Traditional Vs. Non-Traditional Journalism

Chris Anderson and Will Hearst talking shop in May of 2006:

Publisher, Will Hearst, on the evolution of journalism:

[..] In the era of 20 years ago, there was a notion of a professional journalist — I’m not saying let’s race back to that era — what I’m saying is that notion is utterly gone. And what we are seeing as so-called professional journalism is really freelance material, shot in Baghdad, shipped to New York, somebody voice-overs it and that’s supposed to be “live news.”

And we’re covering Israel out of London and we’re covering Nairobi out of Tokyo, you know, we’re kidding ourselves. So in a way, I think the cure is not to go backwards, but to go forwards and to label that stuff and get more of that material and do away with this pseudo-professional news, which it really isn’t.

I mean if we’re gonna have “citizen journalism,” then let’s have it. […]

I completely appreciate the sentiment, but Will Hearst knows better than anybody that isn’t going to occur through the existing mainstream channels.

Mainstream news outlets — television and newspaper alike — are busy attempting to figure out how to keep the best parts of their old revenue model in place while leveraging the independent voices of the information age.

While the conglomerates look for new ways to count the same beans, innovative distribution models with decentralized reporting have already taken hold.

This shouldn’t be the cornerstone of the conversation, though. Even without an organized effort to distribute decentralized reporting, there are already 30 million active blogs in play around the world.

The news is becoming hyper-local and hyper-topical without the steady hand of industry drivers to guide it; traditional journalism is going the way of the stock broker.

Now traditional ethics? Well, that’s another story entirely

Should Link Love Pay The Rent?

Citizen media is an authentic media.

The amateur (Etymology: French, from Latin amator lover, from amare to love) doesn’t create out of a responsibility to a deadline or a paycheck; the amateur creates out of a love for the process, the output, the feedback, the very notion of creativity itself. And in this new world of interconnectivity, the availibility of our tangibly crafted desires and dreams has increased exponentially.

We are connected.

connected
photo by Mexicanwave

And entrepreneurs are taking notice.

We’re quickly moving towards a period where a good chunk of the web will be explicitly designed (or re-designed) to take advantage of such authentic creativity. The old 1.0 slogan “Content is king” didn’t die off—it simply redefined itself through the lens of the passionate, authentic amateur.

YouTube and flickr have captured the very essence of what makes video and photography communities, respectively, thrive.

  • Instantaneous feedback and discourse
  • The ability to shelve favorites
  • Discovery of new objects based on meshed interests with other community members
  • Being able to add friends and join/start groups to extend the conversation

Between the commitment to upload massive amounts of media and the amount of time and effort one invests participating in these communities, the “throwaway” gap that previously existed for most web services (think about web analytic services or even a blogging platform) has practically disappeared. These particular domains aren’t ripe for member disengagement anymore based on a single bad experience, as they’ve progressed to becoming a part of our psyche, partially defining us through the connections our authentic media creates with others and vice-versa.

Though, as much as I believe in the potential of interconnected authentic media to inform, inspire, entertain and generate new communities, I equally believe that our media should not be leveraged from afar to pay someone else’s bills without explicit financial returns from the ecosystem. So if this perspective became a reality, would it cause authentic media to cease being authentic? Is this perspective just an excuse for a low entry point into the mainstream media ecosystem? I don’t think so.

