HMV store closures mapped

I cover independent record shops over at Independent Everything, so when HMV went into administration it was important news. I set up a Google Alert for HMV at the time. Since then I’ve had a steady stream of reports that HMV shops are to be saved or closed, often on the same local news site a few weeks apart, as the uncertainty lingered.

I had a look and a month ago, a full list of HMV shops to be shut was published, but no one had thought to map them. I’ve mapped them across the UK here:

All the HMV stores closing in the UK. Image: Rob Grant
All the HMV stores closing in the UK. Image: Rob Grant

East Anglia seems to have escaped unharmed. The rest seem fairly evenly spread across the UK’s major population centres.

Annoyingly WordPress doesn’t seem to recognise the Google Fusion table iFrame code when you embed it. The best I could do is take a screenshot of it here. If you want the full interactive version (you do, I spent ages tracking down all the local news stories about each store closing), head to the link here.

If anyone knows of a workaround for embedding Fusion tables into WordPress, please let me know!

Google Fusion tables: how to make (accurate) ward maps

Regular readers (ahem) may remember I wrote a post about how to draw your own Fusion table maps freehand. I remember thinking at the time that there must be a better way of doing this. It turned out there was, thanks to Paul Bradshaw and Scraperwiki.

I followed Paul’s walkthrough with Bristol as my guinea pig until I hit a snag uploading the CSV file to the Fusion table. The Fusion table didn’t automatically draw a map using the polygon ward data contained in the CSV file.

There is no map option here. Image: Rob Grant
There is no map option here. Image: Rob Grant

The workaround for this problem is to head back to MapIt, hosted by MySociety. Type in a Bristol post code, locate Bristol City Council and click on “covered by or overlapping with this area”

bristol kml 5
Image: Rob Grant

You get a list of all the wards of Bristol. Download each one as a KML file.

bristol kml 6
Image: Rob Grant

Repeat this step for all 35 wards in Bristol (yes, this is tedious).

Next, open a new Fusion table and import from this computer. Upload each KML file to the Fusion table (again, slightly tedious, but at least you can see the map taking shape if you get bored).

When it’s done, you will have a perfect ward map of your town:

Bristol kml7
Image: Rob Grant

I hear that section of the Bristol Channel contains a lot of floating voters…

Anyway, now I have a decent ward map of Bristol the possibilities for data journalism have just significantly expanded. Here’s one I made earlier: a map of the percentage of Bristol residents on a means-tested benefit.

bristol kml 8
Image: Rob Grant

We can see that the affluent areas around Stoke Bishop and Clifton have fewer people on means-tested benefits than Lawrence Hill and Hartcliffe.

The original data is here.

This took about an hour to do. It’s much easier than my previous post, which you may now discard from your bookmarks!

Islington round-up: week 3

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Islington Now’s homepage. Image: Islington Now/Rob Grant

This week I was Deputy Online Editor at Islington Now during our third and final production week. A lot of the work I did was behind the scenes, helping making sure content came through steadily and doing my bit to make sure it was put up and broadcast through our Facebook, Twitter and other social channels at a even rate.

This week went much more smoothly because the online team had more experience of scheduling content, tweets and posts to space things out (or to give the illusion we were in the office 24/7, which wasn’t too far from the truth!)

I wrote this story about electric cars in Islington. I discovered that nearly £100,000 has been spent on electric car charging points that require a £17 annual license to use. The number of Islington residents who have paid for that? Just 10.

That’s it for the Islington round-up. Production week is over. It’s been a hugely enjoyable three weeks and very satisfying to draw together so much of what we’ve learnt so far on the course.


Spotify removes five track limit as it searches for the Goldilocks model

Business decisions at Spotify. Image: Jon Åslund
Business decisions at Spotify. Image: Jon Åslund

Spotify has removed its limit of five plays of a particular song for British users. It was launched in April 2011 and affected Britons who had signed up to the music streaming service for more than six months. The aim was to try to nudge users towards subscribing to its paid-for services.

“Great news about the 5-play limit!” was how Spotify announced the decision on their website, as if it had found out from an excited neighbour rather than, er, making the decision itself.

Why? Who benefits?

For free users, it’s obviously great news. They will still have to put up with the ads, but at least their favourite Lady Gaga track won’t grey out after a frustratingly fleeting five listens. Free users in the UK will be nudged to subscribe by the cap on listening to free music that comes in after ten hours.

Stuart Dredge at Music Ally notes that Spotify varies the limits on its freemium services in different countries. O’Hear calls this creating “false scarcity” because hearing Jonathan from Spotify every two or three songs was not convincing enough users to pay to make them go away.

Spotify seems to be trying out different models in different countries, trying to settle on a model that will, presumably, convert the most users into subscribers. In the meantime, students at schools at universities around Britain can bask in more free music, at least for now.

Islington round-up: week 2

The Islington Now newsroom is not quite this snazzy...Image: Antony Mayfield
The Islington Now newsroom is not quite as snazzy as the Telegraph…Image: Antony Mayfield, reproduced under Creative Commons. Available here.

We are now two weeks into running  Islington Now. This week I was Community Editor. That meant I was responsible for IN’s Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels. The goal was to use them to engage with people, broadcast stories and continue to build a community.

I established a Google+ page, but it was quickly clear that few Islington people were on that platform. Still, it’s good to experiment. If an Islington community ever does establish itself there, we’ll be there early. The earlier you get to a community, generally the more likely it is that you can shape it and carve out a prominent position.

Jess Denham, the Deputy Community Editor, and I started to schedule tweets with TweetDeck. This is useful for two reasons. Firstly, it means you can stay active on social networks away from “the office”. The times you might not be in the office, such as rush hour and dinner time, are well-known in news organisations for providing spikes in traffic. We scheduled Facebook posts as well. We tried to emulate news organisations like the Telegraph by posting photos with links because that improves your EdgeRank. Continue reading “Islington round-up: week 2”

Islington round-up: week 1

Maddy Badcott. Image: Rob Grant

I’ve just completed my first production week at Islington Now on my course at City. I was multimedia editor.

I edited this video interview with Maddy Badcott, an upcoming rower using Final Cut Pro. I started using iMovie, but I had real trouble exporting the completed movie. I tried twice, it didn’t work, so I ended up using Final Cut Pro on the advice of City’s technical team. Continue reading “Islington round-up: week 1”