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July 11 2011

10:01

An experiment in creating an ‘Auto-Debunker’ twitter account

As the conspiracy theories flew around last Friday, one in particular caught fire: the idea that the News Of The World might have been closed down because it would then allow for its assets – i.e. incriminating evidence – to be destroyed.

Perhaps because it was published under the Reuters brand (although the byline abrogated them of any responsibility for its contents) by the end of the day it had accumulated over 4,000 retweets.

I had already personally tweeted a couple of those users to point out that comments on the article had quickly debunked its argument. And by 6.26 that evening David Allen Green had published an explanation of the flaws in a piece at the New Statesman.

But people were still retweeting: how to connect the two?

Creating @autodebunker

It took me all of 20 minutes to hack together a simple automated service that would reply to people retweeting the Reuters blog post.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Create a specific Twitter account

I first of all named it autocorrecter but have now changed it to autodebunker. Make sure there’s an explanation in the biography that it is automated – and attribute authorship so people can make a judgement on its authority. Use the bio link to point at a page explaining more – I’ve linked it to this post.

2. Find an RSS feed for tweets that need debunking

If you use Twitter’s advanced search facility you can search for all tweets mentioning the Reuters blog post in question – even if they’ve been shortened. Just put the URL into the box marked ‘All of these words‘.

You’ll also want to prevent yourself creating a loop where you are replying to your own tweets (because these will contain the URL too). So in the box ‘None of these words‘ put your new Twitter account name – in this case, debunker.

Unfortunately the user’s name is not included in a tweet unless it is retweeted, so it’s best to make sure that you only include tweets with RT in them too. Add RT to the box marked ‘All of these words‘.

As others debunk the story you may have to exclude mentions of them as well, so you’re not tweeting at people who are already debunking. Likewise any other similar indicators.

My search boxes eventually looked like this (the account was originally called autocorrecter, so I had to exclude that as well)

3. Create a new RSS feed using Feedburner

The service we’re going to use will not let us publish a Twitter search RSS feed onto Twitter, and we also need to be able to easily edit this feed in response to changes. Feedburner is a very useful service for doing both.

You’ll be using the RSS feed for the advanced search mentioned above. When you conduct the search you will see a link to that RSS feed on the right – and if you click on it you should be taken to an address like: http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=+RT+http%3A%2F%2Fblogs.reuters.com%2Fmediafile%2F2011%2F07%2F07%2Fis-murdoch-free-to-destroy-tabloids-records%2F++-autocorrecter+-autodebunker+-davidallengreen

Copy that address and paste it into the box in Feedburner when you’re asked what feed you want to convert – it’s pretty much at the bottom of the first page you get when you log on to Feedburner. Follow the steps for creating a new RSS feed.

You’ll then be given a new address that begins with http://feeds.feedburner.com/ (something like: http://feeds.feedburner.com/Http/blogsreuterscom/mediafile/2011/07/07/is-murdoch-free-to-destroy-tabloids-records/-TwitterSearch?format=xml)

Copy this address for the next stage.

4. Use Twitterfeed to automatically publish debunking tweets

Twitterfeed is a great service for this. Log on and click on the button to create a new feed.

Give it a name and paste in the Feedburner RSS feed you copied above – but staying in step 1, click on ‘Advanced Settings‘ below.

The key areas here are ‘Post Prefix‘ and ‘Post Suffix’. This is what you want added to what you’re republishing.

Sadly, both are limited to 20 characters, but here’s what I added: in Post Prefix, I typed ‘See comments though’. In Post Suffix I added (probably not true).

You could add a shortened URL in either, too.

In Step 2 connect this to your new Twitter account by clicking the ‘Authorise’ button.

Don’t forget to click the final ‘Finish’ button to activate it all.

After a while it should start publishing tweets like this:

5. Monitor and tweak

Don’t forget to keep checking what people are tweeting, and what the account is tweeting, and adapt the Feedburner feed or Post Prefix and Suffix accordingly.

Any suggestions?

This is just a quick hack – there will be better ways of doing the above, but it’s an illustration of how you can use computer power to communicate with a distributed population of distributors. If you decide to do more with the idea, I’d love to know about it.

And after all this, of course, you have to ask: why have Reuters not updated their blog post to at least acknowledge the criticisms?

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September 07 2010

10:01

July 22 2010

10:18

Are you on the j-list? The leading innovators in journalism and media in 2010

Recent industry lists ranking the great and good in journalism and the media fell a bit short of the mark for Journalism.co.uk. Where were the online innovators? Where were the journalists on the ground outside of the executives’ offices?

So we’ve compiled our own rundown listing those people we think are helping to build the future of journalism and the news media.

