Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

August 30 2012

13:13

The Rise of Ad-Hoc Journalist Support Networks

Journalistic collaboration isn't just something that happens between newsrooms. Increasingly, journalists working outside of traditional news organizations are coming together to support each other in a range of ways, from offering safety advice when covering protests to sharing news tips, local resource recommendations and more.

Safety in Numbers

"When ecosystems change and inflexible institutions collapse," Clay Shirky wrote in a post on his blog, "their members disperse, abandoning old beliefs, trying new things, making their living in different ways than they used to." In the news industry, an ecosystem is emerging that's fueled by independent and citizen reporters, along with a new generation of small non-profit news sites. These new journalistic entities are putting themselves on the line without the kind of legal, administrative or technological support of major newsrooms.

"Journalists who work for big institutions will continue to have better protections," Rebecca Rosen noted in The Atlantic almost a year ago, "not because of laws that protect them but because of the legal power their companies can buy." That means journalists outside such institutions need networks of support to provide protection for them, and for the work they do.

The lack of support and protection for journalists has made this one of the most deadly and dangerous times to be an independent journalist. The International News Safety Institute lists almost 90 journalists and media staff who have been killed in 2012 alone. The Committee to Protect Journalists found that of the 179 journalists imprisoned worldwide in 2011, 86 were digital journalists and 78 were freelancers. Here in the U.S. nearly 90 journalists have been arrested or detained in the past year, and in state after state citizens have scuffled with police over their right to record. As these statistics make clear, in journalism's changing ecosystem, networks that provide protections for journalists are essential.

Emerging Networks

reporters-protest.jpgIn my work tracking press suppression and journalist arrests I'm beginning to see some of those networks emerging. For example, in the week leading up to the NATO summit, a group of independent journalists organized a Google Group email list to share information and connect on the ground in Chicago. Roughly 50 journalists from all over the world joined the list, and in the days leading up to the protests they used it to plan their coverage, share local tips (like this map of places to buy camera equipment in a pinch), and socialize. As the protests swung into high gear, the list was alive with posts from people comparing notes, sharing where the action was, and helping each other confirm details or track down sources.

Joe Macera, a local Chicago journalist who works with Truthout and the Occupied Chicago Tribune, set up the NATO email list in hopes of connecting journalists around the nation to local Chicago independent media. One member of the list, Aaron Cynic, said via email that he found it useful for journalistic support and collaboration, but also for legal support. He said the list was helpful for "creating solidarity between us, fostering relationships, sharing information and photos, and also, getting information to the NLG [National Lawyers Guild] to help with people that had been arrested." Another member of the list, Ryan Williams, lamented via email the lack of diversity on the list, but acknowledged that "the list was great ... as a networking resource, and as a good early warning system for developing stories."

Journalists used the list for everything from meeting up for dinner to providing information on movements of marches and protests. Kevin Gosztola, another list member, pointed out via email, "You could run questions by others, ask what to do next if you hit a roadblock, inform others of something that happened that you think is an abuse of power, etc." After NATO, the members decided to keep it going as a forum and network for journalists who are covering protests, Occupy and a related set of issues. (Disclosure: I have been on the email list since before the NATO summit, using it to monitor reports of press suppression at protests.)

Rising Solidarity

The NATO email list was unique as it merged online and offline components and was truly ad-hoc in nature. Other networks that have emerged tend to occupy either an online or offline space, but rarely both. The local meet-ups by Hacks/Hackers and Online News Association chapters that have developed and spread quickly across the country (and world) are great examples of how local journalists are connecting and collaborating in person to support their work. Online, Twitter chats like #WJCHAT and the email and blog network Carnival of Journalism represent the digital equivalent of such collaboration where journalists are debating critical issues about the field, sharing lessons about their work, and supporting each other.

Both online and off, these new networks are designed to provide something the journalism ecosystem is largely lacking: solidarity. In a passionate post, Bryan Westfall, an independent journalist in the Bay Area, writes, "The work we do in these circles is up against something violent, self serving, and relentless ... we need each other in a way that must be personal in a way no version of simple 'networking' could ever be."

Many independent and freelance journalists I talk to describe feeling isolated in their work. "We need to continue to foster that solidarity," Cynic told me. "We don't have the same resources or protections as corporate media -- all we have is each other."

Networking with the Audience

During a recent Free Press webinar Pool, one of the best-known livestream journalists who has covered Occupy protests for the last year, said, "The Internet is my fixer." He was referring to the way his audience would step up during his coverage to help get him out of a bind, whether it was to get him food or water or a spare battery. Indeed, the webinar itself was designed less as a formal panel and more as an open conversation, drawing on the legal and safety expertise of the panelists but complementing that with personal stories and advice from the audience. The event helped connect independent journalists before the Republican and Democratic national conventions and foster more ad-hoc networks of support. This highlights the potential of new networks that enable audience members to become media allies -- both part of the journalistic process and advocates or defenders for that process.

More is Needed

To remake journalism, we need to build new networks of resiliency for the future of news. When we talk about the journalistic resources we have lost in recent years we tend to focus almost exclusively on the number of jobs lost, not on the capacity of the entire field to fight for the First Amendment, protect each other and our reporting, and support experimentation and eventually sustainability. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no comprehensive effort to map the needs of the new journalism ecosystem in these terms. Perhaps now is the time.

Josh Stearns is a journalist, organizer and community strategist. He is Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director for Free Press, a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization working to reform the media through education, organizing and advocacy. He was a co-author of "Saving the News: Toward a national journalism strategy," "Outsourcing the News: How covert consolidation is destroying newsrooms and circumventing media ownership rules," and "On the Chopping Block: State budget battles and the future of public media." Find him on Twitter at @jcstearns.

Photo above by Flickr user Paul Weiskel.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

April 25 2012

14:00

52 Applicants Move to Next Round of Knight News Challenge

The Knight Foundation has selected 52 applicants that will move onto the next stage of its News Challenge.

klogo.jpg

There's a theme you'll see running through the proposals that have made it thus far -- namely, networking. That's because networks are the focus of this year's first round. (The Knight News Challenge now offers three rounds instead of one competition per year.)

What sort of networks? "The Internet, and the mini-computers in our pockets, enable us to connect with one another, friends and strangers, in new ways," Knight's John Bracken wrote in a release when the round was first announced. "We're looking for ideas that build on the rise of these existing network events and tools -- that deliver news and information and extend our understanding of the phenomenon."

Consultant Ryan Jacoby wrote further about some of the trends he saw among applicants. You can read more about that here.

Here's the list of who's moving onward to the next round of the challenge (49 are listed because two were closed entries so we're not able to share them):

Amauta (Eric French)

Asia Beat (Jeffrey Wasserstrom/Angilee Shah)

Bridging the Big Data Digital Divide (Dan Brickley)

Change the Ratio (Rachel Sklar)

CitJo (Sarah Wali/Mahamad El Tanahy)

Connecting the global Hacks/Hackers network (Burt Herman, Hacks/Hackers)

Connecting the World with Rural India (Brian Conley)

Cont3nt.com (Anton Gelman/Daniel Shaw)

Cowbird (Jonathan Harris/Aaron Huey)

Data Networks are Local (Erik Gundersen, Development Seed)

DifferentFeather (Elana Berkowitz/Amina Sow)

DIY drone fleets (Ben Moskowitz/Jack Labarba)

Docs to WordPress to InDesign (William Davis, Bangor Daily News)

Electoral College of Me (John Keefe/Ron Williams)

EnviroFact (Beth Parke/Chris Marstall)

Funf.org: Open Mobile Sourcing (Nadav Aharony/Alan Gardner; MIT)

Global Censorship Monitoring System (Ruben Bloemgarten, James Burke, Chris Pinchen)

Google News for the Social Web (Sachim Kandar, Andrew Montalenti, Parse.ly)

Hawaii Eco-Net (Jay April, Maui Community Television)

Hypothes.is (Dan Whaley/Randall Leeds)

