Twitter

using behavioural data to create compelling content

By on Nov 9, 2009 in BBC, blogging techniques, headshift, journalism, newspapers, politics, social software |

[Originally posted to the Headshift blog last Friday] Most owners of social software systems use the data generated through usage in their reporting of metrics. So, alongside the standard metrics such as unique users, page impressions, time spent, etc, social tools often enable actions which can also be counted and reported, such as registrations, content submissions, comments generated by that content, etc. The data generated by social activities can also be useful in identifying key gatekeepers within online communities, or relationships that wouldn't otherwise be apparent. Headshift does this sort of analysis for a growing number of clients, and one of our case studies describes a project we did with the BBC to better understand that people who comment on a BBC Blog is likely to also post comments on other BBC blogs. Usage data can also make for compelling content. An example that many are likely to be familiar with are Amazon's "Frequently Bought Together" and "What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item" features, which use data on what users view and purchase to make better recommendation. Many news and media sites are also waking up to the value of exposing data generated by the behaviour and actions of users to, for example, highlight the "most read" and "most emailed" pieces of content. Today I came across Facebook's Peace Project which turns user behaviour into genuinely interesting content. The project looks at user profile data on location, religion and political stance and ties it to data generated when users add each other as friends to provide in interesting glimpse at friendships that cross unlikely geographic, political or religious boundaries. So, for example, in the graph below we can see that, over the proceeding 24 hours, 5,085 friendships were confirmed by users in Israel and those in Palestine: The story this data tells is interesting in that it demonstrates that, despite geo-political barriers, people are still making connections – and this gives at least a glimmer of hope that, despite political events, people can and do continue to connect on the individual level. There's no reason why similar ideas couldn't be deployed in other sectors: within enterprise systems, behavioural data can be used to better understand how organisations function, and how emergent practice is, or isn't, supported by existing bureaucratic structures consumer and audience behaviour can be used, as seen above and as I wrote yesterday in my post about Twitter Times, to make user centred content recommendations or to gauge, as we're finding in a current Headshift project, customer inquiries about products or services so that resources can be better deployed in responding public officials could use such data to pinpoint resources at emerging areas of interest or need – google has been doing interesting work on this, creating a swine flu map based on searches We're only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making best use of the data that is generated by user participation using social tools but things are starting to get very interesting...

jestem dziennikarz, autor internetowego bloga

By on Aug 5, 2008 in blogging, journalism, politics | 4 comments

Last week as I was stopped on Oxford Street by a crew from TVP1 (Poland) and asked to give a vox pop (comment) on the attire of British politicians. Gordon Brown, I told them, tends to look quite stuffy and grey – in line with the perception most people have of him. Cameron, I had to admit, is the better dressed of the two but David Milliband, who I explained had recently been in the press as a possible contender in a future Labour leadership race, is the best dressed of the lot. After the interview I handed the TVP journalist my moo card in the hopes that he’d send me a link to the video clip. He did, and it turns out that TVP decided that rather than calling me an ordinary man on Oxford Street, which for all intentions and purposes I was that day, it would actually lend weight to the piece if they referred to me as "dziennikarz, autor internetowego bloga": Download...

interesting debate on transparency and journalism

By on Apr 25, 2008 in blogging techniques, citizen journalism, journalism, politics | 3 comments

