Muki Haklay, Extreme Citizen Science

About people going out, not sitting at home in front of their computer, e.g. the Christmas bird count, climate modelling data from weather observations. Has been going on a long time, but evolving into cyberscience, e.g. setting up a self-activated camera to monitor wildlife, or a crab survey that requires sheet from the internet.

Can take information out of things like Flickr, Picasa Web, Panoramio and Geograph (project to take photos of the whole of the UK).  There is a concentration of photos in cities, but when you control for population, you see hotspots in tourist areas, and blindspots in suburbs.

OpenStreetMap, 30k active volunteers contributions. Completeness can be tested by comparing to OS data. By March 2010, OSM is now significantly better than Meridian 2 in most of the UK.

Control for the name of a street, because you need to be in the place for that, you see cities stronger. Where there’s higher population, OSM completes faster.

Compare to index of deprivation, and deprived areas are not covered as well as wealthy areas.

Citizen science in perspective

  • Citizen scientists
    • Collect data
    • Act as an inelligent platform for sensors
    • CPU cycles
    • Basic classifications
  • Geographical distribution, bias to highly populated, central places, toursits
  • Bias towrars affluent areas and participants
  • Demographic analysis shows high levels of education and interest in the domain

In that way, citizen science is missing a trick.

Literacy: still have a lot of people who are non-literate who are excluded. Almost of projects benefit from growth of higher education in the 60s, and that number will increase over next 10 years. Look at penetration of computers, 70% already have PCs, number increasing. Broadband, seeing much wider bandwidth which will allow us to do more interesting things. What would ike to suggest is tht there is a potential for ‘extreme cit sci’.

Users: currently focusing on highly educated and domain knowledge, but want everyone to be able to participate regardless of literacy level.

Location: Want to include everyone everywhere.

Role: Get participatory and collaborative mode where people help shape the problem.

Already happening, e.g. EPSRC project SuScit, as peoplea re discussing and able to shape how the science is done.

Noise mapping, working on Isle of Dogs, talked to community to shape what they want to do, said they were bothered by airplane noise. Volunteers in the area. Move away from computers, use paper. Track noise levels, and map to say where they are.

But then they can enter data on their website, and can provide photos e.g. to show that there’s a stack over heathrow, and a lot of airplanes in the sky at once.

During Eyjafjallajökull, community was monitoring throughout the flight ban, so the noise pollution was reduced.

Worked in Deptford, in social housing, and nearby scrapyard has made their life hell. There is also a community centre and a nursery nearby. Worked with community to monitor the noise. volunteers spread through whole area, and showed noise map, which then used in discussion with local authority about what needs to be done. Community had been complaining for 6 years, but after the local authority saw the evidence, they revoked the scrap yard’s licence.

CyberTracker, working with Bushmen in Africa to gather data. They have iconic representation of information on a GPS device in order to monitor wildlife.

Another project, working with hunter-gatherers to identify things that are important to them, e.g. trees used for food so that they won’t get cut down.

Opportunities are exciting:

  • Interfaces suitable for non-literate users
  • Bundles of sensors, data collection and analysis tools that can be applied in different contexts
  • Understand patterns of use, motivations and incentives – the science of citizen science

The Anatomy of Citizen Cyberscience

Why do people get involved in citizen science?

Becky Parker

When I was young, and watching the RI Christmas Lectures, was inspired by Carl Sagan, where he went and had tea on Mars. Can remember where I was sitting, what he said, and thought that would be amazing! Moved from girls’ school to comprehensive, and was only girl doing double maths, physics and chemistry. Was so interested in astronomy, went to Norman Lockyer observatory, and go look at the stars. Ended up in physics. Had Tony Legget, Nobel Lauriate, and to courses on foundation of quantum mechanics. Thought, this is so amazing, why don’t students love it? Went into teaching, and want to inspire students? Very lucky, have a good school, head that supports projects.

