Posts tagged Aggregation

We want the best news product in the world, but we don’t want journalists working for us.

Jason Calacanis, founder of the recently launched Inside.com, a news service designed to serve human-curated news digests to readers on mobile devices.

Bits Blog:

The start of Inside is the latest instance of mobile apps, including Circa and Yahoo’s News Digest, turning to people to help filter the din created by endless streams of content found online. Graham Holdings, the education and media company that used to be the Washington Post Company before it sold the newspaper to Jeff Bezos, released Trove last week, an overhaul of its Social Reader app that now combines human curation and algorithms to present news stories.

FJP: It sounds like an interesting trifecta of ambitions, which Calcanis discusses in an interview with Nieman Lab, excerpted below.

01. Like Netflix, it will  learn your preferences and serve you accordingly.

Nobody’s figured out mobile news. The great thing about mobile it’s going to be a magnitude bigger than the web. Now that we’re in people’s pockets and we’ve learned what they want to do, we’re going to be able to really optimize people’s experience to get them to the great stuff. If they want all of the news, they can go to the all-update feed. If they want news just tailored to them, I think over the next year or two we’re going to really be able to know, hey, Staci really likes media stories and she’s really into The New York Times and she really likes these five entrepreneurs and this is her favorite baseball team — and these are the five or six types of stories she doesn’t want. She doesn’t want Kim Kardashian in her feed, because she’s voted her down twice, so we’ve never going to show it again in my topics.

02. The company wants to be Google-proof.

To make a Google-proof company, I wanted to have a killer brand that people would remember and come to like — a product so compelling that it has a repeatable effect. The problem at Mahalo or eHow is you use it for two hours to get your baking recipe, then you don’t use it again for two months — then you use it again for putting up curtains. You really rely on people going to Google.

With news, people will go directly to a site, which makes it impervious to Google. And the app ecosystem is also impervious to Google. They can’t control apps even though they have a big footprint in Android, nor have they shown a propensity to control the app ecosystem on Android. I think they would get a revolt on their hands if they did.

03. All this curation will be of strictly original content, to cut out the middle men and help great journalism get discovered.

We don’t see ourselves as the destination. We see ourselves as the curator of the best journalism in the world, so we’re very specifically only linking to the original journalist. We’re training our curators to understand The Huffington Post or Business Insider, which might do 70 to 80 percent aggregation of other people’s content and 20 to 30 percent original, and how to know the difference. So if Business Insider pulls a quote from The New York Times story and we find it on Business Insider, we’re actually going to wind up linking to The New York Times. We see ourselves as an antidote to the sort of middleman role and people rewriting other people’s content. We’re going to really actually do the work to figure out who came up with the original story.

 Play with it here.

In other words, based on your consumption of news, your search patterns, and a deep analysis (semantic, tonality, implied emotions) of your mail and your posts — matched against hundreds of millions of others — Google will be able to suggest a link to the profile of an artist in Harper’s when you dropped in Google News to check on Syria.

Frédéric Filloux, News: Personalized or Serendipitous?, Monday Note.

Filloux interviews Richard Gingras (senior director of news and social products at Google) about how Google is planning to serve content to readers that is both personalized and serendipitous:

According to him, “Today’s news personalization is very unsophisticated. We look at your news reading patterns, we determine that you looked at five stories about the Arab Spring and we deduct you might like articles about Egypt. This is not how it should work. In fact, you might be interested in many other things such as the fall from grace of dictators, generation-driven revolutions, etc. These requires understanding concepts”. And that’s a matter Google is working on, he says. Not only for news, but for products such as Google Now which is the main application of Google’s efforts on predictive search. 

How it’ll actually pan out, we don’t know, but there are a couple of questions that come out of this that are worth keeping in mind:

01. How do recommendation engines (currently) work?

Ad Age explains:

Recommendation engines, otherwise known as recommender systems, suggest content based on previous behavior or purchases. Such systems typically use one of two approaches: Collaborative filtering creates a predictive model based on a user’s previous interactions such as products purchased or viewed. Content-based filtering looks at content or item characteristics and suggests content with similar elements. Amazon, Netflix and music services including Pandora and last.fm use recommendation engines.

