Tag Archives: online tools

Tool of the week for journalists – ifttt, a promising app for dealing with data

Tool of the week: ifttt, shorthand for “if this then that”.

What is it? This tool is still in private beta but it is worth applying for an invitation and waiting to see when it goes public as it promises interesting possibilities for journalists.

The best way to understand it is to read this description of ifttt, which explains that the tool works on the premise of “if this then that” or “when something happens (this) then do something else (that)”.

The ifttt site explains it clearly:

Here is an example of a task that tweets every new bookmark from my Delicious account tagged “tweet”:

The ifttt blog offers further explanation:

ifttt isn’t a programming language or app building tool, but rather a much simpler solution. Digital duct tape if you will, allowing you to connect any two services together. You can leave the hard work of creating the individual tools to the engineers and designers. Much like in the physical world when a 12-year-old wants a lightsaber, cuts the handle off an old broom and shoves a bike grip on the other end, you can take two things in the digital world and combine them in ways the original creators never imagined.

A quick look at ifttt on Twitter will give you a sense of what is happening in the development of the tool.

How is it of use to journalists?

It could be extremely useful to journalists, for example, by providing a simple way to capture data from existing online platforms, and also to anyone who wants to set up automated posts.

News numeracy: online tools for reporting numbers

Following on from Steve Harrison’s excellent two-part guide on news numeracy, ‘How to: get to grips with numbers as a journalist’, here’s a round-up of some of the best online tools and sites for journalists when reporting figures and stats:

  1. By uploading text or tables you can create simple piecharts to more complex maps or bubble charts. There are also options for text-based visualisations.
      • For creating charts try:
      1. Using a spreadsheet in Google Docs – you can highlight a table of data and select from a range of simple 2d and 3d graphs and charts.
      2. Online spreadsheet service Zoho Sheet (looks similar to Google Docs and requires registration, but claims to allow integration with Microsoft Powerpoint and Excel)
      3. Fusion Charts – for creating interactive, flash charts
      1. Everything you could ever want to know – and more – about using Excel spreadsheets for data analysis and number crunching.
      1. Can be used to track multiple sets of data and present them in a combination of charts, lists and graphics.
      • Helpful lists
      1. Journalism trainer Mindy McAdams has a great round-up of data visualisation resources, including this list of 175+ data and information visualization examples and resources.
      2. 10,000 words offers some inspirational infographics and a ‘how to’ on creating charts.

      Any other tools that you use? Let us know and we’ll add them to the list.

      Covering media job cuts – staff facing redundancy speak online

      Having set up a timeline dedicated to reporting on the sweeping job cuts affecting both senior and junior journalists alike, a trend is emerging for laid-off staff to use blogs, Twitter and other online sites and tools to capture their redundancy.

      Reports such as Martin Gee’s set of Flickr images from his last day at the San Jose Mercury give a highly individual picture of how these cuts are being felt on a personal level beyond the redundancy figures and prediction stats.

      In the summer, the Columbia Journalism Review started its ‘Parting Thoughts’ series, posting responses from journalists leaving the industry or facing redundancy.

      At the Gannett Blog, former Gannett editor Jim Hopkins crowdsourced a blogpost of lay-offs by the publisher, listed by newspaper area – at time of writing redundancies at 72 of Gannett’s 85 US titles affected by the company’s latest round of job cuts were accounted for in Hopkins’ post.

      In an open blog post last week, Ryan Carson, co-founder of web application design and events agency Carsonified, used the company’s blog to share his thoughts about staff cuts and give the reasons for making them.

      Carson went on to give tips for companies looking to recession-proof their business (points that some commenters on the post argue are common sense no matter what the economic situation).

      The Spokesman-Review has used its Daily Briefing blog to cover staff leaving in an equally personal and open way. News of senior staff exiting the paper, such as editor Steve Smith and assistant managing editor Carla Savalli, was broken on the blog and posts have also been penned by outgoing journalists, including Thuy Dzuong:

      “Folks, it’s been fun but The layoff list for non-managers has been finalized, and I’m on it.”

      Last week Silicon Alley Insider built a ‘real time’-style page to cover lay-offs at parent company Yahoo, updating it as new info came in.

      (UPDATE – The Rocky Mountain News has launched iwantmyrocky.com to canvas support for the newspaper)

      Despite the sad circumstances, the way in which journalists and media workers are facing redundancy in these examples shows a real engagement with online tools. A personal picture of what is happening to the industry is being documented for future reference by these staff members expressing themselves so openly (and perhaps significantly being ‘allowed’ to express themselves by their past/present employers).

      What is more, while they may not hold the answers to the problems currently faced by the media industry, they shed light on how these issues are perceived and felt on the frontline. Something which employers should read and learn from.

