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June 25 2011


Corrections and change transparency - A WordPress plugin to make revisions visible

Wordyard :: Scott Rosenberg posted a manifesto. He said Web publishers should let themselves change published articles and posts whenever they need to — and make each superseded version accessible to readers, the way Wikipedians and software developers do. This one simple addition to the content-management arsenal, known as versioning, would allow everyone to use the Web as the flexible medium it ought to be, without worrying about confusing or deceiving readers.

To install the plugin search for "Post Revision Display" enter your WordPress, go to "Plugins", "All" and search for it.

Continue to read Scott Rosenberg, www.wordyard.com

WordPress Plugin: Post Revision Display Scott Carpenter, movingtofreedom.org

July 28 2010


BBC News redesign architect gets technical about changes

If you are more interested in the cogs and wheels behind the BBC News site’s redesign than the end product, a post by their chief technical architect John O’Donovan this week should be of interest.

The BBC has one of the oldest and largest websites on the internet and one of the goals of the update to the News site was to also update some of the core systems that manage content for all our interactive services.

O’Donovan first outlines the reasoning behind keeping with a Content Production System (CPS), rather than moving over to Content Management System (CMS), before giving a detailed look at the latest model – version 6 – that they have opted for.

The CPS has been constantly evolving and we should say that, when looking at the requirements for the new news site and other services, we did consider whether we should take a trip to the Content Management System (CMS) Showroom and see what shiny new wheels we could get.

However there is an interesting thing about the CPS – most of our users (of which there are over 1,200) think it does a pretty good job [checks inbox for complaints]. Now I’m not saying they have a picture of it next to their kids on the mantelpiece at home, but compared to my experience with many organisations and their CMS, that is something to value highly.

The main improvements afforded by the new version, according to O’Donovan, include a more structured approach, an improved technical quality of content produced and an ability to use semantic data to define content and improve layouts.

See his full post here…Similar Posts:

June 16 2010


Johnston Press Atex system is bad news, but the death of the sub-editor is inevitable

It’s not just journalists that threaten to go on strike to maintain the standards of their work – but surely no other occupation’s products can be judged so subjectively. One managing director’s “quality journalism” is a reporter’s incitement to take up arms and storm the parent company’s HQ.

According to the National Union of Journalists, it’s this urge that saw Johnston Press journalists vote for group-wide industrial action last month (they were thwarted by a High Court challenge; a re-ballot is underway). JP journalists are enraged that a new publishing strategy, based on an online/print content management system (CMS) called Atex, will make reporters responsible for subbing and editing their own newspaper stories using pre-made templates. Several companies including Archant are either using or considering using the same system.

The NUJ has a point: with fewer staff and less checks and balances, more errors will get through – this aberration of a front page in the JP-owned Bedfordshire Times & Citizen recently is a classic example.

Yesterday I questioned exactly why the union was opposing Atex; included in the union’s greviances were baffling and unexplained “health and safety” concerns. The union later told Journalism.co.uk that they meant that it adds to staff stress levels.

But, I went on in conversations both online and privately, isn’t this part of a wider problem? The NUJ has a fundamental belief that sub-editors should sub stories and reporters write them. Like the pre-Wapping ihousen-printers that jealously guarded their very specific, outdated roles, the ideal outcome for the union is to maintain the status quo and protect jobs.

The reality isn’t quite that simple. Atex, as more than one person said, is far from the innovative answer that newspapers need. One person with knowledge of how Atex works, who works for a company that is planing to implement it and asked not to be named, put it to me like this:

We’re still in transition in my newsroom at the moment – we haven’t switched to using it for the web yet. However, if the system goes ahead as planned we will not be able to insert in-line links into stories, nor will we be able to embed content from anywhere else online. It’s possible to build link boxes that sit next to web stories, but it’s time consuming compared to in-line links – and if our current CMS is anything to go by, in the press of a busy newsroom, it won’t get done.

