OWNI http://owni.fr News, Augmented Tue, 17 Sep 2013 12:04:49 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 fr hourly 1 Ebook: OWNI.eu’s best-of http://owni.fr/2010/12/27/european-ebook/ http://owni.fr/2010/12/27/european-ebook/#comments Mon, 27 Dec 2010 19:06:17 +0000 Federica Cocco http://owni.fr/?p=40336 “The Future is here, it is just not evenly distributed” – these famous words from William Gibson somewhat encapsulate the driving philosophy of digital media and of Owni in particular. We aim to scout out new cutting-edge ideas that find themselves buried underground (a phantomatic abode where alternative thinking broods indiscriminately) and ‘bring them to the masses’, so to speak. These masses have a particular identity: they’re European and they’re keen to communicate with each other.

Owni.eu is of course a young creature, launched in October, shortly before our sister site, Owni.fr, was awarded with an Online News Association prize for excellence in journalism. Despite its young age, Owni.eu has an ambitious aim: to be the first Europe-wide website focusing on digital culture, cyberactivism, journalism and politics. We feel our particular historical context is a fertile ground for the growth of an engaged pan-European civil society – but where that will take us, we are yet to find out. It’s one reason our name ‘Owni’ is play on the French word for UFO – ‘ovni’. From the depths of our flying saucer we tend to be animated by a techno-utopian spirit, and we are more often than not optimistic about such future.

Of course the protagonist throughout these pages is innovation, but most of all the way our society and its mindset is adapting to such developments. One of the main characters of 2010 is WikiLeaks and its push for a new era of open governments and transparency. Owni.eu hosted the best opinion pieces on the release of the Embassy Logs – known through Twitter as #cablegate – and we finally selected one for this year’s ebook: Jeff Jarvis’s ‘Big Brother’s little brother’.

‘Why the internet did not win the Nobel peace prize’ is a critical look at Wired’s campaign to award the internet with a prize usually collected by men and women who have sustained a life-long fight for social progress and civil rights. The ideology behind that campaign, our editorial team felt, was ignorant of a key facet of techno-utopia; as Kevin Kelly put it, humans are the sex organs of technology. Technology is neutral and humans should take responsibility and credit for whatever they do with it.

The missing manual for the future by Tish Shute is a long and thorough account of the main initiatives and ideas of 2010 and its driving forces – ‘the four cylinder engine of innovation’ – as told by one of the main technology publishers, O’Reilly.

In the spirit of cyberactivism we have included two pieces which take part in longstanding polemics on the subjects of censorship and discrimination, two themes you’ll be sure to find explored even further on our site in 2011.
‘Blacklisting and Sexting; parental control as a political tool’ surveys the ramifications of practices such as parental control, as opposed to a more long-term education on the risks and perils of the web.

Last but not least, ‘Why we need to reframe the women-in-tech debate’ is a popular and controversial article that first appeared on Mashable, which gave rise to a constructive debate on gender equality within the tech industry, a theme which we aim to expand within the European arena in the coming year.

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Guardian Wordpress Plugin, a step ahead towards future of online news http://owni.fr/2010/12/15/guardian-wordpress-plugin-a-step-ahead-towards-future-of-online-news/ http://owni.fr/2010/12/15/guardian-wordpress-plugin-a-step-ahead-towards-future-of-online-news/#comments Wed, 15 Dec 2010 11:50:20 +0000 Federica Cocco http://owni.fr/?p=21829

There are those who think that in the digital age the newspaper industry can only survive by charging for its content and maximising their advertising footprint (read: Rupert Murdoch), and there are those who try to think beyond this assumption.

When it comes to digital strategy, the Guardian has so far shown to be the most forward thinking and experimental newspaper globally. Recently, it has introduced a plugin that allows Wordpress based blogs to post content directly from The Guardian website’s onto the blog.

The catch? Bloggers must publish the article in full without applying any modifications, and along with the content comes the newspaper’s advertisements. Whatever you may think, it’s a win-win situation: The Guardian doesn’t lose any profit and is actually able to monitise through the API, whilst publishers get free online news content from one of the world’s best newspapers.

It is certainly an interesting and timely move. Recently, Associated Press sent a legal threat to ColoradoPols.com – a blog covering politics in Colorado, USA - for having re-published its content without permission or remuneration. The case has caused shock in the media and in the blogging community.

This syndication tool is part of the newspaper’s Open Platform Program led by their very own Wizard of Oz, Matt McAlister, lead developer and main architect of The Guardian’s online strategy.

In an interview with GigaOm, Matt explained the rationale behind the Guardian’s online experiments:

At a time when newspapers like The Times of London and the Sunday Times are implementing paywalls [...] and other newspaper, such as the New York Times, are working on their own pay restrictions, The Guardian’s move toward creating an open platform is unusual. But despite the newspaper’s losses, Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger has said that an open strategy is the key to the newspaper’s future.

For more info, we heartily recommend “The Open Strategy: Or how I stopped worrying about my website and learned to love the Internet” by the aforementioned online whiz.

