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#Tip: This tool will send you an SMS if your site goes offline

September 5th, 2013 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

Mobile-first

 

Monitor is a tool that will send you a text message or email if your site or a particular URL goes offline.

As The Next Web says:

Quite simply, Monitor will tell you by email or SMS when any of the websites that you are monitoring have gone offline, and will provide other stats showing you the site’s uptime history.

The free service doesn’t allow you to enable SMS alerts, and also restricts you to syncing your list of monitored sites once an hour. Paying the flat fee of $5.99 per month removes these restrictions and allows your Monitor to sync every five minutes, as well as unlocking a few other features.

 

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#Podcast: Talking social media and interactives at Al Jazeera

Image by M. Keefe on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Image by M. Keefe on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

This podcast provides an in-depth look at innovations in social media and interactives at Al Jazeera.

We hear how journalists go beyond Twitter and Facebook to crowdsource, using SMS and phone calls to gather the voices on the ground in different parts of the world.

Sarah Marshall, technology editor at Journalism.co.uk, speaks to:

  • Riyaad Minty, head of social media for Al Jazeera
  • Mohammed Haddad, interative producer, Al Jazeera English

You can hear future podcasts by signing up to the Journalism.co.uk iTunes podcast feed.

You might also be interested in:

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#Tip of the day for journalists: Search for Sandy tweets sent by SMS

Did you know that you could tweet by text message? A useful option if you find yourself without wifi and 3G and reporting on a severe weather event such as Hurricane Sandy. And did you know you can search for tweets sent by SMS?

If you want to search for tweets mentioning #Sandy sent by SMS, use the search box in Twitter and type #Sandy source:txt

If you want to search for tweets sent within 30 miles of New York by SMS, type near:new york within:30mi source:txt into the search box.

If you are ever caught without data services and want to send a tweet, here’s how you do so by SMS:

Save the number 86444 to your contacts (for UK Vodafone, Orange, 3, O2 and Sure customers). (Other country codes are listed here.) Text ON to the above number and you will be able to follow the commands to receive and send tweets.

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at Journalism.co.uk email us using this link.

 

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – know how to tweet via SMS

Because technology seems to fail when you least want it to, know how to report from your phone via Twitter using text messages.

SMS has been was used in tweeting the advance of Hurricane Irene, during the Arab spring and other major news stories, so it is worth having the SMS Twitter number saved to your phone.

Our 10 technical Twitter tips post explains how to do this.

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#jpod: How journalists can use SMS to engage with the audience

November 11th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Mobile, Podcast

Three quarters of the world’s population has a mobile phone and text messaging has become ubiquitous.

This podcast takes a look at how journalists can connect with sources, communicate with audiences, gather tips and crowdsource information using SMS, which is used by more than 80 per cent of Europeans who have a mobile phone.

A session on how to architect the SMS newsroom took place at the Mozilla Festival in London at the weekend.

Journalism.co.uk technology correspondent Sarah Marshall attended and caught up with the four speakers: Jim Colgan, who was digital editor and producer at WNYC radio in New York when the station created this award-winning crowdsourced SMS snow map and who is now working with Mobile Commons, a platform which allows you to send and receive text messages; Florence Scialom and Amy O’Donnell from FrontlineSMS, the provider of free software to enable you to text large groups of people; and Stevie Graham from Twilio, which allows developers to create voice, VoIP and SMS applications.

The podcast explains how to create a crowdsourced map, set up an anonymous tip line, and has advice from the four SMS experts.

You can hear future podcasts by signing up to the Journalism.co.uk iTunes podcast feed.

*Statistics on mobile use are taken from the mobiThinking site.

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Ten technical Twitter tips for journalists

So you think you know Twitter? But do you know how to archive tweets, set up an RSS feed of a Twitter stream or have private group chat?

