Monthly Archives: August 2011

Anna Politkovskaya

Today Digital can take a back seat. I need to write about something else. Today in Russia Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, a retired police officer has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to murder Anna Politkovskaya. Chances are you won’t know who she is or why I care.

I shall tell you.  She was a Russian journalist who had the misfortune of being a person with strong moral convictions and democratic beliefs. She did something that most Russians consider extremely stupid and unnecessary-she criticised the Putin administration and the war in Chechnya.

So she was assassinated. Those who cared knew Putin ordered the murder, those who didn’t care said she deserved it for refusing to conform and suck up, like journalists of the state owned media.

Today the media has reported that Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, a police officer who was originally assisting in the investigation of her murder is now a main suspect. Politkovskaya’s family comments that the murder will be solved only when the person who ordered Pavlyuchenkov to organise the crime is named.

I of course looked at both the Russian and Western coverage of the story. Partly because I was skeptical about finding much information in the Russian media. Thankfully I was wrong to doubt Russian coverage and found a few detailed articles about the development of the case. Both Novaya Gazeta and Lenta. Ru covered the story. I liked the fact that Lenta backtracked and explained how Politkovskaya died (gunned down in the lift inside her apartment building), because it provided a more comprehensive picture of the current event.

Politkovskaya worked for Novaya Gazeta which provided no background info as to who Politkovskaya was, indicating that readership would probably be familiar with the story. Novaya Gazeta didn’t insert hyperlinks into the text but Russia is not as tech savy as the West so that really doesn’t surprise me. Lenta on the other hand did provide hyperlinks although the rest of the layout was a bit too ancient in comparison to such online publications as the Economist or Fast Company. At least there were a couple of images to distract from the ugliness of the actual site.

RT also ran an article and reported it on their tv channel (and on youtube).  For those of you unfamiliar with RT (Russia Today), RT is a westernised Russian news media, bringing you an image of Russia, with a western spin. I’m pretty sure its propaganda,(very subtle but still)  but then again I just don’t trust anything originating in Russia….except Airflot airplanes. Something I haven’t seen on an online media site is the ‘download’ button that allows you to download the video news item. Me like, (but me no bothered to use).

Seriously though: I read Politkovskaya’s books, watched her Dateline interview and I came to believe and will continue to believe that she has more guts/courage/pride than any Russian man I am likely to meet here in Australia or back in Moscow.Anna Politkovskaya knew. She knew what she was doing was dangerous and she knew she would be killed for it.

Could any of us do the same?

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Facebook Launches Check In Deals in Australia

In its ever growing hunger for advertising dough, Facebook has finally scored with Australian businesses. KFC, 7-Eleven and the Commonwealth Bank have signed up to give people deals for checking in. Here is some Fb propaganda explaining (promoting) how it works:

And here are some of the businesses doing this in Aus:

Start Up Smart and Sydney Morning Herald covered the story.

Start Up Smart

Content

‘Facebook launches check in deals in Australia’

Start Up Smart caters to small businesses, sole traders and entrepreneurs. That’s important to note because it changes the way the story is reported. Have a look at the people interviewed for the article:

1. Paul Borrud, head of Facebook for Australia and New Zealand,

2. James Griffin, of social media intelligence firm SR7

3. Facebook

Interestingly the last third of the article consists of advice Facebook gives to businesses who use the check in function to promote their services. Since Start Up Smart comes from the business point of view it seems the check in deals as an profit opportunity and does not cover the consumer point of view, making the article highly tailored and slightly biased towards supporting the initiative.

Layout

Start Up Smart is pretty self contained in that it doesn’t hyperlink often and when it does the links tend to lead to websites of start up businesses. This article had a random link to commonwealth bank though, which is ….random.

Sydney Morning Herald

Content

‘Check in before checkout to save’

The audience is broader for SMH so there is a more general all encompassing angle to reporting this story. A range of people was interviewed including a research company that is meant to represent the users. But funnily enough no users (a.k.a. general public) were interviewed. That’s one criticism I have. Vox pops would have been sooo appropriate to include in this story. After all, it is about the user experience.

People interviewed:

1. George Patterson Y&R social media strategist Tiphereth Gloria

2. Westfield’s general manager of marketing, John Batistich,

3. James Griffin, partner with social media intelligence firm SR7

4. user experience firm Stamford Interactive director Lisa Wade

As with many tech stories, the hyperlinks are the funnest thing because they make references to other techie stuff. I got a bit over excited about the hyperlink about virtual dressing rooms. Anyway it was fun because I got to go on a complete tangent and see what this online dressing room concept is all about (I actually tried it out here!).

Important Realisation!: Even news stories are becoming a tool of social media because through hyperlinks they connect us to other people, news, places and stories. And the thing is, the author of the story gets to determine where we end up (if we chose to click on the hyperlink). Hmmm one more way to influence opinion and perspective?

Layout

The comment functionality tells the truth…that is all. As I mentioned, SMH didn’t interview the common person but in the end they didn’t have to. I read the comments on the article and they mostly consisted of irritated and bitter grouchiness. People were very cynical about the deals which they thought pretty much sucked.

 

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Filed under digital media, digital technology, facebook, social media

Blackberry Riots

What can I say, the lootings in London once again demonstrate that social media is penetrating every aspect of our lives. Both Mashable and the Guardian reported this week that looters organised themselves using the Blackberry BBM messaging service. According to both sources rioters chose Blackberry as the weapon of choice because the messaging service is free and used by a wide number of people in the UK.

