Teaching Examples

Journalism 2.0
June 15, 2006, 2:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Forget citizen journalists — how good are citizen editors? Are crowds really wiser than individuals?

At AlterNet, John Gorenfeld has been Surfing the Future of News 2.0 — looking into the usefulness of sites such as Personal Bee, Newsvine, CommonTimes, iTalkNews, WikiNews and NowPublic. Disappointingly, he doesn’t provide a summary of his tests.

I hit up a random group of News 2.0 sites, hoping to cut through the “noise” to find exactly what I want. It couldn’t just be a big breaking story (like the recent immigration rallies) or a music consumer story that was guaranteed to be covered (Apple is keeping iTunes downloads at 99 cents!). It would have to test the ability of these sites to personalize the news and find what I want.

It’s too early for a fair test of original “citizen journalism” on these portals. The goal, instead, would be to see how easily they steered me towards information on what was important to me, the consumer of news. Uncertain, I cast my fate into the hands of my fellow citizen-editors and asked a particularly nerdy question: “Just how is Katherine Harris’ Senate campaign in Florida doing, anyway?”

In short, it appears that none of the sites delivered a satisfying result. This may be because a rating system such as the one used at Digg makes more sense for obscure news and information. I’m not going to bother clicking a “plus” rating for a story that’s already everywhere. Granted, Gorenfeld’s query about Harris is somewhat obscure (especially outside Florida), but it’s also rather fuzzy. (Maybe someone else can come up with a better test question.)

The “citizen editor” probably is most effective when the citizens involved have some expertise in the subject area — this actually echoes the academic idea of “peer review.” To achieve the reward of publication in a respected scholarly journal, such as Nature or The New England Journal of Medicine, a researcher must submit his or her article to a critique by two or more anonymous peers who have expertise in the same research area.

What struck me while I was reading Gorenfeld’s story was this: The blogosphere serves as a kind of peer review system, especially in specialized areas such as Web design and programming. The general-interest aggregate sites that Gorenfeld looked at, however, might never function that way — precisely because of their non-specific scope.

Update: Just saw that Nature is trying out a new, public “open peer review” process (via Chris Anderson at The Long Tail).

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Hi, This is Michael Tippett from NowPublic. If anyone is interested in helping us make news better please feel free to contact me. We are in the process of a re-design and are inviting a few people in as beta testers. Let me know if you’d like to get involved.

mtippett (at) nowpublic (dot) com

Comment by Mike Tippett's Daily Blather

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