My Crowdsourcing Idea

Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks to an undefined group of people or community. Basically, a distributed problem-solving and production model. Jeff Howe claims that crowdsourcing is successful because it is an open call to anyone, so it therefore gathers those who are most fit to perform tasks, solve complex problems and contribute with the most fresh and relevant ideas.

Because technological advances have allowed for cheap consumer electronics, the gap between professionals and amateurs has been diminished. Companies are then able to take advantage of the talent of the public.

The crowdsourcing audience is typically an online community. The company poses a problem to the crowd. The crowd submits solutions, sorts through them, and picks the best ones. Those ideas are then proposed back to the company, the crowdsourcer, who has full ownership of them. The people with the winning ideas are sometimes compensated with money or recognition. Sometimes they are not.

There are many benefits of crowdsourcing. Because so many people are suggesting solutions, the problem is explored very quickly. And since payment is by results or not at all, it can be explored and solved very cheaply. You can also tap a much wider range of talent since you are opening it up to anyone rather than just a group within the company. Furthermore, you can get first-hand insight into the customer’s desire, because the customers may very well be the ones sumbitting ideas.

Crowdsourcing has many successes: Flash mobs.

It also has some failures: Chained to fountain. Graffiti.

I believe that the way students and faculty handled the “Fountain Day Fiasco” was completely childish, unfair, inefficient and, in the long run, completely unsuccessful. I mean, c’mon, a 41-year-old father chaining himself to a fountain, complete with plans of fasting and adult diapers? Because a bunch of college students can’t get wasted and break other people’s belongings? Unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong I think the school reacted inappropriately as well. It is completely unfair that 20,000 students have their fun-in-the-sun taken away as a result of a handful of assholes. Fountain day usually takes place right before finals. This hell week, I’ve seen kids not sleeping or eating for days, sleeping in the library, cracked out on Adderall, coffee and cigarettes, just trying to hang in there to make it through to the end. Summer. The glorious pay-off that we cling to the idea of and hold on to for dear life just so we have something to look forward to during the most hellish week of the year. So you’re going to take that day away? That one 24 hours right in the middle of the madness. The one ounce of stress relief we have.

But throwing TVs off of balconies and smashing people’s windows is not chill. My French professor’s car was completely destroyed. She is a fun and laid back but also very devoted and inspiring teacher. She loves her students, and couldn’t believe that they could do this to her. Let me tell you right now, she didn’t deserve that, not one bit.

So my crowdsourcing idea would have been applied to Fountain Day. How could the UA students have pulled together in a more successful way then chaining themselves to inanimate objects and vandalizing school property? These things just reinforced the views the faculty had already created about us: we are childish, vengeful, and have no respect for others belongings.

A Facebook group was created. But all the comments were something along the lines of, “I can’t believe they did this, this is soooooo unfair!” In other words, bitching and complaining, rather than useful ideas of how to professionally go about this issue. I would’ve created a Facebook group for just that. I would’ve opened it up to all UAlbany students and faculty. I would also encourage insight from students and faculty from other universities. Every school has some sort of spring fling Fountain Day equivalent. How do they deal with these sorts of issues? Also, people passed out fliers but with no contact info. I would include contact info on fliers so people could send in their ideas.

Also, I would’ve used crowdsourcing after Kegs n Eggs. Instead of just cancelling Fountain Day straight away, I would’ve done the same thing as above but for how people thought the school authorities should deal with the events that happened that St. Patrick’s Day weekend. I’m sure there would’ve been some good and compromising ideas.

One of the first things I heard after the school sent out the email announcing the cancellation of Fountain Day was, “Oh well, we’ll just have parties downtown on that day and get super reckless. We’ll show them. They’ll have another Kegs n Eggs situation on their hands.” That made me want to vomit. Really guys? That’s exactly the opposite of what we need to do. We need to show the school that we can have fun and have a few drinks while still acting responsible and civil. Instead of getting more fucked up and breaking things, we should have a nice, calm, clean sudo-Fountain Day celebration in which people have fun with each other peacefully instead of causing riots. I’m not talking Haight-Ashbury here, just a nice family-BBQ-style-with-a-few-beers type thing. Is that really so hard?

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My Website Idea

The problem: Anyone can be a publisher. In my last post on Ethics, I discussed how many online sources are not even credible, and even if they have been some form of fact-checked, the information is not well-rounded and it got me thinking: there should be a site for bloggers that is actually accountable. So that users can trust the information they are reading and know it is valid. Most bloggers get their info from print sources, they rarely use primary sources.