IAVA New GI Bill Veterans Alumni Network Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (Paul Rieckhoff)

m.health.news.network (Marcus Messner and Yan Jin)

MediaReputations.com (Anton Gelman/Daniel Shaw)

Mesh Potato 2.0 (Steve Song/David Rowe)

Mobile Publishing for Everyone (David Jacobs/Blake Eskin/Natalie Podrazik)

NOULA (Tayana Etienne)

Peepol.tv (Eduardo Hauser/Jeff Warren)

PreScouter (Dinesh Ganesarajah)

Prozr (Pueng Vongs/Sherbeam Wright)

Rbutr (Shane Greenup/Craig O'Shannessy)

Recovers.org (Caitria O'Neill/Alvin Liang)

Secure, Anonymous Journalism Toolkit (Karen Reilly)

Sensor Networks for News (Matt Waite, University of Nebraska)

Shareable (Seth Schneider and Neal Gorenflo)

Tethr (Aaron Huslage/Roger Weeks)

The PressForward Dashboard (Dan Cohen/ Joan Fragaszy Troyano, George Mason University)

ThinkUpApp (Gina Trapani/Anil Dash)

Tracks News Stories (David Burrows, designsuperbuild.com)

Truth Goggles (Dan Schultz)

Truth Teller (Cory Haik/Steven Ginsberg, Washington Post)

Unconsumption Project (Rob Walker/Molly Block)

UNICEF GIS (Joseph Agoada, UNICEF)

Watchup (Adriano Farrano/Jonathan Lundell)

Water Canary (Sonaar Luthra/Zach Eveland)

A Bridge Between WordPress and Git (Robert McMillan / Evan Hansen)

In the Life (Joe Miloscia, American Public Media)

Get to the Source (Joanna S. Kao/MIT)

Farm-to-Table School Lunch (Leonardo Bonanni, Sourcemap)

Partisans.org (Michael Trice)

Protecting Journalists (Diego Mendiburu and Ela Stapley)

What do you think about the finalists? Who are your favorites and who do you think should win?

March 13 2012

16:11

How to be a curation editor (aka network journalist)

Locals and Tourists #23: Stockholm, by Eric Fischer

I’ve always been interested in the way that journalists rely on ‘hotspots’: those places and people you check in on if you’re looking for a story. What do I mean? Here are just a few examples from traditional journalism:

  • The courts
  • The emergency services
  • The pub (and its landlord)
  • Council meetings
  • The local vicar
  • The post office (think cards in the window)

What’s notable about that list is that these are not places where news events necessarily happen, but rather where information about them gets exchanged: crimes, fires and accidents take place all over town, but most of their perpetrators, heroes and victims eventually end up swapping stories in the same places. Pubs are great places for gossip (and fights), but you can’t be there all the time (and keep your job at least).

See something or say something: Amsterdam  Red dots are locations of Flickr pictures. Blue dots are locations of Twitter tweets. White dots are locations that have been posted to both.

As more information gets exchanged online, new hotspots appear and old ones become less productive, from a journalistic point of view. Vicars deal with fewer births and marriages; cards move from the post office window to Freecycle.

I’ve written previously about network infrastructures for journalists online

A network infrastructure for journalists online

…but I wanted to add to that with some more specific, practical steps for journalists. So over on Help Me Investigate I’ve written a guide to 7 pools of sources you can use as a journalist, and how they can inform your real-world digging. These are the new ‘hotspots’.

In case you haven’t got time to click through to that post, those 7 are:

  1. Prepackaged news
  2. Corridors of power
  3. Events
  4. Reluctant disclosures
  5. Reports, research and consultations
  6. Affected communities
  7. Experts and observers

Can you add any others?

16:11

How to be a curation editor (aka network journalist)

Locals and Tourists #23: Stockholm, by Eric Fischer

I’ve always been interested in the way that journalists rely on ‘hotspots’: those places and people you check in on if you’re looking for a story. What do I mean? Here are just a few examples from traditional journalism:

  • The courts
  • The emergency services
  • The pub (and its landlord)
  • Council meetings
  • The local vicar
  • The post office (think cards in the window)

What’s notable about that list is that these are not places where news events necessarily happen, but rather where information about them gets exchanged: crimes, fires and accidents take place all over town, but most of their perpetrators, heroes and victims eventually end up swapping stories in the same places. Pubs are great places for gossip (and fights), but you can’t be there all the time (and keep your job at least).

See something or say something: Amsterdam  Red dots are locations of Flickr pictures. Blue dots are locations of Twitter tweets. White dots are locations that have been posted to both.

As more information gets exchanged online, new hotspots appear and old ones become less productive, from a journalistic point of view. Vicars deal with fewer births and marriages; cards move from the post office window to Freecycle.

I’ve written previously about network infrastructures for journalists online

A network infrastructure for journalists online

…but I wanted to add to that with some more specific, practical steps for journalists. So over on Help Me Investigate I’ve written a guide to 7 pools of sources you can use as a journalist, and how they can inform your real-world digging. These are the new ‘hotspots’.

In case you haven’t got time to click through to that post, those 7 are:

  1. Prepackaged news
  2. Corridors of power
  3. Events
  4. Reluctant disclosures
  5. Reports, research and consultations
  6. Affected communities
  7. Experts and observers

Can you add any others?

16:11

How to be a curation editor (aka network journalist)

Locals and Tourists #23: Stockholm, by Eric Fischer

I’ve always been interested in the way that journalists rely on ‘hotspots’: those places and people you check in on if you’re looking for a story. What do I mean? Here are just a few examples from traditional journalism:

  • The courts
  • The emergency services
  • The pub (and its landlord)
  • Council meetings
  • The local vicar
  • The post office (think cards in the window)

What’s notable about that list is that these are not places where news events necessarily happen, but rather where information about them gets exchanged: crimes, fires and accidents take place all over town, but most of their perpetrators, heroes and victims eventually end up swapping stories in the same places. Pubs are great places for gossip (and fights), but you can’t be there all the time (and keep your job at least).

See something or say something: Amsterdam  Red dots are locations of Flickr pictures. Blue dots are locations of Twitter tweets. White dots are locations that have been posted to both.

As more information gets exchanged online, new hotspots appear and old ones become less productive, from a journalistic point of view. Vicars deal with fewer births and marriages; cards move from the post office window to Freecycle.

I’ve written previously about network infrastructures for journalists online

A network infrastructure for journalists online

…but I wanted to add to that with some more specific, practical steps for journalists. So over on Help Me Investigate I’ve written a guide to 7 pools of sources you can use as a journalist, and how they can inform your real-world digging. These are the new ‘hotspots’.

In case you haven’t got time to click through to that post, those 7 are:

  1. Prepackaged news
  2. Corridors of power
  3. Events
  4. Reluctant disclosures
  5. Reports, research and consultations
  6. Affected communities
  7. Experts and observers

Can you add any others?


Filed under: online journalism Tagged: Eric Fischer, network journalism, networks

February 09 2012

22:36

KNC 2.0: The Knight News Challenge revamps to quicken the pace of journalism innovation

Since last year we’ve known the Knight Foundation would be revamping their annual innovation contest to better meet the pace of change in technology and information. After completing its initial five-year run — which saw 12,000 applications and $27 million in funding to journalism and information projects — Knight said they would pull back and examine how they could continue to fund that kind of experimentation in the future.

Today we know a lot more about what that will look like. The biggest change is to the calendar: Instead of one big competition a year, there’ll be three in 2012. The new News Challenge is more topic-focused: Two of this year’s contests will seek projects on specific themes, with the third remaining a catchall. And Knight is going farther than ever before to widen the kinds of people who might apply: removing its requirement to open-source the project’s work and emphasizing it will take appeals from individuals, nonprofits, for-profits, and presumably any organizational structure on land or sea. (You can get an idea of the kind of, er, stylistic freedom they’re preaching in the 1992-fever-dream video above.)