Some important points to note:

  • There are no rankings to this list – those included are from such varied areas of work it seemed pointless;
  • We will have missed some people out – let us know in the comments below who you are working with that should be included;
  • We’ve listed groups as well as individuals – with individuals we hope you’ll see them as representing a wider team of people, who have worked together on something great;
  • And it’s not limited to 50 or 100 – we’ll see where it takes us…

So here’s the first batch. There’s a Twitter list of those included so far at this link and more will be added in the coming weeks.

Click on the ‘more’ link after these five to to see the full list.

Iain Overton

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is both a return to supporting classic, investigative journalism and an experiment in collaborative working and new business models for heavyweight reporting. Overseen by managing editor Iain Overton, the bureau is working with news organisations across a range of media and investing efforts in data mining and new business models.

Will Perrin/TalkAboutLocal

Will Perrin and his team at Talk About Local are changing the local media landscape one website at a time. Through training workshops and community groups, TAL is helping citizens have a voice online – but also encouraging new growth in hyperlocal news. It all began with Kings Cross Environment, the local site that Perrin set up himself.

James Hatts, SE1

There’s a lot of hype about hyperlocal as a future model for local news – and in James Hatts’ case it’s justified. Hatts was still a student when London SE1, which covers London’s Bermondsey and Southwark areas, started. It’s now more than 10 years old and is a great example of quality news and information for the community with an innovative approach to making money to support that goal.

Marc Reeves

The former Birmingham Post editor makes our list because of his straight-talking, forward-thinking attitude to business journalism. Having recently helped launched a new edition of successful online business news network TheBusinessDesk.com for the West Midlands, Reeves views on niche news and the role of editorial in the commercial life of a news organisation are not to be missed.

Stewart Kirkpatrick

The former editor of Scotsman.com, Kirkpatrick launched a new newspaper for Scotland in January this year. With 200,000 unique users in its first month, you wouldn’t bet against the Caledonian Mercury and Kirkpatrick’s innovative approach to creating a truly complimentary print and online newspaper with a strong and independent identity.

Martin Moore

As director of the Media Standards Trust, Martin Moore has many responsibilities and aims – but near the top of that list is more transparency for public data online and for the metadata associated with news. His work on the hNews project with the Associated Press in particular is something to keep an eye on.

Charlie Beckett

As director of journalism and society think tank POLIS and a former broadcast journalist, Charlie Beckett is a leading exponent of networked journalism: the idea that journalists can work together across organisations, media and with non-journalists to produced news. His research and writings on this model for journalism show a new way of thinking about the role of the journalist and reader in the production and distribution of news.

Paul Egglestone

Egglestone is digital director at the School of Journalism Media and Communication at the University of Central Lancashire. He’s been instrumental in the innovative Meld and Bespoke schemes that run projects from multimedia training for freelance journalists to work aimed at improving local community relationships and living spaces through hyperlocal news, mapping and social media projects. Image courtesy of Andy Dickinson

Pierre Haski

The former Liberation journalist and colleagues from the title are busy carving out a model for successful, heavyweight and independent journalism online with Rue89. The site is not afraid to innovate when it comes to revenue models and crucially not afraid to kill off parts of its network if they’re not working. A new print offshoot has just been launched and with or without this new source of revenue Haski expects the venture to move into profit next year.

Jason Mawer/Oxbury Media

Taking something traditional – the parish newsletter – and seeing the potential of community-interest publications when combined with cutting edge technology – Fwix – is Oxbury Media‘s game. The agency is focused on getting hyperlocal and community media networked, particularly in terms of advertising. Currently involved with more than 10,000 titles, Oxbury Media has the opportunity to create a hyperlocal powerhouse.

Andrew Sparrow

Senior political correspondent for Guardian.co.uk, Andrew Sparrow showed us how liveblogging was done during the 2010 UK election campaigns: on a typical day the blog got between 100,000 and 150,000 page views, rising to two million on election night. Sparrow’s ability to report, summarise and aggregate material for the site made it a must-read and has rewritten the rulebook for online political coverage.

Alison Gow

Alison is executive editor for digital at the Liverpool Daily Post and Liverpool Echo. Gow makes the list not only for her work with those titles but also for her openness to new ideas, technologies and experimentation with journalism on the web. Her personal blog Headlines and Deadlines shares her thoughts on these developments and offers important insights into the changing role of local media and its relationship with a community online and offline.

Ben Goldacre

The author of Bad Science and esteemed science writer is as influential for his loyal following – you should see the traffic spikes when he links to anything on Journalism.co.uk – as he is for his views on science journalism and transparency online. As a doctor and health professional his views on journalism come from a different perspective and can offer a necessary antidote to the “media bubble”. Image courtesy of psd on Flickr

Jo Wadsworth

Web editor for the Brighton Argus, Jo Wadsworth is a digital journalist who remembers the importance of offline as well as online networking. Her work on building a team of community correspondents for the paper and her efforts to help with training and mentoring for non-journalist readers wanting to get involved with the website amongst other things show the scope and rewards that a local newspaper website can bring.

