The Knight News Challenge Information Blog

Where Innovative Ideas Get Funded at NewsChallenge.org

Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

Create With Confidence: Keep It Simple

Posted by Jacqueline on October 12, 2007

Ryan Imel of Theme Playground guest-posted on Copyblogger about confidence today.  Although technically his advice was for other bloggers, it applies to pretty much everyone who has something to say or information to present (hhmm, Knight News Challenge participants, perhaps?).

The best line?

“However, if you want a crowd to read your writing, be sure you’re writing something worth reading. And, as much as you can, cut out the fat. Don’t distract your reader so much that they miss the point of your message.”

This applies to many things besides writing – when you’re creating something new, it can be best to do one thing really, really well.  Keep it simple and make it great.  And be confident in your abilities to make something amazing.

Advertisements

Posted in Blogging, General, Innovation, Journalism, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Behind the “Great Firewall of China”

Posted by Jacqueline on October 7, 2007

Although the military junta in Myanmar/Burma is the government getting the most flack for censorship these days (and rightfully so), it’s important to remember that neighboring China isn’t exactly known for it’s openness.  In fact, many websites are blocked and there has been talk of bloggers having to register their real names with the government, in order to prevent the spread of “irresponsible and untrue information,” which is a “bad influence” on society.”  (Fortunately, this measure was not put into action). 

The Chinese government’s attempts to control their population’s access to the internet has been termed the Great Firewall of China, and although the wall is far from perfect (users can occasionally get through to banned sites, and there are numerous ways around the blocks, such as using proxies to surf the net, that people can utilize), it’s important to remember the effects of censorship, even if it has proven to be futile for the more technically inclined members of society. 

For instance, just knowing that the government is watching tends to lead to self-censorship. which might not seem all that dangerous on the surface (especially if you live in a country where freedom of speech and the press have long been fundamental rights), but clearly, placing such restrictions can be the beginning of a downward spiral.  However, the Great Firewall hasn’t prevented the Chinese people from embracing the web – according to this study, China will overtake the United States in the number of internet users by 2009.  It’s going to be tough for the government to keep a watchful on all those people.  From the linked article:

“So what affect will the surging population of Chinese web surfers have on the Internet as a whole? China remains divided from the rest of the ‘Net by the content filtering firewall that the government maintains to suppress information and discussion of topics the government deems unworthy. In addition, the government is actively engaged in hunting down people who post negative opinions about the government on blogs, something that US companies such as Yahoo and Google have publicly condemned yet privately supported. These tensions will increase as China’s ‘Net presence continues to grow, but one wonders if the Great Firewall of China can keep up.

Can the Chinese government really keep tabs on all of these users? 137+ million users (and growing) can’t be easily monitored no matter how you slice it, and government attempts at controlling what people say online have been met with a number of high-profile controversies over free speech which have been embarrassing for China, at lest in the western world. Of course, China isn’t too worried about what the western world thinks, especially when the kinds of growth we’re seeing there gives rise to visions of dancing dollar signs and euros in the eyes of many a businessman.”

Recent attempts at controlling the media that the general population consumes include banning RSS (which had previously been a way of accessing banned sites – can’t read the blog?  Try the feed), but as reports from people “behind the wall” say, there are ways around that too. 

One question that arises from this situation is “how can anyone expect to control the web?”  After all, isn’t part of the beauty of the web in the fact that it doesn’t come from one central source?  And won’t the attempts to censor/control the web hurt China’s economy in the long run?

As always, if you have any ideas or projects related to blogging, content delivery, or citizen journalism in places like China where the web isn’t as free or open as it could (should) be, check out the Knight News Challenge.

Posted in Blogging, Citizen Journalism, General, Journalism, New Media, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Techmeme Leaderboard: Does It Matter What Kind of Site a News Source is?

Posted by Jacqueline on October 1, 2007

Bloggers and other news outlets have been posting about the new Techmeme Leaderboard all day today, and one of the main topics of discussion has been how the site’s ranking system does not differentiate between blogs and other websites.  For instance, Techcrunch, Scobleizer, and the New York Times are all on their list, and it’s based on how many times a site has been linked by Techmeme in the last thirty days.

