Tag Archives: blogging

Don’t link to my Twitter profile!

From time to time, people are kind enough to mention me, with a link, in their blog posts. Usually, in a positive way. I’m very grateful when they do.

A rusty chain

Lovely links (geddit?)
Photo by pratanti, on Flickr, CC-BY

But…

They often link to my Twitter account, like this::

Here’s something about .

or like this:

Here’s something about Andy Mabbett (he’s @pigsonthewing on Twitter).

(the relevant HTML markup being, in the first example,
<a href="http://twitter.com/pigsonthewing">Andy Mabbett</a>).

Now, like I say, I’m very grateful for the attention. But I do wish they would link to my website, instead:

Here’s something about Andy Mabbett.

or even both:

Here’s something about Andy Mabbett (he’s @pigsonthewing on Twitter).

(the relevant HTML markup being
<a href="http://pigsonthewing.org.uk">Andy Mabbett</a>).

Why?

For two reasons. Firstly, though Twitter is fun, and I use it a lot, it’s ephemeral, and not everyone reading those post will want to use it. My website, on the other hand, has more about me and the work I do. Secondly, I need the Google juice (the value afforded to incoming web links by , the Google search algorithm ) more than Twitter does.

This isn’t just about me, though. The same applies every time a blogger or other web page author — and that probably includes you — links to anyone or any organisation, with their own website or blog. Please don’t just link to their page on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or on some other social networking site. Of course, do that as well, or if it’s the only online presence they have.

But if they have a website, as I do, please make that the primary destination to which you link. And hopefully, they will reciprocate.

Thank you.

The BBC, Regional News and Sport, and Hyperlocal Blogs

This is the second in a pair of posts about my recent meeting with Robin Morley, the BBC‘s Social media lead for the English Regions. The first, “The BBC, Open Content and Wikipedia“, was published yesterday.

Many BBC regional news items currently have “From other news sites” sections, which link to reports of the same stories, from other news providers, including traditional newspapers and others. For example, this report of a happy outcome to missing child case from Smethwick has stories from the West Midlands Police, the Rugby Advertiser, Manchester (!) Wired, Huffington Post UK and the Birmingham Mail:

Screenshot of the 'From other news sites' section of the news story linked to above

However, these sections don’t yet include hyperlocal blogs. Indeed, the BBC say:

In general, our rules tend to give greater weight to national and international sources over regional or local ones.

At my suggestion, Robin has graciously agreed to consider requests from reputable hyperlocal websites, to have links to their news stories included in such sections. This, if I say so myself, is a major coup for hyperlocal blogging.

Interested hyperlocal bloggers (in England only, for now, as that’s the extent of Robin’s remit) are therefore invited to submit details of their blog, with links to a couple of their recent news stories, including original content (no churnalism, please) in a comment below, for consideration by Robin. I must emphasise that, while he’s kindly agreed to consider including such links, no promises have been made. The emphasis is on news stories, not lobbying or party-political pieces. Submissions blatantly failing to meet these criteria will not be published here.

To start things off, here are two modest stories from my local blog, The B44 (disclosure: I wrote the first of them), covering parts of Great Barr and Kingstanding in that postcode district.

Do you write for a hyperlocal blog? What are your best news exclusives? It’s up to us to demonstrate to Robin and his colleagues that suitable content exists.

I’ll report back on the outcome.

Politician pin ups – open-licensed pictures, please

Politicians, like visits to the dentist and taxes, are a necessary evil. We all moan about them, but someone has to take care of the machinery of state.

So it’s important that we hold them to account, and elsewhere document their activities in a neutral way. Hyperlocal bloggers do the former, and the latter takes place on Wikipedia, and on sites like the excellent OpenlyLocal (both of whose content is open-licensed).

To illustrate such articles, bloggers and Wikipedians need photographs of the politicians (and senior officers). While it’s possible for individuals to take such pictures (and even open-license them, as I described previously), it would be better if such pictures were available from official channels. Such organisations already take or commission professional quality shots and make them available to the press. If they don’t already, they should make sure that their contract with photographers pays for full rights, enabling open-licensing.

I recently asked Birmingham City Council’s press office to make their pictures of members of BCC’s cabinet available under an open licence, and, to their credit, they did so. I was then able to use one of them on :

Wikipedia article using a picture open-licensed by Birmingham City Council

Some might ask “but what if the pictures are misused, to misrepresent those people”. Well, if someone’s going to do that, then they won’t bother about copyright anyway, and other laws (libel, human rights) already enable redress.

So come on all you councils, civil service departments, police forces/ authorities and so on — let us have pictures of your elected members and senior officers, free (i.e. with no “non-commercial” or “no derivatives” restrictions) for reuse on our blogs, Wikipedia and other sites. Major companies, too, could do this for their most-public board members.

Then there’s all public bodies’ other photographs. After all, West Midlands Police kindly agreed to my request to open-license the fantastic aerial shots from their helicopter…

St. Martin in the Bullring Church, Birmingham
Birmingham’s Bull Ring, from the West Midlands Police helicopter. Although this picture is ©WM Police, I can use it, here and on Wikipedia, because they kindly make it available under a CC-BY-SA licence

Syndicating Customisable Hyperlocal Blog Content

Background

I recently described how I have started writing for the B44 hyperlocal blog, with a post about election leaflets:

'Election Leaflets' post on The B44 blog

After posting that, I realised that it fitted will with an idea I’ve been mulling over for some time: the syndication of hyperlocal blog content, with, critically, scope for customisation to suit various local audiences.

I mentioned on Twitter that my post could be reused, and re-written , under a CC-BY-NC-SA license. In other words, that’s Creative Commons, attribution (“BY“) required, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike.

