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About The Authors

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

Email Suw

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

Member of the Media 2.0 Workgroup
Dark Blogs Case Study

Case Study 01 - A European Pharmaceutical Group

Find out how a large pharma company uses dark blogs (behind the firewall) to gather and disseminate competitive intelligence material.

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All content © Kevin Anderson and/or Suw Charman

Interview series:
at the FASTforward blog. Amongst them: John Hagel, David Weinberger, JP Rangaswami, Don Tapscott, and many more!

Corante Blog

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Mapping out my US election road trip for the Guardian

Posted by Kevin Anderson

I mentioned that I would be taking a road trip speaking to voters across the US about the issues that would decide the presidential election. After I wrote that post, Grzegorz Piechota with Gazeta Wyborcza in Poland got in touch to ask me about it. Suw and I met Grzegorz at the Transitions Online new media workshops in Prague in July. Grzegorz said that Suw and I helped motivate him to start a blog, Forum 4 Editors. He posted an e-mail interview with me about the trip.

His long journey proves that online journalism is not about sitting at the office and googling for facts. Kevin is going to do an old-fashioned reporting - meeting real people and talking to them - but he will use all the gadgets of the new media - Twitter , Flickr , Dopplr, Twibble, TwitPic, YouTube, Fire Eagle and others.

It’s as I often say, I’ll be doing old fashioned journalism with cutting edge tools. We’re going to try to bring people along with us and hopefully kick off a conversation not only amongst American voters but also with the Guardian’s global audience.

In responding to Grzegorz, I found this blog post by Martin Belam about the history of blogging at the BBC, where I got my start in blogging during the last US presidential election. The post somehow slipped by me when he wrote it. I’ll blame the crush of the holidays. It’s a bit belated, but thanks Martin for the kind words. Martin also pointed me back to my ‘valedictory’ post from the 2004 US elections:

I first got on the internet in 1990 when I went off to university. We had to use Unix commands to do anything, and I never thought it would appeal to anyone without seriously geeky tendencies. The learning curve was too brutal.

But then in the summer of 1993, I played with an alpha version of Mosaic. Even as primitive as this web browser was, I thought to myself that this was going to change everything I do as journalist. And of course, Marc Andreesen, who helped create Mosaic, took his degree, went to Silicon Valley and created Netscape. …

However, I have to say that of all the high-tech projects I’ve done, this blog, which I consider pretty low-tech, probably comes closest to all my university dreams of what online journalism could be.

And I’m really excited about this trip. When I did the trips in 2000 and 2004, there were so many things I wanted to do but the technology wasn’t quite there. Now it is. I’ll be writing posts about how we’re doing on the trip here on Strange and share as much of the lessons I learn as time permits. We leave on 5 October from Los Angeles and will be travelling some 6500km across the US.

If you want to follow along, we’re GuardianUS08 on Twitter. I’ll use my own Flickr account. I’ll post the other details as I have them. If you want to be a part of the conversation, just drop me an e-mail. If you want me to see something, just tag it GuardianUS08. See you on the road.

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Journalism and Fact Checking: Follow the links

Posted by Kevin Anderson

Stephen Colbert explains 'truthiness'

Stephen Colbert introducing the word 'truthiness'

I was writing a post for the Guardian US Politics blog today using the excellent FactCheck site to cut through the spin, mis-representations and some might argue lies emanating from the Republican Convention speakers. Before someone accuses me of bias, both parties spin, and it’s the job of journalists to counter the spin regardless of the party. FactCheck is a brilliant non-partisan service from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and I will stress non-partisan. They examined Democrats’ claims last week during their convention, and took the Obama campaign to task for airing an ad airing in Michigan that misrepresents John McCain’s current stance on low-cost loans to beleaguered American automakers. Politics is played by representing the facts in such a way as to support one’s world view, but there is truth and then there is ‘truthiness‘.

FactCheck does an excellent job of documenting its sources that allow people to evaluate the source material in total and also see the source immediately. It’s a bit of old school footnotes and new school linking, but it’s an excellent exercise in transparency. Even before clicking through the link, a reader can clearly see that some of FactCheck’s quotes come directly from press releases from Office of Senator John McCain.

I compare this to an AP story on the Huffington Post, on Google and Yahoo News that does the same fact checking job as but doesn’t have any links. I know that this is syndicated content. But why not include links in the syndicated content? Come on, it’s not that technically difficult. I think that the Associated Press is leaving itself open to charges of bias by not providing links to the source material, and the AP has had to circulate talking points combating charges of bias from and others against its Washington bureau chief Ron Fournier because he considered taking a position with John McCain in 2006. And now that McCain strategist Steve Schmidt has all but declared war against the media, it would be wise to increase the transparency.

