About 5 years ago, I had a brief conversation with a smart person. He said in "Web 2.0, Context is king." It sounded really smart at the time and kept rumbling around my head.
Recently there has been lots of buzz about newspapers getting people to pay for content. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the market for paid content is a very small niche, it keeps coming up again and again. The latest buzz was occasioned by Walter Issacson with his article at Time Magazine.
People have spoken. They will not pay for content on the web. No matter how smart the person who created that content is, or thinks he/she is. The NY Times, among many others tried it with their columnists. To the chagrin of some of the columnists, their words were judged not worth it.
There is an interesting discussion about the semantic web, over at the Next Newsroom Project.
John Cass started it by saying, in part
. . . One idea for the newsroom of tomorrow will be to use some of the online media mining tools developed for corporations to determine the stories that are of most interest to a community. The press would use monitoring tools to determine both what is developing, and what becomes relevant and important to the community, through, references, links and comments . . . it continues at the click.Later in the discussion, I said,
John,On the home page of the Next Newsroom, it says
I just wanted to share a notion about semantic tech. I think that in Web 2.3 , I think we're past web 2.0, it is context, not content that is king. The way I understand semantic tech might be seen as a way to automate context of an event. While that may happen in web 4.0, I don't think it works for the same reason that Search is still a very clumsy tool.
The functions trying to be automated are a journalist with a story to tell and an editor to make that story communicate to particular readers.
The error, IMHO, is the notion that the story emerges from the events. I think what really happens is that the journo has a story to tell and then fits in the events to tell that story. For example, the prevailing story about government is that it is wasteful, slow and stupid filled with self interested people. Most journalists for the last 10 years or so are telling that same story day after day after day.
The recent reporting on the Stimulus Package fits into the pattern. The process of making a law in this country and Politics in general is all about compromise. Yet the events that are happening are reported as the Republicans want to cut taxes, the Democrats want to laden it with pork. Obama has gone through his "honeymoon." Each event fits.
The election was told in the Liberal v Conservative story. Meanwhile, if one listened to his words, it was clear from day one that he is not a Liberal in any commonly understood sense of the word.
The news enterprise has three components. The one most amenable to automation is find out what happened. That's web 2.0. The next is using those events to tell a pre-existing story.
For years we've been told that a pre-existing story compromises objectivity. In fact it is only a pre-existing story that supplies context. The best journalists have pre-existing stories that are working hypotheses. They are the best because they are able to change their story when new events occur. Most journalists as most people assume a story and change them for various reasons, but not quickly upon finding new information.
From my limited understanding, one promise of the semantic web is to automate the context creating function. Long term it might work. Just as long term AI will get better and better. My take is that unique value add of a human being is the ability to Blink, in the sense that Gladwell uses the word.
If the semantic web is seen as a tool that allows the human to blink better, that makes sense. But if it is seen as a computer algorithm replacing a human's ability to have a resilient, but consistent story line, it's a solution that will have unintended consequences that are much worse than the problem it was meant to solve.
. . .there are six principles we believe all newsrooms should embrace:I would add, find and train people who have an interesting story that they are passionate about telling. Make sure that they have a native ability to change that story line upon the discovery of new facts. And make sure they have a great editor to transform the events imbeded into the story in a string of words that communicates to readers.
1. Place community at the center
2. Make innovation a priority
3. Publish to all platforms
4. Collaborate with others
5. Promote transparency
6. Create a sustainable business model