Bob Dohse


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The creation of more "civic journalism" web sites to facilitate the spreading of news and dialog of the news.

When "news" is democratically empowered, all citizens have the ability to share what they think is news.

The free market can then like it or reject it. But is is always AVAILABLE, because no single sector can control the spread of democratically empowered news distribution.

What if we created web sites specifically for that purpose ... and many of them?

Would we then have created the mechanism to democratically empower news distribution and, consequently, bypassed selective distribution?

Is that not the ultimate CROWDSOURCING of the news?

Share YOUR ideas about crowdsourced news ... and YOUR favorite site, if you have one.

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    May 16 2013: bob I'll have to think about the Shirky idea. It's conceivable to me that not as many people want to do journalism as want to do cat photos, journalism is little more "intellectual," takes more time and effort. But I'm not sure, Shirky's idea is a new one for me. If your convo doesn't close, or you can hit "edit" and add more time, I'll get back to you with whatever I come up with.
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    May 13 2013: In a certain way, Bob, I think the news is already crowdsourced, I have a rather broad idea of the "news," I think the conversation you have around the breakfast table is news, I think what goes on in my backyard is news, I think what I see when I look up in the sky is news, even if these things never make it to a TV or radio or newspaper. However, TV, radio, and newspapers are somewhat crowdsourced, for example letters to the editor in a newspaper get crowdsourced, or what about talk radio where the public is constantly calling in and offering comments and questions? I myself often email different media outlets with things I hear about that I think might make interesting news, for example I just went to a dance performance by a lady who teaches dance in our local public schools, and I emailed a description of the performance & my thoughts about it to a show I know of on the radio that does public affairs and might be interested. Almost all media outlets have a "contact us" method on their websites. I think all the forums on the web constitute a kind of news, people sharing what is happening with them and what is going on around them.

    But you probably do have a new, somewhat good idea. However, how are people working 40-hour-a-week jobs going to then go out and do journalism on their own time? Also, the news on your site will still get edited and censored, someone will run the website, or if you allow all content & it gets offensive, the website hosting company themselves will be concerned.

    My question for you is, what constitutes "news," why is one story news, and another is just a story we tell our friends or family.
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      May 13 2013: Greg,

      Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation.

      I agree with your definition of "news". If I was a big dance advocate, then your post on the dance performance would be more news worthy to me than another subject (perhaps ... a ethnic protest in a far off land or a traffic accident in a place I'll never visit).

      I think "news" is relative to the thing in which someones has an interest. I suppose there are some things in which people SHOULD be interested, but that's my determination based on my definition of what is "important". Connecting uninterested people to "news" is a different problem that nobody has yet solved very well.

      I, myself, approach the concept as "news sharing" rather than strictly "news" (as if "news" was a clearly defined entity with a universally shared definition), so I'm in complete agreement with your approach.

      I think that the ultimate of "crowdsourced news" would be MANY sites with their own specific focus or style, and then a mechanism for more easily selecting what comes to our daily attention.

      And I can't think of a better way to start than by fanning the flames of development ... and hoping for some type of "public domain software" that facilitates more "Open Source News".

      Did I answer your question or just wander around the subject?
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        May 14 2013: Let's see, Bob. I'm thinking a major reason why you're advocating for more "ordinary people" news sites is you're thinking there are people out there who have something to say, but are somehow shut out of the mainstream media. Am I right? But I'm suspicious of this, I'm tending to think that there are a lot of people who simply don't care that much if they never get to express themselves in a public forum, there may be people who take a newspaper all their lives, read it, but never once send a letter to the editor. And they're happy this way. I'm thinking they may no more contribute to a civic journalism site than they would to a newspaper.

        I do tend to be a pessimist when it comes to new ideas, however, so you have to take what I say with a grain of salt.

        One place many people get to express themselves is talk radio. I don't know what talk radio is like in your area, but down here by L.A. it's really rich, I would say every week hundreds of different ordinary people get on the air calling in to different talk radio programs, and many of them might be people who would not send a letter to the editor of a newspaper. If you've never called in, it's really fun, I've probably done it over 200 times, mostly local shows, the occasional national show.

        I don't think either of us have answered what makes something news. Certain stories most of agree are news, you'll see some of the same stories carried in all the major newspapers. Like the Boston bombing. Is it just some things impact us more, or maybe pull more feelings out of us. Personally I think it's news when Aunt Mathilda goes out and waters her garden, but you probably won't see that in a paper.
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          May 15 2013: Greg,

          I don't think anyone should need to embrace something they don't want to embrace, but people never sending a letter to a newspaper doesn't imply that new models aren't valuable. Many newspapers have started using Facebook as a place for readers to comment, and some of their participating Facebook audience don't write letters to the editor via the traditional channel. Those are two different avenues of communication. Related, but different.

