Tag Archives: Flickr

Journalism Technologies: 19. The Power of the Crowd

We’ve moved onto the final part of the inaugural first year Journalism Technologies module at the University of Huddersfield. The opening term before Christmas was all about introducing the students to different platforms week by week in the lectures, then taking them through how to use them in the workshops, before they submitted a reflective learning log on their blogs. Next, we examined the ways in which changes in technology have impacted on media companies both old and new, and students produced content analyses comparing legacy journalism outlets with pure players.

Now, students will be required to do a third assessment by Easter, in which they complete a piece of journalism using at least two social tools to help tell the story. And the first lecture to support this part of the module came from my colleague Caroline Pringle last Monday, on how to make the most of online communities.

Caroline took the students through some of the ways in which people gather online, and the places where they do that, from more traditional forums to Facebook groups both public and private. Mumsnet remains a classic example of how a strong community can become not only a thriving forum, but a significant media brand in its own right. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, of those of us in the room only me and Caroline would admit to ever actually going on it, but I suppose 18-year-olds aren’t really in their target demographic (I went on Mumsnet occasionally in my past life as a stay-at-home dad, although really only for recipe tips – the rest of it seemed a bit impenetrable, even for me).

For concepts to help students understand the power of online communities, Caroline turned to both the classic idea of the wisdom of crowds, as well as Clay Shirky’s idea of cognitive surplus: that many of us use much of our increased spare time in order to create and share things online, just as in the past we’d have used that time to, perhaps, inadvertently become experts on TV shows. For Shirky, it’s a typically optimistic view of how the development of technologies is generally a positive thing in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Journalism Technologies: 7. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

“How many of you in the room have a Flickr account?” asked my colleague Caroline during her lecture on photo sharing in Journalism Technologies this week. Not a hand went up, other than ours. An indication of how selfies, filters and apps have taken over this space, since the days a decade ago when putting pictures on the internet meant looking at those familiar blue-and-pink dots.

The stories of Flickr, Tumblr and Instagram took up much of Caroline’s lecture. The key concept she introduced was that of mass amateurisation, memorably applied to the social web by Clay Shirky. Because reading lists don’t always have to feature readings, we made his 2005 TED talk on the subject required viewing this week. The workshop featured a bit on how to take your own smartphone photos and embed them, before some guidance on searching Google Images and, yes, Flickr, for Creative Commons images.

Getting journalism students to keep their heads up and look out for interesting things in the world around them is a perennial challenge. When you’re a journalist, all sorts of things can seem like potential stories – from the planning sign pinned to a lamppost, to all those posters on the community noticeboard. The next homework task is to get them to take just such a picture while walking around Huddersfield, do a bit more research into the story, then write it along with the embedded image in their blogs. I’m looking forward to seeing what they all find.

Embed Getty Images In Your Blog For Free

Scanning the Getty Images archive, and sticking an appropriate image into Photoshop for a quick bit of tinkering before publication, is as much a part of the online journalist’s toolkit as calling the police press office or doing the tea run.

Or at least it is if you’re working for a professional publisher paying for a proper licence to access Getty, the world’s best known photo agency. But bloggers and social media users have instead faced a choice: nick something that’s not yours and hope you don’t get a legal letter, or try to find a copyright-free image. Flickr Creative Commons has 300 million of these, so there are options, but it’s relatively rare to find much freely available on either current or archive news and sport events.

Until now. Getty has taken the decision to make 35 million images from its library embeddable in blogs like this one, which is why I’m able to put a picture from tonight’s demonstration in Sevastopol at the top of this post. I don’t pay anything: but I have to use Getty’s embed code, which at least ensures a credit if no money for both it and the photographer. I also had to tinker slightly with the image sizes within the code to make it fit nicely, but this only took a few seconds.

Click on a picture in the Getty library and this is what you see. I've highlighted the Twitter, Tumblr and embed code links below the image.

Click on a picture in the Getty library and this is what you see. I’ve highlighted the Twitter, Tumblr and embed code links below the image.

All very nice, then. But you might ask why Getty is doing this. A fair summary of the reaction from people far more knowledgeable about photography than me would be that it’s simply realised it just can’t prevent its images being stolen and shared. So it may as well let us do it for nothing in the hope that it can develop some revenue-raising tools around that freely-available content, like YouTube does.

Commercial publishers are still going to have to pay for a proper licence, so Getty will hope its bottom line won’t be affected, but photographers, relying on Getty for cash from those licensing deals, may well wonder where this will end. There’s a blogpost from the British Journal of Photography here, and more reaction from Business Week and the BBC.

