Author Archives: lucytowers

TwiTrips – What the Tw***er?

I was at school with a bit of a bright spark who later at Manchester University set up the (now defunct) crowdsurfing website youngineurope, a UGC site for young backpackers, who might well have been broke but who still wanted to explore Europe.

After being snapped up by the Guardian in his final year Benji Lanyado is now by his own admission  a 27 year old ‘travel journalist for (mostly) the Guardian and (sometimes) the New York Times‘ as well as a bit of a social media guru.

Over the past year Benji has developed the ‘Twitter trip‘ or ‘twitrip’ for short – where he is parachuted into a city and people suggest where he should go via twitter. So what better way to tell me all how the magic happens than to do a little interview over twitter…

And that is where technology failed us and twitter went down….sometimes it’s still worth meeting face to face. Anyway, it’s worth watching Benji and his movements.  The twitrips idea is so beautifully simple yet still so innovative and he’s got a lot more where that comes from.


A tea break with Ben Marsh

After looking at the Channel 4 cuts map i thought i’d just grab a quick chat with the creator Ben Marsh – the freelance web developer who has easyjet, Channel 4, vodafone among his clients…

Your2pence: Firstly who are you and what do you do?

Ben Marsh: I’m a freelance web developer who creates ‘mashups’ – which means extracting information from various (potentially unrelated) resources and putting them together in a meaningful way.

Y2P: Why did Channel 4 come to  you to create the cuts map?

BM: Channel 4 approached me after seeing my #uksnow Map over the winter. With all the spending cuts that are currently taking place they wanted to show this in an alternative visual.

Y2P:What’s the point of this map though? Why don’t we just keep it nice and old fashioned?

BM: Visuals and graphics are usually a better way of getting complex information across. Being able to see how spending cuts are taking place geographically and also on a month-to-month basis gives a different angle to what is happening.

Having the ability for a consumer to discover and understand content their own way can only be a good thing.

Y2P: How has the internet helped to shape your ideas and projects?

BM: There is a huge resource of open information on the internet, and it is getting easier and easier to pull these sources together and make something more meaningful. I’ve been creating apps and sites for quite some time, but the first one that caught the public imagination was the #uksnow map, which took locatable snow reports from Twitter and plotted them on a map.

You might like to check out Ben’s latest project which has just been launched for easyjet and the Royal Wedding. They are looking for…you guessed it Europe’s best Will and Kate look-a-likes…

Courtesy of Ben Marsh

Follow Ben and what he’s up to on @benmarsh.

Watch Out For The Cuts – Chart Yours Online

We all know that this year’s Budget was not a rosy one. It means a lot of cuts for a lot of people in the coming year.

Our very own Your2pence-er Rebecca Bell looked at how the media covered the event on the big day, but looking into the future Channel 4 News has launched a user-generated microsite which lets people build a UK wide and ongoing picture of the impact of the budget.

Channel 4 cuts map, letting you chart the cuts in your area

Screengrab of Channel 4 cuts map, letting you chart the cuts in your area


Why? Well for Channel 4 it’s a bit of data collection and newsgathering from right across the country without having to life a finger.

It lets people mark out the cuts in their areas and by sector – see the map on the left – as well as letting them link local sites and blogs to the map by using twitter #c4cuts, or submitting online.

The reasoning behind the map

Ed Fraser, commissioning editor for Channel 4 News online, said:

“People want the experiences from their region to feed into our journalism, and they want to be involved in creating a comprehensive picture of how these big announcements play out for them.

“With time, we’re hoping this will be a revealing map of how cuts are being made, and how they are affecting communities across the country. It will be used to inform our web users, but also our coverage.”

One of a kind?

“Wow! How novel!” I hear you say, “The first of its kind”. Well not quite. There are actually several sites already dedicated to cuts which Channel 4 didn’t use.

These include both where are the cuts and false economy’s ‘Breaking Britain’ maps shown below. Like the Channel 4 map, these allow users to post cuts and savings in their areas.

Where are the cuts screen grab

Screengrab from Where are the Cuts


Where are the cuts say…

“The cuts you see on this site display have all been collected from official sources or entered directly by members of the public. There’s no ‘official’ list of what’s being cut where, so we need your help to build up the map.”

