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.
Bundlr is a new and free tool for online curation: clipping, aggregation and sharing web content easily.
We’re afoot with an information overload. New sources and mediums are emerging and each specialist is finding his way through all being published online. But we’re lacking the tools to quickly select the best we find on the web, organize and share it.
With Bundlr you can create bundles of any kind of content: articles, photos, videos, tweets and links. Cover real-time breaking news from your sources. Wrap up an event with a collection of online feedback. Build a page where you pick the most relevant content on your area of expertise.
Using Bundlr browser button, you can clip content while you browse the Internet. Just press the button to save the content you want, and the meta-data around it, to the bundle you pick. Each bundle will have its own public webpage you can share freely. In later features you’ll be able to filter clips, create visualizations and embed bundles on any website.
Reminds you of Storify? Check both videos and spot the differences. I prefer Bundlr in many ways (i had a sneak preview) and besides being more attractive visually, it brings more interesting features. It can be used by journalists or any one else who wants to aggregate online content in one single page (in their terms, bundle).
Last weekend’s floods in Madeira became a case study on the role of social media and common citizens in spreading news and data in case of disaster. I’ll be writing a few posts about some things I did to help cover the event, and how traditional media was left far behind in the stream of information. Again.
Saturday, 20th February. Madeira island is hit by a storm, raining more in two hours than in a whole month. Waves of mud drag rocks, houses and cars down the hills, ending up in downtown Funchal where the rivers meet, flooding buildings, and swallowing whoever failed to escape the fury of the waters. Twitter was hectic with accounts of destruction, questions about what was going on, and, maybe a sign to take in consideration, videos. The traditional media was slow to respond: besides a few breaking news stories in some news websites, there wasn’t much for the information starved users. If you wanted to know what was going on you had to follow the #tempmad hashtag, fed by descriptions of locals that witnessed tragedy unfold right on their doorstep.
Lots of links to YouTube started to appear in the timeline – there were NO photos available in the first hours, and pictures wouldn’t make any justice to the dimension of the disaster. Video was the first instinct for the majority of users – and there was constant retweeting of the scarce information available, most of it provided by one user, @lindamachado, that became the main figure in the eye of the Twitter storm. But besides Twitter, there were no news to be found anywhere else. Portuguese public cable news channel was the only main media trying to do a coverage of the events, resourcing to – guess what? – Twitter, my map (i’ll talk about it in a bit), YouTube videos, and phone interviews, that were hard to make because the storm disrupted the service in many parts of the island.
We have to look at the specific circumstance that allowed social networks to become the main source and channel for all the news about the flood: it was Saturday, shortly after lunch. People had free time, they didn’t have to go to work, and the newsrooms were in weekend mode, which means even more understaffed. To tell you the truth, for most televisions and newspapers, real coverage began on Monday. Until night news around dinner time, there was almost no new data about the tragedy in mainstream media, while was starting to gain unforeseen proportions.
Google maps and docs
When I saw the first tweets i immediately thought about creating a Google map to aggregate some information and videos, so people could see all the available information that was getting diluted in the Twitter stream (it’s the map above). All i had to do was to fish for YouTube links and relevant info, and asked users following #tempmad to contribute. Although in the beginning i didn’t have many contributions, the map generated lots of interest: it showed up and was referenced in the public national TV live coverage, and it was embedded in two major newspaperwebsites. In the first hours it had more than 10.000 views, reaching 30.000 in the first 48 hours. This proves how huge was the demand for information that traditional media weren’t able to provide.
Then i noticed there was a website created on Netvibes that was also trying to gather all the scattered information on twitter, other websites and forums. I joined efforts with the author of the website, a process i’ll explain in a different post, and added my map to the website. Recently, i added a few more features using mapping tools and google forms and docs.
Since there was a problem with the number of victims (bodies keep showing up but the numbers are going down) we decided to ask the community to report the deaths they knew. For that I built a small form, to cross-reference with the official data. It took 5 minutes to set up the form, and feed the results into the page. I also wanted to use a map for the official results, and i created a new one, based on a spreadsheet. Every time the number changes, all we have to do is to edit the spreadsheet, instead of a live edit on GoogleMaps. What i’ll try to do is to layer the different information in one single map, if you have any ideas to do that let me know.
Another novelty I read about yesterday and just had to use, was the Umapper feature that allows to get tweets from a specific location. I used it to show tweets with #tempmad from Madeira, as you can see below:
With the perspective of more rain for this weekend this map might come in handy to visualize the ongoing events.
This series will continue with the analysis of the work of an improvised team. Stay tuned.
Channel 4 has been investing in digital platforms and products, not to transfer television onto the web, but to create new products that engage audiences online, through the 4iP program. Their new media Commissioners came to Birmingham to share what they’re doing and what are their plans for the future. And that involves other people’s ideas. Your ideas.
Mobile apps, gaming, native online content, social media, networks, collaboration: these are not the thoughts you’d expect from a TV channel. But Channel 4 has a different approach. They created the 4 Innovation for Public (4iP) fund, to deliver publicly valuable content and services on digital media platforms with significant impact and in sustainable ways. And sustainability is a huge issue for them. “We are not charity”, said Tom Loosemore, head of 4iP, but they are willing to invest part of their 20 million pounds budget to “support bigger, bolder projects”.