There’s more about exactly how it all works on the Getty website here.

And just because I can, here’s a picture from the Getty archive of the last time Crimea was the focus of the world’s attention; Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at the Yalta Conference of February 1945.

 

Lecture: Copyright Law

I delivered my latest media law lecture to the journalism and media first years at the University of Huddersfield this morning. It was on copyright law, with a particular focus on the law as it applies to social media.

It’s a bit of a challenge making copyright law interesting enough to sustain the attention of several dozen students in a large lecture hall for close to an hour. But I did my best, using clips and examples ranging from the IT Crowd, the recent plagiarism row involving Carly Fallon and the Press and Journal, the familiar story of Peter Pan and Great Ormond Street Hospital, as well as who exactly owns what on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Wikipedia, Flickr and all the rest.

The full presentation is here.

Using Buzzfeed In The Classroom

The BuzzFeed Community dashboard.

The BuzzFeed Community dashboard.

We’ve had a group of A-level students from Sheffield College at the University of Huddersfield today, having a Focus Day in the Journalism and Media department. They’ve each taken part in a series of hour-long workshops on different aspects of our teaching, and I led the sessions on social media.

Thinking about how best to tackle this in such a short time, I decided to get each group to contribute to a single Buzzfeed list. Partly because it avoids the hassle of having to get everyone set up on the same social network at the start of each workshop (almost everyone was on Twitter and Facebook, but one or two said they’d left for various reasons), and partly because I thought teaching the students about how to comb YouTube and Flickr Creative Commons for material might be a useful skill they’d take away with them. And besides, I reckoned they’d all have at least seen Buzzfeed, so would quite enjoy it.

There were four groups, and here are the four lists they made. I told them to promote their own on social media over the coming week, to see which ends up with the most views (access to these analytics being one of the advantages of Buzzfeed’s Community feature, another being its dead easy CMS).

8 Things We Hate About Sheffield

8 Signs You Grew Up In Sheffield

What Not To Do In Sheffield

8 Best Bands In Sheffield History

Here’s the Prezi I used to run the sessions. After a bit of a preamble about the changing media, I introduced them to Buzzfeed (most had seen the lists before through social media shares, often without realising the website itself was called Buzzfeed), got them to pick a topic and gave a brief overview of searching on YouTube and Flickr. Then after they’d found something each, I put the list together on the board with input from everyone. It seemed to go pretty well, and as an activity it fitted into an hour quite nicely.

“Is this what you actually do in lessons?” someone asked. Well, not all the time.

A Brief Lesson On The Power Of Buzzfeed And Facebook

My Buzzfeed opus on Aberdeen.

My Buzzfeed opus on Aberdeen.

You’ll be familiar with Buzzfeed and its listicles, the eminently clickable posts which have helped turn the site into one of the internet’s rising stars. But you may not be aware of Buzzfeed’s Community feature, which lets anyone put together posts for the site. As a bit of an experiment yesterday, I thought I’d have a go at doing one, to see how quickly it spread.

Calling on my hazy memories of my hometown and scanning Flickr’s Creative Commons for pictures, I quickly put together 31 Signs You Grew Up In Aberdeen in what I hoped was a suitably Buzzfeed style. I tweeted it once, Facebooked it once, stuck it on the Aberdeen subreddit, and waited.

But I didn’t have to wait very long. I was soon receiving emails from Buzzfeed telling me that the views were piling up. Helpfully, I didn’t have to take their word for it, because the Buzzfeed Community pages allow you to personally check the analytics for your post, so I could see it all for myself. Within 24 hours, it had 45,000 views.

My post made it onto the front page of the UK site for a while, and the BuzzfeedUK Twitter account promoted it once too, but the analytics show that it’s been overwhelmingly spread using Facebook. About two-thirds of total views are from Facebook, and almost all the rest are either clicks on the Buzzfeed site itself or are classed as Dark Social – sharing via email, third party Twitter clients and the like. Views from Reddit are only in the dozens, although that may be because the Aberdeen subreddit is not exactly one of the busiest pages on there. Views from search engines are in even smaller numbers, so far at least.

At the risk of reading too much into one little experiment which I did for fun (seeing friends I know on Facebook sharing the post without realising who’d actually written it was certainly that), it’s been a reminder to me of the persistent power of Facebook. We in the media might snark about it, but ordinary people are still on there in large numbers. And it seems ordinary people like listicles.

