Monday, December 04, 2006

Big boost for citizen photo-journalism

Yahoo and Reuters have jointly launched a new effort to consolidate citizen photo-journalism efforts. Starting tuesday, people can upload photographs taken from their cellphones or digital cameras onto a section called you witness news on Yahoo news.

These photos will be put up on Yahoo news and Reuters sites and will be available to editors at Yahoo News and Reuters, who will use the photographs in relevant articles. The best part is that people whose photos or videos are selected for distribution to Reuters' clients will be paid!

The best part is that this part of a broader initiative by Reuters. According to the New York Times,

The arrangement with Yahoo is one of several initiatives by Reuters to use the
Internet to bring new sources to its news report. It has invested $7 million in
Pluck, a company that distributes content from blogs to newspapers and other
traditional media outlets. It has also backed two more experimental ventures:, an effort to foster reporting that combines the work of professional journalists with input from online readers, and Global Voices, a collection of blogs from less-developed countries.

It would be very interesting to see how well this initiative will perform. Articles announcing this news have listed a number of reasons why this could potentially fail. One of them ofcourse, is that this will not give the user the instant gratification they can get by putting their videos or photos on websites such as youtube.

But maybe people will still participate enthusiastically because being carried alongside a Reuters article is definitely more prestigious than being seen on youtube. Besides, they can make money too!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Different language, different message

The New York Times has carried an article today about the factual variations in the Chinese and English versions of wikipedia in the entry for Mao Zedong.

The English version describes him as "a victorious military and political leader who founded China’s modern Communist state" but also adds that he was "a man whom many saw as “a mass murderer, holding his leadership accountable for the deaths of tens of millions of innocent Chinese."

According to the New York Times, in the Chinese version, "Mao’s reputation is unsullied by mention of any death toll in the great purges of the 1950s and 1960s, like the Great Leap Forward, a mass collectivization and industrialization campaign begun in 1958 that produced what many historians call the greatest famine in human history."

I thought this is a good example of different viewpoints to cater to different audiences even if it is the same publication (in this case website). It is hard to say whether this is deliberate because after all, Wikipedia is an open encyclopedia where viewers edit the information.

But this article reminded me of a recent discussion that took place in our class on "Beat Reporting."We were speculating whether the new Al-Jazeera channel in English would have the same content and tone as the original Al-Jazeera in Arabic. One theory that emerged was that Al Jazeera might be changing their overall image and viewpoint by employing so many western, english speaking reporters. The other theory was that the English channel and the Arabic channel might have little in common, since they cater to different audiences anyways.

In today's "transparent" world( China is the exception I suppose), is it really possible for news organisations to send divergent messages to different audiences without getting caught? Maybe its not that difficult.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Another citizen journalism initiative

I just came across a new citizen journalism initiative called Instablogs. This site is designed like a regular newspaper with the usual sections like Politics, sports, business, entertainment etc. Although this is actually just a collection of blogs, the articles have more news than opinion, in the sense that the stories are structured like news reports rather than blogs.

I am sure that there must be a lot of sites like this, but I think most of them have a blog feel to them rather than a newspaper feel. So, Instablogs stands out in that respect. Another interesting thing is that this site is based out a of Shimla, a small, sleepy tourist town located in North India. It gave me a sense of how the internet revolution can transcend geography.

I could not really understand their revenue model by looking at the site. I didnt see much advertising, other than the google ads. I will try and find it out.

On the whole, I felt that although the quality of the reports was not all that great, the variety was good. It is definitely a good start.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Free domain names- Courtesy Microsoft

Starting Nov 15, anyone can pick up unregistered domain names for free! This service is being offered by Microsoft as part of their service called Office Live . In addition to the free domain name, the service also includes a Professional, hosted Web site, Easy-to-use design tools,
5 business e-mail accounts and Web site traffic reports! How cool is that!
Although this service is aimed at small businesses, individuals can use it too. When I first learnt about it, it made me wonder how Microsoft would profit from it. But an article in New York Times explained Microsoft's profit model. According to the article

Microsoft makes no pretense: Office Live is intended to make money. But it will do so very cleverly, sometimes almost invisibly. For example, if you do sign up for a payroll service through Accounting Express, Microsoft gets a cut. When you place search-engine ads with MSN Search, Microsoft gets a few cents per customer response for that, too.

