Thursday, April 30, 2009

Web tool 'as important as Google' out

A web tool that "could be as important as Google", according to some experts, has been shown off to the public.

Wolfram Alpha is the brainchild of British-born physicist Stephen Wolfram.

The free program aims to answer questions directly, rather than display web pages in response to a query like a search engine.

The "computational knowledge engine", as the technology is known, will be available to the public from the middle of May this year.

"Our goal is to make expert knowledge accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime," said Dr Wolfram at the demonstration at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

The tool computes many of the answers "on the fly" by grabbing raw data from public and licensed databases, along with live feeds such as share prices and weather information.

People can use the system to look up simple facts - such as the height of Mount Everest - or crunch several data sets together to produce new results, such as a country's GDP.

Other functions solve complex mathematical equations, plot scientific figures or chart natural events.

"Like interacting with an expert, it will understand what you're talking about, do the computation, and then present you with the results," said Dr Wolfram.

As a result, much of the data is scientific, although there is also limited cultural information about pop stars and films.

Dr Wolfram said the "trillions of pieces of data" were chosen and managed by a team of "experts" at Wolfram Research, who also massage the information to make sure it can be read and displayed by the system.

Nova Spivak, founder of the web tool Twine, has described Alpha as having the potential to be as important to the web as Google.

"Wolfram Alpha is like plugging into a vast electronic brain," he wrote earlier this year. "It computes answers - it doesn't merely look them up in a big database."

Learning language

The new tool uses a technique known as natural language processing to return answers.

This allows users to ask questions of the tool using normal, spoken language rather than specific search terms.

For example, a relatively simple search, such as "who was the president of Brazil in 1923?", will return the answer "Artur da Silva Bernardes".

This technique has long been the holy grail of computer scientists who aim to allow people to interact with computers in an instinctive way.

Dr Wolfram said that Alpha has solved many of the problems of interpreting people's questions.

"We thought there would be a huge amount of ambiguity in search terms, but it turns out not to be the case," he said.

In addition, he said, the system had got "pretty good at removing linguistic fluff", the kinds of words that are not necessary for the system to find and compute the relevant data.

Simple text

However, he said, most users tend to stop using structured sentences fairly quickly.

"Pretty soon they get lazy, and they say 'I don't need all those extra words'."

Instead they tended to use "concepts" similar to how most people use search engines today.

But Dr Boris Katz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a natural language expert, said he was "disappointed" by Dr Wolfram's "dismissal of English syntax as 'fluff'''.

For example, he said, suppose someone asks ''When did Barack Obama visit Nicolas Sarkozy?"

"Here, understanding the sentence structure is important if you want to be able to distinguish cases where it was Barack Obama who visited Nicolas from cases where it was Nicolas Sarkozy who visited Barack Obama," he said.

"I believe he is misguided in treating language as a nuisance instead of trying to understand the way it organises concepts into structures that require understanding and harnessing."

Dr Katz is the head of the Start project, a natural language processing tool that claims to be "the world's first web-based question answering system". It has been on the web since December 1993.

Like Alpha, the system searches a series of organised databases to return relevant answers to search queries. However, it only uses public databases and runs on a much smaller scale than Alpha.

Dr Katz said, it answers "millions of questions from hundreds of thousands of users from around the world" on topics as diverse as places, movies, people and dictionary definitions.

It is also able to compute answers form several sources in a similar way to Alpha.

Web companies have also harnessed natural language processing.

For example, Powerset uses technology developed at the Palo Alto Research Center, the former research laboratories of Xerox.

The company is attempting to build a similar search engine "that reads and understands every sentence on the Web".

In May 2008, the company released a tool that allowed people to search parts of Wikipedia. Two months later, it was acquired by Microsoft.

Dr Wolfram said he has been working on Alpha for several years. However, he imagines that it will continue to evolve.

"In a sense we are at the beginning," he said.

Eric Schmidt on Google's New Plan for the News

The upper crust of Hollywood swirled about the vestibule and dining room of Arianna Huffington's Brentwood mansion on Friday night at a party for author Kathy Freston, and to kick off this weekend's L.A. Times Book Festival. (More on this later.)


DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg was there in his trademark cashmere V-neck; Fox mogul Jim Gianopulos strolled down the block from his own house to check out the action; Universal's Ron Meyer showed up with an entourage of women (including his wife Kelly); and ex-Viacom chief Tom Freston – husband of the feted author of a new diet and health book – rubbed elbows with UTA's Jim Berkus and a smiling WMA (soon-to-be WME) chairman Jim Wiatt. A single suicide bomber would have ended filmed entertainment for the rest of the decade.


But the most popular guy in the room was most probably Eric Schmidt, the PhD, chairman of the board and CEO of Google, as un-Hollywood as they come, wearing a suit and round, rimless glasses. He's also the man who rules my personal universe since the founding of TheWrap.


I seized the opportunity to ask him about his role in building the future of the news.


The crumbling world of newspapers is looking to Schmidt in the hopes of convincing him to save the New York Times by buying it, or the Washington Post, before they sink into insolvency. Google has helped destabilize the world of printed information, goes the argument, it should now step in to save it.


Schmidt is distinctly aware of the newsprint meltdown going on in an information world dominated by his company, and that this system only works as long as there is someone to report the news that his system delivers to readers.


I asked if the rumors I'd heard, that Google was changing its mind about getting involved with creating original content, were true.


No, he responded, quite convincingly, they're not. Google is not a content company, and is not going in that direction, he explained.


But Google does have plans for a solution. In about six months, the company will roll out a system that will bring high-quality news content to users without them actively looking for it.


Under this latest iteration of advanced search, users will be automatically served the kind of news that interests them just by calling up Google's page. The latest algorithms apply ever more sophisticated filtering – based on search words, user choices, purchases, a whole host of cues – to determine what the reader is looking for without knowing they're looking for it.


And on this basis, Google believes it will be able to sell premium ads against premium content.


The first two news organizations to get this treatment, Schmidt said, will be the New York Times and the Washington Post.


Does the New York Times make more money from this arrangement, I asked? No, Schmidt confirmed, it won't. But by targeting the stories that readers will want to read, it will get more hits out of the stories it has, which will drive its traffic and ultimately support higher advertising rates beside the stories. 


I salute this attempt to improve the digital revenue stream for newspapers but confess that this does not seem likely to offset the fundamental imbalance between the costs incurred by the Times and the Post in gathering the news versus the revenue they are able to make in online advertising. Online advertising would have to inflate in value by something like 10 times current rates to support a large, profitable news operation.


Why doesn't Google share the premium ad revenue against this premium content?


Personally, I think the way of the future is more in the direction of what we are trying at TheWrap: small, nimble, cost-conscious news operations oriented toward a single subject area.


I think we will see a lot of these types of organizations popping up in the next year or two; all that lost talent needs somewhere to go.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Malawi's 2009 Elections Online

In December 2007, I wrote an article titled "Malawi's 2009 battle on the Internet". I received several mixed reactions. Some people even said that I was merely day dreaming. But almost a year and a half later and about three weeks to May 19, Malawi's politicians have penetrated the internet as can be evidenced through the rest of this story.

(A note to the reader: you can click on the links and be taken to the sites hyperlinked. Note also that the article has been repackaged with some sections from my earlier article on the same).

Political Parties and Candidates 
The Democratic Progressive Party

With its presidential candidate Dr Bingu wa Mutharika, it has a website The party also runs a Facebook account while Mutharika himself has a blog in his name. Recently there are new blogs, some conspicuously partisan. But I welcome the development. If it is true, President Mutharika too should be welcome to the blogosphere as I saw a blog in his name. Politicians should be encouraged to these opportunities.

New Rainbow Coalition (NARC)

Its presidential candidate Loveness Gondwe stated in a radio interview that her party has a website, Additionally Malawi Politics has ably captured her profile.