02. Why preserve serendipity?

Four years ago, Mathew Ingram wrote about the serendipity defense—one of the main arguments for a bundled news package: basically, newspapers let you easily stumble upon fascinating articles that you’d never think to look for by yourself. The advantage that newspapers have over the internet on this is that once you pick one, you can have a good sense of what quality to expect from it. You know the brand, you can let your critical guard down and the whole experience is fun and easy. While the internet might be the ultimate serendipity machine, achieving the same results requires much more: know-how, patience, a critical eye on the trustworthiness of the source, and regular exploration.

03. Why prescribe content?

While the web allows us to find endless amounts content, that content often ends up being finer and finer bits of the candy we love, which encourages us to exist in echo chambers of information-decadence. Those who believe that news services should deliberately prescribe content to help readers diversify the perspectives they are exposed to have yet to find a way to do so that doesn’t feel like an eat-your-vegetables approach. Plus, prescribing content to readers for the benefit of a “balanced” news diet would likely require too many assumptions about value to ever be widely accepted. 

FJP: If you’re a proactive news reader, you can create your own diet of publications or people both in and outside your comfort zone and maintain a personalized, serendipitous, diverse set of sources. If you’re not, you’ll rely on recommendation engines to do the work for you. For the creators of those engines, it’s a tricky mix to find the right balance between serendipity and prescription. And unfortunately, many of the concocters of the magic potion are for-profit companies that skew the formula for their own benefit.—Jihii

Instead of seeking an engaged audience — that’s a metric better suited for movies and prime-time TV — we in news should be seeking an informed public, using new tools to make them better informed with greater relevance and more efficiency. Instead of measuring our success by how much more time we can get them to spend with us, we should measure it by how much less time they need to spend with us to reach their own goals.

Jeff Jarvis, Maybe News is Just More Efficient, BuzzMachine.

FJP: Jarvis goes on to discuss a hypothetical news service that accomplishes this task of efficiency by serving the public news that uses a (very) smart algorithm to bring each reader a hyper-personalized news stream. An obvious issue with this is selection bias, and the possibility that one will end up consuming a very narrow slice of the perspective pie (read about the perils of algorithmic curation here). Also see the comments below Jarvis’s article for some interesting points made by readers.

Flipboard’s Personalized Magazines
I finally played with the new version of Flipboard’s iOS app, which allows users to create their own magazines. In the first 24 hours, over 100,000 were created by users. 
Here’s much more info about the new app.
FJP: Sort of a dream come true for me. My media habits are generally to bookmark things to read throughout the week on Pocket (formerly Read Later), which is a prettily designed place to store bookmarks and access them across devices. But at the end of a week I never get through what I’ve saved and thus have a backlog of tons of articles. Flipboard’s magazine works in a similar way—you can create content specific magazines by bookmarking things from all over the web or within your Flipboard readings. So, planning to try this out by creating a weekly magazine of my to-reads. Look out for an in-depth review once I get more playtime on this thing.—Jihii
Image: Screenshot of the beginnings of this week’s magazine by @jihiitea

Flipboard’s Personalized Magazines

I finally played with the new version of Flipboard’s iOS app, which allows users to create their own magazines. In the first 24 hours, over 100,000 were created by users

Here’s much more info about the new app.

FJP: Sort of a dream come true for me. My media habits are generally to bookmark things to read throughout the week on Pocket (formerly Read Later), which is a prettily designed place to store bookmarks and access them across devices. But at the end of a week I never get through what I’ve saved and thus have a backlog of tons of articles. Flipboard’s magazine works in a similar way—you can create content specific magazines by bookmarking things from all over the web or within your Flipboard readings. So, planning to try this out by creating a weekly magazine of my to-reads. Look out for an in-depth review once I get more playtime on this thing.—Jihii

Image: Screenshot of the beginnings of this week’s magazine by @jihiitea

Making the News (more) Mobile

A new mobile news app called Circa has dedicated itself to aggregating content and slimming it down to the facts and nothing but — all to present bits of information from several sources on a mobile screen without exhausting its users. 

