Tag Archives: wikis

A journalist’s guide to crowdsourcing

There’s a great journalist’s guide to crowdsourcing over at the OJR, which is close to being added to my must-read online journalism blog posts due to this quote: “Ultimately, journalism is social science, and journalists who want to make best use of crowdsourcing need to get familiar with the mathematics of social science.” Here’s some more:

“if you want to attempt a true crowdsourcing project, someone in your newsroom will [need programming skills]. Free online survey tools and mapping websites can help you collect and publish great reader-contributed data. But if you want custom information to move from survey form to published report in real time, you can’t do that yet without a programmer on your team.

“… The interviewing and document searches of 20th-century investigative reporting will look incomplete as savvy journalists and newsrooms learn to harness the Internet’s wide reach and interactivity to gather massive databases that only formal social science techniques can effectively manage and analyze.”

Online journalism’s must-read blog posts

Shane Richmond is asking for contributions to a list of classic blog posts on online journalism. For some reason my comments don’t seem to have gone through, so here’s my list of the essential reads for online journalists:

  1. For an overview of the forms and possibilities of online journalism: Jonathon Dube’s Online Storytelling Forms
  2. For a mind-blowing insight into the journalistic potential of computer technology: Adrian Holovaty: A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change
  3. For reflection on how the online news environment changes the nature of journalism: Dan Gillmor’s The End of Objectivity (Version 0.91)
  4. For reflection on journalism ethics in the MySpace/Facebook/UGC/digital doorstepping era: Robin Hamman’s posts virginia tech bloggers: approach and confirm or link and disclaim? and his coverage of a debate on virginia tech coverage
  5. For a sliding scale of ideas on how to involve the audience: Steve Outing’s The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism
  6. For a succinct and clear explanation of moving from the TV mindset to an understanding of online video: Andy Dickinson: Moving from TV to Online
  7. For a quick list of tips when moving into video: Newslab’s Tips for Photographers
  8. For an outline of the possibilities of Flash for interactive storytelling, and experiences of its use: Mindy McAdams’ Flash journalism: Professional practice today 
  9. For a step-by-step overview of how to treat a story in a multimedia way: Mindy McAdams’ Journalism stories: A multimedia approach Parts 1, 2 and 3.
  10. For a conceptual exploration of interactive storytelling: The Elements of Digital Storytelling
  11. I’ll agree with Richmond’s inclusion of Ross Mayfield’s post on his own blog: What makes wikis work
  12. And it pre-dates blogs, but answers very effectively that recurring question of “Is blogging/wikis/databases/broccoli etc. etc. journalism?”: G. Stuart Adam’s Notes Towards a Definition of Journalism

Contribute to my wiki on wiki journalism

Do you know anything about the use of wikis in journalism? 

In September I will be presenting a paper on Wiki Journalism at the Future of Newspapers conference in Cardiff (it looks set to be a very good two days). And of course the best way to write a paper on wiki journalism is to publish it as a wiki…

So, I’ve quickly scrabbled together a first draft in order to get things going. Please contribute what you can at http://wikijournalism.pbwiki.com/ – the password to contribute is ‘wikiwiki’, or go straight to http://wikijournalism.pbwiki.com/?full_access=pjxmsse6ur&l=S if that’s too much hassle. All contributions will be acknowledged, and of course you’ll have that warm glow inside as well.

I’ve also created a Wikipedia entry for Wiki Journalism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki_journalism) which is a much chopped-down, dryer, more factual version appropriate to an encyclopedia.

Many thanks,

Paul Bradshaw

Wiki brainstorming

A few weeks ago I talking wikis with the online journalism students at UCE. I asked them to brainstorm – in 60 seconds – ideas for wikis in their correspondent areas. The resulting ideas were surprisingly good – some would work well as stand-along public wikis, while others would provide strong material for a follow-up journalist-structured piece. In general they suggest the immense promise of wikis for empowering readers/users and tapping into their knowledge and experience. Here they are:

