Information in the First Instance

Jesse Hall and the Francis Quad on the Univers...
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Being with Bill Densmore and the group he assembled at Missouri this week was a refreshing introduction to new people and ideas.  We were gathered to create the “blueprint” for the Information Valet Project, which we tentatively described as:

A permission-based ecosystem assuring privacy that allows you, in a trustworthy way, to share personal information so that content providers and partners can create a structure to provide you with content, applications and incentives tailored to you and your needs.

This “ecosystem” assumes that an individual, by giving secure personal information and desires for specific information, will be able to access that information in an elegant way.  As I participated in the discussions, I kept coming back to the need for a whole new structure to create the Complete Community Connection (C3). So, with a nod to Steve Outing, I am trying to be as transparent as I can be, both to our employees and the industry, about the issues in creating this new entity.

In looking for discussions on changing the way we create information in the first instance, I was struck by the conversation between Jeff Jarvis and Dave Winer on the Ecology of News.  They both break down news into the essential elements, and then discuss the best way to package and distribute those elements.  I would propose that the elements are Sources; Quotes; Factual Statements about people, places or events; Ideas; Data; and Opinions.
The Complete Community Connection would expand the current reliance on packaged stories in both directions – back toward the original elements, offering transparency, and forward toward a summary of local knowledge in a local wiki.

So, how do we do that?

We have to start with the creation of the “elements” in the first instance.  By starting with each source, quote, factual statement, picture, graphic, audio clip or video clip as an isolated element, or “tweet”, properly tagged with automatic tagging engines, those elements can be packaged or searched directly, allowing the most transparent view of local information.  Sometimes that could be done by reporting on scheduled events by live blogging, using Twitter tweets for participant comments, with the resulting “record” time stamped.  All audio and video clips could also be tagged to the time, place, event and people.  From those elements, packaged stories could be written, but any reader could go “through” the story to the original elements.

For investigative pieces, getting at those issues harder to pry out of the community, the reporter could still keep track of the elements in a similar system, but without the initial public input.

Patrick Thornton, with his BeatBlogging posts, is trying to highlight the best efforts to learn what can be done in this area.  I believe that the transformation necessary from “for and to” to “with and by” will not take place until we engage our communities in the first instance of information creation.

To take it another step, what if the community could suggest what needs to be investigated?  Leonard Witt arranged funding for a representative journalism project in Northfield, MN that Bonnie Obremski is carrying out at Locally Grown.  Listening to Bonnie describe what she has accomplished in her six months in Northfield makes me think that local community bloggers, both employees of media organizations and organizers of particular micro-communities, can be the key collecting forces of the elements of local information for C3.

Those community organizers, with their blogs, would be operating under Alfred Hermida’s Three Principles for social media:

  1. Be human: Mass media was based on the notion of reaching millions of people with one message. As a result, that message often came across in an impersonal, corporate voice. Social media provides an opportunity to be more personal, informal and conversational.
  2. Be honest: Be transparent and open about what you are doing. Social media is about genuine relationships and anyone trying to fake it is likely to be found out very quickly.
  3. Be involved: Journalists should not approach social media by thinking, “how can I use this for a story”. Social media should be part of your job, not an add-on or something to be used for a story and then abandoned.

What do you think?

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4 responses to “Information in the First Instance

  1. Pingback: Idea Log: Cit-J iPhone App, Beat Reporting 2.0, Info Valet Recap - DigitalEdge

  2. A pragmatic IT comment on one sentence: “We have to start with the creation of the “elements” in the first instance.”

    If information gathering remains tethered to production/packaging-specific systems, the shift will always be incomplete. At some point, product-specific systems will come into play later…they should not be a part of the gathering information/data and creating content.

  3. c3it -

    I agree totally. That is the major challenge as we move forward, both technically and operationally.

    Chuck

  4. “Listening to Bonnie describe what she has accomplished in her six months in Northfield makes me think that local community bloggers, both employees of media organizations and organizers of particular micro-communities, can be the key collecting forces of the elements of local information for C3.”

    Agreed. The organizers and advocates of local organizations/interests are key to the new information gathering. The challenge lies in making the information contribution process easy and whorthwile, while making the content accessible and connected.

    Making it accessible and connected requires the right tools and methodology in the first instance of creation and the right delivery channels (or packages) beyond that.

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