From Kevin Kelly and The New York Times, Scan This Book:

[…] We see this effect most clearly in science. Science is on a long-term campaign to bring all knowledge in the world into one vast, interconnected, footnoted, peer-reviewed web of facts. Independent facts, even those that make sense in their own world, are of little value to science. (The pseudo- and parasciences are nothing less, in fact, than small pools of knowledge that are not connected to the large network of science.) In this way, every new observation or bit of data brought into the web of science enhances the value of all other data points. In science, there is a natural duty to make what is known searchable. No one argues that scientists should be paid when someone finds or duplicates their results. Instead, we have devised other ways to compensate them for their vital work. They are rewarded for the degree that their work is cited, shared, linked and connected in their publications, which they do not own. They are financed with extremely short-term (20-year) patent monopolies for their ideas, short enough to truly inspire them to invent more, sooner. To a large degree, they make their living by giving away copies of their intellectual property in one fashion or another. […]

Scientists “are rewarded for the degree that their work is cited, shared, linked and connected in their publications, which they do not own.” If we were to view authentic media creations as nodes of input, for which entrepreneurs can generate beyond-hyperlink synapses of interconnectivity, the difference between the goals of science and the intrinsic behavior of the web would be rather slim.

This is where the conversation shifts to the concerns of the elite to the desire of the commons.

What side of the aisle do you sit?

UPDATE: Can we do this together?

The News Is Getting Interesting

globalvoices

When Technorati began presenting blogs on articles pages of Newsweek and WaPo, the blogosphere moved one step closer to credibility. This move by Reuters pushes blogging—specifically bridge blogging—into a whole new stratosphere.

Reuters partners in comment blog
Mark Sweney

Reuters has formed a partnership with an international network of bloggers to provide public comment alongside its own news coverage.

The alliance has been struck with Global Voices Online, an international network of bloggers co-ordinated through Harvard University, that will see blog content used when there are large general interest events such as elections.

“We need to open our website to other voices,” said Dean Wright, Reuters’ global managing editor for consumer services. “There are a lot of conversations going on around news these days and we want to tap into that.”

The blog content will be displayed in two ways—either as clearly labelled posts within the company’s own websites, or as a link to a separate website placed at the end of a Reuters story offering readers a broader perspective.

The material will be made available through Reuters.com and Reuters.co.uk.

Global Voices Online will be taking part in the forthcoming London-based We Media event forum that will examine trust in media and citizen journalism.

Congratulations, Ethan.

Newsvine: The Wisdom Of The Crowd

The reviews are in: The people are in the drivers seat.

Newspapers are already hemoraging readership, as the web has created an extremely rich bazaar, allowing us to shop for unbundled content at every turn, while unbundled advertising models begin to sprout up to support this evolution. Well, get ready for the online replicas of the print world to begin to sweat even more. Following on the heals of the mass appeal of social wisdom sites such as slashdot and digg comes a revolutionary hybrid of mainstream media, citizen journalism and participatory editing: Newsvine.

newsvine

Taking the aggregation features of a Yahoo! News, the collaborative properties of a digg and the citizen media aspects of blogging, Newsvine is staged to completely redefine the news. The common man now has stake in the game.

Old School

Top/down delivery of content, beginning with organized knowledge, is a modern construct. Since the advent of television, these organized silos of knowledge have been optimized over the years for advertising to take advantage of explicit media buys—matching business audience demographics, psychographics and geographics to channeled, programed, bundled content. Great for advertisers and the networks/publications, lousy for the “consumer,” as we end up consuming more messaging and less news or interests which match *our* needs and desires.

These constructed, mechanical relationships define false edges of our culture, which in turn raises the value proposition of media and news organizations simply by standardizing on such lexicon. This standardization of topical interests enables a succinct inventory of sales and stories, broadcast on television news and pumped through newspapers, serving as the ying to the entertainment media’s yang.

Is it easier to entertain and pacify a child within a theme park or the natural environment of a forest?

Somewhere between the crafted, paced, 4/4 movement of greased industry palms rubbing against one another, lies our percept of reality, consistently bombarded by messaging. While we struggle with this understanding of our surroundings, back in the news room, editors—the guardians of this construct—find themselves under the thumb of the financial steerings and pressures of this propped reality. Their indoctrinated intuition places constraints on the types of stories generated, the depth of coverage, even the language a writer chooses to employ.

The innovators and early adopters of the web aren’t down with that noise.