Alberto NardeliiAlberto Nardelli/Tweetminster

Alberto Nardelli knows a thing or two about Twitter and social networks – and he’s willing to share it with media and non-media partners to create a better service for users of his site Tweetminster. His and the Tweetminster team’s work shows the power of tracking real-time, social media information, while doing the filtering dirty work for us. It’s a tool for journalists and an example of how new ideas in the digital media world can take hold.

Sarah Hartley/Guardian Local

It’s early days for the Guardian’s venture into hyperlocal ‘beatblogging’ and its architect Sarah Hartley, but the signs are positive. The three existing sites offer a model for how ‘big media’ can do local, making use of third-party websites and dedicated to the online and offline audiences for their patch.

David Cohn/Spot.Us

David Cohn is the founder of Spot.Us, a model for ‘crowdfunded’, investigative journalism. Cohn has carefully built the pitching and funding model, as well as relationships with news media to create partnerships for distributing the finished articles. Spot.Us has grown out of its San Francisco base with a new venture in Los Angeles and even a project built to its model in Australia. Image courtesy of Inju on Flickr

Tom Steinberg/mySociety

Director and founder of non-profit, open source organisation mySociety, Tom Steinberg works to improve the public’s understanding of politics, government and democracy. From campaign literature site the Straight Choice – to FOI request site WhatDoTheyKnow, Steinberg helps create tools for journalists and ways for them to play a part in making a better society. Image courtesy of Tom Steinberg on Flickr

Heather Brooke

From her Freedom of Information rights campaigning to her work on MPs’ expenses, no list of journalism innovators would be complete without Heather Brooke. She’s both a classic investigative journalist with the nose and determination to get a story and someone who knows the best tools to challenge the data and information restrictions that can affect her line of work.

Juan Senor/Innovation Media Consulting

A fantastic speaker on news and magazines, in particular the notions of design and newsroom structure, Senor’s work with Innovation Media Consulting is perhaps best seen through Portuguese microformat newspaper i, a visually stunning and innovative take on what a newspaper or news magazine should look like.

Paul Bradshaw

Founder of the Online Journalism Blog Paul Bradshaw will soon be leaving his online journalism teaching post at Birmingham City University – but that doesn’t mean he’ll be resting on his laurels. Through his teaching, blogging, books and Help Me Investigate site, Paul’s research and insight into new opportunities for journalists, whether that’s tools, collaborations or entrepreneurship, are not to be missed.

Jack of Kent

A.k.a. David Allen Green. A shining example of specialist writing for the web and why bloggers shouldn’t all be tarred with the hobbyist “in their pyjamas” brush. Green’s dedication to his subject matter, his ability to distill often complex or jargon-riddled legal concepts into plain English and give the issues context should be a lesson to all specialist journalists.

James Fryer and Michelle Byrne/SoGlos.com

Online entertainment and arts magazine for Gloucestershire SoGlos.com prides itself on high standards editorially and innovation commercially. The site has embraced a start-up mentality for the news business and is quick to react to new business opportunities sparked by its editorial quality. What’s more the site is developing its model as a potential franchise for elsewhere in the UK, licensing for which would go back into supporting SoGlos.com.

Matt McAlister/Guardian’s Open Platform

Matt McAlister is head of the Guardian’s Developer Network and the driving force behind the Guardian’s Open Platform initiative, which allows third-party developers to build applications using the Guardian’s content and data. The platform has now launched commercially – a revenue stream for journalism from a truly digital age. Image courtesy of pigsaw on Flickr

Aron Pilhofer

Aron Pilhofer and his team at the New York Times are pioneers in data journalism – both creating interactives and visualisations to accompany NYTimes content and opening up the title’s own data to third parties. Image courtesy of Institutt for journalistikk on Flickr

Adam Tinworth

The man involved with most, if not all, things with a social and digital media twist at Reed Business Information, Adam Tinworth is pushing innovation in multimedia journalism and distribution within a big publishing house. He documents his work to help other journalists learn from his experiences – whether that’s reviewing equipment or explaining a common problem – and his liveblogging abilities are something to behold!

Joanna Geary

As part of the Times’ web development team, Joanna Geary is part of one of the biggest experiments in UK journalism. But she’s also a journalist clearly thinking about the future of journalism and news as a business and profession – whether that’s through her own use of new communication tools and technology or in setting up Ruby in the Pub, a meet-up for journalists and programmers.

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