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Thursday, 25 June 2009

ABSW: Journalism 2.0 workshop

This year's ABSW events kicked off with a workshop on how next generation web tools are helping today's journalists.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a total technophobe, but for a while I thought that RSS was something you got from too much typing. Hashtags sounded like an embarrassing medical condition. And if I had experience with a search engine then I was pretty sure it had stalled. Permanently.

Thank the gods of technology then for the ABSW’s Journalism 2.0 workshop, led by our very own Mike Nagle.

On a warm May evening, a dozen or so ABSW members met at the the Wellcome Trust building in London armed with just a laptop and a thirst for information. The interesting and practical session covered a number of online tools and websites that I think could benefit most of us, both in a professional capacity and in stalking ex-partners our social lives too.

First, I was disabused of my thoughts about RSS (it is, as I’m sure you all know, a handy way to keep track of the content of many different websites without having to visit each individually).

Next, a discussion about Twitter covered ground familiar to anyone who subscribes to the ABSW-L and quickly divided the room into Twitter evangelists (or 'Twevangelists' - depressingly, this term does appear to exist in cyberspace) and those who had no experience (or no desire to have any experience) of the micro-blogging site. The site consists of users’ messages (or 'Tweets'), which are restricted to 140 characters. Hashtags are essentially keywords that are preceded by the hash symbol, a handy way for users to search content containing particular words or phrases. You can follow the ABSW’s Twitter feed here.

Love it, loathe it, or never heard of it, Twitter is an interesting example of an emerging social networking tool. Whether it’s an exciting way of searching up-to-the-second events and news across the world or an online navel-gazing forum remains undecided (but tweet me @christinagiles and let me know). A plug too for Facebook and LinkedIn - the ABSW has groups on both these social networking sites as well.

Every journalist’s best friend (alright, second after Wikipedia), Google, was discussed. Mike shared some cunning search tips, such as using the command ‘define:’ before a term to find definitions of it on the web. Also, adding ‘filetype:pdf’ after a search term will return results that are pdfs only (change the suffix to restrict your results to other file types). A quick Google has dug up this useful-looking list of Google commands.

We were reminded that Google is not the only search engine in the world (although it may be the only one that has become a verb). Microsoft’s rebranded and updated search engine Bing may also be worth a click.

Other gems covered at the workshop included www.archive.org, which is an astounding site full of old versions of websites - brilliant if you’re pretending it’s still 1995, or if you’re after something that has been taken down from a particular website.

It was a fascinating session, thanks again to Mike Nagle for his efforts.

Chrissie Giles
Regional Groups Coordinator