Julia Wilkinson

Gave up science at school, girls weren’t encouraged to do it, and has regretted it ever since. Apollo missions inspired her to get into astronomy. Passion for astronomy has lasted all her life, got back into it 10 years ago when bought a telescope. Three years ago, was looking for a way to get more involved, saw Stardust@Home, and thought, I can contribute to real science. A few weeks later, found Galaxy Zoo, and that was better as observed galaxies through telescope, so this was what she wanted to be involved in. On the back of this, now studying science with the Open University. Has experience with volunteers, and has noticed a lot of overlap in terms of way that citizen science works with volunteers. See same patterns of behaviour. Voluntary sector, constant need to motivate volunteers, lots of challenges, feedback etc. That’s what cyberscience does, but if you let volunteers know exactly what’s happening with the data, that increases morale.

Richard Haselgrove

Interest first formed in childhood, parents both involved in early days of electronic computers, so grew up with them. Went to standard school career, university, and that’s as far as it went at that stage. Moved into the public sector. Left science and computing behind until arrival of personal computer, in around 1980. Could then start to experiment with computing for more general purposes. Now, linking of communities by technology taken for granted. Read in press about SETI@Home, reconnected with scientific interests. Computer a volunteer, but he wasn’t. Now he’s nearing retirement, is more able to volunteer himself as well. As people have more time to commit, volunteers do gain a lot of experience, what draws him further in is developing knowledge that he can pass on to arriving volunteers and to new projects. Can’t always get involved with the science behind a project, but can help with the project from a how you deal with volunteers, the platform, etc. We as volunteers have an impact on scientists, and have a lot of valuable insight to feed back into the projects.

Christian Beer

Started with SETI@home, was doing internship in web development and someone there showed it to him. Have run it on every computer he’s had since then. Got interested in BOINC, and also the science, not just how they are searching for aliens, how the volunteers work together. Contribute not only computer power, but also knowledge in programming. Motivation to learn how to programme. Also wanted to give the knowledge away, but it’s not giving it away, it’s multiplying it. Social part is great motivation.

Bruce Borden

Interested in similar stories that I’m hearing – we don’t know each other, but I have a lot of things in common with what’s already been said. Am a retired scientist, advanced degree in maths, worked for an engineering firm doing mathematical analysis. Concepts of maths and how to do simulations are comfortable. When he retired, asked same questions about what he was going to do with the rest of his life, how could he spread the knowledge he has. Had discovered SETI@home, thought it was an intriguing idea. A few years later, got interested in Folding@home, Standford University’s programme. Also influenced by previous volunteer work, spend two years when he was younger teaching maths as part of the Peace Corp. Important aspect now is that he’s hooked by the science. Also important is managing volunteers, keeping them enthused, and this is an area that is grossly neglected. Need to take care of volunteer’s feelings about what they are doing. Wide range of how we have to deal with volunteers based in part on their skill level, there is a wide range of people, need to deal with them in slightly different way. Skills I can deliver in addition to teaching about the science or maths, or computers, work with the forum primarily with an educational goal.

Ian Hewliss (?)

Qualifications are simply that he watched a TV programme about climate change, and invited viewer at the end to run some software. Thought it was easy, but others found it harder. Rang BBC climate change project and started helping people with technical problems. Sense of community builds up, because people feel what they are doing is relevant, and it references what other people are doing. He is a physics graduate, since then used that to model behaviour of satellites, so now does radio comms. Accidental cyber-scientist. What’s his motive? Hard one to answer. Word ‘citizen’ implies a community. Used to talking about ‘citizens’ in a political way, right and obligations, there are two communities in which citizen word is relevant – one is to ask, why do people participate? Also community of a particular project. Debate to be had about balance of rights and obligations of participants.

[Then followed a discussion, which I’m too tired to transcribe! Still, interesting stuff.]

Becky Parker, Building cosmic ray detector networks in schools

Enabling school students to do real science via CERN technology. Want to show kids that they can be involved in what is going on now, that science is vibrant and interesting subject.

The Langton Star Centre is ?at Simon Langton Grammar School, Kent, gives student change to work alongside scientists and engineers. They go to CERN every year, and one year visited the lab of Dr Michael Campbell’s Medipix lab, working on a chip for the ALICE detector. Can be used for medical imaging. Lots of research and collaboration using this chip.