New School

Bottom/up constructs, enabled by the personal publishing revolution, delivered with flexible subscription technology such as RSS, have empowered individuals to publish cheaply within our own crafted domains.

  • RSS allows us to digest information passively (in a centralized location), instead of actively (surfing the decentalized web), which greatly increases our level of input and conversely, fine tunes our understanding of the world, which is represented by our output (blogging, conversations, actions, etc.)
  • Those of us who publish our own information objects, apply meta-data to increase the potential of findability, both now and in future interfaces
  • Many of us participate with folksonomies, helping make our POV of all information semantically rich and contextual to our neighbors interests, our future grandchildern’s recollections of us, even the desires of a family on the other side of the planet
  • We create multimedia objects to compete with elite vehicles of capital, and fuel them through the same tactical approaches

This participatory environment is one aspect of the Web 2.0 phrase that gets tossed about. It’s enabling us humans to share our creative impulses with others, helping to constantly define and then redefine the world around us through our personal representations of both explicit and implicit lexicon.

This is an open paradigm, a transparent journey, based in accelerated trust and faith in one another.

So when these two worlds meet — old school vs. new school or modernism vs. post-modernism or proprietary vs. open source — the truth of hierarchy and the truth of individual POV’s collide. Guess what remains?

A truthier truth.

Newsvine has taken a position of mixing mainstream feeds with user submitted, tagged and collaboratively greenlit content. Even more revolutionary, they’re mixing the standardized embedded lexicon of our culture—topical categories—with the co-occurance generated wisdom of the people creating relevant content living within such silos:

newsvine-tags

The secondary navigation points are all dynamic, altering over time as the co-occurance of tagged objects within a topical category shifts. This is how I think—how I search, discover, build my own archive in this blog—so in and of itself, the concept doesn’t blow me away. What does blow me away is that by simply placing this paradigm next to, say, The New York Times, Yahoo! News, my pseudo-innovative hometown Greensboro News & Record and a blog aggregator like Greensboro101, none of these domains can compete if Newsvine gains a participatory, critical mass audience.

Newsvine provides AP feeds (like a Yahoo! News), yet allows anyone to seed *any* story, from *any* site (like digging or del.icio.us tagging). Let me try to clearly paint how disruptive of a strategy this is.

  • With only the AP feed, Newsvine could potentially evolve to become a successful News aggregator
  • The addition of the digg and del.icio.us features completely change the game. Newsvine now becomes populated by the very content from the news sites (New York Times, News & Record, etc.) that it’s competing against for advertising
  • The better the content, say, a New York Times produces, the more likely it’ll end up in Newsvine, but with more context (meta-data) and a thriving, participatory readership.
  • Content will begin to be valued differently at a New York Times — as prices might become reduced at the domain, while new, shared models will be created at sites like Newsvine. Good for the Times, as they have a new market for revenue, but it will effect their organizational structure. The big advantage for Newsvine: they don’t have to completely readjust due to their recent entry into the arena and their nimble stature (compared to large news organizations)
  • Community blog aggregators could possibly fall to the wayside, simply due to the fact that people can seed their own local posts, as well as their neighbors, and leverage unbundled advertising services. The very concept of “community” will be redefined on much more granular levels, moving towards a flickr existence, as explicit tags begin to define groups of interest

The Final Touch

Mike Davidson obviously knows what he has here; not only an opportunity to provide a rich, participatory environment for the redefinition of what news means to us as a collective, a community and as individuals, but this service could very well challenge the embedded constructs of editorialized media.

In the final analysis, if Newswire succeeds, it’ll be because of the participatory nature of people. If Davidson wants to make his mark on this planet, he’ll devise a revenue model to incentivize swarms of citizen editors to contribute to the domain—editors removed from the burden and balancing act of management and politics, reduced simply to individuals focused on making our communities that much more aware, educated and inclusive.

