One week after launching ReportingOn in a public beta that’s helping me prioritize features and fix bugs in my programming, there is one big surprise: The large international turnout.
The Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking media blogosphere appears to be truly excited about the idea of Twitter para periodistas, even as I try to differentiate from Twitter as fast as I can.
Pablo Mancini, interactive services manager at the beautifully designed El Comercio of Lima, Peru, interviewed me by e-mail yesterday. Rodrigo Orihuela handled the translation, so if your Spanish is up to the task, you can read the exchange posted on their group blog, Amphibia.
Here’s the interview in English:
Q: Is ReportingOn living up to you expectations for the first few days? I guess you have a some kind of targets you want to meet.
A: Well, there’s a few things going on, now just six days into launching ReportingOn in what I’m calling a public beta of the site. Behind the scenes, I’m up early in the morning adding functionality as I learn more about Django every single day, and with live content and users banging away at the site, it makes it much easier to see what works, and what’s necessary to do next.
I expected that a lot of my friends in the media blogosphere would join, but not have much to say, which makes sense, because this is a really a tool for on-the-ground reporters, so I’m not surprised at the high ratio of users to updates so far.
Q: It seems there are quite a few non-US journalists, several of them from South America, among the first 100-odd users. Had you counted on so many non-Americans joining so fast?
A: The biggest surprise of the first week, which you and your colleagues are the evidence of, is the huge turnout from Spanish and Portuguese-speaking journalists. I’m scrambling to come up with an intelligent way to deal with the different languages on the site without creating too many divisions between users based on their location. As a researcher, it’s really exciting to me because it’s what we might call an “unintended use” of the site, and as a developer, it’s exciting to have a sudden need to push something up the feature queue in a hurry.
Of course, I have to thank Dario Gallo and a number of other bloggers in South America and Europe for writing about the site this week.
Q: How many people work on ReportingOn? (Including development, design and all the build-up stuff.)
A: One. And thousands. Which is to say, while I’m the only one with my hands in the code of the site, I’ve benefited greatly from the work of others in the open-source community, especially Django developers, some of whom have personally helped me solve individual programming problems.
Part of my personal goal for ReportingOn is to prove that one excited journalist can create something useful online without a computer science degree or much training at all.
Q: What is ReportingOn’s business model?
A: There isn’t one. This is a non-profit project funded by the Knight News Challenge with the goal of improving local news by connecting journalists to the people they don’t talk with enough: each other.
Once the site is running on its own with a healthy set of features in place, I’ll open-source the code and invite developers and journalists to improve on the idea and launch their own versions of the site. For example, a large news organization with staff spread across the globe might benefit from an internal version, or a topical journalism association focused on something like science reporting or covering education could use their own version of ReportingOn to focus on even narrower beats within their fields.
Q: How do you see ReportingOn in a year’s time?
A: Well, I certainly hope that it’s a vibrant network full of conversations that are useful to reporters who might be new to a town, a beat, or looking for new angles on an old story, but at the same time, I won’t be disappointed if something better comes along to help journalists of all kinds make these connections.
Developments since I posted this:
We’ve added comments on each update, so registered users can indefinitely continue a conversation that starts with 140 characters.
A number of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking journalists and bloggers who have reached out to me are interested in helping to figure out how to accommodate an international userbase without putting up too many barriers based on language or location.
As soon as I get a little further into my to-do list for features on the site, I’ll post here (in a couple languages?) to brainstorm about language and international connections.
Help translate the ReportingOn FAQ into Spanish here: http://bit.ly/ROfaqES
(Ayuda para traducir el FAQ de ReportingOn, por favor!)