dedicated to technology
Nialler9 Is Facebook losing its cool? Behind Broadsheet Jobs for the boys
The tech sector gender gap 2013: The year of the games console The digital dilemma
Why bother with real photography?
The must-have gadgets for this summerâ€™s music festivals Homepagemagazine.indd 1
Health blogger Sinead Oâ€™Connor says relax 16/05/2013 16:15
OCT 30 & 31 2013
â€œThe new hot ticket on the tech conference sceneâ€?
contents editor's letter
the monitor 5. Tech news at a glance radar 6. Meet the Irish startup that wants to pay you every time your phone rings. 7. Four teachers from Wicklow hope to revolutionise language learning in Ireland with their new educational startup, Linguaswap.com.
bites 8. Homepage looks at some of the must-have gadgets for this summer’s music festivals.
features 12. The digital dilemma Has the art of photography has been lost in a sea of bleary-eyed Facebook snaps? 16. Is Facebook losing its cool? People are growing tired of Facebook. Homepage asks why. 18. Nialler9 Niall Byrne tells us how it all started and what it takes to stand out in today’s overcrowded blogosphere. 22. Behind Broadsheet Karl Monaghan talks to Homepage about the growth and development of Ireland’s most talked about website. 24. Jobs for the boys Why is it that the global tech sector is almost entirely dominated by men? Homepage talks to one expert who is hoping to correct the imbalance.
social play 10. Sony and Microsoft go head-to-head later this year with the release of the Platstation4 and the Xbox 720. 11. 2013 all sees the release of the first generation of Androidpowered microconsoles.
28. Health blogger and yoga instructor Sinead O’Connor tells us why it is important to tune out from the constant buzz of the digital age. 29. Voiceover bloke, blogger, Arsenal fan – Homepage talks to Dubliner Andrew Mangan about running one of the most popular independent football blogs around. 30. A blog about crisps... says it all really.
We realise the impact technology is having on our daily lives and we embrace it. With that in mind, we have tried to produce a magazine that is as diverse as our subject matter. Whether you are a fitness freak or a couch potato, there is something in Homepage for you.
Editor: Nevan Riley
At Homepage we are dedicated to technology.
In this issue we celebrate Irish blogging, talking to some of the most distinctive voices to have emerged in recent years. Niall Byrne, the man behind Ireland’s most successful music blog Nialler9.com, tells us what it takes to stand out from the crowd in the modern blogosphere, while Karl Monaghan talks about the growth of Broadsheet.ie. Homepage also asks the important questions facing technology. Why are women so under-represented in the ranks of tech employees? Is Facebook still relevant to young people today? Technology isn’t the niche genre it once was. Everyone has a favourite website, app or gadget they can’t live without. A tech magazine should therefore be as accessible as possible.
Deputy ed.: Eoin McGinley Production ed.: Cianan Brennan Pictures ed.: Jamile Carvalho Chief sub-editor: Ciaran Maguire Designer: Edel Maher Contributors: Orlagh McCarron Mark Beegan Daniel O’Kelly Stephen Hanlon Nevan Riley Eoin McGinley Ciaran Maguire Cianan Brennan Edel Maher
We hope Homepage reflects that.
June 2013 Homepage 05
Tech news at a glance
A new barcodescanning app has made ethical shopping a whole lot simpler. After scanning a product using the Buycott app, a user can view a product’s ownership structure, helping conscientious consumers avoid indirectly giving money to companies they find objectionable. Users can also start a campaign to target particular products, with over 10,000 users already behind the “Demand GMO Labelling” initiative.
Bad news for users of Snapchat. The photo-sharing app that has attracted millions of users by allowing people to send media files that self-destruct shortly after reading, has been rocked by claims that a company in the United States has discovered how to recover a user’s deleted Snaps. Utah-based firm Decipher Forensics
If people thought Facebook was losing its cool (see page 16), then Google+ is as cold as ice. According to figures released by Nielsen, the average visitor to Google+ spent 6 minutes 47 seconds on the site in March, compared to 6 hours 44 minutes on Facebook. Google can point to the popularity of other domains such as Gmail and Youtube, but the absence of any “social” element from the social network it surely a cause for concern.
Microsoft Points, the digital currency used in the Xbox Live marketplace, could be a thing of the past sooner than you think. Microsoft is said to be ditching the virtual currency ahead of the launch of the Xbox 720 later this year, replacing it with debit,
credit and gift card purchases. The news will come as a relief to gamers, many of whom are routinely left with excess points thanks to Microsoft’s strategy of only selling bundles of 400.
says it can recover deleted pictures from a phone’s cache and is planning to offer its service to parents and law enforcement agencies. It turns out those saucy pics you sent last month could come back to haunt you after all.