If an incentive program can be devised along these lines—some type of a micro-payment structure based on Karma points and click-throughs for both editors *and* authors—he’ll be responsible for creating the Mechanical Turk of the news world. That could change the news media as we know it forever.

Reputable journalists could become more enabled by freelance opportunities, as news organizations would need to drastically reduce their overhead and change their business models because advertising money wouldn’t be channeled into one out of six corporate funnels. Then maybe the people will get the issues covered the way they need to be covered; maybe then we’ll uncover opportunities to 2.0 the hell out of government.

2005: A Year For Change

fireworks

The funny thing about running into the posting wall, is that it almost always comes out of the blue, often at the most random of times. Well, unlike past years, in 2005 I hit the wall at the most appropriate time of the year.

So in order to get back up on the blogging horse, I’m now going to confront what annoyed me the most over the past week or so by presenting you a better late than never (maybe), hodge-podge list of the best stuff I personally experienced in 2005:

Going freelance
Yeah, I know you can’t buy this or go see it, but it was somewhat of a life-changing moment for me. And while I’ve gone back and forth between full-time and freelance gigs over the years, unless the perfect full-time opportunity to build smart experiences and flex skills with like-minded people arises, this time I just might not go back.

Beginning to blog full-time
While I’m still a bit of a beat-down blogger, I’m pretty amped that I’ve been writing consistently since last April. Because my last job consumed so much of my time and energy, my posts were few and far between in 2004 and without writing, sketching, or being creative on some level for me and me alone, I begin to lose it. Maybe I won’t post as much this year, but when I do, they’ll be accompanied by original creative output (illustrations, music, podcasts, etc.).

Working with Media Matters
Admittedly, before I took the gig to collaborate on the redesign of the Media Matters site, I had never heard of David Brock. So as I researched Brock and Media Matters the week prior to starting the job, I became fascinated with his story, especially how the concept of his book literally became a functional venture (the Media Matters for America non-profit) to clean up the media. Does the released information architecture of the site exactly reflect my vision for a forward-thinking domain? Not quite, but it’s getting there, and man, does our media need a real-time ecosystem of accountability.

Picking up my father’s habit of watching the 11 o’clock news
My father is religous in catching the local 11 o’clock news. Aside from catching the weather for the following day (ever notice how the weather is placed at the end of the newscast?), it provides him daily insight into the local news that he feels he needs. Well, I’m now picking up his tradition by religiously catching The Daily Show. Yes, with the amount of in-depth news I catch on my aggregator, I need Jon Stewart’s take on our twisted planet to close out my day-to-day.

Returning to The Chuck Nevitt Invitational
In 1999, the innaugural CNI season, my handicapped parkin’ squad ended up tying for first place. Thanks to Carver High, an invite was extended to me six years after I released my entire fantasy baseball squad due to the real-life threat of a strike (I thought they’d never get over that one). I’m only a few healed players away from having the trophy living in my den for the next year, so Bonzi, Emeka, hurry up and get healthy!

Becoming active by donating to causes I believe in
Historically, I’ve backed organiations by talking them up and defending their practices within mixed crowds. Similar to how I viewed my ability to become a Big Brother (not responsible enough), I also thought that one needed to be rich to financially support an organization. Well, after giving a few hundred dollars to EFF and TerraPass, I’ve come to realize that one doesn’t have to be wealthy to contribute. This year, I’m looking to expand my philanthropic range, so I guess I’ll just have to kill a few magazine subscriptions and keep my heat down at night.

Really Simple Syndication: For real
I’ve been using feeds for years, but not to the degree I used them this past year. Bloglines has become my primary source of information and news from around the world. Out of my 130+ subscriptions, less than ten would be considered mainstream media, so for the first time in my life my perspective is being primarily influenced by people like me. This is a post all in it’s own.

