Category Archives: web 2.0

Who screws up the most? Everyone.

Each month I have dinner with good friends who happen to be editors at three of the nation’s leading news organizations. Given our friendship and a common kinship to newspapers, conversation invariably turns to journalism and its current woes. As a recovering journalist turned digerati, I am left to defend “Dale’s Internet” during spirited after-dinner dialectic and wine tasting.

This month’s debate: Who screws up the most?

The debate begins with the claim “you can’t trust anything on the Internet.” The new twist is that my friends are convinced that Google, Wikipedia and a gazillion bloggers are not only spreading bad information but instilling bad habits in good reporters.

Reporters have become poor spellers who don’t check things, they contend, because they rely so much on that insidious web of misinformation and opinion. The editors worry that professional reporters are beginning to perform like the unskilled and distrusted amateurs of the Internet.

My friends are also upset with the error surcharge. They complain that newspapers and broadcasters pay a far higher price for making errors or expressing opinion than do Internet sites.

I wanted to tell them that the public expects more – perhaps too much – from professional news organizations and their promise of rigor, objectivity, and truth to power.

I also wanted to explain how the Internet itself acts an editing mechanism where editorial judgment is applied at the edges, sometimes after the fact, not in advance.

Instead, I yielded to the wine, the time and a respect for dedicated friends doing the hard work of a good profession

Then came the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Near the end of the broadcast, Williams paused to announce a correction. The previous week, NBC reported that Russia had planted a flag on the seabed directly under the North Pole in a move seen as a symbolic claim on the resource rich region. NBC ran video footage from Reuters called “Russia plants flag under N Pole.” Reuters posted the story and video on its news site on August 2.

The problem was that a 13-year-old boy who saw the footage on NBC thought the Russian MIR submersible in the video looked a lot like the submersible used in the search for the Titanic more than a decade ago. Which it was.

Blaming Reuters, Williams acknowledged the error. Poof. It was gone.

Reuters merely posted this clarification above the story on its site: “This story contains file shots of Russia’s MIR submersible. The story also contains video of a submersible which was shot during the search for the Titanic in the Atlantic.” Poof.

The bad video tumbled without correction from one medium to the next. CNN, MSNBC, Fox and other stations ran it for days. Dozens of newspaper sites linked to it.

On the Internet, an error gets around like a lobbyist in Washington. Reputations are shaped by how quickly peers, critics, friends, experts and, yes, editors correct it. Participation in the process of setting the story straight is part of the currency, as well as the sport, of the Net.

It used to be that journalists were expected to be an expert on something. Today some 13-year-old probably knows more about the thermal tiles on the space shuttle than a reporter covering NASA. Chances are the 13-year-old is communicating with a larger network of readers on My Space. So why not use their knowledge network, even if the kid (or the reporter) may misspell “Endeavour.”

That’s the promise of We Media – the media environment where shared or connected knowledge is an opportunity, not a threat. As great as the promise of “truth to power,” interactivity and communications technology enable citizens to spread knowledge,

“Who screws up the most?” is not the question we ought to be asking at dinner parties, in newsrooms or on the Internet. We ought to be asking how skilled journalists can collaborate with connected, informed citizens to better make sense of a complex world.

Editors might help everyone with their spelling. Or they could blame an algorithm.

Before Web 2.0, a little Web 101

A friend at a relatively large media corporation recently asked me to evaluate one of that company’s newspaper web sites. I removed any references to the specific paper/company not so much because I’m avoiding picking on them, but because most of the things I list I’ve seen elsewhere and I want more people at more companies to understand what to look for and why I feel they are important.

It’s very fun these days to obsess over various Web 2.0 technologies and how to integrate them into your existing site. But keeping up with the items listed below can do a lot to help companies grow and maintain readership.

Here goes nothing:

Improper copyright year in the footer – If the reader thinks you don’t know what year it is, it doesn’t do much to help credibility. I subsequently found this in a lot of places. When this extends into the second quarter of the year (as it now does as of this posting), it looks much worse than seeing it in Jan. and Feb.