United Democratic Front (UDF)

With no presidential candidate as to date, the UDF as a party does not have own website. However its national chairman who is Malawi's former president Bakili Muluzi runs one is his own name in party colours. Its presence online faces attacks from enemies like the blog which openly is against his candidature. Muluzi was also earlier on reported to have created a Facebook account.

Independent Presidential Candidate

A new comer to the political scene in Malawi, James Nyondo also has a personal website. It appears that he is heavily utilizing the site attracting the attention of his supporters and those wishing to know more about him.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP)

Malawi's oldest party also decided to cyber on while probably sadly maintaining an earlier site While what is online seems to leave out some items that the party actually touts in its rallies, the new website seems to be enjoying a good number of visits due to the need for knowledge about the party that claims to have changed. Some commentators (through the print) have also described the website as more beautiful than any other on the race.

Other parties like Peoples Transformation Party (Petra) with Kamuzu Chibambo, Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) and Republican Party of Stanley Masauli do not have own websites so far.

Then one sees selected parliamentary candidates like Chikondi Nkhoma in Lilongwe are turning to the website for passing on their manifesto to the electorate. The young candidate is also on Facebook. Dr Cornelius Mwalwanda of Karonga had a running website (in DPP colours) but it appears he shut it down following losses at primary elections.

News portals like Nyasa Times have been described by some as online tools meant to serve the interests of one political party over others. Yet it also a fact that the portal is probably the most updated and followed due its coverage of elections in Malawi.

A recently launched African Elections Project with focus on Malawi should be a welcome idea as now for the first time Malawians and the world over will and can follow elections on a dedicated elections portal for Malawi. This project is unique in the sense that it will also Malawians send text messages to a dedicated number and report on the elections.

Internet Civic Education and Participation

Various authors have underscored that media visibility is key resource for political survival and success in a mediated public sphere prevalent today. What most modern day politicians have realized is that the traditional terrestrial radio and hard newspapers are not the only ones they can use if they are to sell themselves and the nation. The Internet is here to strengthen their horizontal and vertical communication with them and the electorates.

As elections come closer, it can be anticipated that more and more Malawians will be keen to know how to choose the right candidates for Parliament and State house. It is normal these days to see that a good deal of civic education is taking place on the Internet.

Apart from voices within Malawi, the Diaspora community needs to be included. Candidates are under scrutiny by those within and away from Malawi and every move within the public sphere is likely to be discussed. If politicians exclude themselves from these opportunities, they might be losing out on an important electorate for the democratic Malawi.

Sometime ago, I saw a poll on Nyasa Times on whether Malawians in the Diaspora should be allowed to vote or not. As one might guess, majority (84 percent) said yes. People long to participate even though they have been geographically isolated. But with Internet, such information and civic boundaries have been eliminated. Should one expect the Malawi Electoral Commission to consider such a poll?

While Internet penetration in Malawi is still under one percent of the population, this development seems to appeal to a good number of Malawians within and in the Diaspora as they are now able to read and learn more about their candidates.

This is one way of bringing the democracy of the Internet to politics and the reverse also applies. While this might sound too advanced, it will be interesting to see how our politicians might slowly pick up the ideas towards 2009 and 2014.

Wining the 2009 battle will partly be dependent on many factors including equipping and utilising the Malawian information highway we are living in today.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The dark side of Internet journalism

No one can deny that the Internet is a life-changer. As a social networking tool, it is nonpareil. Many married couples would never would have met but for the Internet. Employers find employees and vice versa from around the globe -- people whose paths never would have crossed but for the magic of cyberspace.

But the Internet has its downsides, and one of those is that it is causing the demise of American journalism---as we know it or have known it for centuries. The Internet is single-handedly responsible for the death of many well-known print journalism institutions, including the recent closings of The Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The print-based model for raising advertising revenue to support a large, independent journalism organization is outmoded. Cheaper, more widely available Internet advertising is taking over.