Despite the best journalistic efforts at being unbiased, in this case we can’t help but give a big thumbs up to this initiative.

Guardian 1 : Competitors 0.


Credits Photo CC Flickr : Everydaylifemodern.

Initially published on OWNI july 15th 2010

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10 new ways to make money in journalism http://owni.fr/2010/08/11/10-new-ways-to-make-money-in-journalism/ http://owni.fr/2010/08/11/10-new-ways-to-make-money-in-journalism/#comments Wed, 11 Aug 2010 11:07:24 +0000 Alex Wood http://owni.fr/?p=23956 After a decade of doom of gloom surrounding the media industry, 2010 appears to be a much needed breath of fresh air. Complimenting this spirit of enthusiasm and revival, we were thrilled to receive a review copy of Adam Westbrook’s latest ebook, Next Generation Journalist: 10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism.

Next Generation Journalist

Who’s it for?

10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism is the first in a new series of books aimed at writers, broadcasters, students, social media types and anyone interested in finding new ways to make money in the modern world of journalism.

About the writer

Adam describes himself as a multimedia journalist, lecturer, blogger and writer. He left his full time job as a radio reporter in the North East of England to pursue a freelance career in London. We’ve also had the pleasure of working with him and can confirm he’s a thoroughly top bloke. We asked him why he feels now is the time to launch the book:

It’s never been a better time… the industry is ripe for change you can almost feel it in the air, poised, just waiting for someone to come along and make it happen. The best thing is anyone can be this change – it doesn’t matter how old or young you are and for the first time, experience not necessary!


You’ll find the book divided into ten practical sections covering content aggregation, setting up a hyperlocal site and even creating your own multimedia collaborative. The tone is both informative and inspirational, think self help meets how-to guide.

From the offset the book encourages you to remind yourself why you went into the industry

Even if you’re familiar with multimedia journalism you’re likely to find many parts of the book useful. For example, Adam has helpfully added hyperlinks to many of his case studies, turning the book into a textbook-like anytime resource. This also makes the book in our opinion more useful in its ebook form.

Highlights include the excellent “Things you can do right away” sections at the end of each chapter which offer practical first steps towards creating your new business.

What it isn’t

In contrast to more technology based books such as Mark Luckie’s The Digital Journalist’s Handbook, this book focuses more on the business and moneymaking side of modern journalism. For example the section on building smartphone apps offers some pointers but you’ll need to invest in further reading to know your objective-c from your cocoa.

Legal issues and the technicalities of starting up a new business are also not covered so be sure read up more on this before opening your first venture. We received the UK copy of the book and understand there will also be a more US focussed version.

Our verdict

10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism is like having a friend who knows everyone, everything and loves keeping you up to date. It’s the friend that doesn’t always know about everything in detail, but knows where to point you to find out more. In essence, it’s a combination of Adam’s expertise, knowledge and contacts  and an excellent way to bring you right up to date in 2010.

10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism goes on sale on 21st May 2010 priced at £6.50 ($9.50) for its first week and then £10. Find out more at Adam’s ebook microsite.

This article has been published on Not On The Wires

Picture CC from Flickr, Tony Case

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Forget the readers: are journalists writing for Google? http://owni.fr/2010/08/02/forget-the-readers-are-journalists-writing-for-google/ http://owni.fr/2010/08/02/forget-the-readers-are-journalists-writing-for-google/#comments Mon, 02 Aug 2010 15:24:44 +0000 Adam Westbrook http://owni.fr/?p=23248 OWNI’s team would like to welcome Adam Westbrook for his first article written for OWNI.eu :)

For a newspaper, news channel or magazine online the undeniable target is traffic. How many people have looked at our front page today? How many people have read that article? Eyeballs, eyeballs, eyeballs…

With well over 200 million websites out there and counting, it’s a vast ocean and easy for even a familiar brand to sink beneath the waves.

Then along came an enticing alchemy which promised solve that problem almost instantly. With a bit of keyword wizardry and some hyperlinking spells, SEO – or Search Engine Optimisation – can boost your website up Google’s rankings and get you that passing traffic.

Today almost every online publisher engages SEO in some form, whether it’s individual bloggers, like myself, installing a free plugin for Wordpress, or major news organisations creating entire job posts to oversee an SEO strategy.

So SEO is an important tool for news publishers. But at what cost?

Making SEO work

SEO works by emphasising keywords from a given article so they’re easily searchable, or actually manipulating certain words which the publisher believes people will search for in Google.

According to Melissa Campbell, an SEO Consultant with Distilled in London, a publisher can do it in several ways.

“The big things search engines look at are title tags (the text that appears at the top of the browser when you view a page), the meta description of the page… and sitemaps (which tell the spiders how to crawl the pages)” she says.

So journalists and sub-editors can put some of the keywords into the title of an article, the sub-headings and into the first couple of paragraphs of text. They can load the article with keyword tags, as well as put keywords into any images included within the article.

It’s led to fears news organisations are manipulating their content in order to get a better Google ranking; in other words, writing for Google and not the reader.

