Monthly Archives: October 2012

Building momentum on local outreach and n0tice

We’ve been rolling out a pretty comprehensive upgrade to n0tice this month. We called it n0tice 2.0 in the press release which is here. Journalism.co.uk and TheNextWeb both covered the launch well.

One of the biggest elements of this most recent push is the marketing campaign. We always knew that the hard part of starting a new brand like n0tice was developing a meaningful and robust community. The tech would come more easily. So, this campaign is designed to address that and to show people the power of this platform – why n0tice should matter to local communities, how it’s different, what can be done with it, what impact it can have, etc.

I’ll go into more detail on the approach another time, but I wanted to show some of the campaign assets developed by our partner LBi.

First, here’s a living infographic that pulls in live data from n0tice:

It shows what people are posting to the My High Street noticeboard, a space we setup to encourage people to see and share things that they want to either celebrate or change about their local neighborhood. We want to demonstrate how n0tice can actually help communities unite into action…that shared observation is a powerful thing.

Second, here’s a short video interviewing local activists around the UK about what’s happening to the High Street (that’s “Main Street” for my American friends) and how people are sharing local information:

The positioning of this first campaign in the series is spot on with what inspired n0tice in the first place (1, 2).

But there’s some clever tech involved in the campaign, too, in the way we it works with Twitter and Instagram, in particular. Engaging people in the social spaces they already inhabit is very important to making outreach effective.

We have some really interesting campaigns in the series that will follow this, including one that went live already. It’s all about encouraging people to #keepcycling during the winter months.

This campaign will result in many lessons and examples for different types of communities to use in order to model local activism and community building that is meaningful for them. We’ll document more of it as we go along.

Orchestrating streams of data from across the Internet

The liveblog was a revelation for us at the Guardian. The sports desk had been doing them for years experimenting with different styles, methods and tone. And then about 3 years ago the news desk started using them liberally to great effect.

I think it was Matt Wells who suggested that perhaps the liveblog was *the* network-native format for news. I think that’s nearly right…though it’s less the ‘format’ of a liveblog than the activity powering the page that demonstrates where news editing in a networked world is going.

It’s about orchestrating the streams of data flowing across the Internet into a compelling use in one form or another. One way to render that data is the liveblog. Another is a map with placemarks. Another is a RSS feed. A stream of tweets. Storify. Etc.

I’m not talking about Big Data for news. There is certainly a very hairy challenge in big data investigations and intelligent data visualizations to give meaning to complex statistics and databases. But this is different.

I’m talking about telling stories by playing DJ to the beat of human observation pumping across the network.

We’re working on one such experiment with a location-tagging tool we call FeedWax. It creates location-aware streams of data for you by looking across various media sources including Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google News, Daylife, etc.

The idea with FeedWax is to unify various types of data through shared contexts, beginning with location. These sources may only have a keyword to join them up or perhaps nothing at all, but when you add location they may begin sharing important meaning and relevance. The context of space and time is natural connective tissue, particularly when the words people use to describe something may vary.

We’ve been conducting experiments in orchestrated stream-based and map-based storytelling on n0tice for a while now. When you start crafting the inputs with tools like FeedWax you have what feels like a more frictionless mechanism for steering the flood of data that comes across Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, etc. into something interesting.

For example, when the space shuttle Endeavour flew its last flight and subsequently labored through the streets of LA there was no shortage of coverage from on-the-ground citizen reporters. I’d bet not one of them considered themselves a citizen reporter. They were just trying to get a photo of this awesome sight and share it, perhaps getting some acknowledgement in the process.

You can see the stream of images and tweets here: http://n0tice.com/search?q=endeavor+OR+endeavour. And you can see them all plotted on a map here: http://goo.gl/maps/osh8T.

Interestingly, the location of the photos gives you a very clear picture of the flight path. This is crowdmapping without requiring that anyone do anything they wouldn’t already do. It’s orchestrating streams that already exist.

This behavior isn’t exclusive to on-the-ground reporting. I’ve got a list of similar types of activities in a blog post here which includes task-based reporting like the search for computer scientist Jim Gray, the use of Ushahidi during the Haiti earthquake, the Guardian’s MPs Expenses project, etc. It’s also interesting to see how people like Jon Udell approach this problem with other data streams out there such as event and venue calendars.