As stated by Gary Kamia, “Observation is the building block of not just journalism, but of all human knowledge.” We NEED primary sources, and we need more then one person reporting on them. How else can we get a well-rounded, educated opinion? I am a very out-spoken person and I am not saying people shouldn’t share their beliefs, but opinions should be left for the opinion section, and news should be objective. Provide all sides of the story, and let the public make up there own minds. I’m not saying death to blogs, but lines must be drawn. The SPJ Code of Ethics should apply to any, and all, online journalism. Including blogs.

The Solution: A website for bloggers that is credible and accountable. Crowdsourcing will be used to review blog posts. Users can read posts and upvote or downvote them. A rating system will be used to determine the bias of the post. 1 being very liberal-biased, 10 being conservatively biased and 5 being neutral, or completely objective. Every post will be fact-checked and source-checked and then rated on accuracy and truthfulness.

The Look: The site would be designed much like Reddit. With the title on the top and the blogs in a simple list-format underneath. The posts with the highest ratings (or a 5 in the bias section representing objectivity) would be bumped to the top of the site. The farther down the page you go, the less accurate the posts. (So unaccountable or very-biased posts would be on the bottom if featured at all). There would be up and down arrows next to each post to upvote or downvote them. Also there would be a rating system of 1-10, for users to rate how biased (or hopefully not biased) the article is. There would also be tabs underneath the title for sub-headings and niche groups including sports, music, events, images, etc. There would also be a “local” tab users could add depending on what city they’re in.

Content providers: A user account must be created in order to post, but anyone can view, comment or rate posts, that is why it is so important for the posts to be thoroughly checked and rated. There would also be staff members who would monitor and regulate the site constantly. These staff members would also have final say in the ratings of the posts, or make decisions/changes if there were disputes over the content or accountability of an article. The site could be just local news for Albany or on a wider global scale.

Target Audience: Intellectuals and forward-thinkers of all ages. Also, up-and-coming journalists. This is not by any means supposed to be a site for girl fight videos and memes. It is for hard-news and relevant, intellectual ideas. The site would be very user-friendly so it is not only reserved for the tech-savvy, but for people with all levels of technical ability.

Accessibility: The site will be available to anyone who has the Internet. A user account would be made in order to post blogs, but creating an account will be free. I would like the entire use of the site to remain free, but depending on the success of the site, perhaps some sort of partial-pay wall would be created for niche blogs only.

Funding: Funding would come from advertisements. I think the site would be able to attract a large amount of advertisers because of the wide-range of subjects featured on the site. The site would attract many people with different interests, wanting to dicuss a variety of topics. Therefore, the site could feature a wide variety of ads that would appeal its versatile audience.

Privacy: The issue of privacy would be left up to the blogger themself. If they wanted to include their name, they could, if not, their post would just show their user name. However, if a user continuously posted inaccurate or irrelevant content, their posts would be removed and their account discontinued.

Social Media: Social media would be used all throughout the site. First off, the site would be promoted on Facebook and Twitter. A Facebook group or page would be created in order to create awareness about the site and gain friends. Notifications would be posted on your wall when you posted a blog or a comment. If you received a comment on one of your posts you would be notified through your Facebook and/or Twitter both online and on your mobile phone. I would also like to create an App for the site, that could be downloaded to your phone as well.

I think this site would be extremely successful. It is certainly an interesting time for Journalism. With Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, iPads, people are in a constant state of “streaming data.” They have access to information unlike ever before. Now more and more publications are moving to online mediums, and creating pay walls for users to view them. At the same time, anyone can be a publisher. Anyone can post anything and someone will read it. People are looking for a site like this. One that they can trust, but still have fun with and openly express their ideas. A site that is not based on a quick laugh from a 30 second clip of someone’s humiliation, but intellectual and interesting observations that you want to share with your fellow nerds. Isn’t that the point after all?

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Ethical Dilemma

Anyone can be a publisher, but is that okay? Don’t get me wrong I love the fact that people can share their views and ideas with each other online, but blogs are becoming news. Readers are starting to take what they read in blogs as fact, and most of the time, it’s not.