Here are some practical, technical tips to help you:

1. Learn to love Twitter’s own advanced search. Since being updated earlier this year, Twitter’s search options have become much more powerful than they once were. You can use the advanced search page, but it’s worth learning a few shortcut commands you can use on the Twitter homepage. For example,

Type to: in the search box on Twitter’s home page to get messages sent to you or to a particular username.

Find local tweets using near: and within: This is a tip sent by journalism student Jeroen Kraan @KraanJ when we were discussing Twitter tips on @journalismnews.

There is a list of more Twitter advanced search commands here.

2. Search tweets using Topsy. Topsy is Google for social media, a search engine that allows you dig part way into the unimaginably vast Twitter archive.

3. Get to know other search tools. Search tweets using Snap Bird. This is a really handy tool that allows you to search a user’s timeline or your own account. Try PostPost to search and “strip search” your timeline. PostPost will ask for your email address, send you a link and then you can dig deep within your timeline, searching for a specific hashtag or user.

4. Set up an RSS feed. You can set up feeds of your own or any other user’s Twitter updates.

To add a feed of tweets from a user copy and paste the following, replacing xxxx with the user name.

http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/xxxx.rss.

This method doesn’t work for Google Reader but is compatible with RSS readers such as NetNewsWire.

To set up a keyword RSS feed use the following URL, replacing Journalism.co.uk / journalism jobs with your search query.

http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=journalism.co.uk

http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=journalism jobs

There’s also this really handy tool from Sociable.co. This allows you to set up an RSS feed for a username, Twitter list or keyword.

5. Archive your tweets. You can archive a hashtag or tweets sent from your account or another user’s account using Twapperkeeper. This is a particularly useful way if you want to search for a tweet you sent some months or even years ago.

6. Verify tweets. The HoverMe browser extension for Chrome is useful for verifying Twitter sources. Once installed and you hover over a Twitter profile photograph, you can see what other online accounts that user has and although not fool-proof, it will give you some idea of whether they are a real person with LinkedIn, YouTube and Delicious accounts and, helpfully, a Klout score, which measures online influence.

7. Here’s a tip for TweetDeck users who share the management of a Twitter account. One limitation of TweetDeck is the inability to be able to create a column of tweets sent from your account, something you can do in other applications such as HootSuite. The workaround is to set up a new Twitter account, follow the one (or more) account you manage and set up a TweetDeck column for “all friends”. This is our solution at Journalism.co.uk, where several people respond to tweets.

For this to work you must always use a character before the @ as tweets beginning @username can only be seen by people who follow you and that person.  For example, use .@joebloggs and not @joebloggs when writing tweets that begin with a username.

8. Have private, group chats by starting tweets with !b. New Twitter tool !blether allows you to start a group, private chat with people who follow you. After authenticating this tool you can use !b at the beginning for a tweet to begin a conversation. Useful for chats during conferences.

9. Monitor Twitter lists. How often do you make use of other people’s Twitter lists? Journalists seem to frequently overlook these existing lists where people have already done the legwork for you in terms of collating lists of useful people to follow. For example, a journalist following a story such as an uprising in an Arab country, a financial story or celebrity gossip can simply follow a list someone else has created.

Did you know that Journalism.co.uk has Twitter lists for UK regional journalists, UK broadcast journalists, UK press public relations, UK consumer journalists, etc? Send us a tweet if we have missed adding you to the correct list.

10. Familiarise yourself with how to read and send tweets via SMS. You never know when you might need to send or read a tweet via SMS. Even if you have a smartphone you may find yourself unable to use a 3G or WiFi signal. The number you need to save in your contacts is 86444 (for UK Vodafone, Orange, 3 and O2 customers). (Other country codes are listed here.) The command you need to remember or to save is ON. Text ON to the above number and you will be able to follow the commands to receive and send tweets.

Helpful links:

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#MozFest: Six lessons for journalists from the Mozilla Festival

The Mozilla Festival took place this weekend and provided journalists, open web developers and educators with a place to learn and to build.

