Archive

Archive for the ‘Real-Time Web’ Category
24 Mar

Twitter bot vs misinformation = @accuracybot

I made this icon by hand in less than two minutes, so I know it does not look cool. But you get the point.

I made this icon by hand in less than two minutes, so I know it does not look cool. But you get the point.

We’ve all seen them.

We all hate them.

But what if we created a “spam” Twitter bot for good?

Here’s my latest idea: What if we create a Twitter bot account that actively tweets at people who are spreading misinformation via Twitter?

We know that vaccines don’t cause autism, why not tweet a response (with a link) to someone making that claim?

We know that Obama was born in the US. Let’s tweet a response to someone tweeting about his birth certificate.

Let’s then move the bot – or bots – into breaking news situations where misinformation, including images, spread quickly on Twitter.

The way I see it, this isn’t too “hard” to do… but it requires a few things:

Step 1: Create an account
Step 2: Identify misinformation
Step 3: Define pattern of misinformation tweets
Step 4: Craft 140 character response to misinformation tweets
Step 5: Repeat steps 2-4 for the next set of misinformation.

Oh yeah, that whole coding a Twitter bot is perhaps the most important step.

If this works, I can for see news organizations creating accuracy bots of their own battling misinformation.

What do you think?

More importantly, are interested in helping create this?

I already did Step 1: @accuracybot

01 Nov

How to find possible sources via Foursquare during breaking news

I’ve been preaching this for several years now, but here is a screen-by-screen walkthrough on how you can find possible sources through Foursquare.

First, an obvious but necessary PSA: Just because it is on social media, it does not make it a fact. These are tips, not facts. In fact, I checked in from my USC office 20 miles away from the Los Angeles International Airport.

Step 1:
Search for the location. (NOTE: Your location doesn’t matter. You can check in from anywhere.)
Step 01 - 4sq sources

Step 2:
Check in… after finding the location you are looking for. (NOTE: For transparency, I recommend you add that you are checking in to look for sources. (Here’s my note/tweet):
Step 02 - 4sq sources

Step 3:
After checking in, go back to your home screen and select your recent check in.
Step 03 - 4sq sources

Step 4:
From your check in, click on the location you just check in on
Step-04---4sq-sources

Step 5:
Click on the thumbnails of people who are there with you
Step 05 - 4sq sources

Step 6:
Select someone who has checked in that location, noting their relevant times.
Step 06 - 4sq sources

Step 7:
On their profile, you learn more about where they are from, their bio and, more importantly, how to get a hold of them through social networks (in red box).
Step-07---4sq-sources

Step 8:
Reach out and start your reporting.
Step 08 - 4sq sources

Person’s Twitter account:
Twitter-account

An Instagram the person tweeted while on the plane, watching the breaking news coverage.
Instagram-image

NOTE: While their profiles are set to public, as a courtesy, I tried to blur out and anonymize people’s identities.

01 Nov

Testing out Rebel Mouse’s embed page

So, this is a test of Rebel Mouse‘s embedding feature. It’s in beta.

I’m still testing out this service, but basically it’s a reader for all your social media… and with this new embed feature, you can have your social media appear as a front page on nearly any type of CMS/site. Here is my test only using my Twitter feed. (My Facebook is more personal and all about my kid. Instagram is also mainly about my kid, but it is currently public.”

24 Sep

Getting on WBUR’s On Point

[Posting this late]

During ONA11, I was a guest on WBUR’s On Point show along with Derrick Ashong and Mandy Jenkins.

This was my first time on live air on a national show… um, and I had a cough.

The topic was Crowdsourcing And The Future Of News. Awkwardly, here it is:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

03 Aug

What’s your role in correcting a retweeted hoax?

It happens to all of us, and last week it happened to me.

I got punked… by a hoax.

That study that claimed IE6 users have a lower IQ, as much as we may still feel like it’s true, was a fake.

I’ve been punked by hoaxes in the past, I’m sure, but the difference with this one is that I retweeted it and helped spread the misinformation. And, in turn, my tweet was retweeted a half dozen times.

Now, I didn’t know it was a hoax at the time. I have to admit, though, I immediately bought into it. Old browsers are hated by Web Developers. But when I shared it I was thinking it was “proof” rather than trying to willing lie to people.

In other words, I don’t think I committed a journalistic sin because I didn’t know it was fake at the time. Retweeting a rumor and treating it as fact, that’s a journalism sin… this was more a case of journalistic laziness, because in my heart “I knew it to be true.”

Typically, I read the links before I share them with others – not endorsements, per say, but informed sharing. In this case, I didn’t even question it and re-shared. (NOTE: I still believe there is something wrong with you if you are using IE6.)

