Archive for the 'Admin' Category

Moving

This place is soon to become an ex-blog…

I’ve finally brought my own domain – www.garyandrews.net – and will be moving over there for blogging, etc. Or rather I’ve already moved, I just haven’t done anything with it.

It’s probably the most underwhelming blog move ever.

Yes, I know it looks like this one. Basically, I’m still trying to build it by myself and, honestly, I don’t have the faintest clue what I’m doing (and I can’t afford a designer for it). So you’ll probably find a few random changes each time you go back.

Anyway, I’ll be over there from now on, although will be spending most of my time giving it a new lick of paint, etc. Blogging will be light, not that I have a great deal to say at the moment anyway.

Also, for a variety of reasons, I’ll no longer be doing my weekly column at Soccerlens. I’ll still be writing there from time to time, but it’ll be on a much more irregular basis.

Essentially, no writing from me for a while, as I get everything in place.

Advertisements

The NUJ and online media

Adam Tinworth’s two posts on the National Union of Journalists and their attitude to blogs and social media in general makes for rather depressing reading.

I’m well aware that this is just one discussion on one blog and isn’t necessarily representative of the whole organisation, but it’s illuminating on the (one) mindset of NUJ.

It all started when Adam’s colleague Martin Couzins wrote an impassioned plea for better online training from the NUJ on his personal blog.

The chair of the NUJ’s Professional Training Committee, Chris Wheal then responded in the comments, starting with the opening of “Try to be more constructive.” Not exactly a great start to addressing the question, although, in fairness he did offer a list of what was available.

Adam then picked up on this despairing that the response was rude and not overly helpful, and followed up a day later noting he’d had traffic to his blog from an NUJ internal email entitled “Effing blogs”.

What’s followed in the comments in both blog posts is uncomfortable to watch as it shows some very basic (wrong) assumptions on the behalf of Wheal and an attitude to blogging that, at worst, has the potential to alienate digital journalists the country over (please note: that says at worst.  And potential).

I don’t want this to seem like I’m picking on Wheal [1] but while he comes accross as web-savvy, his comments in both pieces just don’t seem to grasp how social media (God, sorry) operates.

Now, it’s certainly the case that there’s a massive grey area in the whole blogging / journalism arena. There are many blogging journalists and many journalists who blog (there is a difference), as well as many bloggers who do journalism and bloggers who just blog.

It can sometimes get a little tricky to sort out which shows how difficult it is to define what constitutes journalism in a Web 2.0 world, which, in turn is probably one huge problem the NUJ face. I don’t envy them trying to sort that definition out, as it often escapes those of us who work in the online medium on a daily basis.

But, if you’re really insisting on a straight definition (if such a thing is possible) then a blog (usually a group blog) that’s set up with the intention of making money through articles and opinion that resemble traditional journalism, kind of comes under the first.

That’s a completely imperfect definition, I know. It’s the best I can do on a Friday evening. It was rewritten half a dozen times before I gave up.

But then plenty of journalists blog on a personal level in their spare time. Adam’s One Man And His Blog is clearly a personal blog musing on the industry and other things he finds interesting, just as this blog is a personal blog. What I do elsewhere, mostly at Soccerlens, I classify as journalism.

Does that rough definition make sense? It’s the best I can give.

The reason for going into this somewhat lengthy and winding discussion on what classifies as journalism on a blog, his because Chris (and apologies if I’ve misinterpreted what he’s written as this is how it reads to me) seems to think all blogs should be lumped into the principles of journalism while at the same time utterly dismissing the notion that blogs have journalistic worth.

Now, there’s undoubtedly a point to be made on the standards on blogs. If blogging wants to be taken seriously as journalism then it should certainly hold it up to the same standards as offline journalism [2].

But, by and large, I think the best blogs do that. Why are, say, like likes of Shiny Media or Techcrunch any different from Roy Greenslade blogging at the Guardian, or a non-professional blogging for a local newspaper site on a community issue? Or Ben Goldacre who writes for the Guardian and blogs on the same topic and is VERY passionate about journalistic standards.