Moving to Greensboro, North Carolina
As I posted before I left JC to come to Greensboro, I’ve a bunch of mixed feelings. On one hand, going from a long-distance relationship to living with Angela has been great. Just as cool has been seeing my brother much more than once every six months. Greensboro is a laid back town, larger in scale than my one-time home of Williamstown, but similar in vibe; small enough to get away from the hustle and bustle, but large enough to ensure that your girlfriend isn’t one degree away from your doctor, dentist, shrink, yoga instructor, etc. On the other hand, it’s not New York City.

Well, that’s that. This post isn’t chock full of top movies or albums, but hey, those types of posts probably annoy you just as much as they annoy me. If 2005 was my year of change, then I’m thinking that 2006 will be the year of transparency across the board. The internet has far too many dedicated, passionate people and easily accessible, open hooks to not dig into rich domains (such as government) to create open, honest conversations.

Transparency and accountability in 2006.

Tag! We’re It! Part III

I tag like a 15 year-old kid in the South Bronx with a box full of Krylons and a yard full of freshly sandblasted cars.

I tag like I just got jumped by a handful of punks who made the mistake of letting me follow them to their trailer park homes adorned with freshly cleaned aluminum siding.

I tag like I get told who I am, what I’m supposed to believe and how I’m supposed to act on a daily basis.

I go all city, hoping that one day, the vehicles I’ve touched get stitched together to form a complete sentence.

con-men

I tag because I saw you leave your mark and it was dope.

I tag because I know how to freeze, watch TV and (kinda) avoid the kissing bugs.

I tag because the words I drop in time will find a way to form a cohesive rhyme.

I tag because the world may be getting smaller, but it’s damn sure not coming together.

grafitti-truck

I tag your name, your spot, your position, your mood, your frame of mind when it’s too hard for you to see it for yourself.

I tag the expected terms of modern constructs.

I tag the post-modern undercurrents of miscellaneous descriptors.

I tag my tags so that when structure is forged out of chaos, you’ll know how to find me.

I tag so that it’s me you won’t be looking for.

life-is-art

When I tag, I’m regurgitating the meal I’ve caught for the chicks in my roost.

When I tag, I feel one with the universe of the collective unconscious.

When I tag, I can see the pillars of control quaking in their foundation.

When I tag, I experience therefore I understand.

When we tag, anything is possible.

————

Tag! We’re It! Part II
Tag! We’re It!

A New Night, For Good Luck

good-night-and-good-luck

Indy films definitely hit a substantial delay in finding their way to my new home in Greensboro, NC, so after a month or so of waiting, I finally had a chance to see Good Night, And Good Luck this past weekend.

Classic.

Heading into the film, I had already regarded Edward R. Murrow a warrior for exposing the truth and championing the rights of the common man and woman, but if GNAGL enlightened me to anything it was to his absolute dedication to a pure journalistic method and a deeply, refined and realistic business acumen.

The Prototypical Newsman

With his classic, stoic, “just the facts ma’am” delivery, Murrow captivated his audience. He came across as an authority figure to the less media savvy audience of the 1950’s, but he also played the role of friend and confidant in the daily struggle to keep on keeping on.

Murrow knew very well that if he didn’t consistently frame the paradoxes and contradictions of reality (in this case, Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt), he’d be fair game for criticism and his career would head south. That recognition of ethical behavior and accountability was too refreshing to view on film, because in our modern day, mass media world, those self-applied standards of journalistic integrity have all but flown the coop.

Understanding Power

If the film was even close to truly representing the relationship between Murrow and William Paley (the head of CBS), they provided an amazing service by exposing the foundation which drives decisions within the media ecosystem: advertising.

While Murrow bartered with Paley at every turn in order to continue exposing the world around him, Paley seemed forever caught between a rock and a hard place; he needed to keep Murrow happy with his role at CBS by providing the latitude necessary to fuel his journalistic passion while somehow balancing the finicky palette of his paid advertisers. The character development of Paley was rich and multidimensional, as I truly felt his angst in the midst of his paradoxical role within such a Darwinesque ecosystem.

