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Archive for the ‘social media’ Category

Brijit on The American Scene

In brijit, social media on Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 8:22

Reihan Salam, whom I first met in the days just before Brijit launched to friends and family last summer, is going to make me blush. This wasn’t enough to keep me from sharing his post, of course. Any introductions you want to make would be much appreciated, Reihan. And thanks for the kinds words.

To the point that we should re-launch the site without the writer payment component, I think it’s safe to say that when (if?) Brijit comes through on the other side of this challenging time, I’d expect our editorial compensation structure to be, well, different. This jives with the vast majority of the feedback we’ve been receiving, from Brijiteers and others. Exactly what that looks like is still a work in progress.

I headed up 95 from DC this morning to attend the second day of the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association’s annual Capital Connection event. Brijit wouldn’t be a good fit for most of the investors here even under the best circumstances. Nonetheless, there are a handful of potential investors and strategic partners that I’m hoping to see today.

Digg for the Rest of Us

In brijit, editorial, publishing, social media on Wednesday, 16 April 2008 at 11:17

As a user, I find Digg worthless. Whew. It feels so good to say it out loud!

Of course, as the CEO of a small-but-growing online media company, I’d give my left pinky toe for Digg’s traffic. But I don’t find the site helpful, and I’d be reluctant to put my name on its virtual masthead, because so much of what floats to the top of Digg is, well, crap like this.

This isn’t me being an elitist, mind you. I love Digg in theory (communism works in theory, right?); the idea of a community of individuals working independently to promote great content is actually near and dear to my heart. But in practice, Digg as it’s currently constituted is no meaningful filter – it’s little more than a sieve. Sure, you’ll find an occasional gold nugget – but you’ll spend hours in hip waders with your hands in the muck trying to find it. And the irony is that the bigger Digg gets, the less valuable it becomes, because more and more muck is being poured into the system.

This reality means Digg is part of the information overload problem, not part of the solution. The signal-to-noise ratio has deteriorated to the point that the filter needs a filter. And doesn’t that defeat the purpose? I mean, who’s got the time?

As it turns out, we do. At noon Eastern today, Brijit will begin covering Digg. Digg, you ask? Alongside the New Yorker and This American Life and The Daily Show and Pitchfork? You bet. There’s great content there, and in the context of Brijit, we think Digg can be a valuable resource for the rest of us, busy people without the time or the inclination to go story-fishing in an ocean of crap.

Brijit takes Digg’s most popular, pulls out the most interesting and substantial items, and sets our community of smart readers, writers, and editors to work boiling them down to 100 words or fewer. And while we’ll credit that we found it in Digg, every abstract links back to the original source, to save you time.

We’re also adding coverage of YouTube and Techmeme today, for different reasons. YouTube has a high clutter factor, too, but it’s search-driven in a way that Digg isn’t, which makes for a better experience for the casual user – you dive in, find what you’re looking for, and hop out. Here the Brijit abstract serves more of a serendipity and discovery function for people with neither the time nor the inclination to visit YouTube every day. As for Techmeme, it’s a pretty terrific algorithmic filter, valuable in almost every way, and we think that a wider audience of non-tech folks would appreciate some of what bubbles up there each day, in a shorter format.

So there you have it. Brijit is covering Digg, YouTube, and Techmeme, so busy people don’t have to work so hard. We hope you’ll let us know what you think.

Respect Your Librarian. But Feel Free To Google.

In brijit, publishing, social media on Wednesday, 2 April 2008 at 14:51

I spoke at a gathering of librarians last week. Thanks to Jill O’Neill at the National Federation of Advanced Information Services (NFAIS) for including me. The 50-year-old organization “for groups that aggregate, organize and facilitate access to information” was hosting a one-day forum on The Future of Bibliographic Control, and wanted Brijit there to talk about user-generated content. I’m always happy to introduce Brijit to a new audience, and with Philadelphia only a quick Amtrak ride away, I was glad to do it.

The other speaker on user-generated content was Susan Chun, the founder of Steve, the art museum social tagging project. Susan has set out to make museum collections more accessible by creating a tool that allows professionals, enthusiasts, and laypeople alike to tag items in more mainstream, less technical ways. Kind of a for museums. Love it.

She pegged her talk around an email she’d seen while working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. After hearing the story, it’s hard to imagine anyone questioning the value of collaborative, consumer-focused tagging, especially to institutions with large collections.

The author of the email in question was trying to locate a specific painting. He could describe what it looked like in some detail: a “renaissance” painting with an “hourglass” on a “table” in front of a “man.” But the author knew neither the artist’s name nor the title of the painting. And despite the fact that the Met had a terrific academic record of the painting, replete with provenance going back more than a century, Susan was only able to locate it by asking around among the experts she knew in the museum. Tag it with terms people use, and finding this painting is a cinch. Tag it exclusively with traditional bibliographic information, and it remains hidden.

Project Steve and Brijit are attacking different problems in different ways, but the overarching philosophy is the same. Give people the ability to collaborate and be creative within a structured environment, stand back, and watch the magic happen. My presentation on the hybrid editorial model (slides here soon) highlighted this point.