Let’s take the headline of an article. Say, you have a limited number of characters for your online headlines – the BBC News website, for example, has room for just 55 – and inside this you have to create a headline that conveys the story, but also plays to the SEO rules.

It’s an added challenge for sub editors beyond simply enticing a reader. But it goes beyond that, to the very content of the article itself. A post on Social Media Today last year summed up the problem:

“With a paper newspaper, you flip through all the pages and glance at all the headlines. Online, you search for stories that interest you. The headline you see while turning pages isn’t one you’d ever think to inform your search when exploring Google News.”

SEO has affected articles and journalistic writing in other ways, particularly in the growing use of ‘kickers’ – naming the issue in a headline, and writing the actual story headline behind it.

On running stories, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, some papers started using kickers to allow them to optimise their story for search engines. “BP Oil Spill: US orders new emergency plan as seepage detected” (Telegraph, 19th July); “BP Oil Spill: seepage not a threat to capped well” (Guardian, 20th July) are two easily found examples.

This gets the words ‘BP oil spill’ into the headline & keywords and then allows the journalist to sum up the story.

Murray Dick, a lecturer in multi-platform journalism at Brunel University in the UK is carrying out in depth research into the effect of SEO on journalism. He says the consequences of using kickers for the surfing public “can be stark”.

“Searching for these kicker keywords results in search engine results pages (SERPs) that look like the sort of lines teachers used to punish school kids with. This in turn can make for poor usability, and frustration for the surfing public – which could have consequences both for aggregators, and the publishers of these headlines.”

Riding the search wave

Perhaps the most concerning consequence of SEO manipulation is in the choice of story itself. Optimising your article is one thing, but what about writing an article purely because you know people are searching for it?

A presentation by SEO experts Tunheim Tunners on how newspapers should use SEO recommends “riding the search wave”: looking at popular search terms and writing articles on that.

A cursory search through the UK Daily Mail’s website for example brings up no fewer 479 articles with the phrase “teen sex” in them, including ‘The Truth About Teen Sex’ (April 2005), ‘Will the teen ’sex advisors’ be silenced?’ (June 2003) and ‘Teen sex campaign backfires’ (April 2004).

On the other hand, of course, it could be seen as simply responding to what your audience wants to read, a long ethos of many popularist newspaper editors. Is there anything wrong with that?

The end of the pun

And of course, it’s been known for a while SEO could spell the end to that much loved journalistic convention – the creative or pun headline. Puns don’t work with SEO because Google doesn’t have a sense of humour, and won’t understand what the story is about. The Sun’s famous front page from May 1982, reporting the sinking of the General Belgrano, which simply said “GOTCHA!” would have no relevance to a search engine today.

So here’s the concern: is there a danger journalists are writing more for Google’s benefit instead of the human being? Is it damaging the reader experience? Murray Dick at Brunel says his research to date suggests it could be concern:

“Editors who commission copy to satisfy wider online trends regardless of the established news values of their brand, risk alienating their core audience, and diminishing trust in their brand” he told me.

“By the same token, journalists who write copy with the primary aim of ranking highly in search will inevitably frustrate their readers with clunky keywords – and risk sending the wrong signals to search engines.”

Distilled’s SEO Consultant Melissa Campbell is less concerned though. “The implication of all this for journalists is that the internet is becoming much more interpersonal again (like the original message boards), so very soon, you’ll just be writing for people, which means that you can get more creative with titles of articles. Although unfortunately,” she adds, “I think the days of punny headlines may be over.”

A human approach

Not everyone out there is writing to satisfy an algorithm.

Slate Magazine in the US is defying the conventional wisdom in many ways, it seems stubbornly breaking some of the big rules of online publishing.

Firstly, rather than trying to use Google to get as many readers as possible, Slate wants only ‘the right’ readers. Editor David Plotz told the Nieman Lab at Harvard University in July:

“Our job is not necessarily to build Slate into a magazine that has 100 million readers…It’s to make sure we have 2 million or 5 million or 8 million of the right readers — readers who are the smartest, most engaged, most influential, most media-literate people around. That’s more attractive to advertisers.”

In other words, they’re being selective about who they write for – fewer readers is better, goes the theory, as long as they’re the right readers.

To do this, Slate has invested in letting its writers pursue their own passion projects, including one long-form article on US dentistry. And it appears to be doing some magic that SEO cannot do on its own. Nieman claim the long-form passion pieces have attracted more than three million page views each.

Two very different approaches

So two very different approaches to getting that most valuable commodity in the online world: traffic. I suspect the solution lies in a mutual embracing of both SEO and passionate high quality journalism. But there is a warning however: as appealing of the alchemy of search optimisation is, journalists must make sure they never harm the reader experience to satisfy a machine.

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Italian bloggers face severe fines with gag law http://owni.fr/2010/07/30/italian-bloggers-face-severe-fines-with-gag-law/ http://owni.fr/2010/07/30/italian-bloggers-face-severe-fines-with-gag-law/#comments Fri, 30 Jul 2010 15:26:31 +0000 Federica Cocco http://owni.fr/?p=23451 The abominable gag law which is in the process of being approved by the Italian Chamber of Deputies includes a provision to fine bloggers who don’t remove content from their pages within 48 hours of receiving a complaint. The fines go up to €25,000.