Competition for schools to design experiment to go into space. Wanted to do a cosmic ray intensity detector using Medipix chip – called LUCID, which ?will fly in 2012. Won, but project was a bit expensive so they have an earthbound version too.

Wanted to get more schools involved, which led to CERN@School, so different schools can look at cosmic rays in space and on earth via detector in their own lab. Pick up data and then examine it in the school lab, can do particle recognition.

Found it hard to get the money together, but got a pilot scheme in a ten other schools that take data at a set time each day. Schools pool the data, then it goes up on LSC servers and can see it on a map. But how to analyse it and get good science out of it? Now have a model using grid storage and computing. Will soon be able to do analysis of tracks.

Next step would be linking up with other cosmic ray projects.

Expanded project would enable sophisticated analysis and potentially useful result. If had enough schools, would have an enormous network of detectors, might be able to discover particles above GZK limit.

CERN@School invigorates teachers as well as inspiring students. Hope to attract more scientists into schools. Doing real science, real analysis, is not only fantastic, it also shows how smart and capable these students are.

Tom Humphrey, Herbaria@home: crowd-sourcing the documentation of natural science collections

Herbaria@home, herbarium records, snapshot of the world before agriculture, including areas now completely obliterated. Found plant, Ghost Orchid, thought to be extinct.

Plant don’t move, but they do invade, e.g. Oxford Ragwort. Scilian plant introduced in 1700 to an Oxford botanical garden, escaped, and now has spread out across UK. Roesbay willowherb, but railways have distributed seeds and now it’s everywhere. Plants also go by road, e.g. Danish scurvy grass, should be coastal, but now has colonised verges.

Plant populations are in flux. Modern survey data alone isn’t enough, so need the historic data to give context.

Web based project to catalogue old data. Collection of 50,000 documents he is working on, several million UK-wide, but even with willing volunteers (in person) there are too many records.

Online, Wikipedia established that people would do this sort of online work, you can allow open access editing and it wouldn’t be mayhem. Distributed Proofreaders showed that people will transcribe text from the internet.

Have taken photos of documents and put them online along with a form that people can fill out to say what they see in the label data around the specimen image, e.g. site names, collectors, date.

Some of the documents are quite clear, because they are printed, but there are a lot of hand-written documents, e.g. from 1859, and the handwriting poses quite a problem. Handwriting recognition may eventually get there but it is quite a long way off.

Once you have the data, can give it a grid reference and put it on a map. Can validate a lot of the data as they enter it. Need volunteers to collaborate and discuss what they see, so have active message boards. Have a pretty expert volunteer set, e.g. with plant recognition especially of rare plants.

Have worked on collections from several large universities and museums, and often they don’t have a full time curator for these collections so that data is inaccessible otherwise.

Peer-revuew of records, people have free access to edit anything, and public edit history for every record. Botanists able to spot errors and make changes, but a lot of non-professional botanical expertise, people keen to work on a project like this.

Some similar collections likely to come online in similar projects soon, e.g. insects.

Benefits: improve access to collections, raise profile of collections, and people enjoy it as a hobby.

Bruce Allen, Einstein@Home: hunting for neutron stars with gravitational and radio waves

Einstein@Home is a traditional citizen science project. Have 100,000 computers at any one time contacting project and looking for work. People join the project by joining website, download & install software, and then leave it alone. Get a screensaver (which is very pretty!), and when their computer is idle it is analysing data.

Physics experiment data. Not simulating, but taking real data about physical world and searching for very weak signals that reveal neutron stars – very compact, small start, 10km radius, which beams radio waves like a lighthouse. As beam passes by Earth you see a flash. Forms when an ordinary star burns all its fuel and collapses under gravity, electrons get crushed into the nucleus, combine with protons to form neutrons, which are 100x smaller than the original atom. They spin very quickly for same reason an ice skater spins faster when they pull in their arms.

