Tag Archives: UGC

The y2p panel judges “Readers’ Tips” at The Sun


You might not think The Sun, with all its reliance on puns and tits, is the right kind of place for UGC. But hidden away in the dark corners of the website is the Readers’ Tips page, a brilliant example of all that UGC can be – good, bad, ugly and funny.

So the y2p team chose tips to explain what works and what doesn’t – you can click on the images to see an expanded view.

This perfectly exemplifies the Sun’s attitude – a bit cheeky and thoroughly down-to-earth. This is something that journalists would never have the inventiveness to come up with, and it’s a nice insight into the slightly peculiar lives that the readers lead. But I don’t think I’ll be taking their advice on this one…

This made me literally laugh out loud because 1) it sounds ridiculous 2) it’s the type of thing I would do and think is perfectly sensible and 3) I’m kicking myself I didn’t  think of it first. Don’t worry though, I’ll be doing it from now on. What I like about this page is that the postees aren’t afraid of sounding silly and the readers obviously like picking up the tips. Just remember to turn the straighteners off.

This is such a practical suggestion, the kind of which you’d only get from another punter who’s not trying to sell you anything. I can’t imagine DIY websites suggesting it. This UGC works for me, freely sharing information and not expecting anything in return.

This UGC is pants! These white-knickered buttocks could only appear on a website for the toosh-loving Sun. They’d be considered too bad taste for a more sober news platform, and they’re right. Secondly the suggestion is utterly useless – why would you stick your post-it note somewhere you can’t even see it, why not post on the fridge? I’ve got a feeling we’re witnessing the more exhibitionist UGC here – Karen seems confident enough about her bottom to want to show it off.

This typifies the best and worst of UGC. While there can be no doubt of the deterrent effect of a snake in one’s flowerbed, Roy’s effort lacks the key details which a professional journalist would give. For example, to say nothing of potential ethical conundrums, is the breed of snake a determining factor? Ought the snake to be on duty full time, or would the aroma of a part time snake be sufficient? Oughtn’t Roy to include a more expansive discussion of the necessary fencing arrangements round the flowerbed? In short, this tip is a clear indication of UGC’s questionable reliability.

UGC is about making your readers feel like they are a part of your publication and share in a community of readers. The value of the tips is not in the suggestions themselves, but the sharing process. I think it’s important that we see pictures of the readers and their families on the page. You might not bake your flapjacks in a bun tin, but it’s hard not to be touched by darling little Katie.

Tweeting in the Commons?


The journalist’s pot of UGC gold looks likely to be enlarged after the Commons Procedure Committee decreed that MPs should be allowed to tweet in the Commons chamber. After they were initially banned in January, the committee recommended that smartphones and tablets should be allowed (but not laptops as they take up too much space), provided that they are on silent and used in a way which does not ‘impair decorum’. The Commons will vote on the measure within the next two months.

Objection!

The move hasn’t been without controversy. James Gray, Tory MP for North Wiltshire, argued that excessive use of electronic devices would lead to a ‘worrying change of atmosphere’ in the chamber, in which members weren’t properly concentrating on the debates. But the potential effects for MPs and journalists (who can tweet from the public gallery) could run far deeper than that.

Where does it go from here?

According to the report, 225 MPs now use Twitter. One of the committee’s main supporting arguments is that it will bring parliament a whole new audience, in the form of hundreds of thousands of MPs’ Twitter followers. Moreover, it seems likely that many more MPs will feel compelled to begin tweeting; if so many are communicating with their followers/constituents directly, those passing up the opportunity will appear increasingly distant.

Rich Pickings

This means that a huge new source of UGC material becomes available – MPs may tweet their reaction to others’ comments, and conversely may respond to journalists’ tweets questioning their behaviour. Useful too will be the large amount of constituent-MP tweeted discussions during an actual debate which might have a significant influence on the MP’s vocal comments and eventual voting.

Potential Pitfalls

An example of Twitter hosting co-debates was seen in the Australian parliament, where MPs have always been unrestricted. Back in 2009, a row flared up between the Speaker and MP Peter Dutton, in which the latter tweeted criticisms about the Speaker’s apparent favouring of the opposite party. (The Speaker warned that tweets were not covered by parliamentary privilege).