Two weeks ago, Mayhill Fowler, who had gained access to a fundraising speech by Barack Obama because she had previously donated to his campaign, rocked Obama’s campaign by posting audio of his controversial speech about blue collar Pennsylvanians. Fowler’s recording captured Obama as he "described blue collar Pennsylvanians with a series of what in the eyes of Californians might be considered pure negatives: guns, clinging to religion, antipathy, xenophobia." Fowler was, it transpires, not just an Obama supporter but was also one of the bloggers following the primaries for the Huffington Post sponsored citizen journalism project, Off the Bus, stirring much debate within journalism about whether some things can and should be off the record, and raising questions about transparency. In response to this debate, the Guardian organised a debate between Jeff Jarvis, a leading proponent of citizen journalism and journalistic transparency, and Michael Tomasky, the Guardian’s America editor. I  highly recommend reading the whole debate on Comment is Free but, if short of time, I’ve excerpted a few of the bits I particularly enjoyed below: Jarvis thinks we should be concerned about the effect that giving and receiving access can have on journalism: "I believe the rules you long to carry into the new world are inherently corrupting for journalism: We journalists have long traded in the currencies of access and exclusivity with the powerful. But the price we pay is complicity in a system of secrecy. That’s what off-the-record talks and unnamed sources add up to: secrets." Tomasky argues that, sometimes, keeping things off the recorded and sources anonymous actually gives journalists greater, less inhibited access to stories. And he’s not convinced that having legions of people recording and publishing the news is inherently better than the existing model: "But I admit that I’m a little less persuaded that it’s such a great and necessary thing that we know every single word public people utter. People say dumb things and things they don’t really mean. They misspeak. Whether constant recording of such missteps, and the inevitable intense fixation on them, will over time serve the public interest and help voters make more "informed" decisions is not yet settled in my view. That it will lead to more "gotcha!" moments on the campaign trail as candidates are caught saying naughty things isn’t a particularly stellar claim to make for the blogosphere, which actually does far more important work in the areas of media-monitoring and community-building. " But Tomasky isn’t an old school "mainstream media vs the bloggers" – he sees real value in what bloggers do: "What I like about the blogosphere is that, at its best, it elevates the debate. Mainstream journalists would think I’m out of my mind to say that, but it’s true – there are, for example, all manner of policy experts with blogs who shed real light on substantive questions, or bloggers with the intellectual chops to make really interesting and important observations about something happening in the news." Jarvis’ main argument seems to be that anyone who observes and tells a story can, if they remain transparent about any potential sources of bias within their report, make a positive impact – with the results of their efforts becoming "one more ingredient in what it turning into a bigger and bigger pot of journalism stew." For Jarvis, it’s not important who or where the story comes from so long as the highest amount of transparency is evident in it’s presentation. For Tomasky, the fact that Folwer got in the door because she had made a campaign donation and then, once there, began acting as a journalist is problematic. There is, he argues, a difference between being a witness and being a journalist. He doesn’t, however, explain exactly what he thins that difference is. Both Jarvis and Tomasky agree that transparency about any possible source of bias, and of how access to a story or it’s actors has been gained, is essential to the validity of the final product. Whether we call that product "journalism" or "someone’s account", the crux of disagreement between Jarvis and Tomasky is, to me, entirely...

bbc london puts audience video questions to mayoral candidates

By on Apr 24, 2008 in BBC, citizen journalism, journalism, politics |

In the run-up to the London Mayoral Election, BBC London has been giving Londoners the opportunity to submit their questions, via youtube video, to each of the main candidates. A selection of questions are then put to the candidates and aired on BBC London’s evening news opts at 6pm and 10pm. It’s a nice idea for getting people engaged with politics but I couldn’t help but notice that the trailer (below) has had over 68,000 views on youtube whilst the video responses of the three main candidates have had just 16,000 views combined. That said, the television audience for all the clips will have been hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of...

uk political bloggers charged over stats porn

By on Apr 7, 2008 in blogging, blogging techniques, journalism, politics | 1 comment

Jemima Kiss, a friend of mine over at the Guardian, seems to have kicked off quite a blog storm with an article challenging the visitor statistics disclosed by Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale, two of the UK’s most widely known political bloggers. In the comments you’ll find Guido, Iain, Tim Ireland, someone from messagelabs and a host of others all taking bites out of each other over something the vast majority of bloggers and web publishers have known for a long time – website visitor statistics aren’t particularly reliable or meaningful. KingOfMyCastle hits the spot with a comment making this point rather nicely: [Note: "stats porn", as appears in the title of this post, has nothing at all to do with pornography and is a term used by bloggers to describe the navel gazing that they often do with regards to visitor statistics for their own and other...

techpresident: tracking the us presidential candidates use of social media

By on Jan 3, 2008 in activism, blogging techniques, citizen journalism, journalism, politics, social software | 1 comment

At last October’s Networked Journalism Summit, organised by Jeff Jarvis, I had the pleasure of meeting Micah Sifry of the Personal Democracy Forum which is described on their website as a "hub for the conversation already underway between political practitioners and technologists, as well as anyone invigorated by the potential of all this to open up the process and engage more people in all the things that we can and must do together as citizens." PDF is the organisation behind TechPresident. When I met Micah, he seemed almost surprised when I told him I’m a huge fan. Which I am. I think it’s one of the most interesting projects to emerge in the last year. For the uninitiated, TechPresident tracks the American Presidential candidate’s use of technology – in particular blogging, youtube, and social networking – in their campaigns. There’s stats porn aplenty, for example the graph at left which plots the number of facebook friends each candidate has and shows whether that number has risen or fallen in the past week. You’ll also find aggregations of candidate blogs. But what I enjoy most are the original posts by Micah and his team that provide insight into the clever ways some of the candidates are really trying to leverage the capabilities of social media in their campaigns. For example, yesterday’s post by Michael Whitney points out a facebook widget developed by the Barack Obama campaign to help users find out which of their friends might be eligible to vote in the important Iowa primaries (today) so that they might remind their friends (and influence) their vote: With the US Presidential Primaries taking place over the next two months, and the actual election following in the autumn, TechPresident is likely to get a lot more notice in 2008 and I can’t wait to see how the site continues to...