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Featured Interactive Storytelling Journalism Live Web Notes

Making the web more live

CNN Breaking News
The web is becoming a more live medium, the medium itself isn’t changing it is how we publish to it. I think the ‘live web’ is the most exiting development since the rise of social networks. You write a Twitter notification on your mobile phone, post a picture to the web or stream a live video with Qik or Seesmic. Often recording is publishing.

When you write a blog or create a podcast your entry has context in itself. It has a start and it ends. Most postings on micro blogs don’t have context in the messages. The context is in the stream or in time. For example Twitter messages often make sense in your personal timeline or in the conversation within your personal network.

Twitter and Qik are just the first services. Realtime platform independent micro services, that distribute contextless fragments of information are here to stay.

This sense of a ‘live medium’ is something that is changing the web as it is and how we use it. It will change search, or at least sorting search results and it will change reporting news.

A service like Twitter makes news travel fast. This makes it the #1 breaking news source for a lot of people. Why? Because it is reporting as it is happening. It isn’t always right, but it is reporting, open for conversation and correcting itself. It is live coverage and it is a storytelling experience.

News on the web is presented like news on paper. This is good since text on the web is – apart from certain screen specific style rules – the same as on paper. An article is written, checked and published.

Spreading the news
These services like Twitter are making reporting news a more public process. For example if something happens the first people who notice are there when it happens. Uploading messages, pictures and video, to a personal community or group of friends.

With Twitter people start repeating (or retweeting) messages distributing the news among followers and informing a very large audience within minutes. This is the signaling part. It’s not about being a citizen journalist. It is about telling your friends what you are doing, or what you are seeing.

The signal reaches the audience at the same time it reaches the journalist. A journalist has to check the story, is it true? Should I publish about this or wait until it is checked? The reader is expecting that his favorite news website knows more about it and visits the website after hearing about the news. Often resulting in a bad user experience, since there is nothing on the news website about the subject.

What is the role of journalists and media in this? Should they directly report serious rumors? Should they check for more sources. I don’t know. It has to be somewhere in the middle I think. A situation where journalists are producing with updated versions.

CNN
I think CNN is giving this a very prominent place on the CNN website. Maybe because they are from television and reporting breaking news is what they are good at. They are using storytelling mechanisms on the website. Reporting what is happening right now, and directly updating it when the story turns out to be something different.

These are the breaking news messages CNN showed last week. I heard the news about Hillary ending her campaign through Twitter and CNN was one of the few news websites with the news on it.
CNN before
CNN message before

CNN after
CNN message after

Your thoughts
What are your thoughts about this? When should news be published on a web site and should we adapt the design of news sites to make space for a more storytelling ‘as-it-is-happening’ approach? Or does this make news websites vulnerable for misinforming the audience?

This blog post was published on the Online Journalism Blog

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Experiments Featured Interactive Storytelling Journalism Live Web Mobile Music Notes Projects The Social Web

Experimenting with live festival coverage at the Urban Explorers festival

Screenshot Eclectro Live

This weekend the Urban Explorers festival is organized in the city of Dordrecht, Netherlands. It’s a three day city-festival about art and electronic music. The main acts for this year are by Plaid and Murcof. It’s a small festival with a very good atmosphere and lovely people.

Eclectro is a festival partner and we (a few Eclectro bloggers) will be covering the event on the Eclectro blog by writing reviews, doing interviews, making photos and videos as the festival happens. And we have some other exiting plans.

This is great, but not something we haven’t done before. We report while we are there. This time we want to take it a step further and make the coverage more personal. Urban Explorers is a small, diverse and very distributed festival. This makes it difficult to ask or explain visitors to contribute to the live coverage by using a mobile phone. This year we will try to make visible how we experience the festival.

Making it personal
For me Twitter was the first service that made the web more interesting as a live medium. Blogs are good for a recap, but microblogs can really give you a better live experience and it’s a more social and more personal experience. There often isn’t much value in the individual messages it’s the collection that builds a story and a character.

So this is what we want to do for the festival as well. We will also be reporting about where we are, packing my bag, how we sleep, what we are doing, what we are eating and who we are talking to. Short talks, photos and video interviews. All the small pieces of information aggregated in one spot.

The problem with building aggregators is that it often ends up in something that is difficult to follow for outsiders or people unfamiliar with the technology. We (Inge, Renier and myself) try to make it personal. And this weekend I’ve been making a website that just does that. I used WordPress Prologue, a theme that is based on Twitter and took out even more options like tags and feeds to make it look clean and simple.

The Eclectro Urban Explorers 2008 festival microblog: www.eclectro.nl/live

The secret is in the back-end
The power of WordPress is that is has a xmlrpc back-end. This is a secure gate that makes it possible for other websites like YouTube or Flickr to talk directly to WordPress, like you wrote the message on the blog. Ad some extra open source plug-ins to WordPress and you have an incredible powerful system that is an aggregated channel centralizing information from distributed web-services.

Flickr
Post from Flickr to a WordPress blog

YouTube
Or from YouTube to a WordPress blog

Seesmic in WordPress
Or record a Seesmic video in your WordPress blog


Last weekend I first played with Seesmic and I really like what it does. The videoplayer could use some enhancement, but the WordPress plug-in is a bless. You enter the WordPress admin section, click on the Seesmic logo in a new post and can directly start recording a video using your webcam. When done, all you have to do is hit publish in WordPress and you have just written a new blog post including a video.

Keep it simple
We can easily post to the website using mobile phones, laptops, webcams and websites like Flickr, YouTube, Mobypicture, Twitter, and Seesmic. Everything is automatically collected on the microblog and connected to our user accounts, connecting our names and avatars to the messages published.

The orange box
Authors see an orange box on the front page, this makes it easy to directly write a message when visiting the website.

Will it work?
All these enhancements make it easy to read for visitors and easy to maintain for us while we are busy at the festival. We have a few more days to finish it, but I think we made a great tool. This weekend we will see if it works.

I’m very exited to play with this.

You can join the festival coverage as well. Use UE08 in your Twitter updates and they will show up in the stream, or post an image to Flickr with the tag UE08 and it will automatically show up in the header of the website.

Your ideas and thoughts are very welcome. How can we make it more personal or more clear? What would you like to see or what is difficult to understand? And do you know other great (web)services that could be integrated?