The move has been described by Reporters Without Borders as “authoritarian”, and has appealed to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy to intervene at the EU regional government level.

Under this law, bloggers and podcasters are being subject to the same control and regulation as traditional media outlets. Indeed, the mentality behind it is so retrograde that it appeals to a law introduced in 1948, which compels newspapers to ‘rectify incorrect information’ after it has been published.

This also implies that all blogs must be linked to a particular individual, and not just that, a legal entity which can be held responsible once its content is deemed inappropriate. In other words, goodbye to anonymous posting.

Though Italy is by no means Iceland – the first country in the world to allow for complete freedom of press thanks to legal package “Icelandic Model Media Initiative“ - it is fair to say that it’s not likely to become a haven for freedom of expression anytime soon. What other countries are subject to such freedom-curbing laws? The EU Observer has reported that Ireland, Bulgaria and Romania are also facing similar ‘2.0 unfriendly’ policies.

“In January last year, Ireland passed an anti-blasphemy law under which you can be fined €20,000. When our organisation raised concerns about a journalist being jailed for blasphemy in the Yemen, they said right back to us: ‘But Ireland does the same thing,’ and to some extent they’re right.”

The long-term outcome is likely to be austere, intellectually and politically.

According to Arianna Ciccone, leading the movement against the gag law, “the web will be emasculated. The unique vitality and yes, freedom, of cyberspace will be reduced. Diversity of opinion will suffer as uncertainty, prudence and fear take the place of liberty of expression. Mainsteam media frequently dances to other tunes. At risk is the future of independent news-gathering and opinion-sharing in Italy”. .

Blogs at risk in Italy include:

These popular websites often include content that is extremely critical of government policy in Italy, some of them may be campaigning sites that have raised awareness on many fronts, and others are authored by ‘celebrities’ like comedian and outspoken activist Beppe Grillo. Read them now, while you can.

Photos CC FlickR by Zingaro. I am a gipsy too. and Toban Black

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Warlogs: European Collaborative Investigation App http://owni.fr/2010/07/29/warlogs-european-collaborative-investigation-app/ http://owni.fr/2010/07/29/warlogs-european-collaborative-investigation-app/#comments Thu, 29 Jul 2010 09:44:05 +0000 Admin http://owni.fr/?p=23321

Last Sunday, the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks – along with 3 major media outlets (The New York Times, UK’s Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel) – unveiled crucial documents about the war in Afghanistan. More than 90,000 classified military reports have been made available to the public and draw an unprecedented picture of how the war has been conducted by US and ally forces.

In short, it appears that on several occasions during the course of the Afghan War, US and allied military forces have covered up civilian casualties. The role of several paramilitary militias has also been revealed by the so-called “war diaries” (LINK). Among them, the Task Force 373 was charged of chasing and hunting down insurgent leaders : some reports led authorities to question the legality of such army corps.

The documents also shed light on the ambiguous role of the Pakistanese intelligence service, that is now said to provide weapons, funds and assistance to Taliban insurgents, despite the official support of Pakistani government to the allied coalition. Reports also pointed out that insurgents were better armed than reported by the US army.

Julian Assange and his collaborators are still holding back over 15,000 not yet published documents for security and double-checking purposes, that are likely to be published in the coming months.

But this leak is a groundbreaking event opening up a new path in the way news are reported. The so-called ‘joint venture’ between three major news organisation, who were able to perform “slow journalism” and data-journalism before breaking the news together at the same time, as well as the huge amount of data leaked are an opportunity that journalists from around the world have to seize.

The big issue now facing those from countries other than US and UK is that there is a massive amount of documents and of complex data to go through in order to get a picture of what is going on for each country. Wikileaks itself has only been able to check a small part of the whole amount of data.

That is why the OWNI crew decided to create and develop an online application enabling people to crowdsource the journalistic work. You will be provided a tool to review and assess the countless reports and documents remaining unclear. Once we will have collected enough data and analysis, we will be able to provide you with new insights and understandings of the situation.

Wanna get your hands dirty, exploring what your taxpayer’s money is used in Afghanistan and going through a huuuuge amount of data ? We are already waiting for you /-)

Pour les francophones, l’application en Français est disponible ici et l’article de cette application.


FlickrCC Photo Credits : Dvdis.

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The Twittersphere reacts to Afghanistan War logs revelations http://owni.fr/2010/07/27/the-twittersphere-reacts-to-afghanistan-war-logs-revelations/ http://owni.fr/2010/07/27/the-twittersphere-reacts-to-afghanistan-war-logs-revelations/#comments Tue, 27 Jul 2010 09:48:46 +0000 Federica Cocco http://owni.fr/?p=23084 It is a triumph for any particular cause to find itself trending on Twitter. Usually it’s Justin Bieber, #howyouagangsta or a promoted blockbuster of some sort, but on july 26 freedom of information prevailed.

