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Unbounded journalism: Ushahidi as news platform

Ushahidi is a platform for sharing and curating live information on a map. Since I wrote about it last year I’ve been fascinated by it for lots of reasons (not least the “swift river” approach to finding useful information amid a stream of irrelevant noise and echoes).

In this article and video from Nieman Lab, Patrick Meier, Ushahidi’s director of crisis mapping and strategic partnerships, discusses the platform’s potential uses for journalism. It’s worth a read in full, especially his ideas about a citizen volunteer app for smartphones, but it was this account of the use of Ushahidiby Al-Jazeera news network during the Gaza conflict that stood out for me:

What was also really interesting is that they did both bounded and unbounded crowdsourcing — which is sort of my own terms, so maybe I should explain. “Unbounded crowdsourcing” is what we are familiar with: the idea of opening up a platform to the world, and letting the world contribute. “Bounded crowdsourcing” is when you have a specific network of individuals who are doing the reporting. So it’s a known, trusted network of individuals.

So what they did is they had their own journalists on the ground, who were texting and tweeting live to the map, but they also opened it up to other residents — people in Gaza — to also submit information. And that combination, I thought, was really, really interesting. Because what you can then start doing is, even though you don’t necessarily know whether the crowd is trustworthy, or individuals in the crowd are trustworthy — if some of these individuals start also reporting the same event that the journalists are reporting, then you know they might actually be more trustworthy. And so it creates this kind of digital trace, or like a shadow of history, if you want, that allows you to start identifying which individuals in the crowd may actually be trustworthy. And you can sort of assign them a higher credibility score. So I’d love to see that happen again.

Read the rest of the post at niemanlab.org

Patrick Meier on media use of Ushahidi from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

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Stealth social magazine: Flipboard

One thing that struck me of the first wave of publishers’ iPad apps was that while they were very pretty, the NewsRack RSS reader I downloaded trumped all of them for usefulness. The posts came with embedded videos and images, looked great and I could choose to share them to Delicious, email, Instapaper, Twitter and Facebook among others.

Pulse soon followed as an interesting play, presenting stories from different sources as a beautiful stream of images (and caught flak from the New York Times, which accused it of misusing its content).

Now we’re presented with Flipboard, a ‘”stealth” social magazine’ according to the Wall Street Journal’s Kara Swisher.

Essentially, Flipboard pulls information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook data streams and then reassembles it in an easy-to-navigate, personalized format in a mobile tablet touchscreen environment.

In this social magazine, there are pull quotes, photos, videos, status updates and even the first paragraphs of content linked out to. There is also the ability to comment and share, as if one were on Twitter or Facebook.

I’ll certainly be downloading it to try out (it’s free on iTunes). With backers like Jack Dorsey and Kleiner Perkins it looks like a serious contender as a new format for tablet computers….

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Top Secret America

WaPo’s survey of US intelligence services was a big undertaking and they are making the most of it on this website. Check out the video, and useful map / data visulation to illustrate the story.

As @techpresident points out, they even bought their own domain name.

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