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I am an experienced online journalist and political editor working for Trinity Mirror papers in the West Midlands and the North East, based in the Parliamentary Press Gallery at Westminster.

I understand how government, Parliament and political parties work. I am equally at home digging out stories from data, social media or interviews as I am covering major set-piece events or explaining how things work to readers.

I produce content which is shareable and promote my work on social media.

My experience with content management systems and knowledge of HTML allows me to include charts, embedded content from third parties and formatting in my work, to create content which encourages interaction and keeps readers on the page.

Contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (but please send press releases to my work email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as this is the email I monitor during working hours).

Age of unlimited free stuff delayed as Spotify limits service

Farewell then, Spotify. I hardly knew ye, as in an unlikely but nonetheless true twist of fate I signed up to the "free" music service earlier this week – days before it was announced that the unlimited free service is coming to an end.

What's on offer is still pretty good, even if you don't want to pay. You get six months of free music, after which you are limited to 10 hours of music per month.

The kicker though is that each individual track will only be available to users for free a total of five times. So if there's a tune you like enough to listen to more than five times in your entire life, you're going to have to find another way of doing so.

Read more: Age of unlimited free stuff delayed as Spotify limits service

The definitive map of the Internet

I came across this interesting map of the internet, which is apparently roughly to scale based on the number of people using each service or taking part in each activity.

Notice how Facebook dominates the world, with a frightening number of people playing Farmville (I don't know what Happy Farm is and refuse to look it up).

Online Communities

Full size version

Read more: The definitive map of the Internet

Social Bookmarks module for Joomla

One of the great things about Joomla is the large number of free modules and plugins available for it (and some good commercial ones too). But sometimes the only way to get exactly what you want is to do it yourself.

So I'm a little proud of myself after creating my first simple module, although it draws on code from a number of different sources as I examined other people's modules to see how they worked.

It's called Social Bookmarks and you can see it to the top right of this article (under the heading share this post) if you are viewing the full article (if you can see the "read more" button below then you need to click on that to see the module - or click the headline).

The rest of this article is aimed at Joomla users coming here to download the module or check what it does:

Read more: Social Bookmarks module for Joomla

Politics Home Goes Paid

Farewell Politics Home, another superb free service which is no longer available - except as an extremely limited service - unless you pay for it.

I've mentioned before, calling it "one of my favourite sites". It's a politics news aggregator which manually recommends the best reports on the top political stories of the day as well as comment pieces, blogs and Twitter postings. It also includes a calendar of upcoming events and a précis of the most interesting broadcast interviews.

When I say manually, that means people are employed to monitor news sources and use their judgment to put Politics Home together. It costs money.

Read more: Politics Home Goes Paid

Goodbye Sprout - Free things are unreliable

Well damn, there I was talking about how wonderful Sprout gadgets were and the service vanishes.

Sprout used to offer free and paid for services ("go pro!") but the free service has been cancelled, and existing gadgets deleted. You can still use Sprout's services if you are an organisation with a hefty budget to pay them.

I've created a Widgetbox gadget instead, but it uses advertising which can be pretty ugly as it sometimes covers the text you want to display.

Can't blame Sprout, as like everyone else they need to get some cash in return for their bandwidth and to feed their families.

But there is a lesson here I think about taking "free" services for granted. Organisations may try out business plans that don't involve directly charging people for their services, but if they don't work then the "free" product won't be around for long.

Make an RSS Feed for your Favourite Journalist

I have a feature on the left column of this site titled "Birmingham News", which is meant to provide links to stories I have written for the Birmingham Post and Mail. It never really worked, because there was no RSS feed for my stories. My attempts to create a feed using Yahoo Pipes were unsuccessful (and Pipes, although incredibly useful when it works, is not always reliable in my experience).

So thank you Google News for coming to the rescue. Their author search feature allows you to create an RSS feed for stories written by any given author, so that I can isolate my own stories at last.

I thought this may be of interest to others, because you can of course do the same with any writer whose articles appear in Google News.

For example, I am a fan of Matthew Parris. He has his own page on the Times Online website, here:

But there is no RSS feed specifically for his work, provided by the Times. At least, if it exists, it is well hidden and I could not find it.

But you can easily create your own feed from Google News. Here is the URL:

To generate an RSS feed for any author, go to Google News:

Enter as your search term (taking Matthew Parris as an example):

Author:"Matthew Parris"

You should get a list of articles written by the author you have chosen. And on the left will be some options, including "sorted by date" and "sorted by relevance". I don't know what relevance means in this context, and personally I suggest clicking on "sorted by date" to ensure the feed gives you the latest articles as they go online.

Google News

Then you can either click on the RSS symbol somewhere near the top of your browser (it will be an orange symbol of some kind, and it will look a bit different depending on which browser you use), or simply scroll to the bottom of the page where there is an "RSS" link.

Google News RSS

Click that link, and there you go.

How Twitter Caused a Headache for David Cameron

I've been chatting to a friend in America who tells me that the evils of our NHS have become a favourite topic among opponents of Barack Obama's healthcare plans.

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan (South East) has made a number of appearances on US television to explain to America why our healthcare system is so bad.

Mr Hannan became something of an internet sensation after his eloquent speech condemning Gordon Brown, in the European Parliament in March, received hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube (currently 2.4 million).

