Tag Archives: citizen journalism

Guy Kawasaki – Exclusive Interview with NowPublic

Below is a transcript of an interview that I recently conducted with Guy Kawasaki. It was great to hear his fascinating perspective on the state of the news business — and to learn more about his latest projects. If you haven’t checked out Alltop yet, I strongly encourage that you do.

This article was first published on NowPublic.com

NowPublic recently had the chance to catch up with Guy Kawasaki, a leading venture capitalist with Garage Technology Ventures, former Apple evangelist, and a highly respected web entrepreneur and blogger.

We spoke to Kawasaki about his most recent ventures, Alltop.com – a single page, news aggregation site, Truemors.com – a citizen journalism-styled, news sharing and storytelling site, and his thoughts on the future of news

NowPublic: Can you give us a bit of background of what motivated you to create Alltop?

Kawasaki: First, philosophically, there’s so much great information on the web, but it’s very hard for most people to find it. Google finds ten million matches for every topic. RSS is a big help, but only if you understand what RSS is, how to use it, and where to find the feeds. Also, there is the initial problem of finding sites and blogs that are worth aggregating at all. So we do all of this for people and provide an “online magazine rack” for people. Second, we noticed how much traffic popurls was sending Truemors, so we figured there must be something to aggregations. Theoretically, once we have topics set up, all we need to do is make sure the servers are running. How cool is that?

NP: What other new categories are you working on?

Kawasaki: We’re adding four to five topics a week. Since Books and Art, we’ve added Crafts, Beauty, China, and Virtual. At some point we could have every topic in the universe, but then we’d just be another Google. Which, come to think of it, wouldn’t be so bad.

NP: Who do you bring in to help determine which sites will be aggregated for each category?

Kawasaki: The story of how we pick topics and what goes into topics is very interesting. I’m not a big believer in the wisdom of crowds. However, within crowds there’s usually a handful of people who really live and breath a topic and want to share their knowledge. The single best way I have found to tap these folks is Twitter. I get suggestions for new topics all the time on Twitter. We implement most of them. In fact, the people who suggest topics usually already have a great list of feeds. Without Twitter, Alltop would not be nearly what it is today. I dare say that I get more value out of Twitter than anyone on the planet.

NP: Are you personally a fan of highly-customizable feed readers and websites?

Kawasaki: I’m not. High levels of personalization and customization is for the uppermost 1% of the Internet. The state of the art of RSS feeds is much too troublesome for most people. With customizable feed readers and websites, you can do almost everything we do for you with Alltop. The issue is whether it’s worth the trouble for most people to find a feed reader or customizable site, find the sites and blogs that interest you, find the feeds of those sites and blogs, and then set up the feed reader or customizable site.

NP: How do see the relationship evolving between “curated” (editorialized) and automated content?

Kawasaki: There is no right and wrong or good and bad. There’s only what works for you. We are closer to Mahalo and Wikipedia in that the selection of topics and feeds within a topic are highly subjective, unautomated, and not crowd sourced. Our topics and feeds are “crafted” not automated. In your terms, Alltop is the automation of curation. Or, you can think of Alltop as the anti-social media site. Your contributors might find topics like Science.alltop.com and Design.alltop.com excellent sources for stories for NowPublic because we are checking hundreds of sources every ten minutes. Many of these sources are far off the beaten path, and their stories should reach more people.

NP: With Truemors, which is an open access, news sharing, and storytelling site, what has your experience been like working with participatory media (so-called ‘citizen journalism’)?

Kawasaki: Truemors was wide open, but it’s not anymore. We found that a handful of “truemorists” that we know and gave accounts to yields a much higher quality selection of news. Anyone can still post, but if you’re not a truemorist, the posting is held until someone on our side approves it manually. Truemors is effectively trying to “curate” news from hundreds of sources and provide “NPR for your eyes” in the sense of eclectic human interest news.

NP: You’ve also enabled the public to be able to post stories to Truemors in a variety of ways. People can phone, text, or email stories, but they can also add breaking news updates through the “Twitter News Network”. What kind of impact are microblogging applications, like Twitter, having on news?

Kawasaki: When the dust settled, the posting method that worked is via the web. Very few people used any of the cool methods we were so proud of. And now with truemorists holding the keys, it’s virtually exclusively web postings other than the Twitter News Network. Having said this with regard to Truemors specifically, Twitter can have an enormous impact on news. One particularly good example is Newmediajim who is an NBC cameraman who’s flying around with the president on Air Force One.

NP: By opening up more and more distribution channels for content, we’re faced with an increasingly overwhelming onslaught of information. How do you personally navigate this ocean of infinite choice?

