Sunday, 30 March 2008

Words and pictures

I started this blog with the aim of testing out different ways of telling news stories but I wasn't sure what that would entail.
Looking at it now, it's got so much mad furniture going on around the actual words it's more like a small child's attempt at communication than anything else. But you know what - I love it!
A tiny handful of people read it but it's my blog with lots of bits and pieces I worked out how to put here myself.
And I have a lot of fun throwing things at it. I tend to start attacking things without really considering how they work; consequently a lot of the stuff here - like SpinVox and Utterz - are typical of someone telling me about a good thing they've discovered and me going off and messing about with it.
It doesn't always work well for me - trying to get by Google IM and Jaiku to link up did cause the kind of brow furrows I'm going to need Botox for one day - but on the whole I enjoy the haphazard approach.
Between Qik videos, Utterz widets, Jaiku badges and little red devils there's lots of messy things on this page. It may not look pretty, and I'm as sure as hell it's not clever - after all, I managed to do it! - but it shows what can be achieved.
I've got the editor's sign off to live stream conference on Qik as well; he's off for a week (during which time I get to the edit the Post, yay!) and then when he gets back we will show the world how we plan the next day's paper. I'm so excited about it - and I'd hope that we get lots of feedback from people on what we're planning for the content.
Anyway, I'm having a great time messing around with my new toys. Colleague Toby Chapman is building his own website; that's my next challenge...

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Fire alarm via SpinVox

UPDATE 2013: SpinVox subsequently closed down

Well we had a fire alarm in the office today which nobody knew anything about but it was the prefect opportunity to practice streaming via qik on my mobile phone and it worked really well.

I just need to work out now how to embed it the blog site because my quick test was if the phoned worked but then real thing didn't so that's my project for tonight.

Oh, and one one of the nice things about SpinVox is being able to post to the blog while I walk to my car in the rain"
spoken through SpinVox

Testing qik

So this is my first ever attempt at streaming on Qik and, let's face it, I am never going to be an auteur. However, the N95 performed really well and I was really very impressed by the website's ease of use. I think I want to try and stream some newsroom action next just to see how it performs on the move - I also like the idea of streaming afternoon conference although whether Trinity Mirror would be so keen is another matter...

Grrrr... British weather

Mobile post sent by Alison using Utterz Replies.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Information overload

I loved this article by Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal - it describes my own tendancy to wander deeper and deeper into the web (and usually further away from the information I was originally looking for).
Take this morning; I was supposed to finish my college project, upload it, throw clothes into a bag and go and socialise with real people, all within the hour.
I sat down to tweak the document... but then, somehow, I ended up on Twitter, and then on the Daily Post site and then into Digg and then yadda yadda yadda.
I came to my senses after about 20 minutes, while gripped by an accute attack of Random Facebook Game Challenge Anxiety (friend challenges you to game, you accept. Then you realise you do not, and never will, understand how Scramble works...)
I hauled myself back to the TM leaders project and I've just uploaded it. Yay! The day is mine again...

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Macca-Mills judgement

It was an interesting day today. We had the Macca v Mills details come out and the beautiful part about the internet is, of course, that you can publish the entire statement online when there was no way it would all make it into the paper. So it's here. It's about 4 pages long and it's absolutely compulsive reading. I recommend any body to have a look at it."
spoken through SpinVox

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Nokia N95

This is my cat Nyx doing her finest 'laser eyes' impression.
I took it with my new Nokia N95 which arrived this weekend as part of my (sometimes hopeless) attempts to learn different ways of reporting and making news.
Anyway, it's an absolute beast of a device and I'm hoping I will soon be able to try out live streaming to Qik or Bambuser via it.
This weekend, however, a heavy cold prevented me from doing anything constructive although I did try to make some headway with my Reader Engagement project between bouts of coughing.
Regarding the project I've moved further away from how newspapers can engage readers and more towards why we should be doing it. I'm very interested in Jane Stringer's ideas of networks; she makes excellent points about collaboration and participation. Sadly, I am nowhere near as lucid as her.
I think a lot of newspapers will struggle to engage readers because they won't hand over control. The Gazette on Teeside has done this with its hyperlocal sites and proved it can and should be done.
But it takes a degree of nerve to hand over your website to readers and not everyone is willing to make that leap of faith right now.
Personally I think that, unlike our readers, newspapers are no longer in the position to choose any more.
We have to change, and we have to do it quickly.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Speaking Freely