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Watch your language grow with Linguaswap Wicklow-based start-up Linguaswap is putting students in touch with native speakers from across Europe. By Eoin McGinley
our teachers from Co Wicklow are revolutionising how students learn languages. Frustrated by the lack of time given to developing listening and speaking skills in the classroom, Aisling Crowley, Anne Burke, Rhoda Brookes, and Siobhan Carley created Linguaswap, an innovative website designed to help students improve their language skills. Linguaswap puts students in touch with native speakers of the language they are learning, giving them the opportunity to connect with students across Europe via an online video link. “The idea is that the students ‘swap’ their native language for the languages they are learning by communicating with their online friends across Europe,” Aisling Crowley explains. “Each student benefits from the exchange because the website affords them the opportunity to spend time in discussion and interaction with native speakers.” Crowley says that schools The most important feature of Linguaswap is the video link. This is available on the website, meaning the student does not need to download any software.
within the County Wicklow VEC have been using Linguaswap with their European exchange schools and the programme has been hugely popular. Linguaswap intend to extend its membership over the next two years to include global languages such as Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, Mandarin and Hindi-Urdu. “This is the future of language learning,” Crowley said. “‘Linguaswapping’ is giving students the practise they need and will become an essential part of language learning in the future.” The second, and perhaps most beneficial aspect of the service is the bespoke curriculum designed by the teachers themselves.
Finally, Linguaswap is rigorously moderated. The video link facility takes a snapshot of each participant every ten seconds, allowing moderators to monitor all activity during the exchange. 16/05/2013 16:15
Fonesense: Ringtones that make cents
June 2013 Homepage 07
Two former classmates from Waterford IT want to pay you every time your phone rings By Eoin McGinley
ot so long ago, choosing a ringtone was an important ritual for every young person. But now, with every second person toting a mobile computer capable of coordinating the next moon landing, it seems that ringtones aren’t that important anymore. Former Waterford IT students Dermot Byrne and Christian Ryder are hoping to change all of that with their new company, Fonesense. The idea behind the company is fiendishly simple. Fonesense replace your ringtone with a recognisable advertising jingle and pay you every time your phone rings. “Fonesense is a mobile advertising channel that allows advertisers to reward mobile phone owners for selecting a branded advertising tone as a ringtone,” Byrne said. “The phone owner gets paid for allowing their mobile device to become a micro broadcasting device.” The company has attracted significant attention and has been recognised as a “High Potential Start-Up” by Enterprise Ireland. Like all good innovators, the idea for the company came about before the technology to implement it actually existed. Homepagemagazine.indd 7
“We believe this is the first app of its kind. As yet there is nothing of it’s kind in either Google Play or the App Store.”
Dermot Byrne, cofounder, Fonsense
“Christian came up with the original idea,” Byrne said. “This was some time ago when we all used Nokia phones. At the time it wasn’t possible to do what Fonesense does now and it was only with the advent of the current smartphone that we were able to make some progress.” Users begin by downloading an app to their phones. They then choose a ringtone from
one of the companies advertising with Fonesense and then they get paid whenever their phone rings. That’s all there is to it. “Any company with an audio ‘logo’ could use FoneSense,” Byrne said. “Advertising will change because businesses will come to use audio advertisements in the same way they currently use billboard or radio.” 16/05/2013 16:15
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whether it’s oxegen or electric picnic or anything in between, irish music fans will be treated to some great techno music this summer. here are some of the must-have gadgets to make the most of your festival weekend. words: daniel o’kelly
If you’re worried about the wellbeing of your new collection of festival gadgets, guarantee their safety with a waterproof gadget bag. This waterproof shield will not go unused with summers like ours.
x-mini capsule speaker This easily portable speaker will ensure that the music doesn’t stop when you get back to the campsite. It provides 11 hours of continuous playback from one charge and you can daisy chain a few together to really get the party going.
boostcase hybrid iphone case If you own an iPhone you can make its battery last longer using the Boostcase. The combination of a hard protective case and extra battery life is perfect for a long festival weekend.
solar powered flashlight With the appearance of a lightsabre, this torch will not fail to impress. It can hold a charge for over three years and if the sun doesn’t shine on the day, it comes with emergency backup battery. With this gadget you’ll be able to find your tent in the dark and have a little light for inside your tent.
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walkie talkies Perhaps more reliable than a mobile phone, walkie talkies will also help bring out your inner child as you trade nonsensical drunken codewords with companions.
the selk bag The Selk Bag is the most comfortable, high tech sleeping bag man has ever made. A lot cosier than your traditional sleeping bag, the Selk can be worn as a suit, allowing you to stay up partying when the temperatures drop.
i-keep charger Charge this baby up at home before you leave and this retractable cable will charge your phone while securing it to the belt loop of your jeans. Handy for the mosh pit.
orange power wellies Another weird way to charge your phone, these wellies use the power of heat to develop energy. The battery is located in the heel which is connected to a pocket in the side where you can plug in your phone. The more heat you develop in the wellies, the faster your phone will charge.