As an internet reader, I’m increasingly suspicious of journalists who don’t link. Yes, if they quote an official that gives me a sense of the source. But why not link to original source material? It also allows me to dig more deeply into the story if I want without having to turn to Google.

Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 says that it is a waste of resources to throw away all of the research that journalists do, and linking is not important simply in terms of transparency:

…understanding the value of links, and how they connect content, ideas, and people, is fundamental to understanding the value of the web. And understanding the value of the web is the key to unlocking the new business models that journalism needs to survive and thrive in the digital age.

Thursday, September 4th, 2008


Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

UPDATE: The Feedburner feed has now been fixed, so you should get articles in your aggregator as per normal again.

When we switched Strange Attractor from Movable Type to Wordpress, we borked the Feedburner RSS feed… Oops! Unfortunately, it’s been so long since I started that account that I’ve, erm, lost the password and the password reset seems to have been sent to an old email address that I no longer use… Oops again!

So, if you’d like to still receive Strange Attractor by RSS, then use this feed in the meantime, whilst we try to resurrect the old one. If you want a feed of the comments, then that’s here.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Conventions, journalism workflow 2.0 and Chrome as a Web OS

Posted by Kevin Anderson

Suw and I are still bedding in, so to speak, with the brilliant new WordPress-powered Strange Attractor, and one of the things that I haven’t quite set up is auto-posting (although ‘auto’ might be a stretch seeing as the feature seems to work when it wants to). Until we get it working again, I’ll just have to post some of the things that catch me eye.

Convention opportunity costs

I’ve already written about my views on the excessive coverage of the US political conventions. It doesn’t take 15,000 journalists to cover a four-day informercial by the political parties. I would be thrilled if the 15,000 journalists actually cut through the stage-managed crap and told the American people and the world what these candidates actually planned to do, but they don’t.

Jeff Jarvis has much the same view and put it excellently both on BuzzMachine and his weekly column at the Guardian (my day job):

The attention given to the conventions and campaigns is symptomatic of a worse journalistic disease: we over-cover politics and under-cover the actions of our governments. We over-cover politicians and under-cover the lives and needs of citizens. . . .

We don’t need the press to tell us what the politicians say; we can watch it ourselves on the web. We don’t need pundits to tell us what to think; we can blather as they do on our blogs. The rise of mass media - primetime TV - ensured that conventions would never surprise again: they became free commercials. The internet then took away the last reasons to devote journalistic resources to the events - there’s nothing we can’t see and judge on our own.

Brooke Gladstone at On the Media flagged up the childish behaviour of the on-air ‘talent’. At FoxNews, Bill O’Reilly petulantly complained about a newspaper that had insulted him, and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews had a go at colleague Keith Olberrmann for making a ‘yackity-yack’ hand gesture for whittering on. I agree with Ms Gladstone when she says:

After Obama’s speech, true to form, the pundits told us how to feel about it. This week, the cable news talkers told us that Obama had to reveal himself, but so did the news channels. They all saw this week as promotion for themselves, as much as Obama, and they tried to tell us how to feel about them.

But I don’t feel that good, frankly, because they got in the way of the story, because they made themselves the story. Because if this truly was the historic event they kept telling us it was, then they all talked way too much.

Pundits are getting in way of the story. They think we need them to tell us how to feel or think. I don’t think I’m alone in resenting when people try to tell me how to think or feel. Besides, now if I feel the need to entertain myself with anchors behaving like children, I can always watch it the next day on YouTube.

‘Lifecycle of a New Story’

Alison Gow wrote an excellent post of how the journalism work flow differs now in the age of the social media. She expertly and succinctly walks journalists through traditional reporting and how things can be. (I originally wrote have changed, but this is a work in process.) Every step of the reporting process can draw on new social media tools and tap into a broader range of expertise. I’ll flag up one of her five steps:

Step Two

Reporter researches story (Web 1.0)

Phones/meets contacts to verify information; searches Google for background/experts; finds expert and emails questions; includes response in article; sets up photo opportunity with picture desk; writes article and sends to newsdesk.

Reporter researches story (Web 2.0)

Crowdsources idea using social networks; uses blog searches and blog translators to find posts and experts worldwide; uses own blog to post developing and ask for input and suggestions from readers; sets up online survey and poll (promotes these using links to it from own blog, Facebook page and online forums); posts links and questions on specialist messageboards; searches social bookmarking tools for related issues; uses video discussion site to seek views; records telephone interview for podcast; collates findings and discusses package with print and digital news editors; films video report; begins writing detailed, analytical article for print product, accompanied by quality images - some found by picturedesk searching photo-sharing websites’ Creative Commons pool.

