Category Archives: social media

Comment is free, adding value is hard

When I was training journalists from one of the biggest media groups in Portugal in the wonders of online media, my favorite strategy to take a break during sessions was to launch debate. And none was so prolific as the discussion about article comments.

The divide was strong, and the general feeling was of frustration: all publications were understaffed, so there were no real comment moderators; most of the comments were nothing but personal disputes between commentators, agressive rants towards journalists, personal opinions on unrelated issues; grammar was a nightmare, the language was fowl; they complained about the usual patrons that tried to pass as experts but were far from it. Hell, they even had poetry posted in the comment box. And it was awful.

So, why have open comment boxes? Most agreed it drove audience numbers up: when one of the group’s websites decided to shut down the comments, visit numbers slumped. The comment box was the poor man’s social network, fed by negativity, stupidity and hatred. Management decided to profit from it by making the feature available again, even though it casted an ugly shadow below the byline. Freedom of speech was also debated.

While I was catching wind for the next bit, I listened to their personal frustrations towards this or that specific commentator. I started this game called “who’s commenting”, in which – with the available data – we would find who they really were. Shock and awe ensued, since the people that were harassing them for months -even years – were not quite what they expected.

Journalists and commentators had little respect for each other.

I said that in a everyway communication environment there are risks, and they should be handled to steer away from damage and into added value. They replied :”How?”

How to find value in the free manifestation of the common citizen, perched on his device delivering his two cents of personal spew, mostly uninformed, irreflected and useless? No wonder we love social networks, those personally crafted echo boxes where we can hide dissent with a click of a button.

This question is raised again in this Journalism.co.uk’s post that starts off with the decision of Reuters shutting down comments throughout their website. And they’re not alone:

Other news organisations have done the same, including the Chicago Sun-Times which described comments as “an embarrassing mishmash of fringe ranting and ill-informed, shrill bomb-throwing”

There are arguments in favor, though:

“It’s a very contentious issue. It’s something people feel very strongly about. My argument is if you have a website at all, why wouldn’t you give people the ability to comment on your content?”

The ecosystem has changed: opinon shifted from comment boxes to social media posts. The engagement arithmetic of links from external blogs or users replies to the articles became derisive. And publishers are no longer in control, either by this new logic or by negligence. Understaffed, remember?

We can never hope all our readers are smart, engaged people. But we shouldn’t dismiss most of them as solitary loons that use the comment feature as a soapbox for their diatribes. Thus, it’s up to publishers, and must be weighed section by section of their websites.

My non biliary two cents on this is if you don’t have a system – and the people to implement it – that doesn’t monitor and reward the best commentators, forget about open comment boxes. They are distracting and useless, and make intelligent readers nauseous.

If you do, allow (restricted) time for the article to be commented on and let the author join the discussion. Many don’t, and they should participate in the same way they write their stories: based on facts and in a impartial, non personal fashion, ignoring the trolls. No fight is worth picking in a comment box.

Get those pesky commentators out of the online anonimity and offer them a tour to your newsroom, enact live forums where they can be face to face with their targets. Make them show up or shut up.

Of course, this last suggestion is a bit idealistic, not to say impossible. But leave your comments below.

The Verification Handbook: verifying UGC for emergency coverage

I’ll just copy/paste the press release:

The European Journalism Centre (EJC) has released the Verification Handbook, the first ever guide for using user-generated content (UGC) during humanitarian emergencies.

Whether it is debunking images of ‘street sharks’ during Hurricane Sandy, or determining the veracity of videos that depict human rights abuses, reporting the right information is critical in shaping responses from the public and relief workers as a crisis unfolds.

By providing the exact methods needed to validate information, photos and videos shared by the crowd, the Verification Handbook forms an essential component of any organisation’s disaster preparedness plan.

The Verification Handbook draws on the experiences of practitioners from some of the world’s premier news and aid organisations, including BBC, Storyful, The Guardian, ABC, Buzzfeed UK, NHK, Poynter Institute, Digital First Media, the Tow Center, GigaOM, the Qatar Foundation’s Computing Research Institute (QCRI), the Internews Center for Innovation & Learning, OpenStreetMap, Amnesty International, Circa, Meedan, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), WITNESS, the Dart Centre Europe, and Shabab Souria.

An online version of Verification Handbook is available for free at http://verificationhandbook.com, and a PDF, Kindle and Print version will be released on 7 February. An Arabic version of the Handbook will also be released soon thereafter.

The initiative is financed by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, as well as by the African Media Initiative (AMI), and supported by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), Humanity Road and many other organisations.

Website: http://verificationhandbook.com
Twitter hashtag: #emjo

Did I mention it’s free?

Google Reader is dead. Feedly + IFTTT recipes FTW

Feedly is finally on IFTTT.

You can grab my recipes and use them, or create your own, and happily distribute your favorite feeds across the web.

After much chagrin about Google Reader’s demise, Feedly became my RSS reader of choice, if not only by the fact that they upgraded fast to meet the needs of Google users. Now I even like it better than Google Reader.

feedly

Read more about Feedly’s IFTTT channel , and start sharing.

 

 

Visual CV / Resume

vizify
click on the image to see my brilliant resume

Here’s a nifty tool to create an appealing visual resume. It’s called Vizify and you can use it for free. All you have to do is connect to your main social networks and tweak the info a bit.

By the way, I’m looking for work in digital/multimedia/interactive contents after the summer, queries are welcome.

Timeline: A short history of online journalism and the internet

Andy Dickinson updated his timeline of  major events for online journalism. It is a great resource to understand how fast things have evolved and got bigger than many expected.  It’s a great walk down Memory Lane, more intense than long, and it helps you put the whole business in perspective: lolcats, viral videos and hashtags haven’t been here forever. The road is long, still.

timeline andydickinson