Media must pursue these creeps

We are all targets of information managers who lurk behind seemingly innocuous networks and apps. Graeme Addison highlights a new direction for investigative journalism.

Do you get the creepy feeling that you are being watched – but don’t know by whom or how? Increasingly, all of us are being watched by digital spies, be they advertisers, government agents, perverts, or even our own “friends”, who use social media and apps to profile us and unwittingly declare our weaknesses to the world.

shorenstein logoThe Shorenstein Centre on Media Policy, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard has published a fascinating summary of a research paper on holding digital power accountable. The paper from the University of Maryland explores the emerging field of reporting on algorithms and lays out definitions, strategies and key issues for journalists.

Incidents recounted in the study include Apple’s apparent schoolmarmish attempt to suppress words like “abortion”, “rape”, “arouse” and “virginity” on the Apple iPhone’s spell-checker.

It’s time investigative journalists took this seriously and acquired the tools to pursue digital evil-doers.

A friencan of doomd of mine once wrote a wonderful poem about a cockroach with a creepy feeling. A man was sneaking up behind him with a can of DOOM. Little did the man know that God was creeping up behind him with a gigantic can of FATE.

It was good for a laugh but it has stuck with me.

Our digital fate may be decided by backroom techies who write the programmes that allow us to see, or not see, what concerns us.

Your fate may be decided by Continue reading

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Learn to build DIY apps

storyboard for app design


Graeme Addison explains the range of choices and some of pitfalls in do-it-yourself app design. He will be leading a workshop on app creation at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, Johannesburg, on 28-30 July. Contact the IAJ 011 482-4990. info@iaj.org.za

Mobile apps – those little programmes to run and have fun with on your smartphone – have become so popular that it’s been suggested our devices should be renamed appphones.

DIY APP DESIGN IMAGEThese days everyone uses apps and every business wants at least one. They are not just playthings: they serve us with weather, maps, messaging, games, health advice and much more. The world is going mobile and your organisation needs to get with the trend – just so long as your apps work properly and contain the kind of services people want.

They say that on the web Content is King. The same is absolutely true of apps: fix your sights on communicating with the user and helping the user to communicate with others.


In effect this means you start by drawing up a storyboard of what you want the app to provide in an easy-to-navigate way. Visualise it as a set of interconnected blocks. It must flow. It must look good. It must not try to do too much. And above all it must satisfy a particular need.app diy storyboard

Mobile apps promise three handy advantages over desktop and laptop computing: speed, portability and focus. You can access information and complete tasks quickly; do it on the hoof; and know exactly what you are getting because the app was designed to be task-specific.

With conventional computer applications – also termed apps, by the way – you have a wider choice of Continue reading

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Elections 2014: the democratic disconnect in SA

GRAEME ADDISON reflects on the gap between the demands of protestors and the choices made by voters. Media are torn between reporting the upsurge of violence – and perhaps advancing non-democratic causes – while struggling to maintain trust in the legitimacy of a state badly corrupted under current leadership.

In different parts of the world people are taking to the streets aiming to bring down their governments. Today in Ukraine the elected president has effectively been removed. In Thailand and Venezuela crowds rally around symbols of resistance, shaking governments to their foundations.

In Egypt President Morsi was ousted barely a year after being elected by popular vote; and that was after Mubarak had been forced out of office by mass demonstrations. In Syria the protests turned into a deadly Continue reading

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