This week Google launched their new Google Living Stories, a collaborative project with the New York Times and the Washington Post. Google Living Stories is yet another fresh idea in online journalism of what I here will temporarily refer to as "Manual Data Enhancement" -- a concept we here at Networked Newsroom has a deep interest in and has been pursuing and pondering over the past months.
To my understanding, Google Living Stories shows current trending topics in "bundles" like a bookstore would bundle used books on the same topic, or a newspaper archive room would index every single stories with a few keywords. The search engine looks for topics and hitwords, for example, "health care debate" from the newspaper's website, and then complete a complex data-mining process of each article associated with the said topic. It splits each webpage into different categories -- image, quotes, people, events, video, etc and at the same presents them in a timeline. Google Living Stories in no doubt opens up a new, multi-dimensional news-viewing experience. It seems like it is successfully integrating the "browsing" experience of reading a newspaper and the "searching" experience of only looking for what you want into a single operating system.
However, what's more stressing to me is not innovation of technology, but the very nature of this collaboration with traditional newspapers. The curious part of the project is that the papers "hand-picked" certain topics for the readers. Current the topics picked by the two newspapers include health care, the war in Afganistan, global warming, among others. It's interesting that this overall deliberation and manual data enhancement helped limited dataset for this project and structured it as a concept beyond the already familiar techniques of grabbing RSS feeds of a set search term or a Twitter-bot like, keyword based data-mining process.
Google Living Stories is a post news production platform, but it's related to ideas about newsroom structures that I have been looking into. It is, somewhat conceptually similar to Daily Kos's Daily Rescue program, which handpicks interesting stories from the blog's vast set of user-generated diaries and bundles them into a daily digest. What makes it more interesting is that the process itself is self-sufficiently moderated by volunteering users. The Daily Rescue program's ideal is similar to Networked Newsroom's ideal, that a web platform can help to edit and enhance data self-sufficiently and then push the data to the front end of publishing.
"Networked Newsroom" is a project about enhancing the quality and functionality of digital community journalism. Our goal is to understand and evaluate the current status of newsroom experience and explore the role of a virtual newsroom in the process of community news production. In my next a few posts I'll be sharing stories from a few citizen journalists I've been in contact with and try to address the successes and obstacles they have met in their working experiences.
--Our Twitter is @netnewsroom, where we'll be updating our project progress, and in the meantime, we'll also be aggregating news about developments in the field of online journalism, innovative concepts in blogging and web news reporting, among other topics related to the future of newsroom on our Twitter feed.
--Also, check out our flickr acccout @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/netnewsroom/
--We will have a new web design @ http://networked-newsroom.org/ ready just in a few days.