mefi lazyweb March 7, 2003 5:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm invoking the mefi lazyweb: help me gather notes for my sxsw panel [more]
posted by mathowie (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 5:49 PM (39 comments total)

I'm on a panel about old journalism vs. new journalism, and it's funny because I'll probably be pimping MoJo or some form of that as the logical next step (btw, I've been away for a couple days and need to catch up on the mojo conversation -- I've talked to Rusty from k5 at length about doing something together on this).

Anyway, I need some examples of "collaborative news filtering, the "collective editing" process that is part and parcel of community news sites/group weblogs, where the readers and fellow bloggers essentially serve as editors."

I know the Kaycee stuff springs to mind right away, but can you think of more recent examples were we as members separated the wheat from the chaff and either unearthed new evidence, pointed out falsehoods, or otherwise seriously improved the original story collectively?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:52 PM on March 7, 2003

Well the Brendon Vargas thing comes to mind.
posted by lilboo at 6:14 PM on March 7, 2003

Not sure what you want:
There's always poor neu to point at, well there used to be a couple neu MeTa threads re: neu.
There's the election thread with the guy at the polls reporting in.
There's also the recent Laurie Garrett thread, again, I'm not sure if these are the type you mean.
posted by DBAPaul at 6:21 PM on March 7, 2003

If you're looking for collective editing, what about this thread? It's the one where everybody tried to figure out what was wrong with a single sentence and rephrase it correctly.
posted by Hildago at 7:00 PM on March 7, 2003

And please, please don't call it Mojo at SXSW, because that would be like making it official. I still hold out hope that a better name will be chosen.

(Of course, I haven't come up with one)
posted by Hildago at 7:01 PM on March 7, 2003

(MoJo name alternatives here)

The thread about the Bali bombing was quite useful to me when I was trying to find information about my friend who was caught in it, Matt, and a pretty good example of collective infogathering. Link is on my profile.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:12 PM on March 7, 2003

hmm the ripper thread was interesting,
you were being fed two completely different viewpoints as i remember and didnt know what to do.
the first one was from dovee if i remember rightly and most folks here that the logs should stay up and it should continue to be discussed.
the second viewpoint was from supposedly concerned members of the shroomery who under the guise of respect for ripper were asking you to take it down.
i remember you stuck with the fpp after some deliberation and it turned out that it was indeed the right thing to do as later on the hidden motives of the people from the shroomery became clear,
(ie they were frightened of being arrested)

i'd say that was an interesting example of the truth of the situation emerging through various contributions maybe ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:31 PM on March 7, 2003

Uh, be completely self-referential/recursive and use the output of this thread. :-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:58 PM on March 7, 2003

please don't call it Mojo at SXSW

Yeah, I think Mother Jones and The Music Magazine (not to mention Cross Mojonation).
posted by boost ventilator at 8:07 PM on March 7, 2003

The big September 11 thread is a good example of people sharing information quickly, although it's probably the reverse of what you're looking for. We gathered information from "traditional" sources: tv, radio, whatnot, and compiled it in one thread. But, if I recall correctly, we also got a lot of "eyewitness" accounts.

You know, I'd look at the thread, but I don't feel like going through all that again. When I read some of the first posts in that thread, I can still feel my stomach knotting up.
posted by ColdChef at 8:12 PM on March 7, 2003

I had hoped to find a good example of successful "MoJoing" on some of the threads I had participated in, but could only find good examples of ones I wish had gotten MoJoed. So instead I'll use this space to simply say: Matt, pleeeeease don't call it "MoJo" at SXSW. That's like setting it in stone. There are a lot of good alternatives being discussed that deserve a fair shake.
posted by soyjoy at 8:13 PM on March 7, 2003

Matt, your own "Reagan is Dead - Film at Eleven" post had some of the back-and-forth detective work and expert opinionating in it.
posted by yhbc at 8:19 PM on March 7, 2003

this is off-topic a bit but may be worth bringing up. the 9-11 thread was very important to many of us who couldn't access regular web media (, msnbc, etc.) because it was overwhelmed. metafilter was my only source of "live" coverage that morning--everything else was locked up.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 8:57 PM on March 7, 2003

