Archive for the ‘syndication’ category

ENN: The Most Trusted Name in Election News?

4, February, 2008

Publish2, a social network for journalists, has launched the Election News Network, an effort to leverage (I hate it when I use that word) the collective wisdom of journalists to cover the campaign activity between now and November.

The short version: Publish2 is a social bookmarking tool (think del.icio.us for journalists, newsrooms, bloggers, and others who cover the news, whether paid or not). Participants will bookmark what they think is the best news coverage of the election news using a special one-click browser-based tool.

Those bookmarks will be aggregated into an RSS feed which can be published on any news site, blog, etc. The first-of-its-kind feed will reflect a network of journalists’ views of the best election coverage (think Digg for well-informed, literate people).

As Scott Karp, proprietor of Publish2, explains in the Publish2 blog::

There’s a huge opportunity to help voters find the best election coverage in the sea of election content. Yeah, you can do it by yourself — but on the web, the larger the network, the more influential the linking — time to break down those traditional media silos.

As is so often the case, journalists have written a lot about social networks but haven’t done much about them. While Publish2 is still in private beta, Super Tuesday will be the first live proof-of-concept effort to gather and publish the collective brainpower of journalists.

Several news organizations have signed up–knoxnews.com, the New England News Forum, among others. Meantime, journalists–liberally but thoughtfully defined–can sign up to contribute their bookmarks to the feed for tomorrow’s action, and for the rest of the campaign season.

Interest revealed: Scott and I had lunch at Austin Grill some time ago. He paid. We’ve also been known to exchange bleary IMs after midnight.

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A Change of Topix

17, July, 2007

With the demise of “hyperlocal” community news pioneer backfence.com, it’s a good time to take a look at Topix.net, a Zipcode-sliceable news community that’s been around since 2002. According to Neilsen/Netratings data, Topix had over 5.7 million unique visitors in June, making it No. 20 among news sites.

Backed by size-13EEE-bigfoots Gannett, McClatchy and Tribune Co. (which is to say, by the first M in the phrase MSM), Topix is a mass aggregator of news that’s navigated, ordered, enhanced and in many ways wrecked by a proliferation of 2.0fferings: aggregated forum content, user submissions of articles a la Digg, user profiles and communities of interest, and 1,000 “citizen” editors (what, as opposed to “illegal alien” editors?). 

Strengths The local news generally is better parsed than what the Google Newsboy delivers–or anywhere else I’m familiar with. Still, in any given locality you’re likely to find a blog, newspaper site or labor of local love that does a lot better than “RoboBlogger” (Topix’s attempt to anthropomorphize its news-snatching algorithm). 

Weaknesses More than I can list here. Like any brain-dead algorithm, RB makes a mess of things, and the “citizen editors” can’t seem to move the broom and dustpan fast enough. 

  • The news article about the L.A. Catholic Archdiocese’s huge money settlement with abuse victims was tagged “Obituaries.”
  • A search for the topic “sleep apnea” surfaced dozens of links, perhaps half of them on point and others uttterly baffling (Croc shoes can cause escalator injuries; man infected by flesh-eating bacteria (!)).
  • The Media forum had somehow been overtaken by “discussions” of illegal immigration, which in tone and content is. . .well, pretty much what you expect anywhere in Electroland. Alas.
  • The tools, navigation and search functions make me work way too hard. If there is a way to tag a story as a favorite on the fly, I couldn’t find it. You have to go to your personal page and tag recently viewed stuff as a favorite. Product team to the white board, stat! 

To play off the old bathroom-wall joke about the dining proclivities of flies, 5.7 million page views can’t be wrong. A lot of people find this service useful. And the corporate overlords (all of whose news sites rank above Topix, though I have no idea what that means) must find that the site pushes people to their content in a way that benefits them economically.

Still, what Topix illustrates to me is how very far we have to go before algorithms can “edit,” how “hyperlocal” community building is going to be tough to scale, and how nobody–nobody!–seems to have cracked the intuitive/invisible/friction-free nut for community-building software.

Oh, that, and Newsweek science blogger Sharon Begley had a great entry on why ugly people are not eliminated from the human race by natural selection. Glad I found out about that one. 597 people had commented on it at Topix right before I filed this item.

Warning: Widgets About to Explode

9, July, 2007

I first came across widgets–those mini-utility, -feed and -game modules that can be dropped onto Web pages, blogs and feed readers–about 9 months ago, when a company I was working for hand them under development. I was skeptical about their broad adoption. Neat mini-platform for developers, yes. Cool way to syndicate content, sure.  But something most Web users are about to play with? Not likely. 

Then I got Windows Vista.  

For those who haven’t entered the inevitable, and inevitably strained, domestic partnership known as the Vista OS, a transparent module called “Gadgets” rides the right rail of the desktop.

Like nearly everything our friends in Redmond launch, the 1.0 version needs much improvement. It’s full of annoynaces (when you “move” a widget from the sidebar it leaps to the left corner of the screen, from which it then appears to be immune from movement except back to the sidebar). Seems the folks at Microsoft are willing to cede a small amount of control over the family jewel, i.e., the desktop. 

But the gadgets rail on Vista nearly ensures mainstream adoption and imminent transformation of the desktop from a work surface to personalized active Web experience.

Which means that everybody on the Web seeking a mass audience, or loyal users in a competitive space, are going to be falling over themelves to get their widgets on the Vista desktop. If Netflix doesn’t beat Blockbuster to the Vista desktop, they’ll lose market share. Ditto Amazon vs. Barnesandnoble, WebMD vs. everydayhealth.com. In the news space, MSNBC (surprise!) comes riding on the Vista desktop right out of the box. CNN needs a widget strategy by yesterday. Go to the New York Times home page and you cannot find an NYT headline widget to put on your blog. But you can order an ink-on-paper subscription. 

I’d keep an eye on springwidgets.com, a widgeteer in beta whose claim to fame is debuting as a distributor of widgets via the usual Web sites, blogs, social networking pages, etc., but also via the desktop. None of the other widgethouses I could see has optimized their product yet for the desktop, but maybe I’m missing something.

Meantime, if any of you folks out there have Vista and have found widgets that are genuinely useful on the desktop–not merely cool, funny or time-sucking–drop me a line.