A couple of my followers said that they would like to reuse it. After some cajoling, was the first to do so, amending and reusing my post on the ‘Visit Burslem’ blog:

'Election Leaflets' post on Burslem blog

Note how she changed the fourth paragraph to refer to the Stoke-on Trent North wards. For good measure, she also reused my post on the ‘Social Stoke’ blog, but due to an accident of electoral geography, without needing further changes:

'Election Leaflets' post on the Stoke blog

Then, after much further cajoling, Philip John used my post on the Lichfield Blog. He not only changed my fourth paragraph, but prepended a couple more of his own:

'Election Leaflets' post on The Lichfield Blog

Discussion

To my mind, this exercise raises several questions.

Primarily, do hyperlocal bloggers want to use content like this?

There’s certainly a lot of satisfaction to be had by seeing one’s own work published; is there less satisfaction when adapting something written by someone else? Does that matter? Is that why Philip wrote additional paragraphs? Doesn’t he have enough to do?

Why didn’t more hyperlocal bloggers reuse my post?

Was it insufficiently interesting, or badly written? Surely not! Perhaps they didn’t know about it?

Do hyperlocal blog readers mind seeing re-used content?

I’d suggest not — I contend that many such readers only read one hyperlocal blog. It’s only those of us fascinated by the hyperlocal blogging phenomenon who would be reading blogs about Great Barr (B44), Burslem and Lichfield. And providing there is openness about the source, and what’s been done, where’s the problem?

How can we do this better?

How can we let hyperlocal bloggers know when suitable content is available? Can we automate the process? Can, and should, we clearly delineate the parts which are intended to be localised? Can we find some way to export, from the original post, the tags, so that re-users can modify them? Can we export whole posts (retaining HTML markup) from one WordPress bog (be it wordpress.com or a self-hosted wordpress.org installation) and have it imported into another (ditto)? What about other platforms?

What license should be used?

CC-BY-NC-SA was perhaps too restrictive; on the other hand, can this model be monetised? Is there sufficient content of this type to make that worthwhile? Would press officers start to supply pre-written content? Would that be a good thing, or bad?

As usual, your comments — especially, but not only, if you’re a hyperlocal blogger — would be welcome. And you’re still welcome to reuse my post.

Footnote

Clare and Philip are both good friends. Please read my comments about them as the good-natured teasing they are. I trust they’ll forgive them, and my using them as unwitting guinea-pigs.

Footnote 2

Read about my new freelance career as an advisor on on-line communities and related issues.

My name is Andy Mabbett, and I’m a Hyperlocal blogger

Recently, I’ve been increasingly interested in the phenomenon of ‘hyperlocal’ blogging: blogs about a particular area or locality (or, in one of my favourite and rather extreme cases, a single square metre).

Some fantastic work has been done by my friends at Talk About Local, whose site will tell you all you could ever need to know about about hyperlocal blogs.

For a long time, I’ve been contributing to the debate about how hyperlocal blogs might evolve, for example organising events such as the Hyperlocal Govcamp West Midlands (aka ) unconference, the first such event to introduce hyperlocal bloggers to local government web folk and other public sector people. I’ve also attended others, like the excellent TAL11 in Cardiff. I’ve also taught hyperlocal bloggers to use WordPress and other tools, at Social Media Surgeries. My hyperlocal activity even pre-dates blogging — I was the instigator and founder of the Usenet discussion newsgroup uk.local.birmingham, in 1998.

Having talked the talk for so long, I’ve finally decided to walk the walk, and am now a contributor to my local blog, The B44 (B44 is the postcode for where I live, covering parts of the Great Barr and Kingstanding parts of north Birmingham).

My first post there is on the subject of . That and future posts will appear under the “My comment elsewhere” section of this blog.

I’m grateful to the site’s founder, , for the opportunity to participate.

Do you make comments on others’ blogs? Bookmark and share them!

You may notice (on the right hand side of this site, if you use the default view; or see image below), a list headed “My comments elsewhere”, with links to other people’s blog posts, on which I’ve recently commented.

List of the five last posts on which I commented, each linked to the post concerned

Screen shot of my recent comments, at the time of writing

I’ve been asked how I do this.

Every time I comment on a blog post — and I try to do so often, both to show my interest in others’ work, and to be part of their conversations — I bookmark that post on the site Delicious Pinboard, and tag it “comment”.

I then pass the RSS feed of all my bookmarks with that tag: http://feeds.pinboard.in/rss/u:pigsonthewing/t:comment/ to WordPress (the software I use to author and host this blog), which magically displays a list of the most recent five, as you can see.

The full feed is, of course, also available to anyone who wishes to subscribe to it in the feed reader of their choice; and my tagged comments can also be read as a web page.

In this way, as well as telling my readers what I’ve done, I bring extra attention to the blogs I comment on, thereby helping, albeit in a small way, their authors.

Why not bookmark your comments, and put a feed of them on your own blog?

Update: Delicious became awful when it relaunched, I now use Pinboard.

Update: You can also use this technique to add the list of your comments (specifically, the relevant URL on the bookmarking site) as a “work”, in your profile page on services which list your publications, such as ORCID.

Triple-tag references to Twitter posts

Further to my post about a protocol for Twitter posts, you can also triple-tag blog posts, Flickr images and similar web utterances, which refer to a specific twitter post (or status) like this: twitter:status=1975532392 – and this post is tagged with that!

[Update: See also my Flickr screenshot of a Twitter post, triple tagged with #twitter:status=1828036334 to reference the same post.]

Floating Leaf


Floating Leaf

Here’s a picture of a leaf, floating on water.

Having uploaded the picture to Flickr from my N95, and viewed it in my picture stream using the N95, it’s a pity I had to return to my desktop PC to post this, via Flickr’s blogging interface.

Flickr: please make it possible to blog pictures from mobile devices.