Photo editing using Picasa

If your work involves online publishing, one of the issues that will come is how to edit and optimize an image for the web. That’s where photo editing props up.

Adobe Photoshop and Google’s Picasa are some of the editing software you can use to tweak your photos.  Photoshop remains the favorite for many professional photo editors. I will get it. But today, I am using Picasa which comes free.

So see how I have used Picasa to edit a photo. The first picture is unedited while the second photo went under lightening and straightening for increased focus on the subject. I however compressed both photos for faster loading online.

 

A man fishes in Nigeria's Makoko water community in Lagos

A man fishes in Nigeria’s Makoko water community in Lagos

 

 

Fishing in Nigeria's Mokoko community in Lagos

Fishing forms the dominant trade in Nigeria’s Mokoko community in Lagos (Photo edited with Picasa)

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3 examples of journalistic use of User Generated Content

As I continue my course work as one of ten selected participants in RNTC‘s Online Journalism course, today, I share with you three examples of journalistic use of User Generated Content UGC and let you know why they appeal to me. I will then round off with what I will do to promote UGC myself. Here goes:

ProPublica: This US based news outfit describes itself as a nonprofit, independent newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. But the newsroom goes even further; it engages the public in its journalism work. And it does it effectively.

ProPublica, does not just ask members of its audience to send stories. It spells out, in clear writing, how they can help investigate specific stories. Under its website’s ‘get involved’ section, the audience are encouraged to help investigate specific topics like the affordable care act where readers are guided on how to share their obamacare stories.

This strategy with User Generated Content UGC, for me, makes ProPublica a good example of a news organization inviting citizens to co-produce the news and contribute to news organizations’ websites. You can call it crowdsourcing.

News24: According to its about page: “News24 is Southern Africa and Africa’s premier online news resource, with round-the-clock coverage to bring you local and international news as it happens, when it happens.”

It has a user generated section called MyNews24 where registered users can upload their stories. With more than eight million unique visitors, News24 is the 9th most visited website in South Africa, according to Alexa. And that makes it the most trafficked news website there.

The good thing about News24 lies in its effort to tap into the knowledge base of its huge audience. Interestingly, you will find current submissions from its readers sharing their perspectives of what matter to them. I love this engagement. It has value.

I also like its disclaimer: “All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24’s community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.”

Vanguard Newspaper: Established in 1984, this newspaper (I grew up reading) runs an online portal that ranks as the most visited news website in Nigeria. It commands over one million likes on facebook and more than 350,000 followers on Twitter.

I like its concept of user generated content through what it calls Vanguard Citizen report with focus on breaking news. The citizen journalism initiative calls on readers to report news as it breaks near them. Vanguard provides an sms mobile number, email address and a Twitter hashtag #citizenvanguard. With a huge online following, the possibilities are endless.

The question you might want to ask: How is the response from readers? Answer: The response from readers has been low, with the bulk of responses coming in 2011. As I write, the only citizen report for 2014 was in February and it’s not even a breaking news, which is the focus of the initiative.

Why again? This brings me to my closing notes.

Promoting User Generated Content

If I want to promote UGC and make it succeed on my medium, I would avoid some of the oversights from the last example above.

Be visible: When I looked at the homepage of the Vanguard Newspaper, it was difficult to locate the link to its citizen report initiative. It was buried somewhere in the middle of the homepage. I feel if you give priority to UGC, then you should make it easy for readers to find and see where they can engage on your website. ProPublica and News24 did well to make their UGC initiatives visible on the menu bar section and other parts of their homepages.

Effective call to action: Tell your readers what to do and remind them as often as possible. Again, as I write this blog post, the last hashtag- #citizenvanguard requesting readers to send stories that are happening, came in 2012. Since then, no response from readers and no reminder from publisher. I only find on the website, a message dated March saying Citizen report is back. But failed to see any follow up on Twitter where nearly 360,000 are followers.

Vanguard does a good job at tweeting consistently, except that tweets on #citizenvanguard remain scarce.

So it boils down again to the question: Do you really want to do UGC? If you do, then let your message/campaign ring out where your readers will hear.

3 examples of journalistic weblogs I find appealing

As part of my online journalism course with RNTC, I  am sharing three examples of good journalistic weblogs following some search on the internet. This blog post chronicles what I found and what I like about them. Here goes:

1. Stevebuttery.wordpress.com. Until recently, Steve Buttry was the digital transformation editor at Digital First Media in the U.S.

