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April 20 2010

08:52

March 30 2010

14:05

SuperPower Nation: how the BBC translation experiment fared

We recently reported on an innovative departure from normal BBC broadcasting practice: a six hour live translation experiment called SuperPower Nation.

Various BBC International News channels broadcast from the event on 18 March 2010, where speakers of different languages tried to communicate without relying solely on English. It involved music and theatre, as well as face-to-face and online discussion.

While the SuperPower Nation ‘hub’ was in London, participants also gathered in cafes and centres around the world  – or took part from their own homes.

A live message board simultaneously translated the conversations into Arabic, Chinese, English, Indonesian, Persian, Portuguese and Spanish using Google translation software.

A breakdown of some of the conversations can be found at this link.

Now the BBC reports on how it did: it received 11,711 messages, from 2,078 locations around the world.

English, unsurprisingly, still led as the dominant language, with 5626 messages, followed by 2767 in Spanish and 1781 in Portugese.

Less popular were Arabic (208); Persian (146); Chinese (simplified) (126) and Indonesian: (31).

BBC World reporter Dave Lee, says that the event was “perhaps the toughest scrutiny” of Google’s translation software to date. He reported:

“This is the largest translation project I’ve ever worked with,” said Chewy Trewhella, new business development manager for Google.

(…)

The translations were far from perfect in places, but Mr Trewhella added: “It’s about trying to get the message across… [users] are happy with 80-90 per cent effectiveness.”

More information and links can be found here.

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March 26 2010

09:00

February 24 2010

14:02

A history of linked data at the BBC

Martin Belam, information architect for the Guardian and CurryBet blogger, reports from today’s Linked Data meet-up in London, for Journalism.co.uk.

You can read the first report, ‘How media sites can use linked data’ at this link.

There are many challenges when using linked data to cover news and sport, Silver Oliver, information architect in the BBC’s journalism department, told delegates at today’s Linked Data meet-up session at ULU, part of a wider dev8d event for developers.

Initally newspapers saw the web as just another linear distribution channel, said Silver. That meant we ended up with lots and lots of individually published news stories online, that needed information architects to gather them up into useful piles.

He believes we’ve hit the boundaries of that approach, and something like the data-driven approach of the BBC’s Wildlife Finder is the future for news and sport.

But the challenge is to find models for sport, journalism and news

A linked data ecosystem is built out of a content repository, a structure for that content, and then the user experience that is laid over that content structure.

But how do you populate these datasets in departments and newsrooms that barely have the resource to manage small taxonomies or collections of external links, let alone populate a huge ‘ontology of news’, asked Silver.

Silver says the BBC has started with sport, because it is simpler. The events and the actors taking part in those events are known in advance. For example, even this far ahead you know the fixture list, venues, teams and probably the majority of the players who are going to take part in the 2010 World Cup.

News is much more complicated, because of the inevitable time lag in a breaking news event taking place, and there being canonical identifiers for it. Basic building blocks do exist, like Geonames or DBpedia, but there is no definitive database of ‘news events’.

Silver thinks that if all news organisations were using common IDs for a ’story’, this would allow the BBC to link out more effectively and efficiently to external coverage of the same story.

Silver also presented at the recent news metadata summit, and has blogged about the talk he gave that day, which specifically addressed how the news industry might deal with some of these issues:

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February 22 2010

16:43

How did readers react to the Observer relaunch?

It was goodbye to the horoscopes and hello to the New Review, but did the Observer readers like the newly relaunched and redesigned Sunday paper? You can see around 200 comments (at the time of writing) under editor John Mulholland’s introductory piece here. Guardian.co.uk editor Janine Gibson thanks users for feedback and assures them that all comments will be read. Stephen Pritchard, the readers’ editor also jumped straight in with some responses.

Here is some other Observer reaction as seen on Twitter:

“New observer is amazing – fashion, recipes, Chat articles, what polly vernon bought + a news section” (Robin Ince, comedian)

“It nearly achieved the impossible. selling a smaller product for same price. but very crowded esp review and the mag a mess..” (John Mair, Journalism lecturer)

“@nickcohen2 there’s no room for me! what’ll go in the pages that were full of AR this week btw? is it ≈ long columns by you?” (former Observer political editor, Gaby Hinsliff)

“The Observer have lost me as a reader, I have been buying this paper for as long as I can remember, but what they did yesterday was shameless” (LindaMarric, Labour supporter, student – and former reader)

“It’s interesting how the Observer’s Brown story is snowballing when the relaunch seems designed to pave way for The New Review viewspaper” (Laura Slattery, journalist)

“The new Observer seemed to be almost entirely back to front. What were they thinking? Desperate Times indeed.” (Richard Cree, editor of Director Magazine)

I liked the new Observer – can they keep up the content though? (Andrew Howell)

First thing they teach you in editing school: mess with the horoscope at your peril. Do The Observer know something we don’t? (David Hepworth)

What did you think? Please leave your own thoughts below, or tweet to @journalismnews.

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January 28 2010

16:56

Cit-j site AllVoices plans to develop hyperlocal markets

AllVoices, the US-based site that describes itself as ‘the leading source for credible citizen reporting’ has raised $9m in funding overall since its birth in 2007, with the latest $3 million from VantagePoint Venture Partners (as earlier reported by paidContent / TechCrunch).