“So, if you know about a service that’s been cut near you – like a library, or a bus route – or have read about some redundancies at your local council, or that there’s suddenly less money for a research programme at a university, you can help build up the Where Are The Cuts? map.”

Screengrab from False Economy

False Economy lets you see the cuts per region and then allows even more detailed analysis by breaking down the cuts further by area.

Added to this, the site also allows people to post their own testimonies on the site,  letting them explain not only what the cuts are, but how it affects them personally.

Users can add their own testimonies. Screengrab from False Economy


Tracking the maps’ success

And how successful are these UGC maps at the moment? Well at time of uploading this blogpost, Channel 4 had around 127 reports, wherearethecuts 1,171 and falseeconomy around 450. Not great you may think, but lets face it, with tough times ahead and as the cuts go deeper, more people may feel the impulse to upload the cuts in their areas.

‘Wordle-ing’ Your2pence

Next week there’s a nice little graphics and typography festival on at Somerset House ‘Pick Me Up’. I love graphics. I love typography. So i decided to wordle your2pence just to see what we talk about most often…and here it is…

Screengrab of what we talk about at Your2pence from Wordle

As expected UGC, BBC, images, video, articles all feature prominently.

Less expected for me would be ‘march’ – most probably used because of the number of protests we’ve seen and covered in the course of the life of Your2pence.

It’s beautiful.

Top of the UGC Pops

Everyone loves a good count down so here are the top 15 most popular 2.0 websites (that’s user generated to you and me). Compiled by eBizMBA (The eBusiness Knowledgebase) in March 2011 it comes complete with their estimated unique monthly visitors. And some of these are seriously good websites. You have been warned. Enjoy!

15 | Wikia – 21,1000,000

At number 15, Wikia, “written by community members that are passionate about subjects ranging from video games, TV shows and movies to food, fashion, and environmental sustainability.”

14 | deviantART – 21,500,000

Commonly abreviated to DA, Deviant Art is a sharing site where people can post and comment on art. As of August 2010 the site has over 14.5 million members, and over 100 million submissions, receiving around 140,000 submissions per day. In addition, deviantArt users submit over 1.4 million “favorites” and 1.5 million comments daily. In 2009 DevianART even went on a world tour.

13 | HubPages – 24,500,000

HubPages is a website designed around sharing advertising revenue for user-generated articles and other content on specific subjects. Users (known as Hubbers) submit magazine-style articles posted as individual webpages (referred to as Hubs). Users retain all intellectual property rights to their Hubs and can delete them at any time. In May 2010, HubPages was recognized as one of the “2010 Hottest Silicon Valley Companies” by Lead411.

12 | TypePad – 26,000,000

Typepad is a blogging service launched in 2003. TypePad is currently used by many large organizations and media companies to host their weblog, including ABC, MSNBC, CBC, BBC and Sky News.

11 | digg 27,500,000

Digg is a social news website set up in 2004. It lets people vote for stories, literally ranking them and allowing the stories to go up or down (hence term Digging) on a scale of popularity.

At the “Bigg Digg Shindigg” in 2010, which is part of the South by Southwest Interactive Conference – see the last blogpost – Jay Adleson, the CEO of the company, talked about the need to constantly change and update the way the website is run. Despite this, it’s said Digg has run in to difficulties after the latest version Digg v4 was launched in 2011. The site was uncontactable for weeks after the launch, so much so that disgruntled Digg users declared August 30, 2010 as the ‘quit Digg day’. Despite this it still makes the top fifteen at number 11.

10 | eHow 43,000,000

Ehow is like a dictionary of skills. Touch a button and instantly you know how to change a doorknob, teach good oral hygiene to your kids (it’s American of course), how to know if someone is lying, how to make a home first aid kit and the list goes on. The site has more than 1 million articles and 170,000 how-to videos. Ehow has a number of freelancers who write the articles, ehow members can network by building a profile, creating a network, comment on articles and interact on the online forums. It’s worth 1.8 billion.

9 | Blogger – 70,000,000

A blog publishing service that allows private or multi-user blogs withtime-stamped entries.

It was one of the earliest dedicated blogger publishing tools, launched in 2003, and dedicated with helping to expand blogging. Started by Pyra Labs, it was bought by google in 2003 which modernised the format. Fact: blogger has been banned in the following countries: Fiji, China, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Myanmar, Cuba, Turkey and Kazakstan.

