If you’re interested in the future of hyperlocal — and, since you’re reading this, we’ll venture you are — you’ll want to hear Mark and Rob’s insights into the local advertising market. Significant growth in local online ad dollars is on the way and Outside.in is poised to help our partners take advantage of this fact. Watch the videos posted by Borrell Associates for more details:
When Steven gets going, it gets interesting fast, so I took a video of the conversation. It may be a shaky iPhone video, but I’m confident that if you watch all 5 parts, you’ll be really happy that you did. You might even be inspired to innovate in your own life and work (I know I was).
Just another day at Outside.in’s HQ. You might say it’s where good ideas come from
So, without further ado: Steven Johnson, ladies and gentlemen! Pull up a chair, grab a slice of pizza and enjoy…
Attention bloggers: this is just a quick post to let you know that we’re sponsoring HubPages’ HubPages Marks the Spot contest, which begins today and runs through the 29th of the month.
HubPages focuses on evergreen content– i.e., content that will be valuable for months and years to come– and we find that a lot of evergreen content can be hyperlocal in nature as well. For instance, when a blogger writes about a local restaurant he or she visited, that post is going to be valuable for some time, not just for a fleeting moment or two. That’s why we’re happy to sponsor this contest for HubPages.
A few things to consider: if you enter, you may win sweet prizes, including cold, hard cash (and ongoing royalties, too). To enter, you have to publish topical articles (what they call “Hubs”) on your favorite sandwich joints, art museums, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors, and all other sorts of local attractions; each week has a different category.
Over $4,000 in cash prizes are up for grabs, given out throughout the month, so you can potentially win no matter when you start publishing (and you’ll continue to earn via ad revenue on your Hubs for years to come). Plus, HubPages tells us there are lots of people earning some pretty decent money on the Hubs they’ve published.
Ready to start? Jump to the contest page and read the rules (important!) on the travel and places page.
When Matt suggested I write a guest post about “What Great Hyperlocal Bloggers Have in Common,” I was psyched: it’s always a pleasure to introduce a new audience to the amazing hyperlocal bloggers I get to interview each week for Outside.in’s ‘Bloggers We Love,’ series.
I was also stumped: I’ve interviewed bloggers from big cities and smaller towns and everywhere in between. They blog about everything from fashion to photography to politics, and each of them has a singular personality that shines through their online presence. To me, every single one of the ‘Bloggers We Love’ is unique: what could they have in common (beyond the obvious: they’re bloggers who’d love to have more hours in the day)?…
(… This is a guest post I wrote for Matt McGee’s blog, HyperlocalBlogger. Read the full post at HyperlocalBlogger.com)
A recent research report from Missouri University compared mainstream news sites (“MNS”) with 100+ citizen news sites/blogs. The conclusions reached are perplexing. In short, they claim that citizen journalists/ bloggers are failing to fill the “information shortfall” and are not suitable substitutes for MNS. The only bit of silver lining is that citizen journalism is complementary to legacy news sites due to citizen journalists’ contributions on the opinion and hyperlocal front. The report conveys a sense of failure on citizen journalism and concern that citizen journalists will never fill the gap as traditional media companies continue to struggle.
Let’s take a step back here. Is this a fair apples-to-apples comparison?
On one hand, you have a big established company and brand with a newsroom staff (albeit a shrinking one) and technological resources at their disposal, as well as a sales team and usually a print circulation business (albeit a declining one) bringing in revenue. On the other hand, most citizen journalists and bloggers are operating out of their own house, taking advantage of free online resources for publishing needs. They probably have no sales team in charge of revenue, and they’ll usually cover and write about what they’re passionate about.
In short, it’s not a fair nor useful comparison.
Rather, what the research report tries to do is like comparing a supermarket to a specialty food shop. The big supermarket is clean, well lit, organized and offers an overwhelming variety of products: a one-stop shop. However, I might have a taste for a particular brand of coffee that’s not available at the supermarket. And I sometimes would prefer to get my produce from the farmers’ market and may go out of my way for fresh bread at a local bakery. Any one of these specialty shops could never fully replace the supermarket experience— however, if I hit up enough of them, I may not need to go to the supermarket at all.
In other words, citizen news sites/blogs could potentially serve as a replacement for MNS – if their content were organized in useful, coherent ways, enabling consumers to find it quickly and easily. The fairer comparison here would be to take a look at the MNS versus the collected, organized set of citizen news sites/blogs in a given market.