Top 5 apps to download for your weekend 1. Glympse Lost? Don’t worry. As long as you and your friends have Glympse installed, you can find each other with ease with this handy GPS tracker. 2. Spotify Unlimited streaming of your favourite bands while you party in the campsite. Sure why not? 3. Crowdsync Ever looked at all those smartphones held above people’s heads at a gig, recording the act on stage and thought: “What’s the point?” Crowdsync allows people at a gig to stream their recordings live online for those who couldn’t make it. 4.Tentfinder We all struggle to find our tent at a music festival. Let this GPS locator guide you home… as long as you are sober enough to see the screen on your phone. 5. Shazam Don’t know what that song is? Shazam will identify it for you in one second or less.
Homepage June 2013
Clash of the gaming titans The blockbuster battle between Sony and Microsoft is about to commence, writes Stephen Hanlon.
he countdown to the biggest war in the video game industry to date has officially begun. After almost seven years, round three in the battle for video game console dominance is about to begin as Microsoft and Sony prepare for the release of the Xbox 720 and the Playstation4. It’s been 12 years since Microsoft and Sony first butted heads. While the original Xbox may not have knocked the untouchable Playstation2 off its pedestal first time of asking, Microsoft still proved itself to be a future contender. The Xbox 360 failed again to outstrip the Playstation3, with Sony’s console outselling their rival by one million consoles.
Microsoft will be hoping that the third time will be the charm when they release their console later this year. With prices for both consoles expected to range between €400-€450, just what brand new landmark features will both of these machines bring to the table in order to persuade hardcore gamers to part with their cash? The main new features of the Xbox are an additional CPU hardware core. This means it will be much easier to power and thus reduce overheating, a problem which plagued the 360 when it was first released. The Playstation4 on the other hand will increase its memory capacity by eight times its previous size. Also, like the 720, it will feature a brand new CPU chip that will make it look and sound better than the previous edition. However, the biggest new feature the Playstation4 is expected to have is that it will be made up of 60 per cent recyclable materials. The new feature, called Eco Start feature, will switch the machine off after 30 minutes of inactivity, thus saving energy. While at the moment it is difficult to separate both consoles, the Playstation4’s new Eco Start feature will most likely give it the advantage, considering the number of Xbox owners who got burned by their previous consoles. So far it looks like Sony is once again leading the race.
June 2013 Homepage 11
Game-changing consoles Android-powered games consoles will revolutionise gaming by allowing any developer—big or small–to easily build games for the big screen, writes Ciarán Maguire.
alifornian tech start-up Ouya is releasing its eponymous Ouya console later this month after a recordbreaking Kickstarter campaign raised $8.6 million last year. Gamers can also look forward to the release of Playjam’s Gamestick – a flash drive-sized console that plugs directly into the HDMI port of your TV and comes with a Bluetooth controller. The Gamestick and Ouya will retail at €79 and €99 respectively, while games will be priced around the level of the Google Play store. Games don’t come on physical media and are downloaded straight onto the consoles’ 8GB internal storage. These Android-powered consoles represent a new departure for the gaming industry. They aren’t handheld or mobile, and they aren’t expected to replace your primary console. What they are expected to do is stir a renaissance in independent games development. The Ouya comes with all the tools necessary to create your own games right out of the box, while the Gamestick also allows developers big and small to design their own titles. Developers can also share their creations with other users via the online marketplace on both consoles. Another defining feature of these new consoles will be the free-to-play option that is packed into many of their titles. This will either give gamers a free trial of the game, or allow in-game purchases and upgrades.
The rubik’s cubesized Ouya will be available later this month.
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The digital dilemma With the ease of access to digital technology and social media networks like Instagram, Orlagh McCarron asks photographer Jamie Mellor if film photography can stand up to the digital challenge.
June 2013 Homepage 13
uch like The Beatles vs The Stones, Coke vs Pepsi and the PC vs Mac debate, the ongoing battle between film and digital is a thorny issue for photographers the world over. As we struggle to stay afloat in the ever-changing technological tides, it seems the question becomes less about Nikon over Canon and more about quality over quantity. In a society that is constantly in search of the next big thing that will serve up more power, more speed and instant gratification, veteran photographer Jamie Mellor fears that appreciation of photography as an art-form is waning in this new digital era. “Too many people now get a digital camera and go out and shoot like a machine gun. They approach photography with a law of averages; they take a hundred pictures and one of them will be good,” Mellor said. “Before digital, it was too expensive and time-consuming to do
“There are more pictures than ever before, but it’s harder to find quality photography.” that. What you have is a lot more people buying digital cameras but they aren’t willing to learn the basics of photography – the shutter speed, the aperture, the absolute fundamentals. The belief is if I spend £500 on this camera it’s got to produce decent pictures. They put it on auto-mode and just fire shot after shot. There are more pictures than ever before, but it’s harder to find quality photography.” The immediacy of digital seems perfectly suited to pro-
fessional settings, but Mellor still laments the demise of darkroom printing. New software like Photoshop can convincingly mimic the traits of classic cameras and photo development, demanding little commitment and no real talent. As a result, few individual quirks or traits are brought to the photographs and the artform is suffering. “Digital has made the workflow of professional photographers a lot quicker and has driven down production costs,” Mellor said. “But it has taken away the excitement of developing film and seeing if it works out, which in turn develops you as a photographer as you learn by your mistakes.” He remains philosophical however, adding: “The only peace of mind I have is the knowledge of the use of film. In the end, everything evolves and all that we can take forward is the knowledge from the past.”
