Networking and the tools of the job…

It started, as so many things do nowadays, with a tweet. Mark Commerford suggested to me there was a blog post in social networks and the different ways a journalist might use them – and keep track of them.
So I sat down and started thinking about what network tools I use most often, and what for – I haven’t included things like Evernote or Shozu as, while I use them a lot, I don’t see them as interactive.
Some of these are old favourites, others are new and shiny (to me at least), but all have passed my ‘Does it get results’ test’ which is basically:

1. Is it a) easy to join and b) easy to use?
2. Does it make my job easier?
3. Is it simple to share with others?

I don’t expect sites to be free but if they are that’s a plus; if sites are gimmicky, fiddly to use, spam me or my friends I stop using them. This is an ever-changing, always-growing list but (to borrow a line from Stephen King) it’s my Blue Ribbon for now:

Ask500people.com
I’ve run three polls on this site and am impressed by not only the number of vote responses but also by the geotagging facility and the quality of the comments posted. The Post now uses it frequently and it’s performed well. Less labour-intensive (although also less detailed) than Survey Monkey, it’s quick and dirty, you won’t necessarily get a high local response rate unless it’s plugged well to online readers, but it’s a fast, user-friendly tool that has an option to embed the poll or a widget of it on your site.
I’m also testing PollDaddy as an alternative option.

Bambuser
Bambuser just edges it on Qik for me. Call me fickle but Qik has let me down – ie disconnected for no reason – once too often when it counted. I also like the fact that Bambuser doesn’t demand I hold the N95 horizontally all the time, the geotagging, the ability to have conversations with other users as you stream, and the fact that I can use it with a webcam. It’s embeddable and pings Twitter when you stream.
Also, Bambuser’s Mathias Wiberg took the trouble to ring me the night before the Post liveblogged its day-in-the-life – to check we had everything necessary to stream and to wish us luck – which I thought was pretty amazing of him and said a lot about their view of customers.

CoverItLive
Not so much a network as a network facilitator but still the best liveblogging software I’ve tried; it is about as simple for readers to use and interact with the host and each other as possible. We’ve experimented with some other apps (and discoveries included the fact that Scribblelive would be good for covering a court case but didn’t really offer interaction)but CiL has the best functionality. You can embed it, brand it, recruit promoters, bypass moderation of trusted posters, run polls, add photos, video… it really is an excellent, self-contained operation.
Personally I’d also like the ability to delete a post from the blog once you’ve uploaded it (accidents happen) and to be able to upload sound files direct, rather than just links.

Delicious
This is an essential, not just for saving items I’ve found, but also for catching up on what others in my network think is important. I use Delicious every day; I like Mento for the ability to send comments and reactions around a network, alert me to new links via Gmail and post automatically to Delicious as well, but the simple businesslike aproach of Delicious is hard to beat.

Dipity
Brings together networks, mashes them up and allows you to share the finished product without contacts. Lots of people use Dipity for life-streaming; I like to use it, and Dipity’s TimeTube, to share stories. Embeddable and with the facility to update as required, it’s versatile, practical and looks good.

Flickr
All the time; from the Creative Commons pool to Daily Post’s Flickr group to just dipping in and reminding myself that trolls don’t lurk in every community, this is an everyday essential. I’ve tracked down new contacts using Flickrmail (it’s an unthreatening way of introducing yourself – people can have a quick look at your photostream, bio and groups and get an insight into your character and intentions) and found several stories via the Post’s Flickr group. These are the people who tend to have a camera at the right place, at the right time, and they enjoy sharing and interacting. It’s a wonderful resource.

Ping.fm
I use Ping sparingly; I just think posting the same message across around 10 different social networks is the equivalent of opening a door and shouting something controversial into a busy room, then leaving without hearing what the response is. It’s the Web 2.0 equivalent of Knock Down Ginger and often when I see people have posted via Ping I don’t know the best place to respond to them. So I don’t tend to respond (my close friends are the exception to this rule.)
I use Ping about once a week, to highlight something work-related (more rarely to send out something blog-related) such as a poll or a new web section and send it to Twitter, Plurk, Brightkite, Pownce, Jaiku, Tumblr, Facebook status updates, and Friendfeed.

