News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Curation

June 21, 2011

Journalism inextricably linked to new forms of digital community - Neiman Reports

If you’re looking for a journalist’s atlas to the world of digital community, plan to scan the latest Neiman Reports from Harvard’s Neiman Foundation. With more than two dozen write-ups and case studies, it offers telling insights into how the online space redefines community and what journalism can do to identify it, connect with it, build it and thrive with it. And the pursuit of community by the news business is no academic exercise, but rather an effort “fueled by an instinct to survive,” as editor Melissa Ludtke wrote in her introduction to the Summer 2011 issue published June 15.

One notion addressed up front is that, for journalists covering the news, geography may no longer be the primary driver of community. The publication offers up examples of news outlets that are built around, as Ludtke explained: “Habits and hobbies, interests and values, political leanings, and sports allegiances.” Among them: local topical health site WellsCommon launched by the Lawrence, Kansas-based World Co., and which author Jane Stevens described as experimenting with a solution-based combination of journalism and social media to “chang[e] the community’s conversation about health.”

Yet as the issue makes clear, physical community is still a vibrant option for journalism, and locales are in much need of news coverage. The report cited numerous examples of digital experimentation with community-based news. Several pieces, for instance, focus on developments in Detroit, including writeups by The Poyntner Institute’s Bill Mitchell, former New York Times correspondent Lynette Clemetson and community leader Shirley Stancato on the experimental site Detroit 143 - a news venture in a troubled community long favored by hard-bitten news hounds that Mitchell says is looking for new ways to link journalism and civic engagement.

While online community may be sparked by journalists, it has to be built by the community itself as it actively shares information. Mark Briggs of KING-TV in Seattle wrote about the power of the link as a new kind of ‘word of mouth’ for collaborative journalism, while Steven Rosenbaum, author of “Curation Nation,” touted the power of human filtering in the “curated web.”

Not all dialogue works so constructively, as NPR’s outgoing ombudsman Alicia Shepard noted: “[I]t’s pretty clear that the debate between dialogue and diatribe is still being waged. From the view I’ve had for the last three years as NPR’s ombudsman I’d say diatribe is winning—hands down.”

Regardness, journalists have a new obligation to community, argued Joy Mayer of the Missouri School of Journalism, “to identify and attempt to connect with the people who most want and need their content.”  Fulfilling that obligation is not only the “right thing” for journalists to do for their communities, she added, but also good for the bottom line.

Rather than news organizations thinking of themselves as primarily creators of news for people to consume, concluded Public Radio International’s Michael Skoler, they “need to think of themselves first as gathering, supporting and empowering people to be active in a community with shared values.”

The full issue can be viewed online or downloaded in pdf form.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

October 14, 2011

Fuego: New mobile tool to follow the future of journalism, anywhere

Lots of smart people are always discussing the future of journalism and media on Twitter—but knowing which of those conversations are most important at any given time can mean spending your whole day on Twitter.

To help solve this problem, today the Nieman Journalism Lab debuted a mobile-friendly version of its Fuego tool…

According to Nieman Lab director Joshua Benton, Fuego for Mobile is a “heat-seeking Twitter bot, our tool that amalgamates the best and most interesting stories the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about on Twitter and presents them to you for quick reading.”

On a mobile phone, the result looks a little bit like Storify, the popular social media content curation tool. But there are some key differences:

  • Fuego displays a running list of the current most popular or important Twitter conversations about the future of news (rather than tracking the progress of a single story).
  • Fuego’s curation is done algorithmically, rather than manually—which requires far less work than Storify or manual retweeting.

How did Nieman Lab do it? In an interview, Benton explained that Fuego combines the Twitter application programming interface (API) with some custom algorithms to select and weight tweets, plus tools to deliver the results through a user-friendly mobile interface. It was created in-house at Nieman Lab by Benton and write/coder Andrew Phelps.

“The people who talk about the future of journalism on Twitter tend to be a pretty self-referential and insular crowd—and for creating an automated curation tool, that’s actually a very good thing,” said Benton.

“In the abstract, this concept could be applied to other topic areas. We experimented with that. But we found that if the people you’re aggregating tend to tweet about a lot of different topics, if they aren’t as focused, that it doesn’t tend to work as well for this kind of automated curation.”

That said, he acknowledged that it might work well for other niche or vertical topics—such as coverage of specific industries.

Initially Nieman Lab seeded Fuego with about 10 Twitter users who are thought leaders on the future of journalism and who tend to tweet pretty consistently about that topic. From there, Fuego started scanning tweets from everyone those users follow on Twitter—yielding an aggregate set of about 7000 Twitter users.

