Archive for the 'politics' Category



Sell me tags, Twine!

How much would, say, the New York Times have to pay to have the entirety of its newspaper analyzed and annotated every day?

The question is not hypothetical.

The librarians could go home, and fancy machine learning and natural language processing could step in and start extracting entities and tagging content. Hi, did you know Bill Clinton is William Jefferson Clinton but not Senator Clinton?! Hey there, eh, did you know that Harlem is in New York City?! Oh, ya, did you know that Republicans and Democrats are politicians, who are the silly people running around playing something called politics?!

Twine could tell you all that. Well, they say they can, but they won’t invite me to their private party! And maybe the librarians wouldn’t have to go home. Maybe they could monitor (weave?) the Twine and help it out when it falls down (frays?).

I want to buy Twine’s smarts, its fun tags. I’d pay a heckuva lot for really precociously smart annotation! They say, after all, that it will be an open platfrom from which we can all export our data. Just, please, bloat out all my content with as much metadata as you can smartly muster! Por favor, sir! You are my tagging engine—now get running!

What if Twine could tag all the news that’s fit to read? It would be a fun newspaper. Maybe I’d subscribe to all the little bits of content tagged both “Barack Obama” and “president.” Or maybe I’d subscribe to all the local blog posts and newspaper articles and videos tagged “Harlem” and “restaurant”—but only if those bits of content were already enjoyed by one of my two hundred closest friends in the world.

I’d need a really smart and intuitive interface to make sense of this new way of approaching the news. Some online form of newsprint just wouldn’t cut it. I’d need a news graph, for sure.

See TechCrunch’s write-up, Read/Write Web’s, and Nick Carr’s too.

PS. Or I’ll just build my own tagging engine. It’ll probably be better because I can specifically build it to reflect the nature of news.

Dear Mr. Winer:

I’d very much like to go to Jeff Jarvis’s upcoming conference on networked journalism. I’m a political junkie, although a bit less than I used to be, now that I’ve moved from a tech position at a progressive Washington non-profit to a banking gig in New York. I’m also recovering cable news junkie of the worst kind. Gone are the days when I could name the margins by which obscure congressmen won their elections

I’ve shifted my energy into being an avid thinker about the news—as broadly construed as reasonably possible. I think about the news all the time. I think about where it’s heading all the time, in at least half of my sore brain’s idle moments. What’s its most essential functional unit? The I also think about mapping the news. News graphs (of a simian kind) spin and reform themselves in my head to my delight even when I parse out thoughts about the sub-prime mortgage market, CDOs, high LTVs, low doc loans, default probabilities, IC and OC tests, PIK toggles, and so on.

I think Mr. Jarvis likes this general idea of maps, which I’ve been publicly and privately writing about for upwards of a year now, ever since I met, loved, and ultimately loathed this project for getting so close to something really interesting but stopping short.

This all been in my head for too long now. I need to get out and hear, in person, what others are talking about. I need to listen, and maybe I need to talk in turn. I want to be in the illuminating thick of a conversation on networked journalism. And yet I’m told that the conference may be overstuffed. I’ve expressed my keen interest the conference’s organizer, but that doesn’t change the brute fact that I’m a small-time blogger, an amateur thinker. So, Mr. Winer, I don’t want to sit idly while an invitation passes me by. Do you have any advice about how I can fatten up my meager chances of winning a coveted invitation?

I’d appreciate your kindly advice very much.

Breaking Content, Building Conversation

Deep down, what makes the new kind of debate from the Huffington Post, Slate, and Yahoo! actually really exciting is the extent to which it represents the third component of networked news.

What, again, is the third component of networked news? It’s a data-driven network of the people and the issues in the news.

Although very limited in scale, this example of being able to slice and dice a stodgy debate is amazingly powerful. Jarvis knows it. He groks how this means a “conversation”—a free-flowing exchange of information among people along a topic or around some substance of interest to everyone involved, both the speakers or writers and the listeners or readers. As I’ve noted before, I think Jarvis also, at some level, gets the importance of structuring the news around the people who are in it and who consume it and interact with it.

That’s what this is. Once the candidates have had their chances, we listeners get to pull apart their interviews, re-arrange them, and piece together a conversation, organized by issue. We can ignore candidates and focus on others. We can focus on Iraq, or maybe even withdrawal from Iraq, or we can weave in and out of interrelated topics, like, say, security and civil rights or single-payer health care and taxes, comparing each candidate’s self-consistency and comparing them all to one another. (I’m for security and civil rights and single-payer health care and taxes.)

This is awesome. Huffington Post is blowing up. For realz.

To bring in the first two components of networked news, HuffPo and co would have to give us the tools to weave in our own video clips and then let us share them with one another as variously trusting members of a community.

Let me juxtapose my own counterarguments to a windbag’s dissembling. Or let me loose some praise on another candidate’s courage. For that matter, let me juxatpose my praise for a candidate’s courage with another citizen’s attack on that same candidate’s cowardice. Let us argue with one another—and do it alongside the evidence.

And then let us, users and consumers, mixers and contributors, define relationships among one another. Let us grow our relationships. Let me read some smart midwesterner’s opinions on farm subsidies and then let me subscribe only to his agriculture-related content. Or let me take a wide-angle view of the network of conversations we citizens are having. Let me find out how many people really care about extraterritorial rendition, or let me get a sense of who wants big government to let them be. Let me check out which clips are the most viewed or most mashed-up.

That would be awesome.


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