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Mellor acknowledges that digital is where the future lies and thinks that film photography has become more of a niche artform. Despite this, he insists that no digital camera or smartphone comes close to his old Nikon FE. “It’s a classic camera and made of metal. It’s heavy and small. When I pick it up the metal is cold in my hands. It’s got a distinct smell with basic knobs and dials on it. I know if I set it up, as soon as I put the camera to my eye, I’ve got a split second to capture the moment and that’s it. Presets on digital cameras are like rough-ball parts as each setting will be different. When I use a camera, I tell it what to do. You want to get it spot-on.” Undeniably, digital has made photography more accessible and less intimidating for people to use, yet this has come at a price. As Mellor points out, there is a real lack of apprecia-
a picture that has similar effects to Instagram but can do it on a much larger scale and make it printable, because of what I’ve learned from film.” Anonymous blogger “Dublin Diaries”, who has developed a large following on Instagram for her photos of Dublin city, credits her iPhone for sparking her intion for the skill and talent that terest in photography. Asked if she believes digital is killing film quality photography requires. “Sometimes things look too photography, she replies: polished in digital,” he says. “To “I don’t think the art of film phoappreciate a film image it’s tography will die. The rebirth of got to be on paper. When you Polaroid will tell you that, and all see something digital on com- the hipster film cameras availputer screens it’s suppressed able in Urban Outfitters. I know and small. When you blow it up this might be a passing fad on paper you can really examine the quality, you can see the but I think there will always be grain of the film. It’s a lot prettier an interest in film because it’s a craft. I think that pictures on than the noise of digital.” Despite the widespread ap- Instagram work well within the peal of Instagram Mellor syas context of being viewed digitally. he doesn’t feel threatened. Film will always look amazing “That’s something that’s in fash- on a gallery wall, but digital is ion now. I have the skills to take the future.”
“As soon as I put the camera to my eye, I’ve got a split second to capture the moment and that’s it.”
June 2013 Homepage 15
“It’s a classic camera and made of metal. It’s heavy and small. When I pick it up the metal is cold in my hands.”
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Is Facebook losing its cool? Mark Beegan explains how Facebook has turned from friend to foe, and why the Zuckerberg brainchild is facing its ultimate demise.
my Dunne is sick of Facebook. For months she drifted along occasionally checking in but no longer engaging with the same passion and interest. This February Amy took the drastic step of deleting her Facebook account. Amy is a 17-year-old student from Dublin. She estimates that she spends an hour before school on the internet and three hours online from the time she leaves school until she goes to bed. In fact, SocialMedia.ie describes the 14-22 age range “as prime engagers with social media” yet Facebook no longer seems as appealing. “A lot of my friends have accounts but no longer use them,” Amy said. “The ads are really annoying , they have taken over the page but there is also the amount of creeps that use Facebook and then our parents started to get Facebook so it no longer is like a teen zone.” This is where alarm bells should begin to ring gently inside the head of Mark Zuckerberg. They should be blaring for Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The management guru and all-round media darling has staked her reputation on hanging to the likes of Amy during this bumpy transitional
period for Facebook. The worry for Sandberg is that Amy is not some weary Facebook veteran. She has been on the site for only a year. She is not a recent graduate who no longer has the time to spend her mornings on Facebook while eating left over Chinese takeaway in a dorm room. Facebook, like a child’s discarded rubex cube, has been picked up by the parents. This is, for the most part, out of the need to keep an eye on their children’s online activity, but is also driven by a desire to reconnect with old
June 2013 Homepage 17 colleagues and friends. However, despite the initial surge of interest among middle-aged groups, there are signs that this too is subsiding. Elizabeth Charnely, a business woman from Dun Laoghaire says she uses Facebook to monitor her daugh-
“At first it was nice to catch up with old contacts, but after a while you begin to remember why you it left so long to contact them in the first place.” ter’s account, but began to look for old friends in the process. “I searched for my friend and up her profile popped, so that is when I thought that I could really benefit from having Facebook,” she said. This surge in more mature Facebook users has also tailed off. “I kept my account
active for a year but I have not logged on in over three months,” Elizabeth said. “At first it was nice to catch up with old contacts, but after a while you begin to remember why you it left so long to contact them in the first place. Plus, it is nice not to have an active digital footprint.” Rashid Bhut found life in Ireland very lonely after he moved from Lahore, Pakistan. For Rashid, Facebook was how he kept in touch with friends and family back in Pakistan, but his usage tailed off when other options became available to him. “Skype and Twitter all emerge and they are easier and faster,” he explained. “There are also less pop ups and with Skype I get to see my family and friends’ faces.” Rashid also said he felt his privacy was being invaded by Facebook. “I was asked at an interview whether or not I had an account, I told them I did not and deleted it later,” he said. “I am uneasy with someone using my account as a means to investigate or spy on me.” The loyalty of Rashid’s and Elizabeth’s age group has absorbed much of the losses from the teenage demographic, but this is not sustainable. For starters, the sheen is coming off Facebook for this age group too. Secondly, and most importantly, Facebook has always been about youth, vitality and constant evolution through the power of its young users. These young people are streaming away
from Facebook to other social networks and this is a problem. Many in the tech world argue that while there is certain weariness with Facebook, the real drift away stems from the fact that Facebook have stagnated while others have innovated. Twitter has increased its popularity, not only attracting Facebook’s users but also people who prior to Twitter did not engage with social media.
