Hello Real World (pragmatic solutions for news)

No, not MTV’s Real World.

I was always an MTV “The Grind” fan anyway. Well that’s another story . . .

I call this post “Hello Real World” since the blog already had a “Hello World” post and in fact only one more post that was actually a test to see if my RSS feed would get posted to @journalab on Twitter via a service I created called brisk.ly. Use it at your own risk. ; )

Anyway, I’ve joined the Knight-Mozilla Learning Lab and am honored to take part. So now this blog has a REAL purpose.

Intro over.

Stop Yammering. Start Hammering.

Less yak, more hack.

Fuck the ode, write the code.

Yes, the whole point of the learning lab (besides learning) is to actually APPLY the learning. Not ponder it.

And applying here means to openly iterate on an idea. The goal is to figure out what problems in the online news world  need to be solved. So here goes.

We need to make news better.

1. How can we do this?

Right off the top of my head I’d say by  “bringing more news of personal interest to the news consumer”.  In other words, more relevance. To hyper-personalize the news. Help everyone break through the clutter.

I’m probably wrong, but we go with that anyway for now.

2. How can we achieve this?

Well, a popular idea is using one’s social network to help filter information that is of interest to us. That’s a fine idea but it’s always bothered me a little. Even someone as close as my wife has some shared interests and some not. (She wouldn’t read this!)

Only the most boring people hang around with others that are exactly like them. I have no scientific evidence to support that claim but I’m going to go with it anyway.

I think it’s likely that we each have sub-social-graphs that are meaningful. Hyperlocal graph. Geek graph. Food graph. Beer lover graph. That one is scary.

Google must think that’s true too if they want us to create all these circles.

I don’t really care what circle you are in if you’ve got a lead for a piece of news that is of interest to me. In fact, I don’t even care if I know you.

So that leads to a possible answer.

What if we could gain information from everyone about the things that are of interest to us?

Sounds good. Two  new questions arise.

1. How do we request our interests?

2. How do others (and we) respond to those requests?

Sites like Del.icio.us worked because individuals acted in their own self interest but the cumulative result was something greater than the individual parts.

Give the users a reason to contribute that will immediately benefit them and harvest that usage to benefit the community at large.

How? Next episode. Hint.

3 thoughts on “Hello Real World (pragmatic solutions for news)

  1. The question is whether, over time, only being fed personalized news stories will cause us to never develop our interests over time, because serendipitous encounters become less frequent.

    Cass Sunstein has written extensively about the grave dangers of hyper-personalization. See Republic.com 2.0 http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8468.html. I haven’t read this article, but it looks like Sunstein is interviewed to summarize his concerns: http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/11/07/sunstein.

    I guess this is to say that personalization is important, but there should be some attention paid to enable the evolution of interests as well.

  2. That’s a great point and certainly a topic we should all be concerned about. I’ve often said that we don’t want to replace the traditional gatekeeper with an algorithmic one.

    That said, I also have to believe that serendipitous encounters are at an all time high.

    Still, if we constantly validate our personal views simply because it’s easy to find a critical mass of others that agree, we are headed into dangerous territory.

    Thanks for the pointers.

  3. Great post. +1 on @Travis Kriplean’s questions, i.e., How does news get personal without relegating us to the nano-tail of only that which interests ‘people like us’?

    Software like ThinkUp App (http://thinkupapp.com/) is exploring a bit in this area. Might be worth a peek.


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