Some bloggers have been trumpeting about this will replace the somewhat ailing Technorati, but while this list is definitely useful for those who are interested technology developments and news, it cannot replace the universal reach of Technorati’s ranking systems.  After all, Technorati tracks blogs on every topic, not just the ones in the techno-sphere, and although it doesn’t include non-blog sources, it generally does its job pretty well.  And anyways, there really isn’t any competition other than Google’s Blogsearch, and that only searches blogs – it doesn’t index, rank, or otherwise organize them.  Perhaps the reports of Technorati’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Much of the other discussion has been about this list doesn’t discern what is a blog and what is not – but does it really matter what the source of a story is if it is viable and/or interesting?  It’s not like Techmeme’s Leaderboard purports to be a blog ranking system anyways, and really, perhaps it is time that popular blogs go head to head with traditional news sources in terms of respect, page views, and links.  And as bloggers gain increasing amoutns of credibility, do people really care if they are reading a blog or a news outlet as long as it has the latest scoop?

However, the Techmeme Leaderboard and the Technorati Top 100 are all about measuring the biggest players, they just do it in different ways (and Techmeme sticks to a single niche whereas Technorati’s based solely on the amount of backlinks – it doesn’t matter what language a blog is in or what it is about).  What would be more interesting, and potentially much more compelling to those who aren’t as into technology as the Techmeme crowd, would be a way of applying the Leaderboard concept to individual niches –  a foodie leaderboard, a football leaderboard, a fashion leaderboard, and so on.  Each subject could have it’s own Techmeme-style site, even, if there are enough dedicated bloggers.

Another way to take the concept to the next level would be to make a localized version of Techmeme – when bloggers, journalists, photographers, videographers, and anyone else in a specific geographic region post something, link it on the front page.  The most prominent citizen journalists could be ranked on a leaderboard (because people seem to love to compete for rankings), and readers could subscribe to the RSS feeds for different categories.

Yes, this wouldn’t be easy to construct, but once the site was built and the content is seeded, it would be an invaluable service to the area’s residents.  It would even be possible to run ads from local businesses to help keep the site afloat, if necessary.  Do you have any ideas, business plans, or projects that would fit the bill?  Enter the Knight News Challenge at www.newschallenge.org.

Want to read what others are saying about the Techmeme Leaderboard?  Check out Techcrunch, Read Write Web, Ben Metcalfe, Problogger Darren Rowse, Media Metamorphosis, and of course, there’s more on Techmeme’s homepage.

Posted in Blogging, Digital Media, General, Innovation, New Media, Technology, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Revolution Will Be Blogged

Posted by Jacqueline on September 30, 2007

Much has already been made of the efforts made by citizen journalists inside Myanmar/Burma to document the deteriorating political situation, but their work is even more crucial in light of the fact that privately-owned newspapers in Burma have decided to stop their presses instead of printing more government propaganda. 

“They are forcing us to publish their announcements and propaganda in our publications and we can’t let them do that to us,” said a Rangoon journalist.

Kumudra, Seven Days, Pyi Myanmar and many other news journals have decided to stop or suspend publication, and have already informed the censor board of their decision. Rather than give the real reason for their decision, they blamed the ongoing instability which is preventing journalists from being able to go out and report.”

Although the nation is sadly no stranger to protests, riots, and the resulting violent response by the military regime, this time it is even worse than the previous 1988 uprisings.

“In 88 journals published news about the riots and shootings, but it is not as easy to do that now. The situation has changed – soldiers are shooting at everything now – so we can’t do it,” said the journalist.”

Both quotes are taken from this article on the Democratic Voice of Burma, a nonprofit organization that gives voice to the disenfranchised Burmese people and serves to inform the rest of the world about the real state of that nation.

In a country where freedom of the press is greatly compromised and censorship is the norm, it is paramount that brave citizen journalists still relay news to the outside world in order to make sure that the voice of the people is heard and make the international community aware of their plight.  After all, does anyone think that Myanmar/Burma protests and their sad consequences would currently be enjoying the same level of awareness without the work of the bloggers, photographers, and videographers who are sending reports out?  Yes, the UN would probably get involved, but by posting images and video clips of the actions taken by the military junta they’ve received an impressive global outpouring of support that would have otherwise been unlikely.

Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic writes about how satellite photos of the riots might be available soon.  “Maybe technology can keep the world focused”, he says.  In addition, “Keeping the world’s attention through the blogosphere is now essential. The revolution is not only going to be blogged; in some respects, the blogosphere is now critical to the survival of the revolution.” (Guess who inspired the title of this post?)  Thanks to technology, the outside world cannot be locked out and the Burmese military regime cannot be left to commit their atrocious human rights violations in private.

One more note – although the current Myamar government is trying to cut their people off from the outside media with measures like cutting off most internet connections, they can still view channels like CNN and BBC from their isolated compounds, according to the UK Telegraph:

“The bureaucracy has been moved to Naypyidaw, far away from ordinary people, and army families live in colonies cut off from civilians.

“I think the regime really believes this is just a few individuals stirred up by ‘destructive elements’, not the makings of a popular uprising reflecting the will of the people,” said a western diplomat.

“I think they believe their own propaganda.”

But he added that, although isolated, the generals are not completely immune to foreign pressure.

“They have the BBC up there in Naypyidaw. They have CNN. And I’m sure they’re watching it,” he said.

Yet another example of the internet making the world smaller and allowing ordinary people to make a huge impact, although this one isn’t nearly as warm and fuzzy as most of the others.  And as always, if you have ideas on how to help citizen journalists in situations like this one get the word out, you should check out the Knight News Challenge.

Posted in Blogging, Citizen Journalism, Digital Media, General, Journalism, New Media, Web | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hometown Heroes: How Can Local Bloggers Get Organized?

Posted by Jacqueline on September 29, 2007

With the recent events in Myanmar/Burma, citizen journalists, the events they report, and the technology they use to do are getting plenty of airtime and column inches.  After all, this is perhaps the first time in history where the revolution will be blogged, flickred, and youtubed.  However, not to discount the incredibly impressive efforts of the Burmese bloggers, or to take away from citizen journalism’s day in the sun, this is not the only way to be a citizen journalist or local blogger.

Before the Myanmar protests and the resulting escalation of violence and the military crackdown, citizen journalists toiled away, reporting on local events, breaking news stories literally as they happen, and yes, even recording history as it unfolds.  Think about – how much video footage and images of major events have been recorded by what is essentially a random person on the scene with a camera?  Even before citizen journalism became a widely understood concept (and a popular catchphrase), intrepid souls have been taking it upon themselves to commit history to film.

From the many bloggers who make up the politically opinionated ranks of Daily Kos to the network of writerswho contribute to the Gothamist network of blogs (the Chicagoist, LAist, SFist, etc.), the group of bloggers, photographers, and videographers that make up the ranks of citizen journalists is immense.  In addition, you have all the bloggers who occasionally post something about current events or the goings-on in their hometown.  Really, if you look at it that way, we’re all citizen journalists.

Now, that’s all well and good, but searching for information in this genre, deciding what is useful to you, and organizing all this content is no easy task.  Besides the simple fact that the web is vast and you probably don’t have tons of free time to sift through it, it’s tough to discern what is valuable and what’s irrelevant – and wouldn’t you rather have the content come to you in the form of newsfeeds or RSS?

Merely subscribing to your local paper’s feed and a few local bloggers might not give all the news and updates you’re searching for, and anyways, how do you know which bloggers are reliable?  The citizen journalists who work with credible news sources (Reuters, for instance, has used them) are probably a safe bet, but they may not be as entertaining (hey, who says news has to be boring or serious – look at Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert) or as relevant to your interests as another choice.  And really, just because someone is not affliated with a newspaper or news agency doesn’t mean they are not reliable or trustworthy.

Clearly, the world of citizen journalism needs some kind of organization – but however, something too stringent or reminiscent of professional journalism would be detrimental to the ear-to-the-ground, passionate nature of citizen bloggers.  The person or group who can figure out the best way to accomplish this without destroying what makes citizen journalism so valuable will definitely reap some rich rewards (and as always, if you have ideas related to these topics, you should enter the Knight News Challenge).