8 | Photobucket 70,500,000

Photobucket is an image hosting, video hosting, slideshow creation and photoshowing website. It allows people to share and hold their own private photo albums, but also lets them share them publicly if they wish.

7 | flickr 75,000,000

Another image and video publishing site and online community now owned by yahoo! It is also used by bloggers who use the service is widely used by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media. In september 2010 it was said that 5 billion images were being hosted by flickr. Flickr offers two types of accounts: Free and Pro. Free account users are allowed to upload 300 MB of images a month and 2 videos. Pro accounts allow users to upload an unlimited number of images and videos every month and receive unlimited bandwidth and storage.

Flickr asks photo submitters to organize images using tags (a form of metadata), which enable searchers to find images related to particular topics, such as place names or subject matter. Flickr was also an early website to implement tag clouds, which provide access to images tagged with the most popular keywords.

Another little fact…In May 2009, White House official photographer Pete Souza began using Flickr as a conduit for releasing White House photos.

In October 2010 it was reported that Flickr, along with Facebook and other social networking sites, is being monitored by the US Department of Homeland Security.

6 | IMDB 80,000,000

Internet Movie Database does exactly what it says on the tin. It keeps information about shows, movies, actors, production crews. Started up in 1990 IMDb originated from a list started as a hobby by film enthusiast Col Needham in early 1989. One of the most used features of the Internet Movie Database is the message boards that coincide with every title (excepting, as of 2010, TV episodes) and name entry, along with over 140 main boards.

5 | WordPress – 88,000,000

Our blog is run by wordpress as are 13% of over 1,000,000 biggest websites. Another great fact right? The brilliant thing about wordpress is how easy it is to use, it’s quick to get up and running and simple to navigate. And this is important when more people are blogging then ever before. Between the 5 Your2pencers we have more than 9 blogs up and running.

As of February 2011, version 3.0 had been downloaded over 32.5 million times.

4 | twitter – 89,800,000

A microblogging site, the most you can say in one go or ‘tweet’ is 140 characters -the same as a text message. Set up in 2006, it’s estimated Twitter has 190 million users, generating 65 million tweets a day and handling over 800,000 search queries per day. Woah there, I know, a lot to handle.

In Feb 2011, it was worth around $3.7 billion.

People on twitter include news agencies, public figures and governments , celebrities…who could forget the Liz Hurley/ Shane Warne tweet flirts… and of course journalism students.

Follow the people behind Your2pence at @HarrietBird @thedesertfox @sjhbradley @caronbell @bellrebeccabell @ltowersoflondon

3 | craigslist – 90,000,000

Known by me mainly for flat hunting purposes Craigslist is a sort of centralised network of communities, it allows people to post adverts for jobs, flats, gigs, services and forums.

Craig Newmark began the service in 1995 after moving to San Francisco and feeling a little out of the loop. He observed people helping one another in friendly, social and trusting communal ways on the Internet via theWELL, MindVox and Usenet and so set up his own.

A little fact for you: On June 16, 2009, “Weird Al” Yankovic released a song entitled “Craigslist” which is a parody of the website, done in the style of The Doors.

2 | Wikipedia – 250,000,000

Calling itself a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project, Wikipedia is the largest and most popular reference work on the internet. Launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, Wikipedia has 18 million articles (over 3.5 million in english) and can be edited by anyone who has access to the site.

Good fact wikipedia comes from the Haiwan word for quick (wiki) added with pedia from encylopedia. Clever hey?

And at number one, the Top of the User Generated Pops goes to…

1 | YouTube – 400,000,000

The video sharing site has only been around since 2005 but now boasts 400 million hits a month. Users can upload, share, and view videos.

It’s made cult heroes out of the ordinary every day person – who can forget david after dentist, light sabre boy and charlie bit my fingure – the most viewed user generated video on you tube. And its worth a fair bit – bought by google in November 2006 for $1.6bn. Wow.

So there we go the big 15. I’d really urge you to take a look and discover how to use some of these sites. I’m going to go and ehow a lot of stuff now. Many thanks to Wikipedia for being my excellent reference library.

Anonymous posts and libel law

I’m about to outline a bit of an interesting case which casts light on UGC and the law.

