Apr 12

Cubicgarden visiting

Ian and Sarah Forrester are coming to visit New York at the end of the month, so I thought I’d drag him out to meet some of the New York people. I was in the process of organising an event, but co-incidentally the NextNY Social outing is on the same night so I’ve concluded that it is easier to hi-jack that! So we’ll all be turning up at the CopperSmith bar around 7ish on 27th April. If you want to come along, just sign up on the wiki – even if you are not part of NextNY currently.

Ian Forrester Image from Tom Morris

Mar 27

Social Media Club NY Mar 27

Jay Rosen (Newassigment.net) talking about Assignment Zero

When Tim Berners-Lee designed the web, he created a platform for people to collaborate, so scientists could share data. It is a giant collaboration machine. but it has developed more as a broadcast media, print, tv, cable to web.

so what are the consequences for journalism, investigative reporting, when we have falling costs to locate people, share info, collaborate. so like-minded people can find each other, collaborate and make stuff for value. see OSS, Wikipedia, others. So with NewAssignment.net what are the consequences for journalism,

this is a research project; to spark innovation, to develop new knowledge, to push forward platform of open source reporting.

So how do you do reporting under open conditions? the fist attempt is Assignment Zero, joint project with Wired magazine, they have shared some costs, e.g. hiring an editor to carry project to the end.

So can you take a big trend story, out there in 100s or 1000s of places, break it up into parts, develop online, assign to people, write stories and publish the best of the results. an open invitation to participates to join in that behaviour. can you do stories with 100s instead of 2-3?

Have 700 members in 2 weeks, they expected 250 in 2 months, with 100 or so real contributing. biggest problem is organising all of these people. Thye have joined, got blog, have email address. have said intend to contribute. Most members have put photos, They are known.

The heart of the site is the assignment desk (very crudely designed). List all the topics under the big story about the spread of crowd-sourcing.

There are forums to discuss new stories, complaints, a survey, the survey is open to all- looking at motivations across the various types of open source projects.

Most of the editors are professional journalists. we have a Director of Participation. to do this, you need a traditional editor and then you need someone to organise the people..the Director of Participation.. One drives the story, the other solves the people problems. We are deluged now under the cost of interactivity, we have 3x as many people as expected. we do not have the staff to manage this at the moment. then you have to organise volunteers to absorb this costs, to add to the solution, to organise more people. to keep the people there.

The Dir. of Participation’s background is in political campaigns, have understanding of organising people horizontal. The equivalent roles in tech companies are community managers.

We think it will be a 2-3 month project. so what do we get? Wired will have a big feature about everything we will do, and newassignment.net will also publish an editors cut of everything that came in. a big package of stories here, a big feature on the mag. everything is CC, so things can be published elsewhere as well,.

Also (today) starting a second project with Huffpost, following 12 Presidential candidates; create a group blog, with networks of 50-100 people, feeding material to one blog, doing a microbeat. there will be backstage forum for the network to discuss the news, sort out things etc.

Audience Questions

Q: how do you accommodate for standards of journalism, from writing to vetting stories.

A: we are trying to practice open platform, capture the benefits of openness but we know there are cots. the tricks are to have benefits and reduce costs. one of costs is about knowing the credibility of the participants. we are not going to prevent people joining, but have strict controls on what we will print. exercise controls at the final gateway. if we can’t reach you by phone, then unlikely to give you stuff essential to do. there’s no single solution to it. you have overlapping measures that add up to a workable solutions

Q: Dan Gilmore had Bayosphere for a while, the main difference here is there is an editor, far more of a focus.

A: this is a second wave attempt built on what happened the first time round. the first was about building platforms for people to do their own thing – that is what blogging is This is far different – one story into 100s of parts. we can do stuff that are as good, and stories that they would not attempt, that would not be feasible.

Q: what is the business model

A: this is not a business; the costs for this project are over 40k for one this one story, but we do not know what will come out of it. the costs for the first may not be the same as the second. will you get costs savings? not sure, but will get increases in quality and volume. the crowd become a way to make the crowd reliable. it is no a cheaper journalism, but a better one that is done on bigger subjects

Q: how about faster?

A: Last weekend the Justice dept, dumped 3k page of emails, see how talkingpontsmemo.com spread out the work, asked readers to help them out. posted 100s of pdfs, asked people to analyse and find the stuff. they did it overnight.

A: Sunlight foundation got people to check members of Congress employing family members- took a weekend – then all were fact checked and there was a high degree of accuracy.

Q: in terms of wikis, how would you describe the difference?