  • Traffic hotspots
  • 11 circle route guide (the 11 bus route has something of a cult status in Birmingham; the suggestion is users could contribute descriptions of spots along the route, which circles the city)
  • Reviews of a particularly important album (I don’t think this would work, as people would edit each other’s words down to a dull middle road; and Amazon does this well already)
  • Festival experiences (a nice way to combine the different stages, acts, etc. all taking place)
  • Memories of a band or venue (taps into collective memory)
  • “I conceived to Al Green” (after the story that so many children have been conceived to a particular song – unlikely to have enough contributors from a publication audience alone, but a cute idea)
  • Gay village nights out guide
  • Experiences of being gay/coming out
  • Women in sport (needs more focus but could take a number of angles, e.g. women’s experiences of watching a ‘man’s game’)
  • Unusual sports
  • Bad experiences with technology
  • Get best out of mobile phone/ipod – hidden features & downloads
  • Experiences of crime
  • My first crime (more light-hearted look at people’s early misdemeanours, e.g. graffiti, litter, petty shoplifting, and runs with the law)
  • Crimes while drunk (cue 300 versions of “I stole a traffic cone/rode in a shopping trolley”)
  • Travel stories – how members of the Polish got to Birmingham
  • Advice by and for the Polish community: schools, settling in, jobs, English
  • Story behind a store
  • Fashion tips
  • History of trends, designer profiles
  • Fashion Week experiences
  • City shopping guides
  • Advice on giving up smoking/etc. (under headings)
  • Experiences of emergency services (better done on comments/blog?)
  • Best & worst schools (likewise)
  • School memories (may work if only one school, and headings for various activities/people; lots of libellous potential too!)
  • Hijab ban discussion (better done on forum or blog?)
  • Guide to school services – yoga, etc.
  • About festival celebrations
  • 10 years after HK became Chinese – how have things changed?

Speech to Trinity Mirror Midlands

I’ve been at it again. Last night I presented a speech to editors and ad directors at Trinity Mirror Midlands (Birmingham Mail and Post, Coventry Telegraph, Sunday Mercury and various weeklies throughout the region). Given that they’d been exploring digital ideas all day I tried to keep it light to begin with – so the linked Powerpoint below begins with a mock awards, with the more hard hitting stuff coming after.

The hard-hitting stuff consists of lots of pithy phrases – the headlines were:

  • It’s no longer about content, it’s about services
  • It’s no longer about publishing, it’s about communication

I talked about how the news industry is having to shift from a 19th century production-based system to a 21st century service-based industry, and how online advertising alone is not going to plug the gap left by dropping print revenues (a number of new business models are covered that may provide other sources of revenue).

And I tackled this common phrase that the newspaper is now ‘one of many channels’. I think that’s still a ‘broadcaster’ mindset, and that instead we should think of print as ‘one way of helping people communicate’.

And I revisited some of the elements from my Vienna speech about the strengths that journalism needs to play to: investigative journalism, database-driven journalism, interactive journalism, and multimedia journalism; and reader-driven forms such as wikis and crowdsourcing.

Here’s the PowerPoint. Comments welcome.

Speech to Trinity Mirror Midlands

Speech to the 8th Vienna Globalisation Symposium

Last week I was in Vienna speaking to the most diverse audience I’m ever likely to address: 120 or so people from organisations including the European Commission, Amnesty International, the European Space Agency, the United Nations, Princeton University and the World Trade Organisation, as well as students from universities in Serbia, Ukraine, Italy, Poland, Germany, Austria, and America.

They were there to attend the Vienna Globalisation Symposium, and I was speaking as part of the first panel, on ‘Web 2.0: The return of the internet’. The topic of the presentation was Blogs and journalism – click on the link for the Word document. It’s 15-20 minutes long. I may upload audio and/or video later.

Defining and conceptualising interactivity

A conversation with a radio colleague yesterday about a new course that I’m involved in – a Masters in Television and Interactive Content – threw up the question of how people define interactivity.

“What you mean by interactivity is probably not what I think of,” he said.

“I see interactivity as giving the user control,” I replied.

“Well OK then, we both think of interactivity in the same way. But to most people interactivity is video on the web and flashy things, which couldn’t be less interactive.”