Kawasaki: Here’s a funny story. I use NetNewswire to keep track of all the feeds in Alltop. At one point, I had more than 3,000 feeds; these feeds generated 20,000 stories per day. Now I get my news from several Alltop topics like Mac.alltop.com and Socialmedia.alltop.com as well as paper pubs like the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury, and Wall Street Journal.

NP: In the world of social media, there has been a web 2.0 trend toward “hyperlocal” and “hyperpersonal” news, how do you see Alltop and Truemors fitting into that spectrum?

Kawasaki: I suppose at some point Alltop and Truemors can get hyperlocal. Right now, the closest that we come to this is China.alltop.com which isn’t that local, I guess. But it will come down to the numbers: Is a hyperlocal topic so local that no one wants to advertise on it. Or, if we’re lucky, maybe because it’s hyperlocal, advertisers will find it attractive. All of this is TBD.

NP: Do you see a future beyond advertising and sponsored content for Web 2.0 companies?

Kawasaki: Just like other Web 2.0 companies, we’re making it up as we go combined with a large dose of wishful thinking. Alas, in my most hallucinatory fantasies, I see selling “sponsored feed” positions at the top of Alltop topics ala Google’s sponsored links. Now that would be something.

NP: And finally, in the spirit of your “top ten” keynote format, what do you see as being the top ten biggest changes and challenges ahead in how we consume news and information?

Kawasaki: You’re kidding me, right? I just answered ten questions, and now you’re asking one question that needs ten answers. Do you think I only give press interviews all day long?

Beatblogging & the Success of the Network

This is very interesting…I wrote a post last week about how we should emphasize curating instead of creating – relating to user-generated content. This morning I found this: http://www.buzzmachine.com/2007/11/12/glam-the-success-of-the-network/

The post is by Jeff Jarvis who is widely respected and hugely influential technology writer/blogger & journalism professor. About 7-8 paragraphs down he writes: “So Glam is a content network. But they don’t create all the content. They curate it. So we should curate more as we create less. That’s another way to say what I’ve said other ways: Do what we do best and link to the rest. Also: We need to gather more and produce less, so we also need to encourage others to produce more so we can gather it.”

I wholeheartedly agree and wonder if next-gen UGC will move toward model of User-Generated Curating – tools that enable users to selectively cull and repurpose the good stuff they’ve found elsewhere online.

Jarvis also directed me to Jay Rosen‘s latest project: Beatblogging.org – “a collaboration between 13 news organizations from around the country and NewAssignment.Net, to figure out how journalists can use social networks to improve beat reporting”.

I think there is some real value in exploring their model: gather a group of contributors around a specific ‘beat’ (topic/channel) and leverage that network to generate targeted stories and reporting. I’m curious to see how it will work for them and to see if and how it could be applied elsewhere.

Citizen Curators vs. Creators

As the evolution of web 2.0, social networks, user-generated content, and ‘citizen media’ continues, I’ve shifted my focus from thinking of the ‘user as creator’ toward what I think is a far more viable and sustainable model for engaging users and communities: as citizen curators.

The work of the curator, as Antony Mayfield from Open points out in his excellent post on “Creators and Curators” within the context of the marketing industry, is to bring together content from diverse sources — to research, organize, and select it. Few people (let alone paid and respected bloggers) have the time to post daily, long-winded and high-minded philosophical diatribes on the inherently narcissistic pursuit of bettering one’s Technorati ranking and the like. Just look at the massive growth in microblogging and Twittering, since its debut at last year’s SXSW, for further evidence. Not only is time being spliced into ever smaller increments, so too is the time allotted for content creation.

It’s far easier to post a link to an article, Flickr photo, or YouTube video that you’ve stumbled upon, than it is to actually create a new and unique piece of content. Sites like Twitter and the slightly more evolved blogging platform Tumblr.com acknowledge this shift in attention and have responded with a simple architecture to grab content from around the web and repurpose it on one’s own site with a few snappy editorial comments added for good measure.

Indeed, the percentage of users who actively contribute to Wikipedia, YouTube, and every other UGC site you can think of, pale in comparison to the number of users who actively curate content from these sites by linking to, highlighting, quoting, and commenting items they find compelling, entertaining, or worth discussing.

I believe that users would rather curate from the existing and infinitely expanding universe of available content, rather than take the time to write, research, and create their own unique works. This is not to say that there aren’t, and won’t be, those for whom the act of creation will remain important and ritualistic, but rather to suggest that we should be creating sites, widgets, and applications that enable and facilitate the user experience of curating content.

At heart, this provides a simple means for users to demonstrate and be recognized for their knowledge, expertise, status, and time spent sorting through the endless of ocean of information, products, and fascinating detours that comprise the internet. Rather than simply exercising our ability to add to the webnoise and informationchaos, let’s try being selective for a change.

