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How to fact check user generated content

By Patrick Smith

Rachel Sterne, founder and CEO of GroundReport.com, and Robert Mackey, blogger for The New York Times’ Lede Blog, discuss how they determine the credibility of news reports contributed online by unknown or anonymous users.

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Help fund citizen journalism in Libya

By Patrick Smith

American journalist Rachel Anderson is looking to equip libyan youth with the tools  they need to become more effective citizen journalists. She was embedded with Libyan youth throughout Febrary and March and now needs to raise $30,000 to train classes of 15 young people essential reporting skills and how to share their stories with the world through the web.

She is working alongside Small World News, a group specialised in training citizen journalists, who say their project in Libya aims to help people to “report on the revolution around them. The group functions as a make-shift newsroom, responsible for finding, filming and editing original stories. The goal is to create a self-sustaining citizen journalist movement that continues reporting after Anderson and other Western journalists leave Libya.”

If you would like to contribute to the cloud-funded project click here.

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A window on Africa

By Patrick Smith

In vast countries like Nigeria the mainstream press doesn’t always have the kind of penetration into all areas that one might want. With government propaganda added into the mix, it’s often hard to get a picture of what is going on across the country. Citizen journalism can play an important role in plugging this gap. Shutterfeeds aims to do just that.

This is Nigeria’s first user generated photo agency. Covering everything from politics to fashion it has something to offer everyone. People in villages largely cut off from life in the rest of Nigeria are able to tell their stories though that most accessible medium, the photo.

With corruption and propaganda still a big problem in Nigeria Shutterfeeds aims to “decipher what is propaganda and what is not, providing alternative individualistic news sources”. With elections just around the corner the fledgling agency could play an important role in exposing any cases of violence or vote rigging that might arise.

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UGC: a lifesaver?

DEVASTATED: February's earthquake in NZ (photo: Flickr)

Emily Fairbairn

I urge you to read Kaila Colbin’s eloquent blog on MediaPost, A Message From Christchurch On The Value Of User-Generated Content. As a survivor of the earthquake in Christchurch, Colbin argues that it is user generated content that allows life to go on, helps a stricken country reasess itself and gets aid quickly to those who need it. More importantly still, it connects people. She puts it far better than I could:

 

“In a disaster, UGC is not here for your entertainment. It is not competing with network news for ad dollars. It does not care whether you think it should be pitted against the professionals for a journalism award. It is a way for people experiencing the most significant event of their lives to bear witness, to cry out their pain and their suffering and their need, to connect with people close by who are sharing the experience and with people far away who, but for their voices, might mistake these events for a blockbuster movie filmed on a sound stage. No human can fail to be moved by the horrific tragedy of Japan, made so real by the user-generated content coming from that ravaged coastline — its very lack of professionalism making it so abundantly clear that there is no difference at all between us and them. In these turbulent times, we cannot afford to distance ourselves from the humanity at the other end of the camera, and from the reality that there but for the grace go we.”

Looking at her words, though, one thing is clear. User generated content is not doing anything new. It’s just doing it better. Reaching out to other survivors, recording personal testimonies of disasters, calling out to the rest of the world for help: these are things that humanity has been doing forever. The explosion of user generated content just enables these things to be done faster, more easily and on a bigger scale.

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Reports of Libyan citizen journalist’s death

By Patrick Smith

There are reports coming out of Libya that Mohammad Nabbous, champion of user generated news in the country, has been killed in Libya. He was appenently shot by pro-Gaddafi troops in Benghazi on 19 March.

Nabbous set up Al-Hurra TV that broadcast on Livestream and featured videos made by Libyan citizens often from the front line or places not accessed by mainstream journalists.

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The downfall of Digg

By Patrick Smith

Digg was for a long time the king of the user generated news world. In recent times however it has seen its number of users fall and on 19 March founder, Kevin Rose, announced his departure.

There are many factors that have contributed to this downturn, but high among them is the adoption of many of Digg’s features by mainstream media. Its influential nature was its very downfall.

Back in 2006 when the site launched, the news agenda was dictated by large media corporations. Nowadays whether a news story goes viral and gets shared by large numbers of people is more important than where it features on a news site’s front page.

The number of shares that a story gets is the equivalent of a Digg ranking and most media companies now put substantial effort into generating this kind of interest in their stories. Nearly all now feature a plethora of share buttons for different platforms.

There have been other things that have contributed to the sites downfall. It has been dogged with criticism and controversy, not least last year’s Digg Patriots scandal. The Guardian revealed how conservatives were organising themselves to systematically clicking “bury” to downgrade stories deemed to have a liberal slant.

Digg is not dead yet but with all commentators predicting its demise it may not be long until its bell tolls.

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User generated sense

Emily Fairbairn

Generating content does not have to mean creating something from scratch.

In fact, users are increasingly called on to re-generate content: make something interesting out of something boring.

Clever web-savvy users can turn incomprehensible data into something excting and enticing.  Even the government has caught on to this.

Data.gov.uk is a government project that publishes data with the aim of  ‘promoting innovation though encouraging the use and re-use of government data-sets.’

So the government has all this information.  It doesn’t exactly know what to do with it- why not give it to the public and see what interesting things they can do?

I had a look at the data that the site holds on the homeless, and used data-visualising tool Many Eyes to turn it into something comprehensible. The end result is way more easy to digest than those reams and reams of spreadsheets, don’t you think?

Homeless by ethnicity, 2010 Many Eyes

Homeless by age, 2010 Many Eyes

Homeless by region, 2010 Many Eyes

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