Tag Archives: News & Politics

Will Wikileaks Revolutionize Journalism?

I’ve been keeping my eye on Wikileaks over the past few months, as a potential source of eyewitness footage and contextual documentation for news stories that we’ve covered on NowPublic.

Although the site maintains some similarities to Wikipedia, the community-edited, online encyclopedia, Wikileaks bills itself, first and foremost, as an “international transparency network” that exists to allow documents to be leaked anonymously and made available for public analysis. In principle, the site’s express purpose is to bring to light global injustices and to bring attention to oppressive regimes around the world.

The site offers secure, encrypted methods for documents to be posted to the site anonymously and untraceably and the Wikileaks organization itself is comprised of a group of editors, journalists, programmers, and advisors, who are effectively unknown to one another.

All of this makes for a unique online space wherein allegedly leaked documents or information can be freely shared, distributed, and subjected to the collective review and analysis of the site’s editorial team and Wikileaks’ online community. Nevertheless, many journalists are approaching the site with a requisite amount of skepticism, given its ‘open source’ mandate and necessary questions around the authenticity and reliability of information disclosed through its platform.

What’s your take on Wikileaks? Can and should its model of ‘collective wisdom’ be trusted as a reliable source of news and information? What place do such documents and disclosures have in our contemporary media landscape?

Encouraging & protecting whistleblowers

If you’re not familiar with Wikileaks, you should be because, since it debuted last year, the international transparency network behind the site has forced governments and news media to take notice, most recently with the posting of whistleblower documents that indicate “thousands of sterilizations, and possibly some abortions, took place in 23 Texas Catholic hospitals from 2000 to 2003,” as reported by the Catholic News Service in the wake of the leak.

Exposing oppressive regimes

Wikileaks describes itself as a site that’s “developing an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. Our primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact.”

Besides having been briefly banned by a judge in the U.S. (the site appears to be based in Sweden), the anonymous founders are international computer geeks who know how to hide in cyberspace and get around things like the Great Firewall of the government in China. In fact, Wired magazine notes that one of Wikileaks’ advisers, security expert Ben Laurie, “doesn’t even know who runs the site — other than (co-founder Julian) Assange (who lives in Kenya) — or where the servers are.”

Wikileaks as a news site

What makes Wikileaks a unique “news” site is that instead of “breaking stories,” it publishes leaked documents, now boasting “over 1.2 million documents … from dissident communities and anonymous sources.”

An early criticism of Wikileaks was its posting of anonymously leaked documents without running it through an editing process and without providing any context — something that many industry insiders (and military brass), including prominent open government advocates like Steve Aftergood, view as “irresponsible,” at best.

While Wikileaks Web masters seem immune from government and press criticism, they’re not unresponsive, having changed the site a bit since it first hit the net in January 2007. The home page now features analysis of recently leaked documents, as well as “fresh leaks requiring analysis.”

The site also notes: “Wikileaks is not like Wikipedia. Every submitted article and change is reviewed by our editorial team of professional journalists and anti-corruption analysts. Articles that are not of high standard are rejected and non-editorial articles are fully attributed.”

Authenticity and Document Analysis

“Wikileaks believes that the best way to determine if a document is authentic is to open it up for analysis to the broader community — and particularly the community of interest around the document.”

“So for example, let’s say a Wikileaks document reveals human rights abuses and it is purportedly from a regional Chinese government. Some of the best people to analyze the document’s veracity are the local dissident community, human rights groups and regional experts (such as academics). They may be particularly interested in this sort of document. But of course Wikileaks will be open for anyone to comment.”

“Journalists and governments are often duped by forged documents. It is hard for most reporters to outsmart the skill of intelligence agency frauds. Wikileaks, by bringing the collective wisdoms and experiences of thousands to politically important documents, will unmask frauds like never before.”

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Huffington Post Goes After Local News

Not content simply to dabble in the political blogosphere (aka becoming “the most linked to blog on the web”), the esteemed HuffPo is bring the news to your own backyard. If you live in Chicago, that is.

