Category Archives: Location Based UGC

UGC success! Converting social networks into social capital to get to SXSW

We spoke to Tuttle founder Lloyd Davis a few days before he was about to cross America to get to SXSW using only the currency of social capital.

For Lloyd it was an experiment to see how friends and contacts made through online social networks could be converted into material commodities.

So how does UGC fit into this I hear you cry? Well Lloyd wanted to test the relationships he’d made via UGC platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare to see if they stood up in real life. A big criticism lots of the social media skeptics pile onto these platforms is that you waste time connecting to and talking to people you don’t know or have never met – it’s nothing like real life networking and getting to know people.

Lloyd disagreed and wanted to prove the value of an online network.

He flew out to San Francisco and travelled across the States to Texas for worldwide tech conference SXSW. He had no money and so had to rely on donations of food, transport, accommodation and money from his social networks.

He did it and is still in America planning to move on to New Orleans and New York before heading back to London exchanging social capital for real life stuff. Lloyd told me that the main thing he’s learnt so far is that sometimes you think you’re spending social capital when actually you’re making it. Also that it’s tempting to think of it like money and that it gets up when you use it, but sometimes it can increase when you use it.

He’ll be writing up his findings in more details on his return and we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for an update.

I asked him who’s been the most generous, what bits of tech he couldn’t have done it without and what he enjoyed most about SXSW. Oh and what his experiment had taught him about social capital 🙂

 

 

By Lucy Hewitt

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Reporting Revolutions: Is video UGC killing off traditional reporters and cameraman?

Since the ousting of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January and onwards our TV screens have been filled with images of the Arab uprisings, from Egypt to Jordan to Bahrain to Libya and increasingly to Yemen. But what has really struck a chord when looking at the reports is the way that UGC has been used or hasn’t been used.

This video on youtube was used in a channel 4 news broadcast ( but CNN have loaded this version onto youtube). It shows an Egyptian police van running over civilians. This is the power of UGC. In a world where everyone has a mobile phone, every dark deed can be captured whatever the restrictions on journalists, and the light can be shone on truths that would have otherwise been missed.

UGC also presents a problem for the reporters on the ground, who are trying to navigate their way through the protests and find stories which bring the issue alive. In the ‘age of information’ editors back in London, New York, Doha or wherever can see everything from all kinds of sources before the reporter can. Editors can direct reporters to include shots, or UGC or information not gathered on the ground themselves. This prescriptive top down reporting negates the role traditional of a reporter and instead makes them more of a curator or compiler of information. Jon Snow has written about this very issue this week in PORT magazine.

“Where once I was one pair of eyes witnessing a story and sending my account back to London, I am now charged with retrieving the work of many pairs of eyes and putting together an apparently holistic account of an event. We call this “sausage machine telly”. In the competitive multiplatform age in which we live, this age will not last long. Why not? Because it is neither distinctive, nor is it particularly interesting.
A big problem with sausage machine telly is that it spawns sausage machine reporters. In too many instances, reporters are no longer easily distinguished from one another. The sausage system is not
breeding or maturing new talent to take over the airwaves when we are gone.”

This ‘sausage machine telly’ is exemplified here in an ITN report from Libya. Except it isn’t…as it explains foreign journalists are banned from trouble spots (unlike Eygpt) and mobile phone networks and the Internet have been cut so the report relies solely on UGC and a voiceover to tell the story.

I’m not saying that UGC isn’t both compelling and useful but we must be careful how we use it. The role of a reporter is an important one, they are trained to find stories on the ground at short notice and to bring a human element to the news. UGC can be very useful in places such as Libya because of the restrictions placed on journalists. UGC can provide the pictures from even the most closed off parts of the world…the problem is how we verify it and interpret the images.

Here is a report from Sky’s Alex Crawford RTS Journalist of the year who got into Zawiyah in Libya and filmed this report.

It is all the more powerful for a trained reporter putting the story together and automatically trustworthy for it and exactly the sort of journalism that Jon Snow is praising in this account of his work in Haiti.

“We were so cut off from one another on the ground that we could not share pictures. Everything I transmitted we researched, retrieved, shot, edited, and beamed back to London ourselves. Only the local satellite dishes worked, dependent on their own generators and fuel – the satellite paths to the outside world were almost the only elements the earthquake had not reached. News desks knew instantly the massive pressure we were under and left us alone. After we’d sent our reports they would bask in their novelty, pain and exclusivity.”

Traditional journalists and cameramen are still very important as you can see with the difference between ITN’s and Sky’s reports. However UGC is a fantastic addition to a reporters toolbox, but one that must be used in addition to solid reporting not in place of it.

