As always: If you just want the status update of Spot.Us
as a project -scroll down to the bottom for a nice digestible list of
what’s going down. Or – keep reading for detailed thoughts. This will be cross-posted at the Spot Us blog.
Two months ago I decided that instead of sitting on my hands and waiting for a “tada-moment” to launch spot.us, we should just get started by using a wiki and a blog.
“Best decision ever” (said in the voice Jeff Albertson).
Producing something from nothing
Granted, the site can best be described as fugly (take a guess what
that means) it has been effective. We’ve now funded two investigations
(details below) with a third almost funded.
More important than the hard stats is the momentum being created
around what spot.us represents: “community funded reporting.” We even
received some national attention, albeit a bit premature.
Far more important than media attention – we’ve formed a community.
It’s a loose community – but mark my words, it’s a community.
My last post at Idea Lab asked “how can get people to geek out about journalism?” I’m still not sure what the answer is – but I am becoming convinced the only way to find out is “to just get started.”
Momentum by Definition Keeps Going
The day I put out a call for pitches to upload on the wiki I received one from an eager journalist named Alexis Madrigal.
Alexis and I knew each other purely through email (I had interviewed him
for the beat blogging project). Point is – we were acquaintances, but
Alexis didn’t owe me any favors. He saw something in spot.us that
inspired him. That’s why in his pitch for spot.us he only asked for
$250. It’s not much – but I’ve come to find out that Alexis was never
interested in money. He probably put in $2,500 worth of labor into the
final investigation (which will be published in a series next week).
More than that – he donated $50 to the second pitch on spot.us which
was looking to raise $2,500 to fact-check the political advertisements
for the San Francisco election.
When I saw that Alexis donated to this second pitch I teared up a
bit. Along with Alexis seventy-three other people, many of them
journalism colleagues, donated an average of $33 to fund this
investigation. It’s hard to express my gratitude, but I try here.
While it could be argued that the first funded pitch was symbolic –
it was exactly what Spot.Us needed to get the proverbial ball rolling.
It was a spark that gave us momentum which is now gaining speed.
“Community funded reporting” is a large boulder of an object, but
it’s starting to move – because everyone is pushing. Seeing everyone
push beside me only pumps me up. So either stop encouraging me or get ready – cause my feet are only going to stomp harder.
And hopefully – the harder I stomp, the more people will hear the
call for action. I become more passionate about this by the day.
Meanwhile, bystanders who were cautious to jump in at first are
starting to see the momentum and are joining. I’m pretty confident
Spot.Us will have another round of pitches coming soon – covering
diverse issues like the elderly and police relations in Oakland. A part
of me is hoping the pitches won’t come in until October when we are
fully launched, but if they appear in my inbox tomorrow, we will start
crowdfunding for them tomorrow – journalism doesn’t wait. And Spot.Us
will continue to be iterative. Right now the communities needs are
being quelled – but much more infrastructure is needed as we ramp up speed to organize acts of “community funded reporting.”
We will get there and in the meantime – we are learning.
Project Status Report
- Coverage in the NY Times was great – unfortunately we weren’t at full capacity to deal with the interest that people showed.
- Funded two pitches – hopying to go three-for-three. Just $90 shy of our goal.
- Regardless – our community pushes forward and is growing by the day.
- Design is coming along very well. Should be done within the week. Here are some samples.
- Development is going to start really soon. Get ready to shake-and-bake (ugh, did I just say that?)
- Getting some pro-bono legal work done in September – hopefully ready for launch in October.
- Banking issues being worked out. E-commerce is a fun little side-lesson for me.
- Taking Ruby on Rails courses at the Community College of San
Francisco. Unfortunately it’s not an intro to programming class so the
vast majority of it is over my head – but it only hurts if I try really
- Having fun – becoming more inspired every day by reporters and civic leaders who lend encouragment.