Discovering Discovery

I have previously introduced the idea of opening up the tools of journalism to ordinary users through the web. I have also talked about ways of using semantic relationships when browsing the news. I descibe the whole concept as a news ecosystem, the idea being that it can grow beyond the borders of it’s domain, sinking it’s roots into social networking and the blogosphere and driving traffic through those roots.

The problem I have with this oncept is that it’s a big, sprawling, amorphous dollop of ideas. When I try to reduce it  to its Minimum Viable Awesome, I find no backbone supporting the whole. Each individual part is rather trivial in its own right.

So I’ve looked again at the individual parts and tried to think about what they mean to the end user.

1. Authoring.
This is the semantically enhanced textbox basically. Actually, the term covers the full suite of tools necessary for a person to turn journalism into news. I don’t entirely know what that is yet, and it probably varies from newsroom to newsroom. What’s important here is that we add semantic tools to existing publishing tools.

2. Browsing.
This is the system which takes a reference point such as an article and uses the semantic network to find further articles from all over the web, which may be of interest to the user.

3. Curation.
This is the interface for users to assert their interests and pass judgement over any and all content. It is the source of the semantic data that drives the browsing interface. It ties in with social networking to spread the virus of news.

For me, the most radical element is Browsing. The other parts are there to support that. It’s all about enabling the user to discover the story for themselves. Discovery turns out to be the central theme of this project. But, while that may be the backbone of the project, the browser is still useless without the semantic data. It needs the associated tools to drive the creation of that data. That data needs, at the very least, to be the primary mechanism by which content on the news site is organised. And by using open standards (RDFa, Dublin Core, rNews, CC REL, anything #MozNewsLab might produce) we prepare ourselves to accept further content from other sites into the network.

So there it is, easy as ABC. Except Authoring and Curation aren’t exactly user friendly terms. To put it in marketing speak, it’s Create, Explore, Share. That’s a nice slogan (good enough for Sony, in fact), but to sum it up in one word: Discovery (or Discoverer or Discover or whatever existing trademarks allow for.)

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4 Responses to “Discovering Discovery”

  1. Yes, you’re right, our ideas have some things in common. Thanks for your advice, I now have two views in my software (it has two audiences, unfortunately).

    I think that the difference right now is that you are focusing on the discovery, whereas I am focusing on the curating. What is more important here, the quantity or quality? Or is it qualitative quantity that we need to focus on? Is it inherent in our ideas that the crowd curating is pushing discovery for the crowd?

    • michaeldwells Says:

      Left a reply on Friday night but put it in the wrong place. You can find it below this one.

  2. michaeldwells Says:

    Thanks for the reply and for some excellent questions. I think quantity is actually a major issue for the press because they’re losing out to Facebook and Twitter in user time. User created content brings users into the site and gives them an investment in the site. Think about how much time you spend on Twitter and how much news you hear there first, and you can see the danger it presents to traditional news organisations. So in that sense, the newsrooms need quantity.

    On the global stage, quality is paramount but on the social level it’s much less of a concern. I think people want a combination of the best material from around the world and the latest content from their social circles and interests. It’s a trade-off. You’ll accept a lower quality for content you have a special interest in,

    I’ve been working on the assumption that if curation activity has consequences for the curator then you can get quality crowd cuartion. That then becomes the framework for discovery – users explore the web created by the crowd. But I also allow users to set up their own bespoke pages, outside the web of curation. So I guess I don’t entirely trust the crowd!

  3. I’d say that you might want to devise some personas to work through your end user conundrums. Why does, say, Hermione (yes I am an HP fan, how could you tell) want to be able to browse other semantically relevant news content? Is it because she doesn’t have time to go perusing news sources herself?

    As for addressing the terms of “curation” and “authoring,” I think the best thing you can do for a user is to present scenarios. Explain under what context / what situation they would want to use said feature. It’ll help them understand.

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