Tim Carmody, who wrote the piece exposing the hoax for Wired, said it perfectly:


.@ One thing I talk about in the article is how these hoaxes 1) give us ammo in an argument & 2) confirm what we already think.
@tcarmody
Tim Carmody

While I didn’t commit a journalism sin, I did, knowing or not, participate in spreading this hoax. So, what is my responsibility now?

I went straight to the correction expert and asked Craig Silverman, of Regret the Error, for advice. His response:


@ @ You should message anyone who RT’d your incorrect RT to let them know it was a hoax. And ask them to spread word.
@CraigSilverman
Craig Silverman

My response:


@ Will do! And I’ll say two ‘Our Fathers’ … that’s the Catholic side of me. I can’t help it. // @
@webjournalist
Robert Hernandez

While not a sin, I still felt dirty. So much so, that I also posted a correction on Google+ and wrote this piece.

I’m happy to report, moments after I asked those who retweeted me to spread the corrected info, nearly all did.

What are your thoughts? How would you have corrected this “error?” Do you consider it an error?

11 Feb

How did you experience Egyptian news and history?

I asked the ‘Twitterverse’ to share what sources they were using to experience the historic news of events from Egypt. Here is a Wordle showing the response.

Al Jazeera was the clear winner.

10 Feb

Mubarak ‘stepping down’: Dissecting a media echo chamber

NOTE: Republished on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201102/1942/

Here is an attempt to break down the timeline of today’s news from my point of view. Please note that this mainly reflects Twitter and my experiences. I’ve used Twitter’s advanced search, which isn’t great, and gotten some crowdsoucing help. Please feel free to contact me to make this more accurate.


P.S. This is my first Storify … be gentle.

02 Feb

Is Social Media Gutenberg or Guttenberg? It’s actually both

NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201101/1936/

Social media means different things to different people.

For some, tools like Twitter are at the Gutenberg level, while others place it at… the Guttenberg level. (Sorry Mahoney)

But the “debates” on whether it is the next printing press that causes revolutions around the world or the next Police Academy 3: Back in Training, focusing on what we’re having for lunch, to me, are looking at it wrong.

When I teach how to use social media for real-time reporting, I tend to get some of the same questions and comments either praising or dis’ing these applications.

- Why do I want to know about what celebrities had for lunch?

- It’s what caused the mass protests in Egypt, right?

- Doesn’t it hurt your relationships in real life?

- Twitter is the news source. Traditional news orgs are screwed.

Not exactly.

Twitter, Facebook and other social media applications have greatly affected our lives and influenced our culture… but, remember, it’s just a platform. A tool. An appliance, if you will.

I tell folks to frame social media apps just like a telephone.

There are hundreds of incredibly insightful, powerful conversations happening over the phone right now. But, there are also several thousands of mundane and truly painful “conversations” as well.

It’s not the telephone’s fault. It’s how people use it.

Extend this clunky metaphor to radio, TV, and printed publications. There is quality and there is crap. But, without a doubt, these platforms have each enhanced the way we communicate, share information and interact.

I was lucky enough to be in Washington, D.C., when Egypt erupted. D.C. is one of the few cities that carries Al Jazeera English.

With the news network on the television set and Tweetdeck launched on my laptop, I watched the coverage unfold, noticing that the station’s live coverage was the fastest and most complete news source. And, as they reported, I and other viewers tweeted/retweeted.

A few days before, I had seen someone once again claim that Twitter is the news source. In my opinion, it really isn’t. It’s a great aggregator where news and information – accurate or not – flows fast. But the “news” on Twitter tends to be coming from traditional news media.

Twitter is an invaluable platform. But it’s not really the source.

For the most part, when it comes to news, the source/content comes from traditional news sources. And that information gets shared with a vast network of users.

There are powerful reports from the ground, but the impact of the situation, for me, is really felt through the news sites.

So, it’s not the source, but it is one incredibly powerful platform.

We’ve all seen these headlines calling an Iranian Twitter revolution, Tunisia cyber-net revolution and, certainly now, Egypt’s social media uprising.

It’s a narrative many in the media are in love with, even though it cheapens the fact that people are risking more than just their Internet access. They are doing more than updating their status and streams.

There is no doubt these tools were used in all these historic events, but I would encourage us to be a little more hesitant in crediting it as the cause.

I imagine that this narrative was used when the printing press, radio or television were first introduced… a revolution caused by the platform. And I imagine that this is just a phase where a shiny new platform is an easy narrative to jump on.

But here’s the thing. It’s not an either/or issue. It’s both. The platform has facilitated the organization of the masses and empowers them to distribute the information in a new way.