Example, Crab Pulsar, formed 1054AD, spins 33 times per second. About 100m neutron stars in galaxy, but have found about 1900, mostly near us.

Einstein@Home uses gravitational waves to search for neutron stars sent out by the star. Detectors, built in last 20 years, made of mirrors hanging from wires, and when a gravitational wave comes along the mirrors swing a bit. That can be detected.

Also use data from Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. First discovery: 11 July 2010. Signal was followed up the next day and reconfirmed quickly.

Found a second radio pulsar, currently unpublished, appears to be a binary system, but not yet clear what the masses of the stars are.

Publicity of first discovery has been very inspiring for users and project team. New users jumped when the publicity happened, and the number of users leaving the software running continues increase.

Square Kilometer Array, which will come online in 2019 or later will produce so much data that distributed computing may be the only way to process it.

Myles Allen, Why does climate science needs petaflops?


Most citizen computing projects can do no wrong. That does not apply to climate science. raises a few hackles, often in situations such as a recent meeting about investment in supercomputer, and when someone said, “I hear you can do a lot of this on PS3s nowadays?” there was a degree of hostility.

It’s just a way of addressing certain problems. People think of models as being done on a petaFLOP Cray XT-6, but most climate scientists don’t have access to these. They can have access to citizen scientists.

Climate modelling depends on:

  • Complexity, e.g. number of processes, number of aspects of the sytem
  • Resolution of your model, e.g. 100km scale, 10km scale or 1km scale
  • Duration of the run
  • Ensemble size, (groups of models) and this is where citizen cyberscience comes in

Often need to run models may times, and this is where ensembles come in.

Uncertainty in models varies. Uncertainty was felt to be underreported, so added subjective assessment of uncertainty, some of numbers are a little bit rounded, as they were decided on through discussion.

Suspected the model ranges were too small was because all the models matched the 20th century numbers ‘suspiciously well’. Need unrealistic models as well as realistic ones. You have to go outside the range that is fits perfectly in order to be sure you know what that range of forecasts are consistent with current observations.

Serious money to do a run, so they are looking for good models, not ‘bad’ ones.

By doing tests of different models (using citizen science), see that there -40 error bar was too pessimistic in terms of uncertainty, and the +60 was about right.

Learnt that the lower bound too low, upper bound about right, but this was through experimentation, not discussion. Therefore is testable.

What next? Using volunteer computing to see how extreme weather and climate are related, as global warming can cause both extreme hot and cold weather events, e.g. heatwave in Russian, Pakistani floods. Were they one event or two? Where they related to global warming?

Looking at the flooding in UK in 2003, simulating seasons where damaging weather events occur, both with and without the signature of climate change, to see if it had an effect. Looking for influence of external driver – human influence.

These are rare events, so have to model them many times to see if risk of extreme event has increased.

Projects in development, embedding regional models in simulations.

Have only used participants to provide compute power, so haven’t engaged participants brains. Big challenge faced is that only a few hundred people take part.


David Anderson, A Brief History of (CPU) Time

Comp scientist at UC Berkley, building platform for citizen science. Looking for commonalities, software support that addresses community’s needs to make it easier for scientists to use volunteer power. Tech is only one piece of the solution.

Build platforms for:

  • Volunteer computing
  • Distributed thinking
  • Education

Computational science:

Simulations are now so vastly complex that they can only be done on computer. Simulations at various scales,  e.g. proteins, ecosystems, Earth, galaxy, universe. . Need lots of computing power because need to fit models to observed data. To predict what’s going to happen you need to run thousands or millions of simulations.

Generation of new instruments, e.g. LHC, LIGO, SKA, gene sequencers, produce data at unprecedented rates, right at limit of computers to handle. Beyond limit of computers owned by unis or institutions. Science limited by computing power and storage capacity. What we need is not a faster computer, but higher throughput, i.e. a lot of computers.

Consumer digital appliances, e.g. computers, handhelds, set-top boxes, are all converging on similar hardware. Networks that connect them all: consuemr digital infrastructure. 1.5 billion PCs. Graphics processing improved through desire to watch HD TV and play realistic games, and GPU oft 100x CPU speed. Put there for games, but good for science.

