Tuesday, June 20, 2006

'open source journalism'

* the other day, teemu wrote:
"I wonder why there arent (are there?) any wiki-sites for discussing / (de)constructing such things as the whole Plame case or politics-business ties. Such format would be superior for trying to keep up with all the details."
i didnt answer at the time - and i don't know the answer.

now (via cursor) - apparently there's a conference: Jay Rosen:
"In this session (here’s the BloggerCon IV schedule and the participants) we are going to figure out how we can use the Net to actually do readers-know-more-than-we-do reporting (also known as open source journalism) and break news with it. Because if users really do know more than “we” do; if it really is possible to tap that kind of distributed knowledge and inform a larger public with it, then we should be able to do stories with these methods that would elude more traditional forms of reporting… Right?"
(related: rosen in wapo.)

Is a wiki the same thing as 'open source journalism'?


Don said...

Is a wiki the same thing as 'open source journalism'?

In theory, yes. Open-sourcing promotes participation by any and all intereste parties, usually in some regulated fashion. It is inherently antithetical to proprietary systems; whlie there are some restrictions on distribution (generally related to attribution), they are deliberately minimized to encourage innovation. It's free and everyone gets to play so long as they also agree that others may build upon their work as they build upon their predecessors'.

WikiPedia, the Mozilla foundation (distributors of Firefox), and especially Linux are the best known successful examples.

In this context, I can definitely see strong possibilities and potential flaws. Quality control, for example, will be a major issue to address. On the other hand, pulling together into one place a large number of authoritative information sources... wow!

I will be very interested in seeing how it all comes together.

lukery said...

don - i should have written: "Is a wiki EXACTLY the same thing as 'open source journalism'?"

it would be very interesting to have a plame wiki - perhaps that would somehow bridge the chasm between the maguire/JOM crew and the EW/FDL crew

Don said...

don - i should have written: "Is a wiki EXACTLY the same thing as 'open source journalism'?"

Actually, I should've gotten that from your original wording but the tech geek in me got loose... :P

Wiki in and of itself isn't open source journalism. It is one tool by which open source journalism could be set up, just as the wiki software and templates were used to develop an open sourced encyclopedia, Wikipedia. SourceWatch is similarly set up.

Something else I should have noted earlier while my inner geek was running amok, one of the Wikimedia Foundation's projects is Wikinews, an open-source journalism site. Their "Wikinews needs you!" sounds a lot like what Rosen was promoting...


lukery said...


i should have asked "is wiki-journalism exactly the same thing as OSJ?"

eg you could (conceivably) have OSJ that isnt necessarily wiki right? wiki is literally just the (generic) technical platform - is that right? - whereas opensource is generic at a higher level of abstraction?
(or are the terms generally interchangable in general usage?)

Don said...

"Open Source" is the broad concept applicable to many fields; "Open Source Journalism" is the concept applied specifically to one field; and Wiki is one tool for applying it.

So, wiki-journalism is but one possible application of OSJ but not the whole, as there are other ways OSJ could be implemented.

Teemu said...

I'll second Dons definitions.

What I was after with "Plame-wiki" was a site in which all the relevant Plame-related information was collected, organized and associatively linked in sort of wikipedia-fashion.

Of course, wikipedia has rather simple structure, as there are mostly only one kind of nodes and one kind of links, while really rich and useful "Plame-wiki" could use such custom elements as, for example, interconnectable(?) timelines.

One can get good coverage of unfolding events by reading blogs and such, but to get the big picture, to notice how that one detail in 2004 interview relates to current events or to check what someone said or knew back then - you just can't do that, unless you have superhuman memory and mind. Most of us don't.

I wonder how lawyer or investigative journalists reconstruct the big picture out of details of a huge case. Whiteboard and post-it notes and what else? And how can one transform that methodology into practical and collaborative on-line tool? (Wiki is one such tool, but maybe not the best possible one).

lukery said...

thanks (sorry if i made that more difficult than i needed to - i kinda knew the answer - but wasn't sure if wiki had come to mean OS in general usage)
(and teemu - sorry for leaving yuor answer hanging out there the other day - it was in the middle of that silly thread about open-threads THAT WAS ALL DON'S IDEA ANYWAY)

teemu - i dont know of anything like that re plame - ew's 'anatomy of a smear' parts 3.1-3.4 is probably the best attempt of a *narrative* that i know of - but it all gets so deep that i can't get my read around all the details. there's so much that we appear not to know - and therefore so much speculation - that it gets totally blurry. (apparently there's a terrific dkos timeline as well)

i have no idea how lawyers map out their cases - it'd be interesting to know - not just for the historical stuff - but also looking foward - how to 'trap' witnesses, and which contingencies to map out and so on.

i've seen reddhedd at fdl and others literally talk about getting out their plame folders with stickynotes and highlighters and stuff - but structuring that info in that environment would be very difficult - because many articles, and elements within articles, have later proved to be false. and of course, for someone like EW, important elements of the story are about noticing when spin (from say, Rove's camp) changes, and you can watch the lawyers switching strategy

as for me - i dont even have a sibel folder - if i had a million hours in the day, i'd map out the chronology of when she confirms each new element of the story and try to get a deeper understanding of the story that way.

on an unrelated, but somewhat similar, note - for some reason i stumbled across this today
and thought it was kind of a cool visual representation for some reason (it's really not) - and wondered if it was possible to do something like teemu is suggesting - perhaps you could add some extra context somehow - and highlight the different linkages in say, the plame case.

Kathleen said...


When I first read your name, I thought you were my dear friend Teemu Kassila from Helsinki, but then you said you were in your 20's and I knew you were a different Teemu.

Perhaps you've heard of his father, Matti Kassila?