In the free Basics plan, big, blinky banner ads appear above the e-mail center and address book module. Finally, Microsoft hopes that if it helps your business along enough, you’ll eventually upgrade your free account to one of the more elaborate paid plans.
I think this is a great service. But I wonder what this will mean for companies that are currently in the business of registering domain names. Will this drive them out of business? Probably not..because not many companies can operate with just 5 business email ids. But I guess it could still cause a dent by taking away small businesses.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Its Professional Networking!

Social Networking sites have emerged as a great way to catch up with old friends and make new friends. But, they have been frowned upon by businesses as a distraction from work. I have met many professionals who have confessed that they try to keep their profiles and conversations as conservative as possible. They try to avoid putting up wild photos etc. because they don't want their online profile to have a negative impact professionally. Most companies today do not encourage their employees to visit these sites, especially not from the workplace.

But now, there is a new kind of online networking - "Business Networking"! Although Business networking sites such as LinkedIn, Ryze, Spoke and Jigsaw have been around for a long time their success has been limited. Hoover’s, a unit of Dun & Bradstreet, and Visible Path, hopes to change that with the introduction of a free service called Hoover’s Connect. It is to offer visitors to the ability to mine their networks to find helpful connections with prospective clients or business partners.

According to the New York times,

The service, which is being previewed starting today on, requires little effort, but it does take a little trust. Users who visit are shown the site’s typical collection of information regarding businesses, including contact information, sales statistics and key executives.
But those who sign up for Connect can download software from Visible Path that makes note of whom a user messages via e-mail and how frequently (it does not monitor the content of the communications). The service tracks activities within Microsoft Outlook, the dominant business e-mail system, and will eventually include
Web-based e-mail systems like Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail.
Im not very clear about how this site will actually help build business contacts, but I guess the concept here is similar to, where you can find out who is connected to whom through social and professional networks.

As the New York Times article says, we start with the assumption that enough users have fed contacts into the system to make such connections possible. But Paul Pellman, an executive vice president of Hoover’s, said in the aricle that because the site was promoting the service prominently to its two million monthly users, establishing a strong base should not be difficult.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Inside google news

Yesterday, I attended an interesting talk by Krishna Bharat, Principal Scientist at Google. To give you a bit of a background, Krishna Bharat was the brain behind google news. Google News was awarded the 2003 Webby award in the news category. Also, Bharat recieved the 2003 World Technology Award for Media and Journalism.

In his speech, Bharat explained the news aggregation process followed by Google news. He explained that they give weightage to factors such as significance of the news to a particular geography, quality of the article and reputation of the publication.

Another remarkable thing is that they try to provide all the different viewpoints for any story. For example, if there is some news about Israel, Google news will try and provide news from a US source, from an Israeli source, from a Turkish source and from an Arab source in order to ensure a balanced view. I had never noticed this before, but when I tried testing this on Google news, it turned out to be true!

Also, I asked him about the process involved in determining whether or not a particular website is a reliable news website. Bharat explained that they have a team that determines which websites to include in the google news search based on factors such as number of journalists, presence of editors, reputation etc. A few websites are included due to recommendations from readers. For example, even though Online Journalism Review (OJR) is actually a blog it still shows up on Google news because of its reputation. It is heartening to note that there are people involved in this process and it is not all automated and machine generated as many of us believe (Atleast I believed that).

Overall, a great talk.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A virtual life

Today, I came across a really weird concept called second life. Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents.
Apparently, you can "visit" the second life by creating a highly individualised avatar or persona with any characteristics that you may choose. Once you enter the second life you can do almost everything that you can do in real life, but without the laws of physics applying to you. That basically means that you can fly, walk on water...anything. What do you do when you get there? You can meet people, even buy virtual land or just have fun visiting casinos, dance clubs, shopping malls etc.

When I first read about this, my first reaction was..who would want to do something like this? And the answer : 1,029,966 people from around the globe! And the big businesses are not far behind. According to the New York Times,

The Second Life online service is fast becoming a three-dimensional test bed for corporate marketers, including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Sun Microsystems, Nissan, Adidas/Reebok, Toyota and Starwood Hotels.

I still find it a bit hard to digest..but I guess it is working!