It’s a great post. Keep it handy. Distribute it to your staff, and flag up her conclusion. “I had no idea when I started doing this how thin the ‘old’ opportunities for investigating stories would look compared to the tools at our disposal now; it’s quite stark really.”

Read the comments. Alison talks about the tools she uses.

I’ll be writing more about the tools that I plan to use to manage all the work I will be doing on my upcoming US Election road trip, mentioned in my post about how to geo-tag photos. The blog launches next week, but I’m already reaching out into the social networks that I am part of.

Chrome as a web operating system

Steve Yelvington consistently writes insightful posts about new media, the newspaper business and community. Steve is a journalist through and through, and he also has an excellent grasp of the web and technology. Last year, he told me over dinner how he wrote a Usenet news reader for the Atari ST in 1985.

Steve sees Google’s Chrome not simply as a web browser but as a ‘Web operating system’.

The vision for Chrome, as documented in a 38-page Web comic, is to create an environment that optimally manages and coordinates Web-based applications. That sounds a lot like the classic definition of an operating system: “An operating system (commonly abbreviated OS and O/S) is the software component of a computer system that is responsible for the management and coordination of activities and the sharing of the resources of the computer. The operating system acts as a host for applications that are run on the machine.”

He sees Chrome as a game-changer.

NOTE: People have taken issue with the EULA, saying that by using Chrome you give Google “a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license” to do what the search giant wants to do with content submitted using the application. Gizmodo says that Google is updating the EULA to ‘be less creepy‘.

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Blogging Web 2.0 Expo Europe

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

UPDATE: The blogging programme is now full, so we are no longer accepting new applications.

Alongside Stephanie Booth and Nicole Simon, I’m organising the Web 2.0 Expo Europe blogger outreach programme which we’ve snappily titled “Blogging Web 2.0 Expo Europe”. The idea is to gather together a community of enthusiastic bloggers who are interested in writing about the event and spurring their readers/colleagues/friends to sign up. In return, they’ll get a complimentary pass to the conference worth, well frankly, lots of dosh!

You probably already know about Web 2.0 Expo. It’s aimed at web designers and developers, product managers, entrepreneurs, VCs, marketers, and business strategists who are embracing the opportunities created by Web 2.0 technologies. It takes place in Berlin, on 21 - 23 October 2008, and keynote speakers include John Lilly (Mozilla), Martin Varsavsky (FON), and Tariq Krim (NetVibes).

The way the blogging programme will work is that we’ll ask participants to do these few things between now and 6th October:

  • publish at least 4 Web 2.0 Expo-related blog posts, podcast episodes or videocasts, e.g. announcement of the event, speaker information, speaker interviews, or any other event-related stuff
  • encourage readers, friends, and/or community to register for the event
  • display the Web 2.0 Expo logo on their blog, with a link to the registration page, until the day of the conference

We think that’s pretty easy, but to help you along, we’ll provide participating bloggers with:

  • event badges
  • a discount code to share with readers, colleagues and friends
  • access to information about the event suitable for re-blogging, such as announcements and speaker information/interviews (when possible)

In return, bloggers will get a full conference pass to either use themselves or give away to readers.

But that’s not all… The five bloggers who have done the best job of promoting the conference, measured both by effort and referrals, will be upgraded to a Premier Blogger Pass with full conference access, e.g. to the press room, to speakers for live interviews and other goodies we are in the process of putting together. We will announce the winners of the Premier Blogger Passes and confirm Complementary Passes on 7th October.

But wait! Even that’s not all! As participants’ discount code will be unique to them, we’ll be able to tell how many people they’ve referred to us, and there will be something special for the person who has referred the most attendees, counted right up until the moment registration closes.

What type of bloggers are we looking for? We want to spread our net wide, so we will welcome blogs, whether monolingual or bilingual, in any of the major European languages. (Indeed, we’ll be trying to ensure there aren’t too many English-only writers!) Size doesn’t matter - whether you’re the biggest Czech tech blogger there is or have a small but enthusiastic audience who you think will be just chomping at the bit to get hold of a discount, get in touch. We’re after passion, enthusiasm, and persuasiveness: It’s your ability to persuade people to sign up that counts!

We’ve a limited number of places on the programme, so act now, and we’ll let you know as soon as we can whether you’ve secured a spot.

We’re aiming to kick things off properly next Tuesday 9th September, so please do email me right away if you’re interested.

One thing to note is that not only might things change as the programme develops, but they may change in direct response to your feedback. We’d like to know what you think about this outreach programme, so do leave a comment and give us your thoughts.

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