Friday, 17 October 2014

The Mike Downes Media Custom Search Engine

This box will help you find posts from seven of my sites..

Monday, 13 October 2014

Considering a blog column width - what's best on desktop?

My blog has 932 posts (yes this one you are reading), with a column width of 580 and a sidebar of 280 (total 900 pixels wide with padding).

I have a second blog with a one column set at 886, no sidebar with only nine posts.

The question I have for myself, and anyone who reads, is what reads best on desktop? For mobile, there is little difference.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The X Factor 2014 Live Show 1 - YouTube views versus public voting, any correlation?

Sunday at 6pm
This article is a cross post from my widescreen blog: (this blog is 580 column width, where the other is 886 wide).

I wonder if there's any correlation between the sixteen acts songs views on YouTube and the public vote?

I've passed by twice today - 10.27am and 11.58am. I will keep charting for the next few hours.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Street Meetings from Essex Police, UK - a first step to visualise and make them easy to find

Sun 5 Oct update: The Chelmsford District Street Meetings Map is now available showing the 76 street meetings from 1 to 31 Oct.

It's divided into two data sets, 1-15 Oct and 16-31 Oct, so as one timeline runs out, the next one begins.

From the 76 meetings, there are 41 location post codes. With one location being used seven times in the month (another one has six).

There are a few reasons I've followed this development.

1, Physical walk in Police Stations is are decreasing (Chelmsford has just one open 8am to midnight, in a city of 168,000 people). In a modern world, technology is everywhere, so calling 101 or 999 maybe adequate, but for a face to face opportunity to meet officers and have a chat about local issues is important to many - 46 locations maybe helpful.

a frame from the help video at 00:22 see below
2,  Communication is changing at a rapid pace. I've posted 80 times on this blog labelled police (the first one was 30 Nov 2010). Since Feb 2011, I've discussed police using video (and twitter).

In this example with Essex Police, it's a force that does use twitter, but at this time of writing - no officers or PCSOs are tweeting in Chelmsford (for a list, look at @EssexPoliceUK/lists). What seems to be needed is a few more officers to get enthusiastic and want to get involved - this must surely be a good idea to spread the word, messages and engage with the community.

3, Local Media should play a part. In Chelmsford, there is the Essex Chronicle and the Chelmsford Weekly News. Both could read this post and publish the map and help the public to find these meetings.

The Essex Chronicle are very fast to post anything about crime or court appearances - of course, that's part of their job, but those stories are a result of crossing a legal line. If more was done to promote safety, security and community, then maybe there would be less crime - who knows?

Original 2 Oct 14 post: Essex Police, UK have introduced Street Meetings where officers can meet the public.

These meetings are available at the force website. So how do we find them, make the most of the opportunity and make sure the word gets spread?

I've started already with a few visualisations - all work in progress. Free web tools (like Google & Twitter) are brilliantly suited to help out here. This post will be short and summarise where I am so far. 

Essex is home to 1.7 million people, and with that comes a Police Force that has 15 Districts then
1 Oct 14
split into 143 Neighbourhoods. Some are much larger than others.

The City of Chelmsford is the county and that's where I started looking at data. In Oct 14, there will about 75 Street Meetings. To find them, you have to visit far too many places on the web. 

For example, there are 12 neighbourhoods, each with their own Event area ie Baddow and Galleywood. It does say on the force websitesee what local community meetings are taking place in your area (dates and venues to appear shortly underneath right map). 

most popular post on this blog
On thinking about a timeline, it was quite easy to make sense of the meetings yesterday (1 Oct 14), make a slide, tweet that out and attend in person.

But that was only the start. the point here is to make something fast, simple and get it out there in public as soon as possible. I'm not new to assisting the Police, anyone who reads this blog will know that.

The most popular post on this blog is from attending a Warks Police meeting in a Sainsbury car park, being told about tamper proof vehicle screws, posting about it - and now it's had 37,000 views.

2 Oct 14
From there came a tweet from Sergeant Paul Austin which helped me think about the Maldon area and how fast I could make a Google Map - with 17 meetings, quite easy. And will serve well to scale for larger districts over the next few days.

View it at: Maldon District Street Meetings from Essex Police. Notice the alphabetical pushpins in date order.

This post is the first in a series looking at Essex Police Street Meetings and follows on from my older idea called #ukpolicestation where as we know, they are none albeit one central location. That not a criticism, rather an observation how the internet and technology has changed everything. 

For more on street meetings, read the Chief Constable's statement: Chief Constable announces changes to community meetings.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

How the BBC have a major problem linking to YouTube videos like David Holmes and Aysha King

clicking this image will open all in the lightbox
On the 4th Sep 2014, +Norfolk Police and +Suffolk Police posted a video on youtube called David's Story: Road Safety Campaign

Two days later, it's had over five million views (6.2 million as I publish this post, 7.3m as Sun 7 Sep 2pm uk, 9m on Mon 8 Sep at 12 noon uk, 12m 11 Sep, 5 Oct 14,095,686).

The previous highest viewed video was by +Essex Police for a murder appeal (Nahid Almanea) with 726,000 views. 