Contact info without a means of communicating via the web — The site listed a collection of phone numbers for News tips, Classifieds, Display advertising, and Subscriptions. But there was no link to pages for these departments or Web-based email forms. This can frustrate the reader and cost your company a good chunk of change in the man hours needed to answer all those phone calls.

Articles with no comment functionality – I had the chance to integrate Topix.net into the iFocos site and was impressed with how easy the integration was. Such a service, or others like it integrated into the bottom of each article, could both enable reader feedback and expose the article to a wider audience. Also this wasn’t a matter of the site not encouraging any comments, as it’s blog had them fully enabled.

Registration requirement — I think the ESPN.com’s Insider approach is much better than preventing a user from seeing anything at all. If you’re going to require registration, I feel you should give the reader a tease of the first two or three grafs.

Hiding back-door views of your site — I’m a view-source kind of guy. I deleted some of the URL for a blog post, down to http://www.DOMAIN.com/CATEGORY/ and found a “test page” was exposed. This should probably be an inventory of all the company’s blogs. I also noticed that it said “Powered by Movable Type 3.16″ Much has happened to Movable Type since version 3.16. Keeping on such an upgrade path can sometimes uncover new publishing, revenue and social networking opportunities for your company.

Make your headlines clickable – Not everyone instinctively knows to click on a “permalink.” Having both the word “permalink” and the headline clickable could result in increased page vews.

OK, I lied. I am now meandering into some more Web 2.0 territory. But don’t worry, none of this requires a computer science degree or anything …

Google maps indexing – I started playing with integrating Google maps into Movable Type recently for a client. I think this is an amazing opportunity for companies to explore. What I envision is a Google map that, when you click on a specific region, your last X number of articles, blog posts etc. that relate to that area show up.

Very targeted advertising could be integrated as well in the pop-up windows in the map. When users mouse over one of the markers on the map. Constructing such a map is no more complicated than creating specialized RSS feeds.

Go where the high school kids are — Why not create an account on MySpace that features links to your latest content? You could get thousands of potential young readers to be your paper’s “friend” and communicate with them on a level newspaper execs haven’t even let themselves ever dream about.

Recruit and host guest bloggers, and make them a real part of your publishing effort – Several news sites are warming up to the idea of “guest bloggers” as part of a citizen journalism effort. However, the areas these fine folks often post into is not always fully utilized by the newspaper company. Including small widgets showcasing “Latest headlines” or articles and features related to what the guest is blogging about seems to be a natural fit that would enhance the user’s experience with the guest blog and the company’s ability to reach a larger audience.

Speaking of reaching a larger audience … claim your blog on Technorati! – Once you’ve created these blogs for guests, take the next step and get them on Technorati’s radar. Make sure the ping settings in your publishing system are correct, and embed the little bit of HTML that enables visitors to make that blog one of their favorites on Technorati.

This is obviously just a small snapshot of opportunities and mistakes out there. We’d love to hear other from you. Comment below and get those gripes off your chest!

Chad Capellman is an occasional contributor and site constructor for iFocos. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at http://www.linkedin.com/in/capellman

WE MEDIA-ZOGBY POLL: Interview with John Zogby

“Are blogs really that important?” asks Jemima Kiss in this post. That’s the question renowened pollster John Zogby addressed during his presentation on the results of the We Media-Zogby poll.

During his presentation, he indicated that:
- “Only 27% of the public said they were satisfied with the news but 76% of people inside it are satisfied.
- Only 12% of the public read newspapers but 26% of the industry reads them.
- 32% of the public get their news from Tv but only 5% of the media does.
- 40% of the public gets their news form the internet but 60% of the media industry does.
- Just over half the public said blogs are important but 86% of the media said they are.”
(excerpted from Jemima Kiss’s detailed notes)

We caught up with John Zogby afterwards to ask him a few more questions (Click here to view the interview):

interview zogby

Is Yahoo Becoming the Social Search Engine?