“I was asked at an interview whether or not I had an account, I told them I did not and deleted it later.” Pheed, a Twitter-come Instagram-come-YouTube hybrid, that originally attracted creative types, added a million new users in February. While Facebook regularly point out that the number of users is now well past one billion the number daily active users’ stands at 618 million. Further evidence of a worrying decline can be seen in the UK, where the number of Facebook’s users dropped by 600,000 in December. Paradoxically Facebook needs to go back to first principles in order to move forward. The once seemingly unstoppable juggernaut now stands at crossroads, innovate or die.
Niall Byrne, the man behind Irelandâ€™s most read music blog Nialler9, tells Homepage how it all started and what it takes to stand out in todayâ€™s overcrowded blogosphere.
Photo: Mathew Thompson Homepagemagazine.indd 18
June 2013 Homepage 19
By Ciaran Maguire
ith a monthly readership of 35,000, IADT graduate Niall Byrne is celebrated as Ireland’s top music blogger and his site Nialler9.com is widely regarded as one of the world’s top music blogs. Byrne’s reputation is built on a set of skills that many of today’s bloggers take for granted. While others have allowed their chosen platform to write the code, design the page and embed their links, all with a click of a mouse, Byrne did it the hard way, using his web design skills to craft his own website. After considering what direction the site would take, Nialler9 was launched in 2005. “I was always sharing music with my friends and recommending things to check out, so I said, ‘I’ll start the site and see how it goes’,” Byrne said. “It Homepagemagazine.indd 19
really took off, which meant I didn’t have to keep hassling my mates about music all the time. If they wanted to look at something they could just check the blog.”
“It’s really interesting to be on the ground level to see people start and then watch them take over.” Looking back at the early stages of the blog, Byrne wishes he hadn’t called it after himself. “It’s like the Bon Jovi thing,” he said. “I always thought he was an asshole for calling a band after himself.” Informally recognised as the discoverer of The Villagers’ Conor O’Brien, Byrne says that recognising talent early gives him the greatest satisfaction. “It’s really
nice to watch the trajectory of bands that you cover, and see them take off internationally,” he said. “It’s also really interesting to be on the ground level to see how people start and then watching them take over and move into a much larger or more popular audience.” Byrne admits that being a blogger is a lonely endeavour, but says the most enjoyable thing about the blog has been the same since the beginning. “It’s being able to share the thing that you’re really passionate about – that’s why I do it.” Talking about his offline existence, Byrne says he gets great fulfilment from being recognised by one of his readers on the street. “It reminds you that the numbers [of page views] online are real people, so that’s really nice.” 16/05/2013 16:16
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Byrne says you have got to do something different to make sure you stand out from the crowd and admits that if he was starting out today, he probably wouldn’t create a blog. “I’d figure out another way of covering whatever it may be using a different format,” he said. “But I think the most important thing is having an idea that you’re willing to work on consistently and develop so that you’re not just another website. “I’ve been doing this seven years and it’d be rare that I wouldn’t go a day without posting something. But it’s still about quality for me – now more than ever.” Ireland’s internet culture lags behind the rest of the world but Byrne thinks change is afoot. “We are a small country after all, but I think it’s slowly getting there,” he said. “We’re getting more and more Irish stuff being mentioned and covered abroad, be it music, film, Homepagemagazine.indd 20
culture or design, but if you’re small, it’s hard to make a big dent.” This change has seen a distinct online Irish identity emerge with a number of innovative and new websites taking the lead.
“Things like Broadsheet are creating an Irish identity online and I think that was kind of lacking in the last five years.” “One thing I’ve definitely noticed in the last year or two has been a real online Irish culture emerging,” Byrne said. “Things like Broadsheet are creating an Irish identity online and I think that was kind of lacking in the last five years.” When starting up or aiming to develop your blog, Byrne thinks it’s important to focus on building
your “brand”. This has been a major driver of his own success and is something every new website needs to be conscious of. “I was able to create an identity and look different to all the other websites that were starting up, so that really helped me,” he said. “It’s something a lot of Irish websites didn’t do over the last four or five years, but now I think people are making more of an effort to develop their brand and that’s a good thing. “There’s some really impressive looking sites out there at the moment and that’s what more people should be doing –exploring different avenues.” Despite the pressures of keeping a blog updated on a daily basis, Byrne says it’s important to never lose your passion and always remember why you first started. “You don’t want to listen to music and lose that first rush you get when something’s amazing.” 16/05/2013 16:16
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“It’s being able to share the thing that you’re really passionate about – that’s why I do it.”