That day, it was the turn of Wikileaks, which released a highly anticipated report on the past 6 years of war in Afghanistan, releasing some 92,000 confidential embassy cable reports pertaining to the Allied Force’s conduct on the region. It has been said to be the biggest leak in intelligence history.

Julian Assange – the website’s founder and whistleblower paladin – had been threatening to open the US Army’s very own Pandora’s box since the video “Collateral Murder” was released on April 5. “There is more to come”, he specified. But what has been released so far has already caught a lot of attention.

The material was made public last night, as the traditional print media had already gone to press. Aside from the main news accomplices in this landmark delivery – namely The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel – the pulse was firstly recorded on Twitter.

It all started with Wikileaks’s own Twitter account which was simultaneously joined by the Guardian’s own announcement (“Massive leak of secret files exposes truth of #Afghanistan occupation #warlogs“), along with that of the New York Times and Der Spiegel.

According to Tweetminster, a website which focuses on tallying Twitter sentiments by tracking the volume of hash-tags and varying topics, there has been a dramatic increase in interest on Wikileaks (1,214 mentions as of midnight on July 27 – compare with 162 the day before.)

The #WarLogs hash tag also shot up on its first day, along with its associated terms: Afhganistan, leak, file, truth and occupation.

The general verdict, it is fair to say, is that the reception was extremely enthusiastic as the Twittersphere has deemed this event to be of historical relevance.

The Guardian’s technology correspondent Bobby Johnson has tweeted:

One would reach the conclusion in this case that the detractors don’t belong to the 2.0 sphere but to a more traditional realm. A number of them have blamed Julian Assange of jeopardising national security and the strategic success of the conflict in Afghanistan by releasing this information though the Pentagon has stated this is not true. The Department of Defense announced that the “leaking of information” wast taken “very seriously”.

Another success is the clear sparking of a debate, which picked up on shortly after the official announcement.

Another conclusion that one could draw is that the debate on Twitter – though staggeringly intense – is still inspired by traditional media. After all it was three traditional media outlets that first gained access to the material and allowed the microblogging site to discuss. Just like the old days, the old media is providing food for thought to the masses which have readily changed their diet and have learnt to digest it. Only difference being that the new kid on the block – Wikileaks – has unprecedented control over our “diet”.

The general verdict, it is fair to say, is that the reception was extremely enthusiastic as the Twittersphere has deemed this event to be of historical relevance. If you question the relevance of these findings, it’s worth having a look at a recent study by Harvard University and Northwestern University researchers which looks at 300 million tweets from September 2006 to August 2009 and manages to track a pattern in the overall sentiments expressed.
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What Working for Wikipedia taught me about collaboration http://owni.fr/2010/07/15/what-working-for-wikipedia-taught-me-about-collaboration/ http://owni.fr/2010/07/15/what-working-for-wikipedia-taught-me-about-collaboration/#comments Thu, 15 Jul 2010 16:20:58 +0000 Sandra Ordonez http://owni.fr/?p=22131 A little over three years ago, I started working as the communications manager for Wikipedia. I had just moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, and was ecstatic to hear that this quirky website, which had begun to pop up in many of my web searches, was based there. Having grown up in New York, my culture radar detected that this was a one-of-a-kind project that attracted eccentric individuals. Needless to say, my radar never fails me.

At that time, Wikipedia’s internal structure did not match the widespread success and attention it was beginning to enjoy. I found myself working in a thrifty “rent-by-the-month” office building with three other employees: An administrative assistant, a fundraiser/hardcore Wikipedian, and a CFO. I was told that most tasks, including the communication projects, were carried out by a large network of international volunteers.

I immediately began to review the public relations materials available to me, and almost immediately went into panic mode. There was no polished press kit, press list or, dare I say, communication strategy. In fact, the majority of individuals on the communications committee had little to no public relations training, and were more intellectual and techie than the average PR practitioner at that time.

Crisis Mode at Wikipedia

A few weeks into the job, with little training and a very primitive understanding of the wiki ethos, I encountered my first PR crisis. A hardcore and well known Wikipedian, Essjay, had lied to the New Yorker about his credentials. Not surprisingly, the years of crisis communication training I received was useless in the context I found myself in. For a brief moment, I honestly thought that my career as a PR specialist had come to an end. The New Yorker, in my mind, was the bible of the media world; there was no way that our online encyclopedia was going to survive the PR damage.

In the midst of my concerns, I soon became a believer in the power of collaboration. That crisis was the moment when the new media landscape unfolded before my eyes.

The volunteers took charge. They created a Wikipedia entry that documented the event in gruesome detail. It was honest, direct and, amazingly, had no PR spin. In fact, for most Wikipedia members, the biggest concern was that Essjay had used his false credentials in content disputes. It was apparent to me that there was never any malice or hidden agenda. Essjay himself had revealed his real credentials on his user profile when he was hired by Wikia, a company owned by Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales. In fact, in the months that followed, I found the community became self-correcting by encouraging the use of real names and identities. It found a way to help prevent this type of issue from happening again.