Joe Lewis wrote an interesting opinion piece, positing that Yahoo’s focusing on social search in an attempt to outflank Google.

But that’s actually a positive spin on a negative situation for Yahoo. While it’s true that Yahoo has been doing significant development in terms of buying or building content sites powered by social networks, I don’t think that Google is doing any worse.

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Video: We’re All in this Together

One phrase, one song from one of the projects featured stays with me as I consider all the videos that were shown at the Grove Stage on Thursday night. “We’re all in this together”. This phrase, this song, I felt best represented and signified the entire video festival. The art of video to convey strong images, strong stories, that stay with you long after the piece is complete is a significant challenge in new media environments. Screens are small, accessibility options complex, and distractions from a piece varied. Steve Rosenbaum met these challenges with his series of images and choice of music presented on the outside screen along with the national drink of Cuba, mojitos. The images were so diverse and methodically paced, it absolutely held my attention. The theme music chosen for the piece truly brings all of the other pieces together.

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Global Voices: New Directions

Those of you who’ve visited the Global Voices web site are probably familiar with our core mission, and the ways in which we’ve been trying to fulfill it thus far. The central feature of Global Voices has been our international blog aggregator, which is driven today by a team comprising nine regional editors, six language editors and 60-plus volunteer authors. In the two years and three months since it came online, this edited aggregator has made major strides towards helping foster a more democratic global discourse by amplifying voices from parts of the world which normally occupy the fringes of the mainstream media, if they’re even heard at all.

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Second Life and engaging communities

Communities exist in many forms, from chatter on a forum or bulletin board through to multi-player 3D virtual worlds. But what engagement models work and how can media companies nurture communities without alienating them as devices of corporate interests?

In our open discussion on Thursday at 12.30pm at the WeMedia conference in Miami we hope to engage the community sitting in the audience in a discussion of the different ways of working with communities – without alienating them!

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Redesigning the Connected Community at P.O.V. Interactive

For the past twenty years, P.O.V. has presented groundbreaking documentary films on PBS, working with filmmakers both emerging and established to present their perspectives to a national audience. The series has always challenged the notion of television as a one-way medium by pioneering innovative projects such as our Talking Back and Community Engagement campaigns, which promoted the idea of “two-way TV” by featuring on-air viewer responses to films and fostering dialogue within communities in local screenings. Since 1996, P.O.V. Interactive has created companion websites for P.O.V. films, providing articles, interviews with filmmakers and experts, innovative interactive features, and acting as a destination for viewer feedback and discussions after broadcast.

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Get a First Life

Get a First Life!If you’ve been a little bemused or underwhelmed by the goings-on in Second Life (Swedish embassy, Reuters news bureau) this Get a First Life parody will probably hit the spot.

First Life is a 3D analog world where server lag does not exist. Find Out Where You Actually Live! Go Outside!  Membership is Free!

What’s especially notable, other than the dead-on humor, is that Linden Labs, creators of Second Life, responded with a direct anti-”seize-and-desist” letter. It’s nice to see a company that allows, even encourages, parody and derivative creativity — though given Second Life’s ethos, I’d have been surprised by any other response.

Can New Technologies Help Strengthen Relationships Worldwide?

 Coming from the perspective of both a technology person working on international peace-building campaigns and a professor teaching a video-conferenced course entitled “Globalizing Social Activism and Information Technology,” I have been concerned both practically and theoretically with what it means to build community. Community in a connected world all too often means a broad range of connections with questionable depth. While information technology has enabled transnational networks of activists to build campaigns that would have been unimaginable before 1990 – the International Committee to Ban Landmines, the anti-MAI campaigns, and the Zapatistas just to mention the most famous – the experience of many activists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is that they are talking with a wider range of people, but having less success in mobilizing in their own local areas. While local activism and global connectivity are not necessarily contradictory, many organizations have experienced this dilemma in trying to determine how to allocate their resources and how to be accountable to multiple constituencies.

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