Or how about my writing for When Saturday Comes and Soccerlens. They’re on the same issues (slightly different audience) but one is print and one is online. Does the fact that you can’t hold a copy of Soccerlens in your hand make my articles have less worth?

But, by the same token, if you’re clearly writing personal thoughts on a personal blog, should you contact the subject of your thoughts (often personal posts are written on a whim in a spare moment) as Chris indicates?

I’ll leave that one hanging, if I may.

But, no, what has really got the digital journalism and bloggers fired up is not just the rather dismissive and condescending attitude in the comments (sorry Chris, that really is how it comes across) but this following comment:

“The NUJ fails to maintain standards in blogs because bloggers themselves rejoice in having lower standards.”

Ouch.

And Chris had earlier complained about huge generalisations in Adam’s post as well.

I honestly think that any points or arguments Chris made about encouraging bloggers to contact the NUJ have been undermined in that one sentence.

How many blogs actively make a point of celebrating the fact they’re, well, a bit shit? One of the joys of blogs and the internet in general is that it’s far easier to call out bad writing and journalism than ever before.

But let’s put blogs to one side for the moment and go back to the NUJ and the future of journalism itself, starting with a quick detour on my own quick history and thoughts on the organisation.

I’m not a member. This isn’t out of any conviction or protest on my part. I was a student member when I was at university in Cardiff. The Cardiff branch were excellent at keeping in touch and keeping me informed even though I never got in touch with them. That was comforting.

When I left Cardiff and moved from student to full-time journalist, I had a quick go at upgrading my details and signing but didn’t get anywhere.

A couple of emails went unanswered and I couldn’t get hold of anybody on the phone and it wasn’t high on my list of priorities, and I forgot about it. I’ve thought about joining over the years, but again, it’s always slipped by the wayside. No bitterness, just absent mindedness on my part coupled with no real pressing need to join.

I certainly wouldn’t go as far as Dave Lee, who, a few weeks ago, asked what the point of joining was. If anything, I think Dave’s given them too much of a harsh ride, although he has several valid points as well.

If I were freelance, I think joining the NUJ would be top of the list of my priorities, as I know they’re excellent in supporting that area of the profession.

The NUJ also offers excellent legal protection and help, from what I’ve read (thankfully I’ve never needed this) and if you’re a journalist facing redundancy, I’d imagine their support is second-to-none. They’re also very good at protesting against job cuts.

However, as Dave points out, it can sometime feel with the NUJ that the protests against job cuts fail to take into account the rapidly-changing nature of an industry that is all-too-often desperately short of money and facing an uncertain future.

It’s all too easy to say job cuts = bad. But, and this comes back to the point I think Martin was making that originally sparked this little brouhaha, while protesting about job cuts is one thing, giving efficient practical training and advice to help make journalists more employable in a digital age is quite another.

This isn’t to say that the NUJ is necessarily behind the times. After all, with a membership that vast, there’s plenty of online evangelists [3]. They had a very good article on Twitter in the Journalist magazine about nine months ago, showing they were very much awake to the potential of the microblogging site as a newsgathering tool. General Secretary Jeremy Dear has a blog, which is a good thing.

Again, in fairness to Chris – and without ever having been on the courses listed – from his list on Martin’s blog there looks like a good basic level of online training.

But, again, Chris’ comments on Adam’s blog combined with the Effing blogs email combined with the NUJ really don’t having a great reputation in the online and social media community really doesn’t help things.

Adam is (or perhaps soon to be was) a member of the NUJ and is a different generation from me, who could see the usefulness but never got around to joining, and we’re both different generations to Dave, who can’t see the point and hasn’t joined.

Ok, now three out of God knows how many isn’t representative. I know that. But it highlights a couple of issues, I think.

Dave and I have both grown up in an era where unions aren’t as influential or prevalent than they used to be [4]. We’re not expected to join a union. Indeed, of all the people who I trained with, I don’t think that many joined the NUJ.

