Directors' blog

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Archive for the ‘Digital events’ Category

Local news and the BBC’s local democracy reporting – an update

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For the first trip out of the office this year, I went along to the latest of the BBC’s ‘hyperlocal forum’ events today. It was the latest in the series of get togethers looking at how what’s being called a Local Democracy Reporting scheme, funded by the BBC licence fee, will operate across mainland UK.

A total of 150 reporters will be released into the world to report on decision making at top-tier councils in selected areas. Their reporting will be shared out (for free) to all participating news organisations in a move that’s intended to plug the democratic deficit that’s been left by local newspaper closures and constrictions.

The plans have evolved quite considerably since the event I attended last year – there’s even been ‘editorial trials’ in some areas – and the recruitment of the reporters is imminent (first half of this year).

If I go back to the earlier mentions of this scheme, there was some optimism that this would finally unleash a revenue source for those hard-working independents who have been plugging away reporting from their local authorities, often for no financial reward. But the way the scheme has been shaped is unlikely to deliver on that.

In order to effectively manage the contracts that will be needed to run the scheme, the BBC has divided the country into patches which reflect their own local news operations. Within those, they have then ‘bundled’ the local councils which need covering and assigned a suggested number of reporters to each of the contracts to be awarded.

As an example, in my home area, the North East, there will be money for 8 reporters (£34k per contract) across a huge geography of Tyneside, Wearside, Durham and Teesside.

Digging into the ‘bundle’ that covers my area (defined by the Beeb as Teesside) there will be just 2 reporters to cover the (vastly different and distant from each other) local authorities in Durham, Darlington and North Yorkshire.

I can’t think of a single independent news service which strives to cover such a large patch, so the only potential bidder would seem to be the established local Newsquest-owned paper. New entrants are considered ineligible – only news providers already up and running will be considered.

Given that similar situations will apply to many (possibly all) places as most independent publishers generally cover a small geography in a deep way), it’s hard to see where the opportunity to bid for these contracts will occur.

There was some disappointment about that situation expressed in the room today, alongside an understanding for the BBC’s position in attempting to find a way forward in managing this scheme in a reasonable, cost-effective way.

One possibility is that, in areas where there is a hyperlocal already operating, there could be some sort of joint bid with the local newspaper to cover these large patches.

The consultation is still running with the BBC continuing to talk with people about different ways of running the scheme and it will soon be put out to the industry with invitations to bid for the contracts.

Written by sarahhartley

January 9th, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Ten things learned at Thinking Digital

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1. The rest of the world is working less hours and eating more regular meals than I do.
The claim by Holly Goodier of the BBC that only 10% of the UK are at work at 6pm and that the majority of people eat their tea at 5pm was treated with much scepticism across twitter.


2. That some of the most important innovations happen via unsexy old technologies.
A timely reminder from both Ken Banks that the old and trusted technologies such as SMS and solar panels continue to have vital, even life-saving applications. But that new technologies, such as drones are proving valuable. In a separate session, Patrick Mier demonstrated their application in humanitarian work.

3. Getting the multi million investment deal is the start if a whole lot more Hassle…..
Being involved in start-ups (this and now this) means spending a lot time, thought and energy attempting to attract THE ONE, that investor which means hires can happen and those growth charts boom. But UK entrepreneur of the year Alexandra Depledge brought some no-nonsense experience to the matter revealing that, after raising $6m (and crying), she knew it would lead to yet another round and even more challenges to face.

4. Everyone seems to want to be ‘the Uber of something’

5. Artificial intelligence probably won’t mean a humanoid army coming to destroy us. (Unless the speakers were actually sent by robot overlords to mislead us, of course). Instead they may save our lives by entering our bodies to treat our ills with robotic surgeons and implated devices as Dr. Catherine Mohr explained.

6. Sounds unlikely, but Live coding on stage is actually a good performance. Or at least it was when Sam Aaron And Seb Lee-Delisle did it. Seb used his demo to show a tiny part of what was involved in creating this incredible digital firework display.

PixelPyros official video from Seb Lee-Delisle on Vimeo.

7. The dropping of letters from words still has an irresistible particle pull on start-ups seeking names for their companies. Looking at you start-up competition finalists Bristlr and Skignz.

8. We are all data slaves Jennifer Morone.
One woman’s answer – to incorporate herself and exploit those resources. Everything she is biologically and intellectually, everything she does, learns or creates has the potential to be turned into profits.

Jennifer Lyn Morone, Inc from jennifer morone on Vimeo.

9. Journalism needs to take a long hard look at how useful, valuable and beautiful the data visualisations it produces are.
Stefanie Posavec made our reliance on big numbers and charts look prehistoric with her visualisations.

(Pr) Stefanie Posavec from Protein® on Vimeo.