Ben Huh of Cheezburger fame has a lot on his mind, news-wise, and he’s a co-founder.  So are Matt Gilligan and Arsenio Santos, and the rest of the team and their investors can be found here.

It’s a fine idea, and the presentation fits mobile’s tiny screens. Some, however, may scratch their heads at it as they did at fellow newcomer Quartz for its reliance on aggregation.

via PandoDaily:

Galligan and Huh believe to save journalism you need to kill the article. Instead, news from Circa is arranged on digital flash cards you page through on your mobile phone. “Stories” are simply facts strung together across these cards, and most of those facts link to a third party original source.

The art of creating a good Circa piece is in finding news and piecing it together, but there is no writing, per se. There is no analysis and there is no reporting either. Galligan’s view is there’s too much of that in the world. It’s original work in that the “stories” are written by Circa’s newsroom of about a dozen people, but the facts are all aggregated from elsewhere. There are no bylines, which isn’t a big surprise since the innovation here is sucking much of the reporting and writing out of journalism.

Storytelling in 140 characters
Convincing people that an issue is important is hard work. Harder still is the job of informing those who are interested. Such are the difficulties facing @NMSyria, a Syrian activist who spends his days tweeting on the civil war in his country, which is entering its nineteenth month this week.
But he’s done something very interesting lately — he’s remixing a human rights report by Save the Children containing stories of children and families affected by wartime violence. He’s taking quotes by those featured in the report and tweeting them as short stories. One example can be found above, and many more are posted in his feed.
I had a conversation with him on Facebook, where we agreed that Twitter is a difficult platform to advocate anything that’s unfamiliar:

What can I say, sometimes it’s like I’m writing for the benefit of myself more than others
Message of Syrian refugees doesn’t spread farther than our ‘twitter group”

It’s not that it’s an echo chamber. I think it’s a contextual issue. People who aren’t interested now would be, I bet, if they were led to the right kinds and amounts of information necessary to convince them they aren’t being misinformed or duped.
I’m thinking about this Jeff Jarvis article, which suggests we stop relying on articles in favor of more versatile, moveable content. I’m also thinking about how journalists and advocates need to think about how to repackage and rewrite for different platforms. And finally, I’m thinking about this Guardian roundup and roundups in general — their role in introducing topics and keeping people updated. - Blake

Storytelling in 140 characters

Convincing people that an issue is important is hard work. Harder still is the job of informing those who are interested. Such are the difficulties facing @NMSyria, a Syrian activist who spends his days tweeting on the civil war in his country, which is entering its nineteenth month this week.

But he’s done something very interesting lately — he’s remixing a human rights report by Save the Children containing stories of children and families affected by wartime violence. He’s taking quotes by those featured in the report and tweeting them as short stories. One example can be found above, and many more are posted in his feed.

I had a conversation with him on Facebook, where we agreed that Twitter is a difficult platform to advocate anything that’s unfamiliar:

What can I say, sometimes it’s like I’m writing for the benefit of myself more than others

Message of Syrian refugees doesn’t spread farther than our ‘twitter group”

It’s not that it’s an echo chamber. I think it’s a contextual issue. People who aren’t interested now would be, I bet, if they were led to the right kinds and amounts of information necessary to convince them they aren’t being misinformed or duped.

I’m thinking about this Jeff Jarvis article, which suggests we stop relying on articles in favor of more versatile, moveable content. I’m also thinking about how journalists and advocates need to think about how to repackage and rewrite for different platforms. And finally, I’m thinking about this Guardian roundup and roundups in general — their role in introducing topics and keeping people updated. - Blake

Our talk with Benji and Matt
We emailed the Guardian’s Benji Lanyado about a new project he and Matt Andrews have been working on called Top 5 News, which lists the most popular articles by the most popular news orgs in the US and UK. Here’s what we talked about, short and simple:FJP (Blake): What is Top 5 News and how did it come together?
Benji: top5news.net (and its British cousin top5news.co.uk) pulls from a number of different news sites, displaying their most popular pieces of content every 15 minutes. We wanted it to be a snapshot of what people are actually reading, rather than the latest news, or editor’s choices. To some extent, it’s an automated Drudge Report. 



