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    Smart Mobs for News Participation

    by JD Lasica
    June 8, 2008

    Following is part 3 of my 3-part series on open APIs and crowdsourcing community news. Part 1, Part 2.

    At the NetSquared conference for nonprofits in San Jose on May 27-28, one of the most intriguing projects I heard about was Social Actions,
    a project to tie together disparate cause movements through an open API
    that would aggregate information about dozens of different campaigns
    and allow users to take action to further a cause.

    “Our mission is to
    put actions in front of people who are most likely to take part,” Peter
    told me. A few hours after our chat, NetSquared announced that Social Actions had won $10,000 as a winner of the 21 Featured Projects winners as well as a second grant for $10,000.)

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    Here’s our 6-minute video interview on Vimeo and on Ourmedia.

    I think this is relevant to news organizations for two reasons:

    • Traditional
      news organizations have been in passive mode for decades. It’s time to
      consider planning campaigns that engage the readers/users and invite
      them to participate in a direct way toward a goal, whether it’s a
      charitable cause or a public service, such as a public awareness
      campaign. The traditional mindset of journalistic objectivity has
      turned newspapers into passive observers, out of step with the passions
      and interests of their communities.
    • There’s
      that term “open APIs” again. As Peter explains, online news
      publications are free to hook into these APIs, meaning that instead of
      just reporting about a problem or issue, news reports could go one step
      further and offer tools and links that let users take action, whether
      it’s to donate, write a letter, sign a petition, join a mailing list,
      become a member of an organization — and that only scratches the
      surface of the potential for interactivity and collective action.

    Howard Rheingold wrote about Smart Mobs
    in his latest book. The approach of participatory media flies in the
    face of the traditional media paradigm of delivering content down
    one-way pipes to a passive audience of consumers. But increasingly,
    we’re turning to social networks and collaborative tools to make sense
    of and take control of our media, our communities, our lives.

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    Where are the news organizations willing to play in this new social sandbox?

    Tagged: nonprofits objectivity open APIs participation
    • Great piece! Always good to see Peter, too. We linked it on the Make Something Happen news listings today. Looking forward to watching more, for sure.

    • Paul Lamb

      JD: I like the way you framed this in terms of possibilities, particularly the ability to take action at the moment of piqued interest or inspiration. Well said!

      In a similar light I also like the http://www.knowmore.org extension (I was also at Netsquared). See you in Cambridge!

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