And to see Edward R. Murrow, champion of the people, interviewing Liberace, well, it spoke volumes about the character of the man. He didn’t play the role of prima donna, refusing to lower his standards to run chatty interviews. He didn’t use an agent to threaten litigation. He recognized his role in adding value to the network by spreading his good name across programming that would return a dollar for Paley and the executive team. Though, the look on his face while he ran a fluff interview reminded me of a look and a feeling I’ve seen and heard hundreds of times over.

Modern Day Murrows

The majority of present day citizen journalists have day jobs. We design websites, write code, run businesses, multi-task like madmen, etc. Do we all wish we could blog for a living? I’d venture to say that most of us would say yes, as long as we wouldn’t have a strict editorial edict with advertising pressures. You see, we’re a bit spoiled like that.

Murrow had to navigate closed, controlled environments with a high degree of grace in order to shed light through one window of opportunity, one night a week. Bloggers? Well, we’ve become accustom to firing from the hip, espousing our opinions, perspectives and, yes, researched journalism on a intra-day basis, with no editor or advertising revenues to be concerned with. Has this new paradigm created irresponsible reporting? No more than the closed venue of the mainstream media. The difference is that we’re now empowered to network common visions and dreams, driving the potential of a new day into an actual sunrise, and the power of that freedom is upsetting the status quo.

Corporate media and industries are absolutely petrified by the potential of ordinary people gaining broadcast reach. And as much as I plan on assisting corporate America through this transition into the fast track of iterative development and customer accountability, until they can recognize that everything has changed and that we, the people, are now empowered, I won’t lose one wink of sleep over their concerns.

Can There Be Flat Hierarchy?

It’s true that if it weren’t for the relentless corporate push to rapidly develop and monetize the web in the mid-90’s, blogging technology might not have come about as quickly. Just as true was that VC investment in the potential of the web greatly contributed to the explosion of the infrastructure of information retrieval — collaborative filtering, search algorithms and now folksonomies.

So yes, we are all in this together. The talent needs the funding, but not as much as the funding needs the talent. Remember the last time we danced to this tune: capital power players funded the development of the internet on the shoulders of false stickiness, returning large dividends of ad revenue while the innovators focused on innovation. Many of those same capitalists continued to overinvest by underwriting ridiculous IPO’s until the bubble burst.

Was it simply coincidence that a majority of them could reinvest in the internet at a basement entry price, while the talent scrambled about just to retain paid gigs?

Now the power players are scrambling to monetize our blood, sweat and tears at every turn, on every feed, on every page, while we continue to blaze paths two steps ahead of them with our eyes focused on the greater good. We’ll keep doing our thing, they’ll keep doing theirs.

In the end, what else can we say to them but “Good Night, and Good Luck?”

Should Bloggers Share The Rights Of Journalists?

bloggers

I’m not concerned with the debate over pedigree and process. Anyone caught up in that discussion isn’t seeing the forest through the trees. What I’m asking is whether or not bloggers’ rights should be considered equal to journalists’ within the  Free Flow of Information Act of 2005.

The way I see it, once you strip away the editorial and advertising system that relegates a journalist to certain coverage (and the conviction found within), the only difference between a journalist and a blogger is that the former can lose his/her audience and/or be fired based on poor reporting, where the latter can only lose his/her audience.

That one difference is huge in the conversation of controlling the “free flow of information.”

My POV is from a op-ed perspective, but served with journalistic integrity, as I disseminate topical information and craft perspective without peddling a product in my content. So after reading the first draft of the act—especially the perspective of Senator Richard Lugar (R – Ind)—it seems as though the conversation is being held within the parameters of a business conversation, focused on the issues of veiled product peddling. Here’s one quote from Lugar:

Are bloggers journalists or some of the commercial businesses that you here would probably not consider real journalists? Probably not, but how do you determine who will be included in this bill?

