December 31, 2004

Resources for reporting on the tsunami

Columbia’s Sreenath Sreenivasan points to the South Asian Journalists Association as a good source of tips and resources related to the devastation wreaked by the Indian Ocean tsunami.

A brand-new collection of the best ways you can contribute has been built by Team Zoo Station here.

And Michael Bazeley has a front-page story in today’s San Jose Merc: Blogs, message boards draw world closer after tragedy.

When the killer tsunamis surged over Asian coastlines Sunday, communications consultant Peter Griffin struggled with how he could help from his home in Mumbai, India.

The result was the South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog, a Web site that has evolved into one of the most visited and important clearinghouses of information on the Internet about the epic tragedy. The site, which had nearly 270,000 hits through Thursday, is now run by dozens of volunteers and offers up-to-date news, hotline numbers and relief efforts details. …

December 29, 2004

Online video and Ourmedia

Video blogging has just busted out into the national spotlight.

Heather Green in the new issue of Business Week: Online Video: The Sequel. Video blogs are proliferating, thanks to improved distribution technology, and mainstream companies are taking notice. I managed to get a plug in there for Ourmedia:

Welcome to the latest Net phenomenon: video blogs, or what some folks call vlogs. Thousands of ordinary (and some downright nutty) people have begun posting a cornucopia of video fare online, from self-indulgent art clips and earnest citizen journalism to sly political commentary (see BW Online, 12/29/04, “Let a Million Videos Bloom Online“). Experimentation is the rule, and eccentrics outnumber serious practitioners.

But amid the chaos, glimpses of a commercial future are starting to emerge, including a revival of online video distribution, using vlogs to sell ads, and corporate sites designed to reach out to customers and suppliers. …

The vlog phenomenon has stirred up a wave of creativity at grassroots groups and companies alike. Online video sites, such as Undergroundfilm, are adding blogging sections. Ourmedia, an online showcase for digital content, is expected to launch early this month [January]. It will provide free storage and blogging room for creative types such as New York indie musician Sam Bisbee, whose music video will be available for free. “You see video bubbling up all over the Web,” says J.D. Lasica, who runs Ourmedia. “My thought was to gather it all in one place.”

Here’s Heather’s companion piece, Let a Million Videos Bloom Online. The grassroots movement to post visual blogs makes astonishing viewing, and vlogs’ rising audiences may give them an increasing impact. Excerpt:

In Boston, Steve Garfield is practicing his own brand of citizen journalism. His video reports at stevegarfield.blogs.com/videoblog are as local as they come, ranging from coverage of this summer’s Democratic National Convention to a video of a downed power line on his street. At human-dog.com, run by Chris Weagel, a St. Clair Shores (Mich.) video producer, visitors can watch a spare, silent film showing an anonymous person removing a John Kerry yard sign from its metal posts after the Presidential election and taping an upside-down flag in its place.

Ryan Hodson, a 25-year-old film editor, specializes in videos that mingle the absurd with oddly touching insights. In one clip, she tours her house. In the kitchen, the camera focuses on a pot on a stove as Hodson describes the night her roommate tried to cook Dinty Moore Stew without — as the camera pans up to recreate — pouring the food out of the can. In another video, she created split-screen montages of her brother racing bicycles, showing him crashing, and then out ahead of the pack.

The trio are among the pioneers spearheading a fast-evolving grassroots movement. It’s an amazing process to watch as creative pockets begin to interact around the country. Garfield, Hodson, and Weagel are all part of a Yahoo! (YHOO ) group dedicated to video blogging that was formed in June by Jay Dedman, a New Yorker who works at a public-access TV station.

In turn, that Yahoo group began working in late summer with Ourmedia, a new site backed by a who’s who of bloggers and grassroots media advocates. Intended to be a showplace for digital content, Ourmedia is being given free storage space by the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library backed by the entrepreneur Brewster Kahle.

Ourmedia is also tapping into the publishing and copyright licensing tools developed by Creative Commons, another grassroots nonprofit founded by Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford Law School professor and one of America’s best known commentators on intellectual-property issues.

The links among the various groups don’t stop there. Yahoo, which unveiled a video search service earlier this month, is working with Ourmedia, Creative Commons, and commercial sites such as indie-film service AtomFilms to develop a video version of Really Simple Syndication, or RSS.