At the time, some critics argued that the incident ruined Wikipedia’s reputation. Of course, this was the farthest thing from the truth. Since then, the site has grown both in content and in language versions. (My husband is a philosophy professor, which means I regularly meet academics who are quick to point out how “surprisingly accurate” the site is, and how fascinated they are with how it has impacted how our society views information.)

Learning From Collaboration

As someone who identifies herself as a bicultural New Yorker who specialized in cross-cultural communication in college, I was not a stranger to collaboration. In fact, that was my biggest criticism of American culture — we were too individualistic and not group focused enough. But nothing prepared me for the wiki world. I learned some valuable lessons about collaboration and how to make it work. Below are some of the key learnings.

  • Trust the Crowd; It’s Smarter than You — The sooner you trust the group and empower it, the sooner it can produce high quality results. The group can make up for any weaknesses you may have as an individual. The idea is to bring out the strongest skills and downplay the weakest in each person.
  • Diversity and Creativity Are Intrinsically Connected — Creative brainstorming is significantly improved by diversity. Individuals not only challenge each others’ ideas, but they also inspire each other as well.
  • Collaboration is Messy — When Jimmy Wales said “[Wikipedia is] like a sausage: you might like the taste of it, but you don’t necessarily want to see how it’s made,” he wasn’t kidding. Chaos, in many ways, seems to be the spark of great collaborative endeavors.
  • Be Open to Receiving and Giving Criticism — When working collaboratively, it is important to let go of your ego. Learn to not take things personally and be honest about what you think without being disrespectful.

Wikipedia still receives a lot of flack — it’s an easy target for institutions and individuals who are desperately trying to survive in a digital world. However, I feel grateful for having worked for a short time with the “free culture” trailblazers behind the project who are responsible for making the world a bit more open, democratic, smarter, and much more collaborative.


Sandra Ordoñez calls herself a web astronaut who has been helping organizations navigate the internet since 1997. Currently, she helps run OurBlook.com, a collaborative online forum that gathers interviews from today’s top leaders in the hopes of finding tomorrow’s solutions. Since December 2008, the site has been conducting a Future of Journalism interview series. Sandra also heads up the Facebook page, “Bicultural and Multicultural People Rule.” Previously, she was the Communications Manager for Wikipedia. She graduated from American University with a double degree in International Relations and Public Relations.


This article has been published on MediaShift, a PBS blog on the “digital media revolution” hosted by San Francisco-based journalist and media expert Mark Glaser.

Photo Credit CC Flickr : Eogez & Bastique.

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Excerpt from The Working Smarter Fieldbook http://owni.fr/2010/07/13/excerpt-from-the-working-smarter-fieldbook/ http://owni.fr/2010/07/13/excerpt-from-the-working-smarter-fieldbook/#comments Tue, 13 Jul 2010 15:51:52 +0000 Jay Cross http://owni.fr/?p=21852 Why bother?

Smart companies prosper. Clueless companies die. Brains make the difference.

Organizations that continuously exercise and improve their collective brainpower come out on top. This Fieldbook aims to show you how to increase your organization’s intelligence.

Until recently, most of the collaboration and development that fuels the growth of individual and group braininess was haphazard. Our goal is to bring this activity into the sunlight and suggest ways you can take advantage of it.

Who should read this book?

This is a book for business managers who want to build workforces that improve performance naturally, without prodding. It’s a fresh look at how people become competent in their work and fulfilled in their professional lives.

In our mind’s eye, we are telling these stories to hands-on managers, people with titles such as sales manager, operations supervisor, project leader, and product manager. People in IT and marketing will also profit from the stories here.

We foresee a convergence of the “people disciplines” in organizations. As the pieces of companies become densely interconnected, the differences between knowledge management, training, collaborative learning, organization development, internal communication, and social networking fade away. Anyone who invests in brainpower to improve organizational performance can benefit from the messages in The Working Smarter Fieldbook.

That said, this book is not directed to doctrinaire training directors or workshop instructors. It’s impossible to learn something you think you already know. Besides, they will find our message threatening. Learning is way too important to delegate to the training department.

What can you achieve with this book?

Boosting brainpower is both a profit strategy and the key to organizational longevity.

Raising corporate IQ reduces time-to-performance, improves customer service, boosts sales, streamlines operations, and increases innovation. Intelligent organizations naturally motivate their workers to give their best. People who know how to learn effectively adapt to changing conditions as they occur.

Pragmatic and grounded in experience, this is a re-think of how upgrading an organization’s brains can increase profits, spur innovation, and help businesses prosper.

A toolbox

Years ago, Stewart Brand published The Whole Earth Catalog to provide “access to tools.” It listed all manner of interesting and oddball stuff, from windmill kits to hiking sox to books like Vibration Cooking. The Catalog didn’t tell readers how to live their lives; it merely described things that might help them to do their own thing. Feedback and articles submitted by readers made each edition better than its predecessor.

The Working Smarter Fieldbook follows the tradition of The Whole Earth Catalog. Harold, Jane, Clark, Charles, Jon, and Jay provide access to the tips, tricks, frameworks, and resources that we’ve used to help organizations work smarter. Our goal is to put together an irresistible package of advice.