I am a fan of Steve’s blog because of the conversational style with which he shares tips on digital journalism and other personal stuffs relating to his work as an editor and media trainer. He is also consistent with his posts. If you’re passionate about journalism and the new media, you will find Steve’s blog very refreshing.

Similar blogs I find interesting include: Mulinblog and ProfKRG, run by journalism educators with interests in digital media.

2. Photography is Not a Crime, also known as PINAC, was founded in 2007 following the arrest of its creator, Carlos Miller, a multimedia journalist. Carlos was arrested for taking photos of five Miami police officers while working on an article for a local news site. His weblog focuses on the rights of photographers and the First Amendment rights of the public.

I like the blog for its consistency and supportive readership community. “PINAC is mostly funded by its readers who contribute what they can to help pay for bandwidth costs, technical support, design adjustments and the countless hours I spend in front of the computer keeping it updated,” says Carlos.

3. Nakedchiefs.com. Described as “A (sometimes) irreverent take on all things African – and non-Africa,” this weblog is run by Charles Onyango-Obbo, Executive Editor Africa & Digital Media, Nation Media Group, Nairobi.

I like the blog for its commentary on current affairs and insights on African issues. One of my favorite commentaries from him will be a piece he wrote on building a commercially successful pan-African news portal.

Tips on using twitter as a journalist

I have been taking my time to study and learn how to make the best use of twitter, especially as a journalist. Here’s what I have learnt over time:

1. Tweet your beat: A journalist can increase Twitter engagement by tweeting regularly about the subjects he or she covers. “Our research shows that for people who post a concentrated number of Tweets in a short time span, follower growth is 50% more than average (1.5x),” writes Mark S. Luckie, Twitter’s Creative Content Manager for Journalism & News.

Mark adds that live-tweeting or posting updates about a news event related to your beat is one way to grow followers and increase interaction. This is absolutely true based on my personal experience.

2. Use hashtags for context: Journalists can use hashtags (the # symbol, immediately followed by the keyword related to the Tweet) to organize conversations, and engage with Twitter users discussing a particular topic. Again, Mark notes that tweets with hashtags can increase engagement almost 100% (2x) for individuals and 50% (1.5x) for brands. This applies well for journalists. I know I have had significant engagement rates just by using a simple hashtag.

3. Follow people of interests: These could be journalists or news organizations you admire, depending on your reason. For me, I follow a lot of international journalists, journalism instructors and organizations . I follow to listen and learn from them. I also follow newsworthy people who are potential sources for news.

Moving forward with Twitter

I hope to utilize twitter more effectively. And I imagine using the network to my journalistic advantage in the following ways:

1. Crowdsourcing: With a substantial following and a respectable level of engagement, my followers can provide answers to questions and help me find sources quickly for stories. Steve Buttry of Digital First Media notes that crowdsourcing is one of the ways Twitter is valuable to journalists.  This brings me to the next point.

2. Building a following: The larger the following, the higher the potential of reaching more audience. I believe a well engaged audience remains a valuable asset for any journalist who wants to reach out with his or her work. After all, we produce journalistic content because of the need to inform, and in the process, learn more through engagement with our audience.

3. Social Media Reporting: In addition to news distribution, Twitter and other social media platforms serve as a means to connect with sources. This is an area I intend improving upon. Interestingly, my online journalism course with RNTC comes handy with valuable resources.

4. Experimenting with social:  At the end of the day Twitter remains a social media platform. One must muster the strength to be social. Reply mentions. Contribute to conservations. Engage.  And of course experiment with ways of doing all these.

 

From my browser: Screenshot of my HTML file

Screen shot of my web page coded in HTML

Screen shot of my web page coded in HTML

In my last post, I produced screenshots of the source codes for some selected websites as part of my Online Journalism course with RNTC. Today, I am posting a screenshot of a web page coded all by myself.

So that goes the screenshot of my newly created html file after I opened it in a browser. The headlines and paragraph came quite easy. I however encountered some challenges.

Problems I encountered while coding my HTML

The picture and division file below it posed some challenges. They never appeared after I tried viewing the web page initially.

I had to look at all the tiny details within my tags. In some instances, I discovered I either failed to collapse a space or left open that which I ought to close up.