The messy and potentially polarizing part of this issue would be debating the rights of individuals to become a part of a revenue stream while not being controlled by an editorial presence.

Why is that messy?

Well, quite frankly, blogs represent a revolutionary change to the current forum of public debate, political discourse, and all types of commentary that the mainstream media provides, at cost, for sector, industry and entertainment products. Those “closed” arenas all have price tags and salaries attributed to them; blogs don’t.

The longer the power structure doesn’t mention this explicitly in public, rest assured, the more you can be sure that it’s a disconcerting issue for them. Check out this other quote from Lugar:

I think, very frankly, you can make a case that this is a special boon for reporters, and certainly for their role in freedom of the press […] At the end of the day what we will come out with says there is something privileged about being a reporter, and being able to report on something without being thrown into jail.

Does anyone else read that as “we can go after those rumor spreading bloggers” and not “we’re going to protect free speech?”

Politicians and/or corporate executives obviously feel more comfortable when an organization provides over-the-shoulder editorial direction to ensure credibility. Apparently, letting people choose to believe what they want to believe only works when the words come from salaried reporters, pundits and entertainers.

The debate is well under way, with Ken Fisher asking some important questions over at Ars Technica, while Stephen Newton, a PR consultant, presents his perspective on marketing blogging.

Do you even care about the future of blogging?

Web 2.0: The Micro And Macro Of The Matter

web2

In this post, I want to pull back a bit to focus on some of the meaning behind the term Web 2.0, touching upon aspects of the meme that have driven it to a certain tipping point within the tech community. And no, that doesn’t mean everyone is on board—as dedicated professionals are either embracing the moniker or slapping it down as a marketing gimmick—but one can’t deny the lexicon has begun to reach the mainstream business world.

The Way We Were

Each year, over the past 10 years or so, the internet has progressively behaved less like a mass of disparate domains—hooked into each other via simple hyperlinks—and more like a functioning network. If you can’t remember 10 years back, 1996 was practically the McCarthy era of the web. There was a good chance you’d be sued if your web site linked to a corporate site without permission.

Seriously.

The behavior of the web as a macro entity wasn’t very smart as well. It essentially stagnated as an enabler for people (including developers) to interact (publish, reuse, etc.) with individual sites. The two-way web was there on paper, but an infrastructure forged across a critical mass of domains had yet to be accomplished.

Then along came Amazon, blowing the roof off of e-commerce by implementing collaborative filtering. Skip over a few other ingenious domains and Google completely changed the definition of information retrieval within both its own domain and others. The IQ of the web jumped as its big players became smarter, but across a majority of domains, the web was still more of a parking garage for individual vehicles, with individual owners and drivers. Carpooling hadn’t begun yet.

The Definition Of A Smart Web

Take my home office network as an example. Each day I easily share data between three machines in order to accomplish a multitude of different goals and a subset of numerous tasks. If I’m using my PC and want to alter an image found on my PowerBook, I simply use Photoshop on my PC to grab the data from across the network, manipulate the image and save it back to its original location. I perform similar operations when marking up HTML and CSS on my PowerBook, then hopping on a browser on my PC to view the data in a rendered form.

This is my personal realm of shared data; a collaborative, transparent, usable space called a network. It stitches together my various personal computers, allowing my software to access data openly and freely. The label isn’t fancy, because the concept is finite and comprehensible. I own everything, from the hardware to the software to the authentications allowing access throughout. I am the network.

I Am Not The Web… Yet

A transition to a user-centered web will only occur once we, the web development community, take the well established premise of a finite network and extrapolate its underlying philosophies of connectivity, transparency and usefulness across a potentially unlimited amount of “networked” domains—each with varying business objectives and often at best, a subjective understanding of user goals and tasks.

In doing so, the rationale for the 2.0 label will start to become clear, as we’re dealing with an enormous number of variables in an extremely large value equation.