The emphasis is on speed — competitions will last no more than 8-10 weeks each, rather than the October-to-June cycle of some previous iterations. The total amount of money at stake remains about the same as before: a total of $5 million in this first year of the new model, Michael Maness, Knight’s vice president of journalism and media innovation told me.

In the first installment of the new-look News Challenge, which opens Feb. 27 and closes on St. Patrick’s Day, the focus is on networks, a topic that’s purposefully broad. As they explained in the blog post introducing the new challenge:

There are a lot of vibrant networks and platforms, on- and off-line, that can be used to connect us with the news and information we need to make decisions about our lives. This challenge will not fund new networks. Rather, we’re asking you to describe ways you might use existing platforms to drive innovation in media and journalism.

When I asked Maness what that means, he said applicants should focus on how existing systems can be used to deliver information in new ways. Instead of coming to Knight with a pitch for the next Facebook, talk about how your proposal could use it better. “We’re saying there are already robust tools on the internet. Let’s use those,” Maness said. (Sorry, aspiring Zuckerbergs.)

For Knight, the networks that matter aren’t just your Facebooks and Twitters and Pinterests and LinkedIns. There’s also the network of Knight-funded projects, initiatives, and people. (A network that, full disclosure, includes this site, a Knight grantee.) Last year’s class of News Challenge winners included a number of projects that built on early News Challenge winners, and efforts like Knight’s “test kitchen” at Northwestern are aimed in part at assembling and recombining the pieces of other innovative efforts.

Other Knight grantees have long been a source of support and information for News Challenge winners, Maness said. But more broadly, those networks of existing technology and other platforms can be a stepping stone to success, and ultimately sustainability, he said. What Knight is saying, to a point, is your chances of making it increase if you aren’t starting from the ground floor, building something that might not have the momentum to survive once the funding runs out. “If something can grow and fend for itself it can have a broader impact,” Maness said.

By dropping the open-source requirement, Maness said the foundation can better help people on all ends of the spectrum, from early-stage projects to those that are already established. One example: a company that might need a nudge to get to the next level but don’t want to show their code just yet. But Maness said Knight still wants to encourage open-source development because that can help future projects and, on a philosophical level, is good for the web. “Ultimately our goal is social return on what we do, so [a project] has to be something that makes sense to what we’re trying to achieve,” he said.

The overarching message seems to be a desire to cast as wide a net as possible to spur innovation in journalism and community information. By pulling back on past restrictions, while emphasizing things like impact and scalability, Knight is also trying to be a smarter, more agile organization that can ensure a return (even if its not a monetary one) on their investments. In that same way, they also want to leverage the institutions, people, and technology that are already available in the world of journalism — especially those Knight helped lay the groundwork for.

And they want to do it fast — faster than a year at a time. “Over the course of five years, what started as being radical at the time…the speed of the Internet and disruption happened so much faster,” Maness said. “We wanted to focus on making a contest that was faster and more nimble.”

January 16 2012

20:49

Network knowledge

I’m a bit late in blogging about and urging you to read David Weinberger’s new book, Too Big to Know. That’s because I couldn’t find my oft-underlined, much-dogeared galley, which I soaked in as soon as I got it.

David is an intellectual hero of mine. He is a coauthor of the seminal work of net culture, The Cluetrain Manifesto. His subsequent books, Small Pieces, Loosely Joined and Everything is Miscellaneous taught me to look at the world differently (yes, it’s partly his fault) and to understand the changing architecture of relationships, information, and now knowledge. He is generous with his thoughts. He challenges me (when I presented Public Parts at Harvard, where David moderated, he pushed me to consider what I was saying about the relationship of ethics and norms and he likely influenced me to consider that as a next project … his fault, again). He is open and curious. He does this with charm and unwarranted but sincere self-deprecation. All that comes across in his books.

Knowledge is an awfully big topic, the biggest. As he started this project, I heard David fret over that. But he succeeded in bringing new perspective even to this. The nut of it:

As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us, and isn’t the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it. It’s not that the network is becoming a conscious super-brain. Rather, knowledge is becoming inextricable from — literally unthinkable witout — the network that enables it. Our task is to learn how to build smart rooms — that is, how to build networks that make us smarter, especially since, when done badly, networks can make us distressingly stupider.

I interpreted that through one of my favorite (and, sorry, oft-repeated) memes these days: the Gutenberg parenthesis. Among other things, it argues that before Gutenberg, knowledge was about preserving the wisdom of the ancients. In the Gutenberg parenthesis, knowledge sprung from contemporary authors, experts, and institutions. After the parenthesis, as I see Weinberger’s thesis, knowledge becomes province of the network. It isn’t resident only in single facts or artifacts (that is, books) but is a much more complex prism that can be seen from many angles and changes its appearance across them. Knowledge becomes less static, more living. David says it better:

Knowledge now lives not just in the skulls of individuals. Our skulls and our institutions are simply not big enough to contain knowledge. Knowledge is now a property of the network, and the network embraces businesses, governments, media, museums, curated collections, and minds in communication.

Knowledge until now was about creating and controlling scarcity. Up to now, says David, “[w]e’ve managed the fire hose by reducing the flow. We’ve done this through an elaborate system of editorial filters that have prevented most of what’s written from being published . . . Knowledge has been about reducing what we need to know.” But now, of course, information is abundant and only growing — multiplying — as we invent more ways to create and discover and capture and analyze and question. That’s what freaks the old — pardon my choice of word — sphincters of information, the controllers and owners of it. This conflict erupted when Gutenberg invented the printed book and scholars feared we’d end up with too many of them. It emerges again now that Berners-Lee has invented the web.

David grapples with the history of our perception of facts, then wrestles with the idea that we “are losing knowledge’s body: a comprehensible, masterable collection of ideas and works that together reflect the truth about the world. . . . We’ll still have facts. We’ll still have experts. We’ll still have academic journals. We’ll have everything except knowledge as a body. That is, we’ll have everything except what we’ve thought of as knowledge.”

Knowledge, he says, “has been an accident of paper.” We convinced ourselves that a set and knowable worldview was possible because the media into which we put our information created that comforting expectation. Same goes for news: “All the news that’s fit to print” is the greatest conceit imaginable: that everything that matters happens to fit in what we can afford to produce. We know so much better now.

These are profoundly disruptive ideas about ideas. It helps that they come from someone who presents them via doubt rather than dogma. David is, like me, essentially an optimist, but he sees the choices we have and the dangers that present themselves if we chose the wrong paths.

At the end, he examines the characteristics of the net and its knowledge: abundance (“The new abundance makes the old abundance look like scarcity”); links (“Links are subverting not just knowledge as a system of stopping points but also the credentialing mechanism that supported that system”); no need to get permission (“Let anyone publish whatever they want … and the Knowledge Club loses its value”); publicness (somebody ought to write a book about that); and the unresolved nature of questions (“The old enlightenment ideal was far more plausible when what we saw of the nattering world came through filters that hid the vast, disagreeable bulk of disagreement”). “What we have in common,” he concludes, “is not knowledge about which we agree but a shared world about which we will always disagree.”

So the idea that things will settle down and opinions will coalesce around shared facts once we get through this maelstrom of change is a fantasy born of experience but blown apart by the network. So will the future sound like the Fox-News-and-comment-snark present? It needn’t if we adapt our norms to a new reality and if, as David says, we build our networks well. That means building them around new opportunities, for example: “The solution to the information overload problem is to create more information: metadata.” We don’t need more filters, more gatekeepers, more mediators. We need smarter, bigger brains digging through more and better information. Don’t recreate old models. Disrupt them.

David concludes: “We thought that knowledge was scarce, when in fact it was just our shelves that were small. Our new knowledge is not even a set of works. It is an infrastructure of connection.”

Chew on those wires for a while.

September 26 2011

16:14

A network infrastructure for journalists online

For some years now, I have started every online journalism course I teach with an introduction to three key tools: RSS readers, social networks, and social bookmarking.