Storage on consumer devices approaching the terabyte scale, network approaching 1 Gbps.

All this is ideal for science computing!

Compare consumer digital infrastructure with institutional counterpart, it’s way bigger and way cheaper than institutional computing. Supercomputers moving towards an ExaFLOPs in 5 years, but consumers already have 1000 ExaFLOPS today. Consumer spend $1 trillion per year!

BOINC, free open source software, anyone can create a project.

Utopian ideal, to have a lot of these projects, getting computing power by advertising research to the public, educating public on their project, so public supplies resources to science where they want to put it.

Boinc projects

  • ~30 projects
  • 300k vols
  • 530k computers
  • 3 PetaFLOPS

Volunteers can do more than run software. they can provide tech support, can optimise programme, translate website, recruit new users. Initially used message boards, realised that they weren’t working well for non-tech systems, so now have a system based on Skype, so people needing help can find someone who is willing to give that help via Skype.

Volunteers have a spectrum of confidence, and some users are malicious, e.g. they have had people trying to scam others users and trying to get their PayPal IDs.

Motivations study. People interested in doing science, want to show the world they have the fastest computer, people who want to be a part of a team.

Distributed thinking. Stardust@Home, interstellar dust photos, looking for grains of dust. People can do this better than computers. Interesting thing was needing to quantify accuracy of results. Created samples where they new the answers, i.e. either contained noise or had a particle. Every 5th image was a callibration images and so could keep track of false positives and negatives.

Also used replication, many people look at it, and then if there is consensus can look at calibration results and that shows if consensus is correct. Project found all the dust particles it could.

Created platform called Bossa. Middleware for distributed thinking, provides scheduling mechanisms, e.g. calibration jobs, replication. Open system with respect to assessment, scheduling policies.

Being used to find fossils.

Also extending Bossa to Bossa Nova, looking at more complex systems for asking people to do things involving creativity, problems for which there is no unique answer. E.g. complex problem solving, use volunteers to decompose problem into sub-problems, propose solutions, evaluate them, evaluate how a group of solutions might work together. Involves different skills. At software level, it uses people optimally, uses them for tasks to which they can contribute most.

Education and citizen science. If we can train people to do more complex staves we can achieve more. This is very important – if people learn more they may stick with a project longer, recruit more people to help, and you get more computing power.

Challenge of training or educating 100,000s people is a challenging problem, not attacked by traditional education theory. Heterogeneity is problematic: different backgrounds, education levels, locations, language. What makes this tractable is that there is a constant stream of students arriving, dozens, 100s, 1000s new users per day, so we have lots of people arriving interested in a course, so we can do experiments. If we haev two alternative ways of teaching a concept, we can rig up the software system to randomly show one lesson or the other and then they take the same assessment.

May learn one lesson is better than another, or one lesson is better for a subset, e.g. based on demographic or other attribute, and can then make an adaptive course where as we learn more about the student we refine how we teach them. Not just individual lessons, but overall structure of course.

Bolt: system for tailored education for large streams of volunteers.

David Grier, Lessons from the Ancient History of Crowd Sourcing

I’m here at the Citizen Cyberscience Summit for the next two days. Expect quite a few notes (although probably not all session!).

Lessons in crowdsourcing.

Nothing new under the sun. Science shaped by forces that have existed a long time, and we understand them. Works on calculation and making mathematical models work. That has long history as being citizen science, going back 200 years. Take large task, divide into small exchangeable jobs, send out into the world with instructions on how to do them. Charles Babbage wrote extensively about this in the 1830s.

Babbage was thinking about this because of his computing machine, how can you split big tasks up? Activity is largely about starting something, drive is towards radical organisation that moves towards convention, where you have people who lead, follow, varying levels of skill.

Babbage’s discussion, prime example he worked off, Gaspard DeProny, French Revolution, labour was very cheap. DeProny got 100 people to do maths tables, required for surveying.

