Category Archives: birmingham

The blog, the MA and the future

This blog has been neglected. There, i said it. Call the Blog Protection Services and i might lose custody. The problem is that i have a reason for that. Several, in fact, but these are the ones that matter, and most of them sound so lame i won’t even bother to list them, like “time” or “i needed a break” or a “fresh perspective”.

As you may know, i’ve been doing the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, under the guidance of Paul Bradshaw, for the last nine months. Best thing i ever done in my life: not only i got to learn with one of the best minds in online journalism, but i also had a great time living in a foreign country, a first for me. It wasn’t a life changing experience or anything like that, but it ‘s damn close. Now that i’m back in Portugal i’m slowly recognizing the effects it had on me, and i’m in what i call a “hangover period”. You know, you wake up a bit disoriented, and wonder about what you’ve done the night before? No regrets in my case though.

But since i was busy as hell, i put the blog aside for too long. I have a list of posts i want to write, and i’m starting to work on them this week. I have stuff waiting to be posted since last year, but now i know how to do it better. So pay attention to the forthcoming posts, i’m back.

Meanwhile, i was doing this MA like i said. I still have one project to do during the Summer, and i’ll talk about it here soon, but you can take a look at what i’ve done in the last six months in this blog post Paul wrote about the assignments and experiments me and my colleagues did.A timeline, the spontaneous online coverage of the Madeira floods, a multimedia project, those were some of my relevant efforts.

I’m proud of mine – though i think i could have done so much better –  but my colleagues were great. Read the whole series of posts so you can have an idea of what we were doing. We got in touch with amazing people, and though sometimes the brits seem hard to reach, i met some of the nicest people ever related to journalism. Maybe i was lucky, maybe they were just polite, but what a difference! The small country blues hit me hard sometimes, but then i also realized that in Portugal we are not behind anyone, we have incredible people working in journalism and new media, the problem is that we don’t have many chances to grow. Well, we do, but no entrepreneurial attitude (i had a class on that), fortunately some people don’t think that way. But that’s for another post.

Anyway, i’m on a break now, doing this course in Porto, and then i’ll be working on my Summer project for the MA. And afterwards i may have a job that allows me to do lots of stuff on the side, and push the boundaries of journalism a little further. I have lots of ideas, so all i have to do is work on them, no matter if i stay here or change countries again.

The future is now, and there’s no better place than that.

PS: by the way, the reason why i’m writing english only posts is that writing both in portuguese and english is time-consuming and i’m a bit late, but i’ll try to go back to dual language soon.

#Jeecamp unconference

Today i’m at #JEECamp, the unconference about journalism organized by Paul Bradshaw. So far we had Simon Waldman, from the Guardian Media Group, and four breakout discussion groups that debated from business models to newsgathering and production. To have a better idea of what is going on here at The Bond, just follow the #jeecamp tag on Twitter or go to OJB for liveblogging or at JEECamp Tumblr. Soon i’ll share with you more links covering the event.

Breadth Portfolio: Part 3 – Data Visualization

The last part of the series with parts of the report I made for the Multimedia Journalism module, this time about data visualization.

Experiments in Data Visualization

One of the fields I’ve been interested the most is in data journalism, and the visual representation of information. It takes two seemingly opposite mindsets to work with data: one of a statistician and the other of a designer, the analytical and the creative side by side. But I found that data, to be interesting to the audience must have one or both of these features, besides being accurate and relevant: it has to be visually compelling and/or interactive. Once again, technology comes to the rescue, and at the same time can lead us to disaster. The huge amount of tools available to organize and present data relies in different coding languages, mostly Javascript and Flash, and if we are to use live data we must know how to use APIs to direct content into our application. And even if we find a software that does it all for us, we need to know which story we’re telling.

