Citizen Media Watch

december 22nd, 2006

More on comments – Kevin Anderson's take

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

A couple of days ago I wrote about moderation and comments functions on news sites. In a related post, Kevin Anderson at Strange Attractor also writes about AZ starnet and about moderation, calling it ”one of the overlooked issues with community”. He also talks about internet trolls. And.. that you get the comments your content deserves.

When people ask me how blogs are different from forums, I say, ”The blogger sets the tone”. I sort of joke when doing blog training for journalists that if you write a post like a pompous ass, people will respond accordingly. I’m only half joking. Yes, the technology will help you manage the comments and help foster the community, but unless you look at your content as well, you’re going to be fighting a losing battle against the trolls.


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december 21st, 2006

A look at Trig.com, and the possible fall of Lunarstorm

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Swedish youth community site Lunarstorm is losing traffic (thanks Beta Alfa) – the number of visits are down since spring this year (though Lunarstorm denies they have a crisis). They have also lost some important people, like former CEO Hans Eriksson who have moved on to develop a new community. Trig.com sets its sight on becoming the new MySpace. Its target group is music and fashion fans and creators.
Currently the site is in beta, but you can register and get an invitation to join after a few days. I’ve tried the site out and here are my immediate impressions.

I like the look and feel of the site and the logo. Also that they’ve got a limited number of skins to choose from for the profile pages, which means you can actually read all pages (as opposed to MySpace where you’d think some of the users are first time internet users, combining bright background photos with text in almost the same colours).
So far the community seems to be comprised mostly of cool twenty-somethings, many of them band members.
Update: A somewhat sloppy reading of the conditions on which you sign up for a beta profile on my part resulted in some fairly detailed descriptions of some of Trig’s features. I’ve removed them and have kept the general impressions in this post.

The site supports video in postings, and according to Ekonominyheterna, the community will have its own tv channel.
There’s not much on Trig that you cannot find on MySpace, but Trig has a nicer look and feel to it. So far, it also has the advantage of small size, but that will change.


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december 21st, 2006

Raymond Kristiansen looks back on two years of videoblogging

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Raymond Kristiansen (at Bloggforum 2 in Stockholm). Photo: Lotta HolmströmNorway’s most famous vlogger Raymond Kristiansen has been vlogging for two years and looks back at his experiences. His first post covers about a month, his first month of vlogging and all the discoveries he made.

To me, videoblogging (or video on the net that is downloadable and preferrably with an rss feed) was the missing link. It was what would allow people from regions like sub-saharan Africa to communicate with the world (I have a good friend in Nigeria). Videoblogging, if done with a low-key approach to it, could really change how we communicate.

More is to follow, Raymond writes.


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december 21st, 2006

The Lebanese ambulance attack and trust in citizen – and established – media

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

In August, a friend pointed me to the Red Cross Ambulance Incident fraud report at Zombietime. Today I read Ethan Zuckerman‘s recent post about the story.
In short, two Lebanese Red Cross ambulances were reported to have been attacked by Israeli forces on July 23. The fraud report claims that this never happened, and offers the following scenario.

Two ambulances that had been somehow damaged long before the July Israel-Hezbollah conflict even began were dragged out of a salvage yard, where they had been rusting for months or years. They were taken to a parking lot and smashed up even more, inside and out. Then fresh gurneys were placed inside one of them. An intentionally amateurish video was then taken of the two vehicles, in order to show the damage. That night, as planned, some Red Cross workers feigning minor injuries rushed into a hospital in Tyre, and recounted a tale of horror: their ambulances had been attacked by Israeli missiles. The media was notified.

According to Ethan Zuckerman, the claim ”was later repeated by Australia’s foreign minister Alexander Downer, who stated ‘it is beyond all serious dispute that this episode has all the makings of a hoax.'”

An excellent example of citizen media reporting. Or was it? Here comes the twist.

In steps Human Rights Watch, who go to Lebanon to set the facts straigth. This results in a report saying the attacks did happen.

