General, Journalism, MLW

The big question now is whether this many-headed monster of info and apps can ever be tamed into something that’s even vaguely house-trained?

For reasons that won’t be too hard to fathom for both our regular readers, this was all very interesting…

http://www.4ip.org.uk/blog/levellers_fishbones_and_sir_tim_berners_lee/

Not least because these days we can join some of the dots therein… that I was lucky enough to speak at www.2gether08.com which was a kind of warm-up garden party for the full-on launch of the 4iP funding initiative later this autumn…

And we’ve also been round the block with Sir Tim and his partner Martin Moore once or twice before on their success at this year’s Knight News Challenge…

http://outwithabang.rickwaghorn.co.uk/?p=73

And again…

http://outwithabang.rickwaghorn.co.uk/?p=89

And, of course, we’ve also crossed paths with the good folks at NESTA.

Which prompted a wry smile in this neck of the woods with that line from the NESTA chief… “Perhaps the best lessons for 4IP came from the wrap up remarks from NESTA’s CEO, Jonathan Kestenbaum. He made reference to Sir Tim Berners Lee’s boss at CERN who had ‘not said no’ and created the environment in which the web could be invented…

NESTA, by contrast….

Leave it, Rick. Leave it. Move on… to this…

“He [Sir Tim] likened it to the odd tangle of things that you get when you eventually find the object that’s blocking your sink: underneath it all there’s something with a clear structure (such as a fish bone) but all sorts of accretions have collected round it. So if the web, and the interactions it supports, is to continue to thrive, its organic development needs to be better understood before its too late…

Because what was fascnating about Sir Tim’s thoughts were how easily they chimed with both the thoughts of Google’s Bob Wyman as we swapped local war stories on Jarvis’ BuzzMachine blog…

http://www.buzzmachine.com/2008/07/17/what-do-you-buy-when-you-buy-a-newspaper/#comments

And, in particular, this from the comments…

@Rick Waghorn: “So they pick a sustainable patch and off they go… Till we try we don’t know where the ‘tip’ point is size-wise; smaller than Loudon County, one suspects…”

I suspect that there are two relevant sizes here:
1. Size of the optimal “news bureau”: Some might have “size” defined by geographic area, others would have size defined by area of interest (”Internet Technology”, “Political Commentary”, etc.)
2. Size of the site that hosts the news: The problem here is one of integration. If the sites are very small, there is a massive amount of duplicate engineering, technical support, ad sales, etc. Also, it is cumbersome for people to move between sites.

My gut tells me that we should have a large number of focused news bureaus which feed into a small number of relatively “large” integrated news platforms. The bureaus would focus on content production and, in many cases, community building while the platform providers would focus on technology, ad sales, support, audience building, marketing, etc.

Partial models for the division of interests can be found by studying Huffington Post, the traditional ‘news syndicates’ (King Features, etc.), “blog networks” and organizations like the AP.

bob wyman

And the whole, cotton-thread-in-sugar-solution thing we had going on at www.2gether08.com… that somewhere within our gloupy syrup and Sir Tim’s blocked sink, we needed to gain an elegance, a coherence and an organisation to clear the way to a better and simpler news experience for our future audience.

http://outwithabang.rickwaghorn.co.uk/?p=107

And that’s where the biggest challenge lies; creating this clean, robust and almost stream-lined platform – one that can glide through this wind tunnel of internet info and endless apps… One without a fishbone in its midst…

In part, that’s where I suspect the CMS certification technology that Sir Tim and Martin are developing with their $350,000 worth of Knight lolly is coming in; that they are preparing to unleash this ‘Domestos’ type application on the Web; one that will clean away the crud and leave just this bright, shiny and original story for the world to enjoy… this is where it all started from… this is the source, minus the spin…

But then Mr Wyman, too, is hitting a nail on the head; how do we organise all the opportunites and applications that are now on offer at your local parish pump into some kind of sustainable and, above all, efficient platform going forward?

So, someone takes www.mylocalwriter.com/loddon off our hands; someone else grabs www.mylocalwriter.com/marthasvineyard – are they both granted the rights to the same ‘kit’, the same data streams (albeit of a UK and US kind), the same restaurant review functionality, the same way to ad source and sell, etc, etc…?

Or have we now in our rush to innovate merely created this many-headed beast of possibilities that only someone of, say, Google’s ilk can now coral into a useable platform; lop off a head here, a leg here without fear of retribution?

That’s the challenge; bringing order to all this well-intentioned chaos; getting networks to crystallise around a unifying thread… getting that fishbone out of your plug hole…�

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