Shifting the Debate

This shows that Twitter has the power to lift a debate from the chamber and into cyberspace, allowing anyone – MPs, lobbyists, journalists – to join in.  Again it is another example of the traditional top-down media role being undermined. Should the committee recommendations be adopted, parliamentary reporters will have to pay as much attention to the cyber debate as to the Commons floor itself. This raises tricky issues for a Speaker trying to adjudicate without looking at his/her own device. But as a whole new world of co-debate, involving anyone and everyone, is invited into the chamber, there are rich UGC pickings indeed. Truly democratic, and virtually uncontrollable, no journalist worth their salt will be able to ignore this new dynamic.

CARON BELL

UGC – The Rules and Regulators


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.

(Read More)

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.

EMILY ARCHER

Tablets and UGC


This week Kerry McCarthy became the first-ever MP to read her speech off a tablet computer during a Commons budget debate. They seem to be slowly embedding themselves into our society, but what of tablets’ contribution to UGC? Of course, their portabilty enhances the opportunity to interact with news while on the go, and at the source of the action.

But it’s not all smooth sailing.

Integrated UGC

I have an HTC Android Desire phone, which has a camera/video camera and voice recorder. The Android Sky News app I’ve downloaded has a direct UGC facility. Should I happen to capture something juicy, I can touch the app’s ‘Your Report’ tab, which enables me to send the material straight to Sky News, with the option of adding a comment. Fast. Free. UGC.

The Missing Element and its Knock-On Effects

But the much-vaunted Sky News iPad app – launched on March 17th 2011 – lacks this capability, principally because the first iPad lacks that integral part of our online experience: a camera. The iPad apps for CNN and BBC are therefore similarly constrained. New though they are, all have yet to be updated to fit the more sophisticated iPad 2 which, thank goodness, has front and rear-facing cameras. Yet other tablets have had cameras from the beginning, like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. This means their users can take advantage of the Sky News for Android app’s ‘Your Report’ feature, as well the CNN ‘iReport’ function which is very similar.

The Reasoning

The first iPad then was focused around the consumption of media, rather than the creation of media, and the limiting effects are still evident in its apps. So, why did Apple take this seemingly regressive step in the first place? Well, when announcing the coming of the iPad, Steve Jobs was very clear that it wasn’t supposed to be just a beefed-up version of the iPhone. (Because actually it’s more a beefed-up version of the iPod Touch). Nothing wrong with vehicles of traditional, mainstream media of course. But for £399 I can’t help feeling those early iPad pioneers were short-changed.

Since the iPad still holds 73% of the tablet market (according to an International Data Corporation report in the last quarter of 2010), its lack of camera represented a significant dint in the progress of UGC. Now that this big drawback has been addressed, let’s hope the apps catch up!

CARON BELL

your2pence – UGC News Platform – Red Nose Day


On Friday 21st of March Brits donned their Red Noses and raised a record-breaking £74 million for charity. your2pence asked the Twitterati how they were being “funny for money”.

Eventually we got this reply from Shaun Lee Smith

@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.

EMILY ARCHER

your2pence – UGC news platform – Japan


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:

Having received no response, we then tried tweeting – in what we hope was accurate/legible – Japanese…

Eventually we received a response from @7e313 in a series of tweets:

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

People with no home sleep in the supermarket

The food for us

The food for us

DSC_0626

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…

EMILY ARCHER

Opinion, experience and expertise: readers as agony aunts


The bossy yet benevolent agony aunt has been a regular feature on our pages since the early 1930s. It’s been a long time since Leonora Eyles suggested to jilted readers of Woman’s Own

‘… have you tried to find out if there was anything in you that caused him to be unfaithful? Forgive him – but be honest with yourself and see if you were at all to blame.’  Woman’s Own, 27 Oct 1944

Perhaps not what you’d call good advice, but then what qualifies an agony aunt to answer readers’ questions? Could anyone do it? The Times, The Independent and The Guardian let their readers respond. Here’s how.