Now, to bring in Adam, we’re all working in a digital age and environment (although, in my case, my day job is now in PR). The NEXT generation of journalists will have grown up not only without unions but immersed in that online environment.

They will blog, Twitter, podcast [5], vodcast and whatever else comes along between now and then. They will work for web-only publications, some of whom probably haven’t even been conceived at this point in time.

And if you’ve got their professional representative body taking a dismissive attitude to blogging on Adam’s blog and throughout the web (and this will all show up in Google when they search for the NUJ) then it’s hardly going to encourage them to join.

Putting my PR hat on, I could easily tell Chris that one of the quickest and most surefire ways to damage your brand online is to lash out in blogs comments, especially on blogs of respected people in their field, like Adam (who is well-known and highly regarded in his field).

No matter how wronged you feel your organisation has been, getting angry doesn’t help the cause. If there are any perceived errors, politely point them out. Offer to help with any of their gripes (which Chris did try to do at various points).

Above all, don’t get drawn into a slanging match. Your brand will be better off for it. If you feel the blog is that influential and the matter is that important, then you can always drop the author a polite but firm email and ask for corrections.

I love the openness and transparency of blog comments, both as a PR and whenever I turn my hand to journalism again. I can correct and acknowledge mistakes, enter into debate and learn things I didn’t know. What’s not to like?

The fact that the NUJ’s Chair of their Professional Training Committee doesn’t seem to understand blogs and comments – one of the most basic aspects of social media that has been around for ages – does not bode well for the organisation’s future. And it does not encourage me, or, I suspect others that work in an online or digital environment, to want to join the organisation. God alone knows what it says to young, digitally aware journalists of the future.

This is a personal view. It’s not written as a professional article (although if it were an opinion piece for a media industry publication, the sentiment would be the same).

But if anybody – and that includes Chris and anybody from the NUJ – wants to disagree with me, correct me, or add something to the discussion I’ve not thought of, then I’d love to see the comments used for this purpose. Because that’s what they’re their for, regardless of who I am or what I do.

[1] Who, again, does seem to have a good grasp of the tools available on the net. He’s already a better man than me if he can use Yahoo Pipes to their full extent – something I’ve never really tried, and something I know I should try.

[2] Offline journalism is, in itself, a ridiculous notion, as very few ‘old’ media don’t have a web presence. And those who don’t probably won’t be around for much longer if they don’t.

[3] Yuck, sorry, hideous terminology there.

[4] Not saying if this is a good or a bad thing, but certainly Thatcher and Murdoch did their best to get to this state of play.

The weirdest thing I’ve read all week

Tim Worstall branded an online extremist and a threat to democratic debate after an argument about economics with Richard Murphy (that I won’t even begin to pretend to understand) gets a bit heated, and one person on Tim’s blog calls Richard some rather rude names.

Gawd alone knows there’s enough political bloggers who could be accused of being a bit suspect with the idea of a democratic debate and particularly nasty when it comes to (somewhat pointless) online spats, but Tim would probably be bottom of that list.

In the earlier days of blogging Tim was one of those people who did as much as anybody to try and bring the community together, largely through the Britblog Roundup, but also via various other initiatives. A lot of the stuff was a bit ahead of its time and would probably fall under the social media banner now – and he’s not even a PR, marketing or tech guy.

He’s also one of the very few (reasonably) high-profile bloggers I can think of who has earned himself regular writing gigs for most of the mainstream press at one point or another, and has kept the gigs going for a number of years. He’s also very quick to pounce on any kind of assault on civil liberties.

His politics may not be anywhere in line with my own but there’s no doubt the internet – and blogging in particular – would be a slightly poorer place if it weren’t for Tim.

The most bizarre bit of all is Richard stating that Comment Is Free (which both of them write for) is the best place to fight a war against online extremism. The abuse on CiF may be moderated, but it’s often far more vicious than anything Tim’s regulars post in his comments.

Fine, by all means try and sort out flaming (and other people have tried and failed) but at least start in the right area.

