Gawker tightens control over comments

All of the Gawker Media sites have a new commenting system.

As explained on gawker.com, “we the editors are taking control back”.

As a site gets bigger, the comments tend to get busier — and sometimes more annoying. Our titles are no exception. Deadspin’s had to contend with a war between the daytime and nighttime users; Jezebel editors battle for control with a politically-correct mob; perceptions of Gawker are set by a small group of glib and bitchy commenters. All sites that are growing as rapidly as ours have something like this problem — and one that can’t be solved simply by banning the offenders or applying more strictly our approval process.

Editors will grant star status to their most-trusted commenters, whose comments will get greater prominence and who will, in turn, be able to grant prominence to others’ comments they like. (Stars were previously awarded based on how many followers a commenter had.)

Although moderators will continue to monitor the discussion, the stars will have their comments posted without pre-moderation, and will also be able to approve comments submitted by other users.

Commenters can also upload images and YouTube videos.

The Gawker sites are: gawker.com, deadspin, kotaku, jezebel, io9.com, jalopnik, gizmodo and lifehacker.

Iran coverage boosts CNN’s iReport traffic

Andy Plesser of Beet.TV quotes a statement by CNN that page views for its user-generated iReport site reached one million on Monday, driven by coverage of post-election protests in Iran.

To put this in perspective, iReport (which was launched in February 2008) averaged 316,000 page views per day in 2008 (9.6 million per month) according to Nielsen Online data reported by CNN. The main news site, cnn.com, averaged about 35 million page views per day, according to comScore numbers quoted by TechCrunch in November.

Plesser says that over the past week, “some 5,000 Iran-related videos and photos have been uploaded to iReport” and that “about 150 of these citizen contributions have been used on the air or on CNN.com after being vetted and verified by the network.”

In a video interview Wednesday with Plesser, iReport senior producer Lila King talks about how the network uses multiple iReports to corroborate information, and how iReport has become part of its world news coverage.

CBC program explores the future of news

News 2.0 on CBC Radio

CBC Radio launches a two-part series tomorrow on News 2.0: The Future of News in an Age of Social Media

What is now called the “mainstream media” has lost its control over the tools of its trade, and its importance as a centre of social and political influence. The business and philosophical model both appear to be broken, perhaps irrevocably.

There is much to celebrate about this democratization of the media, but there are also reasons to be concerned about the loss of an independent, professional journalistic filter at a time when everyone can be their own media. Can online communities of “citizen journalists” be counted on to help us make informed choices as citizens and consumers? What’s lost, and what’s gained when “News 1.0” gives way to “News 2.0?”

Hosted by Ira Basen the series includes interviews with Clay Shirky, Chris Anderson and Andrew Keen. Partial transcripts are already available at the address above.

The program airs tomorrow at 11am and next Sunday at 10am as part of Sunday Edition on Radio One.

AOL’s new Canadian portal puts it all together

Click here to watch a promo for the new aol.ca design - will open in a new window

AOL Canada is redesigning its portal, aol.ca, to offer Canadian visitors the same improvements introduced to aol.com last September.

The changes, which AOL says are “coming soon”, look good. They extend the portal concept beyond content and services provided by AOL, enabling you to manage a wide range of online activity from what the company obviously hopes will be your homepage.

At aol.ca, you’ll be able to:

  • preview e-mail from other providers such as Yahoo and Gmail without having to leave your AOL homepage
  • preview updates from social networks including AIM, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter
  • customize the left-hand navigation column by adding links to any sites
  • read content from other sites and services, via a built-in RSS reader
  • customize themes, to change the page’s appearance

AOL, which is being split off from Time Warner Inc., is working hard to be the ultimate online destination. That’s a huge change from the company’s origins as a dial-up internet service provider which sought to keep its customers inside the proverbial “walled garden” of its own content.

Blow your mind with Wolfram Alpha

I’ve been playing with the new Wolfram Alpha “computational knowledge engine” and I think one of the best terms to describe it is straight out of the 1960s: “mind blowing”.

Wolfram Alpha is not about searching for web pages (Google is still pretty good at that) but, rather, about getting answers to numerical questions, computed on demand from vast amounts of curated data plus algorithms.

For example, Wolfram Alpha can:

  • perform mathematical, financial or scientific calculations
  • analyze geographical or statistical data
  • provide a summary of events on a particular date, including the weather (automatically defaulted to your current location based on IP address)
  • tell you all the words that will fit in that crossword puzzle that’s had you stumped all day
  • tell you how the height of Mt Everest compares with the length of the Golden Gate Bridge [see screenshot]

Click here to view the Wolfram Alpha introductory video

It also has an astonishingly ability to deliver related chunks of interesting information including nicely formatted tables and graphs.

I recommend watching Stephen Wolfram’s complete introductory video (it’s about 13 minutes and takes a while to load).

There’s also more info about Wolfram Alpha here and here.

Six ways to make Web 2.0 work

The latest McKinsey Quarterly analyses the benefits to business of Web 2.0 technologies (see chart below)…

web2chart640.jpg

… and offers six tips on how to get the most from them:

  1. The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top.
  2. The best uses come from users—but they require help to scale.
  3. What’s in the workflow is what gets used.
  4. Appeal to the participants’ egos and needs—not just their wallets.
  5. The right solution comes from the right participants.
  6. Balance the top-down and self-management of risk.

McKinsey is soliciting feedback to these ideas using @McKQuarterly on Twitter and asking business people to use the Twitter hashtag #web2.0work to respond to these questions:

  1. Do our six recommendations agree with the successes and failures you’ve seen?
  2. Is the economic downturn affecting your perception and use of Web 2.0 tools?
  3. What organizations get the most out of Web 2.0, and why?

Publishing goes high-tech

Research and development departments are not something one generally associates with newspaper companies – even those that have remodelled themselves as multi-channel news companies.

But at the New York Times, Nick Bilton leads a team designing technologies “that will become commonplace in a 24-48-month time frame.” Another sign that the Times is investing now for a post-print future.

Emily Nussbaum, in a January 11 piece in New York Magazine, provides a glimpse into Bilton’s research lab as well as the organizational attitudes and decision-making that enable nytimes.com to produce such ground-breaking features as the US Election Word Train.

Read this article for inspiration.