Category: Blog

All change: Cranfield and Marston Vale Chronicle for local news in Cranfield and Marston Moretaine Ward

The end of an era I'm now writing local news Search for: Cranfield and Marston Vale Chronicle In June 2012 I broadcasted my first travel show. The last one was broadcast on 29th June 2017. That’s 227 shows (it started monthly, then fortnightly going weekly). I ended the show as my Masters course at Birmingham City University made me look outside of the travel world. Trying to base every assignment on a travel story wasn’t really helpful. I needed to leave my comfort zone. It was during my first year that I came across hyperlocal websites. Quality local news (in my area anyway) seems to be declining and my village isn’t really covered. So, to pass the time between the end of my first year and the start of the second I decided to start up a hyperlocal website covering the Central Bedfordshire Council’s Cranfield and Marston Moretaine Ward. I decided to call it the Cranfield and Marston Vale Chronicle. The Travel Researcher website will still be updated, but not that often. I can still be contacted if you have any travel questions. I still have my contacts so I should be able to find you your answer....

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Fog lights and how not to do a FOI story

The Freedom of Information Act has helped to develop many great news stories This isn't one of them Search for: Highway Code Rule 236 My FOI story was going to be based around Highway Code 236, drivers that ignore this Rule can be fined. Based on anecdotal evidence from a driving instructor, my own observations and posts on community forums I expected the number fines issued to be increasing year on year. There was also going to be a map of hotspots showing where the driving offences occurred. For non road users, Rule 236 states: “You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226) as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves.” This blog is about how I sent out a round-robin Freedom of Information (FOI) request to see if there was a news story hidden within the data. The Freedom of Information Act, 2002   The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) was passed by the UK Parliament in 2002 and came into force on 1 January 2005. It enshrined a “general right of access” to information held by all public bodies, subject to certain absolute exemptions and cases where disclosure was not deemed to be in the public interest.   It applies to over 100,000 public authorities including government departments, schools and...

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Mapping data: A review of map generating websites

Tables can be a boring way to show data When it is a travel story, mapping the data makes more sense Search for: Making boring data interesting Before I started my MA Online Journalism, I used tables to display data in my blogs. These are very functional, but they are also very dull. I have now been shown many ways to display data that are both informative and pretty to look at. This blog is about my quest to find a way to present information about 32 airports. Being a travel story it makes sense to use a map. My goal was to generate a map which: Was of the UK Would accept a spreadsheet, this could be Google Sheets, .xlsx or .csv formats Had a suitable icon to show the airport location Had some way of displaying the data when the airport was selected – I wanted this to be shown with a MOUSEOVER type command The user could visit the airport’s website from a link in the data box/ToolTip This had to be a free service This blog is divided as follows: The data Google My Maps Google Fusion Tableau Datawrapper Others Copyright considerations As these websites are free, would I have to compromise on some of my needs? The spreadsheet data The data is the extra charges that a passenger may have to pay before they finally...

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Communities of practice – A review of assignment one

How did my research into growing my community of practice go? Search for: The Brief This assignment was designed to help me to build knowledge and contacts in a certain field, as well as building expertise, while also building your reputation. It uses the term ‘communities of practice’ to indicate groups of individuals whose knowledge, contacts and expertise will be vital to my work as a journalist. The following is a brief overview of the work I carried out for this assignment. One of my interviewees requested anonymity, so his interview cannot be made public. Another interaction is a personal direct message which the other party would not expect to see published in any form. Both the interview and the message are missing from this blog. The Communities My recent past is in the travel industry. Before I started this assignment my goal was to work for one of the three B2B travel magazines I have built a relationship with. When I started this assignment I was going to use the research to build up my reputation with these magazines. I started by investigating a part of travel where I have very little in the way of connections, this is the airport protest community. I listed current groups in a blog, some of which I contacted for an interview. Only one group came back, and that was the Aviation...