Twitter Rumours, Andy Murray’s Cancer Donation, And Why Journalists Should Check Before Hitting Retweet

Andy Murray serves in his semi-final win over Jerzy Janowicz (picture: filmstalker on Flickr).

Andy Murray serves in his semi-final win over Jerzy Janowicz (picture: filmstalker on Flickr).

It’s not exactly an innovative observation to say that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on Twitter, and that sometimes completely untrue rumours can be circulated as fact with alarming speed. I’ve written before on this blog about how I was at the centre of one such incident a couple of years back.

People can post what they like, so you can’t stop it happening. But what journalists can do is avoid giving credibility to rumours by spreading them without properly checking the information first. A brief Twitter storm that blew up last night following Andy Murray’s victory in the Wimbledon final shows us what happens when people don’t think before they retweet.

Tweets started appearing during the evening that Murray was going to donate his £1.6m prize to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. This seemed extraordinary, but there was a reason to believe it might be true: Murray donated his £73k prize for winning Queen’s Club last month to the charity.

Quickly searching Twitter for the source of the rumour, there was no word from any official Murray or Wimbledon-related accounts, or from any of the journalists covering the tournament. The apparent source was actually from this Twitter account: a photographer who said she’d been told the information from a friend and fellow photographer who was at the Championships. Her original tweet, since deleted, was the first to mention the “donation” and was the main one being retweeted again and again.

However, the story seemed too good to be true. And before too long, one of the journalists at Wimbledon simply asked Murray about it.

End of rumour. But not really, because earlier tweets about it kept being recycled all evening and into today. Not a big deal in the greater scheme of things, but for some people it was a deflating end to a day of sporting excitement.

I’m sure the original tweeter posted the information in good faith, but what happened isn’t really her fault. What transformed the life of the rumour on Twitter was the casual retweeting of it by prominent sports journalists at organisations including the BBC, Sky Sports, the Daily Telegraph and Reuters among others (I won’t ‘name and shame’ individuals especially as apologies and deletions soon followed, but the damage was done).

Twitter users with large followings who work for credible news sources have to take particular care when retweeting information. Partly because they are publishing that information to a relatively wide audience (wider than the information might otherwise reach), and partly because they are lending the credibility of both themselves and their employer to that information. A tweet or retweet from someone working at one of the organisations mentioned carries more weight than one from a random individual.

Given the amount of interviews Murray had to do on Sunday evening, there was no excuse for not waiting for a bit of verification from the man himself.

So, what should journalists do? It’s not an exact science, but this particular Twitter minefield isn’t as difficult to navigate as it might first appear. Good rules to follow are:

1. Always try to find the original source of the information. If it’s not an official account of some kind or backed up with other credible evidence, treat it with caution.

2. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. So if in doubt, don’t retweet.

We all make mistakes on social media from time to time, but it’s worth making an extra effort not to. Because sometimes, false information on Twitter is about more serious things than tennis.

(ps. I couldn’t find a picture of the Wimbledon final on Flickr that I was free to reproduce, but I did find this one of the semi-final that was uploaded by filmstalker).

My New Tumblr: American Civil War Beards

General Ambrose Burnside. Better remembered for his facial hair than being a general.

General Ambrose Burnside. Better remembered for his facial hair than being a general.

I’ve finally got round to getting myself a Tumblr. For the unitiated, it’s a flexible and easy-to-use microblogging platform, pitched somewhere between a shorter form of traditional blogging and a social network. Recently purchased by Yahoo for $1.1bn, it’s going to be fascinating to see how it develops. And there’s no better way to keep an eye on something than by actually using it.

Many Tumblr users have expressed the fear that Yahoo will mismanage the site, as it arguably did with Flickr, once the darling of photo-sharing but long since put in the shade by Instagram. Ahead of the Tumblr deal there were some predictions that Yahoo might roll them both together, but that hasn’t happened, and instead Flickr was relaunched last month. I’ve always found the communities there to be extremely useful for both images and knowledge, and I suspect a revitalised Flickr may prove more useful for journalists than any number of Tumblrs, fun though they are.

I decided to do my Tumblr on the impressive beards sported by generals during the American Civil War, largely because I’m currently reading Shelby Foote’s classic and absorbing three-volume history of the conflict. But another good reason is to avoid infringing anyone’s copyright. I’m using the public domain Civil War photography of the great Mathew Brady, placed online by the US National Archives using, yep, Flickr.

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.