Hannan speaks to the European Parliament

Despite this, he doesn't get a great deal of attention in the mainstream media in the UK.

But his comments in the US have nonetheless been highlighted in the UK by users of Twitter.

Hannan speaks to Fox News

The "micro-blogging" tool has been used by supporters of the NHS to defend the health service against the attacks by Mr Obama's critics, using the hash-tag #welovethenhs.

And some of these have also had a dig at the Tories - demanding Conservative leader David Cameron disown Mr Hannan.

Mr Cameron has insisted that he also loves the NHS, and spoken in a positive way about the Twitter campaign, on the official Conservative Party blog.

There was no mention of Mr Hannan, something that has been noted in comments left by the blog's readers.

But Mr Cameron has distanced himself from the MEP's comments elsewhere. It seems that Mr Hannan has become an embarrassment to his party.

And while the mainstream media has picked up on the story, from what I can tell it all began on Twitter.

Calling All Gurus - You Don't Know What The Future Holds

None of us know what the future holds. Speculation about the way the internet is going to develop, how people will behave online or where they will get their information from, is little more than guesswork.

Let me give some examples:


As a middle aged man who started using the internet a long time ago (mainly to play Ultima Online rather than do anything useful), I remember when an amazing new piece of software appeared. ICQ was the first popular instant messaging service to run on Windows.

All of a sudden, e-mail seemed slow and cumbersome. Everybody had to have ICQ.

Where is it now? My ICQ buddy list has dwindled over the years, while my Windows Live list has grown.

I'm sure people still use ICQ. According to Digital Trends, it has an estimated 15 million active users.

According to Microsoft, Windows Live is used by 330 million people a month (I'd guess many hundreds of millions more have it installed and never use it).

I don't know where Digital Trends gets its figures from, but I doubt anyone who uses instant messaging much is going to disagree that ICQ has been overshadowed.

So, will this happen to Twitter? I doubt it, but I don't know. Neither do you. Let's see what happens when Twitter is sold to AOL while Microsoft and Google launch their joint-venture micro-blogging service.

Read more: Calling All Gurus - You Don't Know What The Future Holds

Using Sproutbuilder to make gadgets

I was trying to explain how the "Birmingham and West Midlands Politics News" gadget works to Andy Mabbett on Twitter, and did such a poor job of it I thought I'd try again here.

The gadget was created using Sproutbuilder. It takes an RSS feed of political news from the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail, and displays it as you can see. Clicking on a headline will take you to the web page where the story originally appeared.

You can add it to pretty much any website or blog, or Facebook/Myspace/etc page, for free, by clicking the "share" button and following the instructions.

The RSS feed it uses is one I created in Yahoo Pipes. This amalgamates four different RSS feeds from the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail, namely: every news story in the Post's politics section, my Birmingham Post blog, my Birmingham Mail column and most of my Birmingham Post columns.

There is, as you can tell, an element of self-promotion involved.

But the key point - and this is where I am afraid I made little sense when I spoke to Andy - is that anyone can make one of these. So if you want a gadget on your site which has sports news from the Birmingham Mail and the Express and Star, for example, you can just go ahead and make one.

All you need to do is sign up at Sproutbuilder. And if you can find the right RSS feeds, or know how to filter stuff in Yahoo Pipes, it's easy enough to make a specialised widget - for example, which only included football stories, or which pulled in any story from a dozen different websites which mentioned Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Sproutbuilder switched fairly recently from being free to charging. But it does offer basic free accounts, allowing you to make three gadgets with up to 10gb a month of bandwidth - probably enough for most needs?

So if anyone wants to add my gadget to their website, just go ahead. But if it's not what you want, you could make one yourself easily, and they are fun to do.

Sion Simon Teaches Us We're Always Representing

A moderator on one of the forums I take part in once threatened to "out" a poster who had annoyed him - by revealing which children's entertainment company the poster worked for.

He could do this because he saw the IP addresses of forum users, and this poster was using their office computer.

(If you know someone's IP address, you can go to a website like this one and possibly get some idea who they are. For domestic users, you'll probably just learn their ISP, such as Virgin, BT etc. If they are at work, and work for a large organisation, you might learn their employer).

Many forum posters protested that this was unfair, an abuse of mod powers etc. I agree, but the mod in question made a good point in reply - that you are always representing your employer. It may not be nice, but it's a good answer because it's true.

I was reminded of this when Birmingham MP Sion Simon made headlines today by making a joke about swine flu on Twitter. He doesn't hide his identity, so it's not an exact parallel. But the lesson is that he can never be just Sion, talking to his mates, on Twitter or any other part of the Internet.

He's always going to be MP Sion Simon (Lab Erdington). Which probably has a moral for us all, hidden there somewhere.

This is what he said (actually re-tweeting someone else)

I'm not saying Susan Boyle caused swine flu. I'm just saying that nobody had swine flu, she sang on TV, people got swine flu.

I did speak to one Tory MP to see if they wanted to be outraged, but they burst out laughing and insisted they didn't want to comment . . .

Here's my take on swine flu.

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About me

Jonathan Walker Political Editor of the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail, Sunday Mercury, Coventry Telegraph, Newcastle Journal, Newcastle Chronicle and Sunday Sun.

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