James Glynn

Army Recruitment app adds new dimension to UGC

On Monday, the US army launched a new iPhone App to recruite soldiers.

The app is free and takes content from the website Army Strong Stories and allows people to access more than 600 soldier bloggers’ content as well as allowing users to share their own “Army Strong” stories, photos and videos.

A spokeperson from the U.S. Army Accessions Command called the app and a mobile website that also launched on Monday “a natural extension of the Army’s ongoing commitment to engage potential recruits via social media channels.”

When the blog first started in 2008, it was a blog platform only allowing soldiers to tell their stories. Now, anyone with an army story is invited to tell it. I wonder if this may cause any difficulty if people start accusing others of misbehaving and particularly when the army provokes a lot of emotion for many people.

Not only that, but isn’t it a security risk if soldiers start saying things they aren’t meant to…Or perhaps it is a very good thing and will replace psychological therapy by allowing people to talk to each other and share memories rather than an exploitation tool.

Army Accessions Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley told the Belvoir Eagle, “Soldiers should join Army Strong Stories for a number of reasons. … Online and in the media, the negative stories are always given a platform. Soldiers, every one of us, have some of the best stories to tell.”

I agree that it is a great place for soldiers to tell their stories and therefore give a rounded view of life in the army, but what if they say something bad? Are their blogs vetted?

And the idea of recruiting people through it makes it seem like their recruits are in decline. This says quite a lot about the wars that the US are currently fighting. I’d love to hear what anyone who uses it has to say.
By Linzi Kinghorn

Algeria and the flow of words

On the 1st February, we wrote on here about revolutions and the use of Twitter, Facebook and other sites that allow User Generated Content. New information has come to light today identifying Algeria as the latest Middle Eastern country to have had its social networking sites closed down.

According to Mashable (an extremely useful website for journalists who are techy) as well as the Telegraph, the Algerian Government has actually been shutting down individual Facebook sites and closing internet servers and providers.

It’s laughable. I mean, you only have to look at Twitter to see that the message from Mashable has already been retweeted 774 times since the article was written 33 minutes ago and has been liked by 179 people on facebook. As I am sat following the Twitter feeds as I write this, 23 new retweets have emerged.

In Egypt, before President Mubarak was forced to stand down, the Government successfully managed to close down 88% of all Egyptian internet servers. But they’re not the only ones. China, Iran, Thailand and Tunisia have also done the same thing in times of unrest within their respective countries.

This raw footage shows the intensity of the Algerian protests and is first hand user-generated content. Not all broadcasters can afford journalists in every country at every time and therefore independently contributed content for the internet is extremely valuable. The world should be entitled to see what they want to see.

It seems to me as though try as you may to stop people getting on UGC sites and social networking sites, word and cause is strong and will spread. You cannot stop it. Algeria, amongst other nations attempting to stop the flow of independently generated content, is fighting a losing battle.
By Linzi Kinghorn

Trending Topics: What they mean and how to use them in journalism

If something is ‘trending’, it is being discussed and/or mentioned on Twitter as part of a keyword or hashtag phrase. From Twitter:

“Twitter’s Trending Topics algorithm identifies topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis, to help people discover the “most breaking” news stories from across the world.

Most popular trending topics in 2010:

The results show that people were most concerned about serious news stories from around the world but also spent time discussing entertainment in the form of Justin Bieber and the newest Harry Potter film.

Any self-respecting journalist knows the importance of breaking news and so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the Twittersphere cos we often hear about it on there before AP gets hold of it.

They’re useful if you want to narrow trends down to countries or even cities to see what people are talking about in specific geographic areas. Think of it as a virtual vox-pop.

It’s also useful to gauge a range of opinions on a given topic in s very short space of time and without leaving your desk. If you want to follow a story more closely as it develops, you can do by clicking the hashtag (#), which collates all the tweets with that word or phrase into one place.

Most newsrooms now have a screen setup with Twitterfall or something similar- an app that brings together hashtag and keyword searches in real time.

But we must be careful when collecting data from hashtags and trending topics on Twitter. Although a global phenomenon with over 106 million users, we cannot over-generalise trending topics to be a realistic cross-section of the opinions of all members in any given community. Most Twitter users are young professionals or college students living in first-world developed countries with readily available internet access.

Digital Surgeons have put together a great infographic which compares Twitter an Facebook users. The majority of Twitter users are slightly older than those who use Facebook most frequently (26-30 compared with 16-24 age bracket). Plus Twitter users tend to be more technology savvy as a higher precentage of users log in on mobile devices compared with Facebook users.

To sum up then, Trending Topics are useful as a starting point to find breaking news and research opinion and comment on particular news items as a springboard for further research, but should not be used as a valid cross-section of society.

By Lucy Hewitt