Stay tuned…

So many ideas for new posts, but so little time to write them. This blog will be back soon with big updates, I promise.


Quartz introduces annotations

Quartz introduced their version of reader comments yesterday, calling them annotations. Similar to Notes on medium.com, readers can now comment on every paragraph in an article.

“The idea is to encourage thoughtful commentary and substantive contributions. Because you are annotating a specific paragraph, the discussion ought to be much more directed than usual. We’ll also reward your great annotations by featuring them more prominently, responding to you, and removing others that are off-topic or abusive.”


Four challenges in journalism

I went to an Ideathon on Friday, organised by WAN-IFRA. We were given the task of defining concrete challenges in journalism that developers and journalists can work on together. Here are four of them:

1. How to tag an article archive with geolocation data?

News sites are looking to provide their readers with content that is specific to their location. They’re sitting on millions of articles that have no geolocation data. Is there a way to add these tags in retrospect?

2. How to present an article archive going back many, many years?

Again, traditional news organisations have archives that go back to the early 20th, sometimes 19th century. There is a lot of value in this. How can news sites make better use of their archives? How can they present them to readers? How can they monetize them?

3. Allow readers to challenge the facts

This was my favourite one: Journalists love challenging other people’s facts. But when it comes to letting other people challenge facts in journalism, there isn’t much going on. Can we think of an interface that lets readers flag information in an article and provide contradicting information (e.g. links) to back up their challenge? What would the workflow look like behind such a tool? How to prevent abuse?

4. How to make article versions and corrections more transparent?

News sites are still not doing a great job when it comes to making corrections and additions to their articles more transparent. If they mention them at all, it’s in the form of a note at the very bottom of the article. Can we think of a better way to highlight corrections? And can we think of a better way to show how an article has changed (e.g. as more information became available)?


XKeyscore: Look for “anomalous” events

The Guardian published new information today about an NSA tool called XKeyscore that collects “nearly everything a user does on the internet”. One of the documents explains how the tool can be used to “find a cell of terrorists that has no connection to known strong-selectors” (e.g. email addresses):

“Answer: Look for anomalous events
E.g. Someone whose language is out of place for the region they are in
Someone who is using encryption
Someone searching the web for suspicious stuff”

The tool is designed to identify individuals based on the “anomalies” it detects in otherwise anonymous internet traffic. And that’s just very disturbing.


NSA scandal: the bigger picture

I went through my bookmarks and pulled out a handful of articles and intervews that look at the bigger picture of the NSA scandal, asking “What does it all mean?”. Here are the links:

Essay by Evgeny Morozov: “The Price of Hypocrisy”

Interview with Juli Zeh: “Ein observierter Mensch ist nicht frei” (German)

Interview with Ulrich Beck: “Digitaler Weltstaat oder digitaler Humanismus?” (German)

Blog post in the Economist: “America against democracy”


New metrics needed for reader engagement

David Cohn, Director of News at cir.ca, published this blog post about their “follow” feature, which allows readers to subscribe to a story and to be notified about any updates.

Each follow is a decision by a reader to keep in touch, for us to keep track of what they know and alert them when something new happens they aren’t aware of. From an editorial perspective – that’s valuable information which allows us to serve a reader better. It also lets us know exactly how many devices will be alerted when we update a story.

The follow feature is a great example of how we can measure reader engagement in the future. Mashable has a list of other useful metrics.


Engage your readers like you mean it

I gave Medium a try today and published some thoughts on reader engagement:

Journalists and readers both strive for the best reporting possible. How can they work together to achieve it? As a first step, journalists have to extend an honest invitation.

Here’s the full article.


A new model of participation in the Digital News Report

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has released its Digital News Report 2013. There’s an interesting section in there that proposes a new model of participation.

The researchers built the model by “coding responses to questions about contributing to the news according to levels of proactivity (e.g. posting a comment, writing a blog) and reactivity (liking a news story, voting, etc.).” They combined this data with frequency of each activity.

The report says that 63 percent of people in UK is participating in some way each week, with 40 percent doing so online (some discuss news with their friends offline). Here’s how those 63 percent are distributed across the different forms of participation:

Maybe not so surprising, the report says that the 25–34 group is particularly proactive (35% of all intense participators).

It’s interesting to look at the gender differences: Those who contribute and participate heavily in news online, the “intense group”, is heavily male. Those who like to talk about news offline tend to be female.

For more data, see the section in the Digital News Report.


The past can’t buy the future

One of the highlights of this year’s GEN News Summit in Paris was the presentation by John Payton, CEO of Digital First Media. His uncompromising focus on journalism’s profitability in the digital era was impressive. The message was clear: Publishers and editors out there, look at these numbers and get busy finding new business models.

The trouble is that our past won’t buy much of a future for much longer if real risks are not taken. All businesses spend some time looking at the past to try to determine the future. But in our industry it is a fatal attraction. Our future isn’t going to look anything like our past. If you rely upon the past for your future projections the only thing you are truly determining is the date and time of your demise.


Is there a Social-Media Fueled Protest Style?

Assessing the role of social media in recent protest movements is a difficult task. Zeynep Tufekci offers one of the best and most nuanced attempts I have read so far, while also providing a lot of helpful background on the current events in Turkey.