Photo: Mathew Thompson Homepagemagazine.indd 21
22 Homepage June 2013
BEHIND By Nevan Riley
ne of the most recognisable voices in Ireland’s online scene, Broadsheet.ie has been successfully distracting people from getting any work done since 2010. After coming on board to help set up the website, Karl Monaghan is now a well known contributor in the Broadsheet community. “They told me there was a day’s work in it and here I am two-and-a-half years later.”
Broadsheet now attracts over three million unique visitors and has generated over 29 million page views. Almost 15,000 people have commented on the website in the last year, totalling over 205,000 comments – an average of 14 comments per user. Amazingly, 13 users account for over 30,000 of those comments, with one fanatic commenting over 6,500 times.
“There’s no real secret to it,” Monaghan said. “We just do lots of work to source and publish content and hope that something will explode virally, like the Smithfield horse fair. But it’s still hard to predict what will catch people’s fancy. Some things I was sure would be very popular which flopped miserably, while other things have a life long after you’d expect them to disappear, like the pictures of Stephen Ireland’s house from two years ago.”
June 2013 Homepage 23 Facebook and Twitter are responsible for the lion’s share of traffic to the website, proving that when it comes to growing your audience, there is no substitute for producing quality, shareworthy content. Monaghan says that it is this dedication to content that has driven Broadsheet’s success. According to Monaghan, the website receives between 7080 emails a day from people submitting content, on top of messages from Twitter and Facebook. “Everything does get looked at,” he said. “There’d often be the same thing submitted if it’s particularly viral that day. “While there is stuff reposted from elsewhere on the internet – and not just from Reddit as some commentators would have you believe – we do get enough fresh content from the submitters to give it a uniquely Irish feel.” While much of the content on the site is light-hearted fare delivered in typical tonguein-cheek fashion, the site has also addressed a number of important political issues. “When we do something serious, people usually sit up and pay attention a little bit more, because it mightn’t
be what they normally expect. But Broadsheet gives us great latitude to do both,” Monaghan said. “You can have a serious post of whatever the hot issue of the day is and follow it up with something different, like a time lapse of earth from the space station.”
house for several days.” Broadsheet’s audience has grown to such an extent that advertisers have begun to approach the site with offers, but Monaghan says they are wary of alienating their audience. “Down the line there probably will be more advertising, but it won’t be overwhelming,” he said. “If we went too heavy “When we do down the advertising route we would lose a lot of our audisomething serious, ence; obviously they don’t people usually sit up want to come to a website and pay attention.” that is plastered with ads.” The growth of the audience has meant that it is impossible While not overtly political, to please everyone, but MonMonaghan says they do feel aghan thinks there is enough the need to draw their read- content on Broadsheet to ers’ attention to certain sto- please a wide variety of peories if they feel they aren’t ple. getting enough attention in “If one person likes somethe mainstream media. “Last thing, you can be guaranteed year we had the copyright somebody else doesn’t,” he law Sean Sherlock was push- said. “The ‘Things That Look ing through,” Monaghan said. Like Ireland’, the bad park“That was flying under the ra- ing and the iPad camera stuff dar in much of the media and are prime examples of this. I don’t think people realised People would complain in the what was being proposed. comments but we’d still get “Something like the Kate a heap of submissions every Fitzgerald story with the Irish time one is posted up. Times, that story could have “It’s like the guys who wrote languished in some corner of the Fast Show used to say: ‘If Reddit, rather than on Broad- you don’t like it, there’ll be ansheet where it was front of other one along in a second.’”
Broadsheet stats 326,603 comments since the site began 205,229 in the last year
14,381 people have commented in the last year.
A commenter leaves an average of 14.27 112,630 in the previous comments year
6,885 people have commented just once in the last year.
The top 13 posters have made 30,296 comments
1,746 have posted more than 15 times
The top commenter has made 6,576 comments
369 have posted more than 100 times
24 Homepage June 2013
Jobs for the boys The tech sector is the future of the Irish â€“ and global â€“ economy; a place where creativity and innovation are rewarded. Why is it that this vibrant and modern sector is almost entirely dominated by men? Cianan Brennan talks to those in the know and looks at the grassroots efforts aiming to correct the imbalance.