They are already supporting a few in the West Midlands, like Help me Investigate, Yoosk, Talk About Local, the place they described as the “hottest spot to be in the country” regarding new media. If you want to know how to propose a project to 4iP, just keep on reading. Many of the minds that got together this Tuesday at the Austin Court, left feverishly plotting their proposals.
Embarrassing Bodies and the Battlefront
First let’s take a look at they’ve been doing so far. Louise Brown, head of Cross Platform commissioning, explained that digital platforms “allow to increase the depth of impact with audiences”. Their TV show Embarrassing Bodies was divided into clips for screening on the computer or cell phones, to make all of the medical information more useful and accessible. Interaction is also a big deal for them. In their online drama “Hollyoaks”, the mainly teen audience had a chance to interact with the actors. Brown said that younger audiences “tend to expect and demand more”, and creating engagement is a huge part of that relationship.
“We want to focus on what the audience needs” and their needs for 2010 revolve around health, comedy and news, the three top goals they want to tackle next year. “We’re looking to hear from designers, production companies”, anyone who can provide “more innovation”, and that is what Louise Brown expects to be funded by the 3 million budget of the Cross Platform.
Innovation is also a keyword for Matt Locke, who’s in charge of the Education projects at 4iP. He defined his work in three simple steps: get attention, keep attention and add value. “We try to reach teens in their streams” and they navigate on social networks like Facebook, Twitter or even YouTube. These networks filter the content for them, so Matt Locke defended that they have to “go out where the teens are”, to get their attention. After that, they must build a relationship, allowing them to express their views in comments, polls or other forms of participation. It’s that kind of engagement that adds value to the contents produced by them. He gave the example of “Battlefront”, a show about 20 young campaigners defending their cause with the help of online users. “Some of the campaigners had phenomenal responses”, and it showed that a lot has to be learned about how to combine video with online networks.
Networks are important, but gaming is one of the top priorities at the Education department. They even have a game about networking called “Smokescreen”, but their biggest success is the “1066” flash game (related to the historical drama series with the same name) that averaged 250.000 plays per week, with users playing it for more than 20 minutes, in a total of 7 million players, most of them outside UK. According to Locke, they have been two years into this strategy, and the next item in their list is widgets, apps that sit within social networks, and more games. It’s all about the interaction, the relationships and debate.
Make some trouble
Tom Loosemore, head of 4iP, laid down the values of the company for us: “Doing it first; inspire changes in people’s lives; making trouble in public interest”. But if you want to approach them with an idea, your product must be sustainable. And that is not all, it has to be innovative, and since one of their key objectives is “to explore new business models”, all of the advertising supported projects are promptly sent to the bin. What you must consider is if your idea has “a center of gravity around participation and collaboration?”
He showed us some of the projects that stand for the company’s values: Mapumental, a project about commuting; AudioBoo, that was effectively used during the G20 protests in London, with people reporting from the frontlines using their iPhones; and MyBuilder, something he called as “consumer protection for the 21st century”. Tom Loosemore also enhanced another aspect to take into account: “People’s media habits are fragmenting” and it’s harder to introduce people to great contents they don’t know about. “Discoverability” is the word, which is translated by helping users “bump into stuff they like” integrating Facebook and Twitter into the aggregated content of 4OD. “You can see what your friends are watching and talking about.”
For Tom Loosemore there’s an effective way to get a project running: build them quick and dirty and get them on the internet. If you want to submit your project you must remember that it has to be sustainable. “We are a business”, he emphasizes, but he is also looking forward for people willing to take risks. “It’s not about funding, but stimulating products” and if they can cause a stir, even better. They are looking for projects that fall under value number 3 (make some trouble) holding power to account, but they are also interested on Health and Wellbeing, Comedy and Arts.
Yesterday we had Chris Pinchen for a small conversation about how social media is perceived and used in different countries. Living in Catalunya for 16 years now he has a privileged viewpoint, since the social media habits are different there.
One example he gave was the Copons 2.0 project, which is, simply put, a small village engaged with the local administration via social media. The people of Copons use Facebook not only to connect beyond everyday life with each other, but also with people from other vilages around. They also follow the meetings of the village council live online, and participate in the debate.
According to Ricard Espelt, the project manager, “the idea is that the user or citizen participates in the management of the administration, and the politicians, us in this case, are obliged to be accountable for the decisions we take and, in this way, the citizen has very direct contact with us, and we have to give answers about the decisions we take.”
Is this really power to the people? Have your say in the comments.
Ontem estivemos com o Chris Pinchen para uma curta conversa sobre como os media sociais são vistos e usados em países diferentes. A viver na Catalunha há 16 anos, ele tem uma perspectiva privilegiada, já que os hábitos lá são diferentes.
Um exemplo que ele deu foi o projecto Copons 2.0, que, basicamente, é uma aldeia ligada à administração local através dos media sociais. O povo de Copons não só usam o Facebook para se ligarem uns aos outros para além do dia-a-dia, mas também com pessoas dos arredores. Eles também seguem as reuniões da junta de freguesia ao vivo online, e participam no debate.
Segundo Ricard Espelt, o criador do projecto, “a ideia é fazer com que o utilizador ou o cidadão participe na gestão da administração, e os políticos, nós neste caso, são obrigados a prestar contas pelas decisões que tomamos, e desta forma, o cidadão tem um contacto muito directo connosco, e temos que dar respostas pelas decisões que tomamos.”
Isto será realmente o poder para o povo? Dêem as vossas opiniões nos comentários.