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Posts Tagged ‘Digital Media’

Let Your Fellow Citizens Make Your Commute Easier

Posted by Jacqueline on October 10, 2007

While most people think of citizen journalism, at least at the current moment, they think of either the courageous bloggers in Burma (and other war-torn nations), or of those people who report on the minutiae of politics, especially local politics.  However, while calling it journalism might be a stretch, there are other kinds of citizen-generated content that are making an immediate impact on people’s lives.

Check out Clever Commute, a website devoted to the travel situation and traffic in the New York City area.  People use their blackberries and smart phones to share information about delays and reroutes, leading to a smoother commute for everyone involved.  No, it’s not really journalism, at least in the traditional sense, but it is breaking news.  And definitely essential knowledge for its users. 

Although public transportation systems have been offering mobile updates for some time, this is the only service that lets people reach their fellow riders (which makes things much more immediate and accurate than the typically slow transit authority updates).  Thus far, commuters using technology to help other commuters has proved to be a superior method of breaking traffic/transportation news, at least in NYC. 

Want to know more?  Check out this NY Times article on Clever Commute.

Do you have an outside-the-box citizen journalism idea?  Take a gamble and enter the Knight News Challenge – you just might win the cash and the resources to make it happen. 

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Posted in Citizen Journalism, Digital Media, General, Innovation, Technology, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , | 1 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 »

RSS Woes: Many Top News Sites Aren’t Taking Full Advantage of Feeds

Posted by Jacqueline on September 30, 2007

From Yahoo News:

 A new study from the International Center for Media and Public Agenda, looking at 19 top news sites, released today concludes that RSS feeds work very poorly for anyone who uses news for more than infotainment.

Cited as among the best users of RSS: The Los Angeles Times, ABC News, Christian Science Monitor, BBC World Service and Fox News.

Among the worst: Al Jazeera, The Guardian and The New York Times.

This is interesting because while these major news sources have plenty of readers, they are not taking full advantage of technology like RSS (or really simple syndication), a way of syndicating content that allows an individual to subscribe to a particular section or blog and read new posts/articles in a feed reader, also known as an aggregator.  By using RSS instead of pointing your browser at each individual website or page, the news comes to you.  Clearly, it is a very efficient method of staying informed on all sorts of topics. 

The problem that the aforementioned sites are having with RSS?  They don’t want to deliver all their content with feeds – they want readers to visit their actual site.  Why?  Well, according to the Yahoo article,

“One reason may be that such stories, such as those by AP or Reuters, don’t carry the ‘brand’ of the news organization. But without those stories, many RSS feeds are not truly delivering news 24/7 and, in addition, lack the breadth of news their home sites deliver.”

Why is this such a problem?  Because an increasing number of people are using RSS to keep themselves updated on news ranging from local happenings to international events; in addition, without going to the actual website that is the source of the feed (and really, part of the point of using an aggregator is that you don’t have to go a bunch of different places for your info), RSS users are not even aware that they may not be getting the whole picture. 

So what could be a possible solution to this problem?  Should news outlets have to (and/or other websites) publish all their content with RSS whether they want to or not?  If so, how could that be enforced, if it is possible at all?  Should there be some kind of standardized system, and again, is that even possible on the web?  Do we want such a system anyways, or should people just have to sift through the various news sources and locate the feeds that best suit their purposes?  How does this relate to smaller news outlets or community sites, or bloggers, photographers, and videographers who function as citizen journalists?

Of course, if you have an idea or a website that purports to solve the problems that traditional media have with publishing their content with RSS, especially if it has to do with a specific community and how they receive their news, you should check out the Knight News Challenge.  It may be possible to implement your plan sooner than you think.

Posted in Digital Media, General, Journalism, 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 »

“The More They Try To Suppress The Situation, The More Will Come Out”

Posted by Jacqueline on September 28, 2007

Two days ago I wrote about how citizen journalists were taking advantage of technology to report what the real situation on the ground is in Myanmar/Burma, and although the current military junta regime has been trying to staunch the flow of information exiting the country, reports and photos are still making their way into the inboxes of reporters and bloggers outside the country.  It seems that the truth will come out, whatever the cost.

The Wall Street Journal covered it the story again today:

“In the age of YouTube, cellphone cameras and text messaging, technology is playing a critical role in helping news organizations and international groups follow Myanmar’s biggest protests in nearly two decades. Citizen witnesses are using cellphones and the Internet to beam out images of bloodied monks and street fires, subverting the Myanmar government’s effort to control media coverage and present a sanitized version of the uprising. The Associated Press reported yesterday that soldiers in Yangon fired automatic weapons into a crowd of demonstrators as tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters converged in the capital. Wire services have reported the number of dead at nine, citing the state media. (See related article.)”

