EveryBlock.com is the answer to every American nosy neighbour/journalist’s prayers. It keeps them up-to-date with all the news and civic goings-on happening in their city, neighbourhood and block. It covers everything from building permits, restaurant inspections, local blogs, and photo-sharing to local business reviews. Launched in 2008 the site has grown rapidly – last month it brought in around 220,000 unique visitors.
Screen-grab of EveryBlock.com - what's the latest in Manhattan?
But what about all the nosy neighbours/journalists in Britain?
We have OpenlyLocal, JournalLocal and even FixMyStreet, which allow us to access valuable local governmental information or to moan about the rife potholes after the big freeze. But we’re losing out on the sociability of Everyblock.com, dubbed the social network for the neighbourhood. On this site users can update their status, “follow” specific locations and share posts on Facebook or Twitter.
But this might all be about to change now that StreetLife.com has hit our hoods… Like Everyblock, StreetLife is a social network based on local communities. Users can talk to individuals, groups and even local buinesses with the aim of sharing advice, skill sets and resources (Big Society eat your heart out). You have a news-feed, local chat function, private message facility, and incase it all gets to much, you have control of how much information you receive.
A screen-grab of the StreetLife Welcoming
But will it work?
I asked Paul Bradshaw if there was a UK answer to Everyblock, and he responded:
@TheDesertFox closest is OpenlyLocal or JournalLocal, or even FixMyStreet, but not really until UK govt releases data in same way
The same sentiment applies to StreetLife.com. The Freedom of Information Act in the UK is far more limited that the US, where there are no restrictions on who may access government information under the FOIA. The only requirement is that the requester must be a member of the public.
This is what social media journalist and hyperlocal blogger Joseph Stashko had to say:
@TheDesertFox I think it's a neat idea, but stuff like facebook has critical mass so I'm not sure it'd ever take off in a big way.
Are we too saturated by social media as it is? Do we need another account to check and maintain? Or will the fact that, like EveryBlock, we can link up and share with Twitter and Facebook enhance our social networking experience?
In Joseph Tartakoff’s recent review of EveryBlock he said: ‘there’s lots of potential for abuse; a search for “conversations” in my neighbourhood brought up only two entries, which were both essentially advertisements’. StreetLife could rapidly become less about ‘community spirit’ and more about promotional plugging.
I looked up my local street on StreetLife and was pleasantly surprised to find lots of interesting posts. I know that Felix, just opposite, has had his bike stolen, where my local optician and pharmacist is, who’s having a loft conversion and who’s selling up. I’m excited by this, it’s nice to feel part of something local and as a journalist it’s a great source for stories. I’m not sure I’m ready to abandon StreetLife yet, it’s in it’s early days but it could grow into something interesting…
Is Citizen Journalism treading on the toes of Professional Journalism?
Here are two extracts from recent theatre reviews of the same production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle. One is written by a Citizen Journalist, the other is written by a professional critic. Can you tell which is which?
Extract A. The weight of expectation on this production is immense chiefly because, on paper, it’s a combination of talent and ideas that feels simultaneously fresh and defiantly classic. In short, it seems to represent exactly what the National does so well and what it set out to achieve back in the 1970s. Sadly, like the Creature itself, Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein is somewhat inconsistent: prone to flashes of greatness, but ultimately a flawed masterpiece.
The sense of palpable disappointment is particularly heightened by that fact that, at the centre of the show is a towering performance from Benedict Cumberbatch. Whilst I was a fan of his recent work I did have Cumberbatch pegged as someone with little range beyond the proud, the haughty and the academic; I therefore relished the opportunity of seeing him play Frankenstein opposite Jonny Lee Miller’s rough and ready Creature. As it was the roles were reversed at last night’s preview and Cumberbatch proved just what a versatile, hypnotic stage actor he is.
This is not the triumph everyone expected but a muscular production that, I imagine, will be remembered for individual triumphs such as Cumberbatch and Miller’s performances, Underworld and Ed Clarke’s innovative sound design and Tildesely’s stunning set. Things will no doubt improve as the run continues but, as a whole, Frankenstein fails to reproduce the power of the text it adapts; much like Victor’s experiment, it feels like Boyle is only half in control of his creation.
Extract B. In Danny Boyle’s eagerly awaited production of Frankenstein the show’s stars are alternating the roles of the scientist and the deformed Creature in Mary Shelley’s great gothic tale, first published in 1818.
On Tuesday we saw Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature, cobbled together from dead body parts and conjured into life by the power of science, with Benedict Cumberbatch as his appalled creator, Victor Frankenstein. Last night the roles were reversed.
For those who have tickets — and if you haven’t you will have to queue for day seats or attend a performance due to be screened live in cinemas on March 17 and 24 — I can report that both versions are well worth seeing. Miller, however, strikes me as the more disturbing and poignant monster, while Cumberbatch undoubtedly has the edge as the scientist who is ultimately revealed to lack the humanity of the unhappy creature he has created.
The play doesn’t disappoint when it comes to gory horrors – the fate of Frankenstein’s bride is particularly grisly – while the final scene is as bleak as anything in Beckett.