FJP (Blake): How does it work? What was used to make it work?
Matt: The site is a fairly customised use of the PHP framework CodeIgniter. It goes off to fetch the page HTML of the source websites every 15 minutes and scans through the code for the relevant links. We store an archive of links as well as the most recent ones so that over time we can attempt some data visualisation to show trends and spikes. Finally, on the front end we use CSS3 media queries to give the site a responsive design so it works well on mobile too.
FJP (Blake): Is it “just” an experiment or is it something you plan to build off of?
Benji: For now, it’s a minimum viable product… we want to see how popular the idea is, and gather as much feedback as possible. After that… who knows.
FJP (Blake): Besides that, your work at the Guardian and all your interactive traveling (a la Kerouapp) is very cool. Any plans to expand upon this previous work?
Benji: Yeah, it was a lot of fun working on Kerouapp, and its been great to see Jon Henley, one of the Guardian’s feature writers, using it for his trips across Europe. It’s also been used by the BBC and Time Out, which is great. I’m actually travelling a lot less these days, but would love to see other news organisations use the tool and run with it.
FJP (Blake): Please tell me about any other plans you might have, and what you’d like to do in the near/distant future.
Benji: I’m very keen to keep working on projects like this with developers, both inside the Guardian and outside it. I’m actually starting an intensive front end development course myself in a few weeks, so I can potentially knock together prototypes myself in the near future. I think basic programming skills are going to become an essential skill for future journalists.
Photo: The Guardian.

Our talk with Benji and Matt

We emailed the Guardian’s Benji Lanyado about a new project he and Matt Andrews have been working on called Top 5 News, which lists the most popular articles by the most popular news orgs in the US and UK. Here’s what we talked about, short and simple:

FJP (Blake): What is Top 5 News and how did it come together?

Benji: top5news.net (and its British cousin top5news.co.uk) pulls from a number of different news sites, displaying their most popular pieces of content every 15 minutes. We wanted it to be a snapshot of what people are actually reading, rather than the latest news, or editor’s choices. To some extent, it’s an automated Drudge Report. 

FJP (Blake): How does it work? What was used to make it work?

Matt: The site is a fairly customised use of the PHP framework CodeIgniter. It goes off to fetch the page HTML of the source websites every 15 minutes and scans through the code for the relevant links. We store an archive of links as well as the most recent ones so that over time we can attempt some data visualisation to show trends and spikes. Finally, on the front end we use CSS3 media queries to give the site a responsive design so it works well on mobile too.

FJP (Blake): Is it “just” an experiment or is it something you plan to build off of?

Benji: For now, it’s a minimum viable product… we want to see how popular the idea is, and gather as much feedback as possible. After that… who knows.

FJP (Blake): Besides that, your work at the Guardian and all your interactive traveling (a la Kerouapp) is very cool. Any plans to expand upon this previous work?

Benji: Yeah, it was a lot of fun working on Kerouapp, and its been great to see Jon Henley, one of the Guardian’s feature writers, using it for his trips across Europe. It’s also been used by the BBC and Time Out, which is great. I’m actually travelling a lot less these days, but would love to see other news organisations use the tool and run with it.

FJP (Blake): Please tell me about any other plans you might have, and what you’d like to do in the near/distant future.

Benji: I’m very keen to keep working on projects like this with developers, both inside the Guardian and outside it. I’m actually starting an intensive front end development course myself in a few weeks, so I can potentially knock together prototypes myself in the near future. I think basic programming skills are going to become an essential skill for future journalists.

Photo: The Guardian.

