Tag Archives: serendipity

The key ingredient for the new news emporium

Mathew Ingram, an online news evangelist at the Globe and Mail in Toronto, admits that the printed word still has something over the Web that may not be changing anytime soon:

“I realize that there is far more content — from a vast diversity of sources — available on the web than there is in a newspaper. But who will filter and condense and aggregate it for me the way a newspaper does? I still haven’t found something that does the job quite as well. Perhaps someday I will, but until then I will keep reading newspapers.”

This notion is especially relevant for me now as I am creating a specialty sports news site that will be populated in part by aggregating and curating news stories. I’m largely on top of the stories in this particular niche, but there’s no way to collect everything of importance to our intended audience.

The person who’s overseeing our project asked me if there was a good existing RSS feed for this particular topic. It would certainly save time that I could spend on the stories I’ll be writing for this site. But I told him there isn’t, not for the readers we’re trying to attract. I advised it would be best to hand-dip the news, as at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, to provide the best value. This will require additional work, but I think it’s well worth it.

Especially after I noticed this morning a six-year-old story in one of my news feeds. Automating the news via keywords is a wonderful thing. It can permit a few extra winks of sleep for an online editor or curator. If one is aggregating on a high-profile subject, it makes perfect sense and adheres to the best slogan about the news that Jeff Jarvis has ever come up with: “Do what you do best, and link to the rest.”

But like fishing, this practice occasionally pulls an old rubber boot out of the water. I know I’m not saying anything new here, but I’m learning more and more each day about the necessity of employing my best news judgment — and an appropriate human touch — to presenting the news for others.

And it ought to be a relatively easy concept for print-oriented journalists to embrace since it’s an old newspaper technique gone to the Web:

“This sort of picking, choosing and assembling from a wide range of sources—curation and aggregation—is precisely what modern editors should be doing online, not just regurgitating the limited content they get from their parent organization. It leverages the strength of the editor’s skills: the ability to divine the best content, deep knowledge of a subject, and the ability to shape it into a compelling package for readers. That’s what good editors have always done: curate.”

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Readings: On brawny work, memory and Google, social media misuse and serendipity-doo-dah

Lots of good long-form and think pieces about journalism, the media and the digital realm are served up here for your weekend reading. There’s plenty to choose from here, so enjoy:

But it feels like the first time: Slate’s Jack Shafer says the print-Web wars have nothing on the way the newspaper industry faced its first competitive threat, at a time when it was in much better health:

“Some print journalists and industry leaders claimed that radio content was inaccurate, skimpy, sensationalist, and trivial and that its practitioners were amateurs. When radio news was accurate, they asserted, it was either a bunch of headlines from a newspaper or a story directly pilfered from one. Does any of this sound familiar?”

AP’s copyright cluelessness: Erik Sherman at BNET lets the news collective have it over its threat to sue sites merely linking to its content. “Idiots” and “pinheads” are among his kinder epithets:

I’m not someone who buys into the whole ‘information wants to be free’ ethos. I make a living off my intellectual property of writing and have a lot of sympathy for print publications, where much of my work appears. However, you can’t run a business on how you wish the world operated. Instead, you must find a model that operates within reality. And that’s why the AP, and other media companies that long for the good old days, are doomed.”

Going down with the ship?: Ex-Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reporter Michael Sokolove talks to Brian Tierney, publisher of both papers and who unapologetically defends the print-and-ink process:

“The Web efforts, they add something. I congratulate them. Let a thousand flowers bloom. But if somebody thinks in any short term, or even medium term, that the answers are those things, they’re kidding themselves. I know I sound like a heretic in that I won’t come out and say, ‘They’re the future.’ But they’re not. The brawny work is what we’re doing, and the brawny vehicle to carry it is the printed product.”

Murdoch’s big paywall gamble: Shane Richmond at The Daily Telegraph says the media mogul is serving up a big gift to his competitors, which include, er, The Daily Telegraph, although not in this particular sentence:

“This is a great opportunity for the Mirror, The Daily Star and, I suppose, producers of pictures of topless women, to hoover up those Sun readers who aren’t sure whether they want to pay.”

Drinking from a firehose: Danielle Maestretti at the Utne Reader is looking for a few good people who know how to help the masses navigate their way around the Web:

“All of this fretting over the death of reading might sound more genuine if it wasn’t usually articulated by and for people who’ve staked their lives and careers on traditional media models—authors, academics, journalists, publishers, and the like. More importantly, it’s often beside the point. The debate over how we read, perpetuated largely by media insiders, is starting to seem like little more than a distraction from the real problem: We have access to more information than ever, yet we do not know what to do with it. We are desperately information-illiterate.”

What was that again?: Librarian Emily Walshe isn’t exactly hand-wringing, and she isn’t the first to worry about how cognition is being altered because of the ease of the search engine:

“With so many of us slave to tin can memory, our human capacity for identification is jeopardized. Because when we commit things to mind, we become the authors of experience. When we choose to remember, we relate to our most fundamental resource and, in so doing, achieve a unique and perfect balance between representation and meaning.”

Commodify your Tweets: Before Twitter’s denial of service attack on Thursday, Jasmin Tragas did a Google search on a topic that’s been bugging her and came up with a question directed at novelist Rick Moody. It confirmed her suspicions about the exploitation of social media:

“Have we gotten to a point where the commodification of personality has become so overbearing that it’s impossible for us to separate self-promotion from expression?”

A very fine wine: Along those same lines, British freelancer David Lloyd takes a dim view of Web wine impresario Gary Vaynerchuk’s yammering about personal branding:

“The blogs I visit most aren’t written to be ‘monetised’. They’re written because their owners have something to say. Or they want to offer a service, or advice, or, maybe, they just want to write. And isn’t that where all the best sites originated anyway? Money might follow. It might not. Really, Gary, don’t sweat it.”

How many years of blogs? David Silversmith argues that given the 500-year head start by the printed word, it’s far too soon to determine the longevity of blogs. But he predicts they won’t be very egalitarian and could end up being dominated by blogging Darwinians. I think that’s already the case:

The world can’t support 184 million blogs. . . . The few, the mighty and the strong blogs will survive and thrive – but the age of blogging offering everybody a voice will fade away.”

(via Amy Vernon)

Serendipity-doo-dah: New York Times technology editor Damon Darlin ignited a firestorm over his assertion that the digital age isn’t good for information meandering:

Ah, the techies say, no worries. We have Facebook and Twitter, spewing a stream of suggestions about what to read, hear, see and do. . . . But that isn’t serendipity. It’s really group-think. Everything we need to know comes filtered and vetted. We are discovering what everyone else is learning, and usually from people we have selected because they share our tastes.”

Big Digerati Dog Steven Johnson got the logrolling going emphatically:

“Do these people actually use the Web?”

More pushback here and here. Even some of Darlin’s fans are scratching their heads. But he does have some defenders on this point.

And of course, there has to be some over-the-top snark for good measure.

I revel in all forms of serendipity, though I lean toward Darlin’s point that “group-think” could be a negative consequence of too much, or the wrong kind, of filtering. (What I compile here each Friday is a combination of serendipity and filtering by others, both in print and on the Web.)

During that testy interview with Der Spiegel last week, Chris Anderson admitted he really doesn’t do serendipity:

“I figure by the time something gets to me it’s been vetted by those I trust. So the stupid stuff that doesn’t matter is not going to get to me.”