The production may be intermittently hobbled by dud dialogue and second-rate supporting performances, but at its best there is no doubt that Frankenstein is the most viscerally exciting and visually stunning show in town.
Thanks for voting, stay tuned to find out if you were right…
We can now reveal that the correct answer was Extract B, but more than 1/3 of you were April fooled! Journalists will have to keep their wits about them…
Extract A was written by Citizen Journalist Will Hunt
Extract B was written by Professional Critic for the Telegraph Charles Spencer
your2pence spoke to Stewart Purvis, former Content and Standards Partner at the UK regulator Ofcom, about how UGC is monitored and regulated.
y2p: How is UGC regulated by Ofcom?
SP: The crucial point is that the only regulation of UGC by Ofcom is when it is rebroadcast by a licensed broadcaster because then it has to meet the Broadcasting Code. In its regulation of licensed TV services Ofcom does not recognise any difference between UGC and any other content. It all has to conform to the Broadcasting Code.
“These standards [section 319 of the Communications Act] apply to all broadcast material whatever its origin: whether material is user-generated content or derived from more traditional sources.” Ofcom
y2p: Have there been any interesting cases when Ofcom has had to step in?
SP: There was an interesting test case when a mostly online content service called Sumo transmitted some of their content on Sumo TV and got into trouble. I think Sumo TV is the only case.
y2p: Should there be a regulator of non rebroadcast online content? Ofcom/PCC etc…
SP: There is a regulator of online content which is deemed to be ‘TV-like’. The regulator is called ATVOD [which regulates the editorial content of UK video on demand services].
SP: For content which is not ‘TV-like’ and that is most online content, there is no official regulator although some sites have their own standards requirements e.g. the ‘explicit’ warnings on i-tunes.
y2p: Will we see any changes in the future?
SP: The next Communications Act expected in 2015 will have to address the issues raised by media covergence.
It was Facebook, not Twitter, that reaped the rewards for our Red Nose Day shout-out. I came to the conclusion that it was because the request came from a friend/associate, rather than a little-known/niche news outlet. Are people more reluctant to hand over their content with media outlets they don’t know? Tell us what you think…
@shaunleesmith is dressed in a morphsuit whilst doing a live-tweet session! (10p a tweet, at the rate of 40 tweets an hour)
The response on Twitter improved once we began refining and localising our request. When we hashtagged #Berkshire we received this photo of two school girls from Maidenhead.
@vik1toria send us this photo of Josephine and Jocelyn. They fundraised for Comic Relief by wearing their pyjamas and making/selling their own red noses at First Platt Primary in Maidenhead
But the real response came from Facebook. Once I had updated my status with our request I received numerous messages about everything from cake sales to sponsored beard-growing competitions in aid of Comic Relief. I was even sent photos:
Ollie Lee, Will Moore-Kelly, Bobby Archer, Matt Mills and Luke McNickle Zulu style invasion on a lesson at Reading Grammar School raised £10 for Comic Relief
Molly Seymour's choice of black cab today...
Why is it that our request for User Generated Content was more successful on Facebook than Twitter? Is it because the request came from myself, rather than a little-know (but utterly fantastic) news blog, and went out to a small network of friends and associations? The Twitterati couldn’t be more obliging with their Twitpics and Vimeo Vids when it comes to a shout-out from Jon Snow, The Guardian or even their own locally established news generator. Despite the openness and easy accessibility of the net, it seems as though people want to know and trust media outlets before they are willing to contribute to them.
Last week your2pence set itself a challenge – to get people across the web to contribute to our website as a UGC news platform.
In the wake of the news that Japan had been shaken by an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear explosion, we solicited people on Twitter to share their pictures/stories with us, using all the relevant trending hashtags:
It is interesting to discover that there are areas of the devastation in Japan not covered by the media, and that the press is in some way restricted. However, we tried to ask this contributor further information and didn’t get a reply. With this information we’d opened up a can of worms in terms of unanswered questions.
Meanwhile we’d also got in touch with Vic.Bai who had posted photos of his experience of the earthquake on Flickr. He’s an exchange student studying in Fukushima Japan. After the earthquake he was stuck in Fukushima, unable to escape:
People with no home sleep in the supermarket
The food for us
Finally, the Chinese Embassy in Niigata, Japan, sent us 6 big buses. On that bus I wrote “Help” in Japanese on the window.
Encouraging people to share their experiences with us in the midst of this crisis has proven difficult on several accounts – there is a language barrier (most of the Twitpics have been posted in Japanese), many parts of Japan are currently experiencing limited internet/phone coverage, and the fact that this is currently the leading international story means we are a needle-in-a-haystack in the vast amount of material being published by the established news platforms.
We decided to try our luck with a news story a little closer to home…
Your2pence speaks to Matthew Eltringham, founding editor of the BBC UGC Hub. He discusses UGC’s defining moments at the BBC and his theory that the future of UGC is increasingly in the power of ‘sharing’…
What news story has UGC had the biggest impact on?
What stories work best for UGC?
Does UGC risk softening news?
Has it helped re-engage your audience?
What more will the BBC UGC Hub be doing to connect with social media platforms?
What is the future of UGC?
What are the limits of citizen journalist\’s participation?