There are lots of people writing about this topic. Here’s a collection of different points-of-views:

http://gigaom.com/2011/01/29/twitter-facebook-egypt-tunisia/

http://gov20.govfresh.com/a-tunisian-on-the-role-of-social-media-in-the-revolution-in-tunisia/

http://motherjones.com/interview/2011/01/evgeny-morozov-twitter-tunisia

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-january-27-2011/the-rule-of-the-nile

My point overall is a simple one: Credit the people, acknowledge the platform, but put it all in perspective.

12 Jan

Errors happen – it’s what’s next that matters

NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201101/1928/

On Friday, December 13, 2002, I killed a man… a teenager really… but only for 15 minutes.

I was a few months into my new job at The Seattle Times where I was running the homepage. The news broke that a 17-year-old teen was shot in the head by a Seattle police officer during an attempted robbery and the brief was sent my way to post.

For some reason, I assumed a gunshot to the head was fatal and wrote the headline stating that the teen was killed.

After getting rightfully chewed out by the reporter, I learned that you can survive that injury.

More than eight years later, after hearing the news coverage and premature reports of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ death, I can’t help but be reminded of my error and the lessons I’ve learned.

Throughout my career, I’ve heard people say that the Web – and now the real-time Web with social media – is a liability. A “tangled Web” of ethical problems.

Let’s just get this out-of-the-way: Errors happen in journalism all the time and, for the most part, by accident.

It doesn’t matter what the medium is – pixels or paper, newswires or tweets – facts can be misled, misreported or misunderstood. Errors happened before the Internet. Errors happen in newspaper, radio and TV journalism.

The bottom line is that errors happen.

What matters, in my opinion, is what you do after they happen.

After profusely apologizing, I fixed the headline and immediately wrote up a correction. It may have only been 15 minutes and perhaps only a handful of readers may have seen it, but it didn’t matter. I made the mistake.

You know that debate about who is a journalist and who isn’t? It’s all pointless really. When it comes down to it, a journalist, in its true essence, is someone who has credibility in delivering accurate information. It’s the person you can trust because they have earned your trust through accuracy.

Credibility is such a fragile thing. Takes years to build, but just moments to lose.

But in a craft where facts are moving quickly and readers want information in real-time, it’s not the multimedia or tech that counts… it’s your credibility.

I made an error that dinged The Times’, the reporter’s and my own credibility. Immediately posting that correction was a small, simple act of transparency to own up to it.

If you think about it, journalism is based on such a fragile thing like credibility. Trust. Faith.

The reporter, covering a news event, has to find the right sources and trust – yet verify – the information they are collecting. The reporter’s editor needs to trust that the reporter is not making this stuff up or stealing it from a competitor. The process goes from stage to stage until it gets to a reader/viewer/listener/user who then has to trust whether or not the piece is accurate.

Trust but verify. Consider the source. If your mom says she loves you, check it out.

All that before you hit publish to print or tweet your piece. All that as you consume a piece of news.

Like more and more people, I experienced the Giffords news coverage through a variety of ways that included radio, web, TV and social streams. I heard the incorrect reports about her death and the reactions that followed. I also heard the incorrect reports about her speedy recovery and those reactions.

I highly recommend reading Regret the Error‘s piece that breaks down how the error spread and Lost Remote‘s on whether or not incorrect tweets should be deleted.

Make sure you read the response by NPR Senior Strategist Andy Carvin, who talks about his role in tweeting the incorrect reports.

While mistakes were made in the coverage, the discussions afterward have been productive and insightful.

The errors happened. But what also mattered was what happened afterwards.

Categories: Journalism, OJR, Real-Time Web Tags:
25 Oct

Tips and tools to innovate with during election night coverage

NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201010/1900/

In our world, there is no better story that reflects the power and value of good journalism like an election.

Regardless of the medium, the stories from an election can include investigative pieces, people profiles, contextual stories, and, because politicians are so colorful, stories of the weird.

Put these under an umbrella of breaking news and see us do our thing.

The midterm elections are just around the corner and they have proven to live up to a newsy season. By now many of us have established a general plan for election night coverage.

But to help foster innovation and advancement in journalism, last’s week #wjchat, a weekly chat about Web journalism held through Twitter, had its first Elex Exchange where we shared ideas and tools to help with this year’s coverage.

Inspired by the chat, here’s a list taking advantage of the latest technology to help election.

TWITTER // reporting + distribution
It’s a basic tool that should be part of your daily journalism routine, but Twitter is still best tool for covering a real-time news event, especially when covering breaking news or election.

As written before, Twitter is the tool to help you find sources and trends in real-time. Either by zip code or by topics/keywords, make sure you are using and monitoring Twitter throughout the election. Use a Twitter-client like TweetDeck with predetermine searches that you occasionally check on.