"This is my first post to the blog from my mobile phone. My colleague Toby Chapman told me about SpinVox Service which apparently should allow this to be relayed onto blog directly. If it doesn't then it just means that I've buggered up the mobile phone and I have to start again from scratch but fingers crossed this should be appearing soon."
spoken through SpinVox

Okay so it's not exactly 'It was the best of times... it was the worst of times' but you get the drift.
So I can now speak to my blog via my mobile phone; it posts it direct and I'm very impressed by the accuracy. It even lets you swear, which is unexpected - I only threw it in to see if it had a 'trip out' mechanism.
Unlike Utterz, it's not a social network but I could add it to my Facebook profile, Digg or if I wanted to.
There are some potentially good uses for this.
I could see Liverpool Daily Post reporters using this to file copy from, for example, high profile court cases. The reporter could dash outside during a lull in the proceedings, file to a (non-public facing) blog which the digital or news editor has access to, and simply file the report for it to be harvested and used on the newspaper website.
It's can be linked to Twitter as well, so followers are alerted when new copy is filed.
Similarly, citizen journalists could ring the number and file their news.

Update 2013: SpinVox no longer exists

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

social media isn't a website plug-in it's something you do

I found this while doing some research into online forums & thought it had some useful definitions.

Forums v Comment

I'm starting to think the Daily Post should reinstate the old 'have your say' option under our web articles.
We used to have them but they were scrapped because posts had to be moderated before they could be uploaded manually.
This meant sometimes comments posted on Saturday evening wouldn't appear online until Monday morning.
So now we have the forums - which are moderated after the post has been uploaded. So you get the odd spam advert on them, and the occasional idiot indulging in name-calling, but otherwise it runs smoothly.
All well and good.
But I suspect some people prefer to just comment-and-go, rather than go through the hassle of signing in to a forum and, potentially, having to create a new thread.
The Lancashire Evening Telegraph offers this this.
Maybe forums are areas were people have conversations with each other, and comment boxes are where they have conversations with the newspaper?

Stormy weather

Mobile post sent by Alison using Utterz Replies.  mp3

Monday, 10 March 2008

Work in progress...

I worked my socks off today and there's still lots to do. I hope the Inspiration Fairy gives me a slap around the head some time this week :-(

Mobile post sent by Alison using Utterz Replies.  mp3

Writers block

Mobile post sent by Alison using Utterz Replies.  mp3

Writers block1

I'm loving Utterz; I've been listening to others at the SXSW event in Austin, Texas this morning (for research, of course) and it's a fun way of blogging your thoughts. I'm elbow-deep in my project at the moment and I've had a couple of good ideas (well, I hope they're good) for the Daily Post as a result of all the reading and interviewing I've been doing. So I'm hoping to break the back of 3,000 words today. Ho ho...

Sunday, 9 March 2008

What on earth is Utterz?

UPDATE 2013: Utterz became Utterli, and then closed.

Today I was distracted from a ton of research into social networks by a Tweet from a friend in Sweden. Mark is probably the only digital media expert who also smashes up computers with a baseball bat if they don't please him. But he's also a total web genius so when I heard him (literally) talking online about his McDonalds meal - for chrissake eat something decent - I figured it was time to have a go.
Utterz is a kind of instant-blog. You just speak your thoughts and ideas, anywhere, using your mobile phone or computer. You can use voice, video, pictures, and/or text in a mash-up.
So I ventured onto Utterz and signed up. Two minutes later I was listening to myself talking in a very self-concious manner about recording my first post. Then, for some unknown reason, I started talking about my hair! For God's sake! I thought I only rambled when talking to other people; turns out I do it while talking to myself as well.
Anyway, ridiculous 'posh-bird' accent aside, I'm utterly in love with Utterz and have already made and loaded a widget on this blog.
There must be so many ways to use it - I did a bit of mooching around the Utterz site listening to people blog their thoughts and it was fascinating. I can think of so many ways to incorporate this in the Liverpool Daily Post website.
I hope Utterz takes off and I'm going to keep using it - at least until I get sick of the sound of my own voice...

Friday, 7 March 2008

Death by car bonnet

Every machine I own is actively conspiring to make my life a living nightmare.
I thought I was fairly open-minded when it came to technology but I'm rapidly subscribing to the Way of the Baseball Bat.
(This was recommended by a friend. He bought a job lot of old Macs and keeps them in his back yard so he can smash one up when his Computer Range is particularly bad).
Anyway, the latest sortie was made by my car. It tried to kill me.
I was headed to work today, NOT listening to my iPod through the radio (thanks for nothing Belkin) when the bonnet suddenly flew up without warning. At 60mph...
It was an exciting moment both for me and for the lorry driver I was overtaking - and only when I made it safely to a layby so I could sort the damn thing out did I realise I had officially had a near miss.
Meanwhile, the social networks project continues; the more I research this whole issue of newspapers and Web 2.0, the more I realise how far the industry has fallen behind.
I asked Rob Marcus from Chat Moderators how newspaper social networks could succeed. His advice, in a nutshell, was:
1). Control freakery is as unattractive in newspapers as it is in people; take part, don't take over
2). Have a little humility
3). You only get one chance to make a first impression
In the interests of extending our reach to readers I briefly wondered if the Daily Post should get a Pownce account; having read this it sounds as though we're better off sticking with Twitter until things become a bit clearer.
Talking of Pownce, co-creator Kevin Rose could soon be a rich man by all accounts.
Microsoft and Google are apparently fighting it out for Digg in a deal rumoured to be worth $200-$250m. And Facebook's creator is now worth around $15bn.
Ever wish you'd chosen a career in computers?

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


Today has been one of technological challenges which have left me with a pounding head and a need for red wine in significant quantities.
First I installed a portal to play my ipod through the car stereo which took me about two minutes. It was small, unobtrusive... and on current evidence totally bloody useless.
I drove about a mile when the thing BLIPPED - at decibel levels RAF planes are forbidden to create over mainland Britain - then died. I nearly died too - I was so shocked I accidentally swerved into the second lane of the dual carriageway and seriously mithered White Van Man.
It's still not working.
Then I had to take part in a webinar, liasing with various other editorial managers across the country via a webcam/chat set-up. It turned out to be 45 minutes of technical problems, 10 minutes of some people repeatedly mouthing "Can you hear me?" while everyone else typed "no", and five minutes of useful information.
Bored with the technical shenanigins on my screen, and flushed with success from Blidget-creation, I ambitiously tried to add RSS to the blog.
It has so far proved a spectacular failure.
Not content with wasting an hour of my life on something I wasn't even sure I wanted (I just wanted to see if I could do it) I finally roped the digital editor in for some expert advice. He knew exactly what was wrong; it was me.
RSS has beaten me... for now. Battle will recommence once I have calmed down.
When I tried to post this my computer crashed. It was the most crushing techno-insult of the day.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Tribes online

Why do people use online social networks? What do we get out of it and what prompts us to join certain communities?
As well as the inevitable Facebook I'm on Twitter, Linkedin and Flickr to name a few.
I like my friends being the click of a mouse away. I like to know what they're up to (although I don't need to know what kind of Superhero they are, thanks Facebook) and I like feeling a part of a wider network, of knowing via Twitter that there are people batting for me when I'm having a grim day at work.
Plus sites such as Digg are damn useful.
Now however, work has intruded on my little social network idyll. No, I'm not banned from using them - it's worse than that: I have to research why we use them.
Yes, in a bid to try and give Liverpool Daily Post readers what they want, I'm now researching the phenomenon... the catch is that I have to fit this rather unwieldy subject around my working day and have a fully researched report ready to go by the end of the fortnight. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.
Personally I think it's all a bit tribal. We belong to something; we are a part of a network that transcends family and friends. I've had people I barely know try to link up with me via one network or another. It can also be a bit exclusive. Okay, I didn't know Twitter existed until two months ago but now I do and I'm extremely supercilious with anyone who isn't sending tweets yet.
So, there you have it: We're all just smug Web 2.0 tribes, wasting time at work by networking with mates across the world.
Now I just have to stretch that to 3,000 words...

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Blidget building

So here I am, back from skiing less than 24 hours and instead of unpacking the suitcase I've been busy discovering how to turn this blog into a bligdet.
This would no doubt be the work of moments for anyone under 25 but it took me some serious effort, and not a few stomps around the room - plus a thrilling two minutes when I locked myself out of my Facebook profile after turning H&D (as I like to call it) into an application and uploading it to my profile.
Anyway, those of you who have a blog and would like to make it a blidget go to and you'll find an idiot's guide to making your blog into a widget and spreading it around the world.
It was easier than I thought and and I now have a blidget logged with Widgetbox (although I am somewhat further down the popularity list than the divine Perez Hilton
I've also set up a blog badge so people can add my widget... and the strangest thing was that it was very satisfying being able to grasp the technology and do something with it.
I thought before I started it was going to be difficult and I'd end up abandoning the project halfway through.
Sometimes it's nice to be wrong.