Come on guys, this thread is, in a way, a test of whether "mojo or some form of that" has potential or not. So put your sleuthing caps on!
posted by Hildago at 8:58 PM on March 7, 2003

Houston we have a problem - not sure if you want another "breaking tragedy" news story, but I was impressed with the local reportage & the community fact gathering, and how quickly things happened. For awhile, it seemed MeFi had better info accumulated than any media. It also was cool to see MeFi right up there with CNN and othr news sources on DayPop & Blogdex. Plust the trackbacks.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:34 PM on March 7, 2003

The earthquake thread is a good example.
posted by iconomy at 9:54 PM on March 7, 2003

help me gather notes for my sxsw panel

all I can say is that the next time some college kid or high school kid posts a message here on meta asking us to write his term paper for him, you are so busted Matt.
posted by crunchland at 10:11 PM on March 7, 2003

You may want to look into how the Google expert thing has fared as an experiment in distributed research.

Web-related news themes have surfaced that might offer some examples:
linking rights - at NPR, and also the guy whose site was shutting down browsers if you ignored a warning not to right click Members contacted the site owner by phone and livehelp chat, other members researched him & found that he had been involved in a series of web-related disputes: still others dissected the code and the technology and presented info on how to work around the was a study in teamwork.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:34 PM on March 7, 2003

It doesn't go nearly as far as the MoJo idea, but K5 makes pretty extensive use of collective editing. Since Scoop got a way for people to kick stuff out of editing mode if it was just there to be annoying, I upped the (maximum) edit time to 24 hours. So almost every story goes through a collaborative "proofing" process, and I don't think there's been one yet that didn't have some kind of error caught, in either fact or form.

It's not big and earth-shattering -- just a little tweak to an existing system, but it is a working example of collaborative editing that functions the way it's supposed to. It's generally used more for formatting and language, but pretty often commenters will dig up more links or add depth to a story.

And I, like, fifth or sixth the idea that you should think of something to call it that isn't "MoJo." May I suggest the generic terms "an open news wire" or "a collaborative news service" as plausible temporary replacements, to avoid getting that name stuck in everyone's mind?
posted by rusty at 10:34 PM on March 7, 2003

Wolfdaddy, you might have a point. This is a sleuth thread. Although it would need to be refiltered.

Matt, how about Billy Maulana.

The classic MetaFilter is a hosting company now?
posted by DBAPaul at 10:41 PM on March 7, 2003

"One of the most striking things about the MetaFilter discussion is how it begins: 'Could this be true?'" says Richard Byrne, a reporter who writes about media issues for, among others, the alternative weekly, the Boston Phoenix.

"No professional journalist would ask that question in public like that. There's a basic checklist of procedures that would precede and obviate it."

Netizens and bloggers don't think like that. As Grimmelman writes, by the time the note hit the Web, "the original header information, along with (Garrett's) last name, had gone missing. Under those circumstances, who among us would not forward an interesting essay?"

The answer, says Byrne, is any professional journalist. "Bloggers tend to lack credibility because they're not held to any standards. The ones who are well regarded are professionals who enjoy their reputation because they bring their journalistic toolkit to the Web."

From that UPI story a couple days ago...
posted by raaka at 11:28 PM on March 7, 2003

I put on my editing hat back in that information architecture thread.
posted by rory at 3:41 AM on March 8, 2003

About the MoJo name: I am as ambivalent about it as anyone else. I guess it may seem that I gave it implicit approval by setting up MoJoFilter and the MoJoWiki, there really wasn't anything else to call it that would be recognised by everyone. It's at such an early stage at the moment that I don't think there's any point giving it a name, beyond referring to it as 'collaborative online journalism' or whatever. Although I do like Distributed Online Journalism (Dojo).
posted by adrianhon at 3:45 AM on March 8, 2003

It may not be exactly what you're looking for but the Google Answers Puzzle thread was a good example of group think. Did that ever get solved?
posted by ashbury at 4:55 AM on March 8, 2003

"the next time some college kid or high school kid posts a message here......."