In a fascinating column for the Wall Street Journal Online, Democratic pollster Mark Penn and E. Kinney Zalesne revealed the increasing impact of bloggers, who making their livings by blasting opinions (as opposed to facts) across cyberspace. They are the technology age's equivalent of reporters and columnists, but without the degree of separation that used to protect readers and consumers from being targeted for commercial or political purposes, that old-fashioned edited newspapers and magazines used to (and to a limited extent, still do) provide.

The problem is, veracity is deleted and placed in the trash bin. Unverified opinion is taking its place. Well-written, fact-checked opinion has a storied place in journalism history. But off-the-cuff, on-the-take opinion does not.

Yet the Internet features much more of the latter than the former. Penn & Zalesne write: "One out of three young people reports blogging, but bloggers who do it for a living successfully are two percent of bloggers overall. It takes about 100,000 unique visitors a month to generate an income of $75,000 a year. Bloggers can get $75 to $200 for a good post, and some even serve as "spokesbloggers" -- paid by advertisers to blog about products. As a job with zero commuting, blogging could be one of the most environmentally friendly jobs around -- but it can also be quite profitable. For sites at the top, the returns can be substantial ... As bloggers have increased in numbers, the number of journalists has significantly declined. In Washington alone, there are now 79 percent fewer DC-based employees of major newspapers than there were just few years ago. At the same time, Washington is easily the most blogged-about city in America, if not the world."

The column goes on to say that the way to generate traffic to an Internet site is to make it as outrageous as possible. "Outrageous" on the Internet usually comes in one of two forms: 1. Pornography or, 2. Wildly unsubstantiated extreme opinions.

Unless you're Ann Coulter or her polar opposite, no one notices your website. Funny, the closest I could come to her polar opposite would be Bill Maher, but even he is more fact-based than she. The fact that, as Penn discloses, some bloggers are making as much as $200,000 per year and many of them are doing so by shilling for companies or selling consumer goods is downright scary.

Consumers need a filter. They need to know if someone is saying something just to grab one's attention, or because that person is being paid by an advertiser to say it.

I used to be friendly with a woman who quit a high-level job at a cable news organization because she insisted on the old "two source" rule. That rule, observed by all reputable news organizations, insisted that no one could publish or broadcast a source story, unless that story was confirmed by two independent sources.

The cable network wanted to air stories based on information from one source and she quit rather than comply. How old-fashioned of her!

Magnify that a million-fold and you can imagine the junk being peddled to American news consumers in the form of blogs. It is a shame the Internet has become the font of this form of change in American journalism.

Nieman Journalism Lab

The Nieman Journalism Lab is an attempt to help journalism figure out its future in an Internet age.

The Internet has brought forth an unprecedented flowering of news and information. But it has also destabilized the old business models that have supported quality journalism for decades. Good journalists across the country are losing their jobs or adjusting to a radically new news environment online. We want to highlight attempts at innovation and figure out what makes them succeed or fail. We want to find good ideas for others to steal. We want to help reporters and editors adjust to their online labors; we want to help traditional news organizations find a way to survive; we want to help the new crop of startups that will complement — or supplant — them.

We are fundamentally optimistic.

We don't pretend to have even five percent of all the answers, but we do know a lot of smart people. Primary among them are our readers; we hope your contributions will make the Lab a collaborative exchange of ideas. Tell us what's happening around you, or what should be.

In addition, here at Harvard, we're working with the Harvard Business School on new business models, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society on understanding online life, and the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations on one potential path for news organizations.

We hope you enjoy the work we do, and that you'll join the conversation as it evolves.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How Is Your Newsroom Using Social Media?

How Is Your Newsroom Using Social Media?
Between 2000 and 2005, newspapers were slow to adopt blogging. Now every news outlet seems to have blogs. Today we're seeing a similar uptake trend with other forms of social media, particularly Twitter. While other social networks like Facebook and Ning have their uses for journalists, a consensus seems to be building that Twitter offers journalists an easy way to connect with members of the local community.

For a 10-week online course for Poynter's NewsU (including two upcoming public Webinars), I've begun to collect examples of how newsrooms are starting to use social media. Paul Gillin, Michele McLellan and I are leading the course, and we're collecting examples of best practices from around the country and overseas.

