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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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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Bergens Tidende asks users to map traffic hotspots

September 5th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

“Bergens Tidende, our local paper, has a shining example today of how a local newspaper can gather and report local news simultaneously by coordinating reader participation in a very easy-to-contribute mashup focusing on an issue of huge importance to Bergeners right now, though it’s of absolutely no wider interest”, writes Jill Walker Rettberg, an associate professor at the University of Bergen, on her blog.

That issue is traffic: Bergen, a city on the west coast of Norway, is currently building a light rail system through Bergen, and the road works and constantly changing detours are causing major traffic problems.

“We decided to do something different to report on the exasperating traffic situation in the city, ” Jan Stian Vold of Bt.no told me.

What the news site came up with, in addition to their normal coverage, was a Google Map where readers could plot in where they encountered traffic problems.

It asked its readers: ‘Where are the bottlenecks in the Bergen-traffic? How does the construction of the light rail system effect you?’

Walker Rettberg is also rather impressed by the anti-spam measures: “You enter your mobile phone number and instantly receive an SMS with a code that you then type into the website to confirm that you’re an actual person and that you’re a different person to all the other people who’ve entered their comments,” she writes.

This works as an efficient way of identifying people as all mobile phone numbers are registered by law in Norway.

Requiring users to register does raise the threshold for participation, but this has not deterred Bergeners, as around 400 people have reported their traffic problems so far, according to Vold.

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Innovations in Journalism: Moblog – instant publishing on-the-fly

September 4th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Mobile

In our Innovations in Journalism series, Journalism.co.uk asks website and technology developers to pitch their projects to us. This time it’s Moblog and its mobile toolkit for blog publishing.

1) Who are you and what’s it all about?
moblog:tech Ltd operates a community website, Moblog and a technology licensing firm.

Our team has been offering mobile blogging services since 2003, both to consumers wishing to blog from their phones; and to brands and businesses, who want to use mobile blogging as part of their marketing and promotional mix.

The service is a web and mobile service, so anything you post online is immediately accessible on your mobile as well.

Moblog as a platform is capable of instant publishing of content from in the field via voice (voice is converted to text and posted along with the original audio), MMS, SMS, email and via the web and mobile browser. This makes the service a perfect place to publish multimedia when it is time sensitive. This can happen direct to the picture desk behind a firewall or via RSS, it can be public and collaborative by allowing the public to post to your stream.

It is an exceedingly flexible system designed to bring web and mobile experiences together so that it no longer matters where you are publishing, reading or accessing the service.

The platform can be a complete install, such as Channel 4’s Big Art Mob (this is a build using our Participation Toolkit that we did for Channel 4); or can exist within Moblog itself as part of the network of moblogs. It can also be a standalone site in it’s own right such as the ‘Promotional Moblog’ for Dispatches.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?
Journalists are facing perhaps the greatest upset to the model and means of reporting that has occurred since the advent of the printed page. New audiences and new ways of reporting the news are fast becoming the norm.

Blogging is a big part of this transformation. With mobile camera phones and mobile web becoming the norm, the ability to generate images and video from mobile devices, along with audio and text, and share in a well structured manner to web and mobile sites whilst in the field is another tool now available – not only to journalists, but also to the public.

We have seen some game-changing shifts happen in how content is created, shared and disseminated, and the role of the public in adding to newsgathering and creation.

A critical example of this was the first image that emerged from within the tube tragedy on 7/7/2005, captured by Adam Stacey, which was first published on Moblog. This image became one of the seminal images associated with the event. More than this, it helped to define the emerging trend of so called ‘Citizen Journalism’.


3) Is this it, or is there more to come?

The platform is feature rich and it’s difficult to describe the possibilities (visit this link for a listing of Moblog’s features).

It’s worth mentioning that all posts can be geolocated on an integrated map on each moblog and that all moblogs are highly customisable, as reflected in the Dispatches program example above.

The platform is constantly evolving and we have a development pipeline that includes an API and other features that will be useful to individuals and clients.

4) Why are you doing this?

We started the site for fun back in 2003, with a shared passion for all things mobile, and for bridging web and mobile. We remain focused on enabling individuals, groups and clients to engage audiences on web and mobile with instantaneous, wonderful and useful content generated from their mobile phones.

5) What does it cost to use it?
It’s free to use non-commercially at Moblog, and we operate a ‘freemium model’ so that people can subscribe at Moblog for more features. Commercially, our licenses are yearly and range from £3,000 for mobile blogging solutions such as our Promotional Moblog.

6) How will you make it pay?
Our client base at this time comes predominantly from the entertainment and third sector. We intend to expand our client base for the Participation Toolkit and Promotional Moblogs. Licensing fees from these mobile blogging platforms, coupled with advertising and subscriber revenues, is how we generate revenue.

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Daily Mail tries to lure users with free international texts

August 27th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile, Newspapers

Following the launch of their MailTXT texting service earlier this year, the Daily Mail has now announced that new users will get 50 free international SMS messages to any phone when they sign up.

The intention of the scheme is to ‘build a more interactive relationship with its readers’, a press release said.

According to the Mail, ‘tens of thousands’ of users have already signed up to the service.

Users are charged for the network connection, and a message from a registered user to another costs 1.4p, and 6.4p to a non-user. Users collect 0.5p in ‘MailTXT Credit’ for every message sent and received, and are encouraged to access the Daily Mail’s content and special offers from their phones.

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Spleak apps deliver politics and sport news to social networks

May 8th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Uncategorized

Spleak Media Network has launched two new applications for delivering short-form sport and political news to social networks.

SportSpleak and VoteSpleak will serve up news headlines and gossip to users on social networks and instant messaging services, who can then comment on the updates to their friends.

Both will function along the same lines as CelebSpleak, which offers ‘tattles’ or short snippets of celebrity news to users including content from Hearst’s digital titles.

Content deals for SportSpleak and VoteSpleak, which have been launched in time for the forthcoming Olympics and US presidential election, will be announced shortly, the company said in a press release.

Spleak’s applications, which currently have over 100,000 active daily users, are available on AOL’s AIM, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, Facebook, MySpace and through SMS alerts.

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Hello magazine launches mobile alert service

May 8th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Magazines, Mobile

Hello magazine is introducing two new mobile services to deliver celebrity news.

Subscribers to MMS alerts will receive daily updates from Monday to Friday of the latest news from the website including an image, while SMS subscribers will be sent the latest headline.

“A launch of a mobile service has been long overdue, and I feel that it will be an important addition to our digital canon. A natural extension of a web presence is a mobile offering,” said Verity J. Smart, editor of the magazine, in a press release.

Users will be charged £1 for MMS messages and 25p for SMS, though monthly bills for each service will not exceed £23 and £10 respectively.

To sign up for the service users should text HELLO1 to 62233 for MMS alerts and HELLO2 to 62233 for SMS, or visit the mobile registration page of the site.

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