      Round-up: Ofcom’s public service broadcasting review and ITV regional news cuts

      The verdicts are in on Ofcom’s second public service broadcasting review, which gives ITV the go ahead to cut its regional news programming to save money.

      Broadcasting union BECTU has criticised the move for ‘betraying regional news audiences’ and causing 100s of jobs losses.

      “OFCOM’s decision to give ITV the go ahead to cut regional news services by half, is further evidence, says BECTU, of the regulator dancing to the tune of ITV and its shareholders,” said the union in a press statement.

      The National Union for Journalists (NUJ) has also raised concerns over the decision, describing it as a sign of Ofcom’s failure to stand up for the public interest.

      “Today’s announcement signals a regulator that has failed in its remit and is intent on presiding over the decline and eventual death of local and regional news on the ITV network. All in all a dismal day for supporters of plurality and quality regional programming,” reads a post on the union’s Save The ITV News campaign blog.

      Both the unions claim research conducted by the regulator, and announced in a release accompanying the review, contradicts the ITV decision. The key findings of the research, according to Ofcom, suggested that:

      • 9 out of 10 people do not want the BBC to be the only provider of public service content in the future
      • a majority of people want ITV1 to continue to provide regions and nations news to complement the BBC

      According to a report by MediaGuardian, 500 jobs could be cut from the broadcaster’s regional news operations as part of the changes.

      paidContent:UK dissects the review on a different level flagging up the regulator’s calls for more links to public service content on websites.

      “This might include new online tools that help people ‘bump into’ new websites which otherwise they might not have found, along the lines of stumbleupon.com or last.fm, with a public service perspective,” the review says.

      Today’s review will be subject to a consultation period, ending on December 4, the results of which will be published in early 2009.

      Getty teams up with Yahoo to tap into Flickr users

      Getty Images is to collaborate with Yahoo-owned image-sharing site Flickr to harness the potential of the site’s members.

      Through the partnership Getty will invite Flickr members to contribute their images to a ‘Flickr branded collection’ on the agency’s website. Pics in this collection will then be made available for licensing by Getty’s clients.

      Editors from Getty will select the members and the two companies are currently working on online tools for contacting Flickr users.

      Members who chose to submit their images to the collection will hand over exclusive commercial rights of the photos to Getty.

      “Flickr members will benefit from Getty Images’ global sales and distribution teams helping to market their images and from Getty Images’ expertise and experience in rights and clearances of visual content. Getty Images’ customers will benefit from the fresh, unique and individualistic perspectives of members within Flickr’s global community,” a release from Yahoo said.

      A launch date for the collection is yet to be announced.

      Social Media Journalist: “BBC journalists are increasingly using Del.icio.us to collaborate and turn research into content” Robin Hamman, BBC Senior Broadcast Journalist

      Journalism.co.uk talks to journalists across the globe about social media and how they see it changing their industry. This week, Robin Hamman of the BBC.

      Image of Robin Hamman, senior broadcast journalist BBC

      1) Who are you and what do you do?
      Robin Hamman, I’m a Senior Broadcast Journalist at the BBC where I spend much of my time showing people how to use social media and blogging as part of their ordinary programme and content making processes.

      2) Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
      Most of them! My day starts with a visit to my web-based RSS reader that pulls in all the new content from around 90 blogs and other sources I subscribe to.

      Some of those feeds are also things like Technorati, Icerocket and Google blog searches on various keywords. This means I very rarely have to proactively seek out content on the web anymore.

      As I read through my RSS feeds I use Del.icio.us to bookmark and share the interesting content I find. This, in turn, publishes into my blog automatically at lunchtime – again, creating content out of something I’d do anyway.

      If I’m out and about I’ll use Zonetag on my mobile to tag, location stamp and upload photos to Flickr. I also use Twitter to stay in touch with my friends and contacts, something via mobile, other times online.

      If I’m planning to go out of town for work or a conference I put the details into Dopplr so I can see if any of my contacts are also going to be in town. I’m also a big user of Facebook – it, along with Twitter, has pretty much taken the place of email for me recently. I’m also experimenting with a few other social media tools such as qik, which broadcasts live video from my phone to the web, and some RSS aggregation tools like Yahoo Pipes.

      3) Of the thousands of social media tools available could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or news-gathering tool?
      If the question had been simply about online tools, then RSS would be my choice, but as you’ve asked about social tools, Del.icio.us is the one I’d highlight as having a lot of potential.

      Get over to the CommonCraft video about it and you’ll soon understand. BBC Journalists and production teams are increasingly discovering and using this great tool to collaborate more easily whilst researching and to turn their research process into content.

      4) And the most overrated in your opinion?
      Anything to do with video online – I just don’t get it. The only reason I shoot and post video online, aside from when I’m demonstrating how to do it, is to save my hands from having to transcribe a conference presentation that I’m live blogging.