Posted in Blogging, Citizen Journalism, Digital Media, General, Journalism, New Media, Web, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Taking the Web On the Road – Mobile Novels

Posted by Jacqueline on September 27, 2007

Not that long ago, the concept of having the web on your cell phone was nothing but a faint glimmer of a future possibility.  Now, with smart phones becoming ubiquitous and the mobile web exploding in popularity, developers and engineers are having to contend with building sites that work for users on all sorts of interfaces.

There are plenty of obvious sorts of websites that should definitely go mobile; for instance, having access to things like Mapquest for directions (for those of us without GPS in our cars, and for when you’re not in a car to begin with – walking, biking, etc.) and review sites like Yelp (so you can find a good restaurant no matter where you are).  Being able to log in to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter could be convenient to if you want to send a quick, easy message to a group of friends.  And of course, we probably all want to email people with our phones or pdas. 

However, the Japanese have taken the mobile to a whole new level.  Not surprisingly, they’re pretty advanced when it comes to actual technology, but people there are using mobile phones to pen entire novels!   Yes, you read that correctly – novels.  Talk about pushing the limits of things like mo-blogging, or mobile blogging.  Granted, Japan is far from the only place where people are using cell phones to publish web content (in fact, this is especially prevalent in developing nations where people might not have access to computers, but they do have phones), but who else has created this kind of rich, deep mobile web?

From the Wall Street Journal:

“Mobile novels first appeared about seven years ago when the community-based Web site, Maho i-Land, made it possible for budding writers to turn out stories with a cover page and chapters like a real book. About three years ago, phone companies began offering high-speed mobile Internet and affordable flat-rate plans for transmitting data. Users could then access the Internet as much as they wanted to for less than $50 a month.”

Today, the site has over six million members, and the number of mobile novels on the site is growing rapidly.  What’s interesting is how the authors and readers have a much stronger connection than traditional novelists – after all, the readers can provide immediate feedback and criticism (much like blogging), and since the novels are published in a serial fashion, the authors can even adapt their story lines to the whims of the readers, a definite departure from the past.

To quote Peter Brantley, who wrote about the WSJ article on the O’Reilly Radar:

“New creative practices sometimes awkwardly explore new market niches until they discover and establish a means of exploiting the advantages (and avoiding the disadvantages) imposed by the social and economic variables that make the new opportunity available in the first place. Then they may explode in a sudden flowering that breathes into life a new form of expression.”

So what can we learn from these articles?  Many developers and entreprenuers are very focused on applications, websites, and content that really only work on a regular computer, and really, with the current amazing growth in the smart phone/mobile web market, it’s time to think outside of the typical computing box.  Maybe you’ve got a plan to set up some kind of community news group diary or blog?  Or can you adapt your current ideas to the mobile market?  If so, you should enter the news challenge – you could be that much closer to making your dreams a reality.

Posted in Blogging, Digital Media, General, Technology, Web | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Post-Media Journalism? In the Information Age, We Are All Journalists

Posted by Jacqueline on September 27, 2007

Yesterday, Jeff Jarvis (of Buzz Machine) wrote about a new term used to describe the current media climate: post-media journalism.  Instead of the over-used phrase “social media” (which has really grown meaningless, thanks to the fact that it is used to describe everything from Flickr to blogging), post-media journalism does do a fairly decent job of encapsulating the fact that the current state of the media is definitely in flux.

However, does the use of the word “post” also imply the end of traditional journalism?  Clearly, traditional media is not going roll over and die any time soon, if ever, but no one can deny that both the online and print media spheres are struggling to establish how they can interact with each other, and with the rest of the world.   Thanks to the net, the line between reader and producer is irrevocably blurred; and of course, it is becoming easier to create your own content, your own channel, your own lifestream every day.  Due to the growth of the web and the advent of the Information Age, every person with an internet connection and something to say can be a journalist.