On 30 Aug 14, the BBC (and others) posted Ashya King: European arrest warrant issued for parents.

Later that day, Naveed King uploaded a video to YouTube called Update on Ashya King! Brett King,

(Ashya and Naveed's father) was sat on a hospital bed with Ashya and spoke for ten minutes. That video now has 994,712 views.

This post is the story of those two videos and how the BBC were severely lacking in linking to each one. It's not only the BBC, other mainstream news orgs were not that great either.

From the BBC Editorial Guidelines, we have
Links and Feeds, Scope - Linking is the essence of the web. BBC strategy is to turn BBC Online into a window on the web and to double monthly clickthroughs to external sites ... This Guidance Note is designed to help you select and manage suitable external links to other sites from BBC Online. 
Links to External Sites - Part of the BBC's role is to act as a Trusted Guide on the web. Whenever producers are creating content on a BBC site, they should actively consider which external websites it may be editorially justifiable to link to.
Editorial Justification for Linking to External Sites - Producers may wish to offer links to external sites for a number of reasons, including:
for further relevant information
for further background information or other key source material
for useful practical information
for further informed comment 
A link must never be included on the public service site or within the editorial content of a commercial site in return for cash, services or any other consideration in kind.
All links on the BBC public service site or on the editorial pages of a commercial site must be editorially justifiable. Links are not acceptable as a form of credit.

youtube trends map uk
Let's take the David Holmes example first. You can read the Norfolk and Suffolk Police press release Hard hitting bike video launched (Norfolk) and Suffolk (text is the same for both).

You also need to watch how the story has been covered at There are hundreds of links, but let's stick with the BBC for now.

There are three stories. BBC News, BBC News Norfolk and BBC Newsbeat.

In the first, David Holmes: Head-cam footage of motorcyclist's fatal crash we have a two minute BBC video, youtube is not mentioned, all we get is ''Police have released footage.'' There are no links to anything - not even Norfolk Police.

In the second, and this is where it gets interesting, the headline claims David Holmes: Three million hits for motorcyclist's crash film. On reading, it's the same two minute video, text of ''(the video)... has been viewed online more than three million times ... Norfolk Police posted a video of the crash.''

 There were three additional photos, no mention of youtube at all, but we did get five links to other news sites (one being Suffolk Constabulary). Norfolk Constabulary was offered as a related internet link - which is useless as it was The BBC do this all the time, link to a company or org like

It's not until we see the BBC Newsbeat post that we can vaguely find a link at Rider's fatal crash shown in police safety video, with ''This link takes you to the police video which shows the graphic details of the motorbike crash. Some people have found it upsetting''.

YouTube in not mentioned in the post, but there are two images showing YOUTUBE.COM/NORFOLKCONSTABULARY as annotations.

That's it, you could argue the BBC are a Radio and TV Station and not a newspaper. That may of had some truth before the internet, but BBC Online has been here since first launched on December 1997.

My Conclusion The BBC way of reporting news like this is outdated. In this example, Norfolk Police is an Official Source and should of been linked to immediately. The video was not UGC (user generated content) and therefore needed verification. The message was simple after all - to save a life.

+Jeff Jarvis wrote in 2009, Do what you do best. Link to the rest - I think he's still quoting that today, as am I (What Would Google Do, page 26).

On looking back at those BBC Editorial Guidelines, Criteria for Linking to External Sites or Other Content, namely ''meet the needs of a UK-based audience.''

For me anyway, a Police video about saving lives ticks that box. As there are 3,452 words on that BBC Links and Feeds, Part 1: Links page alone - I will stop listing reasons why BBC News could do better and just move on.

In the Aysha King example, there are many issues to consider (most of them legal, as everyone knows I'm a former teacher, not a legal expert - that does make me someone who can consider what maybe considered fair, as much as anyone else (reading this).

Before we even start, there are a few worrying details (if I were the BBC). First, on searching there is just one result and that's Newsbeat.

Thankfully, on a google search aysha king we do get 187 results. Moral there, search Google, not the BBC.

As a timeline, one of the BBC's first posts is Ashya King: European arrest warrant issued for parents where, in my view, this was a short post that had text added as the day unfolded.

At this stage, there was speculation and most mainstream news ran with the search until Ashya King: Missing boy with brain tumour found in Spain where Tom Burridge reported to camera with, ''the family have put out some images on social media tonight, showing Aysha with his father ... one other development tonight, we are expecting Aysha's older brother to release a video on YouTube, in his words, to explain the situation, he praised some people and was critical of others...''

At this stage, we have YouTube (and an older brother) mentioned to BBC camera until the mext morning with Ashya King found in Spain as father speaks in video. On the page is a label, ''A video clip posted on YouTube showed Mr King explaining why they had travelled to Spain.''

In the BBC video clip (of 2:23m), two video clips were shown from the Naved King YouTube channel. The reporter talked of, and over the ''internet video'' (as he called it).

The two original NaveedKingvlogs clips were 10:27 and 2:55 in length (that's 13:22m in total) - of that, just 35 secs were shown on screen, 11 secs with Brett or Naveed's voice - the reporter talked over them both.

No links were made back to the original channel - is this fair and reasonable?