If we took all of the relevant content from citizen journalists and bloggers who are covering town hall meetings, local sports teams, restaurant openings and reviews – as well as a few feature pieces and investigative reports – the ‘little guys,’ might have a shot at going head-to-head with a MNS. One or two blogs would not suffice, obviously, since most of these sites are narrowly focused by design and simply do not have the resources (or desire) to provide round-the-clock coverage. However, when the sites are aggregated, the results are pretty solid; for example, searching for local news in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago on Outside.in shows me a weekend guide from Daily Candy, some information on the weekend’s Pitchfork Music Festival, restaurant news from Chowhound, a couple of crime stories from the Chicago Tribune, and a post on fund-raising efforts for a local theatre. The results are fairly comprehensive and improving each day, as new sources of content become available for aggregation.
According to Missouri School of Journalism associate professor Margaret Duffy, “While many of the blogs and citizen journalism sites have done very interesting and positive things, they are not even close to providing the level of coverage that even financially stressed news organizations do today.”
At Outside.in, we definitely agree with the first part of this statement: we’re aggregating over 45,000 feeds and we see interesting and positive content being produce by blogs and citizen journalists on a daily basis (case in point: the blogs highlighted in our Bloggers We Love series). That said, we’d have to take issue with Ms. Duffy’s contention that citizen journalists and hyperlocal bloggers are “not even close,” to rivaling MNS. It’s simply the wrong comparison: of course the little guy, individually, will never be able to rival the big guy, at least not as far as news coverage is concerned. Instead of pitting individual citizen journalists and local bloggers against MNS, we should take a step back and look at the collective whole of the content created by citizen journalists and local bloggers in a given news market. With this wider view, we’re not seeing much of an “information shortfall,” at all. On the contrary, it looks like ‘Team Little Guy,’ may be on the rise.
As a ruthless pragmatist, I’m always frustrated by the lack of practical take-aways from a conference, and the unconference is no exception. The strength of the unconference is that it accepts that you won’t decide anything or make anything today and instead forces group contribution and constant socialization. Instead of listening to pre-appointed speakers, some people propose some topics, everyone shows up to the sessions that interest them, and you all have a nice dinner-table conversation about your topic for an hour.
This helps you get the two most important things you came to get: A) connections with industry peers and B) renewed energy about your industry. Note that A would be impossible for someone as pathologically shy as yours truly without the crucial forced socializaiton component. I’ve been to a regular tech conference before and I could barely bring myself to say hi to the fellow sitting next to me.
Some silliness I could’ve lived with out: writing “as a result of today…” on a post-it note and sharing it with the group (mine: “…I know how it feels to have a job where you talk to people all day”), a poem/rap/limerick-writing competition about what we got out of the summit, and RWW trying to sell us their $300 (not a typo) report on The Real-Time Web and Its Future for half-price. These felt a little like two sleep-away camp activities and a visit to the Scientology world headquarters, respectively. The bit where we got to give wine to people we thought did something good during the day was a nice touch and not overly sentimental.
Session 1: Truth-Detection on the Real-Time Web
I joined this session a little late. When I got there we were talking about the phenomenon of people thinking articles from The Onion are “real” news—partly because Baratunde Thurston was there. Shava Nerad pointed out that “The Onion and Jon Stewart aren’t fake news” so much as a humorous commentary on what’s going on in the world that “points to the real news” with the intention of interesting people in getting more information about what’s going on in the world. I’ve been reading The Black Swan, so I’m not really sure what the “real news” is, but I agree that The Onion and The Daily Show are intended to be farcical commentary rather than misinformation. They throw a wrench in our problem because they sometimes unintentionally spread misinformation.
We discussed the problem of identifying bad information and tracking it back to the people who are spreading it. Any method of automating this would face the problem of distinguishing between those who are knowingly propagating the misinformation and those who are ignorantly repeating it.
At some point, we triedtostartrumorthatJustin Bieber got arrested. This was probably not a great topic because apparently this rumor had already been going on. A few people retweeted Baratunde’s tweet, but I don’t think anyone else in the room had followers who would retweet anything Justin Bieber-related. I know I don’t.
We came back a few times to the idea of eBay-esque ratings systems for individuals’ and organizations’ reliability, but were perplexed by the challenges of people gaming the ratings for personal and political reasons. I asked: “Even if the system was working perfectly and my rating was a legitimate measure of how often I’d shared correct information in the past, how much confidence can that give you that I won’t get bad information and innocently share it with you in the future?”
We decided that to get information out fast but maintain your integrity as an information provider, you have to be willing to correct yourself. We talked for awhile about the disproportionate sizing of articles and corrections in mainstream media. As Shava said, “Say you got it wrong louder [than your original bad info] and get appreciated for it.”
Writing this up later, I wonder if even large retractions and corrections would be effective, because the original misinformation will probably have been reposted many times before the retraction is online. People who reposted the story may not check back with the original source hours or days or weeks later. Maybe there needs to be some inverse of a pingback system whereby the orignal source of a story can update repostings with breaking info.
At the end we talked about the importance of educating young people to think critically about the information they find and share online.
Session 2: Collaborative Knowledge
My friend and former outside.intern Cody Brown convened this session and kicked it off by mentioning a Wall Street Journal article (perhaps this one?) that described Wikipedia as a “crowdsourced” encyclopedia in such a way that Cody thought the term “crowdsourced” was pejorative. He also mentioned a blog post by Chris Dixon (definitely this one) that had posited that the most important startups in the past decade had been based on collective knowledge, citing the goog, the wikipedia, delicious, Yahoo! answers, and Yelp.
We discussed the advantage that aardvark and quora have over Yahoo! Answers of letting people know where their crowdsourced information is coming from. I somehow hadn’t heard of quora but signed up immediately and am loving it. Whereas aardvark feels very invasive coming in through IM (which I hate with the fire of a thousand grandmothers) and never got my interests right enough to ask relevant questions, I have checked quora at least four times since I signed up on Friday and have found some extremely relevant questions that I really want to answer, such as: “How does outside.in get their traffic?” and “Why do some companies still force their employees to use IE6?“.
We talked about what motivates people to contribute to collective knowledge and came up with two main buckets of motivation:
the super-user model, exemplified by (ma)gnlolia‘s “gardener” status, wherein people get privileges, influence, and recognition for contributing
the selfish motivation model, exemplified by bit.ly and delicious, wherein most users shorten links or save links for their own use, while unwittingly adding to a pool of knowledge about what URLs people are sharing and clicking on
Session 3: Semantic Analysis of Activity Stream Data
In this session we talked about the difficulties of doing semantic analysis on short status updates with a modicum of data to analyze and no standard taxonomy for presenting data. The only taxonomy that’s been presented so far—hashtags—has been overrun with spam.
We didn’t decide much in this session—the topic was a bit too specific and practical, and the number of attendees was a bit too small.
We discussed the tribulations of getting users to proactively add metadata to short status updates and the relatively small adoption rate of twitter location. A representative from TwitJobSearch mentioned that they crawl the links from Twitter profiles to get extra metadata about the tweets they analyze.
This session started out with four people in camera-less Section G (where, coincidentally, every session I participated in took place), but about 15 minutes in some folks from justin.tv came in and asked if we’d mind being moved to Section D, where sessions were being streamed live and, of course, recorded. The group quickly grew to six, then 10, then 15 people, with a few strays rotating in and out to see what all the streaming fuss was about, I suppose.
You can watch the video here if you want to see the whole thing, or check out my summary below the embed. I don’t say too much—the other participants were pretty talkative—but if you’re inclined to watch, there’s a continuous shot of me alternating my best serious gaze between my co-participants and my computer whilst doing the following:
If you skipped out on the video, here are my notes from the session:
We started talking about foursquare and its privacy concern pretty quickly. Someone said that “foursquare is better at showing where you were than where you are,” and we wondered if location becomes less important the less real-time it is. I pointed out (uh, rhetorically) that even if I had tweeted the latitude and longitude I had just shared privately with echo echo cofounder Nick Bicanic, I don’t personally believe that my precise whereabouts at a single given moment make me particularly vulnerable. I didn’t get to my rationale, but it’s this: The cost of acting on real-time geographic information is extremely high. I don’t think anyone wishes me ill that decisively.
We discussed the possibility of an “eBay for cabs” mobile app would allow you to share your location with cab drivers and find out how far away they are. Apparently such a one exists in San Francsico—it’s called cabulous.
Bob Wyman—who had a lot to say on the subject—told us that his daughter carries an Android phone and uses Latitude to share her whereabouts with him so he doesn’t necessarily have to call her and yell at her if she’s stayed out too late. He also speculated that Abby Sunderland (the 16-year-old girl who went missing whilst sailing around the world alone) would’ve been a lot happier if she could’ve shared her precise location with people who were looking for her during her rescue mission. I wondered if she could’ve known that before her mast broke—making a solo trip around the world in a sailboat being of course one of the most brazenly independence-seeking things a 16-year-old girl might do—and congratulated Bob on having such a great relationship with his daughter that she surrenders her exact location to him at all times. I know my brother would’ve had part of no such thing as a teenager. Nic Luciano of GetGlue quipped “I’d be more likely to give a cab driver my lng and lat than my father.” Ha!
Nick mentioned his feeling that the tendency to document our lives at every step—say, by checking in on foursquare as soon as we sit down at the table and tweeting a picture of our meal before we eat it—is a bit absurd in its interference with actually leading our lives. Bob countered by referencing a 1945 article from The Atlantic called “As We May Think” that suggests such documentation long before the age of “lifecasting” and “oversharing.” I haven’t read it yet, so don’t spoil it for me in the comments, ya hear?
Personally, I found continuously tweeting pictures and observations from my trip to Ireland last year extremely helpful in reviewing and labeling with correct dates and locations the photos from my real camera after I got home. At the very least, we’re making it easier to sort our photo albums and write our own histories by tracking our lives in real-time.
For Outside.in, it’s thrilling to see that there are so many smart people are enthusiastic about the challenges of filtering and aggregating the expanding amount of data being created by real-time web services. I was particularly excited by the number of location-specific sessions proposed and the quality of thought and discussion about the meeting of the physical and virtual worlds.
On June 9, 2010, AlwaysOn announced the ’2010 AlwaysOn East Top 100 Private Companies,’ including Outside.in in the category of digital media. According to AlwaysOn, “The AOE100 comprises East Coast companies pioneering in cloud computing and SaaS, digital media, and greentech.”
Like many of you, I attended the #140Conf last week here in New York City at the 92nd Street Y. I found it interesting and inspiring, primarily because it reminded me of what this whole hyperlocal thing is all about, when you get down to the brass tacks. It’s the same reason I love serving as Outside.in‘s Community Manager, and the same reason I love Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the social media tools many of us use on a daily basis.
So, what did #140Conf remind me of? @JeffJarvis summed it up nicely:
The internet isn’t just any kind of connection machine, though. The internet is a connection machine used by human beings to create real, meaningful human connections. For many of us, the magic of Twitter (or Outside.in, for that matter) is not necessarily in its “pipes” (as our very own @StevenBJohnson will tell you, Twitter is infrastructure), but rather in its humanity:
For many of us, the tools we use on the internet are not about the technology, they’re about the people. At Outside.in, we’re not just surfacing stories using clever algorithms (which are pretty darn clever) — the stories we’re able to point to via our technology are meaningful to people because they’re about what’s going on in the places and communities that they care about.
Moreover, once you find out what’s going on in your neighborhood, whether it be via Outside.in or by chatting with your new-found friends on Twitter, you want to connect. It’s a natural human impulse to reach out in search of genuine, human connection. So maybe you go choose to go to an event you saw written about on a blog you found via Outside.in, or maybe you choose to attend a TweetUp or a MeetUp. After all, as MeetUp co-founder @heif demonstrated at #140Conf:
It’s true, too. Technology is powerful in its ability to create space for real experiences and change. But technology — especially the kinds used in social media– in a vacuum isn’t very powerful at all. It’s the people that create and use the technology that make technology so amazingly powerful. As one speaker put it:
I’ve seen it happen, too, but not only via Twitter. All technology can be life-changing if you’re open to the possibilities it could potentially help create in your life. As we often say here at Outside.in, Outside.in tells you about ‘What’s going on, where you are, right now.’ Twitter does this too, and that’s why so many of us love it. In fact, many of us love it so much that we’re willing to pay several hundred dollars to gather in a central place and talk about real time technology and why we love it so much. To be in community with one another. And there’s nothing virtual about that, it’s very visceral, and very real:
Which is really what it’s all about, right? Hyperlocal doesn’t happen without humanity. And, as @GaryVee so eloquently reminded all of us at the #140Conf:
I know all of us at Outside.in are glad we’re human, and not rocks– because people matter. And that’s why Twitter matters, why blogs matter, and why hyperlocal matters, because there are things happening — right now — in your city, your town and even your neighborhood, that really do matter.
Cheesy, perhaps, but so very true.
Happily, here at Outside.in, we’re able to take all of those online happenings and organize them in ways that make them even more timely and relevant to you. Because you’re not a rock, and you matter. Lucky us.