Assignment Zero First Take: Wiki Innovators Rethink Openness

The first crowdsourced-created AZ feature on Citizendium has just been published at Wired.com and it looks great! Congrats to everyone who was involved in getting it done on such a short timeline.

Now, for the rest of us at AZ, we’ve got a few short weeks to pull together a hefty list of interviews and assignments – but it’s an excellent vote of confidence to see that the crowd can produce Wired-worthy news.

Keep on!

Remix the Mashup: the future of music and film

Today I am posting a call for contributors that has just been sent out to everyone involved with AssignmentZero, as I think it offers the most current and concise summary of what we’ll be covering for AZ’s film and music pages. Have a read and get in touch if you’re interested in contributing.

In 1987, a pair of young producers/radio DJs, known as Coldcut, stormed the UK dance music scene with a pioneering, sample-based style that featured a barrage of reworked rhythms and sound collages, set to a live accompaniment of synchronized film and video clips.

Who could have anticipated that, twenty years later, this hybridized aesthetic would give rise to a cultural movement in remixed music, mashed-up film, and crowdsourced art?

From online remix/mashup music communities like SpliceMusic.com, to collaborative film productions like A Swarm of Angels, the art of making art has been radically transformed by the crowd. Songs are being written collaboratively by musicians located around the globe, and films are being funded using crowdsourced donations and created through public participation in every stage of production. Artists are increasingly embracing the ethos of open-source, and joining Coldcut with a call to: “Let the data be free!”

These are the new forces driving open-source culture: projects that cultivate “participatory experience” by allowing public access to art, artists, and creative processes; projects that enable creative collaboration between people regardless of location; and projects that can be downloaded, remixed, mashed-up, and shared.

What kinds of songs are being written collaboratively? What kinds of films are being crowdsourced? What are the benefits of creating art in this way?

AssignmentZero is interested in examining how the languages of sound and cinema are being transformed by crowdsourcing. If music and film are your passions and you can volunteer between 5-10 hours over the next three weeks, please join me in looking at the future of free music and art.

How to get involved:

* Choose your focus. Music? Film? Or both?

* Sign up to the right team. If it’s music, visit AZ’s crowdsourced music homepage and click on ‘join team,’ or write me back and put “music” in the subject line. If it’s film, go to the film homepage and chose ‘join team,’ or write me back and put “film” in the subject line.

If you’ve got some spare time today, check out the assignments on the topic homepages and get started. Or send an email to me, the editor, introducing yourself: jarrett.newassignment@gmail.com

Over the course of the next month, those who sign up will be working closely with me and our film and music teams. I am particularly passionate about these topics, as my background is in media and arts production, and I am a producer, editor, cultural critic, media host, and musician based in Montreal, Canada.

Together our group will work toward producing several pieces that will be submitted to Wired.com for publication on June 5.

If music and film are your passions and you can volunteer between 5-10 hours over the next three weeks, please join us to explore the future of the collaborative arts.

AssignmentZero: Calling All Culturites!

AssignmentZero

As some of you may know, I’m very interested in emergent citizen journalism initiatives that are pushing the idea forward in exciting and dynamic new ways. I’ve been involved with the NowPublic.com site as a contributing editor to their culture section, and this week I’ve signed on as the Culture Editor of AssignmentZero – a really exciting crowdsourcing journalism project headed up by Jay Rosen in collaboration with NewAssignment.net and Wired Magazine.

If you haven’t heard about the project, you can read Jay’s original Wired article here. The main question that AZ is hoping to address is this:

“Can large groups of widely scattered people, working together voluntarily on the net, report on something happening in their world right now, and by dividing the work wisely tell the story more completely, while hitting high standards in truth, accuracy and free expression?”

Sound familiar? If you know anything about NowPublic.com, then I’m sure you’ll see the parallels and similarities.

Interestingly, however, AZ has decided to focus on a time-specific project of 6-8 weeks, in which various contributors, writers, researchers, and editors will work together to cover a wide range of topics and stories related to the concept of crowdsourcing.

The site has attracted almost 1,000 contributors in its first few weeks online, and there is a great roster of talent on-board to edit topics on crowdsourced: politics, news, law, ideas, design, Second Life, journalism, media and publishing, science, technology, Wikipedia, graffiti, international stories and, my personal favourite, arts & culture. Quite the list.

No one’s sure exactly what will be produced in the process, or exactly what the process will be, but that’s entirely the point. The finished articles, interviews and pieces will be featured online in a new and expanded AssignmentZero website, possibly in the print edition of Wired Magazine, and perhaps beyond.

For my part, I will be working as the Culture Editor on the project, and helping to guide coverage of stories on: webTV, film, art, funding, music, and whatever else we decide is exciting and important to explore.

And this is where you come in.

