Monthly Archives: December 2010

UGC for Christmas: Santa on Google Voice


When I was a kid my parents would reply to my letter to Father Christmas. Unfortunately loads of kids don’t get a faked return letter in curly handwriting and are left forever wondering whether St Nick actually has a post box at the North Pole.

Now Google has set up a Google Voice number for Santa (855-34-SANTA) where you can leave him a voicemail. There’s a website where you can set up a message that will ring any number in the United States with a personalised message from the big guy.

It asks you to input information such as your relationship to the recipient, what present they might like and a nickname to call them – where you choose from a list of options and the answers are input into a message from Father Christmas. Some of the choices are pretty self-promotional… ‘What would Paul like for Christmas’ brings up an Android phone and ‘What should Santa be doing before he delivers presents’ gives browsing Google maps as an option. But for a free tool that’ll put a smile on someone’s face I guess you can’t blame them.

Unfortunately you can only call US numbers, but you can send the voicemail via email or share on Facebook and Twitter. I put together this Christmas message for our online journalism lecturer Paul Bradshaw.


Merry Christmas!


By Lucy Hewitt

Does User Generated Content have the trust factor?

Throughout this year’s X Factor series, there have been leaks on Twitter claiming to know how the public have voted before the show’s host Dermot O’Leary reveals all. A user known as abigail88 is the source of the X Factor leaks, which she first broadcast on a Digital Spy forum. He/She has since set up the inside_man Twitter feed to share the leaks. The fact that these have been retweeted 100+ times suggests that people are taking note of User Generated Content (UGC) as a source of information.

But when I asked some people if they trusted user generated content for news and current affairs, many said they prefer newspapers and big broadcasters to smaller start ups. These people include student journalist Jess Parker, who frequently retweets the X Factor leaks. I asked her the extent to which she trusts UGC:

Here are some tips on how to encourage more people to trust your blog.

People turning to traditional media for their news isn’t that surprising considering that it:

– has established itself as the main way for people to be kept informed

– is monitored by bodies like the Press Complaints Commission and Ofcom meaning it should be reliable (or people may sue.)

– ranks highly in Google search

But with a knowledgable person/expert behind hyperlocal blogs and specialist websites, mainstream media may find competition in the form of user generated content. After all, there’s a reason that Guido Fawkes, Paul Bradshaw and Perez Hilton have a formidable online presence, and that’s because people trust them to provide a service – political scoops, online know-how and celebrity gossip respectively.

It’ll be interesting to see whether user generated content becomes part of mainstream media – some of you may argue it already has what with the big titles’ use of YouTube and Twitter. Look no further than celebrity and lifestyle magazine channel Grazia TV, and David Dimbleby urging viewers to tweet #bbcqt throughout political heavyweight programme Question Time, for examples of established media brands utilising YouTube and Twitter for their own purposes.

Anyway, it’s The X Factor final tonight – let’s see if there are any leaks tonight and whether they speak the truth… they’ve been pretty good so far!

UPDATE: I interviewed Jess Parker again to ask her whether she trusted UGC more when it came to serious news in light of the protests in the Middle East. These have been dominating the news agenda since January and have also been trending on Twitter. An example of the link between recent events in the Middle East and UGC is that the first protest in Egypt was organised on Facebook. Here’s Jess speaking again:

By Anisa Kadri @anisakadri on Twitter