10. Finally I have an answer to why my electricity bill is so much higher than I think it should be.
Andy Stanford-clark has the house that tweets – he has wired up just about everything that can be measured and collects huge amounts of data from that. On analysing it, he discovered (among many more things) that leaving three laptops on standby costs a whopping £120 a year.

Written by sarahhartley

May 22nd, 2015 at 10:29 am

Data and culture metrics for arts organisations

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Capturing ideas

Gathering a group of arts organisations together to talk about ‘measuring cultural value‘ was never going to be an easy task. As researcher Franzi Florack pointed out in her opening remarks to the assembled culture thought-leaders in Manchester this week, every word in that phrase can be contested.

In the first of the two workshops looking at the sort of measures and metrics which could be useful when concerning cultural value (however that’s eventually defined!) participants were faced with a series of questions seeking to assess areas including, but by no means limited to, economic, cultural and social impact.

Please note, this is a cross post from the official research blog which contains further updates from the project and can be seen here but I felt the points deserved a wider airing as the issues raised are likely to cross into many other sectors of work and it would be interesting to hear from others who may be wrestling with similar complexities.

This blog post contains some notes the day from myself and Julian as we start to focus on the issues. We were both invited to attend to help formulate the provocations for the next workshop which looks more at data aspects and would appreciate any input you might have to the debate.

Some of the issues raised yesterday:

  • is a framework to assess cultural value even necessary/relevant/desirable?
  • when co-producing metrics, (how) could participatory events be used for the activity?
  • how can evaluation be longitudinal enough to include community?

Working in groups, participants considered their own organisation’s methods of data collection and evaluation. These included feedback surveys left in venues, interviews with visitors, random telephone cold call research interviews, social media monitoring and collation of newspaper reviews.

Small matter of reading

Some interesting points emerged including:

  • was collection and evaluation steered by financial imperatives?
  • notable that traditional marketing segmentation still seems widespread use across organisations.
  • changing role of front of house staff mentioned as venue ‘hosts’.
  • the friction between rewarding loyal engaged audiences and developing new ones through outreach to non-audiences and non-visitors.
  • discussion about the extent to which data collection was driven with funders in mind.

The two of us were asked to finish the session with a very brief introduction into the big data session which will come next.

Julian spoke about the need to identify gaps in the data currently being collected, and also referred to some of the rhetoric surrounding the ‘big data’ agenda which, in itself, can sometimes put up barriers to finding new, collaborative ways of working.

I used two case studies from the media sector to illustrate different ways in which data is being harvested, visualised and analysed. The first was this example from ReFramed.TV and the second, this opensource platform from

Before the next session on March 16, we will post some provocations into the internal critical friends forum and elsewhere. Further debate via the comments here also most welcome.

Written by sarahhartley

January 20th, 2015 at 9:19 pm

News you can use #ipiwoco

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Updating notes from presentation by Justin Arenstein.

Apps for Africa looks to build projects which have tangible outputs. Support a range of projects everything from journalism drones to data visualisation, fact-checking sites, reporting apps and map-based story telling.

90 projects live and available for newsrooms to use.

GotToVote project, which cost just a few hundred pounds to build, credited with increased voting levels.

In Kenya a ‘dodgy doctor’ checker which checks against a spreadsheet of qualifications and any cases against them. Very simple tools driven off a spreadsheet. Every time the paper runs a story about a dodgy doc, they embed the tool for people to be able to check their own doctors.

“Databases like this are evergreen. They have an impact by amplifying news.”

Written by sarahhartley

April 14th, 2014 at 6:48 am

Making parliamentary data come alive #ipiwoco

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These are updating notes from the breakfast session on data.

People’s Assembly recently launched in South Africa – bit similar to in the UK.
Track proceedings, bills and committees. Lots of information to engage citizens in democratic process.

In Kenya – Mzalendo turned data on attendance of MPs into a front page story.

Lungisa platform is for reporting issues in locations via mobile eg. Broken stuff. Now looking to use the platform for people in communities to tackle water and sanitation issues.

Citizen Journalism projects going on in townships to highlight issues such as rubbish introducing rats.

Written by sarahhartley

April 14th, 2014 at 6:19 am

Using social media for investigations #ipiwoco

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The final session of the afternoon is about using social media for investigative journalism.

Will update for the next hour. Class being taught by Gunter Bartsch @guebartsch.

To start investigating someone who is not a Facebook friend, being suggested that we set up a made up account and attempt to befriend. Obviously the recipient will not be responsive. However, Facebook will then reveal all friends of the target’s friends.

Massive hole in Facebook! One of many. Tell your friends to lock down their settings.

Now searching to put a link to a photo and name on Facebook. I would normally do this via TinEye but the teacher is suggesting Google image search. I guess either will do but the problem with stock libraries is much more present in Google I find.