Actually this would be an interesting extension of the distributed journalism idea. In fact in many cases meta journalism might be more accurately called meta research. If some kid wanted us to do his term paper he could post the topic in MoJo/DoJo/OpenNews (or Metafilter for that matter) and just rewrite the resulting research and conclusions.

Hmmmmmm...... Term paper filter anyone?
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:06 AM on March 8, 2003

y6: I'm not too sure how well that'd work. People aren't going to research any old thing (e.g. 17th century horse trading in London, or enantioselective chemistry), and even if they did and laid out a nice trail of facts and so on, what's the problem with the student using them? Using the Internet to gather facts and sources is perfectly fine as long as they are cited and credited. Certainly students have been rewriting analyses and conclusions (as opposed to copying them word for word) since the beginning of history.

In any case, I don't think that term papers resemble media articles (and if they do, they shouldn't).
posted by adrianhon at 6:17 AM on March 8, 2003

Yep yep. Just throwing the idea out there. If we like distributed journalism, what other distributed things can we create. Seems to me we could take the same OpenNews engine and use it for research, private investigations, genealogy, etc.

Since I can't be at SXSW, and this is one of the questions I'd ask the panel, I guess I'm engaging in distributed questioning.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:30 AM on March 8, 2003

Although not near as exciting as some of the other links pointed out on this page, this one had some sleuthing work done on it...
posted by thatweirdguy2 at 7:07 AM on March 8, 2003

FYI: the states puzzle was asked again on Google Answers, and even the second month of research proved fruitless. Nobody collected the $200, and apparently the original contest remains ongoing.
posted by dhartung at 11:46 AM on March 8, 2003

So I don't have not to have to start a whole thread about this (which wouldn't be right)... I've searched every way I know how and can't find it - Does anyone remember that MeTa (maybe MeFi) thread from not too long ago, with a link to a site that featured various blogging software. The site is running demo versions of each flavor for comparing and contrasting? I thought I saved it, but I guess not. Sorry for the off-topic request.
posted by Witty at 2:54 PM on March 8, 2003

Witty: do you mean this thread?
posted by walrus at 3:06 PM on March 8, 2003

I do indeed... thanks very much.
posted by Witty at 3:19 PM on March 8, 2003

litlnemo's comments on the skating dispute.
posted by MzB at 5:30 PM on March 8, 2003

Of other sites that have a similar sort of give and take with multiple people chiming in, investigating and reporting other angles would have to include a mention of /. and Plastic.

Granted, there's an awful lot of chaff on both of those sites...but the same can be said here.
posted by dejah420 at 8:42 PM on March 9, 2003

Yayhooray, too. They're trying to both solve an ad mystery, and ponder the complexities of owillis' words at the same time.
posted by iconomy at 9:23 PM on March 9, 2003

I know the Kaycee stuff springs to mind right away, but can you think of more recent examples were we as members separated the wheat from the chaff and either unearthed new evidence, pointed out falsehoods, or otherwise seriously improved the original story collectively?

Well my first instinct might be to say that as often as not we add chaff to the wheat, bury relevant evidence by heaping on big piles of completely unrelated points, introduce new falsehoods, and quite often demonstrate little other than the means by which serious articles are digested in deeply distorting ways. But that would be slightly facetious, and only tell part of the story.

To try to be genuinely helpful Matt, I might suggest that the way you've framed the question itself attempts to apply old categories to an entirely new medium - and in doing so may miss the much larger phenomenon unfolding in our midst.

In traditional journalism, a news story is written by a reporter (or reporters) based on direct observation and/or sources. This reporter (naturally, and unavoidably) perceives and reports the story through his or her own perceptual and conceptual filters. The story is published with the intention of being consumed by receptive (some would say passive) individuals. It is within this paradigm that all the standards you mentioned (wheat/chaff, truth/falsehood, new evidence) rose to prominence.