The Times

Image: FaceMePLS

In a feature called Too Male to Talk reticent men pose their dilemmas to (mostly) female readers.

Here’s one example:
My wife keeps going out for walks with her mobile phone. I am worried she might be embarking on an affair. What should I do?

‘I take my mobile phone with me every afternoon when I am walking the dog. I am listening to live horse racing commentaries… Perhaps she is a gambling addict.’

‘Has your wife changed her image recently? Begun losing weight? Cut or coloured her hair?… If the answer to these questions is “yes” then yup, your wife is embarking on an affair.’

‘The fact that you are even asking the question suggests that perhaps there is more to this than just your wife going out with her phone for a walk… You might want to think about getting some counselling so that you can examine your feelings. Think carefully before you react — once you’ve accused her the trust is broken.’

The three responses suggest wildly different approaches. While the third is reasonably objective, the second seems jaded by a personal sob story. This lack of direction makes the column initially confusing, but I think we do get a sense of which answer we should trust.

The Independent

In Quandry questions about schooling are answered by Hilary Wilce, an educational journalist and by readers. Here’s an example:

We are worried that our teenagers watch a lot of violent and vulgar TV programmes. Will it harm them? What’s the evidence?

Wilce: In debating the recent Jonathan Ross debacle with my children and their friends I was struck by how little they seemed to feel the cruelty of what he and Russell Brand had done… Then, chillingly, came new research from King’s College, London, showing today’s 14-year-olds seem less clever and less able to think deeply about new ideas than their predecessors, and may have a diminishing capacity for empathy. Researchers hypothesised that screen culture must be partly to blame.

Readers’ advice:

Looking at the lines of ecstatic faces in the crowd in Chicago when Barack Obama was elected, I realised how few uplifting and hopeful messages these young people have ever been given. Their faces showed they were hungry for something different.

People should have more faith in teenagers – we’re not so easily led astray.

Wilce’s expertise is validated by the research she points us to, though it’s still propped up by personal experience. And I would like to see the evidence supporting the claim that 14 year olds “seem less clever”. The first reader gives un-evidenced conjecture but the second, as a teenager, speaks from a slight position of authority. We glimpse UGC’s potential to be informative, but don’t see it fully realised.

The Guardian

Image: wolfiewolf

In the Money blog readers’ questions are answered in the comments boxes, with little editorial control. Here’s a particularly effective case:

I am a widow in my seventies, living on a small income and with £6,000 savings. Should I buy a funeral plan with the money, or invest it in some other way?

Don’t worry about that; spend the money and enjoy yourself

If you haven’t had to organise a funeral then you will not understand what a relief it is to have had decisions… made for you by the person who has died. My mother was killed in an accident coming back from visiting my father in hospital; he died two weeks later. They had chosen and paid for their funerals in advance … amid all the grief and trauma of their deaths not having to decide how much we should spend on things like coffins and cars… was such a relief.

We both sell these plans (rarely) and help with probate… I believe Funeral Plans will (soon) not be counted as assets for the assessment of Care Fees whereas savings will – so £3000 in a funeral plan is worth £3000 to the family, whereas £3000 in a deposit account could well be worth £3000 to the local council.

Here we have all shades of the rainbow. The first response is quickly ignored but the second – heartfelt, moving and relevant – is compelling. The third offers knowledge and insight and even comes with a disclaimer. And both trustworthy responses suggest the same course of action. Not all questions on the blog are answered this well, but this shows how good UGC can be.

Conclusions

The three camps of opinion, personal experience and expertise are incrementally both more desirable and harder to achieve. And we can assess UGC on how many of these it has. The worst respondent has only opinion (e.g. the second respondent in The Times and the first in The Guardian) and the best has all three (e.g. Hilary Wilce and the third respondent in The Guardian). Professional agony aunts should have all three.

Anyone contributing UGC has an opinion to share; some of those have personal experience; some of those are experts. Not all experts have personal experience.

What is perhaps surprising is how easy it is to separate the good advice from the bad.  We are able to quickly ascertain which of these characteristics the response has and judge it accordingly. The problem is, you never know which advice the questioner will take.

HARRIET BIRD