Scenario now is to find employees or people who live near a power plant, by using Facebook.

Change your language settings to English US and then the fuller Facebook search will work.

Moving onto Twitter. First example is The Guardian’s 2010 crowdsourcing of deportation arrest.


Written by sarahhartley

April 12th, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Notes from effective online search strategies #ipiwoco

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Starting this session with retrieving information more effectively.
Exercise so far is encouraging people to use the site:URL version of google search to do deeper into a site and so limit the search results.

Using the * symbol in a missing phrase for example.

Much of today’s session will not be new to UK followers eg. Domain registry, reverse IP address etc. hence lack of updates. (Most could be covered by looking at Google help pages).

However, interesting use of Wayback machine demonstrated to trace former employee of an organisation. For example, someone who was once responsible for an organisation and could therefore be a good source for extra information.

Finding experts
- Use Wikipedia to look for external links and therefore secondary sources
- limit search results to University pages
- with scientists, use Latin names
- use Google scholar

Written by sarahhartley

April 12th, 2014 at 9:37 am

Notes from research strategies in complex traditional investigations at IPI World Congress #ipiwoco


Live notes from session:

Looking at any investigation, common stages open to all. Brainstorm – sources, what happens next, experts, critics, main actors, official sources.
Field research.


The class is looking at ship breaking, a topic where none of the delegates has any particular expertise, in order to explore the general strategies.

- think in terms of analogies (similar activity you are familiar with)
- think in terms of chronology ( what happens next)
- think in terms if antagonisms (who is competitor)

Test accounts possible at Lloyds of London.
Alang is the last destination on many ships (India)

Criteria used in Greenpeace for undercover work is overriding public interest and no other method of getting the information.

Keeping it simple – in this case tourists wanting to take photos and buy a momento for a club room back home.

If you go undercover, even if lying, stick to the truth so create a role which is near to reality.

1. What leads to the information needed.
2. Not threatening to the other side
3. Meets the interest of the other side.
4. As close as possible to what you really are.


Should Greenpeace have used this picture? The worker is clearly identified. He did not give permission as the Greenpeace staff were pretending to be tourists taking pictures.

The Greenpeace staff discussed but decided the risk to the worker was that of being exposed to asbestos and not an infringement of his privacy.

Outcome of this investigation was that India decided to prohibit the breaking of certain vessels to protect workers’ health.

Written by sarahhartley

April 12th, 2014 at 8:26 am

Posted in Digital events,Journalism

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#MW2014 Eric Brockmeyer of Disney Research keynote



First keynote about to start.

‘Trying to make magical experiences. Everything we do requires a story. Work is technology driven but has to be pitched as a story.’

Mix of engineers, scientists and artists working together.

Sub idea is to make everything interactive.

1. Make objects listen.
Created a sensor to recognise gestures. ‘Moving the input away from the mouse and keyboard’.
Stumbled upon the most interesting application for it as plants. That’s also great Disney story – talking inanimate objects, plants etc.
It didn’t start with the talking plants story.

2. Giving voice to objects
Add touch sensation to objects. People touching objects eg. a painting using conductive paint gave the person touching it different sensations at different points. Made hidden recordings playable by touching a persons ear.

3. Make air talk
Ended up with a way to, as an example, make curtains ripple during a scary film or papers move by themselves across a desk.

4. Make light talk
Controllable shadows such as boxing characters.
Collaborative gaming environment.

5. Make interactive devices rapidly
3d printed chess pieces. Touch surface screen and embedded cameras.


Written by sarahhartley

April 3rd, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Digital events

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#MW2014 what’s the first rule of Computer Club


First session of the conference for me will be this session from the Imperial War Museum. Will liveblog and update notes here. Apparently we’re going to be making stuff.

We’ve just played a version if Grandmother’s footsteps to warm up.

We’re now running a bit of a twitter workshop.

IWM ran a session on Twitter at the museum to get people started. Took them five workshop helpers.

Participants here identifying social media knowledge as an issue for museum professionals.
We’re being sent off to make a short film using iMovie .



Presenters now talking about how they took their internal training into a session about gaming. Mark Sorrell went to the museum and helped people visualise what a game might be.

Advertised it internally using provocative posters on toilet cubicles.

They ran 4×4 groups using games in iPad, connect and music. It got great buyin and feedback internally.

Session drawing to a close now. Presenters are asking the group if there’s one session which could work at the delegates own organisations.

Filming using the tablet.
Twitter workshop for staff.
Getting leadership teams doing tablet filming.
Teaching twitter for people to hold events in twitter.

And we all get a sticker! Nice touch.

Written by sarahhartley

April 2nd, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Digital events,Uncategorized

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