CA Wildfires: Watershed Moment for Collaborative Online News?

Alex Miroshnichenko
Freelance photojournalist Alex Miroshnichenko is offering great fire coverage (and smart marketing of his skills) with Creative Commons-licensed photos on Flickr.

For the last few days at Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, I’ve been blogging examples of innovative ways that online media is being used to cover the Southern CA wildfires. It’s been astonishing. There have been cool efforts from mainstream news orgs like SignOn San Diego and the Los Angeles Times and even FOX News.

But also, regular people and even some government officials have been using blogs, forums, mapping tools, social media sites, citizen journalism sites like NowPublic, media-sharing services like Flickr, and even Twitter to share news, information, updates, and assistance.

Personally, I think this is shaping up to be a watershed moment for online news. This time, it all seems to be coming together in a new way.

In particular, the collaborative tone of this content that strikes me as significant: map mashups, databases, forums, photo groups, social media, Twitter updates… You can really get a direct sense of how people fit into this story, what they’re doing, and what they want or need. It’s personal, diverse, detailed, and comprehensive.

This is a whole different concept of “news.” It’s becoming a verb, something you DO — not just a noun (a thing that you passively receive)….

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Tutorials (and marketing) should NOT be boring!

If I haven’t said it before, I’m saying it now: CommonCraft’s video tutorials ROCK! This is a company whose “product is explanation.” They have a distinctive style that is uniquely charming and effective because they capitalize on making it look low-tech with paper cut-outs. Don’t let that fool you, they really know what they’re doing.

Even their latest Halloween message is a brilliant example of a well-executed, memorable, and effective tutorial: Zombies in Plain English

IMHO, it’s impossible not to love a tutorial that includes the subhead “Step 3: Kill the Undead”

Watch it all the way to the end. And watch out for those zombies!

links for 2007-10-25

At last, a really helpful use for Twitter!

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links for 2007-10-24

Jurvetson, via Flickr (CC license)
Services like Pay Per Post present a common ethical quandary for bloggers.
  • App request: embed link to pdfs
    I’m a happy Freshbooks user, except it lacks one feature I think is crucial: embedding or attaching pdf files to invoices. Freshbooks has an API, so I’ve posted a request for the kind of app I’d like to see to the developer forum. (tags: business services tools community)

links for 2007-10-23
The L.A. Times wildfire map shows updated info.

It’s a Conversation, Stupid! Video is online

Knight Digital Media Center
Me waving to the internet from the stage at USC.

As I mentioned earlier, on Oct. 1, I helped moderate an excellent panel discussion at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism in Los Angeles called It’s a Conversation, Stupid! Blogs, Wikis, Social Networking, UGC meet Journalism. This was part of an intriguing seminar at the Knight Digital Media Center called Journalism in a 24/7 World: Decision-making for the Online Editor, and my panel was offered in partnership with the Online News Association.

The video for this session is now online! You can watch the whole thing here. (Scroll down to the bottom of that page.)

Landlines: Artifact of the 20th century?

GivePeasAChance, via Flickr (CC license)
Blast from the past.

On one discussion group I belong to, the question recently came up about whether members of the group had abandoned “landline” telephones entirely in their homes.

Actually, right now I’m in the process of trying out a VOIP service — and if it works to my satisfaction for a few months, I’ll move my phone number over to it and ditch my landline. (And if I eventually find a mobile phone and carrier plan that suits me, I may abandon VOIP too.)

My colleague Gary Rosenzweig of CleverMedia made an interesting comment: “I’ve got a couple of young people working for me that have never owned a land line in their lives. They say none of their friends do either.”

Make sense. Why should they? It seems to me that the one advantage of a landline is that it works when the power goes out and the cells are down — as long as the whole phone system hasn’t crashed. But is that emergency capability worth paying $25-$30/month for? I don’t know about you, but I live in a fairly compact neighborhood where some of my neighbors are keeping their landlines and would let me make outgoing calls or give their number in an emergency. So I feel no need to keep a landline of my own for emergency communication.

And anyway, I figure if you’re serious about wanting emergency communication, get an amateur radio license.

What about you? Have you given up landlines? What about people you know? And does age seem to be a factor? Please comment below.

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Drew Clark discusses the Center for Public Integrity’s Well Connected project, which tracks players in telecom, media, and technology.

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The Onion
Life imitates art.