Monthly Archives: March 2012

Pinwheel, The New Social Media Contender

You can see notes that people have left by looking on the map. I've been busy, as you can see.

A lot of people who know about these things tell us that the future of the internet is SoLoMo. That is: Social, Local and Mobile. Personally, this somewhat irritating buzzword always reminds me of this late-period Beach Boys hit, but never mind.

A new platform which combines all three of those qualities is Pinwheel. Currently in private beta, it allows users to post notes about anything and everything at specific locations on the site’s map, along with a short bit of text and a photo. It’s got elements of the location check-ins of Foursquare, the treasure hunting of Geocaching, the crowdsourced knowledge of Wikipedia, and the photo-sharing of Flickr. The last of those is hardly surprising, given that Pinwheel has been founded by Caterina Fake of Flickr and Hunch fame. She’s written a blogpost explaining more about Pinwheel here (see also a brief interview with Forbes here).

So far, so shiny. But is it any good? Well, I got an invitation to Pinwheel a couple of weeks ago and have thoroughly enjoyed playing with it so far. The process of leaving notes is very easy and smooth, and there’s a mobile app on the way which should make things even better. You can tag your notes and organise them into sets on a particular theme, and follow other users or sets in the now-familiar manner. Although the best discoveries are probably to be made by simply searching the map for a particular place or postcode and seeing what’s there.

I’ve generally been posting pictures of my local area and old holidays, and writing little anecdotes giving a bit of history, or folklore, or some other relevant details. I think this sort of crowdsourced information from personal perspectives could offer a valuable addition to our knowledge, without the ‘Citation Needed’ pressure of doing a Wikipedia entry.

Another one of my slightly morbid old holiday snaps gets a new airing.

There’s already a wide range of notes appearing here and there, from deeply personal memories to tips on where’s good for lunch. I suspect the latter may prove to be the function of Pinwheel that most people find useful, and the site plans to make money by allowing sponsored notes for businesses.

At the moment there are very few Pinwheel users, and the quality of many of the posts is high. After all, these notes are potentially going to be there forever, so if you’re writing one you may as well make it something that someone is going to find interesting.

But I wonder what will happen when Pinwheel opens to the general public, and mostly useless notes (“it’s sunny today, yay!”) start appearing all over the place. Filtering those out and finding a way of prioritising the better ones, perhaps ranking them according to the number of times they have been favourited, might be a crucial way of helping the platform become really useful.

In the meantime, you can request an invite by going to the Pinwheel website. Pinwheel’s Twitter account is here.

Hyperlocal Thoughts For The BBC College Of Journalism

I’ve written a chapter about my experiences with Saddleworth News for a forthcoming book on local journalism, and you can get a preview of it today.

Part of it has been posted on the BBC College of Journalism site here.

A second piece will be posted in the next few days, focusing on my thoughts about the financial sustainability of hyperlocal journalism.

The book itself is called What Do We Mean By Local? and has been put together by Neil Fowler, Ian Reeves and John Mair. It features a wide range of contributions from across the industry, and comes out on 27 March.

You can read more about it in a Hold The Front Page article here. There’s also a preview of a chapter by Chris Oakley on Jon Slattery’s blog here.

Matt Bowen’s How To Get A Job As A Radio Journalist

For students and others interested in a career in radio journalism, I can recommend Matt Bowen’s new book How To Get A Job As A Radio Journalist.

It’s full of practical advice and is well worth a read for anyone thinking about getting into the industry.

I used to work with Matt in GCap and then Global newsrooms, and he’s got a wealth of radio experience which he passes on in the book.

You can get it on Amazon here.

Matt, who also has his own photography business, has a website here.

Leeds MA International Journalism Course, Lecture 4

My latest lecture to my international MA students at the University of Leeds was about hyperlocal news. It’s something I know a good bit about, having set up and run Saddleworth News for a couple of years, so hopefully I was able to give them an interesting perspective on this area of the media.

I explained to them that, while I learned a lot from running Saddleworth News, I was unable to find an answer to the problem of how to make journalism, and in particular websites featuring local journalism, pay. But then if I’d found that secret, something tells me I don’t think I’d have been there today giving a lecture!

Here’s the presentation: http://prezi.com/ckqvhfsdym7y/ma-lecture-4-university-of-leeds/

I’ve got one more lecture to give after Easter, and I’ve been doing a series of eight practical sessions teaching them practical journalism skills too. I’ve also been doing more teaching with the first year Broadcast Journalism undergrads, and I’ve got them all to find a local site in their hometowns to discuss in seminars later in the week, so it’ll be interesting to get their views on the value or otherwise of hyperlocal.

Leeds MA International Journalism Course, Lecture 3

After a week during which my MA students had a lecture from someone else, it was back to me today for the third in my series of talks. The session ran through several related points on a similar theme. I covered online communities, experiments in open journalism including the latest relaunch by The Guardian of their efforts in this area, new ways of working for journalists, and how journalists themselves are facing increased scrutiny from members of the public using the internet.

Here’s the presentation: http://prezi.com/w6grnzs43jlm/ma-lecture-3-university-of-leeds/

I spoke a bit about how, sometimes, individuals with a particular interest or specialism can offer better coverage of a certain issue or event than the mainstream media, and how the ease of setting up your own blog nowadays makes this task a bit easier. A classic example from recent months is the Rangers Tax Case blog, which is worth looking at whether you’re interested in Scottish football or not. The author wrote a very interesting piece for The Guardian about how his coverage had rather shown up the established newspapers in Scotland.