Pen and paper…

Thoughts, ideas, questions, experiences

Data visualization: BBKA stats on bee colony loss rates June 2, 2010

Filed under: Birmingham Recycled — Kellie Maddox @ 1:47 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I recently found some stats from the British Beekeeping Association whilst searching for contacts. So I’ve had a play with Many Eyes to see what the stats look like in visual form – I have to say not that exciting but I think the tool would be great for bigger and more complex date sets. I’m sure there’s probably a way of embedding them here but since I can’t find it at the moment, try clicking here…. and here…


All things bees and eco-teams… May 31, 2010

Filed under: Birmingham Recycled,News — Kellie Maddox @ 11:36 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Let’s not dwell on my absence the last few weeks (all in the name of work I assure you). A few interesting things to report from the last few weeks – some enviro, some not. But for these purposes, let’s talk ‘green’…..

Last week I took a trip to Birmingham Chamber of Commerce  – the intention wasn’t wholly to discuss new ‘green’ developments but something quite exciting did crop up. I won’t reveal too much as a Birmingham Recycled article will be posted soon to tell you more, however the general gist of the Chamber’s latest venture involves a newly-devised environmental team/project which is aimed at encouraging Midlands’ businesses to operate in more enviro-friendly ways e.g. energy saving, reducing waste and improving efficiency.

So you’ll be hearing more about the project in the coming months from the Chamber, but also from moi, as I’m going to be working as an intern on the project to get the site going ( along with the team and Jon Hickman) and filling it will lots of informative (and hopefully exciting) content.

Next……following lots of media interest the last couple of weeks about the plight of our beloved bee population, I thought it was something worth looking into. The Guardian reported that honeybee numbers were still in decline after the harsh winter this year. Referring to the results of a survey published by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), the figures show a wide regional variation, with northern parts of the UK suffering greater losses than the south.

I decided to try to find out the picture in the Midlands so contacted several groups to find out how the bee population has fared in the local area. Although not so great for me, many groups weren’t able to accommodate me because they were so busy with huge numbers of people learning the ropes of beekeeping – a great sign that more people are interested in the conservation of these insects.

South Staffordshire Beekeepers’ Association were kind enough to invite me along to one of their meetings, held at their apiary at Shugborough Hall. I was pleasantly surprised to find a gathering of 20-25 ‘beginner beekeepers’ along with several experienced committee members who look after the apiary and run the course.  

After the informative session, which was all about ‘swarms’, I managed to grab a few minutes with apiary manager Neil Leadbetter and the knowledgable membership secretary Phil Healy. I filmed my brief interview with them, asking about the local picture in terms of bee numbers, why there is a decline, what can be done and how many people are taking up the hobby. I’m hoping – if me and Sian manage to hone our video editing skills – to have the video up on Birmingham Recycled tomorrow so you’ll have to have a look.

Finally, my most time-consuming and least-progressed project is the mapping I’ve been attempting, but let’s not talk about that. It may or may not materialise depending on my inclination to process another hundred or so calculations before the week is out. A miracle needed please…..


Social Media Workshop at BCU March 22, 2010

Today, a handful of us Online Journalism students popped along to the Social Media Workshop held at BCU – in association with new Media Talent Bank organisers Trinket Creative. We could only stay for the first hour because of lectures but managed to listen to Pete Ashton talking about social media, how he uses it, how other people use it and some ‘tips’ on how to use it for your own purposes.