As I told the NFAIS audience, I know practically nothing about what they were discussing most of the day. I’m no expert on the library-publisher supply chain. I’m unfamiliar with the alphabet soup of industry organizations and projects, from NISO and UKSG‘s KBART working group to the OCLC or the EEBO. And I’m not at all interested in whether a particular document is considered a monograph or a serial. And neither is (almost) anybody else.

We’re lucky to have librarians and systems that have put us on a firm curatorial footing for generations. But they have to negotiate legacy systems in a way that we Web-native organizations don’t. I don’t envy the task of trying to shoehorn modern content creation and distribution into standards of a bygone era.

One of the other presenters talked of her frustration with a colleague who lamented the fact that people check Google before the library’s own catalog system. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

The metadata of ISSN X, volume this, page that, is not meaningful to the vast majority of people. Metadata at Brijit means the basics of how most people want their content in an increasingly online, mobile world: title, author, source, date, and TAGS. On an article by article basis. And everything with a link back to the underlying material (where available), so that you can go right to it. We’ve built Brijit to dovetail with consumer behavior, not fight it. It’s a search-driven, link-based, short-form world, and we’re just living (and working) in it.

At What Point Does News Break Too Fast?

In publishing, social media on Monday, 17 March 2008 at 22:27

Scott Karp has an interesting and thoughtful post up on the coverage of the Bear Stearns collapse. He uses the fast-moving story (breaking on a Sunday, no less!) to highlight the advantages of the Web versus print for breaking news. But while I agree with most of what Scott has to say in his post, he loses me here:

“The problem with following the Bear Stearns story on the web is that traditional news brand sites are too conflicted between serving print readers and serving web readers…”

Really? The New York Times homepage was updated throughout the day on Sunday and into Monday. And the paper, well, the paper published the most up to date stories it could given the realities deadlines of the daily miracle that is the big-city newspaper. What’s the problem exactly? Those of us who get our news on the Web got a constantly updated story, well reported and well told. And the folks for whom the paper remains a primary resource got EXACTLY what they expect to get.

According to Karp: “News … has a narrative, a story arc that it is often very instructive to follow. The New York Times has a wealth of reporting that covers a story as it unfolds — but the homepage is useless for looking at the story arc.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but (and I mean this literally) who cares?

We’re all familiar by now with the advantages of the Web versus print on a fast-moving story like this. Karp seems to be arguing that the traditional press — nastier folks than Scott would sneer derisively at the mainstream media — can’t get us there. But for the vast majority of people, the old-school media brands most certainly can, and do, get us there. To be clear, I’m certainly not suggesting that there isn’t a place for bloggers and crowdsourcing and all of the other terrific resources we have at our disposal for the gathering and disseminating information. Of course there is. But I believe that for most people, on the day, the volume, presentation, and speed of coverage of a story like Bear Stearns provided by the Times or the Wall Street Journal is ample. Anything more seems like drinking from a fire hose.

Of course, some people are really, really thirsty when it comes to news. I’d posit that there are basically two groups looking for more/better/faster: industry-types with some sort of direct vested interest in the outcome of the story, and information junkies. Now, are these groups worth catering to on news? You bet. Look no further than the mayor of New York City to know how lucrative it can be: Michael Bloomberg became a multi-billionaire on the back of providing breaking news on a specific topic (bond prices) to a specific audience (traders).

But for most of us, the minute-to-minute details of bond prices, or the Bear Stearns debacle for that matter, are more than we need. In the end, we want to know what’s happening, we want to trust the source, and we want to move on with our lives.

Brijit for Facebook Will Save You Time, Make You Smarter, and Earn You Money. Seriously.

In brijit, social media on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 16:43

I’ve tried really hard not to endlessly flack Brijit in this space. But today we’re introducing Brijit for Facebook, and I can’t help myself — it’s just really cool, and I hope you’ll indulge me.

My 100-word abstract:

Wish you had the time to read cover-to-cover or never miss an episode? So do we. At Brijit, we gather 100 great sources and boil them down to 100 words to save you time. Now Brijit for Facebook lets your friends be your guide to the world’s best content, as we make it easy to share what you’re reading, listening to, and watching. Find it on Brijit, and your friends can see it on Facebook. And if you want to write for fun or profit, Brijit will even pay you $5 or more every time we publish one of your abstracts. It’s that simple.

Kudos to Benjamin Dorr, Allan Chan, Brent Thorington and Richard Ponton for bringing Brijit for Facebook to life. They’ve done some pretty interesting and innovative things here.

EASY SHARING INTEGRATED BEYOND FACEBOOK — For starters, Brijit for Facebook is one of the relatively few applications that’s robustly integrated with a site outside of Facebook. Once you’ve opted in, your reading on Brijit leads seamlessly and directly to recommendations on Facebook. There are no additional steps. No share buttons to press. No comments to tack on. If you read it on Brijit, your friends can see it on Brijit for Facebook. And if they read it, you can see it — it’s a mutual-recommendation tool that requires practically no effort.