The next basic minimum is to have a Twitter feed on your homepage specifically for the election coverage. No programming is required to create this widget, you just need to decide whether you want public tweets with a hashtag or you want to create a list of the accounts that will appear in the feed.

Either way, Twitter has got you covered with their ‘goodies.’ Make sure you take the time to customize the colors to have it match your site design.

If you haven’t yet, check to see if a hashtag or hashtags relating to your local races have been created by the community. If no one has, create them right away. If someone beat you to it, don’t worry and embrace them… but either way start using them NOW!

This simple act gives you a head start in becoming the lead authority on these races, in social media and beyond.

Take a page from the Pulitzer Prize winners for Breaking News, seattletimes.com, and get in the habit of creating and using hashtags when covering all types of news.

FOURSQUARE // geolocation + distribution
This election season, news outlets should create ‘check-in’ places for polling locations in their town. The geolocation community is small but growing and will be checking in as they go to vote. Like a hashtag, if you don’t create a location, they will.

Become the leader in coverage by not only creating the locations but add a tip (Ex. Tip links to LAT story about Venice Beach fight) that links back to your site’s live, active, up-to-date election coverage.

Remember, by having these locations, you can also find potential sources as they check in to the venues.

USTREAM // live streaming
Who says TV broadcast gets to have all the fun with their live coverage. Okay, it may not be your idea of fun, but live streaming is a tool more newsrooms need to embrace. No expensive satellites required, services like Ustream allow you to do a live shot from your newsroom with a laptop and camera or from your smart phone.

Stream the candidates’ celebratory or concession speech election night live straight onto your homepage. It’s easy and it should be another standard tool in your journalistic toolbox.

CROWDMAP // crowdsource reporting + mapping
This tool comes from Sarah Day Owen, #wjchat colleague and Augusta Chronicle‘s Social Media Editor, who heard about it from the new hyperlocal site TDB in Washington D.C. She is hoping to experiment with this tool that takes crowdsourced information from cell phones, news and the web and maps them.

This application, originally built to crowdsource crisis information, begs to be used by news outlets, especially for something like election coverage. It’s free and pretty simple to setup… so you still have time to pull this off. Even if you don’t get participation from the community, get your reporters to file dispatches.

STICKYBITS // social media + user-generated content
I recently wrote about this tool and want news organizations to experiment with it, so here’s a second pitch.

Like Twitter’s hashtag or FourSquares’s digital makers, create your own barcode and literally post it at as many polling places in your town, asking a question (Ex.: What do you hope comes out of this election?) and a note encouraging them to download the stickybits app and upload their responses. See if you get people in your community adding election related “bits” – video, text, photos, audio, etc. – to your barcode.

IMAPFLICKR // user-generated photos + geolocation
Okay, so getting the community to download an app to scan a barcode then post a message is a sizable hurdle (I know, but try it anyway!), so here is a simpler tool that takes a Flickr feed and maps it.

In other words, you can open up a Flickr account and have people submit photos from polling places and get them mapped. Like the Twitter feed, no programming is required and the biggest decision you have to make is whether or not you make this a public or staff driven feed.

PHOTOSYNTH // photo + crowdsourcing + magic
This tool, originally created by the University of Washington before it was purchased by Microsoft, is something I’ve been trying to push into newsrooms’ toolboxes for years. It finally made its mainstream debut with CNN’s “The Moment” in 2008, but hasn’t been used much in news since.

It may not work perfectly in this scenario, but I would remiss if I didn’t mention it. PhotoSynth takes a collection of photos – from different contributors – of one location and “stitches” them together to create a virtual experiment.

So, let’s say we’re at a candidate’s headquaters for the party… take a ton if photos of the scene, throw them into this program and post an experience like no other. It’s more powerful if you crowdsourced the images.

STORIFY // social media + curating (Invitation required)
The great thing about Twitter and other social media networks is the real-time stream of content that flows out of them, often like a fire hose of information. The bad thing about these tools is the content can get drowned out rather quickly. Storify, who’s creator we profiled recently, is a tool that let’s you build a story through social media elements, adding context and comments around elements from Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and more.

You create an article on their site, but you embed the created piece on yours. It’s in beta and there are a few limitations with it, but if you want to tell the story of how the election night was covered through social media, this is the tool to use.

Do you have a tool you plan to use? Have you experimented with these? What examples of great election coverage have you seen? Make sure you add your thoughts and experiences in the comments, before and after the election.

Robert Hernandez is a Web Journalism professor at USC Annenberg and co-creator of #wjchat, a weekly chat for Web Journalists held on Twitter. You can contact him by e-mail (r.hernandez@usc.edu) or through Twitter (@webjournalist). Yes, he’s a tech/journo geek.

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