Depressingly predictable

The Ahmedinejad Christmas speech caused ‘international offence‘. Granted, he’s not the most tolerant man in the world when it comes to certain sections of society but then neither’s the Pope, and nobody’s stopped him broadcasting his message on Christmas Day.

Funnily enough, those who’ve said this is a cynical grab for ratings probably reckon without the British public’s desire to watch ballroom dancing or Coronation Street as opposed to a somewhat nutty president of a Middle Eastern country.

If it’s been said once it’s been said x number of times, where x probably stands for any number you want it to. Creating a big hoo-hah will give it more publicity than just the initial number of viewers would have done.

You may not agree with him. I don’t. But then I don’t write in and complain every time something I’m not a fan of comes on the TV. Rather than jumping up and down and shouting “Ban it. I don’t like him. Not fair!” why doesn’t somebody actually fire back with a few witty reposites that neatly take apart his arguments. Just a thought, like.

And, as Tim W says, “you’d be hard put to find any Church of England bishop who would disagree with what is said (rather than the man who is saying it or his attitudes or actions outside this particular statement).”

Final word: Sunny from Pickled Politics, who I don’t normally agree with:

“I don’t burn a candle for Ahmedinejad – he is clearly a tyrant and a racist. But there’s two fronts on which I find arguments against this C4 stunt a bit hypocritical.

1) The first is this threat that Channel 4’s funding should be cut or curtailed because of this. BBC News reports:

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard, a member of the all-party media group, said: “Channel Four has given a platform to a man who wants to annihilate Israel and continues to persecute Christians at Christmas time. “This raises serious questions about whether Channel 4 should receive an increased public subsidy for their programmes.”

Criticise Channel 4 all you like, but I find it fundamentally undemocratic that a broadcaster should be threatened financially for doing things the majority don’t like.

I thought these people wanted free speech? After all, MA isn’t saying anything racially inflammatory this time. Should I be burning my license fee in protest everytime the BBC invite Nick Griffin on television?”

Peace on earth and goodwill to all men and all that.

In other news, I got a recipe book for over 400 soups for Christmas. That’s far more exciting.

Hope everybody’s had a safe, happy Christmas. Normal service about where the media’s going and all that jazz, plus a few odds and sods on football teams you’ve never heard of, resumes later.

Gary elsewhere

At Soccerlens: Should we regionalise lower-league football?

The short answer is no, not yet. But the long answer is also worth reading.

I’m in deepest, darkest Devon this week with limited net connectivity, so there may be no posts. Alternatively I may pass the time with long pieces on the future of media. It’s the uncertainly that keeps this place so exciting.

So, if it’s quiet on here until beyond Thursday, then Happy Christmas/Winterval/other to one and all.

Perspective

You’re the leader of a country going through an almost unprecedented economic crisis, so naturally the most pressing thing for the Prime Minister to do is let the world know that Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross are “inappropriate and unacceptable”.

Still, it’s nice to know that both Gordon Brown and David Cameron have got their fingers on the pulse of matters of national interest. You know the situation’s gone beyond parody when politicians starts getting involved. Sachsgate would have probably stilled rolled along at a jolly old speed without any ministerial intervention.

Or perhaps I’m the only one who’s just a little bit surprised that an ill-thought out and somewhat puerile, if slightly intermittently amusing, prank call to a pensioner on a radio show that the majority of people who’ve complained probably haven’t actually heard has managed to be front page news for three days.

Like I say, maybe it’s just me.

Does one prank call mean the BBC’s a hotbed of sick and offensive material? Doubtful. Was it funny? Not really. Does it call into question the very existence of the corporation? Probably not. Is there really nothing better to get worked up about? It appears not. We’ve only got a global recession, the US elections, rising fuel bills and other such minor piffles to worry about.

MORE:

(And, given how much I’ve professed to be bored to shit by this all, I feel somewhat ashamed for adding to this post.)

Lucy Mangan, who isn’t usually one of my favourite columnists, actually has a nice explanation of why the prank wasn’t funny. What’s that you say? Sensible analysis? Get outta town.

