it is no secret, and in fact is announced in the above articles, that the new Birmingham Post website is due to launch this month. As part of the preparations, I’m going to move off of editorial for a few weeks and help with the website project.
It’s also no secret that the basic template that The Post site will use will be the same as The Mail, although we do have a certain amount of room for manoeuvre.
So, with the Mail doing the hard part and launching first, I’d be interested in what, if anything, we could do better?
Obviously, I can’t promise that it’ll be possible to implement it (we are already working from the suggestions that were given here previously). But, well, in the spirit of friendly rivalry it would be nice if we could do a little better than them!
I ran out of time to post anything more from my time in Preston, but I doubt it will be the last time I refer to it as it has had quite an impact. At the moment I think I’m suffering from brain burn. I can’t remember the last time I used the old grey matter so intensely for so long.
One thing that came out is that I am in serious need of upgrading my mobile package. Playing with the Nokia N95 made me realise I need to find out how mobile Internet is working and how that might effect people who use The Post website (and how I might do my job as a journalist).
I don’t get a work mobile and my current personal mobile is talk and text only. I will have to change it but the thing is, I’m on a really good tariff. I signed up to it with BT Genie back in the day when I was a student and BT was experimenting with selling online. Because I never moved O2 keeps me on it to stop me going elsewhere.
- £10 a month contract
- 50 free off-peak minutes every day (1400 a month).
- unlimited free texts a month
Good, huh? If I try not to use it for work calls during the day too much then it’s a very good package. So, relunctant to lose the contract I phoned O2 today to see what they could offer me. I have two options.
Option 1: Internet bolt-on
- 2MB a month for £3
- 4MB a month for £5
- Unlimited access for £25
Option 2: Change of package to Online 35:
- £35 a month contract
- 600 free mins a month
- 1000 free texts a month
- Unlimited internet access for £7.50 a month extra
I think it’s probably going to end up with me taking the bolt on, but boosting my outgoing on a mobile from at least £10 to at least £30 is still a pain in the arse. The other thing is that it would not allow we the handset upgrade. If I wanted an 8GB N95, for example, I would have the pleasure of paying £249.
So, is there a better contract out there?