Tag Archives: journalism

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New social news site – NewsTrust.net

I happened across NewsTrust.net, a new social news aggregation site.  I’m a big fan of other sites in the category like Reddit, despite their flaws, and NewsTrust includes a tagging system so I feel obligated to investigate it like any other folksonomy.

So I created an account to give it a try.  The big difference between this site and others is the emphasis on quality journalism.  NewsTrust asks for your real name, and in addition to giving weight to users who write good reviews and get votes from other users, it adds factors like experience as a journalist to the mix.  It makes specific disticntions between mainstream media sources and altenrative media sources.

It’s an interesting idea, and it’s good to see journalists working together with programmers and web developers to make use of some of the social software techniques that newspaper websites so often catch on the trailing edge.  The site’s features seem geared toward providing users with the best that professional journalism has to offer with a dash of brilliant amateur writing thrown in – even the page layout looks more like a newspaper site than a Digg or Del.icio.us clone.

But I’m not sure it will work, at least not without some tweaking.  I don’t know if they put a lot of weight into the “experience” of users, but it didn’t require any verification of my 5-9 years of journalism experience (for the record, that’s four years in college plus more than a year of stringing here and there).  Here’s the problem of trust again, though hopefully mitigated by fellow users’ reviews.

The other issue is interaction design.  The widgets and buttons all work just fine, but when you rate a story you’re asked to score on six dimensions: Recommendation, Trust, Information, Fairness, Sources, and Context.  Only the first is required, but give users options and they are bound to feel obligated to exercise them.  Give them too many tasks and they will tend to give up.  So the simple interaction model of Reddit, where users don’t even have to click through to rate a story, might be information-poor but participation-rich in comparison.

Still, I will play with the site more and I wish them luck, I think they have some promising ideas.  For example, in their blog they talk about gathering sources from other countries based on big world news events, specifically the Russian invasion of Georgia.  Reddit is only fleetingly so reflective and few sites use temporary peaks in interest to get long-term data on source credibility.

I’m an old-timer when it comes to the Internet

Polaroid photos of old wreckers found in the desk Back when I was in college I did an interview with a journalism student at Kent State about online publishing.  I ran across it sort of randomly on my hard drive and thought I would share how I described my relationship with the Internet:

I’m an old-timer when it comes to the Internet.  I began playing around online some time in middle school, back when everything was text and the Internet was more or less just a way to pass messages between local bulletin board systems and universities.  I made my first web site back in high school, and it was a pretty pathetic homepage.

Wow, eight years ago (!) I already described myself as an old-timer.  It’s strange how so much of my life has revolved around the web and kind of fitting that I’m now on a team that helps safegaurd it.

Map App of the Day: A genetic map of Europe

I’m a bit of a map geek and a big fan of using maps to convey information geographic and otherwise, so I’m starting a new series of posts – Map App of the Day.  I’ll highlight either a mapping web application or an application of mapping in information design that’s interesting, innovative, or just plain strange.

The New York Times had a brief article about a new study of genetic relationships between peoples in Europe.  The paper, by Lao et al., looked at genotype data from more than 2000 individuals spread throughout Europe.  The map on the right shows the normal geographic map of Europe, while the one on the left maps the genetic relationships between countries.

Here’s a link to a larger version on Current Biology’s web site.

The genetic map is a great example of why you should always consider mapping to illustrate data with a geographic component, and why you should always consider breaking the rules a bit  to get a good representation (most maps don’t show countries overlapping, for example).

This is also a great illustration of how permeable and impermanent national borders really are.  It would be interesting to see the same analysis done with distinctive populations like the Basque in Spain and the Sami in Finland added.

This also brings up with two non-mapping issues about journalism and research.  First off, the NYT article didn’t bother to actually link to the journal article, the researcher’s websites at their respective institutions, or any of the other places that readers would need to go to follow up on this paper or get more detailed information.  Why not?

Second, when I searched for Current Biology I was delighted to see that the journal publishes everything online, available via regular Google search, rather than hiding behind some expensive and proprietary publication database.  Open access is very cool.