Wednesday, October 05, 2005

User-Generated News, Citizen Journalism, Collaborative News...A Revolution by Any Other Name

It's being called everywhich name...."User-generated news", "citizen journalism", "collaborative journalism", even the less than flattering term,"crap". But the revolution is finally here.


It's everywhere. The BBC acknowledged it at a recent press conference:

Richard Sambrook, director of the BBC World Service and Global News Division, told a conference the broadcaster's prominent use of video and other material contributed by ordinary citizens signaled that the BBC was evolving from being a broadcaster to a facilitator of news.

"We don't own the news any more," Sambrook said. "This is a fundamental realignment of the relationship between large media companies and the public."

Sambrook likened the increasing use of user-generated news material to a sports game in which the crowd was not only invading the field but also seeking to participate in the game, fundamentally changing the sport.

CBS's take:

Larry Kramer, the head of digital operations at Viacom Inc.'s CBS unit, said CBS was eager for more feedback from listeners via its newly expanded online presence, but he said the company would keep a "filter" on such contributions rather than allow open posting by users.

The goal was to "treat news more like a loop," Kramer said. "Stories don't end when we post them. ... People respond. We wanted to create a vehicle through which people could respond."

Not to mention the AP, NPR, and even Al Gore, who is currently the CEO of (which shows largely user-generated video)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Webzine 2005, or Why I Missed The Love Parade and the Folsom St. Festival

This year’s Webzine 2005 was an incredible testament to the fact that independent publishing is indeed well and alive, and has definitely made a full migration from offline to online. There were tons of incredible speakers and DIY workshops, some of which included:

“Making Media with Open Source Publishing Tools”
“Information Hacking – A European Perspective”
“Using the Media to Kick the Man’s Ass”

And so forth.

The good folks at Webzine promise that the workshops and speaker sessions will be up on the site as podcasts soon. Sounds delicious.

Here is a podcastof the first day of the conference by my partner in crime Ted Tagami.

There will be more podcasts of the conference in this space soon (soon being a relative term)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Google Free Wi-Fi for a Less Free Society?

So Google is now offering free wi-fi, in addition to its Search, Print (currently testing the boundaries of copyright laws), Map (which has never yet given me correct travelling times), Gmail (which never deletes anything from its database. EVER. even that crazy semi-suicidal love letter you wrote drunk to an ex at 3AM), News (again, testing the limits of copyright law), Mobile, Video, Catalog...the list is endless. It's definitely a Google World.

So what is Google Wi-Fi yet another problem child in the Google Family? Well, in theory it sounds like a great idea: It would democratize Wi-Fi so that theoretically ANYONE could have access to an Internet connection (of course where they got their computer is another story, unless Google Laptops are concurrently in the works at Google Labs).

While free wi-fi is becoming more commonplace, only a handful have been totally philanthropic in intent...i.e. former Maine governor August King's private raising of funds to give free Internet access to underprivileged students in Maine (alas, dial-up).

So what is Google's intent with wi-fi? Nefarious...benevolent? I asked Daniel Brandt, the founder of, a citizen watch site for Google. He writes:

I'd have to research Google's plans more, but from the little I've read,
it appears that Google is offering encryption on its wi-fi, and that its
servers will be the intermediary between your computer and the
rest of the Internet. To the extent that Google is able to be a fly on
the wall and record all of your surfing behavior, this is really not any
better than their Web Accelerator, which is currently suspended, presumably
due to bandwidth problems.

Anyone who lets Google see everything they do is a lost cause already,
and I don't know what to say to them.

The Yahoo in China case is instructive here. One more terrorist attack
on the U.S. and I'm sure the feds in the U.S. will be tapping into all that
stuff, and opening files on people who surf places they shouldn't.

Google records everything they can, and never deletes anything. All
of the web pages you visit will probably have the addresses recorded
under your cookie ID permanently, and all your email will probably be
scanned for keywords. That's a rather high price to pay.

Feds, China, cookie ID' all sounds like a plot from a 60's movie about the Cold War. While Mr. Brandt has been dismissed by some as a conspiracy theorist, it IS rather frightening to think about that love letter sitting in Google's database, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Radio Interview on NewsTalk 106, Dublin IRELAND

We're famous in Ireland! Well...not YET. But we finally received the MP3 for a radio show we did with NewsTalk 106 in Dublin, Ireland with their Media Matters program.

You can listen to the show


How to Fight Your Parking Ticket

I live near Cow Hollow in San Francisco. If any of you are knowledgable about the area, then you know that it definitely ranks down there in the lower circles of Dante's Underground Parking Inferno (along with Chinatown and the Castro during Pride). Well, one of my friendly neighbors decided to give me a notsofriendly "blocking driveway" ticket about a month ago (never mind that my car was only three inches over her driveway...maybe a bit more). The thing cost me $75.00

The city of SF, along with other cities across the country, are hungry to get some quick cash through parking tickets. Never mind that SF has ZILCH parking. (read Marc Perkel's blog about his efforts to organize people against parking tix HERE). Never mind that city taxes are among the highest in the nation, or that we already pay $5.00 to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and $3.00 to cross the Bay Bridge, just to get to work daily. The city still finds itself in perpetual budget crisis.

Well, I think that a website designed to fight parking tickets definitely qualifies as using Internet technology for the greater social good. and other sites like it allows you to do just that. Just give them info about your ticket, and they'll do the rest. You win, you pay half of the ticket. You lose, well, you have to pay the whole hog but at least you tried to battle the man. Props to you.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A New Kind of Social Network after Katrina: Recovery 2.0

Friendster never did it for me. If I ever relied on it solely for my social life, my weekends would be limited to Asian fetishists, unsigned bands, and assorted lonely hearts. Myspace, recently acquired by Fox, would limit my social life to the WB generation, a 1/2 generation below me (yes, we have those now), watching bad music videos, and the constant presence of Myfriend Tom.