For my picture, the source file from Wikipedia failed to load. But I later observed the url for the picture was wrong. I eventually fetched the url linking directly to the pix. And it worked.

Lesson: Coding for the web forces you to be meticulous, an attribute I believe every journalist must possess.

Snapshots of source codes for javascript and css-file

Source code for a css-file

Source code for a css-file

As part of course work for my online journalism course with RNTC we were told to find out, on the web, what a javascript and css-file look like.

A javascript extends the functionality of a website while the css-file, as I understand, helps define the look of the website.

If you want to delve into publishing for the web these things will come up. They form part of the web’s technical infrastructure.

So the snapshot above captures the source code for a css-file. And below lies the snapshot for a javascript.

Source code for a javascript

Source code for a javascript

I think, after a brief battle with malaria, I’m back and making progress. You’re welcome to follow me on my journey.

 

 

Revelations of N.S.A. Spying affect U.S. Tech Companies

IBM at a 2010 computer expo in Germany

IBM showing their various innovations at a 2010 international computer expo in Hanover, Germany

US tech companies are spending more money to execute programs that assure foreign customers that their information is safe from prying eyes in the US.

IBM is spending $1.2 billion to build 15 new data centers, including in London, Hong Kong and Sydney, to lure foreign customers sensitive about the location of their data. Salesforce.com announced similar plans in March.

In another breadth, tech companies from Europe and South America, say they are gaining customers that are shunning United States providers.

All of these because of the revelations by Edward J. Snowden that tied these providers to a National Security Agency’s vast surveillance program, the New York Times reported.

“It’s clear to every single tech company that this is affecting their bottom line,” said Daniel Castro, a senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Mr. Castro predicted that the United States cloud computing industry could lose $35 billion by 2016.

Security analysts say tech companies have collectively spent millions and possibly billions of dollars adding state-of-the-art encryption features to consumer services, like Google search and Microsoft Outlook, and to the cables that link data centers at Google, Yahoo and other companies.

Facebook's cheif  executive, Mark_Zuckerberg

Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and other industry officials met with President Obama on March 21, according to the New York Times

Customers concerned about data privacy

“We’re hearing from customers, especially global enterprise customers, that they care more than ever about where their content is stored and how it is used and secured,” said John E. Frank, deputy general counsel at Microsoft. The American software giant has been publicizing that it allows customers to store their data in Microsoft data centers in certain countries.

After the N.S.A. surveillance was revealed, a global steel manufacturer based in Britain demanded that its data with a Canada based software company not cross United States borders, the New York Times reported.

Gain for foreign companies

Runbox, a Norwegian email service that markets itself as an alternative to American services like Gmail, announced a 34 percent annual increase in customers after news of the N.S.A. surveillance. The email service says it does not comply with foreign court orders seeking personal information.

Last February, Brazil and the European Union which had used American undersea cables for intercontinental communication decided to build their own cables between Brazil and Portugal. They gave the contract to Brazilian and Spanish companies.

Brazil also announced plans to dump Microsoft Outlook for its own email system that uses Brazilian data centers.

“Issues like privacy are more important than finding the cheapest price,” said Matthias Kunisch, a German software executive who rejected United States cloud computing providers for Deutsche Telekom. “Because of Snowden, our customers have the perception that American companies have connections to the N.S.A.”

Exploring Online Journalism

I recently became one of ten journalists selected to participate in an online journalism course organized by Radio Netherlands Training Center RNTC.The course runs online and will last for six weeks.

I have participated in a number of online courses, but this one with RNTC comes unique. It is thorough with loads of course work. We have a manageable class of ten, which means the instructor would find it easier to give feedback to every participating student. And the course dwells on my area of strong interest – online journalism.

We have had our first virtual class, with the instructor taking us on search, research and online sources.

The online platform serves as a medium to spread and consume all kinds of information. As a journalist this presents, not only an opportunity, but also challenge.  The opportunity lies in the potential to find or expand the audience for your work and publish content at a cheap or almost zero cost. And the challenge remains in the need to stand out as a credible and trusted source for news and content. Here, knowledge is power.

In this Online Journalism course, RNTC provides not only the knowledge, but also practical skills. Therefore, I will be posting materials based on knowledge and skills gained from the course.

This brings me to the three main distinguishing features of online journalism:  lack of a deadline, the use of multimedia, and the interaction with the audience. Focus will be on the latter two as the course progresses. I invite you to follow me.

Many thanks.