A: in starting this, we could learn from first wave of projects. take a step beyond that. 2ndly he biggest gains would be in hybrid forms, where you have openness and also some controls. there is structure and chaos. if anyone can sign up, this is the opposite of a controlled newsroom. it is going to be a mix of openness and controls, professionals and amateurs, order and entropy. the only way to find it is through practice, not ideology nor theory. I’m a tenure professor of journalism – who’s going to tell me I can’t. the cost of trying things is plunging so the cost to learning new things is plunging. no paper will do this. most journalists are very protectionist about this, defensive. I don;t have to care at the moment, we can do it without them. I put out an appeal for pros to help with it, when we got to 450, got 25 people interested. we have some problems, we did not design the pages properly. we are redesigning now, so you will find info and who the editor for the pages who is the contributor is, you can join a topic when you want to work on it, and you will know who your collaborators are. we add a blog for the editor to address the contributors.

Q: will we see the reporting that has gone on?

A: will we see their notes, what they add to it. They post in their ‘notebook’. which shows on the front page. Open source code site is built in drupal, all code is there, we need to find developers.

Q: is there a back channels or open channel for the participants?

A: when we redo the topic page. you will find discussion and deliberation at the page – publicly. when we do other stories, we may add some confidential stuff. we do it story by story. if the best thing for the story is to be confidential, then we will.

Q: why do you need a professional at the top – does not community do it already? can’t you do it like that?

A: it’;s possible we will get there, but when starting this I could not work out how to do this without some pros. if we could get there, and have almost no pros, then that would be fantastic discovery..a self informing public, a wild idea. but right now I don;t know how to do it, how to create the controls. I think the biggest gains will be with the hybrid.

Q: At the moment, my reporters notebook is covered by laws to keep me out of trouble, what about this notebook, how is this handled?

A: it;s a complicated questions. I have thought it through with lawyers. write now, all we can do is differentiate the edited from unedited. there is a belief that the libellous material is in unedited material then some protection (common carrier). this is not yet proven, we do not know that the courts will say. it is not exactly clear. this is an experiment in shared responsibility and liability. if I had checked with all lawyers possible, then they may say I could not do it. but I have to innovate. you have to solve the practical problems that you run in,. the knowledge that you develop to solve the problems is the goal.

Mar 22

BlogHer Biz – some case studies

From the BlogHer Business conference, being held in New York over the next 2 days, some quick fire casestudies of different sizes of companies using social media to support their businesses

Susan Getgood and Shirley Frazier – GiftBasket Business Blog

There are 2 blogs on the giftbasket business; have lots of information about this business. a $4.8billion business. I help educate people, find plenty of news and share out. I speak around country on this subject, help people find their niche. One is Solo Business Marketing, for people who work alone and need marketing advice. I have an experimental blog, laughingchow.com, all about photography tips, helps people have a good time. Uses wordpress.

Q: so why blogs and not a ‘website’

A: they are complimentary to a site; SBM started as a promotional tool for my book, and then added on a website. GBB was the site first and added the blog to complement. I get very few if any comments, but I get a tonne of traffic coming through.

Q: so how do you measure results.

A: it comes from the sale of my educational materials. They sell well, I have the best selling books on gift baskets; I follow people from blog to the site to the sales. the other part is through the passive revenue, I use multiple ad serving idea, and GBB draws a fair bit of revenue. GBB people do not know what is a blog is, but they come to the site, see the contextual ads and click on them. the third way is from speaking engagements, they increase. before the blogs I had 20-25 engagements a year, now they are almost doubling. the blog gets more traffic through search engines. they get cited quicker than the sites, people can find me, when looking for specific niche topics.

Q: so blogs have been successful

A: I was dragged kicking and screaming, but very successful.

Q: so what advice would you give the solo business people?

A: be proactive in having and maintaining you blog; it was difficult for me to understand at first, but kept looking it up and learning. the sweat is worth the effort. it;s like running your own newspaper; it;s nice if the press finds you, but this way you have your own voice, can solicit opinions, its good to share your voice around the world.

Q: do you get people coming who do not know what a GB is?

A: not really, but get a lot of referrals for people who are just starting.

Elena Cantor interviews Caroline Little from Washington Post

Q: we were talking about newspapers that were getting it. at the washington post.com you;ve been doing it a while

A: we publish newsweek, post and slate. we got on the web 10 years ago; a lot of what we were doing 3 years ago was just re-purposing paper info, but i felt we were not doing enough. the post is a local newspaper but the web is global, so 90% of the readers come from outside the market and never see the paper. I felt we needed to reach out and utilise the web. we’ve made mistakes, but it’s important to make mistakes otherwise you are not doing new things.

Q: so when did you decide to be blog friendly; when you were weighing those risks, what were you saying to the journalists.

A: the risk side internally was not that much. suddenly the journalists had a whole audience that they never had before. we opened everything up, There were issues about pay etc, but most people were happy. A lot of grief came from when we had bloggers who were not from the WP, but comments came that these people did not write for paper, and were representing the WP.

Q: mistakes?

A: one of our writers had alleged plagiarism problems, which was difficult for all of us. When we posted comments, we have had a lot of issues in our politics area, we had some totally irate people, the comments were useless at some point, we shut down the comments as they were mean and threatening. and we written up for shutting down, we were the first to do this and we got slammed.