I began thinking about this idea of how you define interactivity. “Giving the user control” is a nice summary, but what does that mean? How do you conceptualise it to make the process easier? Rolling it over in my head I’ve come up with two dimensions along which interactivity operates. Firstly:

  • Time: where broadcast required the user to be present at a particular time, and print to wait for the next edition, technologies such as Sky+, podcasts, mobile phones and websites allow the audience to consume at a time convenient to them. The PDF newspaper is an interesting development that also allows readers to avoid the dependence on print cycles.
  • Space: where television required the user to be physically present in front of a static set, mobile phones, mp3 players and portable mpeg players and wifi laptops allow the audience to consume in a space convenient to them. Portable radio and portable newspapers have always had this advantage.

Both these seem to be about hardware, and miniaturisation. The second level of interactivity is more about software:

  • Control over output: With linear media like TV, radio and print, the consumer relies on the ability of the producer, editor, etc. to structure how content is presented, or output. New media allows the audience to take some of that control.
    • At a basic level, for instance, hyperlinks allow the reader to dictate their experience of ‘content’.
    • With online video and audio, the user can pause, fast-forward, etc. – and if it has been split into ‘chunks’, the user can choose which bit of a longer video or audio piece they experience.
    • RSS, meanwhile, allows users to create their own media product, combining feeds from newspapers, broadcasters, bloggers, and even del.icio.us tags or Google News search terms.
    • Database-driven content allows the user to shape output based on their input – e.g. by entering their postcode they can read content specific to their area. At a general level search engines would be another example.
    • And Flash interactives allow the user to influence output in a range of ways. This may be as simple as selecting from a range of audio, video, text and still image options. It may be playing a game or quiz, where their interaction (e.g. what answers they get right, how they perform) shapes the output they experience.
  • Control over input: Again, the old media model was one that relied on the producer, editor, etc. to decide on the editorial agenda, and create the products. The audience may have had certain avenues of communication – the letter to the editor; the radio phone-in; the ‘Points of View‘. The new media model, as Dan Gillmor points out, is one that moves from a lecture to a conversation. So:
    • Blogs, podcasts, vlogs, YouTube, MySpace, etc. allow the audience to publish their own media
    • Forums, message boards, chatrooms and comments on mainstream media blogs allow the audience to discuss and influence the content of mainstream media, as well as engaging with each other, bypassing the media
    • Live chats with interviewees and media staff do the same.
    • User generated content/citizen journalism sees mainstream publishers actively seeking out input from consumers, from emails to mobile phone images, video and audio.
    • Wikis allow the audience to create their own collaborative content, which may be facilitated by mainstream media
    • Social recommendation software like del.icio.us, Digg, etc. allow users to influence the ‘headline’ webpages through bookmarking and tags.
    • A similar but separate example is how page view statistics can be used by publishers to rank content by popularity (often displayed side by side with the editorial view of what are the ‘top stories’)
    • I hesitate to add the last example but I will anyway: email. Although we could always, in theory, contact producers and editors by telephone, they didn’t publish their numbers on the ten o’clock news. Email addresses, however, are printed at the end of articles; displayed on screen alongside news reports; read out on radio; and of course displayed online.

I’m sure I’ve missed examples, or entire other dimensions. If you have an input to make, comment away.

Are wikis the new blogs?

The following article appears in today’s Press Gazette, Sadly, since the demise of the /discuss webpage, this is the only place you’ll find it online:

Picture this: you write a story covering an issue on which there is a broad range of opinion – so broad that it would be impossible to summarise it effectively in one article alone. Let’s say: local transport problems. On the newspaper’s website, alongside your rather superficial analysis (quote, counter-quote, “only time will tell”) you place a ‘wiki’: a webpage that readers can not only contribute to, but also edit and change, so that one reader’s contribution is another reader’s subbing material.

Or how about this: you’re working on a story that involves reporters in Washington, London, and New York. Rather than relying on lengthy conference calls or an editor who has to read three separate articles and combine them into one, the journalists collaborate by editing a single webpage that all three have access to.