As a preempt, the video Update on Ashya King had this message in the description (my bold highlights),
This is an update video on the progress of Ashya, he was taken away by police around 1 hour ago at 20:30 on the 30th of August. This video will explain what my father did and why.
I give permission for all to use this video as long as the full video is shown or only if a link is given to this video. Only reason if people and companies twist stories for their benefit to make it sound better or more interesting to watch.
Just received word that hundreds of people wanted to send money to him, I think thats okay, but if its not then I will remove it from the description.
As of Sat 6 Sep 2014 (9:50pm UK time), this video has 995,650 views, 4,098 comments and 2,616 shares. My own comment/share had 91 google +1s/likes and fourteen comments.

It's widely accepted without this video upload (featuring the father Brett King) was critical in turning this story from runaway monster to caring parent.

What should the BBC have done? Linked to youtube, shown the full video or just as they did, mention it vaguely?

The test maybe to compare. +The Guardian did eventually embed fully with Parents arrested as missing Ashya King found by police in Spain. The Mirror did embed the full video, yet later replaced it with an edited three minute clip (30 Aug 14).

We also know the Aysha King story is far from over. There were two more uploads by Naveed King - one of thanks and the latest giving details of an official fundraising account.

The real reason I written this post is to make sense of what happens next and where to go.


How much can we rely on mainstream media to deliver anything sensible (as a story breaks) and how do we compare versions rapidly?

For with the BBC, I find myself reading what they say and then checking other sources to see if what they say is anyway accurate - or where they sourced the story from.

Realtime Coverage for David's Story
And with that, as the people have the tools to report the news ie the police with David Holmes Road Safety and the Aysha King family - who really needs mainstream media?

Of course, without media cooperation - an issue would not get shared. As I write this at 11.05pm uk
time, Sat 6 Sep 14, the David Holmes is at 6.2 million views - it was 5.1m when I started on this post.

There is another serious side that's developing rapidly too - and that's terrorist videos and how they are fast to get blocked and removed. As The Guardian notes, Police warn sharing James Foley killing video is a crime.

For me, the place to go is Google News and Realtime Coverage. Remember Google News has this note, ''The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer programme.

The time or date displayed reflects when an article was expanded or updated in Google News''.

You may want to look at some raw news lists like the Associated Press or Reuters Live Events. What's fascinating to see, how a raw feed press release from AP spreads over the web. For example see this headline, ''CHINA SAYS 2 PILOTS DIED IN AIRCRAFT CARRIER TESTS'' with this opening text, ''Two Chinese test pilots were killed during development of the country's first aircraft carrier fighter wing, state media said''

The text of the title is found 23,100 times on the web and that identical first sentence is found on the web 1,900 times.

I will be posting more on Realtime Coverage as it's an important topic to look into - it's been available for over two years.

From +Norfolk Police ..

From +Naveed King .. Official Ashya King Family Videos

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Top 10 Most Viewed UK Police Videos as 12 Aug 14

6 Sep 14 edit, You will see there are now 11 videos as +Norfolk Police released David's story: Road Safety Campaign. This video has 4.7 million views since posting on 4 Sep 2014.

12 Aug 14 To understand what's going on with the official UK Police YouTube Channels, it's worth looking at the views.

This list is compiled from the official uk police youtube channels, not police viral clips from all users.

In other words, searching youtube for ''police'' will return up sorts of clips - I'm interested in what the police themselves are uploading.

You will see +West Midlands Police have 5 videos, +Essex Police  have 4 and the British Transport Police (as +British Transport Police ) have 1 video. That's where the 10 come from.

This list accompanies the posts at this blog like: UK Police on YouTube 50 Forces Compared for Aug 2014 and the search label ''police''.

As of 3pm, 12 Aug 2014, the views were: 1: 722,050 - 2: 695,816 - 3: 664,670 - 4: 513,335 - 5:
413,969 - 6: 399,630 - 7: 392,763 - 8: 383,001 - 9: 364,684 - 10: 341,433

I will check back in one month and see what has changed.

36-49 of the most watched videos at youtube
With over 12,000 videos uploaded by ~50 UK Police forces, it's only really valuable (for me anyway) to look at the qualitative data. That's to say - watch the darn videos.

Too much these days is made of data scrapes and clumping to make fast charts and visualizations.

Of these ten, most are Public Interest (6) then comes Appeals (2) and then Interesting (2). I will need to look at the top 100 for a better sample.

In the slide above, you can see how (top left) we have Essex with a video at 722k followed by West Mids with three videos (695, 664 & 512k). In other words, 36 videos have 100,000 views or more. See the sheet in docs.

A thinking point for me, is if a force like the British Transport release a near miss at a level crossing, then that's a message for everyone in the UK, if not the world. There are about 8,200 level crossings in the UK.

As a contrast to that, the video of a Teen "2mm" from being shot...all over a toy gun is quite alarming (if you watch closely) when the officer sees the gun and quickly draws his own gun in defence.

Without using video, it would have been impossible to show what happened - and how close the teen came to being shot. I've included the clip below.

Video Clip 7 ..

West Midlands Police - Latest News


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