These are, I believe, the basis of a network infrastructure which few modern journalists – whatever their platform – can do without.

The word ‘network’ is key here – because I believe one of the fundamental changes that journalists have to adapt to in the 21st century is the move to networked modes of working.

Firstly, because the newsroom itself is becoming more networked with contributors situated outside of it (the increasingly collaborative nature of journalism).

Secondly, because sources are becoming more networked (formal organisations are increasingly complemented by ad hoc ones formed across Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on).

And finally, because distribution of news – which has both commercial and editorial implications – is reliant on networks outside of the journalist or their employer’s control.

When I describe the network infrastructure outlined below, I outline two levels: the tools themselves, and how they connect to each other. In an attempt to clarify that, I’ve created a diagram.

The icons in the diagram attempt to show clearly the purpose of each tool:

  • The exclamation mark representing RSS readers indicate that the tool is focused on monitoring what’s new;
  • The question mark representing social bookmarking indicate that that tool largely serves to answer questions, providing context and background
  • The facial expressions representing social networks indicate that this tool help provide access to sources who may have stories to tell (positive; negative) or who are asking important questions (confused).

Here is a further breakdown of each element, and how they connect to each other.

RSS Reader

As outlined above, this part of the structure is all about ‘What’s new?’ and is quite often the first thing a journalist checks at the start of the working day (indeed, it’s ideal for checking on a phone on the way to work). It is the modern equivalent of picking up the day’s newspapers and tuning into the first radio and TV broadcasts of the day.

The RSS Reader gathers news feeds from a range of sources. Here are just a few:

  • Formal news organisations
  • Journalistic blogs
  • Organisational blogs
  • Personal blogs of individuals in your field

In addition, an RSS reader allows you to follow customised feeds reporting any mention of key terms, organisations and individuals across a variety of platforms:

  • Google News
  • The blogosphere as a whole
  • Social bookmarking services such as Delicious
  • Forums
  • Microblogging services such as Twitter
  • Video sharing services such as YouTube
  • Photo sharing services such as Flickr
  • Audio sharing services such as Audioboo
  • Social networks such as Facebook Pages

This is how the RSS reader connects to the two other elements of the infrastructure: most social networks have RSS feeds of some kind, as do social bookmarking services (one of the reasons I prefer Delicious over other platforms is the fact that it has an RSS feed for every user, for every item bookmarked with a particular ‘tag’ (explained below), for tags by particular users and for any combination of tags.

These are explained in a bit more detail in my post on ‘Passive-Aggressive Newsgathering‘.

But if you can follow these feeds in an RSS reader, why use a social network at all?

Social networks

Why use a social network? To follow people, not just content, and because your own contributions to those networks are a key factor in gaining access to sources.

With many social networking platforms (Twitter, for example) you can of course find individual users’ RSS feeds in an RSS reader, or a feed of people you are ‘following’ – either of which you can subscribe to in an RSS reader. But there’s little point, and your RSS reader will soon become flooded with updates. Instead, you should use the RSS reader to follow subjects and add the individuals talking about those subjects to your social networks.

The social network provides an added level of serendipity to your newsgathering: increased opportunities to encounter leads, tips and stories that you would not otherwise encounter.

It is also a three-way medium: a platform for you to ask questions or invite experiences relevant to the story you are pursuing, or to follow the public conversations of others asking questions or sharing experiences.

Because of this focus on social networks as a serendipity engine, I adopt an approach of seeing Twitter as a ‘stream, not a pool’ – not worrying about following too many people but rather about following too few, but having my cake and eating it by using Lists as a filter for those I want to miss least.

The final use for social networks is often the first use that journalists think of: distribution. And it is here that social networking also connects to the other 2 parts of the network infrastructure.

If you read something interesting in your RSS reader and wish to share it across social networks, you can often do so with a single click – with a bit of preparation. Twitterfeed is a tool which will automatically tweet updates on your Twitter account – all you need to know is the RSS feed for the updates you want to share. If you’re using Google Reader, for example, that feed is on your Shared Items page.

To tweet something interesting you’ve seen in your RSS Reader all you have to do then is (in the case of Google Reader) click on the ‘Share’ button below that item.

Social bookmarking

The first two parts of the network infrastructure – an RSS reader and social networks – are about the initial stages of newsgathering; the first things you check at the start of a working day.

Social bookmarking, however, is about what you do with information from your RSS reader and social networks – and information you deal with throughout your day.

Today’s news is tomorrow’s context. And social bookmarking allows you to keep a record of that context to make it quickly accessible when needed.

That’s the bookmarking part. The social part also allows you to publish information at the same time as you store it; to discover what information other people with similar interests are bookmarking; and to discover which people are bookmarking similar things to you).

Because social bookmarking is the least immediate element of this network infrastructure, it is also the aspect which the fewest students get their heads around and actually use.

Yet it is, for me, perhaps the most useful element. It takes an upfront investment of time and the development of a habit which initially doesn’t have any obvious reward.

But when you’re up against a deadline and are able to retrieve a dozen useful reports, documents and people within minutes – then you’ll get it.

Here’s the process:

  1. You come across something of interest. It may be a useful article, blog post or official report in your RSS reader – or a document linked to by someone in your social network. You might encounter the thing of interest while working on a story. You may read it – you may not have time.
  2. You bookmark the specific webpage containing it using a service like Delicious. You add ‘tags’ to help you find it later: these might include:
    • the subjects of the webpage (e.g. ‘environment’, ‘health’),
    • its author or publisher (e.g. ‘paulbradshaw’, ‘OJB’),
    • specific organisations or individuals (‘nhs’, ‘davidcameron’),
    • the type of document (‘report’, ‘research’, ‘video’)
    • or information (‘statistics’, ‘contacts’),
    • and even tags you have made up which refer to a specific story or event (‘croatia11′)
  3. You can if you wish add ‘Notes’. Many people copy a key passage from the webpage here, such as a quote (if a passage is selected on the page it will be automatically entered, depending how you are bookmarking it) to help them remember more about the page and why it was important.
  4. You can also mark your bookmark as ‘private’. This means that no one else can see it – it becomes ‘non-social’.
  5. Once you save it, it becomes available for you to retrieve at a future date: a personal search engine of items you once encountered.

The key thing here is to think about how you might look for this in future, and make sure you use those tags. For example, the publisher might not seem important now, but if in future you need to re-read a certain report and can recall that it appeared in the FT, that will help you access it quickly.

UPDATE: I’ve written a post explaining how this works with a particular case study.

Remember also that tags can be combined, so if I want to narrow down my search to items that I bookmarked with both ‘UGC’ and ‘BBC’, I can find those at delicious.com/paulb/UGC+BBC.

This is one of the reasons why a social bookmarking service is more effective than an RSS reader. You can, for example, search your shared or starred items in Google Reader – and you can tag them also – but as you tend to get more results it is harder to find what you are looking for. The use and combination of tags in Delicious narrows things down very effectively – but equally importantly, it allows you to bookmark pages that do not appear in your RSS reader.

That said, if you cannot find what you are looking for in Delicious, Google Reader is another option. It is also worth using a backup service which provides another way to search your bookmarks.Trunk.ly is one that does just that.

Of course, the bookmark only points to the live webpage – and it may be that in future the page is moved, changed, or deleted. If you are dealing with that type of information it is worth copying it to another webspace (I use the quote option on Tumblr) or using a (generally paid-for) social bookmarking service that saves copies of the pages you bookmark (Diigo and Pinboard are just two)

Social bookmarking: networks and cross-publishing

One of the features of social bookmarking services is that you can follow the bookmarks of other users. In Delicious this is called your network – and it’s where social bookmarking not only connects to RSS readers but also becomes a form of social network. Here’s how you build your network:

  1. Look at your bookmarks. Next to each one will be a number indicating how many users have bookmarked this. If you click on this you will see a list of who bookmarked it, and when. (Alternatively, you could also look at all users using a particular tag – if you’re a health correspondent, for example, you might want to look at people who are tagging items with ‘NHS’). Click on any name to see all their public bookmarks.
  2. If you would like to follow that person’s future bookmarks (because they are bookmarking items which relate to your interests), click on ‘Add to my network’
  3. You will now be able to see their bookmarks – and those of anyone else you have added – on your ‘Network’ page. It is, essentially, a mini RSS reader.

