Tag Archives: mashups

news:rewired – the afternoon sessions

This is the third post about the news:rewired conference. You can read the first and the second posts too.
Tony Hirst’s presentation at #newsrw. View more presentations from Tony Hirst.

In the  afternoon i was signed in for the Data Mashing session. I kinda expected it to be a bit technical, and i wasn’t wrong. You can’t learn how to create data visualizations and mashups in one hour, but you can get the logic and purpose of some applications to decide in the future if you’re going for this or that type of graph, or just to know that you can do this or that type of correlation between data sets. Data mashing is still a playground for those with a coder’s state of mind, and a nightmare for most of us mere wordsmiths.

So when Tony Hirst started his presentation the room was a bit caught off guard with the complexity of his work. Hirst started to explain that data tells stories, by using data visualizations reporters can look for anomalies, and find if that odd data means a story waiting to be told. He showed us some of the tools he uses in his projects with the Guardian’s Open Platform, like ManyEyes and YahooPipes, and how he geocodes that data with GeoCommons. It wasn’t a lecture for the faint of heart when it comes to coding and data geekery, but i can tell you i found it quite useful. Data mashing is one of the most important ways of getting those boring stories with loads of incomprehensible stats and figures into compelling, eye-catching visualizations. And they can also be a great tool in the research phase, when reporters are trying to look for the exception in the rule.

The next speaker showed us just that with his work with MySociety.org. Francis Irving uses data to make the powerful accountable and in the users reach. He proved that presenting the TheyWorkForYou website and the new WhatDoTheyKnow. Both these enterprises use open data to hold local and national goverment representatives responsible for their actions during their mandates. It was the “why” to the “how” that Tony Hirst showed us before.

David Dunkley Gyimah talks about video

Another speaker that i was looking forward to hear was David Dunkley Gyimah. I‘ve been following his blog since i started my own almost three years ago. He got me looking into multimedia, video journalism and online video narrative in a different way. The fact he is a fan of experimentation and he supports the creation of a unique voice for each professional instead following the exhausted television news model makes his views more interesting to follow. It is always more appealing to me hear about video using terms like cinema verité and documentary, and his style is more related to a more cinematic narrative that i feel more interesting to be used online than the 90 second pieces for night news.

He compared online video to blogs, saying it was a disruptive way to present the news, and that the online video journalist could work between the cracks of broadcast journalism. Either way, with all the visual culture that most internet users have, online video is a good place to experiment, and since it needs to be done fast and effectively, we can use the error in our favor. The weapons of choice are becoming more numerous than before, and go from a pro hd camera to a cell phone. It’s always the story and the skills of the videographer that make the final result good or bad. You can see a hectic David doing his presentation in the video below.

E-lections

ELEIÇÕES

This text is the English version of my Media DJ column for Rascunho

The election season is always demanding for media, both during the campaign and the election day: confronting statements from the political actors, institutional reactions, a life on the road following candidates, reporting the small moments that make the routine of the political organizations  during vote hunting season, and afterwards, presenting the results as fast as possible. And the internet is the best medium to do this.

2009 will be remembered as the year where Portuguese elections found their way into the internet. Looking to mimic the “Obama effect”, almost all parties invested – better or worse- in an online presence that engaged citizens (i.e. potential electors). We just have to look at Twitter and see how many local board members created accounts,  or how many candidates to mayor invested in websites and social networks. Nonetheless, those efforts seem most of the times to be ineffective, not that useful for the common citizen.

But for the media, the internet has been a powerful tool. Besides aggregating content from different sources, the open nature of thw web invites to discussion and personal opinion. It is possible to create (unscientifical) polls about voting trends, or diffrent hot political topics; or even evaluate the quality of life in the city where you live in; or participate in real time as outside commentators of political debates. If the media manage to create spaces that use the spontaneous participation of citizens, they will also keep them as regular users of their contents.

Besides, the easy production of real time content allows a bigger proximity of the citizen with the political and civical processes of the election period. There is interest on his behalf, and his participation must be enabled.

One of the projects that got my attentioin during this long electoral journey in Potugal was Portuguese public television’s Mobile Journalist. The idea was to have journalists sending videos, reports, pictures live from the campaign actions spread out through the country. Why wait for the night tv news if we can see the statements, actions and reactions of the politicians in their quest for the vote, as they happen? Besides, although being Portugal a small country, news orgs can’t always send reporters to every campaign spot. The information can be gathered from user generated content, and local correspondents equiped with the appropriate gear.

Still, mojo reporters must be well oriented, and methods should be well defined so the content they bring is more valuable and just not “more content”. Radio reporters are the ones more fit to deal with the contingencies of this type of operation, but it is also needed that help them develop the video side. Anyway, i must congratulate RTP for investing in this idea, and for being the only company investing in this concept.

Another quite effective project was Público’s Eleições2009, that besides gathering opinions from the blogosphere and having room for the usual campaign news, also included tweets from the political forces, related news from other (international) media, in a well developed mashup, where its conceptual format benefits from the characteristics of the subject. In plain English, information and opinion in real time suit political coverage. And in this specific case it seems to have worked.

Another thing that fits perfectly with online news projects is numbers: poll results, votes, abstention percentages, comparisons with previous elections, all of this scattered through different regions, and provided in real time. The two best electoral results i found in the elections night were exactly the RTP‘s and Público, in my opinion.

The most important is that media know how to ride the news flow. Elections, because of the high amount of more or less  predictable content, allows to develop experiences and train journalists to digital media, so they can know what to do in breaking and off-the-agenda events.

As always, i want to know your opinion: do you know any other interesting political coverage website? And how would you like to participate with news websites during political campaigns?