NMKForum07: Citizen media innovation Dan Gillmor

Dan Gillmor: The disruption has never been higher than Web 2.0, but the cost of experimentation has never been lower. The R&D of media will happen everywhere, not just media companies. They will do the bulk of tomorrow’s R&D.

A lot of us have been talking about disruption and the democratistion of media not in the sense of voting but in terms of participation, production and access. The media used to think that we make stuff and distribution. We have a read-write web. People are not just consumers but collaborators.

There is also competition in the business model. eBay and Craigslist compete with classifies. Advertising revenues for Google will soon top television. What is the creative part of this? Data. Podcasts. Pictures. Blog posts. World of Warcraft. Halu hotel. Videos from the tsunami.

Also, data is places, and he showed Placeblogger, a site that aggregates blog posts based on places.

The question is not who is a journalist but what is journalism, and he showed off a professor’s economics blog. He mentioned the mobile phone pictures of the 7 July 2005 bombing in London. NGO’s can do advocacy journalism on their own and amplify their own messages. NGO’s can build trust. Corporations can do newsmaking, not press releases.

Press releases typically sound like a Turing Machine mated with a lawyer, but blogs can sound like human beings and provide useful information for people who care.

Journalism itself is moving from lecture to conversation and that is a great thing. It’s crucial to include the people who before were the audience. The first rule of conversation is to listen, and it’s not something that we do apart from listening to our sources. We listen to our sources.

We love readers, plural, but we’re kind of freaked out about reader, singular, who may call us out.

They are building converged newsrooms and adding staff blogs. But it still is freaking out journalists because people are saying things that they can’t control.

Adrian Holovaty who recently left the Washington Post to create EveryBlock.com. He pioneered using databases for journalism. It’s helping to record history, something that journalists should do but many don’t do. Los Angeles Times got a hold of a property database with foreclosures or possible foreclosures in California. People can simply add their zip code and find out foreclosures in their area.

Dan also showed a mashup of homes sold, plotted on a map, showing homes that sold for less than local governments thought they were worth. It was posted not by a journalist but created by a real estate agent who thought it was important. Why don’t media people do this?

I call this journalism just not done by someone who calls themselves a journalist. He showed a map of bombings in Iraq using a site called Platial. His students at Berkeley created this. No newspaper that Dan knows of has done this.

In Bakersfield, they created a pothole map. People could put a pin on the map showing potholes. They could add pictures. They could list potholes that have been fixed.

He also showed video mashups, an important new form of video commentary. Young people know to mix-up culture, but not journalists.

Journalists have changed from oracles to guides. No news organisations can cover everything. They should point to other stuff that they don’t do. AftenBlat in Sweden has a blog portal. If you send people away for good stuff, they will come back for more.

It’s a good start, but the next level is to get people deeper into the process beyond comments. That includes something like a Fort Meyers Florida newspaper did. They saw a rise in water utility rates. The readers responded to a terrific amount of information. The readers helped them investigate the story.

The BBC was early in asking for pictures from the audience. It is now routine. We should be careful about asking people to take risks.

He gives a few examples iconic photos from stories including the London bombings, the Thai coup and bombings in Jakarta. He said that authenticity is important, possibly more than traditional measures of quality.

He also points to SourceForge, a place for Open Source projects. The top projects get thousands of downloads. He takes a look at the long tail of downloads on the site. Most of the downloads are so low that they are approaching zero.

Clay Shirky says the cost of trying things is approaching zero. “There are few institutional barriers between thought and action.” That most of the projects fail is not a bug. It’s so cheap to fail, but the important thing is to learn. That is one of the hidden strengths of Silicon Valley.

He highlighted Dopplr, a project that he is involved in. It allows you to know about

People can focus on niche subjects or go hyperlocal. Newspaper project can lead to software development – see the Bakotopia project. This wasn’t done by a big media company but by a small, family-owned newspaper.

Trust and reliability need a lot of work. Too much data. We can move from the Daily me to the Daily Us, and he showed off Newsvine.

To approach distributed R&D, be open, don’t reinvent wheels, collaborate and take risks. Companies must give their employees the ability to fail creatively. That is why a lot of people strike out on their own to do it.

Martin Stabe of the Press Gazette’s Fleet Street 2.0 has uploaded the audio of the full talk (with a little help from his friends ; )

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