I did some research about newspaper brand values and online traffic of Portuguese news websites, and I came across with the monthly traffic report for all of them. My goal was to understand the relative and proportional position of each one, regarding visits, page views, and how those two values relate to each other. The data I got also has portals, specialized websites, and entertainment magazines so it has a broad range of themes (all charts are available live here – http://is.gd/aZLXs)

First of all I wanted to have a general overview of the size of each one when it comes to space within the Portuguese online universe, so I went for a tree map. The view wasn’t clear enough, so I tried a different approach, using a bubble chart, highlighting just the focus of my research, which were specifically newspapers. It was a better option, and I could have done things even more interesting if I added the paper circulation data. One of the conclusions that I would have found was that best selling newspapers don’t necessarily do equally well online.

But the real risk when connecting data is to draw wrong conclusions from fact. So these are the most successful websites, looking at these data sets right? Well, maybe not. What if we try to understand who are better at engaging the audience and get more page views per visit?

The idea that I got is that we can use data visualization to find a perspective on the subject and that will lead us to a better understanding of what were just numbers on a paper.

Breadth Portfolio: Part 2 – Flash Package

The second part of my Breadth Portfolio series, in this one i briefly explain how the Moseley Road Baths Flash package was made.

Flash

Moseley Road Baths

I’ve wanted to use Flash to create a multimedia package or to aggregate different types of content in one same product. Recycling the contents I had produced previously for HashBrum, I made a serious attempt to build one: “Moseley Road Baths- Pool of Affection[i].

I’ll avoid commenting on the content of the piece, because all the questions are related to the construction process. First of all, Flash is an almost exclusive of Adobe, and its complexity make it hard to use, but in the right hands it can deliver amazing works. This is not the case, and there are many reasons for it.

First of all, Flash evolved into Actionscript 3.0 which is much harder to use than the previous 2.0 version that I was familiarized with. This wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t have planned to use features that will only work with the 3.0 version, like mapping components. So I had to give up on my initial plan of incorporating a map into the piece, if I was to do it in AS2, although I searched intensively Google for solutions. But choosing which script language is used to build a work with Flash it’s just the beginning. We have to decide what contents are going to be featured, which technical specificities they demand, how are we supposed to navigate through them and which aesthetic options we will take. The most interesting part is that it is truly an interdisciplinary experience: I used video, and had to go through the options to embed it, and pick the best format (FLV) and size to convert it to; I had to create a look for the project, and I used image editors to edit pictures and small graphic elements; besides, flash is based in animation principles, so some notions on the subject will help.

Non-linearity is an important factor to this kind of work, and since I had divided the main video to small, independent bits it wasn’t hard to do. When I first started shooting this story, I had the notion I would use it for something like this, so I wasn’t that worried about creating a narrative chain throughout the filming, but just keeping it visually coherent, which under personal limitations is not that difficult.

Flash projects are also all about functionality (the way buttons are placed) and details (the way buttons move). To improve these two factors you must have a deeper knowledge of Flash (beyond button level), which is hard to acquire on your own. Though the web is filled with video tutorials and great websites on the matter, Flash is mostly about a logical process that it is hard to grasp on your own. But I fear the approach I took using AS2 is rendered obsolete, since AS3 is more powerful, albeit more difficult to use. This raises questions about how specialized a journalist’s skills can be, since it takes time to learn these new procedures, and which alternatives are there to Flash packages.


[i] Online http://tinyurl.com/ydufyp6

Moseley Road Baths: Flash Multimedia Package | Trabalho Flash Multimedia

click image | cliquem na imagem

I had a go with Flash for my assignment for the Multimedia Journalism module of the MA. I recycled some work i had done before for HashBrum, and did what i had planned from the start, though not the way i intended. It is an experiment, and i had to do it in ActionScript 2 instead of 3, because i didn’t have time to learn how to work with Flash all over again.

Anyway here it is, comments and ideas are appreciated.

Fiz um trabalho em Flash para o módulo de Jornalismo Multimédia do mestrado. Reciclei algum trabalho anterior que já tinha sido usado para o HashBrum, e fiz o que tinha planeado fazer desde o início, mas não da maneira que queria. É uma experiência, e tive que fazer tudo em ActionScript 2 em vez de 3, porque não tinha tempo para voltar a aprender a trabalhar com Flash outra vez.

De qualquer forma, aqui está, ideias e comentários são bem-vindos.