Last night at Guardian News & Media’s internal Future of Journalism conference, Arianna Huffington revealed that her Huffington Post property is planning to expand into local news. Initially, the site will launch an edited news aggregation site (similar to the main Huffington Post web site) localized for the US metro area around Chicago, Illinois. The site will be managed by a single editor to start. “We are aspiring to be a newspaper in that we want to covering all news [sic], not just the political blogging the way we began,” Huffington said to the conference attendees.

Launched three years ago in May of 2005 as a politics-focused celebrity group blog, the Huffington Post has since grown up — a lot. It added original reporting in November 2006, has taken $10 million in venture financing over 2 rounds, has expanded beyond politics to cover media, business, the environment, and other hot button issues, and is the most linked to blog on the web according to Technorati. Now HuffPo wants to taken on local newspapers.

That makes sense given that analysts have predicted that local ad spending will jump 48% this year to $12.6 billion. The majority of those ads will be search advertising, but clearly, local information is hot with consumers. We’ve written about the rise of hyperlocal information on ReadWriteWeb before — Huffington and company are seeking to take advantage of this trend. They want to turn the Huffington Post into a national, virtual newspaper group — think Gannett or McClatchy but completely online.

And that makes sense, too. A comScore study that we reported on in March revealed that 38% of those between the ages of 18 and 24 are unlikely to read a physical newspaper during a typical week, but non-news readers are still voracious consumers of news. They just get their news online — and not just from traditional newspaper sites.

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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?

The Best ‘Best of’ Lists of 2007

Without further ado, here’s a quick compilation of some of the most interesting ‘Best of 2007′ lists I’ve come across during the frantic media recap of ‘What Was in 07′, before the manic, mad dash to xmas seasonal insanity, and the consequent post-holiday crash into 2008:

  1. Best of 2007 Lists (the definitive meta-list by Fimoculous)
  2. Master List of Online “Best of 2007″ Music Lists (a meta-music list by LargeheartedBoy)
  3. Updates to the Master List of Online “Best of 2007″ Music Lists (updates to #2 by LargeheartedBoy)
  4. 40 Best Raps of 2007 (top hip-hop tracks by CocaineBlunts)
  5. 15 Best Candies of 2007 (delish sugar treats by CandyAddict)
  6. 50 Best Websites of 2007 (multiple categories list by Time & – oh look – who’s a top news site?)
  7. 30 Best Albums of 2007 (top rated by the critics and aggregated by Metacritic)
  8. 25 Best Careers of 2007 (so choose wisely, my friends, by BizTech)
  9. Most Hated Companies of 2007 (the most widely & heavily criticized, by BloggingStocks)
  10. 100 Best Products of 2007 (because there can never be enough products, a list by PC World)
  11. 22 Best Music Videos (some silly choices by MusicForKidsWhoCan’tReadGood)
  12. 25 Best Books of the Year (fiction, non-fiction and more by Publishers Weekly)
  13. 100 Best Films of 2007 (a mix of new and re-releases by TimesOnline)
  14. 18 Best American Hospitals of 2007 (a incredibly paradoxical list by USNews)
  15. Best Global Brands of 2007 (aka the biggest brands in the world, by Interbrand)
  16. Best of NYC 2007 (best of the Big Apple, by the VillageVoice)
  17. Best Biblical Books of 2007 (a “completely objective” book list by BiblicalFoundations)
  18. America’s Best Restroom of 2007 (congrats to Jungle Jim’s, by ABR)
  19. Best Parks of 2007 (for the adventure seekers, by National Geographic)
  20. Best Industrial Design Products of 2007 (with slick imagery by RedDot)
  21. Top 10 Depression Blogs of 2007 (a useful, if sombre, list by PsychCentral)
  22. 2007 China Best Call Centre (the best operators ‘who will be with you shortly’ by CallCentres)
  23. Top 100 Luxury Blogs of 2007 (an elite assortment by International Listings)
  24. Best of What’s New in 2007 (products, inventions, and gadgetry compiled by PopularScience)
  25. Top 60 Japanese Buzzwords of 2007 (vernacular awesomeness by PinkTentacle)

For additional comments and posts also check out: NowPublic.com

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!