Here is a sampling of what we've spotted so far:
We'd love to hear your stories and experiences. Are you using any widgets that spotlight community conversations? Any interesting uses of Flickr, YouTube or other hosting sites? What about live-streaming events with ustream, Kyte or Qik? How are you using geotagging? Do you use social bookmarks like Delicious? Have you found value in using Digg, Reddit or other news sharing sites? How are you using Twitter or Facebook?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Come join me on International Institute for ICT Journalism

Join me on International Institute for ICT Journalism
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please join penplusbytes family on NING
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Network for Journalists working in ICT space
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Design Communication Benin 2009

Facebook, Twitter And The Blogosphere: Where Would You Poke A Friend?

Last month, there was news that Facebook was going to charge everybody who has a face on the social networking site. The amount was going to be $4 or something like that, no matter the number of friends you have. That news may have excited the parents of a twelve year old girl who is suing them for not allowing her to use the computer. A school trip is due; she needs to monitor the progress on the internet. The parents want her to read her books instead. She spends too much time on the computer, chatting away with friends on social networking sites. She has a presence on nearly all of them. She has a space on Myspace and a big face on Facebook. She is also a twitterer, so she has a great following on There are a few more she keeps discovering. Sometimes she chats with strangers she would never meet. And that is dangerous for a girl of her age. Three or four hours a day on the computer is quality time wasted. Next, a wife divorces her husband for looking at women flirtatiously on the internet. Ironically, she had met him on a dating site, on the same computer that is now a family property. Then, a friend finds out that he is in the same social networking group as his nemesis. His rival of many years knows somebody who is friends with his best friend. What is worse, the arch enemy sends him an invitation for friendship. There, a few thoughts come to play: Does he pretend that he hasn't seen the invitation or ignore it altogether? There is also the all important consideration of civility and etiquette. One thing leads to another and they are good friends again, at least on the social networking site, after all those years. At a point, the wisdom in the whole computer friendship business begins to haunt him: Is this social networking thing necessary at all? Well, the consolation is that the site may have helped him unearth a few important contacts he had missed since high school.

They call it social networking but it is the whole of society cramped into a devil of a thing called the internet. It may well be called social incest because it is too entangling and frankly, sometimes very useless. So, is there anything like privacy anymore? When I first signed on to Facebook, any user who visited the site might have noticed that I was the freshest face alive. 'Write on a friend's Wall', the instruction had said. So I started pouring my heart out to a long lost girlfriend who had jilted me years ago, shamelessly disembowelling the gory contents of our relationship. I thought the message was meant for her consumption alone, so I went on, politely asking her to forgive the wrongs of the past and consider a possible comeback. It was a very long but interesting romantic plea, the kind any Desdemona would be pleased to hear from an Othello. Later that evening, my wife surged towards me, quizzing: "Do you still love your ex in London?" "Hun, I haven't spoken to her in a whole year", I lied. "Really, you spoke to her today", she moved. "Me, I have no idea what you are talking about", I insisted. She dragged me to the computer, opened the Facebook page, and read my message aloud until it broke my tympanic membrane. She left to walk the dog, fuming, "Quezi, as she pronounces Kwesi, I think we are done." I went back to the site to see what went wrong. Well, everything had gone wrong. The whole world had read my story. I had left my telephone numbers for her, so a few friends called me, including those who are not even on Facebook.

It seems you can't save face on Facebook. Why would I write on somebody's wall and the whole world gets to know? There were a few more mistakes I made. I had provided my cell phone number when signing in, so whenever somebody poked me or wrote on my wall, my mobile telephone providers charged me for texting me that information. The same information would be in my email account and on Facebook at the same time. That redundancy was worse than anything you would expect in any civil service organisation. Then, there is the status column, where people just say anything on their minds. The messages range from what they are eating to their plans for the week. Consider something as incredibly uninspiring as: "I am eating good old yoko kari, and it is yummy, yummy." Does the whole world need to know what somebody is eating for lunch? Occasionally, you would read something sensible. A few writers post their articles on their profile, something I have only recently started doing.