UGC is one of those murky subjects – if someone leaves an anonymous deflamatory or critical remark on an online comment forum – who is liable, the news organisation or the person themselves?

The Case of Clift v Clarke

Just recently the High Court refused to name two anonymous contributors who left messages on an online newspaper comment forum about a woman who won £12,000 in libel damages after Slough Borough Council wrongly put her name on a ‘Violent persons register’.

In an article on MailOnline the lady talked of her experiences ‘I was turned into a pariah for complaining about a yob’ (she complained about anti-social behaviour following damage to a local park’s flower beds). Out of the 40 comments, a couple of people were a bit pithy, leaving 38 in support of this woman’s story.

In Clift v Clarke, the claimant (the woman) asked the court to order the website publisher to unmask the identity of the UGC contributors. Why? Well to sue them for libel too.

Why did she think she had the right to do this?

Well, media organizations can apparently avoid liability for any UGC posts made on a news forum such as in this case, unless the identities of the UGC authors are revealed and pursued.

From my point of you the posts themselves hardly seem anything more than ‘pub chat’.

The comments

“My, I didn’t realise the cost of flowers nowadays. This woman would have been better finding another way to enrich her existence…thereby saving lots of public money.”

“I’m surprised to see how many people on here seem to think it is OK for members of the public to issue death threats against council employees, with attitudes like that is easy [sic] to see why so many doctors, nurses and social workers are physically and verbally abused each year.”

And Justice Sharp agreed. He called the posts ‘honest comment’, believing that in any challenge mounted by the claimant would most likely fail (they have since been taken down by the newspaper).

Solicitor Nigel Hanson says the most interesting part of the Clift case is that Justice Sharp decided that the UGC “pub talk” on MailOnline did not merit the lifting of the identities of the people in question, despite the fact it was posted on a national news website.

But Justice Sharp reasoning was as follows:

  • The two who commented did not have any real knowledge of what they were commenting on.
  • The comments would not have been read unless in conjunction with the article itself – he argued that they comments had to be read in the proper context.
  • There was no evidence to suggest that the two were waging a war or campaign against the claimant.

The law says that there is a right for honest comment, but be careful what you post and where, even an off the cuff comment could land you in hot water.

Here is the full story in law speak.

Can UGC topple the regime?

For almost a week now the Egyptian protests have  dominated the news agenda.

Non stop rolling images of burning trucks, marches and adrenaline fuelled Egyptians (while the army and police look on) have taken centre stage as  tens of thousands take to the streets to protest against Hosni Mubarak’s thirty year presidency.

Courtesy of Egyptian citizen and friend Islam Harouf

Old protest v New protest

Social protest in Egypt and the wider Middle East is nothing new, but this time the internet and UGC has played a vital part in organising protestors and relaying real time images to the world’s media.

In Iran in 1979 for example the proliferation of tapes of Khoemini preaching did much to whip the Iranians into a frenzy. In 1990, the Gulf War was the first time satellites were used to produce real time images of fighting and conflict. In 2011, social networking sites, particularly twitter, facebook and youtube as well as camera and video phones have been instrumental in keeping us up-to-date as well as organising protesters.

Courtesy of Egyptian citizen and friend Islam Harouf

The April 6th movement for example, by far the most active and well known of all the protest movements has used blogs, facebook and twitter for years to spread the news of the protests and mobilize people.

And Sherine Barakat, interviewed on BBC news said of Egypt, “Today every person is a journalist.” It is no secret that Egyptians love the internet and that postings of film, images and twitter made by ordinary Egyptians armed with camera phones has appeared on the pages of the BBC, al-jazeera and other news agencies and channels across the world as well as keeping friends, family and other loved ones in the loop.

Courtesy of Egyptian citizen and friend Islam Harouf

In fact the internet has proved to be so dangerous that the government disconnected it on Thursday evening. Thats 80 million people offline. All April6th correspondence ends then.

What does this mean? Several things. The Government is scared.  Mubarak has realised that pictures are powerful.Violence could erupt – after all who is left monitoring unfolding events.

Or it could be the final nail in Mubarak’s coffin. The Egyptian people don’t look like they are backing down, but so far neither does he.

masr inshallah kulu qweies (Egypt, god willing all will be good)