Which is why I use Google Reader to follow my network’s bookmarks instead. Because at the bottom of your Delicious Network page is, of course, a link to an RSS feed. Right-click on this and copy the link, then paste it into your RSS reader and you don’t need to keep checking your Delicious Network separately to all your other RSS feeds.

Of course, if you find someone interesting on Delicious, you might find them interesting on Twitter or a blog. If they’ve edited their Delicious public profile (the one you found in step 1 above) it might include a link. Alternatively, there’s a good chance they’ve used the same username on other social networks – so search for them using that.

This is another example of how social bookmarking can connect to social networking.

Here’s another: you can use a service like Twitterfeed (explained above) to auto-publish every item you bookmark – or just those with a particular tag, or a combination of tags. Because Delicious provides RSS feeds for your bookmarks as a whole, those with a particular tag, and any combination of tags.

For example, anything I tag ‘t’ is automatically tweeted by Twitterfeed on my @paulbradshaw Twitter account. Anything I tag ‘hmitwt’ is tweeted the same way – but to my @helpmeinvestig8 account. Editor Marc Reeves uses the same service to tweet all of his bookmarks with “I’m reading…”.

You can use a Facebook app like RSS Graffiti to do the same thing on a Facebook page.

One process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting blog post on Google Reader
  2. Bookmark using Delicious – use a tag which is automatically tweeted
  3. Link auto-tweeted on Twitter

Conversely, if you want to automatically bookmark links that you share on Twitter, you can do so by signing up to Packrati.us. Tweeted links will be given the tag ‘packrati.us’ as well as any hashtags that you include in the same tweet (So a link tweeted with the hashtag ‘#crime’ will be tagged ‘crime’).

Another process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting link tweeted on Twitter
  2. Retweet it, adding relevant hashtags
  3. Link is auto-bookmarked on Delicious

Listen, connect, publish

This has turned out to be a long post – which is why I think the diagram is needed. The initial set up is simple: sign up to social networks and a social bookmarking service, and set up an RSS reader. Subscribe to feeds, and add people to your networks.

But once you’ve done the technical part, you need to develop the habit of listening and continuing to add to those networks: check your RSS feeds and networks every day (but know when to switch off), and look for new sources. Bookmark useful resources – articles, documents, reports, research and profile pages – and tag them effectively.

Finally, contribute to those networks and connect the different parts together so it is as easy as possible to gather, store, publish and distribute useful information.

As you start to understand the possibilities that RSS feeds open up, you also start to see all sorts of possibilities beyond this. A site like If This Then That (IFTTT) not only showcases those possibilities particularly effectively, it also makes them as easy as they’ve ever been

It is a small – and regular – investment of time. But it will keep you in touch with your field, lead you to new sources and new stories, and help you work faster and deeper in reporting what’s happening.

16:14

A network infrastructure for journalists online

For some years now, I have started every online journalism course I teach with an introduction to three key tools: RSS readers, social networks, and social bookmarking.

These are, I believe, the basis of a network infrastructure which few modern journalists – whatever their platform – can do without.

The word ‘network’ is key here – because I believe one of the fundamental changes that journalists have to adapt to in the 21st century is the move to networked modes of working.

Firstly, because the newsroom itself is becoming more networked with contributors situated outside of it (the increasingly collaborative nature of journalism).

Secondly, because sources are becoming more networked (formal organisations are increasingly complemented by ad hoc ones formed across Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on).

And finally, because distribution of news – which has both commercial and editorial implications – is reliant on networks outside of the journalist or their employer’s control.

When I describe the network infrastructure outlined below, I outline two levels: the tools themselves, and how they connect to each other. In an attempt to clarify that, I’ve created a diagram.

The icons in the diagram attempt to show clearly the purpose of each tool:

  • The exclamation mark representing RSS readers indicate that the tool is focused on monitoring what’s new;
  • The question mark representing social bookmarking indicate that that tool largely serves to answer questions, providing context and background
  • The facial expressions representing social networks indicate that this tool help provide access to sources who may have stories to tell (positive; negative) or who are asking important questions (confused).

Here is a further breakdown of each element, and how they connect to each other.

RSS Reader

As outlined above, this part of the structure is all about ‘What’s new?’ and is quite often the first thing a journalist checks at the start of the working day (indeed, it’s ideal for checking on a phone on the way to work). It is the modern equivalent of picking up the day’s newspapers and tuning into the first radio and TV broadcasts of the day.

The RSS Reader gathers news feeds from a range of sources. Here are just a few:

  • Formal news organisations
  • Journalistic blogs
  • Organisational blogs
  • Personal blogs of individuals in your field

In addition, an RSS reader allows you to follow customised feeds reporting any mention of key terms, organisations and individuals across a variety of platforms:

  • Google News
  • The blogosphere as a whole
  • Social bookmarking services such as Delicious
  • Forums
  • Microblogging services such as Twitter
  • Video sharing services such as YouTube
  • Photo sharing services such as Flickr
  • Audio sharing services such as Audioboo
  • Social networks such as Facebook Pages

This is how the RSS reader connects to the two other elements of the infrastructure: most social networks have RSS feeds of some kind, as do social bookmarking services (one of the reasons I prefer Delicious over other platforms is the fact that it has an RSS feed for every user, for every item bookmarked with a particular ‘tag’ (explained below), for tags by particular users and for any combination of tags.

These are explained in a bit more detail in my post on ‘Passive-Aggressive Newsgathering‘.

But if you can follow these feeds in an RSS reader, why use a social network at all?

Social networks

Why use a social network? To follow people, not just content, and because your own contributions to those networks are a key factor in gaining access to sources.

With many social networking platforms (Twitter, for example) you can of course find individual users’ RSS feeds in an RSS reader, or a feed of people you are ‘following’ – either of which you can subscribe to in an RSS reader. But there’s little point, and your RSS reader will soon become flooded with updates. Instead, you should use the RSS reader to follow subjects and add the individuals talking about those subjects to your social networks.

The social network provides an added level of serendipity to your newsgathering: increased opportunities to encounter leads, tips and stories that you would not otherwise encounter.

It is also a three-way medium: a platform for you to ask questions or invite experiences relevant to the story you are pursuing, or to follow the public conversations of others asking questions or sharing experiences.

Because of this focus on social networks as a serendipity engine, I adopt an approach of seeing Twitter as a ‘stream, not a pool’ – not worrying about following too many people but rather about following too few, but having my cake and eating it by using Lists as a filter for those I want to miss least.

The final use for social networks is often the first use that journalists think of: distribution. And it is here that social networking also connects to the other 2 parts of the network infrastructure.

If you read something interesting in your RSS reader and wish to share it across social networks, you can often do so with a single click – with a bit of preparation. Twitterfeed is a tool which will automatically tweet updates on your Twitter account – all you need to know is the RSS feed for the updates you want to share. If you’re using Google Reader, for example, that feed is on your Shared Items page.

To tweet something interesting you’ve seen in your RSS Reader all you have to do then is (in the case of Google Reader) click on the ‘Share’ button below that item.

Social bookmarking

The first two parts of the network infrastructure – an RSS reader and social networks – are about the initial stages of newsgathering; the first things you check at the start of a working day.

Social bookmarking, however, is about what you do with information from your RSS reader and social networks – and information you deal with throughout your day.

Today’s news is tomorrow’s context. And social bookmarking allows you to keep a record of that context to make it quickly accessible when needed.

That’s the bookmarking part. The social part also allows you to publish information at the same time as you store it; to discover what information other people with similar interests are bookmarking; and to discover which people are bookmarking similar things to you).