If recent discussions are anything to go by, these scenes could be part of newsroom life sooner than you think. A piece by American columnist Bambi Francisco last week argued that it was only a matter of time before more professional publishers and producers begin to experiment with using “wiki-styled ways of creating content” in the same way as they have picked up on blogs. This was picked up by Ross Mayfield, CEO of wiki company Socialtext who, guest-writing on the blog of The Telegraph’s Shane Richmond, wrote: “Unusually, it may be business people who bring wikis into the mainstream. That will prepare the ground for media experiments with wikis [and] I think it’s a safe bet that a British media company will try a wiki before the end of the year.”

A number of experiments with wikis have already shown its potential to both reach out to a readership – and to fall flat on its face. An example of the latter was the LA Times ‘wikitorial’ – an editorial piece on the Iraq war which the newspaper allowed readers to edit. After only a day the newspaper had to pull the feature due to readers flooding the site with inappropriate material.

On the positive side, however, was Wired’s experiment with the form late last year, when they allowed readers to whip an unedited article about (yes) wiki technology into shape. Over 300 users made edits, with one interviewing a Harvard expert, and another suggesting a contact – and when one user complained about some quotes from an interviewee, the original journalist, Ryan Singel, posted his interview notes so that users could pick a better one.

So can we look forward to a wiki utopia where our readers check our facts, spelling and grammar – and do our interviews to boot? Or will the wiki dream be killed off through the fear of cyber vandals treating our news websites as virgin walls for virtual graffiti?

A clue to the answer may come from the rapid adoption of blogs by newspapers and broadcasters, a move that has been fuelled in large part by economics: the appeal of free content to publishers has been strong, while at the same time the fear of losing audiences to an army of micro-publishing competitors is neatly addressed.

Like blogs, wikis offer cost-saving user generated content, instant reader community, and even – for those so desperate to trim staff that they are willing to risk ending up in court – volunteer subeditors.

Wikis are blogs 2.0: like blogs, they provide an arena for readers to critique and correct, to self-publish, and to form communities. But they are different in a key way: wikis are ‘articles by committee’. The range of voices editing each other results in an often conservative, fact-based piece of work that stands firmly on the fence. This is why the ‘wikitorial’ experiment failed – if you want outspoken opinion, don’t conduct a survey.

But like blogs, wikis will only flourish if as much time and care is invested in them as are invested in editing articles. Shane Richmond identifies two obstacles that could slow down their adoption: inaccuracy and vandalism. Both can be addressed if savvy editorial staff are assigned to monitor the page and step in – both to prevent legal issues, and to facilitate those much-sought-after A-List contributors.

For now, the wiki seems likely to become an in-house tool before it reaches the news websites. The Telegraph are already planning an internal wiki as a precursor to something for readers to get their teeth into. “Once we have a feel for the technology,” says Shane Richmond, “we will look into a public wiki, perhaps towards the end of the year.”

In the meantime expect a lot of half-hearted and misguided experiments, a lot of mistakes as a result, and a lot of pooh-poohing from those without the guts to try.

Why media will embrace wikis
LA Times ‘wikitorial’ gives editors red faces [http://technology.guardian.co.uk/online/news/0,12597,1511810,00.html]
The Wiki That Edited Me
Veni. Vidi. Wiki.
Veni, Vidi, Wiki (published article)
Shane Richmond: What makes wikis work
Wiki Wild West
Change is inevitable

Another wiki service

Following my previous post on the free xwiki service for creating wikis, I’ve discovered SocialText, a more commercial operation but which does offer a free ‘personal version’ as well. Worth exploring if you’re thinking of experimenting with ‘the new blog’ (TM).

 UPDATE: Added to the list is Zoho’s wiki, part of a whole suite of free online office products. And you can add PBwiki to that, too.

Wikis will be the new blogs

[Keyword: , , ]. More perfect timing – as I prepare to talk about using wikis in teaching online journalism, The Telegraph’s Shane Richmond posts on how vandalism is the biggest threat to wikis’ widespread adoption (it’s a response to Bambi Francisco’s post ‘Why media will embrace wikis‘). He promises to write more tomorrow.

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Paul Bradshaw lectures on the Journalism degree at UCE Birmingham media department. He writes a number of blogs including the Online Journalism Blog, Interactive PR and Web and New Media