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Tableau Scatter Plot – how to colour the different quadrants

Search for: Tableau I have already covered Tableau in another post. This time I am going to run through how to colour the different quadrants of a scatter plot (or graph). This was part of a presentation by Tableau’s Sophie Sparkes at BCU. The data used was UK Performance Indicators 2015/16: Non-continuation rates produced by HESA. I used the student edition of Desktop Tableau version 10.2. Step one – obtain and clean the data After downloading the data it needed to be checked to see if it needed to be cleaned in any way. The download contained many tables, but we were working with Table 3a. **only work on a copy of the original data, never work on the original** Part of the cleaning/checking is to look at the header/footer information to see how useful it is. From the above image you can see that the table included totals as well as the individual university data. These totals needed to be removed, so that only data for the individual universities is used. The method shown was to group the rows containing totals. After selecting the rows you don’t want (as seen above) click on GROUP. A new entry will appear in the dialogue box, which will have a paperclip symbol. Click on that and then on RENAME. Use something simple to remind you of the group’s contents – I used...

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Communities of Practice – How to network

How to introduce yourself to a room of strangers Search for: People would rather die than have to talk to strangers According to a New York Times article  on social anxiety in 1984 (archived  copy is incomplete), people fear walking into a room of strangers and public speaking more than they do death. So, in general, people are not born networkers. The fear of meeting new people has to be overcome before a visitor can get the most from attending a new group. This blog is a guide to becoming an effective networker which will help to build your community of practice.   ‘Givers gain’ This is the foundation of the first business networking group I ever joined. Without the BNI my business wouldn’t have lasted two years (it ran 2004 to 2014). ‘Givers gain’ is the foundation of the networking carried out by members, it’s a short way of saying ‘if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’. This helps to fulfil the is the most important parts of networking: know like trust Of course, with business networking you are also looking for sales. The videos and other references in this blog are sales focused, I have taken out the important bits to help to build a group of contacts that can help and advise you with your future projects. Set a Goal – Begin with the end in mind What...

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Meetup – MK.js

A Meetup with coders Search for: A Milton Keynes Meetup As mentioned on earlier blogs, as part of my MA in Online Journalism I was to expand my network. My face-to-face meetings were all booked via Meetup. After a couple of trips to London, I was finally able to attend a meeting closer to home, MK.js. Talk 1: What, Why and How for JavaScript Style Guides This talk was given by Christopher Pateman  (@pateman90). A Style Guide is a set of rules for coders to follow. These rules range from when to put a semicolon to how to format a function Style Guides have been about for many years, one of the earliest is a book called The Elements of Programming Style, which talks about the coding rules from its time for Fortran and PL/I languages. The languages may have changed, but the principles are still valid. Style guides can to be built into Continuous Integration Builds. This would help to automate the process as errors or warnings about code can be generated, along with suggestions on how to use the correct formatting. Pateman went on to explain how companies can benefit from using a style guide as other coders can quickly solve problems if the original programmer is not available. However, developing an in-house style guide can be expensive as they take a lot of man-hours to compile. The easiest option is to...

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How to Excel with Tableau – a brief introduction to working with Tableau

This time it is with data+visual London, 22 February 2017 Search for: Tableau – Part Three It’s a shame I missed parts one and two, but as part on my MA in Online Journalism assignment I attended a data+visual London Meetup. The meeting was held at Tableau’s impressive offices in Southwark. Well, they impressed me anyway. This Meetup’s main presenter was Géraldine Zanolli, product consultant at Tableau. She was joined by Marina Lindl, manager, Product Consulting EMEA. Together they were going to demonstrate how users can combine the power of Excel and Tableau. We would be shown how to prepare Excel files for analysis, and how to leverage Excel mastery in Tableau. There was also a short ‘give it a go’ session, with prizes awarded to the best data displays.   How to try Tableau There are three versions available: Tableau Desktop Tableau Server Tableau Online   All three have a free trial period. There is also Tableau Public, which is a free, limited version. Tableau The company says that its mission is to “help people see and understand their data”. It is doing this by writing business intelligence (BI) software to transform  the way people use data to solve problems. It can create visually-appealing reports, charts, graphs and dashboards using a data source.  The reports are interactive and can easily be shared. Using ‘drag and drop’ it aims to be user friendly so there is no need for a technical...