~100 years later, 1875, post American Civil War, lots of people out of work, women who were widows, organised group of computers, i.e. women, who put together the Harvard Star Catalogue. Then again in 1907 by US Naval Obs.

And again in 1938 during the Great Depression – 450 people working at tables with paper and pencils doing calculations for scientists or government. Maths Tables Project.

A few people have adding machines, they are the leaders.

A NYC computing office, Columbia Uni Stats Computing Lab, 1930, had 6 employees.

Most of the Maths tables computers hadn’t been to high school, organised by arithmetic opersations e.g. – or +.

Often drew from poor classes at that time: blacks, women, Irish, Jews.

Planners had a doctorate or masters, operated 1938 – 1948, remnants existed til 1964.

Most scientists/engineers didn’t have access to computers until mid-60s when they had timeshare. Some not until the 70s. They worked with a worksheet, that was planned, a bit like programming. Early programmers were called planners, coding was called planning. Instructions, so workers didn’t need to understand what they were doing.

Built 28 volumes of tables, e.g. powers of integers, exponential functions.

Discovered there were particular skills, and started to look for specific calculations that were good for generating revenue, e.g. OSRD calcs, microwave radar tables, explosion calcs; LORAN navigation tables (precursor of GPS); general science calcs, e.g. Hans Bethe paper on Sun. First test of linear programming.

Labour economics. As you build skills, people want to use their skills and want to be rewarded for that skills. They want to advance. WPA studied labour and skill as a way of building identity.

Building skill

  • Identity
  • Accomplishment
  • Avancement

Aspirational issues: Everyone wanted to be special.

Special Computing Group, had a room to themselves, had machines, almost all were women, and everyone wanted to move up to the special computing group. They started offering courses at lunch to develop those skills. Once they had completed that, were were opportunities outside. So lots of places they could apply those skills. Best measure of ability was the skill of the group.

They recognised that losing members of the group, breaking it up would damage the organisation. Started to have difficulty getting work, so soliciting work from scientists.

Gertrude Blanch, PhD, chief mathematician. Ran the computing group. Had to take everyone who came in the door, had to find ways to enforce discipline, e.g. people who didn’t think about carrying the ten, or who couldn’t concentration. Calculations were done 3 – 10 times each, didn’t just duplicate for sake of it.

“People doing hand calculations computing the same number the same way make the same mistakes” – Babbage

So did same calculation in different ways to ensure accuracy.

Crucial issue: How do citizen scientists relate to professionals? Professionals build walls around themselves.

National Academies of Science said they wanted to be of use to the gov’t, and help scientific work. WPA sponsored a lot of science. Internal comms of Nat Academies are ’embarassing at best’. Group realised it was in a position it didn’t want to be in, and internal memos had one set of reasoning that repeats:

“Scientists are successful people. The poor, are not successful, because they are poor. Therefore can conclude that hte poor are not scientific. Ergo, maths tables project is not scientific, ergo their work is not good.”

NAS wanted the budget for the maths tables and wanted to do it “right” and ‘well”. But they could never have replicated it with students as budget wouldn’t cover it.

Handbook of Mathematical Functions: Largest selling science book in history.

Gertrude Blanch, finished PhD in 1934, was Jewish, was never going to be employed by anyone, but doing the maths tables project lead her to be employed by the Air Force, worked on supersonic air flow, jet nozzles.

The thing that we are doing is building skill amongst the general populous can never be overlooked.

Maths group had droped form 450 people to 120 as labour costs were higher. But claimed 120 was as efficient. by 1946, group had fallen to 60 people with specific skill, but still as efficient. People have titles, skills, identifiable expertise.


  • We are creating skill, not just exploring the universe and doing science,
  • Get people who want to be identified with project, part of their identity.
  • Builds org with hierarchy, divisions of labour based on skill
  • Encourage aspiration

DeProny users Adam Smith as justification, first 2 ch of Wealth of Nation, division of labour, identifying people with skill. Forces that shape these orgs and relationships that will support science, there is also a political economy that shapes it. which builds skill but divides jobs, creates leaders and followers. Must deal with science self-defining as enclosed domain.