That sounds like a retrograde step. Far from holding back innovation, it sounds like JP journalists are right to oppose the move. This is from a company whose former chairman of nine years, Roger Parry, last week criticised the very board that he chaired for not investing enough in digital media (via Press Gazette). Exactly who else is there to blame?

But it gets worse:

For those of us who possess data skills and want to make mashups, visualisations and so on, this is a massive inhibition – even if we find the time to innovate or create something really special for our papers, we’ll have no outlet for it. It also means we can’t source video or images for our stories in innovative ways – no YouTube embeds or Flickr slideshows – cutting us off from huge resources that could save time, energy and money while enhancing our web offering.

It’s astonishing that we’re even considering such a backwards step to a presumably costly proprietory system when so many cheaper, more flexible, open source solutions exist for the web.

Regional reporters, web editors and even overall editors will read that and find this frustration of digital ideas by technical, budgetary limitations very familiar. The last point rings loudest of all: cheap, dynamic blogging solutions like Wordpress and Typepad provide all newsrooms need to create a respectable news site. Publishing executives seem to find it hard to believe that something free to use can be any good, but just look at what’s coming in the in-beta Wordpress 3.0 (via @CasJam on Mashable).

So the union’s misgivings in this case appear to be well placed. The drop in quality from Johnston’s cost-cutting is there for all to see in horrendous subbing errors, thinner editions and entire towns going without proper coverage.

Unfortunately, journalists have to accept that no amount of striking is going to bring back the staff that have gone and that times have changed. Carolyn McCall’s parting shot as CEO of Guardian Media Group was to repeat her prediction (via FT.com) that advertising revenues will never return to pre-recession levels – and don’t forget Claire Enders’ laugh-a-minute performance at the House of Commons media select committee, in which she predicted the death of half the country’s 1,300 local and regional titles in the next five years.

Regional publishers may not all have a solution that combines online editorial innovation with a digital business model right now. But to get to that point, reporters will have to cooperate and accept that their roles have changed forever – “sub-editor” may be a term journalists joining the industry in five years will never hear.

this is from a company whose former chairman of nine years criticised the very the board that he ran for not investing enough in digital media (via Press Gazette).

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March 19 2010


Resurrecting Unstructured Data to Help Small Newspapers

Unstructured data is typically said to account for up to 80 percent of information stored on business computer systems. While this is a widely accepted notion, I'm inclined to agree with Seth Grimes that this 80 percent rule is inflated, depending on the type of business. Still, If we could structure even a fraction of that data, it would create significant value for small newspapers.

The type of data that has my attention is free-form text. Small newspapers in particular have computers full of text files containing information about their communities. Often, these files lie dormant, left on the hard drive of a dusty computer somewhere in the back of the newsroom, inaccessible to the public. Compounding this problem is the fact that newspapers realize no additional value from content they paid journalists to produce. The information is gathered, and then much of it sits somewhere, unused and untouched. Only parts of it end up being published.

To further understand the potential of resurrecting unstructured data, one must realize the workflow of traditional small newspapers.

Newspaper Workflow

It surprised me several years ago when I learned learn that most community newspapers utilize a very low-tech workflow when managing their data. A typical newspaper might organize their content in hierarchical folders as shown in the example below. Files are grouped by month, then named with the day of publication:


The workflow is simple, effective and has served its purpose for many years. Once a file's publication date has passed, it is ignored forever. At best, a selection of these files are copy and pasted into a content management system for publication online. But this process seldom happens until after the newspaper's print edition has been completed. At this point the newspaper has little incentive to process these files further, as attention must now be focused on the next day's edition.

This reality helps illustrate the potential for the CMS Upload Utility, my Knight News Challenge project. It's an inexpensive way to move text files into a web-accessible database. Once inside a database, possibilities abound for how value can be created from this data. In my next post, I'll share several sample use cases to help explain how the application works.

For now, though, think about all of that unstructured data, and how we can make better use of it.

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