Because social bookmarking is the least immediate element of this network infrastructure, it is also the aspect which the fewest students get their heads around and actually use.

Yet it is, for me, perhaps the most useful element. It takes an upfront investment of time and the development of a habit which initially doesn’t have any obvious reward.

But when you’re up against a deadline and are able to retrieve a dozen useful reports, documents and people within minutes – then you’ll get it.

Here’s the process:

  1. You come across something of interest. It may be a useful article, blog post or official report in your RSS reader – or a document linked to by someone in your social network. You might encounter the thing of interest while working on a story. You may read it – you may not have time.
  2. You bookmark the specific webpage containing it using a service like Delicious. You add ‘tags’ to help you find it later: these might include:
    • the subjects of the webpage (e.g. ‘environment’, ‘health’),
    • its author or publisher (e.g. ‘paulbradshaw’, ‘OJB’),
    • specific organisations or individuals (‘nhs’, ‘davidcameron’),
    • the type of document (‘report’, ‘research’, ‘video’)
    • or information (‘statistics’, ‘contacts’),
    • and even tags you have made up which refer to a specific story or event (‘croatia11′)
  3. You can if you wish add ‘Notes’. Many people copy a key passage from the webpage here, such as a quote (if a passage is selected on the page it will be automatically entered, depending how you are bookmarking it) to help them remember more about the page and why it was important.
  4. You can also mark your bookmark as ‘private’. This means that no one else can see it – it becomes ‘non-social’.
  5. Once you save it, it becomes available for you to retrieve at a future date: a personal search engine of items you once encountered.

The key thing here is to think about how you might look for this in future, and make sure you use those tags. For example, the publisher might not seem important now, but if in future you need to re-read a certain report and can recall that it appeared in the FT, that will help you access it quickly.

UPDATE: I’ve written a post explaining how this works with a particular case study.

Remember also that tags can be combined, so if I want to narrow down my search to items that I bookmarked with both ‘UGC’ and ‘BBC’, I can find those at delicious.com/paulb/UGC+BBC.

This is one of the reasons why a social bookmarking service is more effective than an RSS reader. You can, for example, search your shared or starred items in Google Reader – and you can tag them also – but as you tend to get more results it is harder to find what you are looking for. The use and combination of tags in Delicious narrows things down very effectively – but equally importantly, it allows you to bookmark pages that do not appear in your RSS reader.

That said, if you cannot find what you are looking for in Delicious, Google Reader is another option. It is also worth using a backup service which provides another way to search your bookmarks.Trunk.ly is one that does just that.

Of course, the bookmark only points to the live webpage – and it may be that in future the page is moved, changed, or deleted. If you are dealing with that type of information it is worth copying it to another webspace (I use the quote option on Tumblr) or using a (generally paid-for) social bookmarking service that saves copies of the pages you bookmark (Diigo and Pinboard are just two)

Social bookmarking: networks and cross-publishing

One of the features of social bookmarking services is that you can follow the bookmarks of other users. In Delicious this is called your network – and it’s where social bookmarking not only connects to RSS readers but also becomes a form of social network. Here’s how you build your network:

  1. Look at your bookmarks. Next to each one will be a number indicating how many users have bookmarked this. If you click on this you will see a list of who bookmarked it, and when. (Alternatively, you could also look at all users using a particular tag – if you’re a health correspondent, for example, you might want to look at people who are tagging items with ‘NHS’). Click on any name to see all their public bookmarks.
  2. If you would like to follow that person’s future bookmarks (because they are bookmarking items which relate to your interests), click on ‘Add to my network’
  3. You will now be able to see their bookmarks – and those of anyone else you have added – on your ‘Network’ page. It is, essentially, a mini RSS reader.

Which is why I use Google Reader to follow my network’s bookmarks instead. Because at the bottom of your Delicious Network page is, of course, a link to an RSS feed. Right-click on this and copy the link, then paste it into your RSS reader and you don’t need to keep checking your Delicious Network separately to all your other RSS feeds.

Of course, if you find someone interesting on Delicious, you might find them interesting on Twitter or a blog. If they’ve edited their Delicious public profile (the one you found in step 1 above) it might include a link. Alternatively, there’s a good chance they’ve used the same username on other social networks – so search for them using that.

This is another example of how social bookmarking can connect to social networking.

Here’s another: you can use a service like Twitterfeed (explained above) to auto-publish every item you bookmark – or just those with a particular tag, or a combination of tags. Because Delicious provides RSS feeds for your bookmarks as a whole, those with a particular tag, and any combination of tags.

For example, anything I tag ‘t’ is automatically tweeted by Twitterfeed on my @paulbradshaw Twitter account. Anything I tag ‘hmitwt’ is tweeted the same way – but to my @helpmeinvestig8 account. Editor Marc Reeves uses the same service to tweet all of his bookmarks with “I’m reading…”.

You can use a Facebook app like RSS Graffiti to do the same thing on a Facebook page.

One process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting blog post on Google Reader
  2. Bookmark using Delicious – use a tag which is automatically tweeted
  3. Link auto-tweeted on Twitter

Conversely, if you want to automatically bookmark links that you share on Twitter, you can do so by signing up to Packrati.us. Tweeted links will be given the tag ‘packrati.us’ as well as any hashtags that you include in the same tweet (So a link tweeted with the hashtag ‘#crime’ will be tagged ‘crime’).

Another process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting link tweeted on Twitter
  2. Retweet it, adding relevant hashtags
  3. Link is auto-bookmarked on Delicious

Listen, connect, publish

This has turned out to be a long post – which is why I think the diagram is needed. The initial set up is simple: sign up to social networks and a social bookmarking service, and set up an RSS reader. Subscribe to feeds, and add people to your networks.

But once you’ve done the technical part, you need to develop the habit of listening and continuing to add to those networks: check your RSS feeds and networks every day (but know when to switch off), and look for new sources. Bookmark useful resources – articles, documents, reports, research and profile pages – and tag them effectively.

Finally, contribute to those networks and connect the different parts together so it is as easy as possible to gather, store, publish and distribute useful information.

As you start to understand the possibilities that RSS feeds open up, you also start to see all sorts of possibilities beyond this. A site like If This Then That (IFTTT) not only showcases those possibilities particularly effectively, it also makes them as easy as they’ve ever been

It is a small – and regular – investment of time. But it will keep you in touch with your field, lead you to new sources and new stories, and help you work faster and deeper in reporting what’s happening.

May 28 2011

05:11

Fast mobile (video) news - Can Wi-Fi work citywide in New York?

Bloomberg :: Imagine if smartphones always worked as fast as home Wi-Fi networks, and no one had to pray that a cellular signal was strong enough to send an e-mail or retrieve a map. A company called Towerstream hopes to make that dream come true for New Yorkers in late June, when it turns on a network of about 1,000 wireless routers—souped-up, weatherproof versions of the Wi-Fi devices in millions of homes.

Continue to read Peter Burrows, www.businessweek.com

Company website www.towerstream.com

May 18 2011

19:00

Video: Civic Media Session, "Civic Disobedience"

(For great detail about the "Civic Disobedience" session, check out moderator Ethan Zuckerman's write-up.)

Download!

Watch the full video...

read more

March 13 2011

18:03

VoIP Drupal Kicks Off at Drupalcon

Last week I wrote about another project that's come to a boil at the Center for Future Civic Media: VoIP Drupal.

Here is a brief video of Leo Burd lecturing at DrupalCon 2011 on the release of Voip Drupal, a plugin that allow full interaction between Drupal CMS and phones.



VoIP Drupal is a project of the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, with key contributions from Civic Actions.

February 23 2011

15:25

“We’re smarter together than separate”

This is cross-posted from my blog, Beckyblab:

The best part about the TechSoup Global Contributor’s Summit was seeing in real time the power of networks. A lot can be said for nonverbal communication and the effectiveness of meeting each other face to face!