In this new climate, “the media doesn’t matter now.  The conversation does.  The connections do”, says Jeff.  And it is true – if a blogger or an amateur photographer has something important to say, or writes something that resonates with people, their work is going to get page-views and just make an impact regardless of their credentials.  Just look at my previous post about the situation in Myanmar – I’m pretty sure none of those people work for an accredited media source, but I don’t think anyone is discounting their efforts.  It’s the people on the front lines of the news, with their ears to the ground and their cameras poised to capture history, that are the real breaking news. 

Perhaps the reason the phrase post-media journalism works here is the media is no longer the arbiter of the news.  Instead of sitting passively and digesting the news that big journalism feeds to us in the form of newspapers, television, and radio, we’re going online and looking for the information we want (yes, people could write letters to the editor and such, but it has never been so easy to comment and respond to stories).  We can even tailor the type and flow of information we receive with RSS. 

The future belongs to the people and companies who can figure out how to combine the positive aspects of traditional journalism with the citizen reporting and anything-goes atmosphere on the web.  When someone builds a community (and therefore an audience) for their ideas, a place where people can interact and find the information they want easily (important word there – yes, we all know that whatever info we’re seeking is out there, but it’s definitely not always simple to locate or packaged nicely), that is the new media. 

The information is out there – journalists (the old school media types and the citizen bloggers armed with video cameras and laptops) are the ones who need to get it in front of our eyeballs by whatever means they have available.  And of course, if you happen to have an idea that relates to how journalists of all stripes can share and package their work, you should be checking out the Knight News Challenge.

Posted in Blogging, Digital Media, General, Innovation, Journalism, New Media, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Citizen Journalism in Myanmar/Burma: Tales of Conflict Writ Large and Live on the Web

Posted by Jacqueline on September 26, 2007

It’s tough for any news organization to report on remote corners of the globe, particularly one that tends to be fairly closed off to outsiders.  Especially when it is a place like Myanmar, where the political situation is deteriorating and the threats of violence are escalating (A quick summary – an increasing number of protests and marches have beeing taking place, and the current military junta government has used deadly force against a peaceful protest that consisted of thousands of people, including local monks.  The U.S. and the European Union have condemned the attacks).  You can check out the country’s Wikipedia, which has been kept updated as to the current state of the nation, for more background on this story.

Enter brave citizen journalists like the ones who are posting photos on Flickr, videos on YouTube, updating Wikipedia, and generally giving the international community with an insider’s view on what’s happening.  This kind of ear-to-the-ground preporting is especially vital in places where the country’s leaders are not exactly known being forthcoming to foreign press corps, to say the least. 

You can view pictures of the protests on Flickr, here, here, and here.  And if a picture’s worth a thousand words, video has to worth at least a million; therefore, you can check out clips on Youtube.  Maybe this time, as Khengze from the Webs at Work blog says, the revolution will be YouTubed.  He also writes about how the Burmese uprising is becoming a textbook example for future citizen journalists in Asia and elsewhere, particularly the developing world (for instance, cell phones with cameras are becoming fairly ubiquitous globally, allowing virtually anyone to document history as it happens and upload it to the web).  In addition, he mentions Burmese born, London based blogger ko htike’s site, which has become a repository of images and breaking news gathered from a variety of sources. 

Obviously the situation isn’t exactly rosy, (as freedom of speech is still curtailed – bloggers in the country have been arrested for posting images of the protests and related stories).  However, intrepid citizens have been overcoming this block by emailing people like the aforemention ko htike or tipping off news services.  They also use proxy websites like YouTube and Flickr, which have the additional benefits of bypassing the language barrier – the images of the protests hold universal meaning.

Kudos to the brave bloggers, photographers, and videographers who are working to make that there will be instant global ramifications of the current military government’s actions.  Although there are indeed stringent censorship laws, Myanmar has slowly become more open to the outside world, and these people are definitely taking advantage of it by making sure that their government’s actions are depicted honestly on the international stage.

Have an idea or method to compile all this into one hard-hitting citizen news site or some kind of massive “report from the scene: Myanmar” newsfeed?  Maybe you should enter the news challenge yourself. 

Posted in Blogging, Digital Media, Innovation, Journalism, New Media, Technology, Web, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »