Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Sharing videos on Twitter with Ffwd

My heart sank when I opened up the Google Reader after a busy few days; more than 1,500 items is way too many to be able to keep on top of with a quick scan through.
So I weighed up the work/life balance and MAAR-ed without a backward glance - apart from Mashable's feed, which is always worth a quick delve.
And so it proved again, tipping me off to an interesting tweak to video-sharing site Ffwd.

Among other things, Ffwd lets you import videos to your online library from various locations - Youtube, Break, Spike, MySpace, MetaCafe,, and Daily Motion - or upload your own from Youtube and Vodpod.
Once in your library, you can share them with friends, by sending them links. And now users can cross-post to Twitter when sharing a video.

That sounded like something that might work with our Daily Post YouTube and Twitter accounts so I signed up to see if/how it worked.

First I embedded two videos that had gone on our website that day (one from our YouTube channel, one from a blog embed) into my library.
Then I was ready to share the video.
Obviously you have to share a video with someone, so I needed to find a willing victim - in this case the Echo's design editor, Gary Bainbridge.
He's accustomed to being my guinea pig on such random tests that he merely shrugged resignedly and joined.
I shared a video with him (of Rafa's Champion's League press conference; Gary's an Evertonian) wrote my message in the text box alongside and almost instantly it appeared in my Twitter stream:

It doesn't appear as an @ tweet though - just a standalone message that also cross-posts to my Facebook status and Friendfeed.
If I had sent it out as the Liverpool Daily Post, as opposed to myself, it would have been published in the Daily Post's LFC Twitter stream. It's a simple way of alerting an audience to new content, although I wouldn't say it was any more effective than tweeting a shortened url to the YouTube channel.

What it does do however (although Ffwd stresses it is not a social network) is give users the opportunity to share content quickly among themselves, while building their own online library/channels of content. That means the Rafa video has a new market in which to get picked up and send on; it also means, I think, that the addition of an unobtrusive LDP logo on the film could be useful.
So, interesting, potentially useful and free to join and use. Worth investigating further I think.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Flickr: The Book

I've learned so much about online communities and interaction from the Daily Post's Flickr group. I've written about it before and I'm fairly sure I will in the future, as I think Flickr is a wonderful example of collaborative story-telling.

But the reason I've been immersed in Flickr this week is because a group of us are working on a new book featuring the work of the group. It's being designed by Trinity Mirror's SportMedia department, and will feature several pages of work by the Post & Echo photographers, followed by substantially more pages of seriously wonderful images from the Flickr group.

The aim is to capture the essence of European Capital of Culture Year, and all the usual suspects are there (La Princess, the Tall Ships, Brouhaha, Macca at Anfield) but the UGC element gives it more depth, more... heart.
I think the difference is that the Flickr photographers weren't running to a tight schedule, covering the event for two papers, up against a deadline and with another job to get to. They were immersed in the event, spectator and recorder (sometimes participant); they were capturing the essence of the performance, rather than faithfully portraying an event.

So we have, for example, a beautiful shot of a Tall Ship sailing past the Liver Building taken by a Post & Echo photographer whose brief was to show readers what was happening.
Alongside it is a Flickr photo of a father and his young son, grabbing a five minute sit-down amid all the excitement of the day and sharing an ice cream. This image was uploaded the Flickr group and sat amid other photos of flying pennants, the Mexican ship's maharishi band and throngs of visitors. It was a part of a multi-dimensional tapestry that comprehensively depicted an exciting day on the Liverpool waterfront.

The Flickr photographs are not better than the professional photographers, nor is the reverse true; they compliment each other. We use Flickr photos in the paper every week, credit the photographer and link back, but the book feels different. We couldn't have done it without the co-operation of the Flickr members, and that makes it special.

The book will, I think, bring pleasure to a lot of people and - perhaps more importantly - raise money for our Liverpool Unites charity. We contacted the Flickr group for permission (via a posting on the discussion board and, once photos had been selected, individually) and the warmth of the responses to the idea was really something. Interestingly, everyone chose to be bylined under their 'real' names, not their Flickr names.

For me, this project has offered some clue to new, exciting ways newspapers can work with communities to create something new, lasting and valuable for readers. We could have produced a book of 2008 using staff images only and it would have been a quality publication. But collaborating with the Flickr group to tell the story of a special year feels so much more satisfying and is, I think, a more appropriate tribute.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Testing FineTuna

I've been playing around with a new web app that lets you upload, comment on and share photos easily.
It's called FineTuna and it is such a simple way of telling a story.

I've tried it out on a photo of the Yellow Submarine outside Liverpool John Lennon Airport (which was taken by Neil Shenton from the Daily Post's Flickr group).
Basically, you select the image you want - either using a url or uploading direct from your computer - add notes wherever you choose on the photo, you can also draw lines (I circled the rusty spot on the sub and wrote a note saying it could do with a lick of paint) and then emailed it to my Gmail account. A link arrived which took me to the page with my annotated photo. I could then add my own notes and send it on to... well, anyone really.