An unbook

This is an unbook. Unbooks are never finished.

Rather than hold things back until they’re “ready,” unbooks come out while the ink is still wet. You have in your hands the sixth version of Working Smarter. Revisions come out several times a year. An unbook has the freshness of a periodical and the depth of a book. If you choose to subscribe, buy a new copy next year. You can track major changes and additions at internettime.com to see if it’s worth it.

With most books, it’s take it or leave it. If you have an issue with a traditional author, you can send a letter to the black hole known as a publisher. The world changes, but the book is frozen in time. That’s another reason unbooks are in perpetual beta.

Expect some rough edges and redundancy in this version. Join the typo team and email us when you come across errors or confusing passages. Send feedback, large or small, to jaycross@internettime.com. Better still, become a co-author. Your input is welcome.

Jane Hart, Harold Jarche1, Clark Quinn, Charles Jennings, Jon Husband, yours truly, and other friends and colleagues collaborated to write this unbook. Our thoughts are inextricably intertwined. Nobody’s so smart that they wouldn’t do better with the help of others. In nonfiction, the concept of a single author is a conceit we can do without.

Let’s get into it. There’s no time to spare. Time is all we have.

In business, words are words; explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality. Harold Geneen

Working Smarter

Our objective is to help your organization work smarter by taking advantage of its collective brainpower.

Working smarter is the key to sustainability and continuous improvement. Knowledge work and learning to work smarter are becoming indistinguishable. The accelerating rate of change in business forces everyone in every organization to make a choice: learn while you work or become obsolete.

The infrastructure for working smarter is called a workscape. It’s not a separate function so much as another way of looking at how we organize work. Workscaping helps people grow so that their organizations may prosper. Workscapes are pervasive. They are certainly not lodged in a training department. In fact, they may make the training department obsolete.

Organizations must stop thinking of learning as something separate from work. The further we get into what Dan Pink calls the conceptual era1, the greater the convergence of working and learning. In many cases, they are already one and the same.

Workers in a workscape learn by solving problems, coming up with fresh thinking, and collaborating with colleagues. They don’t learn about these things; they learn to do them.

The workscape is the aspect of an organization where learning and development become never-ending processes rather than one-time events. A workscape is a learning ecology. The workscaping viewpoint helps knowledge workers become more effective professionally and fulfilled personally. A sound workscape environment empowers workers to be all that they can be.

No, no, no. Learning is the work, not apart from the work.

Workscapes match flows of know-how with workers solving problems and getting things done. They are the aspect of workplace infrastructure that provides multiple means of solving problems, tapping collective wisdom, and collaborating with others.

Workscapes are not a new structure but rather a holistic way of looking at and reformulating existing business infrastructure. They use the same networks and social media as the business itself.

Technology is never the most important part of this. Foremost are people, their motivations, emotions, attitudes, roles, their enthusiasm or lack thereof, and their innate desire to excel. Technology, be it web 2.0 or instructional design, social psychology, marketing, or intelligent systems, only supports what we’re helping people to accomplish.

Got the idea? Okay, I’m going to stop putting workscape in italics. Think of workscapes as an inevitable part of every organization.

As business de-emphasizes industrial-era command-and-control systems to make way for agile, sense-and-respond networks, the structure of business adapts to its new environment.

Terra Nova

England’s New Forest is called new because it was built in 1079 by that well-known Johnny-Come-Lately, William the Conqueror. William wanted an oak forest for hunting. Timber would be required for building ships centuries later. He was thinking long term; let’s follow his example.

Free yourself from day-to-day worries for a few minutes, and join us for a tour of the learning landscape five years hence, in 2015.

We will call our destination Terra Nova, Latin for “new world.” Within five years, the world will have changed so radically, you will not recognize it. It is a new era and it is right around the corner.

Agricultural age: manual labor by individual farmers, 8,000 BCE -
Industrial age: machine-assisted manual labor in factories, 1760 -
Information age: white-collar knowledge work in offices, 1949 -
Terra Nova: creative collaborative innovation in networks, 2012 -

In the industrial age, bosses issued instructions and told workers2 they were not paid to think. This is the ultimate in push, for people deal with what is pushed upon them.

In the information age, people were encouraged to think, but only “inside the box,” that is, complying with narrow sets of procedures and rules. Workers were empowered – within strict bounds. Assignments still drifted down from the top. This is still primarily push.

In Terra Nova, Push and Pull combine to create a dynamic flow of power, authority, know-how, and trust. Change is so fast and furious that work and learning blur into one activity. Workers respond to novel situations as best they see fit, governed by organization values and gut feel.

Terra Nova is holistic, with significant decision-making power delegated to the workers themselves. “Power to the people” could be its rallying cry.

The industrial age was top-down, explicit, and focused on efficiency. By contrast, Terra Nova supplements hierarchy with networks…. (This goes on for another 300 rollicking pages.)

Buy it.

