“Hey now, we cannot just put up citizen reports. That is just not possible! Let us have a separate page for the people who are interested in this in particular. Oh, and we need to control every entry too.”
The comment above is heard way too often in the traditional media news rooms around the world. I think it is a road blocking mentality for change of the media arena, that is prohibiting the media to move into the next obvious phase – the symbiosis between the social media and the traditional media. I said this very early that it is the right way to take this. Anyhow. It is both hard and extremely easy to understand the reasons. The main reason that explains it all is that it is stepping out of the comfort zone. It is about redefining the space. If you want to use some hotter business development terms, it is the blue ocean strategy. Define the new market. Innovate it. Create it. The ride of your life to be honest! Stepping out of the comfort zone is something most people dread, fear or are uncomfortable doing. It is broadening your views to something else. Something never seen. It is about taking the risk. I guess it is a survival instinct. Never divert from the known path. Boooring!
I got news for you, my friend. The media arena is already redefined. Sorry guys. The unedited, unmediated, unfiltered real community-based media is here. It has been redefined for ages. It is more a matter of having the guts to move into it. Realizing that the change is here. Traditional media will not. Many bloggers will not realize this either. It is my content. Me, me, me… Sorry guys, but the community model is here to stay and it is pretty hard to fight. Remember that the music industry is still pursuing the war against file sharing. Not taking any sides in it, I doubt it is the right tactics. In the forces you learn one thing: Adapt and move on. Evolution says the same thing: The species which adapt to the new environment will survive. It is the survival of the fittest. We live in a market economy where the consumer is getting more and more power so you better adapt as a business. In a highly competitive market as the media business you better be willing to innovate. YouTube did it for video. Flickr did it for pictures. Wikipedia did it for facts. It has now come to bringing all these pieces together and turn this upside down.
Will you take the red or blue pill? I for one prefer the travel down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.
Stepping back a bit again. The bloggers attitude of “walled garden” is maybe the most surprising of them all. They should have realized that the media today is conversational. It is interactive. It is free. I am still waiting for an answer from such a blogger how they believe a conversation is moderated comments. “Wait, I do not approve of this. Let me delete the comment.” How is that an prelongation of freedom of speech in any possible sense? Beats me… Smells censorship to me. Sure it is, but yet not. It is the bloggers page so she or he will have the “right” to control it. But shouldn’t it be another way? It sure is another way…
What?! You cannot be for real Erik. How can you possibly say that you cannot have moderation of content?
Okay, this is almost too easy to answer to. The first reason is the most obvious one. Controlled, edited and mediated forums are a direct opposite of freedom of speech. As long as you provide the community(!) with the power to control oversteps of this right if someone posts abusive or copyright violating material you are and will be fine. Secondly, people in general want to be entertained. They want to have fun. They want to feel that tickling feeling of fulfillment, entertainment and escape from the very often dull everyday life. Oops, I let out the secret that the every day life is not a party. Sorry about that. :-) Seriously, most people do not worry about more things than having food on their table, roof over their heads and being able to hang out with their friends and dear ones. What has that to do with moderation? Simply imagine a party. Which party would you like to go to: the party with all the detailed instructions what to wear, what to do, what to not say, what to say. Or would you prefer the laid back come as you are party. I would choose the rock-n-roll party any day. Why? It is fun. It is free. But… Most importantly I can relate to it. I can relate to it. That is the key.
You have to be able to relate to the media you consume. It has to be human. You realize now that media is not about what you think others think. It is about bringing that human face to the story with all its warts, dirt and shit. But it is real. It is authentic. It is genuine. It is the real story. Not perfect, but relatable.
Hey now! Stop it. Halt. Wait a minute! What about credibility? What about quality control? Come on! Are you for real? Yikes, Erik…
Of course you need credibility. To make it credible you need to make it non-biased.
How can you accomplish that? Do you really think you can assure anyone not to be biased? Nooo way!
You cannot assure that, but can assure that the end result is non biased. For that you will need three components: technology, community and a reputation feedback loop of the contributors and content creators. That is all you need. The technology should be used to find related stories such as news articles and blogs. That will give a measurement of how much content on the web is relevant to the report. It bring a sense of validation via aggregation and coordination, and is the Google like validation. The community or readers to which the report is presented should be able to rate it up or down, and/or add content and perspectives to it. This brings in the Wikipedia or Digg like validation. In a way you enable the community as a whole to become an editor. Not the sole editor, but will have the vote. You create the UN Security Counsel for content. :-) The user reputation is easily understood. Take any group of people. You will find a natural sense of credibility of who says what. Some people are more well read in certain areas, some in others, but basically who the person saying (ie reporting) something is matters for its validity. Making all these three cornerstones play together will bring out a new dimension of content validation, and is a very scalable model for user generated sites. The secret is in the dynamics between these there components. As you bring all perspectives together you will provide all biased opinions, but together they will give you a new picture that is non-biased as you show all the perspectives. Now that is frickin’ cool.
Yes, it is that simple. This is also how http://www.allvoices.com handles the validation of content. It is new, it is fresh and never seen before. The really cool part is that you then will be able to provide the readers with multiple perspectives, weaving all the angles of a story and present it to the reader.
Now that is sweet.