I love this idea. It's so quick and easy - perfect for covering a breaking news event; it would take seconds for a photographer at, for example, a major road crash, to upload an image, annotate with their own eyewitness account of what appeared to be happening, and email the link to the office. It would work brilliantly for liveblogging events and I think it could even work for certain crowdsourcing scenarios, where experts on, say, a specific forum, could annotate a relevant image with their own views. And you can install it as a FireFox extension.
It's refreshing to have a real 'does what it says on the tin' new tool to play around with. Finetuna is, I think, an app that has masses of story-telling potential and it's one I hope we can play around with in future.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

I'm a mechanic!

I follow Amy Gahran on Twitter, and she's a constant source of information and humour. I'm a fan of the way she operates and thinks, and so I subscribe to her feed in my Google Reader. Last month she brought me tales of naked Trick or Treaters, this week I learn, courtesy of her blog, that I am a Mechanic.

That doesn't mean I've turned my back on the high-paying, easy life of a regional newspaper journalist. It is, apparently, the type of blog I write. Using the Typealyzer tool I discovered that as the author of Headlines and Deadlines I am type ISTP aka The Mechanics.

Next time someone asks me what's going on in my head I'm going to point them at this blog post, as Typealyzer provided a handy diagram of it...

Apparently, as a Mechanic, I am:
* Independent and problem-solving
* Good at responding to challenges that arise spontaneously
* Prefer to think things out for myself and avoid inter-personal conflicts.
* Enjoy working with other independent and highly skilled people
* Often like seek fun and action both in work and personal life.

I'm happy to learn that Mechanics enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars, less thrilled to discover I'm in the wrong career - I should have gone for the Police or Fire Service according to Typealyzer.
So, while I would have loved for it to tell me I'm the artistic, inspiration type apparently I'm a 'roll up the sleeves, pitch in when there's a crisis' kinda gal. Interesting (although less in tune with my Belbin findings) and possibly not really that representative of me. Because this is a blog about me learning things, and trying ideas and apps out, rather than my high-flying thoughts on life, the universe and everything.
So I've put the Typealyzer widget on this site to see if/how it changes, depending on whether I'm writing practical posts, or simply banging on about things.
Still, come the revolution I'm sure there will be a market for people who enjoy driving race cars and the like, so at least I've always got a fall-back position.

(Mechanic Photo: CGill, Flickr)

Thursday, 6 November 2008

I posted a message on Twitter today...

... because I thought this feature on one of our Flickr group members was so good it was worth sharing.
And then I got this message back...

And you know what? I was so wrapped up in the idea of the Post getting a story out of our Flickr group that it never occurred to me that all we were doing was telling the tale again.
It took Nick Booth (@podnosh) a second to read my tweet and see the flaw in it.

It gave me a bit of a pause actually. Because I like to think that I'm all up with the idea of sharing, engagement, communities, and newspapers. But really, all I did was spot a story on Flickr, suggest to a writer that he get in touch with the photographer; they collaborated, and then it got published in my paper.
I lifted it, if you like, in the same way we might spot the germ of a story in a national and expand on it. (Although the feature is Link City and there are hyperlinks on the web version to the Flickr page).

So I guess I didn't pay close enough attention to Here Comes Everybody after all. It's not nice to get something wrong, but I'm chalking this one down to a learning experience, and have posted a message on our Flickr group's board suggesting that if they have a story we could follow up they might want to let us know. Fingers crossed, we'll have some more stories like Hobgrumble's to share with our readers.

To twist the film's line "There are eight million stories in the internet. This has been one of them" ...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

No escape...

I'm bored of the US election, of Lewis Hamilton (yes, it was exciting but it was on Sunday), of Clarkson's latest gaff and of Ross&Brand, but there's no escape.
Because between bloggers, my Google Reader, Twitter and Plurk, I'm getting the news even if I don't want it.
Which got me thinking: In a networked world, is there any way of avoiding being kept informed?
If I don't want to watch the TV it's a straight deal - I turn it off and I feel happy it's not intruding in my time.
But if I ignore my online social networks then I'm depriving myself of interesting conversation (which I can participate in or observe), useful links, banter, encouragement... I feel like I'm missing out. (Of course, in the case of Plurk's ridiculous karma rating I also get penalised for not participating, but frankly that's too irritating to make me take any notice).
And even if I opt not to look, I get sent things via Digg, Mento, Delicious that are simply too damn interesting not to get involved with. And then I send on Shouts, or comment on Mento links, or retweet an interesting link - and so the cycle continues.
Social networks are the greatest defence against ignorance I've come across. It's just too anti-social not to get involved.
So a networked world may be the greatest defence against ignorance there is. It's certainly the biggest time-thief. Now, I've just been send a video link of how to survive a zombie attack, so I have to go...