And Mof’s post at TV Scoop is both funny and sensible analysis? What’s that you say? Fun… oh you get the idea:

“I want to know why this has caused such outrage when everyone merely shrugged or ignored every other telephone prank that’s gone on in the history of TV and radio.

I don’t care how much they’re paid and I don’t care whether anyone likes them or not as those are nothing to do with the matter in hand. Personally, I can take or leave Wossy’s stuff and Russell Brand irritates the shit outta me… but to have them birched in public over some lame-ass prank?

This joke was never meant to be vintage comedy, more, a throwaway segment in a radio show. To judge their entire worth on one piece is like discrediting The Bible because of that part about eating cakes made out of dung.

Should we dig Beadle up and shout at his corpse for all those nasty jokes he played on unsuspecting tax payers?

Fact is, there’s a lot of reactionary bullshit being thrown around and I don’t like it…”

In other news today, at least 160 are dead in an earthquake in Pakistan, while around 50,000 Congolese have now been displaced by the deteriorating internal violence. And the economy’s still fucked.

But hey, that’s now important, just as long as the BBC apologises and sacks the nasty Mr. Ross and Mr. Brand. After that, world peace will break out and the nation’s moral compass will be restored.

How to win friends and influence Tweeple

Qwitter’s launch last week seems to have thrown the Twittersphere (God, what a horrible world) temporarily, as plenty of the site’s users suddenly find themselves in a bit of an etiquette dilemma.

Basically, Qwitter’s an application that sends you a quick email whenever anybody unfollows you, along with your last Tweet. Kind of like one of those ridiculous exit interviews companies insist on putting you through. Or the kind of social media tool that neurotic recent singletons, who pour over every minute of a a failed relationship, would love.

So far, so pointless. But if there’s on thing the internet doesn’t need, it’s a rather useless service that feeds insecurities of online friendships. God alone knows we have enough problem with that offline, and Louis Gray has a pretty good analysis of Qwitter:

“What Qwitter has done with this unnecessary “service” (and I use that term loosely) is turn a very mundane, passive act that usually reflects more on a person’s available time than a follower’s actions into an act of aggression with some seemingly dubious “reason” behind it. I can see this turning ugly, as friends who discover that friends sometimes unfollow them take it personally. This means instead of realizing that on Twitter you can go back and forth with a kind of ebb and flow as needed, those with hurt feelings from being unfollowed proceed to email demanding logic, reasons, and possibly even threatening retaliation or repercussions. Qwitter feeds insecurity and neuroses by making something simple into some kind of seeming failure or insult.

The thing about the internet is that it has a tendency to turn aggressive in a hurry. Twitter has, until now, avoided that Internet Troll atmosphere and been a relatively happy place to connect with people online in a very low-key and self-directed way. There are a few Twitter Trolls, but not that many, thanks largely to the anonymous unfollow and anonymous block features. Qwitter changes that, and for what?”

One of the main reason to love Twitter is the free swopping of ideas and conversation between people you wouldn’t other meet, but it doesn’t matter if the following isn’t reciprocal.

I follow plenty of people on Twitter who haven’t returned the compliment, and nor would I necessarily suspect them to. Just because I find what they have to say interesting, doesn’t mean they’re going to think the same about what I say.

And vice-versa. I have a lot of random people following me, some of whom I’ve followed back, some of who seem interesting but I’m not too concerned about following them back, and some who – like some of those I follow who don’t follow me back – I’m sure are lovely people, but there’s no interest there for me. 

To any of those people reading this, sorry it’s not personal! I’m sure I’ve probably lost a fair few Twitter followers because there’s a fair bit of football chat on my feed (which I am conscious of, and have considered setting up a separate feed for) and the sheer banality of some of my Tweets.

But it’s definitely not like Facebook, where there’s a definite awkwardness about having people add you who you’d rather not add, or debating whether you should add colleagues, or ex-girlfriends, and the like. Twitter’s a lot more laid back, and is all the better forward.