NewsRewired: Mobile news and services

This is a live blog. I work to be as accurate and comprehensive as possible, but you might see some grammatical errors and the odd typo.

Ilicco Elia has been working at Reuters for 20 years. He got into mobile when redesigning the mobile site 8 years ago or so when people had PDAs and synced them to read the news. The news was as fresh as their last sync.

Two or three years ago, they started the mojo or mobile journalism project. Christian Payne aka Documentally said you never should have called it mobile journalism. Journalists should all be mobile. Reuters gave them a Nokia N95 and told them to take video, pics and write story. Immediate reaction from journalists: “Are you going to pay me three times as much?” No.

However, every journalist they gave the kit to came back and raved about how it allowed them to tell the story in the way that they wanted, whether that was with audio, video, pictures or text. He quoted one of their award winning journalists talking about using the N95 covering conflict in Chad. The journalist said that it didn’t replace a camera with a £3,000 body, but that it added to the coverage.

Michael Targett, online and digital development editor at Flightglobal. Industry events are key to their coverage. They sent a reporter Jon Ostrower to cover the maiden flight of the Boeing 787. He took an iPhone, a ‘decent’ camera and a laptop. He wrote 14 long blog posts. He posted 142 tweets, 282 images and four videos. He did 25 ‘live shows’. It shows what can be done with the right attitude and the right kit.

A reader lauded Ostrower and Flightglobal’s coverage saying it made him feel as if he was there.

They also cover air shows. A quarter of their annual display advertising budget came from the landing page of the Paris Air Show last year. They have added features to their show coverage. For the Dubai air show, one of their readers said that FlightGlobal’s.

The next presentation was about Yelp. It was basically an overview of the review service. They have been adding a million uniques a month, and as Glyn Mottershead noted on Twitter:

yelp are getting 27% of searches from iphone app #newsrw every 5 seconds call made from the app!

The last speaker, Sam Jones, is director of strategy of Kyte. Mobile is the fastest growing segment of video consumption. It increased by 55% in 2009. (I wonder how low of a starting point that was.) Trinity Mirror, Fox News and the Huffington Post are all working with Kyte. Kyte has a moble video producer app. They showed footage from the iPhone taken by a Fox News reporter. Mobile networks remained up even as they struggled with other connectivity.

I think that one key point was that this really reduced the cost of video production. Kyte is also allowing reporters to take a bit of video and easily post to a publisher’s website, Facebook and mobile web, iPhone and iPad almost instantaneously. People can also interact around the video with a similar app across platforms.

Mobile data costs

The first question from the audience was about data costs. Elia said that he’s a heavy corporate and personal mobile data user, he usually uses 500 to 600MB. He asked his provider, Vodafone, how much it would cost him to upload 100MB of data on their network. They couldn’t answer. That was the biggest issue Elia said, the lack of pricing predictability. Targett said that during a recent coverage trip in Europe, Ostrower, in the course of doing his job, ran up a £700 data bill. Fascinating issue.

When I was travelling in the US in 2008 for work, I hired local data gear, both for better coverage and for lower cost.


In terms of fragmentation, Elia was talking about the huge number of platforms that he has to support currently for mobile: iPhone, Android, Blackberry and a myriad of Nokia platforms. He hope that HTML5 would end this issue. Sam Jones talked about how divisive HTML5 was in the industry and the fear of a VHS versus Betamax style format war. He also added that the growth in apps was bigger in terms of growth than anything Apple had seen on the iTunes store.

Apps and workflow

Targett of Flightglobal made a really great point that apps were providing a better workflow for journalists in the field. People didn’t need to offload images from a digital SLR to a laptop to upload them. They could upload the images directly from the phone.

Mobile has changed his newsroom. “Talented and able reporters are becoming more autonomous,” he said. They do have a support team in the office who edit some of the video, but mobile tools have allowed journalists to be out in the field more. It’s a great point, and one that I make often. Technology can be liberating. Most journalists who use it want to spend more time out in the field and closer to the story.