We’ll see what Jay has to say, but you couldn’t really ask for a more glowing pair of articles. (And Heather’s the bomb.)

December 22, 2004

What bloggers can learn from journalists

A couple of days ago, the Poynter’s Steve Outing had a piece on What journalists can learn from bloggers.

He completes his two-part series today with a look at What bloggers can learn from journalists. Bloggers could better protect themselves if they took a few pages out of the reporter’s notebook. Great advice here. Excerpts:

With so many new people involved in blogging, most of them having no training in journalism practices, ethics, and media law, personal legal liability is a big deal. Bloggers publishing without the protection of an employer to pay for their libel defense are on their own should they make a mistake. In the years ahead, I expect to see some solo bloggers get in trouble — and some get driven to personal ruin when they lose libel lawsuits. It’s a wonder it hasn’t happened yet.

Ah, but some bloggers say, audience members are our editors. Mistakes are pointed out quickly and bloggers readily acknowledge and correct their errors in plain sight. Good point, but a blog item that libels someone will remain on the record, likely archived for a good long time, and a libelous statement left online for even a day puts a blogger at tremendous risk. So bloggers, take a tip from traditional journalists and find yourself some form of editing safety net. …

[S]olid reporting can help any blogger. Learn the value of journalistic legwork. Talk to multiple sources, and check out the credibility of those sources. Double-source information that seems suspect. Seek out the aid of public- and media-relations professionals for corporations and public institutions; today, many of them are accustomed and willing to work with bloggers as well as traditional journalists. Don’t be afraid to go to the top of an organization for comment, but also know the value of seeking information from those much further down the organizational ladder. …

The U.S. Freedom of Information Act is a journalist’s best friend, and a blogger’s, too. Anyone has the right to access public records (at least here in the U.S.), and sometimes FOIA is the tool necessary to get the job done. It’s not just for professional journalists.

Bloggers also would be wise to frequent resources designed for journalists. Poynter Online, publisher of this article, can be a useful site for bloggers. And there are so many more journalistic and reporting organizations whose resources will help bloggers produce better, more accurate work. Poynter Online maintains lists of them here and here. …

f there’s one area about blogging that raises the most concern, it’s ethics. …

Bloggers need only to look at the ethical standards developed by various journalism groups to get ideas on important issues to be included in a bloggers’ guide. Cyberjournalist.net’s Jon Dube also wrote a Blogger’s Code of Ethics in 2003 that’s worth reviewing.

December 18, 2004

Fair use of photos on blogs

Fascinating discussion going on at Weblogs Inc.’s Nanopublishing weblog: Fair use of photos on blogs … the photographers speak out.

Jason Calacanis writes:

I had dinner with two big name photographers in L.A. recently. These are folks who’s name you might recognize even if you are not in the photography industry. I asked them both under what circumstances could use their images without paying them, they both immediately responded emphatically “under no circumstances!”

Interesting. I asked them if they had heard of the term fair use, and they said they had heard of it but their photo agencies had told them that no one can use their images ever without their permission. This, of course, is not true. There is fair use …

Jason’s right. I supervised a newspaper’s photo department years ago, so I’m sympathetic to my photojournalist friends. The question is, should bloggers just grab others’ images and repost them on their blogs without permission (but with credit)?

Unfortunately, it depends. It depends on whether it’s a newsworthy event worthy of wider dissemination, or just a really cool, artistic photo of a nature scene, a sunset or the night sky (I cringe when I see these reproduced on blogs rather than offer a pointer to the photographer’s site). It depends on how the blogger is reproducing the photos. A small reproduction is OK in my book — a full-scale photo may or may not be. That’s just the digital world we live in today.

Photographers don’t enjoy any special rights not accorded to other creative individuals such as journalists and authors, whose works are snipped and reproduced every day, on blogs and websites around the world, millions of times. But check out the photographers’ take on all this at Jason’s site.

Cross-posted to Darknet.

December 16, 2004

Measure your blog’s influence

At Web 2.0, PubSub CTO Bob Wyman leaned over to me, asked for my blog’s url and then emailed me a little chart showing how much buzz it was getting in the blogosphere. (I’m generally around No. 280, which ain’t bad when up against 6 million weblogs.)

Now you can get the rankings on how your own blog is faring in the blogosphere conversation. Thanks to Steve Rubel for the pointer.