I would argue that to truly understand 21st century journalism requires a complete re-conceptualization of the essential nature and roles of the participants. Dig:

It is metaphorically intriguing that the total number of humans now alive on earth is roughly equal to the number of neurons in an infant's brain. Integrate that metaphor into the (historically speaking) virtually instantaneous explosion of the internet (which is nothing other than the pathways connecting those neurons suddenly springing to life), and stunning picture starts to take shape: The emergence - in very real and empirical terms - of a global brain, as though the earth itself may be moving towards some unimaginable form of self-consciousness.

It is certainly unimaginable to us at any rate, because of the problem of scale - none of us as individuals can understand the nature of thought going on at this scale, any more than an individual neuron in any of our brains could possible comprehend the thoughts that emerge from the entirety of the brain of which it is a part.

It is possible to dimly sense some of the characteristics of the whole, however, because we all participate in it. What does this have to do with journalism? Well I guess I believe reporters and journalists themselves used to resemble something like cells in single-celled organisms ... considering it their duty to both perceive and digest information, with the consumers of this sort of reporting simply living symbiotically with them. I believe we are now in the midst of an immense shift - in which reporters will not be nearly as atomistic, but will participate in an organism, and serve as part of it's sensory apparatus.

To bring this rather more down to earth - the "act" of reporting used to end with an event called an "article" (or a similar expression in another medium). Once it was produced, the event ended. What we have now, however, is a situation in which any major story is not only instantly transmitted around the globe, but also immediately hits blogspace, where it is thoroughly digested by both small and large groups of people. This just as often distorts as clarifies - but what, indeed, is distortion, and what is clarification?

The real issue is that from the larger perspective, the event that is the end result of journalism is no longer the article itself, but is an (as of yet unnamed) entity that combines the initial article and the widely varied reactions to it ... i.e., the "article" is simply an initial sensory apparatus getting triggered - similar to rods and cones firing, or the nerve endings in the fingertip touching something - it merely initiates a perceptual event that is not complete until it is first transmitted to the brain, distributed throughout the various relevant neural networks, and understood. And as is the case with the eyes or fingers and the brain, the process of digestion may well often slightly or even severely distort the original perception.

So it is not really a question of whether stories are occasionally clarified or improved by cyberspace - but rather one of understanding the nature of this wholly new journalistic "event" that is equal parts reporting and reactions to the reporting (even if they are bizarre, and quite often do distort - they are part of the larger "truth" of the event).

If you want to catch a glimpse of that global brain, and it's daily operations - try this ... take a single global event (say the most recent Blix Report - but it doesn't matter), and deliberately do as huge a survey as possible - first, of the many angles from which it is reported (in different countries, regions, cultures & etc. - most of which can be found online), and then as wide a survey as possible of blogs and discussion boards from every different political, social, or national perspective. It may take an entire day to hunt and eat that large of a volume of information - but after putting in the effort a sort of dim outline of what - to that global mind - a single "perceptual event" is starts to emerge.

Well ... I've probably gone on too long here. you get the picture I 'spect.

(I'd only add the the personal reason I pop by MetaFilter is precisely because it does vary significantly from my own viewpoint a lot of the time - and I believe that understanding the modern world requires people to deliberately seek out not just media they agree with, but both stories and reactions to those stories that are way outside of their comfort zone ...).
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:22 PM on March 10, 2003

That's your Midas. It jives with a lot of things I've been thinking lately. I even wrote something about this recently from my perspective on neuroscience and AI (particularly pattern recognition and neural networks), but my archives were destroyed. You're inspiring me to do so again: thanks.
posted by walrus at 3:29 AM on March 11, 2003

Incidentally, my article was originally linked here. If anyone perchance has a copy of it, I'd very much like it back.
posted by walrus at 9:28 AM on March 11, 2003

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