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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).

Should employers avoid recruiting internet gamers?

You may have seen the story about Barack Obama appointing Kevin Werbach, an academic who plays World of Warcraft, to advise him on Internet and telecoms policies.

This led to an in-depth analysis of his gaming habits - you can tell a lot by looking at the character he plays, apparently, and he plays a giant cow - which concluded among other things that he enjoys helping people and is open-minded.

I was reminded of this by another story that is doing the rounds on the interweb, about recruiters avoiding applicants who play World of Warcraft, because their minds are on other things and they have weird sleeping patterns.

World of Warcraft

Cynical and evil people might suggest the same is true of many other potential employees, including anyone with young children, but definitely not me. I'm scared you'd throw things at me.

Is it true that people who play video games make bad workers? On the positive side, they know a little about the interweb.

And if you think internet communities are, or might become, an important part of your business, it arguably makes sense to recruit people who are already part of one.

But this story, which is appearing on professional websites which are at least half-way to being "big media", is also a warning to journalists, in my view.

It's a fun little story. But where does it come from?

A guy calling himself "Tale" wrote the following on an internet forum:

I met with a recruiter recently (online media industry) and in conversation I happened to mention I'd spent way too much time in the early 2000s playing online games, which I described as "the ones before World of Warcraft" (I went nuts for EQ1, SWG and the start of WoW, but since 2006 I have only put a handful of days into MMOG playing - as opposed to discussing them - I've obsessed over bicycles and cycling instead).

He replied that employers specifically instruct him not to send them World of Warcraft players. He said there is a belief that WoW players cannot give 100% because their focus is elsewhere, their sleeping patterns are often not great, etc. I mentioned that some people have written about MMOG leadership experience as a career positive or a way to learn project management skills, and he shook his head. He has been specifically asked to avoid WoW players.

« Last Edit: December 12, 2008, 03:08:13 PM by Tale »

"Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live." - Mark Twain

And that's it. So it's the equivalent of the man down the pub, always a great source of copy but perhaps best not to depend on without checking elsewhere.

Metaplace Beats Second Life

Move over Second Life. Metaplace is better in every way.

A Scene from Second Life
I've never understood why businesses got so excited about Second Life (pictured, left). If you've never played it, it's a 3D graphical application - kind of like a game, except without the actual game - which allows you to create a character and fly around a virtual world full of things other people have created.

These creations can be buildings, vehicles, clothes other characters are wearing, or just about anything you can imagine.

It's like World of Warcraft without the elves. What it does have is lots and lots of porn, as people use the freedom it offers to make pornography and sell it for real cash.

There was a period, which hasn't quite gone away, of organisations creating Second Life material to promote themselves, such as an "office" in the Second Life virtual world.

It's also used for virtual conferences. Microsoft and the Social Market Foundation think-tank roped West Bromwich MP and Cabinet Office Minister Tom Watson into taking part in a fringe event set in the Second Life world during Labour's conference in September.

Online gaming guru Raph Koster is developing something better.

His Metaplace project will allow people to develop their own virtual world and stick it on their website (by embedding some flash on the page).

It is better than Second Life because:

  • There is no need for visitors to download a client. You just need flash on your machine, and 99 per cent of us already have that, even if we don't know it.
  • People can access your world directly from any website you choose.
  • There's no need to share your virtual showroom or conference hall with a thousand badly-textured penises. Worlds are self-contained, but you can link to others if you wish.

The only downside I can see is the cartoony default graphics, but you can create your own graphics if you wish.

Here is a video about the internet and porn (don't play it at work):

Wikipedia - Don't Trust It

Birmingham is currently winning the battle to be named Britain's Second City on Wikipedia, probably the most influential source of information on the interweb today.

Wikipedia is the encyclopaedia anyone can edit, making it useless as a source to be relied on. The problem isn't so much straight factual inaccuracies as bias and point-of-view pushing.

It is, however, immensely popular, with around seven billion page views (not unique visits) a month.

In theory, editors are bound by a strict set of rules, such as the requirement to cite authoritative sources and to achieve consensus before making major changes.

In practice, sources are frequently used to push a particular point of view. You simply start out knowing what you want to say and then search for a source to back it up, ignoring the ones that don't support your position.

As for consensus, this tends to apply to individual pages, not the encyclopedia as a whole.

Hence, the Birmingham entry tells us that "Birmingham is the largest of England's core cities, and is the second city of the United Kingdom".

The Manchester entry, however, states that it is "often described as the second city of the UK."

While they don't quite contradict each other, Manchester's entry suggests that Birmingham is often not considered to be the second city.

The reason for this discrepancy is obvious - Manchester's entry is edited mainly by Mancs, while Birmingham's entry is edited by Brummies.

Read more: Wikipedia - Don't Trust It

Social Media Is A Myth

Suw Charman on Strange Attractor speculates that some businesses may be resisting the lure of social media because "social" has negative connotations.

A challenge facing any journalist is turning jargon into English. Jargon turns people off, quite rightly. Turning it into everyday language also forces you to try to understand what is actually being said.

So what is social media? As far as I can tell, it means websites or other internet applications which allow users to add to the content in some way, or generally do something more than passively reading it.

In other words, it's the internet. The internet has always done that.

Once, it was ICQ (one of the first instant messaging services), newsgroups (like a shared e-mail account which anyone can write to or download messages from), IRC (chatrooms) and forums (still the best way of sharing and discussing ideas for my money). And, of course, there were blogs, before people used the word blog.

One of the biggest drivers of change has been the growth of broadband, which lets you download things like videos, pictures and far more quickly than you could with the modems we used to use.

Hence, you have YouTube and a host of similar sites, iTunes - which lets anyone advertise podcasts (little radio shows) to the world, as well as selling you music - and torrents, which provide an easy way to "share files" (pirate stuff, usually).

It's all great. So why tell people who are happily using the internet, but may not know about all the good stuff out there, that they need to get into "social media"?

It's a buzzword, and someone who doesn't respond well to buzzwords is no curmudgeon. I'd call it a healthy response.

Sweetgrrl001 Has Sent You A Message

One cultural shift that has taken place on the Internet is the way people now use it to promote themselves, presenting their real identity to the world rather than a fake one. This may seem obvious to those of you that have been doing it for a while, but back in the olden days it was taken for granted that you used a wacky username to communicate. Putting your real-life details out there was seen as a very brave thing to do, as Sir Humphrey might say.

This was probably a good thing in many ways, at least for me. I don't thing it would do me much good if the people I work with (contacts as well as colleagues) could follow all my edit wars on Wikipedia, earnest discussions about geek culture or outright flaming of the America Deserved It brigade on various message boards after 9-11. I still use pseudonyms most of the time.

I guess it's not an issue with younger people who happily post photos of themselves on MySpace. But for slightly older people like me, it can be a bit of a leap. It's just not the done thing ...

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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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