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.

Findings: E-Paper, BBC, etc.

Via Read/Write Web: The BBC plans a streaming version of its online video player. The Beeb also made a deal with a wi-fi hotspot vendor for free access to its site.

Via e-mail from the Media Giraffe Project: video on “The State of Citizen Journalism,” the opening session of Journalism That Matters — The DC Sessions.

Via Slashdot: the first in a series of interviews about e-paper. Nick Sheridon worked on e-paper at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, and he says Xerox flopped with innovation because it had little vision past its core business.

“Much has been written about the incredible myopia of Xerox executives of the time,” Sheridon said, “so I won’t go into that except to say that there were numerous other opportunities to enormously expand Xerox’s business that were similarly fumbled. Xerox had enough money to create an incredible research lab with top-notch people, but Xerox management could not shake off the copier mentality.”

Published in: on October 17, 2007 at 5:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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