Here are six tips from the festival, which was called media, freedom and the web.

1. In less than a week there will be a Data Journalism Handbook. Created in 48 hours with contributions from 55 people, the first draft was written at the festival and is due to be published next week. The book provides journalists the chance to get to grips and to learn from some of the key data journalists in the UK and abroad.

2. Journalists can now create web native, social video using Popcorn Maker. Take a video and add web content including tweets, Flickr photos and Google Street View images. This is a hugely exciting development in online video journalism.

3. Expect exciting developments in HTML5 news web apps. Developer Max Ogden presented a live web app in the final show tell which added photos tweeted by the audience with hashtag #MozFest. In real-time the images appeared in the app displayed on a large screen. This type of app has huge potential for news sites and user-generated content.

4. SMS may not seem like cutting edge technology but should not be ignored when it comes to engaging with the audience. Text messages can be automatically sent to Google Fusion Tables and uploaded manually or posted to a map in real-time. Here is an example where the company Mobile Commons enabled San Francisco public radio to map listeners’ earthquake readiness.

5. It will be worth keeping an eye on the five Knight-Mozilla technology fellows being placed in newsrooms at Al Jazeera English, the Guardian, the BBC, Zeit Online and the Boston Globe to see what is produced. Each news organisation selected an individual based on an area of journalism they wanted to develop. The five will now be embedded in the different newsrooms and tasked with bridging the gap between technology and the news.

6. Want to get to grips with HTML5 for journalists? Do you want to start coding but don’t know where to begin? The w3schools site offers guides to HTML, HTML5, CSS, PHP, Javascript. If you want to start scraping data then ScraperWiki, which allows you to scrape and link data using Ruby, Python and PHP scripts, has some hugely useful tutorials. If you simply want to take a look to see how HTML actually works within a webpage then Hackasaurus has an x-ray goggles tool to allow you to do just that.

There were several sessions, including on WordPress, trusting news sources, tools for a multilingual newsroom, online discussions, text edit for audio and real-time reporting, which were were unable to attend. Search for the #MozFest hashtag for further reports from the festival.

Photo by mozillaeu on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

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Round-up: Media Futures conference 2009 – ‘Beyond Broadcast’

July 6th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events

“Gradually more power cuts – the future is more certain than you think (…) With 90 per cent certainty I can tell you that tomorrow will be Saturday.”
James Woudhuysen, professor of forecasting, De Montford University

“Content is not king, it’s about how people use it. SMS is one of the most expensive mediums but still massively popular.”
Matt Locke, commissioning editor, education new media, Channel 4

The above quotes were just a small sample of the varied and interesting points discussed at Media Futures 2009 in London last Friday.

The conference explored the future of the media as we move ‘beyond broadcast’.

Speakers and guests included the BBC’s Richard Sambrook, POLIS director Charlie Beckett and TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher.

Themes for discussion included desirable, feasible, challenging and viable futures for the industry.

Television
Video on Demand (VOD) was a popular topic, which divided opinions. Avner Ronen, founder of Boxee, a video service that connects your TV to online streaming media, argued that personal video recorders (PVR) were soon to be obsolete.

But as media analysts, including Toby Syfret from Enders, were quick to point out, TV still has a lot of life left in it. According to his analysis, despite the success of services such as the BBC iPlayer, watching streamed content remains a niche market with just 0.5 per cent of total viewing time being spent on computers.

Newspapers
Panellists were agreed on the future for local newspapers. Patrick Barwise, professor of management and marketing at London Business School said: “Local newspapers won’t come back, the classified advertising model that held them together has changed.”

After the conference I ran into Bill Thompson, the BBC’s technology columnist. Listen below to hear his views on the future for journalists:

Alex Wood is a multimedia journalist and social media consultant based in London. You can find him on twitter here.