          I would say that talk radio is another way of sharing information that is valuable, but also different.

          In terms of writing and publishing articles (as in "civic journalism"), I think providing more opportunities allows for more people to take advantage of those opportunities.

          Identifying quality ... that is a different issue. A free-market concept of YOU sharing whatever YOU think is worth sharing ... that is probably how the best quality material will bubble up to the top.

          But first there would need to be content to examine, which is the root of my idea ... expanding content.

          Those who are not interested in that media, obviously, need not participate.
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        May 15 2013: Bob, as I said, I tend to be a hyper-critical person and pessimist, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

        I would tend to think that anyone who really wants to be published has already found a way to do it, that's why I think more civic journalism sites might die on the vine. I love the sentiment behind your idea, I'm just worried that in practical terms there won't be enough interest.

        However, your point that a civic journalism site could be about one particular field of interest is a good one. For instance, one could start a site that spotlights car news, regular people could contribute news about cars. But we're also back to a question I asked earlier, which is, how are regular people with jobs in some other field going to find the time and energy to do real journalism? Are they, for example, going to fly to Italy to interview manufacturers of certain autos like a professional journalist would? Probably not.

        Are you considering starting a civic journalism site, or do you have one going? How is it succeeding?

        Speaking for myself, my life is probably busy enough that I'll only make the time to read professional journalists on any given topic, thinking I'll get a higher-quality experience.
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          May 16 2013: Greg,

          I think it is Clay Shirky who frequently uses the LOL Cats as an example ...

          There are millions of the modified cat photos (and probably millions of cat videos), and most of them aren't very interesting. Only a small percentage are viewed widely, and an even smaller handful go viral and are enjoyed by millions of people around the world. There is, in fact, a power law distribution relevant to the quality and the views of the LOL Cats photos.

          But the underlying truth is that we need the massive quantity of the boring ones to raise the quantity of the most excellent ones. A lesser amount of the lower-quality work leads to a lower quantity of excellence.

          The perceived quality of ideas and commentary follow a similar mathematical curve, as do all factors of achievement or attainment. True achievement curves always follow a Pareto distribution. Barabasi identified the reason for that as "preferential attachment".

          So ... from that perspective ... to get even more excellence in the exchange of ideas, the answer must include increasing the quantity of the dialogs. And, also, improving the means for individuals to find and share "quality" (as they perceive it).

          That's the nature of my idea ... that increased opportunity will generate increased participation, which will increase the probability of excellence being shared.

          I do participate in civic journalism, but mostly as a means of testing a hypothesis about creating ad hoc networks based upon set theory applied to a society. The results, so far, indicate that I'm on the right path. But it's too early to know for sure. I don't plan to start a site, but I'm supportive of those entrepreneurs who do.
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        May 19 2013: What exactly is your participation in civic journalism, Bob? What are these results that indicate you're on the right path? Is it something where you're seeing that your idea about more civic journalism is a good one? Then I wonder why you're putting the conversation on TED, are you asking whether we think it's a good idea, or are you more making a "commercial" for something you already know is good?

        I've asked a tiny number of people if they would do civic journalism if given the chance. My brother said no, he couldn't justify taking time from his work and family. My mother said no, although did not state the reasons, and ditto my sister. All three said there are already numerous sites doing this sort of thing, my sister mentioned the Drudge Report, my brother mentioned computer sites where people can post new developments that they know about in the computer field. I'll go on asking people. The lack of comments from people other than me on this TED topic might suggest that there isn't much interest in the TED audience, but they might be different than society as a whole.

        You might be right, if there was more mediocre journalism there might be more outstanding journalism. But how do you envision a civic journalism site, because if the whole site is mediocre journalism by non-pros, is anyone going to read it, and then noone will watch the commercials, and the site will fail because advertisers won't want to advertise on it. Perhaps if you mixed the mediocre journalism with other things, like....well, on a music site with mediocre amateur journalism you could also have professional-grade music videos, the videos might draw the audience and then they'd stay to read some of the journalism?
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          May 25 2013: I think I already answered most of those questions.

          My guess is that some people would read even mediocre material for the same reason they attend their child's school play ... because of a personal connection or a personal interest that need not make sense to others.

          The point made by Shirky is not that material is necessarily good. People pay attention to what is important to themselves. Good material has the benefit of being valuable to a wider audience, but even mediocre material has value.

          The old comedian joke revolved around a baby that was "so ugly only the mother could love it". Disregarding the argument that ugliness is a subjective value of questionable worth, one should not forget that the mother always was portrayed as loving the baby.

          And so it is with someone's idea or comment. They love it because it is "theirs", even when it is ugly.
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    May 17 2013: This TED Talk was mentioned in another comment in this discussion ...