Love doesn’t scale

I wish I could take credit for the headline.

But I believe it was originated by open-source advocate Eric S. Raymond.

I read “Love doesn’t scale” in comments at ReadWriteWeb. There, Bernard Lunn had written about a “reverse network effect.” That is, virtual communities can become too big. This would be more than a case of diminishing returns. Instead, “as new people join, others are motivated to leave.”

Some comments there also refer to this effect as the Laffer curve.

According to Meatball Wiki: “When a group grows from dozens of individuals to thousands, it becomes impossible to feel any real acquaintance with more than a fraction of the population. When this happens, community standards and unwritten rules stop working. The group loses focus. Things fall apart.”

What this has to do with news is that part of the industry’s problem could be that the players got too big. Maybe we are less a part of the communities we serve, and maybe part of the reason is size, in various ways.

For one thing, in a smaller set-up, it’s more likely that various people would know each other and interact with each other.

Paul Bradshaw, of the Online Journalism Blog and a colleague at Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, recently wrote about the potential for news site moderators to collect story leads from comments left at the site.

Bradshaw’s posts followed one by Todd Nash, an online community moderator for The Guardian.

My short answer is that I don’t think either of them are considering the issue in the best way, but Nash is closer to the mark. He does conclude, “Perhaps it is now time for the journalists to take inspiration from their communities as well.”

Compare these two questions, and the frames of reference.

1. “How can we (news organizations and journalists) best use the ‘community’ and interactive features of our Web site?”

2. “How can we (as above) best use our Web site to serve the community?”

I don’t mean to imply that they don’t intend the site to serve the community — but some of these pieces don’t well indicate that.

Why do many news sites consider moderation to be policing? A better model would be a moderator on a panel, who coordinates and facilitates discussion.

More good perspectives:

* Clyde Bentley of the Missouri School of Journalism — He says, “Newspapers are farms, not factories.”

* Howard Owens, publisher of the Batavian, and former director of  digital publishing for Gatehouse Media — See “The imperative of localism and local news” (and more).

*Journalism That Matters — Key facets of JTM include high-tech and high-touch; “storytelling to create healthy communities” (although I’d vote for “foster” instead of “create”); and journalism as conversation.

For myself, I acknowledge that I don’t mix much with people where I live. On a copy editor’s schedule, it’s hard to mix much with people in general. But, for instance, at least I remind my paper that not everyone goes to college and works in an office.

My favorite metaphor of a good newspaper is that it of a village plaza. It’s the hub. But if you don’t mix with the people, it’s an empty shell.

How should journalism schools adapt?

On Monday, the Poynter Institute will hold an online chat on What Do College Journalism Students Need to Learn?

It’s especially intended to address changes in the news industry and how J-schools might best adapt.

Amy Gahran, a colleage at Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, has made many good points about this before. She won’t be able to make the chat, but she laid a good foundation for it at her blog, Contentious.

Some possible discussion questions, mainly about nontraditional topics:
* How much do students already know, and how much does it vary, and are they appropriately challenged throughout the spectrum?
* What should all journalists learn?
* What should all mass media students learn?
* What should some journalism or mass media students know that is often lacking in the curriculum?
* Which media topics, if any, should be encouraged or required of students outside the school?
* With the increasing additions, what should be considered to be dropped or reduced, from either requirements or offerings?
* What might best help educators and their institutions carry out appropriate changes?

Here are some other related links.

BUSINESS

* Case studies by Jane Stevens
* “The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth,” by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor
* “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More,” by Chris Anderson (book and blog)
* Newspaper Next Blueprint for Transformation, by the the American Press Institute, Innosight and a task force
* Poynter’s Bill Mitchell on Business Models Essential to Journalism Training
* Poynter’s business model section of its Transformation Tracker
* Syllabus for Saving Journalism, by Philip Meyer
* Syllabus for Digital Media & Entrepeneurship, by Dan Gillmoor

SOCIAL AND CIVIC ASPECTS

* Meatball Wiki: “Meatball is a community of active practitioners striving to teach each other how to organize people using online tools.”
* “The E-Democracy E-Book: Democracy is Online 2.0,” by Steven Clift
* The Online Community Cookbook, Digital Edge Report, by Rich Gordon, from the Newspaper Association of American and the Digital Media Federation
* The Rise of Solutions Journalism, by Susan Benesh, Columbia Journalism Review
* Solution Journalism blog
* Syllabus for Blogging, We the Media and Virtual Communities, by Paul Jones, at the J-school of UNC-CH
* “ We the Media: Grassroots Journalism By the People, For the People,” by Dan Gillmor
* “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything,” by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

TECHNOLOGY

* Computational journalism
- Georgia Tech – Report on conference in spring of 2008
- Duke University — job post for professor, and article and Q&A about planned program
* “Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive,” by Mark Briggs, available in book form or free online.
* Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency, by Mindy McAdams
* Testable, Measurable Skills We Should Teach in J-School by Mindy McAdams

MISCELLANEOUS

* Basic Principles of Online Journalism, by fellow Tidbitter Paul Bradshaw
* Digital media resources from the NAA, Newspaper Association of America
* Digital media master’s degree program at the University of Washington program for master of communication
* MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media
* My outline for a college program in civic media

Knight: questions for second stage

I’m taking a few days of vacation to work on my proposal for the Knight News Challenge.

My request is for support for the planning and marketing of a mass tech collaboration — which would focus a relatively large number of mainly technical people for a defined a relatively short time, to make one or more projects that would either be localized or intended to be made localized.

These are the questions I need to answer (No. 1-4 were part of the original entry):

(more…)

Published in: on November 5, 2007 at 12:18 am  Comments (1)  
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Findings: Creating community

Many news companies are working on expanding in the conversational arena. Guy Kawasaki, at How to Change the World, wrote about The Art of Creating a Community. In a nutshell (with my parenthetical comments):

1. Create something worth building a community around. (Most news companies start off with a geographic community and can go from there.)

2. Identify and recruit your thunderlizards—immediately!

3. Assign one person the task of building a community.

4. Give people something concrete to chew on.

5. Create an open system.

6. Welcome criticism. (We sometimes don’t accept challenges as well as we challenge others, but we’ve been improving.)

7. Foster discourse.

8. Publicize the existence of the community. (On a tangent: We should realize that our digital offering are to varying extents ofte a different product from our original newspaper, or whatever. Different products serve different markets and often need different channels for marketing.)

The post is from February 2006, but that’s OK if you haven’t read it before. I’m trying to merge worlds, or at least expand the overlap.

Published in: on October 12, 2007 at 5:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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