Week Five of the Journalism Technologies module saw our focus turn to the world’s biggest social network, Facebook and the ways in which journalists can used it for professional purposes.
In our Monday afternoon seminar, Richard introduced us to Facebook Live a tool which allows its users to live stream videos to their friends and followers. From previous personal use of Facebook, I’d rarely thought of Facebook Live as an important tool, merely seeing it as a gimmick that had limited purposes.
However, Richard explained to use that Facebook Live had formed an integral part of BBC Sport’s coverage of the football European Championships in France during the summer. They had used Facebook Live to stream live coverage of match previews and half-time reviews.
Also in the seminar, we begun using Facebook Live and I interviewed Declan about his thoughts on his first few weeks at studying Sports Journalism at the University of Huddersfield.
In the Monday morning lecture, Caroline taught us about the history of Facebook and how a group of Harvard students went on to develop one of the most successful businesses’ in the world. The lecture also furthered on the concept of vertical integration as well as introducing the concept of the filter bubble.
Having thus far studied Apple, Google and Blogging, week four saw out attentions turn to Facebook and Amazon. These two companies make up half of the so-called “big four”, alongside both Apple and Google, which has seen the process of vertical integration in the last few years (more on that later).
In order to learn about the inner workings of Facebook we were introduced to an article by technology writer Will Oremus which discussed the numerous algorithms used by Facebook in order to work their Newsfeed system. The article gave a huge insight into the ways in which Facebook aim to rank posts from an individual’s set of friends, groups and liked pages in order of their preferences based upon various factors, such as the number of likes, clicks, shares and comments on certain posts.
Oremus’ piece reveals that Facebook uses an algorithm called “Prediction Algorithm” which gives the hundreds of posts of an individual’s feed a “relevancy score” based upon the actions of the user. Then, the posts with the highest “relevancy score” are ranked at the top the user’s Newsfeed and those of little relevance are disregarded.
Surprisingly, the article also revealed the qualitative surveys that Facebook have increasingly used during the past few years. Rather than being merely using qualitative data to order posts based upon data such the number of likes, shares, comments etc, Facebook began interviewing thousands of its users in order to refine the accuracy of its Newsfeed. Participants were shown numerous examples of typical posts and asked to rank which of them they prefer as well as being asked why they had liked certain posts and not others.
On the whole, the article changed my perception of Facebook and made me question why certain posts on my own Facebook Newsfeed were ranked above others.
This week also saw us introduced to the Amazon Kindle app on the smartphones. The app allows users to add various articles, stories and reports to their reading lists which gives a far better user interface reading on the Kindle app. Although it’s practical applications seem limited to me at the moment, I’m sure with time the app will become more and more useful to me throughout my time on the course.
When applying to study Sports Journalism last year, I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that within the first week I would have been in a Press Box recording a radio match report on a Yorkshire Derby between Leeds United and Barnsley in front of over 27,000 people at Elland Road.
In the induction week (with the course yet to formally begin), I expected a guided tour of the University campus and a lighthearted welcome, before studying started properly the following week. But, on just the second day, we were told of our first assignment to record a 90 second radio match report at an official press box at a game of our choice with a month’s deadline.
Later that week and much to my surprise, I’d managed to organise myself a place in the Elland Road press box with one fairly short email to the Leeds United press officer. Before I knew it, myself and about half a dozen other students from the course were sat at back of the tiny press room surrounded by writers and broadcasters from Sky Sports, the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Barnsley Chronicle.
As the full-time whistle sounded, I felt fairly confident having made plenty of notes on what had been an tight yet eventful 2-1 victory for Leeds. Then, having recorded my report, I attempted to submit it online only to find that my laptop, unlike any else’s, disconnected from the stadium WiFi. After failed numerous attempts to disconnect and reconnect, I ultimately had to borrow one of the other student’s laptops and with just 5 minutes of the one hour deadline remaining I managed to submit the report.
Despite the post-match stress of submitting my report, I’d thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of a sitting in a press box. The game itself had been an entertaining view, the atmosphere was lively, I’d exchanged notes and thoughts with my mates in the press box and I’d been able to sit in the same place as writers that for years, I’d spent following on Twitter and reading their articles.
Of course, sitting in press boxes and writing and recording match reports is only one aspect to the degree as I’ve learned from lectures on technology, the PR industry and the media, there is most certainly more of an academic basis to the course than I first imagined. Some of the readings thus far, which have been centered around concepts such as “Imagined Communities” and “The Public Sphere”, have extremely challenged my academic abilities and I have questioned their relevance and applicability. But, as I’ve been told my lecturers, continuing to read difficult academic texts and journals will only make us better our chances of earning what is ultimately an academic qualification.