A TIME-SAVER, NOT A TIME-SUCK — From SuperPoke to Scrabulous, the vast majority of Facebook applications, fun though they may be, are for wasting time. Brijit for Facebook is all about giving you your time back. We’re 100 percent committed to developing the best possible interface for dealing handling hundreds of sources and thousands of subjects. Today’s release is our first shout at it; additional customization is coming. We also think we’re on the early side of the maturation-of-Facebook trend with an efficient, easy-to-use service that takes full advantage of all of social media’s best traits.

A WAY TO GET PAID — We’re not familiar with too many Facebook apps that actually enable you to earn money easily, but Brijit for Facebook does just that. Users are just one click away from claiming any assignment they want to abstract. Facebook users now have easy access to the Brijit writers area, where they can earn $5 or more for every abstract they write that we publish. And of course, they can show off what they write for their friends with no further effort.

In the end, we think of Brijit for Facebook as an extension of everything we’re doing at Brijit. On Brijit for Facebook, your friends become your well-read friends, and everyone gets just a little bit smarter. We hope you’ll check it out, share it with your friends, and let us know what you think.

Whither the Wisdom of Crowds? Of course not.

In brijit, editorial, publishing, social media on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 at 14:53

I never thought I’d write these words: Thank you, Commander Taco.

CmdrTaco is the screen name of Rob Malda, the 31-year-old founder of Slashdot, for the uninitiated (i.e. most of us), is a pioneering technology news community, a self-styled “News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters.” site.

So why the shout out? Yesterday Brad Stone wrote in the New York Times’ Bits blog that Malda’s skeptical of the mainstream value of Digg and other wisdom-of-crowds aggregations sites. Malda’s rationale, is, well, rational:

“I try not to paint Digg as my arch-nemesis. The Digg method and Digg community are a wider audience than Slashdot,” he said. “But with sites like Digg, it’s the wisdom of the crowds or the tyranny of the mob. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Put aside the dig at Digg, and CmdrTaco is reminding us that no single form of aggregation holds all the answers. Hence the shout-out here.

There’s extraordinary power in user-generation. From Amazon recommendations to sharing a la Digg or, the wisdom of crowds can be an incredible tool.

Of course there’s value in the algorithm. Google uses straight-up algorithm to put relevant information at our fingertips, and its worked out pretty well for them, and generally, for us.

And traditional top-down editorial control is excellent, too. Check out the Sports Illustrated or the Wall Street Journal or The Daily Show, and the value of professional, editorial control becomes pretty clear.

So why, in a world where we have such terrific aggregation options, would anyone settle for just one kind?

Well, more and more, we’re not. A host of companies, including Brijit, are making some variation of a hybrid production model part of their core businesses. We think that’s good news for lovers of great content.

Live From DC! Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Brijit!

In brijit, social media on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 12:41

I was interviewed yesterday by Nick O’Neill of Social Times.

If you’re interested in me, Brijit, or social media, you’ll probably find something valuable here.

When I was running Business Forward, my local DC business magazine, one of my favorite parts of the job was doing our monthly Twenty Questions interviews. There’s something extremely satisfying about conducting a good interview — the ebb and flow of it, getting the subject to enlighten and surprise. Giving a good interview is just as fun, and I have to admit, I think this one qualifies. I make a pretty good case for what we’re building at Brijit and why what we’re doing is important. I always have some trepidation about sitting down in front of the camera, but in this case I’m pretty pleased with the result. Nick, I hope you feel good about it, too.

Take Your Data and Run Like Hell?

In social media on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 16:54

Not likely. But big news today that’s likely to shape the social networking infrastructure to come.

From Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb:

The DataPortability Workgroup announced this morning that representatives from both Google and Facebook are joining its ranks. The group is working on a variety of projects to foster an era of Data Portability – where users can take their data from the websites they use to reuse elsewhere and where vendors can leverage safe cross-site data exchange for a whole new level of innovation. Good bye customer lock-in, hello to new privacy challenges. If things go right, today could be a very important day in the history of the internet.”

I think Marshall’s absolutely right. So is TechCrunch’s Duncan Riley: “Today Facebook has taken the first step towards open standards and data portability, and despite those previous gripes they should be congratulated for it.”

But if 08 Jan 08 is a day to remember, should we expect to see a stampede of Facebook users ditch the service for greener social media pastures? I doubt it.

If indeed the big guys walk the walk they’re talking — a big if — the real impact of today’s announcement will be a dramatic increase in the number of people behaving socially. Think of all those Yahoo! Mail and Gmail users seamlessly making their contacts the center for their social own social experiences, many (if not most) for the very first time. All the Facebook-mania aside, social media is just getting warmed up, and it’s an exciting time for everyone.

But even if Facebook comes through and opens the garden, I wouldn’t expect anything resembling a flight of users. Facebook became Facebook in no small part by delivering a great user experience, and so long as it continues to make people happy, people will flock to it, data potability or not.