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: further fragmentation

Dave Morgan at Online Spin suggests newspaper companies should break apart to focus on different services: local news, distribution, printing, and ads and marketing. (Found via the Future of Newspapers blog.)

My friend David Cohn has earlier suggested that newspapers become less “products” and more “services.” Somewhat related is a post from ReadWriteWeb that suggested that turn around to some extent. They would help people not just find information, but also help them be found, such as with advice on attracting an audience for their videos.

Findings: BBC customization, and Knight job

Via ReadWriteWeb: The BBC is testing a customizable version of its home page. You can move things around and add and delete certain types of news.

Also, the Knight Foundation is looking for an online community manager.

Published in: on December 19, 2007 at 2:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Findings: Crowd funds for open-source

Via Read/Write Web: Cofundos.org open-sources open-source software. Micropledge is similar.

These could affect my Knight grant proposal for a mass tech collaboration for the news industry.

Published in: on October 31, 2007 at 6:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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Findings: to whom to pass the torch

From Hal Crowther at the Independent Weekly, via Philip Meyer:

“But the key point of understanding is that while the newspaper is expendable, the tradition it represents and the information it supplies are not. The evolution from Gutenberg to Gates may be irreversible, but as new media replace old ones there’s no official passing of the torch of responsibility, no automatic transfer of the sacred trust the First Amendment placed upon the free press and its proprietors. In fact the handoff, such as it is, has been fumbled very badly. As newspapers are eviscerated, marginalized and abandoned, they leave a vacuum that nothing and no one is prepared to fill—a crisis on its way to becoming a tragedy. When railroads and riverboats began to go the way of the passenger pigeon, no one was harmed except the workforce and a few big investors who had failed to diversify. If professional journalism vanishes along with the newspapers, this thing we call a constitutional democracy becomes a banana republic.”

Read/Write Web gives an example of who could inherit the torch. Josh Catone writes that stories by the Fake Steve Jobs were spread through a number of blogs as if they were real.

Published in: on October 26, 2007 at 8:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Findings: appointment ads, and Twine

Via the Bivings Report: A more sophisticated, and more useful, ad.

An ad on Yahoo e-mail for a a TV show “gave me the ability to add the show times of the show’s entire first season to my Yahoo! calendar with a button at the very bottom, which means that I can set up reminders of each episode.”

This kind of ad could be great at newspaper site. Or maybe the same function could be added to the news matter. We do have a lot of dated information.

From Read/Write Web: I only glanced at this info about Twine, from Radar Networks, but it seems like it has a lot of potential for, or competition for, news operations.

It’s described as “aspects of social networking, wikis, blogging, knowledge management systems – but its defining feature is that it’s built with Semantic Web technologies.” And ” ‘knowledge networking’ — i.e. it aims to connect people with each ‘for a purpose’.”

Published in: on October 19, 2007 at 6:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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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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Findings: venture capital, and rewarding ideas

Via Romenesko: Gatehouse is offering $1 million to employees with ideas that will make the company $50 million.

Via Read/Write Web: Paul Graham of YCombinator, among others, about how the venture capital industry needs to adapt to lower barriers of entry.

Graham says about new businesses, “Now the only threshold is courage.”

Published in: on October 11, 2007 at 7:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Findings

At Read/Write Web: How to Create a Web App, second in a series aout starting a Web company. This follows How to Bootstrap Your Startup. These are just about one model, sending the initial work overseas, but some of these instructions would likely apply in other circumstances.

Linked from RWW: The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint, by venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki.

Published in: on October 4, 2007 at 4:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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