Forthcoming plans include focusing on developing hyperlocal and global markets, COO Aki Hashmi has told Journalism.co.uk, without going into detail.

It was hard to raise capital at first, he said, “because everywhere you turned there were stories about the death of journalism, coupled with the economic downturn. But, we were lucky; we have great metrics, a model that scales and series A investors who believe in our vision.”

Hashmi attributed the site’s success – it has a reported five million unique visitors a month – to its 275,000 reporters, “who have become great evangelist for our service,” he said. It’s the “social aspect of our service,” that helps, he said. “When people create reports they want to share their content with their network.”

“Readers are seeking an alternative voice to mainstream media and our system does a great job in optimising content so that it can be easily found by search engines.

“Keep in mind we are an open platform where anyone can get instantly published and develop a reputation based on their content, activity and report validation based on our technology.”

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16:09

Irish Mail on Sunday responds to air controller blogger’s complaint

We reported earlier this week that air controller and blogger Melanie Schregardus had lodged a complaint with the Irish Mail on Sunday, after the newspaper ran an article about her last Sunday. Online users rushed to her defence, via Twitter and in the comments on her reinstated blog.

The editor of the Irish Mail on Sunday, Sebastian Hamilton, told Journalism.co.uk that the newspaper has now responded to Schregardus’ complaint and is awaiting her reply, if she has one.

As we reported before, Schregardus told Journalism.co.uk she had been in touch with the Irish press ombudsman and is seeking legal advice.

A re-published copy of Schregardus’ original blog post can be viewed here; Bernie Goldbach has a PDF of the newspaper article on his blog (or Twitpic here)

In a statement issued by the Irish Mail on Sunday today, it presents its own version of events:

Some months ago Mrs Schregardus published a 500-word account of her experiences as a female air traffic controller on an internet blog that was open to millions of people around the world to read. Mrs Schregardus made no effort to restrict the viewing. In the week air traffic controllers staged a four-hour walk-out, it provided a fascinating insight into working conditions in a job that was obviously of major public interest.

Writing after the Mail on Sunday article was published, Schregardus had claimed: The Mail never told me they were writing a piece about my blog. The journalist who wrote it never sent me an email asking me questions about my blog.

But the Mail disputes that account in its statement today:

It is simply untrue to say that the paper did not contact Mrs Schregardus before publication. On Thursday, January 21, Luke Byrne [the reporter] attempted to contact Mrs Schregardus by Twitter (the only contact details he had) and asked her for an interview. On Friday, January 22, Mrs Schregardus replied. She informed Mr Byrne that she had sought permission from her trade union to speak to us. He awaited further contact from her, but he did not hear from Mrs Schregardus again. Either she chose not to speak to him or her union refused her permission to do so.

By this stage Mrs Schregardus had already put her description of her workplace into the public domain. In this respect, publishing an open blog is little different from giving a TV interview, making a radio broadcast or sending out a handbill: you are airing your opinions for all to hear.

Scheragadus said she believed the article made it sound like she thought her colleagues were sexist: “The people I work with today could, and probably have, read it and decided that I am not on their side, and that I think that they are sexist, nasty, bullies. None of this is true.”

The Irish Mail on Sunday said today:

The Irish Mail on Sunday did not attribute to Mrs Schregardus the view that her colleagues were sexist. Luke Byrne quoted extensively from what she had said about her working environment. His account made clear that some of the sexist behaviour described by Mrs Schregardus (such as refusing to let women sit together) occurred during her early days as an air traffic controller and that conditions have improved since. While the article reported a number of sexist incidents, it does not say she is unhappy: for example, it quotes her as saying: ‘I’m well looked after by the guys, they’re quite protective of their “girlie”.’

Nevertheless, based on the contents of her blog, it is an empirical fact that her workplace is a sexist environment. Mrs Schregardus describes ‘banter’ between her male colleagues that, in her own view, is ‘quite inappropriate’ in front of a woman. She adds that that she is forced to pretend that such comments do not bother her.  Furthermore, Mrs Schregardus describes how to this day she is one of very few women employees in air traffic control – and, extraordinarily, that she still expected, ‘as the girl’, to take on secretarial tasks such as sending birthday cards and organising Christmas parties.

Last week’s air traffic controllers’ strike, which brought the country to a standtstill, was presented by union leaders as being about fairness for workers. In this context, it was a matter of public interest to tell our readers how some air traffic controllers actually behave towards female colleagues.

In the eyes of the law, and presumably of most reasonable people, male workers who make such comments and treat female colleagues in this way in a 21st century office would be considered to be behaving in a sexist and discriminatory fashion. Indeed, several of the comments on her original post sympathise with the attitudes of her colleagues or tell similar stories of women being discriminated against in the workplace (one, from a Danish Tweeter, says: ‘Come to Denmark, my friend – I do hope we offer some more respect than described here’.)

In regards to the image in the article, Schregardus told Journalism.co.uk: “I don’t know where the photo was taken from. It wasn’t on my blog. It is on my Facebook profile, but that’s completely shut down privacy-wise.”

Today, the Mail said:

The photograph of Mrs Schregardus which we published to accompany this article came from Page 36 of this online magazine http://issuu.com/connors-bevalot/docs/publication1_-destress

Like Mrs Schregardus’s blog, it had been put into the public domain by Mrs Schregardus herself.

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