They conclude that the ambulances were both struck by missles, one of which removed Fawaz’s leg, but that the missles were likely Dense Inert Metal Explosives fired from an Israeli drone.

Now, can we trust Human Rights Watch? They were the ones reporting about the attack in the first place. Do they just want to save face? Zuckerman writes:

HRW’s report does include a major correction – they no longer characterize the attack as coming from a manned Israeli aircraft, but now believe the attacks came from a remote-controlled drone.

Zuckerman in his analysis points to an important factor – time.

What’s disturbing to me about the situation is the timeframe. Zombietime and affiliated rightwing commentators got their story out very quickly, offering their analysis within days of the incident. HRW’s response is coming almost half a year later. This makes sense – HRW actually went to Lebanon and interviewed people who saw the incident, while Zombietime looked at press photos and offered theories. While HRW’s analysis is critical in determining what really happened on July 23rd and demanding accountability from the Israeli government, this report is hardly likely to call as much attention to the incident as it recieved when it was initially reported.

This story is just one example of a key issue in our current – and future – media world. Trust.
Everyone has an agenda. Future media consumers have to be very much aware of that.


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december 20th, 2006

LA Times on "YouTube journalism"

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

The LA Times has a piece on what they call YouTube journalism, and start off with the example of this video clip, filmed by a mountaneering expedition team in the Nangapa pass in the Himilayas on Sept. 30, 2006.

The video clip shows some people on a foot path up a snowy mountain. Suddenly you hear a shot and one of them fall to the ground. They are Tibetan refugees, and are shot by Chinese soldiers.
As you can hear in this clip, the Chinese news agency’s take on this episode is that ”Chinese frontier soldiers tried to persuade the tibetans to go home, but the tibetans refused and attacked the soldiers. These were then forced to defend themselves and to wound two persons.”
The video clip clearly shows a different story. It was shown on Romanian tv, then published on YouTube where it got worldwide attention. LA Times calls it ”the YouTube effect”.

LA Times:

Although international news operations employ thousands of professional journalists, they will never be as omnipresent as millions of people carrying cellphones that can record video. Thanks to the ubiquity of video technology, the world was able to witness a shooting in a 19,000-foot-high mountain pass in Tibet.

This phenomenon is amplified by a double-echo chamber: One echo is produced when content first posted on the Web is re-aired by mainstream TV networks. The second echo occurs when television clips — until now ephemeral — gain a permanent presence through websites such as YouTube. Bloggers and activists everywhere are recognizing the power of citizen-produced and Web-distributed videos as the ultimate testimony.

Read the full story, that also touches on witness.org, trust in citizen journalism, political effects and censorship.

(via MediaShift)


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december 20th, 2006

Media Culpa's 2007

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

I had a great time reading Hans Kullin at Media Culpa‘s predictions for 2007. I really recommend you to check out this post.

Here’s how he thinks citizen journalism will affect mainstream media in 2007.

Mainstream media are pushing the citizen journalism trend so far that reporters are quitting their jobs in order to be just ”ordinary people”. ”This is the only way that I will be able to get anything printed nowadays”, says one columnist at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, who prefer to be anonymous.


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december 20th, 2006

Polar Rose creating some buzz

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Swedish photo/video face recognition search tool Polar Rose has got some attention in the States. Most recently on the front page of Red Herring, this article on CNN and a TechCrunch post by Michael Arrington that got some sceptical comments and then replies from Polar Rose representatives.

Red Herring cover, featuring Nikolaj NyholmAt Sime, we got an interesting presentation from Polar Rose CEO Nikolaj Nyholm (seen to the right on the Red Herring cover). What makes Polar Rose different from old school image search engines is that it works from a 3D model of 2D images.
Nyholm showed how you could take a picture of a beautiful woman you found on the net and see if you can map it to photos on online dating services. If you’re out of luck, then you could widen the search and look for other women who look somewhat like her.
To make Polar Rose really useful, you need to download their software. It’s a browser plugin that lets you tag photos on any web site.