Q: so what is the opinions out there?p
A: we have taken the position that the web is open; our role is to help people in navigating the web; hopefully we provide enough of a road map that people will come back to us as we contextualise it. we link out. Other sites have taken the route that they never link to a competitor, we link to other news sites. We do link to competitors, why wouldn’t we. There are different approaches about how you will provide news, what to put behind walls and we would kill our national aspirations if we did all of this.

Q: so how are you evaluating?

A: I evaluate based on …we won an Emmy last year, we have a lot of rewards, our audience grows, our revenue grows, Our goal is to make revenue to support the newsgathering. but it is working

Q: how are journalists reacting to change?

A: it’s across the board. some want it to reflect the papers, others think it is the coolest things and want to do more

Q: where is it going?

A: the paper may not go away, and we have to think about news gathering on multiple platforms. the paper delivers the most revenue and that tends to be the most dominant mindset; apart from the economics the audience story is so different and we have to be thinking about reaching in different ways and it is tough coming from an entrenched position but we have a shot.

Q: you link to bloggers if they link to you

A: that is our benefit, if we can help, people are having a conversation; people are talking about important issues; we have 12m readers online, we never had this before.

Q: when you started this, so what is the biggest surprise?

A: the more successful you get the harder it is. surprised at success in multimedia as not a core strength. there is an intimacy that comes with blogs, its a different way of reporting. video that works well on the web is very intimate, we do not have a lot of boundaries and it is interesting to see that media evolve.

Lena West interviews Carmen VanKerckhove

A: New demographic is an anti-racism company. I have 2 blogs, one about intersection of race and pop culture, and the other about anti racism parenting and a podcast about americas addiction to race.

Q: why open a public free for all about race in america?

A: i stumbled into it. I had no strategy. I started the blog before the company. I was inspired by angry asian men blog; i wanted a blog like that to track media representations of mixed race. The podcast was the same way, we wanted our radio show. we are open and honest, we joke, it is not PC, so we separated the two, then we realised that our brand was our attitude, we do not make it a scary subject, you can treat it casually. at this point we needed to tie it all together. The blog was too much of a catchall, so we decided to focus and split into 3 different ones, The new one deals with race and workplace issues.

Q: you started without a strategy…but how are you doing now. How do you do it!

A: I’m really passionate, it does not feel like work. They are not just marketing tools, they are a core part. I do seminars, i do grassroots as anyone can join in these conversations. I do lot of timed blogging, blog in spurts and then they come out throughout the week.

Q: so how stay time relevant?

A: the preposts are not ness time sensitive. I also publish my delicious links daily. that gives me some relevant content is I run out of time.

Q: what are your results?

A: I have got a lot of media coverage, CNN, Newsweek, etc etc. Established my reputation and I get called upon to give my opinions, Speaking engagements have increased, clients have come through blog or podcast, I’m starting to see a payoff, all this time I’m seeing a strong connection.
I got interest from daytime talkshows and a book agent. I don’t have huge amounts of traffic, Racialicious has about 1500 a day month. the Anti-Racist Parent blog about 2-300 a day week, not huge amounts, podcast 1-2k downloads per episode. so you can accomplish a lot in your niche without huge traffic.

Q: what’s the one thing you wish you had known?

A: don’t forget your traditional email newsletter; there is still value in this. Put on your homepage. I always have some kind of free offer. I have so many sign ups since doing the offer. Make it obvious who you are and what you do, so people can contact you. I idiot proof my sidebar, make it clear what I do, It cuts down confusions.

Maria Niles Interviews Staci Schiller from Wells Fargo Bank.

Q: please give us some history?

A: it started in 2005, we delved into Stagecoach island, we saw comment sin blogs etc and thought it was another way to talk with customers. we have a lot of history and our first blog was about the 1906 SanFran earthquake. we thought it would be a short site, we thought it would die after the anniversary. we continued to get traffic on the site and it evolved, into a disaster preparedness and advice site. From there we were hooked. We decide to keep going.

Q: and now you have more?

A: the Student Loan DOme is about college financing and managing debt. its a pretty wide audience. we researched and found few people talking about this; there is a lot of angst, We looked at it from an education POV, providing guidance. A good opportunity to talk to people in a new way. Our customers were online, we wanted to be there.

Q: how do you manage all of this, in a highly regulated industry

A: the SLD is multiple audiences, have bloggers at different phases of life. I did not have any debt, so wrote a post early on explaining this. We try and make it a humanising piece of the bank, with names and faces and stories. It took a lot of convincing for the compliance and legal people, we had to be persistent about it. Compliance reviews every post I put up, this is a bank.. they are doing that to protect me and the bank.

Q: what are the results?

A: The earthquake blog continues to evolve, it looks at history in general, traffic continues to grow. On the SLD traffic grows, we get spikes at certain times of the year.

Q: any challenges or successes?

A: one of the rewarding things is that the community has embraced it. I’m a real person, and people come and seek advice and i feel fortunate that I can o this.