Sometimes people refer to the art of code and code-as-art. What I see in my mind when I hear people say that is a giant global canvas in the form of a connected network, rivers of different colored paints in the form of data streams, and a range of paint brushes and paint strokes in the form of software and hardware.

The savvy editors in today’s world are learning from and working with these artists, using their tools and techniques to tease out the right mix of streams to tell stories that people care about. There’s no lack of material or tools to work with. Becoming network-native sometimes just means looking at the world through a different lens.

Information physicality

The recent advances in human-to-computer interaction should be scrambling your brain if you’re paying attention at all. From gesture interfaces (both 2D *and* 3D) to location-aware social media and the rapid adoption of connected devices, our relationship to computing and the increasingly ubiquitous network is changing dramatically.

Whereas I grew up in an era where we had to work relatively hard to get a computer to behave the way we wanted, kids today will grow up expecting computers to respond to them instead.

What is this trend going to mean to journalism and publishers? Getting closer to the leaders will help uncover some answers.

The gaming consoles have been working on this stuff for years already, but now Google, Amazon, Sony and even the telcos all have relevant projects starting to ship now.  

Google, for example, just unveiled a new project called Field Trip to add to its portfolio of location-responsive media that also includes Google Now and Google Glasses.

The app is populated using data from “dozens” of content partners, according to Google. Songkick (show information), Eater (restaurants), Flavorpill (events of all kinds), and Thrillist (hot cafes and shops) are there to tell you where to go and what to eat. Architizer (public art, interesting buildings), Remodelista (designy boutiques), and Inhabitat (a designy blog) are there for the nerdier stuff. You can turn any of these services on or off, or ask to see more or less of the items from each partner.

Also served to you are Google Offers, which show up as coupons and deals for nearby businesses, and restaurant reviews from Zagat, Google’s crown jewel in this space.

- Google’s New Hyper-Local City Guide Is a Real Trip, Wired

What kind of publisher is well-suited for a world where technology responds?

What does it mean for information to adjust to the way we move our hands, the way we slide our fingers across a glass surface, where our eyes are focused, and which direction we’re facing?

What does it mean for information to alter based on our location, places we’ve been and places we’re going?

How do you make information more physical?

The answers have yet to be invented, but there are some obvious ways to re-factor current assets and processes in order to get invited to the party.

  • Atomize everything. Separate independent elements and link them intelligently. Well-structured information and consistent workflow help a lot with this.
  • Add a concept of time and space to media. Location can be a point on the planet, a place, a geopolitical boundary. And time can be a moment or a period. And then look at adding more context.
  • Standardize around formats that software developers like to work with. Offer APIs that can accept data as well as release data.

It’s about adjusting, being malleable and responding. Information, how it’s collected, where it goes, and how it is experienced needs to adjust according to the way the user is looking at it and touching it.  It needs to synch with where in space and time the person is focused and interested.

More simply, make everything you do as software-friendly as you possibly can. And then go partner with people whose brains and financial incentives are inextricably linked to the new hardware and software.

This presentation may communicate some of these ideas more effectively than a blog post:



Posted from London, England, United Kingdom.

Rethinking news for a world of ubiquitous connectivity

I gave a presentation on the implications of ubiquitous connectivity for journalism at the Rethinking Small Media event held at the University of London yesterday. The slides are here:

I realized by the time I finished talking that the point I really wanted to make was more about how important it is that we move the dialog away from an us v them view of small and big media. Fracturing a community that is mostly full of people trying to do good in the world is not helpful, even if the definition and method of doing good varies.

The more important issue is about protecting the open public space we call the Internet.

As the network begins adopting more and more nodes, more streams of nonhuman data, new connected devices, etc., we must work harder to ensure that the interests that make all these things possible are aligned with the principles that made the Internet such valuable infrastructure for people across the globe.

But, in the meantime, there are certainly some tangible things people from both small and big media can do to point in the right direction.

The list includes atomizing information, adding more context such as time and space, linking it, making it developer-friendly, and sharing it openly with partners, among other things.