We’re living in an entrepreneur’s dream world.

Web 2.0 is a useful moniker to latch onto. Without a set of guiding principles, progressive domains that eat, sleep and breath collaborative, transparent and useful user experiences might end up functioning within a bubble, as opposed to influencing the adoption of industry-wide hooks of shared data and patterns. Just as Amazon and Google previously raised the bar in the late 90’s and challenged their competition to innovate or fold, this philosophical approach is a rallying cry for the entire industry.

The Micro/Macro Example

I’m going to stick with my current favorite example from around the web. A subset of interface features on flickr reads like this:

Each of these features within the flickr domain could be studied to find analogous patterns from the macro arena around the web (e.g. posting images is the equivalent to publishing a podcast), but by focusing on one feature, user commenting, we can blow out the possibilities for usefulness across a Web 2.0 environment.

While commenting isn’t unique per se, flickr does provide a commenting feature that is very useful. In order to help a user keep up with discourse surrounding their posts, flickr provides a “Recent Activity” screen, which not only presents user comments in context to the images, but notifies you when your image was added as someone else’s favorite. There’s also an elegantly designed page which documents the history of comments that you’ve made across the domain. flickr makes this so easy to track, they even provide an RSS feed for peripheral awareness.

commenting

Now take this concept from the micro space of flickr and extrapolate it across the macro space of the web and you have the means to track numerous conversations you’ve either started or joined over n period of time. Blogpulse has a similar interface with its Conversation Tracker, but that relates more to trackbacks and the movement of a topical conversation across posts. Interesting, but not personally interesting.

The captivating aspect of the localized, recent activity screen from flickr is through the exposure of an involved conversation, rather than an uninvolved and evolving perspective.

When flickr was without the recent activity feature, I was never able to remember what images I previously commented on, so in turn, my participation level was reduced. With the feature, I comment much more often, as the connection between me and other people’s information objects is now tangible.

Now, apply that same concept to the web. What would a recent activity interface centered on your comments from around the web do for your continued contribution to public discourse?

This is only one idea for how the concepts behind the Web 2.0 meme can change the way we look at the web, moving from a centralized group of branded domains to a functional network of decentralized, shared data, information and applications.

What are some of your ideas?

Newsweek Blog Talk: An Innovator?

blog-talk

Newsweek and Technorati are in bed together and I’m really hoping it isn’t a monogamous relationship.

I’m not sure when this started, but Newsweek is now citing “Blog Talk,” creating a contextual column from the Newsweek article page that links to a full Blog Talk page which presents the last 10 blogs posts that have linked to the Newsweek article. This is being done automatically, sans any editorial review.

I’m currently working on a project for which I presented this exact context scenario for our blogger design persona. I couldn’t believe the serendipity. So to ensure the API and execution would support our needs, I ran a quick test and posted a response to the “I’m So Sorry” article, linking back to the story URL. Within 10 minutes of pinging Technorati, my post appeared on the Newsweek page. Okay, that’s very progressive. Sure, it’s only a glorified trackback system, but the underlying philosophy has huge implications.

We’re quickly moving to a sustainable model for presenting the individual perspective on the same level as mainstream media’s editorial-driven journalism. It’s a win-win; a site like Newsweek gets an increased blogger readership and bloggers have the opportunity to share their perspectives with people that may not even know how to navigate the scattered blogosphere.

From my perspective, this is the first step to truly legitimizing the blogosphere.

What’s next? Well, if Google, Yahoo! and other mainstream news aggregators begin to index blogs for their search queries, we’d be one step closer to breaking through the mainstream media stranglehold on information for the average American that receives their news on-line. All of this is what the promise of Community TV was supposed to provide twenty years ago, but ran into the obvious production challenges.

This is really good. It’s good for business, good for bloggers, and most importantly, good for bubbling up numerous perspectives of a story to the surface. This is discourse.