June 2013 Homepage 25
career in technology has never been more lucrative or attractive. Ireland has attracted some of the world’s biggest players and has a bustling start-up scene, yet the technological world has a mismatch; an overt gender bias. Particularly at executive level women aren’t taking to technology as befits the fastest growing industry on the planet. Ireland is not alone in this. The US and the UK – western cultures with much in common with our own – display very similar gender take-up in the tech field. Catherine Cronin, head of online IT programmes in NUI Galway, is a passionate proponent of women in technology. She thinks ‘gender socialisation’ is a large part of the problem – that is that boys and girls are socialised differently. From the moment they are born, girls and boys are even colour-coded differently. “In western culture the mascu-
line gender identity is associated with many things that define technology,” Cronin said. “So, an ability with technology, logic, left-brain thinking, tools etc. – All these things are associated with males.” A reluctance to follow technological career paths ends up being something subconscious for young women. This leads to what is known as a ‘leaky pipeline’ in academic circles, meaning that despite mentoring and encouragement, women are dropping off the tech radar because of pressure to conform with cultural notions regarding gender. “It’s a masculine culture and anything you do outside those norms is visible and may not be received well,” Cronin said. “We need information to enlighten young girls, but even more importantly, the culture needs to be changed. Some schools, organisations and companies have recognised this and they’re creating different kinds of work environments, less traditional and more gender-neutral.
But certainly a lot more needs to be done.” The imbalance is most keenly felt at executive level. Though there are many women in highprofile roles at tech companies (Meg Whitman at Hewlett Packard and Karen Quintos at Dell being two examples), a recent CNN survey of five prominent tech companies in California’s Silicon Valley found that up to 93 per cent of employees in senior roles were male, with the statistics being similarly skewed towards the female as one descended the ranks to administrative level. Ireland isn’t in any worse a position than the UK or the United States. “The proportion of women working in IT in Ireland is 15 per cent,” says Cronin. “That’s very low, but is generally in line with those cultures we most resemble. China boasts the highest proportion with a 40 per cent participation rate. “I would actually think Ireland has every opportunity to break the status quo because our social culture is so friendly and inclusive. Anecdotal evidence would suggest however, that we have a long way to go.”
26 Homepage June 2013 Cronin doesn’t advocate gender quotas as a solution in terms of employment, rather she believes in a system of consciousness-raising and education. “The gender disparity seen at the top levels of many institutions, not just tech, is what’s known as ‘structural inequality’ and there’s a lot of literature on it,” she said.
big organisations. I really think it’s terrific,” Cronin said. A visit to CoderDojo in Drogheda is an eye-opening experience. 70 children sit in rapt attention, focused on their laptop screens as mentors keep a watchful eye over them. The fourth Dojo set up worldwide, web developer and mentor Louise Maher says that it is not just a hit with the children, but with their parents too. “We need more “The kids are so keen,” she women making said. “Parents who have kids that are interested in tech are the solutions that given a forum for them to understand their children better. define our world” “It’s peer-based learning, so there are no boundaries, no diWhen it comes to gender edu- visions and no hierarchy,” she cation Cronin is a passionate said. “And some of these kids advocate of CoderDojo, a vol- are so talented that we’ve aluntary initiative set up by web ready had one girl get a game in guru Bill Liao and 19-year-old the App Store. So our next aim James Whelton in 2011. is to have the youngest app deCoderDojo’s aim is simple: to veloper on record.” educate children aged from six If technology is a field very to 16 in coding and introduce much split along gender lines, them to the world of technology it does seem there is hope for in a non-hierarchical, gender- a more equal future. Cronin inneutral space. There are now sists that there has to be. “Di180 Dojos worldwide,with one versity works, both in terms of for nearly every city and town in culture and gender. We need Ireland. more women in diverse groups “Peripheral spaces like Coder- making the solutions that define Dojo can really create genuine our world. It’s better for everychange that ripples in, as op- one, and it’s most certainly betposed to creating changes in ter for tech.”
CoderDojo’s 2013 global conference hit Slane Castle on April 12. One of the major themes of the conference was women and girls in technology and there was a deliberate 50:50 gender split in the speakers, an unheard of situation for a technology event. With Dojo founders James Whelton and Bill Liao also on the speakers list and companies such as Google and Dell having stands at the event, gender balance is definitely on the agenda for the tech sector.
Sports // Health // Food
28 Homepage June 2013
In a league of his own After ten years writing about boyhood club Arsenal, Arseblog founder Andrew Mangan has proved that you can teach an old blog new tricks. By Cianan Brennan
ndrew Mangan epitomises the saying “write what you know.” A dyed-inthe-wool Arsenal fan, there was only thing on his mind when he decided to set up a personal blog. “I was trying to learn web design so I needed something I could update regularly,” Mangan says. “A football club is something that generates regular content, so Arsenal seemed an obvious place to start.” Mangan’s fanaticism and love of his club shone through in his writing. After little or no promotion Arseblog started to attract followers. “I couldn’t even tell you how momentum was built up initially,” he says. “But after three or four months I started to realize I was steadily building up commenters and web traffic, with a couple of hundred views a day.” The site itself has grown
from just the blog to incorporate other elements such as a weekly podcast, video content, a news stream and live blogs of every game, along with guest contributors from across the footballing mediascape. “You have to look at the new stuff, and new forms of content so that people don’t get bored,” Mangan said. “We’re always trying new things. There’s no plan for world domination but there are always new ideas, some of which will work and some of which won’t.” Mangan doesn’t make his primary living from Arseblog, but it is becoming a bigger
part of his income. “The site itself isn’t a real money-spinner, but now we have sponsorship with the likes of Paddy Power, ad revenue and of course the book which was a great success,” Mangan says. “It’s very difficult to make a living blogging because, while you might find your niche, finding enough people who care about that niche to pay for it is another thing entirely. You probably could make a sort of living, but personally I need to supplement that income with other stuff. “This started as a hobby, a thing of pleasure, and at its core that’s what it still is. The success was all about timing really. When I started there were simply no other Arsenal blogs – now there are thousands. Getting in on the ground floor certainly helped.”
June 2013 Homepage 29
Stretch your stress away with office yoga
bullying, to the negative effects the “Big Brother” age has in store for us. “It’s important to turn everything off for a while and to simply be. Computers distract people from dealing with reality and true emotions, not to mention the physical strain on the body including back problems and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.” So what is the secret to finding a happy balance in our internetobsessed lives? O’Connor adHealth blogger vises her clients to take regular five-minute breaks away from stead of real life. Sinead O’Connor Started in January 2010, their screen and do one of the says to step away O’Connor’s blog has received breathing and stretching techfrom the computer a positive response, with two niques she teaches. her entries published in US Hush Yoga classes cater for all and focus on the now of yoga magazines, “Om Yoga” levels and she even offers classes in the workplace, highlightand “Elephant Journal”. By Orlagh McCarron “After facing my fear of writing ing the importance she places I began to enjoy blogging,” she on time-out from the computer f you have ever tried to tune out said. “Video blogging is great screen. and turn down the noise gen- too. I can break down yoga “The consciousness of the erated by the constant stream of postures so people can practice world is expanding and yoga news feeds, information and on- them at home, which is espe- lends itself to people who are line conversations that flood our cially good for beginners. Blogs interested in learning how to exdigitally-enhanced lives, you’ll are all about giving that little pand the mind beyond the norms know it’s no easy task. bit extra and the return is the of technology and education,” Yoga teacher and “Hush Yoga” knowledge that someone else is O’Connor says. “It is a way to blogger, Sinead O’Connor, wor- benefiting from it.” get away from all that and come ries that people are isolating O’Connor is concerned about back to what is important – your themselves more and more, and the long-term effects of social body, mind, family, community, finding solace in cyberspace in- media -- from ADD and cyber- care for others.”
Three easy steps to beat the computer slouch To loosen shoulders and tight upper back roll shoulders forwards and backwards a few times. Head rolls will release tension in neck and upper back.
Stretch back by sitting on chair and folding the torso over legs and let the body and arms hang. This stretches the spine and is especially good for tightness in lower back.
Release tension across upper back from typing by interlinking fingers behind your back and pulling the hands away from the body and down at same time.
30 Homepage June 2013
A blog about crisps “Reviewing as many different types of crisp as possible, until we run out of varieties or die from doing so.” By Edel Maher
reland has a love affair with crisps. Mr Tayto is a national icon and we even have crispflavoured chocolate. Nowhere is this lust for crisps better displayed than on the pages of “A Blog About Crisps”. This tasty web log is dedicated to all things crisp-like, reviewing crisps of all varieties, flavours, shapes and sizes. They start their reviews with some philosophical rambles on a random topic, then go onto describe, in fine, mouth-watering detail, and with their own infinite wisdom, their opinion of each crisp. Crisp bloggers Mark and Deano decided to create their blog after a near death experience gave them a new appreciation of their crunchable friend. “The idea came to Mark one evening while he was famished and all he had
to eat was a pack of Meanies. They actually saved his life,” Deano explained. After this they were left with no choice but to share their love and admiration of crisps with the world. After all, it’s not everyone who can claim crisps to be their saviour. The love of crisps has been engrained in the boys’ lives since they were young chaps looking to stretch that 20p as far as it could in the shop. “Most people love crisps, especially the old 5p and 10p bags,” Mark said. “The variety of crisps in Ireland today is ridiculous and the fact there was a blog on everything except crisps was a damn shame.” This huge variety of crisps has given the lads a huge amount of material to work with, but they never thought the blog would be as popular as it is today. “We didn’t anticipate it growing as quickly as it did, but we we’re happy to roll with it,” Mark said. “It also kind of coincided with crisp companies deciding to release luxury brand crisps which gave us even more reviewing.” The lads describe themselves as “lazy bloggers” and admit that being consistent is the most challenging part of managing their blog. Despite that, the boys love engaging with their audience and have developed a loyal following. “We love getting feedback from people who read the blog,” Mark said. “It’s brilliant to hear about other people’s love of crisps and that they actually enjoy what we write.” 16/05/2013 16:16
OCT 30 & 31 2013
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Publication from the MA Journalism class of 2013 at Independent College, Dublin. Homepage is a technology mag with a difference. It focuses...