Homework week 2: Thinking Big

I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled with this course. In trying to find ways to sell my ideas, I’ve begun to realise just how complicated those ideas are. I’ve never even stated what problem I’m trying to solve, so I’ll do that now.

We were asked to think about the future of journalism and the obvious answer to that is the rise of citizen journalism. That is something that has found a home in the social networks. That is irreversible. To profit from this situation, the news media needs to merge with the social Internet. There is a disconnect between professional news and social media. Though they feed off of each other, they don’t interact. I want to close that gap.

It is my firm belief (I know, I shouldn’t have such things) that the semantic web is the engine of that solution. We need to be able to track the threads of a story from a news site, through Twitter and Facebook and back again. That’s what the semantic web is for.

Christian Heilmann’s lecture covered territory very familiar to me: the world of open standards. It was interesting to hear his rundown of the history of the web from the early days of pages with links to the modern era of media rich, socially aware web applications. He touched on the fact that a lot of the Internet has become locked into cetralized, closed, corporate servers and how this goes against the Mozilla ethos.

It got me thinking that the move towards these concentrations of power was a direct consequence of the increasing complexity of getting things done on the web. All these new server based applications like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are there because they provide a facility that isn’t readily available using traditional web technologies.

John Resig talked about the importance of keeping the user experience at the centre of your project. With jQuery, it was his clear and comprehensive documentation that gave him the edge over the competition and his tireless support for his users which built the jQuery community into the web institution it is today. Any solution to the current problems we face must put the user first in all things. We need to create tools that satisfy both the user’s need for simplicity and Mozilla’s ideals of web egalitarianism.

My solution is to put as many of the tools of professional news production as possible into the hands of ordinary users, and to ensure that the output of those tools is loaded with semantic metadata and tied into the social networks. It’s still a big project but now it has a definition: to create a news ecosystem that will become as intrinsic a part of the Internet as the evolving social ecosystem.

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