There are some fascinating stories to cover and we’re looking for contributors to get involved with researching, writing, and editing stories – and you might even end up in Wired Magazine!

I’m specifically looking for other like-minded ‘culturites‘ to get on board with the Culture section – but there are plenty of ways to be involved.

For my part, I’m hoping to focus the AZ culture section on several key ideas and stories, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about where we should take them:

Are you involved in any of these projects? Have you worked for, or contributed to, CurrentTV? Do you have first-hand experience as a cultural creator (artist, filmmaker, online video producer), or as part of an arts organization trying to get a crowdfunding project off the ground? I’d like for us to cover these topics through a a blend of: interviews with key people, first-hand accounts of experience with these topics, and researched features on how these topics are developing and evolving.

And, although the site Sellaband is already being covered by Jeffrey Sykes, I think there is still some ground for us to cover in the area of crowdsourced music. I’m particularly interested in looking at some emergent music/web 2.0 hybrids like the revenue-sharing music site AmieStreet.com and the self-described “hip-hop 2.0″ site RapSpace.tv.

How are these sites changing the way a crowdpowered 2.0 community of users interacts with content? Who is getting involved in these sites and who are they being marketed to? What kind of content is most valued on the site and how does the crowd drive its success?

More generally, and perhaps somewhat philosophically, I’m also interested in the ‘experiential’ aspects of crowdsourced culture, both from the perspectives of artists and of the public. In parallel with AZ’s nascent, open -editorial processes of producing ‘crowdsourced journalism’ which, will be well-documented and much blogged about, I’m also interested in considering what the experience of actually making these new kinds of art is like. How is it similar or different to other forms of artistic collaboration?

What new forms and ideas could emerge from engaging with art and culture in this way? And are there dangers of these projects being co-opted or (mis)guided by outside interests, corporate or otherwise?

All of this and a whole lot more, I’m sure. We’ve got until the end of May to produced finalized features and content – so it’s a highly compressed timeline, but there is some great work ahead, and much that is already in progress/process.

Please get in touch if you’re interested in getting involved with the Culture section. I’m at jarrett.newassignment@gmail.com and you can keep up to date with AZ culture developments on my blog at http://zero.newassignment.net/user/jarrettmartineau.

If you’d like to be contribute in other ways or to other topics at AZ, please get in touch with managing editor Lauren Sandler.

It promises to be quite an adventure!

The Principles of Citizen Journalism

The good folks over at the Citizen News Network have just launched a very timely project that outlines five essential principles of citizen journalism to “help citizen reporters master the fundamentals of the craft in a networked age”. By focusing on concepts that address “the core values and tenets of quality journalism at the grassroots level”, the group has identified its key principles as follows:

The KCNN site provides an excellent and comprehensive list of web resources for established and aspiring citizen journalists that includes text-based summaries of key issues, as well as screencasts, podcasts, and video and audio interviews with notable social media/web 2.0 heavyweights including: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, fêted blogger Jason Calcanis, and NYU professor Jay Rosen, among many others.

I’m pleased to see that efforts such as these are being undertaken to initiate an important discussion regarding the emergent roles and reponsibilities of citizen journalists in the evolving worlds of newsgathering, reporting, and news media. Thankfully, the aim of this project is not to regulate the practice(s) of citizen journalists but rather to begin an “ongoing conversation” that portends toward a set of shared principles that can be actualized through journalistic practice.

As I’ve discussed previously, opportunities to put such ideas into practice have been multiplying at a dizzying pace.

Back in May 2005, Cyberjournalist.net compiled a list of 81 prominent citizen journalism sites and noted, even then, that “so many citizen journalism initiatives are cropping up…it’s hard to keep track”. Since then, two years have elapsed and we have uploaded our way into an era dominated by the multiplicity of You and the singularity of Me.

A billion people are now online. You are now the tube, the space, and the creator. Content is now user-generated and crowdsourced. Journalism is now participatory and civic. And journalists are now citizens, as never before.

We are in the process of effecting an important shift in the way individuality is created and disseminated by digital means; and it is imperative that some shared ethics and standards of practice be developed (and ideally agreed upon) by the practitioners of these new forms of journalism to reflect this shift. But will citizen journalists heed these principles on ethical grounds, as they have been proposed, or discard them in favour of ‘individualized’ standards of practice, perhaps even contingent on compensatory revenue models?

As “content creators” have come to be valued as much for the content they have already created as for their creative potential, the nature of content has been changed. Our words, images, ideas, and selves now constitute a new currency of exchange; one whose value depends on both a shared system of valuation and a common set of practiced principles. But will the principles of accuracy, thoroughness, fairness, transparency and independence help to standardize and embolden responsible journalistic practices or will market forces crack the very “bedrock foundations of journalism”?

What will this new currency be worth?