Here’s a video that sums up Blackberry’s role in the riots.

So how did Mashable and The Guardian report on this?

Mashable

‘London riots: Blackberry Messenger used more than Facebook or Twitter’

I’m very impressed with the layout of the Mashable webpage to the point where its more entertaining than the actual content. So I shall talk about it first!

Layout

I often read Mashable and I’m always very happy with the hyperlinks they provide within the text. It’s very relevant and interesting. The hyperlinks themselves almost tell the story in images. In this article the hyperlinked words/phrases were:

‘Blackberry’, ‘Facebook group quickly sprung up’, ‘particular post on the Facebook page’, ‘BBM’, ‘a recent study’, ‘got its hands on BBM messages directing rioters’, ‘Research in Motion’ and ‘this tweet’.

Interestingly, the ‘Blackberry’, ‘BBM’ and ‘Research in Motion’ hyperlinks lead back to Mashable’s ‘topic’ sections which give you the option to follow them to get the latest updates. I guess this is a good way to self promote with out overt…self promotion.

The social media bar on Mashable slides up and down with you as you scroll through the page meaning its never out of sight and you always have the quick option of sharing on twitter, facebook, tumbler and so on. Page itself has a three column layout where the right hand side column has interactive and static ads.

Now to the actual content:

Mashable tends to regurgitate information it gathers from other news sources which also explains why it has so many hyperlinks.

The Guardian

‘London riots: how Blackberry Messenger played a key role’

A quote from the former deputy mayor of London is kinda evidence that reporters actually got out of the office and went to get an interview. The image supplementing the story is not stock footage (it comes from a photographic press agency) and is quite effective to communicate the action of the story.

London riots: a looted O2 mobile phone store in Tottenham Hale retail park. Photograph: Ray Tang/Rex Features
The Layout
The page layout is definitely less ‘social’ than the one created by Mashable. The online Guardian seems to be an extension of the print version, I don’t think they’ve gone far enough to engage with the readers the way Mashable has, but Mashable of course is all about digital tech, so its a bad comparison.

 

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Filed under communication, information, new media, news

goCatch app controversy

Andrew Campbell and Ned Moorfield

GoCatch is a smartphone app that allows passengers and taxi drivers see each other’s current location on an GPS map. Passengers can request the closest cab by making a booking via the app. The app’s goal is to make the taxi system more efficient by providing passengers with a faster service and taxi drivers with more jobs.

Its developers received funding from the government and have since launched goCatch across several states including Victoria, Queensland and NSW.
Not everyone is happy about that though. NSW Taxi Council is not happy, as reported by the media sources listed above.

Sydney Morning Herald

Digital Media

The article has a well rounded collection of opinions from both sides.

I felt the article was slightly biased against the app, but I didn’t know why. After squinting at individual sentences and picking them apart I came to the conclusion that quotes taken from app developer Mr. Campbell are a good device used to emphasize the angle. Here they are:

“So if someone is not a taxi driver, downloads it and drives around in their old beat-up Commodore or something then when they actually arrive to pick you up as a passenger you’ll see that they’re not a driver and you can immediately report them or whatever.”

and

“So when a taxi arrives, you need to sort of use your own common sense and make sure it is a taxi before you get in it. Don’t get into a taxi if it’s not a taxi I suppose.”

The quotes make the developer appear slightly dismissive of the issue, which I’m sure he’s not, but its a good choice of language to manipulate the reader’s opinion.

Layout:

Hyper-linking: present! SMH hyper-linked the words ‘NSW Taxi Council’, ‘goCatch’ and ‘Collaborative Solutions’ (which is the name of the govt. initiative that supported goCatch)

Reporter’s Twitter link: present!

Comment functionality: absent! How, how, how can the DIGITAL life section of  SMH lack the comment functionality? Ironic, huh

The Telegraph.com.au

This article took an angle that was more sympathetic towards the goCatch app. These quotes from Andrew Campbell highlight a different side of the story to the one told by SMH and Brisbane Times.

“The taxi industry is dominated and some people say monopolised by powerful industry stakeholders.”

“Because it is a largely monopolised, self-regulated industry, there is simply no incentive for improvements in efficiency, customer service, driver conditions, safety and standards in general.”

Layout:

My favourite functionality of the page was the Related Coverage box embedded in the article.

Why? Because it actually contained related coverage.  Stories concerning the taxi industry, taxi drivers and passengers.

On the bottom, a tool bar listing such social media widgets as MySpace, Yahoo and Digg presented itself to readers.

Very useful.

I think covering goCatch is newsworthy because the news is timely (it comes after the Taxi Council’s comments), it has proximity (the app is australian), it is relevant (we all use taxis from time to time), it has conflict (the clash between the new and the old systems of taxi booking) and it has currency (because there are other similar apps and lots of issues both legal and social to explore)

 

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Filed under digital technology, new media, news, social media

Online and Mobile Media Series

As of this week, I am embarking on a new series of blogs about the digital world, for uni. So for the duration of second semester Digital Navigation can morph into a more restrained and restricted version of itself. I will still be posting stuff on digital technology and social media but instead of highlighting aspects that I think are contentious or interesting I will be doing a critique of how media outlets report on digital technologies and social media.

Just a heads up….

Smell ya later.

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