If you look at it philosophically, one of the key aspects of Web 2.0 is the committment to transparency – in the Information Age, it is no longer possible to completely control your public image, whether you’re a celebrity, a corporation, or even a government.  Whistle-blowers, citizen bloggers, and other investigative types will make the truth known; and although we don’t yet know how the political situation in Burma will play out, there is something wonderful about the fact that the current government cannot hide behind an iron curtain of silence, guarded borders, and a lack of technology/internet access.  The implicit promise that all actions will be performed with the global stage is a powerful message.

The Lede blog at the New York Times also discusses Myanmar/Burma, including the U.S. government’s reaction.  Author Mike Nizza writes:

“The White House is not buying that technical difficulties caused the internet shutdown in Myanmar today. “They don’t want the world to see what is going on there,” said Scott Stanzel, a spokesman.

In another sign of a government campaign to extinguish media coverage, a witness told The Irrawaddy (one of the blogs posting citizen reports) that soldiers were “singling out people with cameras” today.”

So how is this related the Knight Foundation’s challenge?  Figuring out a way to channel  and organize all the information coming out of Burma (and similar situations that unfortunately, will probably still occur in other nations) and making it possible for citizen journalists to work together and share information in a safe, protected (read: totally anonymous with encrypted IP addresses) fashion.  Instead of focusing on technology that makes people’s lives a little easier, a development like this could make a very real life-or-death difference.

*This is probably painfully obvious, but some of the links in the above stories include rather graphic images and video clips, so consider yourself warned.*

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

Shifting Focus: Social Networking

Posted by Jacqueline on September 27, 2007

Social networking is a really hot topic these days, particularly if you work in a field that has anything to do with the web and digital technology.  From the big players like Facebook and Myspace to up and comers like Ning to the many, many niche websites, it seems that a new web 2.0 social-networking/tagging/bookmarking/insert buzzword of your choice here site or application pops up, oh, about every five minutes (if you read Techcrunch or follow Techmeme you know exactly what I mean). 

There’s a new kid on the block lately, however, and that kid is Netvibes.  Their slogan is “remix the web”, and that is exactly what they do.  Instead of a strictly defined interface or lengthy profile that you have to fill out (isn’t everyone tired of doing that at this point anyways?), it lets users create their own personal dashboard, filled with widgets from their favorite sites – you can have local weather, breaking news, your other social network profiles, your email(s), RSS feeds, sports stats, latest bookmarks, and virtually anything else that can be widgetized.  The options are as endless as the internet. 

There is something fluid about Netvibes that is appealing after using all the old walled garden, data silo social networks.  It combines the best elements of them all, resulting in an incredibly convenient application that makes an excellent homepage.  Of course, it doesn’t purport to replace the other networks – Netvibes just wants them to build widgets and to join their party.  With this website, everyone can play – even advertisers and marketers.  Although the site does not run ads (and doesn’t plan to in the future), companies can build widgets, although it is up to the builders to make something that is useful and clever enough for the users to add it to their personal Netvibes.  It is permission marketing at work. 

What is so interesting is that the available widgets in the directory range from the expected (Yahoo sports updates, NPR, the various sections of the New York Times) to the more personal – you can add a widget for your favorite blogs, or create a personal countdown for an event that you’re looking forward to.  There are also “universes” that encompass things like the latest news from your favorite musician or TV show. 

Tariq Kim, the founder of Netvibes, created the site because he believes that people want less structure and more control.  From this recent post by Jessi Hempel on Fortune Magazine’s blog, The Browser, “Netvibes is a personal widget market place – publishers (often advertisers) list them and you choose whether to pull them on to your page.”  By the end of the year, they hope to add some social components like the ability to share your widgets with friends.

Why should you be interested in Netvibes?  Besides the fact that it is just incredibly convenient to have an efficient, personally designed dashboard from which to navigate the web, if you’re a developer or entreprenuer, you might want to create widget for the site yourself.  The ability to widgetize your website or application might make the difference if you’re looking for funding (or of course, entering the Knight News Challenge).

To end on a slightly humorous note, does anyone else initially think of Guinness and their version of the widget when they hear the word “widget”?

Posted in Digital Media, General, Innovation, New Media, Technology, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Developing Apps for the Palm Centro

Posted by Jacqueline on September 27, 2007

Yeah, yeah, it’s not as cool or sexy as the iphone – but really, what other web-enabled phone is?  However, the Palm Centro is sleek, functional, and significantly less expensive – it’s only $99.99, making it much more affordable for those not ready to take the costly iphone plunge. 

centro_1.jpg

In my last post, I talked about the mobile web and what people are developing for it – and you can bet that when this phone arrives on the market in October 2007, more people than ever are going to be accessing the net from their phones.  Working on a mobile app that delivers news via smart phone?  Enter the news challenge.

Picture via Engadget

Posted in Digital Media, Innovation, Technology, Web | 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 »