14 Mar 2007

yahoo pipes how-to… finally

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A few weeks ago, John Thompson, the publisher of Journalism.co.uk (and a nice bloke) emailed to let me know that this blog would be included in a mash-up of journalism blogs he was creating using Yahoo Pipes.

For those who aren’t acquinted with Yahoo Pipes, it basically allows you to do all sorts of interesting things taking by aggregating feeds and applying keywords (or other user defined criteria) to them before then exporting the whole shabang as a single feed. So, for example, you could mashup all the RSS feeds from a list of two hundred blogs about football, apply some rules, for instance you don’t want anything about Manchester United but you do want Arsenal and Chelsea, then set the feed up to publish somewhere else (or just subscribe to it).

Sounds complicated, which is exactly why, having looked at Yahoo Pipes when it was first launched, I ran like a scared puppy from all it’s RSS aggregation mashup filtered goodness. Thankfully, John gave it a whirl and has now posted a complete yahoo pipes how-to with screenshots. This is incredibly useful stuff.

14 Mar 2007

links for 2007-03-14

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Bbcmanchesterblog BBC Manchester’s Richard Fair and myself will be giving a presentation at the Multimedia Meets Radio conference (pdf) organised by the European Broadcasting Union in Geneva, Switzerland on the 29th and 30th of March.

We’ll be talking about the BBC Manchester Blog project which is a slightly out of the ordinary take on mainstream media’s engagement with the stuff formerly known as user generated content. The conference blog says:

“The Manchester blog project, which is run by Richard Fair and Robin Hamman, turns the conventional BBC way of doing things on its head.

Instead of using sub-editors to review and approve UGC, Richard and Robin simply keep an eye on where contributors are publishing their content online. And rather than building new applications, the project team is helping people to create content on existing platforms, such as Flickr, YouTube and blogger.com.”

The full conference programme can be found here.

08calvin1902 Toronto based fashion and shopping blog I want – I got picks up on a rather strange advertising campaign for Calvin Klein’s new in2u scent.

“We have envisioned this as the first fragrance for the technosexual generation,” said Mr. Murry, using a term the company made up to describe its intended audience of thumb-texting young people whose romantic lives are defined in part by the casual hookup.
Last year, the company went so far as to trademark “technosexual,” anticipating it could become a buzzword for marketing to millennials, the roughly 80 million Americans born from 1982 to 1995. A typical line from the press materials for CK in2u goes like this: “She likes how he blogs, her texts turn him on. It’s intense. For right now.”

I never thought I’d live to see the day when txt sex was deemed to be cool enough for an advertising campaign, even if Beckham does it.

In a NY Times article about the advertising for the fragrance, Lory Singer at marketing agency Coty, says that “technosexuals” are open to marketing messages that other age groups wouldn’t respond favourably to by explaining that technosexuals:

“… are much more empowered, but they are unshockable. They have seen everything from 9/11 to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears without underwear. They see everything instantaneously that goes on in the world.”

Well, if you’ve seen Britney and Paris without knickers…

Now I’ve got to try to crowbar this post back into cybersoc.com… The NY Times article doesn’t just quote people from established marketing agencies and Calvin Klein fragrances, but goes to several bloggers and presents them as experts:

“Youngna Park, 24, a freelance photographer, would seem to be just this kind of individual and consumer. She has been interviewed by companies looking to tap into the millennial mind-set (though not by the researchers for CK in2u). Ms. Park moved to New York two and a half years ago and began taking pictures in restaurants and writing an online food column for Gothamist, a blog for urban markets. Her network of friends and professional contacts was forged partly through the Internet, and she has occasionally dated people she met online.

She would seem an ideal candidate to illustrate the term “technosexual,” if the idea did not immediately turn her off. “That’s such a weird phrase,” she said. “I just imagine kids putting on cologne to sit behind their computers. That’s really weird.”

They also interviewed Zach Klein (no relation) who was a partner in CollegeHumor.com. He told the New York Times,

“What’s most interesting about our generation is that it is very obvious when brands are attempting to market down to us when they use our own vernacular or types of personal technology. It’s very transparent, and I tend to shy away… abbreviating in2u like that is lame,to put it simply.”

It’s nice to see the NY Times using blogs and bloggers as a source of content and context within their articles.

Calvin Klein, however, has fallen back on that old build, manage and own model:

“To seem more authentic, Calvin Klein is trying to reach consumers on their own turf by creating an online community, whatareyouin2.com, patterned after sites like MySpace and Facebook. The company has invited students at film schools around the country to submit shorts addressing the theme of “what are you into?” and their clips can be found on the site.”

Instead, they could axe a few of those hardcore web developers who like to build complex social software systems and instead use their site to showcase and link out to third party services like myspace, facebook, youtube and flickr – along the way giving users the tools they are used to using and that work, embracing the audiences of those service, and reducing technical, editorial and moderation costs too.

13 Mar 2007

new feed to read: doctorvee

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Doctorvee_1 For months I’ve been proactively trying to cut down on the number of RSS feeds I’m subscribed to because, these days, I rarely get a chance to check more than a dozen of them each day anyway. There’s something about hitting the 200 unread posts per blog limit on bloglines that fills me with dread – and leads to bizarre incidents where I have to close my eyes and click on feeds randomly because I just can’t face missing all that content knowingly.

I did describe those as “bizarre incidents”.

My point in telling you this is not so that you immediately run a mile but, instead, so that you realise that I must really really really be impressed with a blog these days to subscribe to it. Well, today someone sent me a link to a cutting post on DoctorVee, a blog I hadn’t come across before:

“As usual for a Sunday, I woke up this morning listening to Julian Worricker’s programme on Radio Five Live. Today, in place of the Five Live Report, was a one-off programme about “Blogging in the UK”.

“Oh, that’ll be interesting,” I thought, so I stayed in bed and waited for it to come on. I was to discover that the programme wasn’t about blogging at all.

Blogging in the UK was originally part of ‘Your Five Live’, which I mentioned in my post about user generated content. Specifically, it was a feature of Five Live’s Breakfast programme.

The idea was to take a day during ‘Your Five Live’ week — the 22nd of January — and encourage as many first time bloggers to write about their day. The results are predictably awful, reinforcing the stereotypes about how bloggers are just people who write about what they had for breakfast.

And it shows just how little whoever came up with the idea actually knows about what blogging is about. For a start, the entries were posted by users in the comments of the Breakfast programme’s blog. This isn’t blogging. This is just a list of people’s mundane day to day activities.”

DoctorVee reaches parts that other blogs don’t touch with posts like User generated content doesn’t belong on the mainstream media , Blogging takes no time at all , Broadcasters should now be biased if they want to be and Warning: This is a navel-gazing post about blogging, and they are the worst.

I realise that some of these posts are near enough a year old now which means that I’m rather late to the party. To make up for it, I not only left a comment and wrote this nice post, I’ve added DoctorVee, written by a Duncan Steven in Fife, to my feed subscriptions and added him to my delicious network too. I see some of my workmates have already done the same…

13 Mar 2007

links for 2007-03-13

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12 Mar 2007

links for 2007-03-12

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09 Mar 2007

participation isn’t always good

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The recent controversy over premium rate phone in votes to television programmes in the UK not being tallied properly underlines the point that audiences will eventually question, then turn against, participation for participation’s sake. The programmes in question, where audience members voted for or against on screen contestants by the million, were primarily entertainment and quiz shows but perhaps the news industry should take note too.

Over the past few years, and more so now than ever before, just about everyone in the news and media industries argues that interactivity, audience contributions, participatory journalism, audience communities and “user generated content” are inherently and unquestionably good. Those who don’t make those arguments are, increasingly, being said to “not get it”.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of people creating and sharing stuff online and I do believe that, in some instances, it IS a good thing for news and media organisations to point to or use this stuff in their reporting of stories. But, sadly, I think we get it wrong a lot more often than we get it right.

But user generated content isn’t free – it takes editorial and technical infrastructure to ingest, manage, store and display. Simply adding feedback form at the bottom of every news article, or advertising an email address for people to submit photos (of what? why??), may have results that are far from “good”. Those who take the time and effort, sometimes even incur a cost, to submit this content expect it to be used. The staff at the receiving end are often under-resourced to the point that they don’t have time to even look at all the stuff that does come in, much less thank everyone who made a submission or alert everyone whose content has been used. This sort of user generated content collection is devoid of editorial purpose, wastes resources and provides those who do choose to “participate” with a poor experience.

The costs of providing a good experience to the audience must be weighed against the potential value to the, often much larger, non-contributing audience (and anyway, how do we know for sure that the second of these audience types actually like audience contributions?). It also needs to be looked at alongside other possible uses of scarce editorial resource: a person sifting through emails, often following an untargetted call to action, is a person who can’t be utilised on other tasks like investigating, interviewing or reporting.

What I’m saying is this:

1) User generated content, participation, or whatever else you want to call it isn’t all equal, nor is it unquestionably “good”

2) Resources spent ingesting, managing, storing and displaying user generated content are resources that could have been utilised on other tasks

3) Empty calls to action lead to disappointment amongst those who contribute and simply waste resources within the news organisation

For news and media organisations to do user generated content well, they need to ensure:

1) That they make good calls to action which lead to a high signal-to-noise ratio, where the majority of content submitted is focused and editorially relevant

2) That their efforts are well enough resourced so that everyone who does submit content, even if it isn’t used, feels that their participation has been valued

3) That the content collected from the audience is actually useful in telling the story rather than simply gratuitous attempts to run a tally of “participatory actions” amongst audience members

Let’s not let what happened in entertainment television happen to those of us who work in other areas of the media and news industries. It’s about time we learned that it’s not participation that is good, not contribution numbers that count, but that our calls to action were made for a clear editorial gain and that those who did choose to participate were provided with a positive experience when doing so.

Anything less betrays our audience and will, in time, erode their trust in us.

[Disclaimer: This post, like everything on this blog, is my personal opinion and not that of my employer.]

09 Mar 2007

links for 2007-03-09

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About Robin Hamman

I've been helping some of the World's most widely recognised brands and organisations devise and implement strategic digital and social media programmes since 1999.

I'm currently the EMEA Digital Network Lead at Fleishman Hillard. I've previously held a variety of roles including Managing Director of Dachis Group Europe, Director of Digital at Edelman, Head of Social Media at Headshift, Acting Editor of the BBC Blogs and Executive Producer at ITV.

In addition to my day job, I help my wife run an online retail business selling wool blankets - if you're feeling chilly, check out JustSheep.co.uk

I hold a BA in Education, MA in Sociology, MPhil in Communication Studies and a PgDip in Law. I've also been a Non-Residential Fellow at Stanford University Law School and a Visiting Fellow of Journalism at City University, London.

Why cybersoc.com? In 1995, I tried to register, for the purposes of researching "ordinary users", the username Cybersociologist on AOL. They truncated my name and I stuck with it....

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