The Ethics of Linking II: In Which We Weigh In on the Curator’s Code.
In a previous post, the Ethics of Linking, I discussed news organizations’ linking obligations. For example, when reporting a story, should organizations have to say who first broke the news? A hat tip is always polite, but don’t overwhelm your reader with links they don’t need to click-through.
The debate continues its way to the blogosphere and at SXSW Interactive festival, nestled itself upon the roundtables of curators and aggregators. David Carr reports on two new efforts to standardize digital content aggregation. The first, spearheaded by Simon Dumenco, along with reps from key digital publications, is a Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation. The second is Maria Popova and Kelli Anderson’s latest project: The Curator’s Code, which offers two unicode characters for attribution (ᔥ means “via”, ↬ means “hat tip”) that are easily pluggable in a post through a bookmarklet.
Yesterday, Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, argued that codifying “via” links is confusing and misguided. He writes:

That’s how I feel about links in general: the source author creates something worth linking to, and the rest of us can link as we see fit, regardless of how we found it. The proper place for ethics and codes is in ensuring that a reasonable number of people go to the source instead of just reading your rehash. (via Marco.org)

Marco thinks in-line links are sort of useless, because no one really clicks on them anyway. Agreed. 
My personal take: Through my time at FJP and around tumblr, I’ve learned to credit a source with an in-line link if it’s not totally necessary to click on it and I’m definitely summarizing the key/relevant point in my post. After quotes or extended paraphrasing, I’ll stick in a via link. For thumbs-up to an organization or reporter that really deserves credit for starting up a conversation, I’ll stick in a hat tip. It would be great if symbols were standardized for these purposes, but at the moment, they do seem confusing and as much as I love bookmarklets, my collection is getting a little too big. 
In the spirit of helping internet journalism toward a clear and healthy future, at the FJP, we’re all for transparent links, complete with the letters “via” or “h/t”. 
Michael weighs in:

It’s not just a matter of giving transparent credit where credit is due. Transparent linking, and clearly spelling out to our readers where we’re getting our ideas from, is part of a larger effort to expose our audience to valuable primary sources that they may not know about and will hopefully begin to include in their future media diet.

To that I’ll add one thought. Credit and clarity aren’t simply the ingredients of good internet etiquette; rather, they are a means of adding value to our internet expeditions, and for journalism to continue to be a public service in the digital era, it might help to think of a blogger’s linking style as yet another tool that can reveal (or hide) much, and thus be harnessed for good communication.  - Jihii
Image: Screenshots from the FJP Tumblr

The Ethics of Linking II: In Which We Weigh In on the Curator’s Code.

In a previous post, the Ethics of Linking, I discussed news organizations’ linking obligations. For example, when reporting a story, should organizations have to say who first broke the news? A hat tip is always polite, but don’t overwhelm your reader with links they don’t need to click-through.

The debate continues its way to the blogosphere and at SXSW Interactive festival, nestled itself upon the roundtables of curators and aggregators. David Carr reports on two new efforts to standardize digital content aggregation. The first, spearheaded by Simon Dumenco, along with reps from key digital publications, is a Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation. The second is Maria Popova and Kelli Anderson’s latest project: The Curator’s Code, which offers two unicode characters for attribution (ᔥ means “via”, ↬ means “hat tip”) that are easily pluggable in a post through a bookmarklet.

Yesterday, Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, argued that codifying “via” links is confusing and misguided. He writes:

That’s how I feel about links in general: the source author creates something worth linking to, and the rest of us can link as we see fit, regardless of how we found it. The proper place for ethics and codes is in ensuring that a reasonable number of people go to the source instead of just reading your rehash. (via Marco.org)

Marco thinks in-line links are sort of useless, because no one really clicks on them anyway. Agreed.

My personal take: Through my time at FJP and around tumblr, I’ve learned to credit a source with an in-line link if it’s not totally necessary to click on it and I’m definitely summarizing the key/relevant point in my post. After quotes or extended paraphrasing, I’ll stick in a via link. For thumbs-up to an organization or reporter that really deserves credit for starting up a conversation, I’ll stick in a hat tip. It would be great if symbols were standardized for these purposes, but at the moment, they do seem confusing and as much as I love bookmarklets, my collection is getting a little too big.

In the spirit of helping internet journalism toward a clear and healthy future, at the FJP, we’re all for transparent links, complete with the letters “via” or “h/t”.