I have my own thoughts, but if the technology allows for more mobility, why do journalists spend more time in the office? (That’s assuming that you think they are in the office more.) Discuss.

Thomas Madsen-Mygdal: Reboot

I’m here at the Moving Images conference in Malmö, Sweden, to talk about email a bit later. My talk and Thomas‘ talk are the only ones in English, so here’s notes from his very good but very brief look at the conference he runs, Reboot.

Basic facts about Reboot – festival that’s run 11 times in the last 12 years. Very young when he started it. Enquiry into what the internet is and what it means to us, and also a personal journey. Currently taking a break because involved in a lot of stuff, but also getting very tired and not sure what would be worth spending 2 days of 600 people’s time.

Something that’s a movement or an event is hard to describe, so three small stories that illustrate journey of Reboot.

2001, post bubble. In 2000, there were 2400 people during the day, and 4000 people partying at night. Was a huge thing that was out of control. So in 2001 all this social stuff was happening and was sad about how we treated the potential of the net during 1998-2000, and wanted to say that there was more than what we saw during the bubble years. 2001, had 1500 people there. Had some huge speakers, but everyone just wanted to know how to get a job, how to make a living.

Changed the perspective, not just tech as a tool, but look at what people are doing, changing things due to understanding tools, new behaviours, etc. Transformational. Someone complained that it was all ‘one way’, big name speakers, said it all sucked, and this at a time Thomas was very proud of it!

2002 he totally shifted it all around, so it was one big open space, one speaker in the morning one at 8pm, the rest self-organised. Half the people loved it, specially woman. Everyone else wondered why they paid money for it.

The importance of the invitation. Every year the challenge is “Can I write an invitation that gives meaning to myself?” And this year he couldn’t, so taking a year off. Always find it interesting to ask, when do you invite people? So much stuff gets decided before you open up and invite people in. Started looking at academic conferences who have a call to participate. Only thing that’s set is the theme, then the rest is an invitation to come on a journey and figure out what the event is. It’s not that it’s self-organised, but that the purposeful invitation is undervalued.

Why are we doing this? When do we put the invitation out?

In 2007, for some reason, Reboot became international. Website changed from Danish to English, and then a lot of international folks showed up. At one point there were only 15% Danes.

Then in 2008, a big event organiser told him that the stage wasn’t big enough, wasn’t decorated well enough, should be more separation between rooms, and saying ‘It’s not a real conference’. Thought about it, and thought that everything was designed to be on a human scale. It’s about equality: no VIPs, no speakers’ room, everyone is equal, everyone is trying to make a good experience for everyone. Facilitation is doing just little enough that it moves along, but not so much that it turns into a big circus.

Marketing. Ten years ago, had a huge marketing budget, then it became more that they were just doing their thing and the people who want to be a part of it come along. Now they do very little marketing. When you do something that gets the right people in the room with the right attitude, it just happens. Doesn’t really understand what’s happening sometimes, but it works because people know it’s their peers int here. Speakers are much more experimental.

Designing for human scale, something we’re early in trying to understand.

Overall lesson would be, How do you get yourself into it? You’re spending your time on this creation, how do you give it everything you’ve got, but at the same time, that’s what makes it scary to do. Doing something isn’t about the factual stuff you need to do. We use the same venue for the last six years. It’s not about that. It’s more about this mountain of expectations that this is going to be a life-changing two days, and you’re sitting there six months before, wondering how are we going to get the right people? Is it going to be magic or something else? When you’re doing stuff about participation it’s all about What we want to do with them, but i think participation always starts with you, your behaviour, your attitude, what you want to accomplish with it. That’s where all this participation projects go wobbly, they see participation as a small part of traditional process.

Two years ago, we were thrown out of a nightclub for various weird reasons. So outside, on the other side of the street, a street party appears. Some guy had some speakers and they just adopted that party.

So the next year, they searched for this guy with the sound system and they did the street party again. Got shut down by the police twice in a row. But what this was was looking at what the ecosystem was doing, then providing the little bit of magic that let that happen again.

Participation is magic.