What about the private photographs that have suddenly become a public album? Friends are allowed to comment on your photos. Often, it is refreshing to see how old friends had gotten married and taken photos with their families. That is also a good way to gauge those who are still single. A newspaper editor, who had shared a room with me in university, wrote against my profile picture: "Room, you need to shed some kilos. You are looking chubby." Another friend in America teased: "Your bushy moustache is ideal for filtering foamy beer. It looks too academic and intimidating. Please borrow a razor." Often you will see the photographs of some celebrities and a message asking you to be a fan. All you do is just click on add, and you are the latest fan. Of course, there is a chat room, where you can exchange instant messages with friends in your contact book. Sometimes, you don't know what to think when you invite them for a chat and they don't honour the invitation. You try it the second time, then you consider deleting them from your book. Would they know that I have taken their name out, you ask yourself? Then the assurance follows, almost instantaneously: They will not be notified. So, you go ahead and check them out. After that, you wonder the use of all that. Maybe you should close your account altogether and concentrate on more important things.

I considered signing out from Facebook when I met my 23 year old cousin on the site: "Bro Kwesi, I didn't think I will see you here. I thought Facebook was kidstuff", she typed. I asked why she didn't have a picture on her profile. "I don't want to advertise myself to the whole world," she opined. That was when I decided to try, thinking that I would see an adult face to social networking. I didn't know about it until a celebrity dumped her boyfriend earlier this month for spending too much time on the social networking site. On twitter, twitterers just twitter, like twits, talking about nothing important. There, you have a following, fellow twitterers, who type their minds out about nearly anything under the sun. That is exactly what the site is about: Tell your followers what you have been up for the day. Some users have several thousand followers, and they spend time each day telling them how bad their day at work had been or how their dog did something funny at the vet. Is that how cheap modern communication has become?

Yet, the site has a great following, and it has received lots of commendations. The New York Times describes Twitter as "one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the internet." Newsweek puts it even more poignantly: "Suddenly, it seems as though all the world's a twitter." That is more than an accurate description of the meaninglessness of today's fast-moving, internet-dictated life. Intelligent pursuits seem to have given way to cyber social networking, where people are happy to tell friends every step they take everyday of their lives. You wonder: Do folks get time to read any book these days? No wonder the newspaper industry is suffering. The internet pretty much rules us, bringing together friends, news, articles for sale, videos and documentaries at our pleasure.

What about blogging? I have often been advised: Why don't you set up a blogsite where people can easily access your articles? Certainly, that is useful; at least more useful than perusing photographs of friends on Facebook or just twittering away on Twitter. I am yet to enter the blogosphere, but I have visited a few good blogs. It is the most useful thing any writer would consider doing? Blogs may have their own problems, but its informative character makes it a worthwhile venture. It is serious business, which could also be fun. You can still post your wedding photos on your blogsite, but blogging is essentially about stuff, usually stuff like this, not photos of people's lovely children. So, maybe I will enter the blogosphere very soon. It doesn't take much to go there.

Do folks like to read from the blogsite more than the traditional newspaper? Well, since all the world is a twitter, it seems people would be happy to jump on your blog after seeing their face on Facebook or catching up on updates on twitter. By the time they are done with all that, they are too tired to settle for any boring story on the credit crunch or on Afghanistan that is tucked somewhere in the middle pages of a broadsheet. So, that is how the computer is sucking the print from the newspaper.

But, friends, lets ask ourselves: Is social networking all we bargained for when we hailed the internet as the greatest invention of this century? Often, I would quickly close the Facebook window when my wife walks into the living room. "Are you still on Facebook? Read a book, honey", she would say. You don't come across as a serious person if all you do is chat on the internet and look at photos. So, I feel a weird sense of guilt whenever I spend more than thirty minutes on the social networking site, especially when I have articles to write and the pile of subscribed news magazines staring me in the face. Then, there is the television, which, fortunately, does not engage my attention as before. You can always refuse to answer the cellphone or simply turn it off. Life isn't all about communication; sometimes you need a private space to think, even if it means holding yourself incommunicado. But, will they let you be?