Plurk
Plurk is an everyday staple – I use it for crowdsourcing, polls, sharing photos/videos/links and getting instant threaded reaction; if people think Twitter is good for earthquake news they should follow the Japan-based SemiPro on Plurk. Coupled with BrightKite it’s also good for area-specific crowdsourcing and for getting tips from fellow locals. I also love the Plurkshops.com sessions, which are threaded topics (a recent useful workshop was on how to move blog hosts) which include links, videos and Q&As. I mute any conversations I’m not interested in, ignore the karma ratings, rigorously ignore Plurk’s ‘stranger-danger’ friends advice and Mark All As Read whenever I feel overwhelmed by chatter. Many of the people I talk to regularly on Plurk aren’t connected to jouranlism in any way, and it’s refreshing to get a non-industry take on things.

Seesmic
Threaded video conversations, private video conversations, random people from all around the world expressing opinions face-to-face, embedding options – it’s a nice way to do business I think. I like a site that can combine lengthy debates about the state of the economy with considered questions about whether to buy a bottle of wine or just go for beer.
Friendly, engaging and packed with experts and/or eccentrics, I found using Seesmic helped me understand the need to put in something of yourself when you use a network. As a journalist I’m used to being the eternal observer; Seesmic makes you particpate, and look ’em in the eye as you do so.

Spinvox
Spinvox turns voice into text. This means I no longer drive home with 21 missed calls from 121 and, more importantly, allows me to speak to this blog direct (it even titles it), send a ‘blast message’ to friends and contacts, speak a memo to Gmail via my mobile and update Twitter, Jaiku and Facebook simultaneously. It’s a great time-saving tool and something I use every day in one form or other.

Twitter
Twitter is the best; even the Fail Whale can’t tarnish its gleam for me in terms of network, news gathering, information sharing… the works. It’s the first site I log onto when I go online and it is home to myriad tweeple whose opinions I respect. It’s a place to share links, photos, thoughts, blog posts or live streams. (although I can live without the Dr Who tweets) and every day I learn at least one new thing of relevance to my job through it.
I like Jaiku but I love Twitter – it’s my favourite network and my most useful, while the side apps, from twello.com to monitter.com are simple, fast and effective. I use it to crowdsource, publicise stuff I or the paper have been up to, seek advice, micro-blog, post photos, post links, and have a laugh – and I get to follow the thoughts of some seriously influential and smart media types.

YouTube
Not just there for Ninja Cat videos – I set up a YouTube Channel for my videos as a learning exercise but it’s interesting how many different communities and local experts are online. When staff videos of La Machine weren’t loading properly in the office it was YouTube that came to the rescue for the Liveblog – both as standalones and as a Dipity TimeTube of videos. It’s a network packed with experts too, many of whom have their own channels, and its use as a crowdsourcing tool (particuarly coupled with Seesmic) shouldn’t be underestimated.

Yahoo Pipes
This, according to the blurb, is: “a powerful composition tool to aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web”.
Well, I’m calling it a network because – in my opinion – a pipe brings together networks (forums, blogs, tweets) sources and information, which you can then share. Since my Road to Damascus experience with pipes, courtesy of Paul Bradshaw’s ace tutorial, I’ve been either building them or tweaking existing pipes to make them more effective. Firefox tells me it’s my third most used site this week (Twitter and the Daily Post beat it) which says something, I feel.

Those are the networks I rely on most heavily; I use BrightKite, Jaiku, Tumblr et al but not with the same frequency, success or even interest. Some of the networks on here will be supplanted by others I’m sure – guess I can always update it as necessary. But as a journalist I like these tools, they make my job easier and more interesting, and I get to meet some cool people along the way.

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About Alison Gow

I'm a journalist, particularly interested in story-telling, networks and digital innovation.
This entry was posted in online tools, social media. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Networking and the tools of the job…

  1. Sion Barry says:

    That’s an impressive digital armoury you have assembled there AG.Do you use Rec Tel? I have used a few times and it’s great, especially if you then want to host an audio file online. [I came across a twitter reference to it from Mark C so thought yes that’s useful).I always tell people that the conversation is being recorded though. And you be surprised how many PRs and executives also record things too… so they have evidence if you misquoute!Is there anything out there to turn such an mp3 audio file into text.Sion

    Like

  2. Alison Gow says:

    SB I hope you noted I included YouTube, since you’re a star of that particular medium.Mp3 audio file response winging its way to your inbox now šŸ™‚

    Like

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