Michael weighs in:

It’s not just a matter of giving transparent credit where credit is due. Transparent linking, and clearly spelling out to our readers where we’re getting our ideas from, is part of a larger effort to expose our audience to valuable primary sources that they may not know about and will hopefully begin to include in their future media diet.

To that I’ll add one thought. Credit and clarity aren’t simply the ingredients of good internet etiquette; rather, they are a means of adding value to our internet expeditions, and for journalism to continue to be a public service in the digital era, it might help to think of a blogger’s linking style as yet another tool that can reveal (or hide) much, and thus be harnessed for good communication.  - Jihii

Image: Screenshots from the FJP Tumblr

'Huffington Post' Employee Sucked Into Aggregation Turbine
Horrified Workers Watch As Colleague Torn Apart By Powerful Content-Gathering Engine.
Via The Onion.

'Huffington Post' Employee Sucked Into Aggregation Turbine

Horrified Workers Watch As Colleague Torn Apart By Powerful Content-Gathering Engine.

Via The Onion.

Google News automation fail of the day week month ever.
For the unfortunate story, see here.

Google News automation fail of the day week month ever.

For the unfortunate story, see here.

That the presidency ages people quickly is well documented. In a recent CNN article, Dr. Michael Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic says presidents age twice as fast while in office.
What’s new, as Google’s automated news algorithm illustrates here, is that the presidency also appears to be able to turn a black man into a white man.
Learning something new every day.

That the presidency ages people quickly is well documented. In a recent CNN article, Dr. Michael Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic says presidents age twice as fast while in office.

What’s new, as Google’s automated news algorithm illustrates here, is that the presidency also appears to be able to turn a black man into a white man.

Learning something new every day.

When Does Curation Become Suspendible Aggregation?

Despite its recent hiring spree, the Huffington Post’s bread and butter is content curation. Their rationale to those creating the original is that they’re driving traffic back to the source so it’s actually win-win all around.

Yesterday, Ad Age’s Simon Dumenco took exception to that, writing that what’s really going on is isn’t so much fair use as unethical aggregation

As an example, he looks at the traffic stats for an article he wrote that the HuffPo later picked up. End result, 57 new page views from people clicking through from the HuffPo piece to the Ad Age piece. By comparison, Techmeme drove over 750 page views.

Ender result: Hufffington Post suspends writer, apologizes for over-aggregated post.

In a letter from Peter S. Goodman, Executive Business Editor of AOL Huffington Post Media Group, to Dumenco, Goodman writes:

We have made a very substantial investment in original reporting here, bringing in dozens of new writers in recent months. And while we will continue to curate the news for our audience, what occurred in this instance is entirely unacceptable and collides directly with the values that are at work in our newsroom. We have zero tolerance for this sort of conduct. Given that, the writer of the offending post has been suspended indefinitely.

More broadly, your complaint has prompted us to redouble our efforts to make sure our reporters and editors understand that this sort of thing is unambiguously unacceptable.

You think?

Update: via SoupSoup, Dumenco Writes Back:

I have to say, though, that I’m disheartened by your decision to indefinitely suspend the writer who “over-aggregated” (in the words of Steve Myers at the Poynter Institute’s Romenesko blog) my post at AdAge.com. I’m certainly not alone in feeling this way. I imagine that, like me, you’ve been reading the reactions that have been rippling across the media blogosphere, and you’re finding that there’s general unanimity that HuffPo is singling out — indeed, scapegoating — a young writer for engaging in a style of aggregration long practiced, condoned and encouraged by Huffington Post editorial management.

A big part of the reason he is such an effective aggregator for both audiences and news sites is that he actually acts like one. Behemoth aggregators like Yahoo News and The Huffington Post have become more like fun houses that are easy to get into and tough to get out of. Most of the time, the summary of an article is all people want, and surfers don’t bother to click on the link. But on The Drudge Report, there is just a delicious but bare-bones headline, there for the clicking. It’s the opposite of sticky, which means his links actually kick up significant traffic for other sites.
David Carr of The New York Times on how the Drudge Report has remained one of the most powerful drivers of referral traffic to news outlets for more than 14 years.