Social networking sites work just like Keep Fit clubs. Not everybody wants to join. Those who join have the choice to stay on or sign off. So, what am I going to do with Facebook? If I sign off, my wife will think I am the most ungrateful bastard alive. How did I meet her? We had met at a conference somewhere in southern Ontario. All participants had their name badges hanging around their necks, like bulldogs. I memorised her name and later that evening typed it into the search engine on Facebook. I didn't need to do the usual pep talk or ask for her number. I am crap at the ice breakers; I always end up saying something silly. I don't have funny jokes or sweet words that women want to hear. Sometimes all I do is feed into their eyes and goof: "Do you always look this beautiful on Fridays? I wonder how the world will bear with all that beauty for seven days in a week." I am better on the computer. Facebook was five years old last month. Our Facebook brokered relationship is only three months old. We both have miles to go. Wish us luck.

Benjamin Tawiah is a journalist. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

The diffusion of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in journalism

 The diffusion of GIS in journalism
by Wasike, Ben S., Ph.D., Louisiana State University and Agricultural &
Mechanical College, 2005, 89 pages; AAT 3199769
Abstract (Summary)

The purposes of this study were to determine the likelihood of reporters to
adopt Geographical Information Systems and to predict the future of the
diffusion of GIS in the journalism industry using the diffusion of
innovations theory. The study used two data collection methods: in-depth
interviews and a Web survey. The indepth-interviews revealed factors that
will influence the diffusion of GIS, including the availability of map data,
competition between media agencies, the ease of getting management to buy
GIS once its functionality has been demonstrated to them, and the general
use of secondary GIS products. The Web survey showed that 63% of the
reporters were aware of GIS but only 11% of the reporters surveyed currently
use GIS. OLS regression showed that men were more likely to adopt GIS than
women, while younger people were more likely to adopt GIS than their older
counterparts. The results also showed that reporters who used other
technologies in their work were more likely to adopt GIS on a trial basis.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Coleman, Renita
School: Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Keyword(s): Maps, Diffusion, Journalism, Geographical information systems
Source: DAI-A 66/11, May 2006
Source type: Dissertation
Subjects: Mass media
Publication Number: AAT 3199769
ISBN: 9780542440816
Document URL:
ProQuest document ID: 1031054471

Monday, April 13, 2009

Graduate Studies Forum at ACCE Conference 2009, Legon Ghana

Graduate Studies Forum


It is proposed that at the ACCE Conference, a Graduate Studies Forum be organised along the following lines:



-          provide opportunity for information exchange about graduate training programmes in journalism and communication in African institutions

-          explore possible areas of coordination and collaboration

-          initiate documentation and reflection on next generation of high-level African professionals and scholars

-          propose guidelines and recommend strategies for ACCE member institutions



-          representatives of institutions currently conducting or planning graduate programmes in journalism and communication (at master and doctorate levels)

-          representatives from professional associations, potential employers, international and donor agencies

-          other interested academics and professionals



            -     time slot and space will be found during the Conference

            -     interested individuals and institutions are requested to register to participate.

            -      suggestions for agenda and presentations are invited

            -      copies of brochures, curricula, instructional materials etc will be exhibited/distributed

            -      3-hour event with designated chair and rapporteur

            -      summary report to Conference plenary





Please send inquiries and suggestions to:

Absalom Mutere

Ag Dean, Journalism and Communication

African University College of Communication (AUCC)

P.O. Box LG 510, Legon, Accra, Ghana

e-mail :

Mobile : 233-(0)24-0592504

visit : for more information

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Benin hosts Penplusbytes’ Communication Design Workshop

Thirty (30) West African Newspaper and Magazine Designers from both Francophone and Anglophone speaking West African countries are meeting at the Universite d'Abomey Calavi, Campus Numerique Francophone de Cotonou in Benin for the 2nd West African Communication Design Workshop.