Although at first I was intimidated, it was heartening to hear how many others found the task of networking at events daunting–many admitted to being shy but forcing themselves to get over it. I was soon won over by the welcoming atmosphere that was set from the first evening.

Microsoft’s Akhtar Badshah posed a critical question at the beginning: How do we become the innovators to drive change? He also spoke about harnessing disruption and moving from the transactional to the transformational.

Daniel Ben-Horin, Co-CEO and founder of TechSoup Global, reminded us that “geeks and activists” share core values and have a natural affinity–I’m not sure which side of that equation I’m on, but certainly I do agree that technologies are disrupting the status quo. The quote in the blog post title is also from him: “We’re smarter together than separate.”

However, I couldn’t help but feel “it isn’t enough”–in the sense that even though technologies are supposedly making our lives easier or better, they haven’t fundamentally made us any happier and often only make our lives more complicated. Hence, the premise behind Inner Engineering–technologies for well-being…

That said, I did gain a tremendous amount from hearing about the participants’ experiences with technology and sharing my own. I most enjoyed the last day when the Netsquared participants came together to discuss the issues particular to us, many of whom were based in or from the developing world. It was great hearing about all their inspiring projects and getting to know them in a more informal setting.

That’s my overall take! For more insights, see Beth Kanter’s post on “Inspiration Overload.”

 

December 06 2010

02:35

UN Global Pulse Camp 1.0


(Photo credit: Christopher Fabian of UNICEF & Global Pulse)

Just got back from the UN "Pulse Camp 1.0".

Global Pulse is a new and quite ambitious UN initiative "to improve evidence-based decision-making and close the information gap between the onset of a global crisis and the availability of actionable information to protect the vulnerable" (Full overview at http://www.unglobalpulse.org/about).

read more

September 23 2010

17:30

A Guide to Rising Public Media Networks in the U.S.

While it's taken public broadcasters awhile to catch up to the possibilities and dynamics of social and mobile media platforms, over the past year on MediaShift we have been documenting a flurry of innovation that reveals new possibilities for how the sector might share content, do business, and engage publics. Here's a guide to several types of rising public media networks, and a look at how new policy models might better support them.

Networked Content

Content networks are nothing new to public broadcasters -- NPR and PBS serve as closed and centralized hubs of content aggregation and distribution to member stations, and PRX has demonstrated the benefits of a more open, digital conduit between producers, stations and the public. But the June announcement that NPR would lead a coalition of such distributors in developing a joint Public Media Platform (PMP) upped the ante. A prototype, slated to be done by the end of the year, will build upon NPR's successful API and related experiments, which have powered a variety of mobile and iPad apps, allowed local station sites to feature national content, and enabled external viral distribution of public radio content via data mashups.

If it works, the PMP will expand the audience for and utility of public broadcasting content. It will also serve as a point of entry for new public media contributors, most immediately from non-commercial and hyper-local news projects. And it will create new opportunities for content to flow across public media silos, making collaboration much easier. This would encourage curated cross-platform projects like WGBH's new World Compass site, and targeted aggregation on public broadcasting sites, such as the "Public Media Resources" section on the site of the PBS NewsHour. Plus, as the graphic below suggests, the PMP would support entirely new uses of content by developers, educational institutions, and non-profits.

public media platform grab.jpg

(You can see a larger version of the image here)

Although it represents a much needed (and much discussed) integration of content, the project is not without its tensions. There are many rights issues to be worked out, and public stations are leery that products built via the PMP will pull audiences and dollars away from them. But as Eliot Van Buskirk notes on Wired's Epicenter blog, "Ultimately, the upside to all of this sharing, repackaging and distribution will likely be bigger than the downside, so far as the public is concerned. This Public Media Platform will bring competition to member stations that didn't exist before, and should result in a large number of apps, sites and publications over the coming years, if things go as planned."

What's more, NPR's Kinsey Wilson told Poynter that the PMP could serve as an "engine of innovation" for journalism, powering reporting experiments like NPR's new Project Argo.

Networked Outlets and Producers

Creating a big content repository is just one step in the process of building a vibrant public media network. Both public broadcasting outlets and independent makers need help understanding how best to curate and package digital content, and how to attract networked users [PDF] to it.

Over the last several decades, trade organizations have emerged in the public broadcasting sector to represent the interests of and provide services to discrete groups of outlets and makers, including the Association of Public Television Stations, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Association of Independents in Radio and others. But while most of these are organized according to platform, innovators working in cross-platform, digital and mobile production don't have a central hub to share success and failures and hash out new standards.

While the Integrated Media Association has served this role, currently it's in a transition phase; as a result, the organization will not hold a 2010 conference. In its absence, a number of less formal networks have sprung up to connect stations, makers and developers.

MediaShift has reported before on two of these rising networks: the Public Media Chat (#pubmedia) on Twitter, which is organized by a revolving group of volunteers, and the Public Media Camps, jointly organized by NPR and PBS. (Full disclosure: I've been involved in hosting both, including the next national PubCamp, slated for November 20.)

The PubCamps and #pubmedia chats have been growing and deepening over the past few months, in part because both provide openings for new thinkers and doers from outside of traditional public broadcasting to participate. The chats encourage this interaction because they take place on an open platform, and overlap with other networks of Twitter users focused on the future of news and community media. The Public Media Camps are explicitly designed to bring developers and community members together with both stations and national public broadcasting organizations to brainstorm new projects and apps.

With support from CPB, the pace of local PubCamps picked up over the summer. But even stations who haven't received any hosting funds have started to organize their own camps. These events not only foster the creation of local networks, and feed into the emerging national network of PubCamp participants, who are connected across a variety of social media platforms. Take a look at this presentation from the North Carolina PubCamp to get a sense of how this works.

While such social media-driven exchanges may seem chaotic to those used to more traditional nametag-and-plenary style conferences, they can produce surprisingly effective results. For example, a recent #pubmedia chat prompted WGBH's Chris Beers to whip up an archive of public broadcasting web sites over the course of a few days. Such a resource -- potentially a valuable tool for stations, developers and policymakers -- could have cost thousands of dollars and wasted numerous agonizing hours in planning meetings. But because Beers is operating from an open source perspective, he built this tool with the expectation that the community would use it, contribute to it, and improve it in the process. A similar spirit is on display on the PubMedia Commons site, which archives the chats and offers a shared code repository.

The chats and PubCamps also serve as generative spaces for exchanges between media makers who may share similar goals goals but don't usually interact. For example, this weekend's PubCamp in Champaign-Urbana promises to bring both public and community broadcasters together with open source developers and staff from CU-CitizenAccess, a civic engagement project based at the University of Illinois, designed to both report on and develop solutions with locals living in poverty.

As Jason Pramas of Open Media Boston writes, "we had public media staffers, community media staff, and independent producers involved in planning PubMediaCamp Boston from the get-go ... [with an] overarching goal of holding an event that would help network people from all these communities and encourage collaboration."

He said that his session spawned yet another small network, "a FuturePublicMedia email list where all kinds of public media supporters from the communities represented at PubMediaCamp Boston can talk about the public media system we want to build, and how we might advocate for it."

Networked Publics

Networked content and outlets alone aren't guaranteed to attract new audiences. The real growth area lies in the ability of public media organizations to use digital platforms to meaningfully connect with users around issues, communities and events. This involves both reaching out on existing social media platforms where they already congregate, and creating more specialized networks of users around particular goals.

For many stations and public broadcasting programs, this is still very much a trial-and-error process. They start Twitter accounts, post Facebook pages, and then wonder disconsolately why no one is friending them. Or, perhaps worse, they approach these two-way platforms with one-way expectations borrowed from PR and broadcast, only to discover that their users have more than enough to discuss with them.

Mississippi Public Broadcasting learned this lesson the hard way when it canceled the broadcast of Fresh Air after Terri Gross interviewed controversial comic Louis C.K. The station's Facebook page quickly became a rallying point for protesters, and the crusade has continued on a dedicated page titled "Bring Fresh Air Back to Mississippi."