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Working with geographical data in a local directory on a Windows 10 PC

Is the exercise possible on a Windows machine? At the meeting I couldn't install the software Search for: Recap –  my first Meetup didn’t go well In another blog I talked about my first Meetup which was part of my MA in Online Journalism. My assignment is to build up my journalism network. I was originally going to stick to an industry I know well, but decided that this would be a waste of a learning experience. I am looking at building a network of journalists and coders. I must effort in this was to attended a Journocoders meeting in London. The meeting was an exercise in working with geographical data. However, my attempt didn’t go well as my notebook would not load the software. Was this a Windows or a machine issue? I decided to try the exercise again on my desktop machine. My desktop machine This is more powerful than my HP Stream. It is homemade, with an AMD A6-6400K, running at 3.9GHz and it has 8GB of RAM, running 64 bit Windows 10 Home. Is this good? I’ve no idea, the choices were based purely on the money I found down the back of the sofa.   The exercise Before the meeting we were asked to install the latest version of Node. This I managed without any issues. Node.js® is a JavaScript runtime built on Chrome’s V8...

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Does netiquette still exist?

Has the flood of Facebook users made Netiquette irrelevant? Search for: Netiquette As part of my MA in Online Journalism, I was tasked to join new groups to widen my journalism network. As part of this assignment I have looked into online groups. When people meet in groups there needs to be an understanding of the conduct expected by group members. It doesn’t matter if the groups meet offline or online, there needs to be a list of rules to enable everyone to get the most out of the conversation. For the real world there is Debretts,  for the Internet there is netiquette. Although as more people gain online access it is possible that netiquette has all but disappeared. What is netiquette? The word netiquette is a combination of net (or network) and etiquette. It is a guide to respecting other users’ views and also to ensure courtesy when posting your own views online. Back in the days of slow, dial-up modems it also helped to reduce time and money by removing any unnecessary comments. If someone did post something that breached the group’s netiquette they were soon told about it by being flamed. Which, ironically, increased the amount of data needed to be downloaded. Each group, mailing list, bulletin board or Usenet had its own rules, but there was a common thread between them. For example, three common types of...

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My first Journocoders Meetup

Or when I took a knife to a gunfight - I didn't have the tools or skills to join in Search for: As part of my MA in Online Journalism, (it now has a new name) I had to ‘build knowledge and contacts in a certain field, as well as building expertise, while also building your reputation‘. I’ve been in travel since 2004 and my goal is (was) to be a travel journalist, so I automatically opted to stick to with what I know. My first effort can be found here. But what’s the point of always sticking with what you know? I quickly found that most of the groups I found weren’t that chatty. I did manage to book an interview with the Aviation Environment Federation, but that was it. My assignment was either going to be very brief, or I would have to change my plans. There is no point doing an MA while staying in your comfort zone. So I decided to try to join data journalist and programming groups. Unfortunately, the combination of meetings, active groups and work commitments meant that I still had limited options. Especially when my LinkedIn group requests went unanswered. No programming experience required! Journocoders was the first meeting I could attend. On 9th February, I popped south of the river to learn about “how to work with geographical data. We will be...

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Airport campaign groups

Unhappy with airport pollution or costs? There'll be an airport campaign group for that Search for: Airports can be the neighbour you’re always complaining about Recently, campaigners have failed in another bid to block the prospect of a third runway at Heathrow Airport. But it isn’t just airport expansion that can upset people. Glasgow Airport will be introducing a ‘kiss and drop’ charge this April and there is already a campaign against it. Local, national and international These campaign groups have varied goals, including reducing costs, the local environment and how the World’s environment is affected. Here is a list of some of the groups that are keeping a watch on airports.   UK national organisations Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) Campaign for Better TransportCampaign to Protect Rural England Climate Concern Environmental Protection UK Friends of the Earth (England Wales and Northern Ireland) Friends of the Earth (Scotland) Green Alliance Greenpeace UK Plane Stupid England Birmingham Airport Balsall Common Airport Action Group Birmingham Friends of the Earth  Gatwick Airport BEAG (Bidborough Environmental Action Group) CAGNE  (Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions) CAGNE East Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) Gatwick Obviously NOT High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group Plane Wrong Heathrow Aircraft Noise Lightwater HACAN Clear Skies Hammersmith & Fulham No 3rd Runway Richmond Heathrow Campaign SHE  (Stop Heathrow Expansion) Stop the Flight Path Trial Around Ascot  Stop Trial Flight Path...

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