Opening the workshop, Guy Constant Ehoumi, deputy president of Union des Professionnels des Medias du Benin - UPMB (Journalists Union of Benin) said they are pleased to welcome participants from West African countries to Contonou for the workshop and asked the participants to take advantage of this unique training opportunity to learn more about how to improve the design and layout of their various publications.

The workshop which runs from 6th to 10th April 2009, focuses on visual theory, design as a profession, working on publications in a newsroom and designing for different audiences. This short course also engages already existing knowledge about what constitutes good newspaper/magazine. In addition to the main course, a group of participants are taking a Training of Trainers (TOT) course in design communications.

Speaking on the objectives of the course, the president of Penplusbytes, Kwami Ahiabenu II, said "unfortunately most training programmes for the media turn to forget the role of design in the media and we have come out with this workshop to provide capacity building for design communicators and graphic design in West Africa thereby filling a major training gap."

Participants to the workshop are drawn from the following West Africa countries including: Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote D'Ivoire and The Gambia.

Two key experts in design communications namely; Shalen Gajadhar of Rhodes University, South Africa and Nahmsath Yabouri, an Open Source expert based in Togo are the key facilitators for this course.

The second workshop training course on Design Communication 2009 is jointly organized by The International Institute for ICT Journalism, Highway Africa, Digital Media Foundation in partnership and with funding from Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA),

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Penplusbytes débute le 2è atelier sur la conception de communication visuelle au Bénin


Penplusbytes débute le 2è atelier sur la conception de communication visuelle au Bénin  

Trente (30) infographes et graphistes de la presse écrite quotidienne et de la presse magazine, venus de l'Afrique occidentale se réunissent au campus Numérique Francophone de l'Université d'Abomey Calavi dans le cadre du 2è atelier sur la communication visuelle  

L'atelier qui a lieu du 6 au 10 avril se focalise sur la théorie de la communication visuelle, comme profession, et les travaux de graphisme et d'infographie sur les publications dans les  rédactions pour des lectorats variés. Ce cours de recyclage s'appuiera également  sur la connaissance déjà existante au sujet de ce qui constitue le bon  journal / magazine. En dehors du cours principal, un groupe de participants recevront une formation de formateurs sur les communications visuelles. 

Dans son allocution d'ouverture le Vice-président de l'Union des Professionnels des Médias du Bénin, Guy Constant Ehoumi a indiqué qu'il est heureux de souhaiter la bienvenue à des participants des pays de la sous région ouest africaine à Cotonou pour cet atelier et a demandé aux participants de tirer profit de cette possibilité de formation unique pour acquérir des connaissances sur la façon d'améliorer la conception et la présentation de leurs diverses publications.  

Parlant des objectifs de ce cours, le président de Penplusbytes, Kwami Ahiabenu II a indiqué que " malheureusement la plupart des programmes de formation pour les médias ne tiennent pas compte du rôle de la conception graphique. Cela fait que les professionnels des médias de cette catégorie sont souvent laissés pour compte. Ainsi, a t-il poursuivi, nous avons initié cette série de formation de renforcement des capacités pour combler cette lacune importante."  

Les participants à cet atelier sont issus des pays de l'Afrique occidentale à savoir: Le Togo, le Bénin, le Nigéria, La sierra Leone,le Libéria, le Sénégal, le Ghana, le Mali, le Niger, le Burkina Faso, la Cote de Ivoire et la Gambie  

Deux experts principaux en matière de conception graphique notamment; Shalen Gajadhar de l'université Rhodes en Afrique du Sud et Nahmsath Yabouri, un expert en Informatique, spécialisé dans les logiciels libres basé au Togo faciliteront ce cours.

Le 2è atelier sur la communication visuelle 2009 est conjointement organisé par l'institut international pour lesTIC (Penplusbytes), Highway Africa, Digital Media Foundation (Fondation des médias Numériques) en partenariat et avec le financement de l'Initiative de la société ouverte pour l'Afrique occidentale (OSIWA).

Pour plus d'informations, visitez : ou     

Fait à Cotonou, le 6 avril 2008