Beyond interacting with users as content consumers, public broadcasters are learning how to interact with them as sources, and even in some cases as content producers. What's more, they're developing both online and offline contexts that allow publics to form their own networks around shared interests or cultural gatherings such as The Moth, a storytelling slam and radio hour. The National Center for Media Engagement has been cataloging such promising engagement efforts on its Pipeline page and in a series of peer webinars.

American Public Media's Public Insight Network(PIN) has been one of the most tenacious and creative hubs for building effective public media user networks. Now, in the middle of a three-year, $2.95 million grant from the Knight Foundation, PIN is aggressively expanding to new cities and adding new partners and capabilities as it goes.

Joaquin Alvarado, APM's senior vice president for digital innovation, calls PIN an "engagement platform" for public media. Users are recruited as sources with particular expertise, and tapped by journalists in partner newsrooms for interviews, focus groups and story suggestions. Alvarado explains that PIN developers are now working on a Drupal-based ecosystem of tools that will both make it easier for reporters to find relevant sources and networks for their stories, and allow users to track how their own contributions are making their way into coverage. The bet is that seeing themselves as part of the network might increase sources' already impressive response rate to PIN email inquiries.

PIN is broadening the network of public media entities by serving as a conduit for stations to partner up with local commercial and nonprofit news outlets. Take Miami, where WLRN is working with the Miami Herald to recruit local sources; as a result, PIN developers are working on a Spanish-language version of the network's tools, which can then be deployed elsewhere.

Beyond that, however, PIN is uncovering the power of tapping sources' own personal networks. For example, a query to the network about Lutherans' response to a vote allowing gay pastors to serve as clergy yielded a huge response: More than 2500 new sources joined the network to weigh in.

"Every community contains within it fault lines that can, under the right conditions, break open into chasms," reflected PIN Editor Andrew Haeg on the MPR site. "We agree, sometimes silently, to disagree -- or at least not to address our split for fear of upsetting the status quo. Our inquiry became a sort of social Richter scale revealing a community rocked by a temblor that the rest of us hardly felt."

Building New Models of Networked Public Media

Against the backdrop of widespread public experimentation with social media platforms like Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook, these efforts by public broadcasters may seem like too little too late. But what's notable is that all of these networks have been built without policy support, earmarked funds, or consistent collaboration designed to link them together. Right now, taxpayer, underwriter and member dollars are still mostly dedicated to supporting broadcast stations and content. Imagine what would happen if that equation shifted?

Center for Social Media Fellow Ellen Goodman makes that imaginative leap in a forthcoming article for the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology. Goodman, a professor at Rutgers University School of Law at Camden, worked with University of Pennsylvania research fellow Anne Chen to develop a new model for making public media policy based on a layered structure borrowed from the Internet's own architecture. Right now, they point out, the primary focus of policy and funding is the broadcast station. Future policymaking designed to support a public media network, however, could be focused on four discrete layers of function: Transmission infrastructure, creation of content and applications, curation of public media content and archives, and connection to the public. Note that these layers roughly mirror the emerging networks described above.

Dedicated digital infrastructure, more flexible funding, and a renewed emphasis on connection could work to knit public broadcasting's currently fragmented and resource-starved networks into a powerful national platform for learning, public dialogue, and problem solving. This would not require centralizing operations at the coasts; instead it would involve constructing a network of networks, connected via shared protocols and standards. Such a network could also support the capacity for local reporting, encouraging civic engagement on the ground and feeding diverse content and conversations back up to national programs and sites. It could foster local and national connections with other noncommercial partners who share a public mission.

"Public media has the potential to meet some of the nation's most critical information
needs," write Goodman and Chen, "but only if public media networks are reconfigured for more collaboration, innovation, and service in a networked environment."

In order to be most viable, such a public media network would need to be developed in concert with a series of larger policy efforts: to extend broadband access to all Americans, maintain net neutrality across both wired and wireless broadband services, create network linkages between noncommercial "anchor institutions" in communities, and subsidize new equipment and hosting costs for public media producers. In a March article in Current, APM's Alvarado offered a complementary model for understanding these various needs, as depicted below.

alvarado-pyramid-smaller.jpg

Alvarado urges public broadcasters and regulators to act boldly, citing education and journalism as two major areas for beta-testing the power of new network functions. "The gaps in our current business model will widen quickly as broadband develops nationally," he writes. "We can address them only by radically shifting what we and the public expect from the system and from our individual organizations. Incremental steps will not concentrate enough resources to leapfrog the compounding limitations in resources, ambition and effectiveness."

Jessica Clark directs the Center for Social Media's Future of Public Media Project , and is a Knight Media Policy Fellow at the New America Foundation.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

June 25 2010

18:21

FNCM conference plenary videos now available

Please to enjoy the visual fruits of last week's Future of News and Civic Media conference plenaries. Below--available for viewing, downloading, and reusing--are the three plenary videos...

Announcement of the 2010 Knight News Challenge winners


Available for download at MIT TechTV.



"Crowd Building" with Gabriella Coleman and Karim Lakhani


Available for download at MIT TechTV.


"Data into Action" with Nick Grossman, Ellen Miller, and Laurel Ruma


Available for download at MIT TechTV.


C4FCM demo videos will be available early next week.

June 17 2010

10:58

December 21 2009

13:58

Palfrey and Zuckerman now officially "conspirators" against Iran, as if their work needed more praise

Yesterday's Boston Globe featured an article by Farah Stockman explaining how "under siege at home, Iran’s dissidents draw comfort and ideas from some visionary thinkers based here."

In the wake of widespread protests in Iran after a disputed presidential election, a mass indictment accused more than 100 Iranian politicians and activists of following the instructions of Sharp, as well as spying for several other US academics, among other charges. So far, about 80 of the accused have received prison sentences, while at least one has been sentenced to death.

The indictment, which appears to target Iranians with connections to the West, has led to soul-searching among some US scholars, many of whom have curtailed communications with Iranian dissidents to avoid putting them in jeopardy. Others, like Sharp, see the charges as a badge of honor, and a sign that their arguments are hitting home. They have no intention of scaling back their activities.

John Palfrey and Ethan Zuckerman of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society were two of those indicted (Zuckerman is also a Knight News Challenge Fellow here at the Center for Future Civic Media). Palfrey describes needing to play down his work with Iranians, knowing that ties to the United States is often a shorthand the Iranian government uses to harass or indict protesters.

Palfrey, whose center received State Department funds in 2007 to study the Internet's impact on democracy, said he has curbed his contacts with people in Iran, so as not to endanger them.

"There is always a risk when studying non-democratic countries ... that you may unintentionally harm the people you are talking to," Palfrey said. "Unfortunately, this is the case in Iran today."

It places into sharp relief the persistent power of states. The suspicion of state power receded for many after the end of the Cold War and was displaced entirely as genocide became the international relations story of the 90's and jihadist terrorism that of the '00's. But the development of (ostensibly) legal warrantless wiretapping in the United States, multiple countries' rendition of terror suspects, and British retreat on civil liberties, the story of the 2010's will be the radical databasing of civil society.

The far left and far right in this country have always agreed on at least this: increased state control over information deteriorates civic connections. And, in this networked age, increased Iranian control over information deteriorates civic connections in America. It's why groups like the ACLU have such an absolutist view of civil liberty, because loss of liberty in one place really does result in loss of liberty elsewhere.

November 16 2009

16:34

Communications Forum: "What's New at the Center for Future Civic Media"


MIT Center for Future Civic Media Director Chris Csikszentmihalyi presents the Center's most recent projects. From community mapping to news tracking, from collective action to rural empowerment, from cultural mixing to carbon consciousness, civic media is any technology or technique that strengthens a geographic community. Civic media researchers will demonstrate their projects in a lightning-round format, with time for discussion and questions following each presentation listed below.

read more

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl