Pinterest and the NAO food safety report graphic

Sometimes even I am sceptical about the value of some digital activity – did I really say that aloud?

Then sometimes I am vindicated – I did say that aloud. Well have a look at this –

When the Food Safety report came out recently my colleague Alex Mueller had a skim through it to see if there were any graphics that we might be able to extract as standalone items and post them to Pinterest – the online pin board for visual content.

One of those chosen was the map of the distribution of food safety officers which we put on the NAO Pinterest account a board called Environment.

Now you might think who would possibly be interested in that? I sort of did wonder myself.

I have just found out who was interested. He is called Matthew Parish.

He has a great board on Pinterest of diagrams and infographics (whatever they are) relating to food safety. Such as this chart:

Guess what is nestling in the middle of them – the NAO diagram which nicely complements the existing information that he has curated. Not sure what curation means look out for my previous post.

Made me feel happy for today.

Why – well it’s nice that the small amount of time that we invested in this (thanks to Rob in the Design Group) has been worthwhile. It also show that there are lots of interest goups online if we make a little effort to find them.

Are you a curator?

I love the word curator, from the Latin Curare – ‘take care of’ and words ending with ‘or’ from Latin generally mean doing something, janitor etc.

So it means looking after stuff – thank you Wikipedia

For example curators in museums looking after exhibits. In the online word it tends to mean ‘looking after content/knowledge/information’.

What’s the relevance of that to me then?

Well content without a curator is like a Tom without a Jerry, some kind of organising had is needed to add a bit of value and pull related information together.

You might already use content that is curated without realising it, or have even been curating yourself?

For example have you ever come back from an event or holiday with stack of photos that you agreed to share with friend or relatives? What did you do next, perhaps delete a few, add some captions, tag a few people – well you have been curating content. Get out that curators’ uniform.

Ever recommended a reading list around a particular topic to someone – curating again.

In the online world have you ever used a hashtag # – well by doing this you are helping yourself and others curate content by a topic label.

Ever followed a Twitter list of influential users, or created one yourself – curating again.

There are even handy tools to help your curate content such a PaperLi or Storify.

With Paperli you can automatically create your own online ‘newspaper’ from feeds of online content; and Storify allows you do create a timeline around an event or topic of tweets or posts.

Another site worth looking at is Scoopit where you can track topics and add your own insights and pass them along.

So why not push the boat out and try a bit of curation, uniform not needed.

Micro actions lead to macro results

Sometimes when we want a big result we think we need to put in one huge effort to get that result. But is that really true? Will the revision the night before the exam get that pass mark or the steady re-reading of notes over the previous months?

What if lots of small actions add up to something bigger than each of the actions themselves?

Here are some examples:

Building a online audience – regularly thanking retweeters on Twitter so that they want to do it again and have a nice warm glowly feeling towards you.

Improving the quality of your website user experience – fixing a few broken links every day so that the number of 404s keep reducing.

Managing staff – giving encouraging words to colleagues on a regular basis.

Improving your website – the steady fixing of bugs that keeps improving the site.

Building your online reputation – writing small but regular blog posts (this is an example).

Having a nice garden – pulling out a weed a day.

You can probably think of your own examples.

Micro leads to macro – did I hear ‘from little acorns, oaks’?

What is an interactive graphic?

Is always good to start with semantics – so what do we actually mean by interactive?

I could argue that all graphics are interactive since as soon as someone looks at a graphic, either online or in print, they are interacting with it.

Our brains ‘read’ the images and text to process the information and perhaps generate new insights or ideas.

However in the way the word interactive has been used recently it has been shorthand for something that has a ‘state change’ – which is realistically only possible online.

So what do we mean by ‘state change’ – well perhaps the mouse cursor moves over a line on a graph and the line thickens, or the data points become visible.

To this can be added all kind of levels of sophistication; lines that move in a time sequence; bars that expand, buttons being pressed. In fact a whole cornucopia of fancy whizzery jiggery pokery is possible.

All fabulous stuff no doubt.

But what is the point?

When hopefully we are not just doing something for the sake of doing something different?

It would be nice to keep a mental checklist something along these lines:

  • Are we doing it just because we can, or because it helps communicate our messages more clearly and with more impact?
  • Do we know that the people we have created it for will find it useful? In fact do we know who we have created it for?
  • What if we decide to chance our arms and do it anyway? Are we going to ask for any feedback from our users? Surely we are, aren’t we?

All these things cost time and money to produce and it’s not entirely our money.

So the next time that you hear the phrase ‘interactive graphic’ used perhaps make a slight mental pause and think about some of the points above. That would be lovely.

Back-up, what back-up?

I have been interested in back-ups and related issues for some time.

I think it came from my mum telling about her colleague who had the finished copy of his PhD in his car which was then stolen. Or the famous example of the Bank of France which had a fire which burnt all their back up tapes which were on-site. Quelle dommage.

for example at home I have always had a back-up power supply to my desktop as when I first moved in there were one or two power cuts.

Well what about back-ups of your personal files and photos?

I know quite a few people who actually make copies onto CDs of files. However I have always said to them – well unless you store them somewhere ‘off-site’ – that’s not in your own house – it’s not a back up. How geeky is that? Of course you also have to remember to make a copy on a regular basis.

Does this really matter – well only if you value those pictures of the kids, honeymoon or memorable holiday.

So a number of years ago I started to use a commercial service in Ireland CRITICali that was not cheap but very reliable.

As more personal services developed I then moved onto to Mozy and Carbonite which are both very good. A key point being that they run back-ups automatically – what’s the point if you have to remember to press a button to make a back-up? If I had to recommend one supplier for a PC it would be Carbonite – dead simple to use and very quick.

However I then complicated my life by using Linux at home and back-ups have never worked quite so well. Until recently I have been using Spideroak and Jungledisc (which uses Amazon servers).

I am now using Jungledisc and Dropbox.

You might have noticed that I always have two services running. Well what is the back-up to the back-up otherwise? Paranoid, me? Well I have deleted photos in the past so let’s just say that I have learnt my lesson.

Things keep moving on and a number of companies such as Apple have back-up to the Icloud. However if you use these services here are a few things to check.

  • Is the backup automatic?
  • Can you access the files not using the device you copied them from?
  • Can you select which files and folders to back up; and more importantly which ones to recover?
  • Can you do this without overwriting your existing files or wiping them all out?
  • Have you ran a test to make sure that you can recover files?

So these days back-ups are a lot easier and services provided more widely and with a few simple tests you should be able to sleep soundly knowing that your files and photos are safe.