The Listening Post: Hackers, identity crises and Google’s Panda diplomacy

Jack Riley
110868201 210x300 The Listening Post: Hackers, identity crises and Googles Panda diplomacy

Google Panda (copyright Getty Images)

Paradoxically, it’s a slightly longer post this week owing to the fact that I’m on holiday. Thanks for the comments last time, and as ever, please do let me know your thoughts on The Independent and i’s digital operations or the points raised in this post in the comments below, by email at j.riley [at] or on Twitter to @_JackRiley

A utopian media-neutral future for Forbes?

“In a social media world, you need to go beyond the “journalist” as the sole story teller — and the “story” as processed by editors as the definition of content”, writes Lewis Dvorkin, in his exhaustive account of the interplay of print and digital learnings in the redesign of Forbes print magazine. As well as design, Forbes features like The Conversation “[begin] online as a series of inter-linking posts and comments which are subsequently recast for print as a “story” in a conversational format”. I promise we didn’t nick the idea, but it does remind me of our travel Q+As with Simon Calder, which begin as a live webchat and make it back into print as a very bonny page in Saturday’s Traveller magazine.

Mistaken identity

“Anyone who treats [online identity] as just a functional or transactional problem is going to completely miss the point” according to GigaOM’s Matthew Ingram, who this week investigates the notion of the apparent multiple personality disorder digital natives employ in their use of a broad range of online identities. At the Indy we were pleased to be ahead of the curve in using Disqus, a system which strongly encourages using social network identities to authenticate comments last year, and since then even greater strides have been made in this area; the latest version of Facebook’s own commenting plugin takes the trend to its ultimate conclusion by requiring a Facebook account to have your say, and the effects have raised some ire to say the least. How do you feel about Facebook comments? Let us know (if you can stand to use Diqus) below.

Andy Carvin on Twitter

NPR’s Andy Carvin has received some much-deserved praise this week for his use of Twitter in the Middle East – foreign correspondents might well read it as a masterclass in how to use Twitter to break and verify stories. This Columbia Journalism Review post on how the account has become such a success is worth thinking about for anyone journalists interested in the microblogging medium

“Newspapers: racing towards senescence”

The Economist carries a fine piece of doom-mongering (originally in print) on the state of the media and it’s ageing consumers (the young ‘uns are all freeloaders, apparently); read it here.

Content as bait

“Like me!”, screams the New Yorker, as it partakes in the increasing practice of hiding your content within Facebook so that users must sign up as a fan before they can get to it (Mashable write-up here). Is it a canny way of incentivizing engagement, or a social fad? After all, Likes alone won’t pay the bills – that’s what the old-timers are for (see previous entry)

Huffpo corner

As I’ve written before, when the Huffington Post rewrote the business model for the online newspaper genre, they left out the bit which says you have to pay your writers; hence a class action lawsuit this week.

Hacker’s corner

“Pretending it was a Silicon Valley start-up that needed to kill itself to survive” is not a business plan that many publishers have yet subscribed to, but it worked for The Atlantic, as last October’s inspirational writeup in the New York Times revealed. The scrappy web startup approach is not just for them though – the Washington Post has its own integrated development team churning out story-specific projects like tools to translate tweets from Russian, generate story-specific QR codes to go in print for more coverage and alllow people to geo-tag photos. You can read the full piece reported by The Atlantic (funnily enough) here. Would you scan the paper with your phone?

And in home news…

We’ve had some unfortunate downtime with Disqus comments which is still being investigated. Apologies to anyone who was affected, and rest assured we’re working on improving their stability.

Our new Independent app continues to garner some great reviews (4.5 stars out of 5 in the Android Market and BlackBerry App World and 4 on iTunes). If you haven’t already, download them now.

We’ve had a welcome boost in pagerank, thanks to a new algorithm (nicknamed Panda – given Google’s fractious relationship with China, ten points to whichever wit dreamt that up ). It’s designed to reward high quality content (natch), and while it’s too soon to tell the effect yet, a similar change in rankings led to record referrals to the site from the States – here’s hoping that trend continues.

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  • Ron Broxted

    Dear J, Online identity is a puzzle. I have named “John Collins syndrome” after a chap I knew, in cyberspace he was a dashing 6 footer, matinee idol looks and a hit man for the UFF. In real life his nickname was “Uncle Fester” and he bore an amazing resemblance to that Addams Family persona. Now to Facebook-Disqus, it does seem a tad intrusive which is why I have 2 F.B accounts. Finally can I mention l’affair Harwood? Last week 100+ comments (all clean, all on topic) were deleted concerning the Tomlinson inquest. The sole thing they had in common was their anti-police nature. This occurred on the Guardian too. Is Harwood’s testimony subject to a D Notice? When I mentioned it I had 2 accounts deleted. Yours Sincerely Ron Broxted/Ciaran Rehill.

  • AbdulKareemaWheat

    Google is evil.

    Bing it; Bing, Bing, Bing. Much better search results.

  • Amazon Promotional Code

    Google is just trying to stop the content duplications.But many other sites are affecting by it and with it new algorithm google has to change in it because panda is not giving the fair results.

  • AY

    My concern is that many websites with indisputable traffic may as fall in Google ranking as their new algorithm does not have the human brain to think morally but logically. – Upcoming 3D movies

  • Paulius Šukys

    I suppose the problem is that website shops are mistaken to be news services, so probably a solution would be identifying the website?

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