I was about to give up on social network systems altogether as a false promise of online utopia. However, there may be hope. Social networking hereto has mostly been explored as a venue for (new) dating (traumas) and job networking. However, how about social CHANGE networking?

Jeff Jarvis' recent entries - in BuzzMachine have been literally "buzzing" with talks about Recovery 2.0, a wiki to discuss creating a networking website for future disasters. The project is currently in development, but Jarvis and other members are planning to utilize the site to :

1. share information,

2. report and act on calls for help,

3. coordinate relief,

4. connect the missing,

5. provide connections for such necessities as housing and jobs,

6. match charitable assets to needs,

7. get people connected to these projects - and the world - sooner. is very similar to Sahana which is a disaster resource management site that was launched after the Asian tsunamis in 2004. There are also a handful of other sites that do similar work to what is attempting, such as

It is strange indeed that in a world supposedly so interconnected, there is so little information infrastructure for post-disaster resources, when people need to be connected the most. MJ Call's recent article on iTalkNews discusses her logistical nightmare in trying to coordinate donations to give to Katrina victims. It should NOT be a struggle to donate goods, money or time to people in need.

Finally, a social networking system I could possibly join.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Citizen Journalism on the Road VIDEO

watch it

Hey peeps -

So this July we took citizen journalism on the road. It was an interesting endeavor - I think it took at least a couple years off of my life. What exactly did we do? Well, friends, what is more American than the Great Summer Road Trip? What a hallucinogenic vision quest was to Native Americans, a hallucinogenic road trip is to American teens. It's a rite of passage, but also is a way to get in contact with actual people, away from the glare of computer screens. We wanted to take online, offline.

At any rate, here's the complete video:

watch it

The idea was partially inspired by the interactivity of a project created by the BBC, the Action Network ( Headed by Martin Vogel, the idea is simple: it's about using the power of the Internet to connect people in Britain to create social campaigns. These can range from local to regional to national, and from relatively banal topics like conserving more household water to mobilizing public protests. It's a pretty radical idea, and the site includes many resources for starting a campaign, including how to canvass a neighborhood, create publicity, etc.

We were able to meet Martin Vogel in early July before we headed for our trip, along with other media peeps. J.D. Lasica, of, was also present and here's some of his notes from the meeting:

The Action Network is utilizing the Internet as a conduit for directing people's energy into the real world. Does citizen journalism 1.0 (i.e. news sites), have that potential to catalyze people into action?


Let the Misadventures Begin! (or continue...)

Every story should have a strong protagonist. I don't know whether this analogy extends to blogs or not. Let's say for argument's sake that it does.

So If we subscribe by the traditional model, then our hero/ine should be strong, beautiful, wise, brave, somewhat promiscuous, divine parentage on at least one side of the family, and at least one somewhat major flaw (take your pick: accidental incest/patricide, being more beautiful than a goddess, a homicidal temper...the list goes on)

My name is Elizabeth Lee and have none of the above characteristics (except that living in San Francisco, the promiscuous bit can apply at times). I definitely have no divine parentage, and no recent incest/patricide to speak of.

My major flaw is that I am a newsaholic. Recovering. Consider this blog my relapse. It doesn't really help that I'm the co-founder of an online citizen journalism site either.

The site,, has been online since April, 2005. There are three main protagonists to the story (none of whom conform to the traditional Greek model):

1) J. Lee - The strong silent programmer type. A recent PhD graduate of the comp science program at Berkeley and all-around brainiac. He is the 0 and 1 brawn behind the operation, and responsible for the maintenance of the entire site, as well as keeping up with the latest technology that we'd like to incorporate.

2) T. Tagami - The strong but not-so-silent idea guru type. He can usually be found on the web, chasing down the most recent technology. Formerly at big news companies, i.e. Knight Ridder, after a pilgrimage to Mt. Fuji and some soul searching, he has dedicated himself to spreading Citizen Journalism to the masses (washed or unwashed). Catch his personal project, He's collecting images of buddhas all around the world. So if you have any, send them his way.

3) L. Lee - The former newsaholic/lawyer type. Background in magazine journalism and making some trouble. Have no pretensions to Greek hero status.

So these are the three main players of Our mission? Well, to borrow from our website:

Democratic Journalism

iTalkNews is a democratic journalism project.  We’re currently in beta-mode, and are planning our official launch soon. Since citizen journalism (CJ) is a relatively new concept, and no one is born a good writer, we also want to provide the tools for our membership to become good journalists.  This will include resources on our website, as well as being able to ask editors directly to help with article ideas, structure, grammar, etc.

Journalistic Standards

What sets us apart from blogging and other CJ sites is that we don’t post all submissions— in fact; we are one of the few professionally edited CJ sites on the web.  We also offer editing advice and fact check all articles before publication to ensure that content stays up-to-date and accurate.

Diverse Viewpoints

Our main goal is to create dialogue and cultural exchange along a spectrum of different viewpoints, and we do that by linking writers across the world. So if you have an opinion or want to share what’s going on in your part of the world, please join us. There are many people waiting to hear your story.

So is this page just going to be advertising space? Please. Expect more from our dynamic trio here.

We're going to post (more or less) candid reports about citizen journalism developments and issues, both on our website and other sites. We also want this to be an interactive space. So we'd like your feedback. What do you want to see in citizen journalism? How do you want to see it develop? Do you think it has a future?

We're not planning a classic tragic Greek ending here. We want CJ to be a success, and believe it can be. So check us out and give a hollah when you get a chance!

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