Polar Rose founder Jan Erik Solem writes (in the comments):

Look at how visual the web is becoming. Try doing an image search for a person on your preferred search site. What you’ll most likely get is some photos of the person you were looking for and some not even close. Most likely there are even more and better photos out there without labels/text/metatags which you’ll never see. Look at the long tail of web photos (yours and mine) and you’ll see lots of photos that are unsearchable.

So what’s the social media use for Polar Rose’s technology? Well, it provides a tool for connecting photos within and across websites, for grouping photos based on their appearance instead of their context or tagging. You could find out how you are presented on the web in more detail. And, well, the dating site example might be useful for some.

Jonathan at Swedish blog lab:kloud9 writes:

there is a connection here to social media (and possibly the FBI/CIA) and any time we can make the web more sortable, I’m all for it.

Others raise concerns about privacy, like commenter Akaishi on Tech Novelty:

”It occurs to me that this could be used to do things like identify the past lives of witness protection program participants. Are the ethics of it even under consideration?”


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december 20th, 2006

Blogging in the long tail

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Johan Larsson writes about niche blogs, after finding a blog on Swedish blackberries (my translation):

You can be more proud of having five visitors who are really interested than having 4000 who are just a bit curious.

Like Johan, I am thrilled to find blogs that are well written on a subject I don’t know much about. One of the ideas behind an initiative I used to be editor of, Veckans blogg (Blog of the week) was to highlight blogs that otherwise got little attention.


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december 20th, 2006

Slow change in the newsroom

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Mark Glaser summarizes what he’s found when asking people how the change from ”old” to ”new” media is going in their newsroom. An interesting read.

You can talk all you want about new media, and even hire people with experience in new media, but if the top execs don’t really get it, then change is quite difficult.


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december 20th, 2006

On comments to articles and community building

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Tucson-based Arizona Daiy Star’s site azstarnet.com has decided to remove the possibility to comment on many of their articles.
Debbie Kornmiller, Readers Advocate, writes:

This is the second time since StarNet launched in 1995 that the Star’s online forum has forced management to rethink allowing online interaction. The last foray, the Community Front Page, was yanked completely in 2000 after attempts to maintain civility failed.

Kornmiller says they hoped for a ”tough but respectful debate”, but got comments that are ”just plain coarse”.

AZstarnet has had a hands off policy, letting the reader community be. But that can also be interpreted by visitors as not caring. Allowing too much is as bad as removing too much. It’s basic community maintenance – making people feel at home.
Now it seems like the problem has spiralled for AZstarnet.

While we added the reader comments feature to give readers a place to talk, StarNet is still our house. And our editors and staff simply do not want guests who make vulgar, abusive, obscene, defamatory and hateful comments. If you want to live in that kind of neighborhood, go create your own online forum.

Abusive comments, fights and name-calling is something we work with continuously at Aftonbladet. In our Forums, we struggle to keep the debate at a good level – not to censor, but not to be sloppy either, or people will take offense.
One important thing, which I think I am not doing enough, is to be visible in the forums yourself. The old problem with commentary to articles (Aftonbladet’s forums are often linked to individual articles) was that online newspapers simply provided the opportunity to comment, but didn’t very much care what anyone was writing – as long as it wasn’t against their rules.
What I try to do as Readers’ Editor is to highlight great postings, to summarize discussions and to bring the readers writing into the articles and sections pages of the site. To show our readers, who are also writers, that their words have bearing.

I can understand AZ starnet’s dilemma at the current situation. It’s a small organization – I’ve visited them – and building community takes time and effort.
AZ Starnet used to be in the forefront of online news sites. Bob Cauthorn (currently working on the launch of CityTools), when he worked there in the 90s, took the initiative to many ground-breaking reader-centered features. I hope this is not a change in the course set by him.
The post by Kornmiller has more than 100 comments, most of them civilized. So there are people in the Tuscon area who are willing to have a serious online discussion. Hopefully, with some advice, they can continue that conversation.

(via Matthew Ingram)


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