Interesting ideas and thoughts he shared:

  • Numbers are irrelevant – its the quality that matters (re: tweets)
  • Splitting up your identity/having several online identities
  • Live-blogging/video has an authentic feel thats shows you what its actually like at the time
  • Social media as series of corridors
  • Be great at something and make sure people can get to ‘it’
  • ‘Performance conversation’ – find your voice and channel it through performance
  • ‘When everybody’s special, nobody’s special’ – just because you’re on Twitter doesn’t mean people will listen to you
  • ‘To be interesting you need to be interested’
  • ‘Don’t think of social media as a separate thing’ – use it within what you already use/do

His thoughts made me feel confident to go out and experiment with social media and get ‘interested’ in stuff but also made me feel (even more) like ‘a tiny fish in a big pond’ who no-one’s listening to! Oh well, sound advice from someone who actually ‘gets’ social media (well I think so anyway) and proof that it can work for whatever purpose you want it to. Onwards and upwards…


Conversational journalism and UGC March 2, 2010

Filed under: Online journalism — Kellie Maddox @ 12:32 pm
Tags: , ,

This week’s Online Journalism session was focused on User Generated Content and how to start and maintain conversations with people. We had a guest speaker, Karl Schneider – Head of editorial development at RBI, a UK B2B publishing company – who discussed a number of interesting points about the changing nature of journalism and UGC in B2B publishing.

Several issues raised by Karl stuck in my head:

  1. The concept of ‘conversational’ journalism – basically he was saying that journalists need to move away from producing and distributing content to engaging in conversations with users and working off the back of their ideas/thoughts to create content that is useful and interesting to that ‘community’ around a subject. By listening and talking to users,  you will be able to respond and provide information the information they are seeking.
  2. The benefits of UGC – aside from the obvious financial benefits of UGC (lots of content at little cost), Karl emphasised how important ‘community’ engagement around a website is in the production of UGC. He also pointed out that there was no set model of UGC that would work for users across the board – depending on the publication/topic, different groups respond differently when engaging with media products. He said, in order to understand users’ motivation to produce content, we should identify common threads e.g. why do users respond to that? In what way do they respond?
  3. Commercial business models – making ‘online’ content pay. Karl reiterated that this is still something that people in the industry are trying to work out and experiment with. He seemed confident that the future of online content will become a strong commercial platform and that a lot of the work will be in persuading advertisers that online is the way forward. He talked briefly about the idea of paid content and seemed to believe that it will be something that will catch on – especially in B2B publishing where users are willing to pay for important business and service information.

Karl’s top tips:

  • ‘Listen to what people are saying and respond’
  • ‘Look to where users are generating content elsewhere (e.g. Flickr, YouTube) and start a conversation there’
  • ‘Think about what interactions work well face-to-face – is there a way to put that into the online environment?’

What I learnt from the session:

  • To branch out – go to where the conversation is happening, join in and then they might follow you back to where you’re producing content
  • The importance of joining in with UGC (e.g. forums, discussion boards) and not just throwing in the towel once your article is published – keep the conversation going, it might lead onto new stories
  • Why do users respond and what do they respond best to? The types of UGC that work for certain groups/communities and making the most of engaging with your audience

(Worth a look: the BBC guidelines on UGC)

Anyone have any other thoughts on UGC and how audiences respond to articles on the web? What have you found users respond to the best – forums, picture galleries, polls, maps? Anyone see any negatives of UGC?


Update…on networking February 19, 2010

Filed under: Online journalism — Kellie Maddox @ 12:51 pm
Tags: , ,

So, contacted @peteashton and he directed me to his blog ASH-10, which he uses to talk about all things online communication-wise and anything that interests him and other social media users.

One thing he’s been involved in recently are the discussions about the BBC ‘s local online news platforms:

Meeting with the BBC’s Head of English Regions at the Mailbox to discuss how they could, or should, engage their local online output with the local online community, which led to figuring out what “local online community” means and so on.

Pete says on his blog:

It was an interesting discussion and while I have serious reservations about how a monolithic macro broadcast-focussed institution can embrace the micro, it was good to see them thinking about this in a serious and open way.

I asked him what his thoughts were about the topic and what ideas he had suggested/contributed at the meeting. He replied via Twitter:

 why don’t you put your thoughts out there on your own blog. There ain’t no experts in this game so get involved.

And so I’m going to do exactly that – I’ll be posting my thoughts/ideas/questions about the BBC’s online local community discussions and please add your thoughts too.