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Gorkana: Legal Technology Insider closes Twitter feed, owing to ‘high number of irrelevant tweets’

A snippet from today’s Gorkana newsletter:

“The specialist legal IT newsletter Legal Technology Insider and its companion blog, The Orange Rag, has closed its Twitter feed, owing to the fact that they were getting a high number of irrelevant tweets.”

Update: Charles Christian, the publication’s editor and publisher, writes on the Orange Rag:

“Twitter – we have pulled the plug on our Twitter feed because:

“(i) 99 per cent of the incoming tweets we were receiving were pointlessly banal beyond crass (probably the most dire, from an editor of a US magazine, was ‘airplane crashes make me feel sad, I feel sorry for the passengers’)

“(ii) [T]he technology was flakey with much of the functionality not working when required. As far as we can see, the only useful role for Twitter is as a multi-recipient SMS texting service. We’ll stick with the blog and email, life is too short to spend servicing yet another transient communications medium.”

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Audioboo: Can it be used for news reporting? Some case studies

Yesterday Journalism.co.uk spoke with Audioboo founder Mark Rock about the potential for the iPhone audio app to be used for local news reporting:

“[E]veryone knows what’s happening to traditional media and local newspapers are dying by the moment. But is there a very simple and easy way [for others] to start collecting audio data and using it?”

As the tool is developed – both by Audioboo’s team and third-parties once the API is released – there’s even more scope for using geotagged audio news reports.

You can see the possibilities from how it’s already being used by some Audioboo-ers:

Pie & Bovril
The Scottish Premier League site ran a trial of the app last weekend. The aim? To get ‘sound byte updates’ from fans in and around stadia, the site’s David MacDonald told Journalism.co.uk.

“Although the big clubs are well catered for of an afternoon with live commentary we felt that the smaller clubs weren’t really in a position to service the information requirements of their fans who can’t make it along for whatever reason or those ex-pats who are keen to find out what’s happening from afar on a Saturday afternoon,” explains MacDonald.

“We pick up the information via feeds from Boo which automatically populate the appropriate section of our site.”

P&B has tried updating web pages using email to text gateways and experimented with SMS updates, but these were time consuming and failed to convey the mood of fans at the game, he adds.

“It’s early days but we feel this could be a really neat, low cost way, of getting information back from around the grounds to those unable to attend. We’ll continue to grow the trial and get a few users on it and see how it goes from there,” says MacDonald.

London SE1 Community Website
James Hatts, editor of community website London SE1, published by Banksidepress said the site is also experimenting with Audioboo and has uploaded newsworthy clips, such as updates on a local fire.

“I think AudioBoo has great potential for local reporting – it’s just so easy. No waiting to get back to the office, no transcribing endless recordings, no editing, no waiting for YouTube (for example) to process your video,” says Hatts.

According to Hatts, the ‘idiot-proof brilliance’ of the app is comparable to using a Flip camera and could make it an important part of a modern reporter’s kit.

However, using it in a way that makes economic sense is a key consideration for Bankside:

“It’s early days for Audioboo but at the moment there’s no way to drive traffic to our own site from a boo page, for instance,” explains Hatts.

“There are interesting future possibilities for using voice recognition software to display contextual adverts around the audio player (or even to insert relevant audio adverts).

“At the moment it’s great for novelty value and building an audience and building a brand, but even an operation like ours which is run on a shoestring needs to be able to derive some revenue from our content.”

Our Man Inside
Rock said Audioboo should be used to augment other reporting and that audio was an emotive medium – both ideas that seem to have been taken on board by ‘social media mongrel’ Christian Payne in his use of the app.

“[W]hile i experiment, I have fallen back in love with audio. It makes you think more about how you describe your surroundings. It makes me want my surroundings to explain themselves. Either by getting close to a person and their opinion or close to environmental sounds,” he writes in a blog post.

“Combined with a photo attached to act as a catalyst for the imagination, the listener is not being force fed the story. They have to take a moment to let their imagination get involved in the media.”

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