This article was initially published on Internettime.com

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Unofficial Facebook pages: Brands vs Fans http://owni.fr/2010/07/09/unofficial-facebook-pages-brands-vs-fans/ http://owni.fr/2010/07/09/unofficial-facebook-pages-brands-vs-fans/#comments Fri, 09 Jul 2010 11:35:21 +0000 Laurence Saquer http://owni.fr/?p=21624 The autor is PhD in Social Sciences. She is a sociology expert. You can follow her music feed on Twitter @RockLolo.

Pour nos lecteurs français, retrouvez la version française ici.


When brands realize the importance of communicating via social networks, they usually discover something vexing: people have made it well before them. These people are ‘budding’ community managers who don’t even know the name of their hobby. Worse, these people are just consumers. Even worse, the users believe they are hearing the brand itself.

In short, this discovery is an enormous disappointment for brands that are feeling they are no more at the center of the conversation with their consumers.
These amateur community managers prove to be able to use all the existing communication channels and well before anyone. Take videogames forums where fans came well before the industry did. But as Facebook and its features come ready to use on the screens of the most respectable households, users begin to show support for their favorite band or actress, and then one day, they create a fan page of Coca-Cola, just because they like Coca-Cola. Then one day, Coca-Cola come across this page and… ops!

Many urban myths started like that, but in practice, what can a brand do when the amateur community manager starts a fan page on his own?

Brands have several options:

  • Ignore the existing page(s) and create a new one, without caring of the already hundreds or even thousands of fans.The risk is obviously to animate this new page in a bad way, ignoring the best practices of the amateur page.
  • Try to become buddy with the amateur community manager, because he’s a cool guy, and to impose an editorial line by becoming co-administrator. The principle is simple: in Facebook’s interface, the admin chief is the only one who can decide who to add as a co-administrator. Brands just have to be very diplomat, because the cool guy may not give up his page (he thinks fans have become fans of him). The risk is that he may tell his 437,954 fans that in fact the brand is a piece of ****, because its products are manufactured by children and so on. At the end, the brand may pay a high price for the “coolness” he wanted to show and its reputation will be seriously damaged…
  • Call Facebook and tell them to close the group. If the brand asks, Facebook can perfectly do that while the fan won’t see anyhing. Only the amateur community manager, tearful behind his screen, gasping, can understand what happened because the page has disappeared from his dashboard. Facebook can close up to five pages with more than 500 fans per request of the brand. In other words, the brand have to well target the pages to close, and then the “migration of fans” is launched (it lasts some days or even weeks, according to the advertising budget). Facebook says the service is free.

Who has done all this before?

  • Ignore an existing page: the BossHoss example.
    The BossHoss is a German band making covers of mainstream hits (Depeche Mode, OutKast, BritneySpears) in a country music style. Believe it or not, this band is very popular in Germany (where they can fill an entire arena), Austria, Switzerland and United States. They are basically unknown in France. I discovered BossHoss while in Leipzig, in August 2006, at the beginning of their success story. Once back to France, I couldn’t stop hearing their songs. In July 2008 I started their Facebook fan page to pay tribute to their talent. In April 2008 I was proud of my 4,000+ fans. But I discovered The BossHoss (Official) page, animated only with links from Amazon.de and without even a press release.
    I contacted the staff of the band in November 2009 to tell them I managed the page, I cared about it but I was keen to collaborate and optimize it with their help. No reply. And my page is not (yet?) threatened to be closed.

Both pages coexist. The official one seems to have a commercial purpose while the ‘amateur’ one hosts fans’ comments during tours and pictures of the band dressed in a cow-boy style after I launched a competition for this. The problem is that one day fans asked for awards. And since I had nothing to offer, I stopped the competition and contacted the band to see whether they had anything to offer. But nothing happened.

  • Try to become buddy with the amateur community manager: the Kookai example.

Kookai is a French ladies’ wear chain. When the fan page passed from being animated by an amateur to an official lead, the tone of the posts on the page changed dramatically. The posts before March 11 came from fans or ‘likers’ willing to sell their bag of the previous season or to advertise for uninteresting blogs. Worse, before this date, even the franchising fair advertised among future store managers who were of course Kookai fans.

Kookai seems to have well bargained with the amateur administrator: congratulations! But today Kookai doesn’t show enough imagination in its community management even if it tries – with modesty. In a way, the brand used a minimal strategy: it just wanted to be present where the others are.

  • Call Facebook and tell them to close the group.: the Six Feet Under example.

You’ll get everything in the below screenshot. If you want to hurt a fan, the best thing to do is to take him his passion.

Today the cable network HBO, that broadcast the TV series Six Feet Under, has got an official fan page which is not better animated but at least it is under (its) control. The fact of being officially animated does not bring more ‘animation’ to users. It’s just to bring more security to HBO.

Conclusion: amateur community managers, here’s my advice: don’t persist in your beliefs. As long as the brand leave you in peace, keep animating your page. Your community will reward you. And if the brand finds you, please don’t fight. Just write on your CV you are the founder of that brand’s fan page.


Pour nos lecteurs Français, retrouvez la version Française ici.

Billet initialement publié sur MonadoLab

Image CC Flickr Philippe Leroyer

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