I felt so strongly about the Five W’s and a H that should come *after* every story that I pitched an idea based on it to the Knight Foundation. It’s called the ‘Conversation Toolkit’, and it’s through to the second round of the Knight News Challenge. Think it sounds like a good idea? Have any improvements? Want to help make it happen, or test it out? Then log on to the idea wiki at http://bidideas.pbwiki.com/conversationtoolkit (password: idea) and add what you can, or contact me directly.
Here’s the text so far:
Describe your project: * (2075 characters maximum, approximately 325 words)
A series of plugins or bolt-ons that enables publishers to facilitate more productive conversation around a news issue. Based on ‘Five W’s and a H’, this allows users and journalists to address the following questions with a simple user interface:
- Who can I connect with? (e.g. social networking, etc.)
- Where did this happen? (e.g. Google Maps)
- Why should I care? (e.g. personalisation, databases, how international events affect us)
- When are events coming up that I need to be aware of (e.g. Calendar, Facebook Events)
- What did the journalist read to write this?/What have people said about this article? (e.g. links, documents, Trackback)
- How can I make a difference? (e.g. petitions, changes in personal behaviour or consumption, automatic email to politician)
Who would want to use it, and why? * (830 characters maximum, approximately 125 words)
Any news organisation or online content-based organisation. The toolkit would help facilitate user interaction, generate material and engender community around the issues in question. From a business perspective, UGC is known to be sticky and therefore attractive to advertisers; from a community perspective, it helps make information useful, and therefore attracts users.
5. What potentially bigger thing might happen if everything went perfectly and the stars all aligned? * (2075 characters maximum, approximately 325 words)
The plugins become an element in a majority of blogging platforms and news content management systems. Programmers mashup the technology to improve and build on it. Citizens are empowered and engaged with issues in the news, and work together to address problems.
6. How will you be able to measure whether or not your project has really made a difference? * (2075 characters maximum, approximately 325 words)
An open source download site will be able to measure downloads and contributions by developers; pilots using existing news websites and blogs will measure contributions by users. Discussion across the online journalism community will indicate how it is affecting newsroom cultures.
7. What unmet need does your proposal answer? * (2075 characters maximum, approximately 325 words)
An answer to the question what is news for. Until know we have rather complacently believed it contributes something to democracy. Providing tools which allow the audience to extend the news thriugh action as well as conversation will create a more direct link between the deomcratic intent of news and the reality in terms of actions. The need to move beyond the conversation; the need for empowerment and engagement in an increasingly disengaged and disillusioned public. For newsrooms, this fulfuls a need for technologies that facilitate user engagement – ‘stickiness’ and loyalty.
8. What specific, unique opportunity do you see that will make this project more successful than others trying to fill that general need? * (2075 characters maximum, approximately 325 words)
Other attempts tend to address specific issues, or provide generic ‘blank pages’ for people to contribute ‘comments’ or improvements. This brings an editorial focus to the questions raised by issues in the news, and helps users to frame their responses in terms of particular, action-based routes of enquiry. It also brings together a number of technologies with potential for news: social networking; mapping; calendars; databases; social bookmarking; and automation – building on off-the-shelf solutions rather than trying to build from scratch.
9. How will people learn about what you are doing? * (2075 characters maximum, approximately 325 words)
The process will be covered on the Online Journalism Blog, which has a global readership across all five continents. I also write for Poynter in the US; Press Gazette and Journalism.co.uk in the UK, and Indian Online Journalism. From those it should be disseminated more widely through other bloggers, academics and journalists. The project should also attract some research coverage.
10. Do you have any other funding or investment? We’re interested in knowing who else is interested in your project. * (2075 characters maximum, approximately 325 words)
11. Are you working with anyone else to complete this project? If so, please give names and what they would do? * (2075 characters maximum, approximately 325 words)
Nick Booth (details above) would be involved in conceptualising the project and liaising with pilot organisations. There is also potential to involve the BBC interactivity unit and any number of interested parties through the Online Journalism Blog.
12. Who else is working in this area? How does your work fit into the larger context of work in this area? * (2075 characters maximum, approximately 325 words)
Although a number of people are working in the wider field of social media – Steve Outing, Jay Rosen – this project is relatively unique in its focus on action and utility.
13. What do you guarantee will happen if you complete the activities in this proposal? * (2075 characters maximum, approximately 325 words)
A prototype plugin that addresses at least one of the six questions identified above, and facilitates user engagement and contribution through work-saving technologies. Along with this, a pilot study that attempts to test such a plugin. And ongoing reports and analysis via the Online Journalism Blog