Since Fuego focuses on links, the system filters out tweets that don’t contain links. Among the remaining tweets, it algorithmically weights results to determine what gets listed via the Fuego interface. For instance, tweets by people who are followed by two or more people in the initial “seed set” of 10 are weighted more heavily; as are more recent tweets.

Based on these computations, Fuego displays right at the top of the page the top three current topics or stories; additional popular or relevant topics are listed below that. This list is refreshed frequently.

Nieman Lab also has a special Twitter account, @NiemanLabFuego, which automatically posts a tweet whenever a new item gets added to Fuego’s top three stories.

The technology used to deliver Fuego to mobile devices is interesting. It’s a mobile web app—which means it functions rather like a mobile app, but users don’t have to download and install anything. Just click the Fuego for mobile link from your phone or tablet and it will immediately launch.

Developing mobile web apps is generally more efficient and less costly than developing native apps for specific mobile platforms. The same code base serves multiple mobile platforms and device types. In contrast, native mobile apps require developing and maintaining a separate version for each platform (iPhone, Android, Mango, etc.).

On most smartphones and tablets, users can save a bookmark for a web app on their homescreen, to provide easy launching similar to that of native apps. On the iPhone and iPad, users can also launch homescreen web apps without all the trappings of the mobile Safari web browser, so you save screen real estate by now displaying the location bar, etc.

Simpler mobile web apps (including Fuego) that don’t require animation or much interactivity will even run on many feature phones—if they have better browser like Opera Mini. You can also save mobile Fuego (or any other web site or app) to Opera Mini’s home screen for a similar easy-launch capability.

Fuego was originally introduced on the Nieman Lab’s website in August as part of their redesign, but the mobile version was just rolled out today. The full web version offers three time-based filters: past four hours, past 24 hours, and past week. So far, those filters are not yet available on the mobile version.

Benton noted that eventually Nieman Lab will probably make its Fuego codebase available, but for now it’s so customized it probably wouldn’t be very useful for other organizations or purposes. They’ll also update the Nieman Lab iPhone app to include Fuego. He notes that for iPhone users, it helps to have your apps in Apple’s app store since iPhone users are trained to look there first rather than seek out web apps.

Still, going the web app route is useful to reach a broader audience—especially crucial since Android now far outsells iPhone in new smartphone sales, and WindowsPhone Mango may become a strong contender in coming years.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

January 04, 2012

Storify experiments with adding Livefyre comments

In the curation-as-content movement, Storify has emerged as a leading tool for weaving coherent stories from disparate bits of digital media from social media and elsewhere. But so far, storified stories have been mostly self-contained content islands -- and not especially "social."

Today news comes that Storify has added an experimental new commenting feature...

ReadWriteWeb reports that Storify has quietly integrated the Livefyre commenting platform. (Storify hasn't announced this yet, but LiveFyre has.)

RWW's Marshall Kirkpatrick notes: "It only makes sense to allow Storify publishers to permit readers to comment on their collections, too. What was originally social becomes social again when commenting is turned on. Otherwise it feels oddly frozen in time."

This new feature is opt-in. Here's how you activate it:

  1. Log in to Storify.
  2. Click the down arrow next to your avatar (top right corner). Select "settings."
  3. On the settings page, select "labs" (bottom of menu on left)
  4. Check the box that says "Activate comments on my stories (powered by Livefyre)"

Kirkpatrick wrote: "Livefyre appears to have most of the same features that other platforms offer. (We use Disqus here at ReadWriteWeb. Echo is another leader in the field.) But there is at least one additional element: the ability to 'listen' to conversations without commenting on them publicly. Livefyre will e-mail you comments on posts you're listening to either in real time, hourly or daily depending on which you select."

Livefyre also supports comment moderation (and multiple moderators) and a social sync feature that automatically displays related Twitter and Facebook comments automatically -- which helps get around the issue that most people tend to comment via social media rather than directly on the site where a story is published.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

July 19, 2012

Digital First: New curation team, curation tips

Today Digital First Media announced its new curation team: Julie Westfall (formerly of will lead the team, and “DFM local superstars” Angela Carter and Karen Workman, will be moving to new roles as curators. Meanwhile, DFM Director of Community Engagement & Social Media Steve Buttry published a detailed list of best practices for curation…

What’s a “curation team?” According to DFM’s earlier posting for these positions, these jobs involve “curating content from DFM properties and elsewhere that would be of national and regional interest, and then making that content available to all DFM sites.”

On a smaller scale, local and niche news sites could easily adopt a similar approach to add daily context and value to their communities—either via their existing digital presences, or a spin-off additional website (or part of a site).

Also today, Steve Buttry published a detailed list of best practices for news curation. Topics covered:

  • Link and attribute.
  • Curators must add value.
  • Different types of curation.
  • Vetting, verifying and correcting.

Buttry’s post also links to additional resources and tips on curation.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.