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Lovely to see the JFDI crew heading for Thomson Reuters again yesterday for #askDC a little talk by David Cameron and then a Q&A that promised to include some questions from Tweeters. It was a re-run with extra manpower and sparkly bits of the Gordon Brown do in the same room at Canary Wharf a little while ago, when Christian qikked the PM thus getting a 2 or 3 second scoop on the “live” internet feed and the BBC.
I love it – I’m a news junkie – I can’t get enough of this stuff and these guys supply it very well. It also fits very well with some work that I’ve been doing within Government that I *still* can’t talk about properly, but hopefully will very soon.
So what next?
In following the pattern of traditional news media with live coverage they show two things: firstly that there’s so much more that mainstream media could do, if they could be bothered to learn and let go of their ideas of how things have to work. I think this is the main reason Reuters are doing it, but (yes there’s a but) what it also reminds me is that there’s a whole lot more to news than instant live coverage and, even more importantly that there’s a whole lot more to social media than getting a few seconds scoop on the big boys.
There’s a limit on how live you can get. So in certain circumstances we can get a scoop pretty easily just by happening to be in the right place at the right time or to be witness to something that otherwise would not get any coverage because the benefit from the story doesn’t outweigh the cost of sending a 5-person camera crew. However, when it comes to set pieces like yesterday, the marginal speed gain from live-streaming from qik is wiped out by the drop in quality – the added value is in the contextual stuff that together the guys were creating while running around and pulling together stuff from twitter, flickr and qik.
What the social stuff is best for is the slower, longer-term story-telling, the relating. The repeated application of this kind of reporting is what really wows people, one-offs are fun, but ultimately unsatisfying, because we don’t, we can’t get under the skin of a story in one morning. Yesterday we got a very very broad look at a very shallow event – I’m interested now in how we get depth as well as breadth.
Once Cameron had finished speaking, BBC News fell back to the studio and analysis from a specialist political correspondent. I think we need now to be looking at how we provide that sort of added value, of contextualising stories, breaking them down and looking at them from a range of perspectives. And we get our context by writing and creating other content tangentially to the story that the subjects want to tell. The social reporter interviews the bit-players, junior officials and also-rans because what they think and say tells us as much about the main story as what the official speech-writer managed to squeeze into a time and space designed specifically for conveying a precise message to a relatively small group of hacks. Then by making all the content available, not just the annointed bits that push “the message”, we, the reader/viewers get to filter and re-mix to help make sense of it all.
Things are getting really cool.
Some time ago (yikes it was nearly 2 years ago!), I went through my One Man Social Media Empire bag and showed you the kinds of kit I could carry around with me for social reporting. I think it’s time for an update – because a lot has changed.
1. Portability of kit & device convergence
2. Mobile data connections
3. Social Media Friendly Web apps
all of these add up to me carrying a very different (and less physically stressful) set of essentials.
I still use the famous one man social media empire canvas bag (although I now have two, thanks to Helen) But now the stuff that I have to have for blogging on the road or at events has shrunk down to what you see in the picture plus the N95 that I used to take the picture, naturally.
1. Nokia N95 – this is the powerhouse – it replaces the laptop, minidisk, DV camera and stills camera in the original kit bag. Wow. For once the advertising copy undersells the product – “This is what cameras have become” and this is what computers, and audio recorders have become too.
2. Notebook and pen – I still need to scrawl – it’s still the most efficient method of data capture, regardless of the seeming redundancy of retyping – you don’t retype everything and somethings you only look up once – also sometimes you’re only writing something down in order to keep someone else happy. All that and what I wrote on Creative Choices the other day about longhand.
3. IGO portable bluetooth keyboard – for those times when my thumbs run out of juice – ie anything more than a caption or bunch of tags. If I have to write a paragraph in the field, it’s worth cracking this baby open. It took a little configuration love (and double-checking by @whatleydude) to get it talking to the N95 but it was well worth it. I wish I could say that this whole post was written with it but it wasn’t, because I’m sitting on a comfy chair at home – the post I pointed to above was typed on it though – in Starbucks.
4. Power lead – still need this. Will be augmented with a spare battery and charger for serious gigs where power’s harder to come by. Would like to try a solar powered charger, but suspect I wouldn’t get much out of it in the UK given our current climate
5. External mic and gubbins to connect it to the N95. Unfortunately you can’t just plug a mic straight into the phone and use it. Fortunately, you can buy a couple of adapters for a few quid from Maplin that will connect a mic to the TV-out cable that came with it. A bit cumbersome but very useful in the noisy circumstances in which a social reporter often finds herself.
Mobile data connections
I’ve got an “unlimited” data tariff from O2 and somehow through loyalty and asking the right questions, I get that together with plenty of minutes and texts for £22 a month. Hurrah! I’m waiting for the letter telling me that the unlimited isn’t as unlimited as I thought because I’ve over done it, but it hasn’t come yet, despite some serious goes at it. One of the benefits of the N-series is the wifi which means that I actually don’t upload massive amounts very often – only when it’s vital to get something up immediately, and I’m finding that that’s less frequent than I thought. Although I vaguely understand the difference between EDGE and 3G when they pop up on my phone, it doesn’t bother me much – if I *need* to get online without wifi, then I need to do it regardless of the signal.
The other point about this is that it’s so much easier to see whether there’s wifi available with a phone than having to crack the laptop open.
So not only has everything got smaller, more portable and easier to use, but the apps on the phone and in the cloud are so much better too. For example, the video editor on the phone means that I can cut stuff, add titles and upload without transferring to a PC at all – for simple stuff this is great, it just cuts a huge amount out of my workload.
Tweeting through m.twitter.com is fine regardless of connection. I have a bunch of bookmarks in the browser for search terms through search.twitter.com as well as my facebook and flickr. I use the gmail app for mail – again, made even easier with the iGO keyboard.
For video that absolutely positively has to be streamed live I have lovely qik of course, though I’m finding that the times when I really need to do this are less than I thought – still for instant interaction it’s fantabulous.
Scribe means that I can now blog directly here from my phone (preferably mains powered and with the keyboard) a-may-zing.
Still to solve.
I need to work out the best way to make all of the content that ends up on the web fit together – what order do I need to do stuff in to make sure that it goes to blip, phreadz, twitter and flickr to get maximum exposure and opportunities for conversation? Also, (gulp) when I’ve managed to optimise that, how do I keep track of it all and take part in whatever conversation arises?
How do I get the most out of my battery and what’s the solution, is it spares or portable charging?
Scribe is a very early beta it can be a bit flaky – also I need to be able to easily pull in pictures from flickr and generally integrate with my web2.0 bits.
If I do need to take video onto the PC for editing, y’know complicated stuff, it still does take a while to deal with – is it time to get a mac? (ducks)