Sally at Getting Ink has also been thinking among similar lines, this time in relation to the Twitter Karma application:

“I follow people on Twitter on the basis that I find what they post interesting and relevant to me. It doesn’t necessarily follow that what I say will be equally interesting and relevant to them. So, let’s imagine I’m following someone interesting, but they’re not interested in me – do they then become LESS interesting as a consequence? Should I only be listening to people to listen to me?”

Nonetheless, it feels like Twitter’s slowly moving from the childlike to the adolescent – like the acne-ridden teenager who suddenly becomes aware of the social groups and has to decide (or try) to fit in with them or not. Whether this is a good thing or not, I’m not sure.

How Twitter works best isn’t as a popularity contest or a desire to be loved, but, as Mike Butcher says:

“It quickly became apparent that this was turning into the best use of Twitter of all. Not for long, winding conversations you might have on instant messaging, but short, to the point wise-cracks between people interspersed with a little status update here, a small observation on life there. Twitter was no longer about ’status’ or ‘what are you doing’. It was about conversation, ‘what are you thinking’, ‘what are we talking about’.

The key difference is that people who say “take this conversation over into IM” don’t get it. IM can’t do what Twitter does. You can’t instant message into “the cloud”. With Twitter you can. You can shout or whisper whatever you want to say out into the ether and anyone online can hear you. And anyone following you, even if you don;t follow them, can reply – then you may well become connected.”

And Charles Arthur notes, in his typically blunt but nonetheless spot-on style, there’s only so much Twittering you can take:

“It’s simple really. In an attention economy, there’s only so much time I can listen to what colour your curtains are. Then, I’ve got to get on and earn some money. Please, no hurt feelings though. In the meantime, I’ve resolved to try to tweet useful stuff. Though the temptation to put any old rubbish in is huge, I have to admit.”

I’ve made lots of contacts and a few good friends through Twitter already, and a lot of people in my feed often stick up very interesting links (I’m probably rather bad at doing this). It’s relaxed, interesting and fun. Kind of like an online version of Central Perk, if you will.

What it doesn’t need is people suddenly starting to take it too seriously, which is what a lot of the worry and chatter around Qwitter and Twitter Karma feels like. Have a cup of tea, relax and we can Tweet about it.

***

While I’m on the topic of Twitter, a couple more examples of how the social-networking-cum-microblogging-cum-conversation site is continuing its quest for world domination rise in popularity and usefulness.

Following on from Stephen Fry, no lesser celebrity than Britney Spears has entered the Twitterverse. Or rather a mixture of of her and, possibly, the occasional Tweet from Britney herself.

It’s very different from Stephen Fry, but is a good example of how those working with a big star or somebody slightly less gadget and web-obsessed (those are good thing by the way, before Stephen Fry gets hurt) can use a Twitter feed.

There’s some nice openness and accountability – very Web 2.0, especially this Tweet – with conversation and a team (or possibly just one woman, Lauren) updating the feed reasonably regularly. It’s a good balance for a star like Britney and is a good model for any other celebrity thinking about using Twitter.

What’s more, it gives Britney devotees, of which I’m sure there are many out there (I can’t class myself as one of them, although Toxic was a great pop record) a chance to get closer to her than any celebrity magazine could offer.

Now there’s a thought. Could Twitter kill off Heat magazine?

***

The other sign that Twitter is slowly marching on came in a phone conversation today. I was in PR mode, pitching a small item to a few local papers, and rung an old university friend and colleague who worked on one of these papers.

I’d barely begun explaining what I was ringing about before he cut in to tell me that he knew what I was ringing about and had already mentioned it to his editor, all because of a couple of Tweets I’d done earlier in the week.

Now – if either as a PR or a journalist or both – if that doesn’t get you excited about the power of social media tools like Twitter for ‘traditional’ media work, then I guess nothing will.


del.icio.us

Top Posts

RSS What I’m Twittering about

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
September 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Throw letters together and send them to me

Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com