Many online sources are not even credible, and even if they have been some form of fact-checked, the information is not well-rounded. Most of these articles come from print sources, they rarely use primary sources. As stated by Gary Kamia, “Observation is the building block of not just journalism, but of all human knowledge.” We NEED primary sources, and we need more then one person reporting on them. How else can we get a well-rounded, educated opinion? I am a very out-spoken person and I am not saying people shouldn’t share their beliefs, but opinions should be left for the opinion section, and news should be objective. Provide all sides of the story, and let the public make up there own minds. I’m not saying death to blogs, but lines must be drawn. The SPJ Code of Ethics should apply to any, and all, online journalism. Including blogs.

Since our last class I keep picturing the girl fight video that we watched and asking myself the same question, Is it journalism? According to Dan LaFave, “If someone didn’t know something and they’re interested in it, and you bridge that gap, that’s journalism.” I have to agree with LaFave on this one. Journalists are supposed to report on what’s happened. So if the story is true, and you report on it and it gets published, that’s technically journalism. I think instead we need to ask ourselves what kind of journalism this is. Are these really the kinds of things we want to take seriously?

Then again, we’ve created an entire industry on getting off of other people’s humiliation. There’s no question, embarrassment sells big. And news mediums need the money.  Videos are flashy. And they are easy. I love to read books, but I hate reading long articles/blogs online. I love Reddit, I go on it everyday. If you haven’t heard of it, check it out. But I will admit, I won’t click on titles that are more than a few lines long. If a link takes me to a long article, I’ll skim or read the first few paragraphs. If a video takes too long to download, I’ll just hit the back button and move on to the next post. As Huber said in class, “Who reads words anymore?”

Most of the people who viewed the girl fight post, only looked at the headline and watched the video. Hardly anyone read the actual content of the article. They did not get the context or relevance of the story. I think we need to decide what kind of journalism is truly important, and then actually read that news thoroughly and objectively, so we can form our own well-informed opinions.

The Shirley Sherrod story shows what can happen when videos/news is taken out of context. Sherrod was labeled as a racist because of a statement she made when she was giving a speech. The NAACP refused to back her and she felt compelled to quit her job.

However, the statement she made was taken completely out of context. The woman was referring to a white family whose farm, as it turns out, she helped save. The NAACP apologized to her, and offered her her job back, but it was to late. Sherrod refused to return to an organization that had turned their backs in her time of need.

Our job as journalists is to tell the whole story. Which was clearly not done in this situation. We are too quick to judge.

According to William Saleton, Andrew Breitbart, the “journalist” who posted the clip, didn’t care about getting the full story, he just cared about the political struggle between the Tea Party and the NAACP. He only posted the story to embarrass the NAACP. So were brought right back to embarrassment. Why do we love humiliating people so much? It’s one thing to post a girl fight, but to post an extremely slanted video that causes someone to lose their job? That is not jounalism and it is not ethical. Seek the truth and report it fully. Breitbart did the complete opposite. That is not journalism.

So yes, the SPJ Code of Ethics should apply to online journalism the same as it does print. From seeking the whole truth and remaining objective to accepting gifts.

Would I take those damn Journey tickets? No. Because I hate Journey. But if it was a band that I liked? I’m not sure. I want to say that that it’s okay to accept gifts and freebies to an extent, because I know people in other professions do it, but that there should be a line somewhere. Like a free drink or comped lunch is okay, but nothing bigger than that. But concert tickets are more expensive than a lunch, so where do you draw the line. That’s when I have to swing to the other side and say no gifts, no matter the size, should be accepted.

Personally I have to agree with Mr. LaFave again. You should be able to accept freebies as long as it doesn’t affect your work. A restaurant can comp your meal for you, but if it sucks, you report that it sucks. But let’s admit it, that would be chaos. If you smudge that line, someone somewhere down the road is going to cross it. So the line must be bold-faced and absolute.

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The WSJ Knows What’s Up

Information wants to be expensive. Newspapers are starting to require subscriptions in order to view online content. Many readers are outraged, and believe they should be able to get their news online for free. But it costs money to run a publication. So the ongoing debate continues: Should we have to pay for information?

The New York Times has created a pay wall, a website that restricts access to certain content only to paid subscribers. Soon, the non-subscribers will only be able to view 20 articles a month on the New York Times website. If you want more than that, you must pay.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the New York Times, claims that this is, “an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform.”

There are pros to pay walls. Newspapers need money, and journalists need to get paid. And it is important to the industry to stay relevant to the social media world. But for many, the disadvantages highly outweigh the advantages.

The whole point in establishing pay walls is to raise revenue from the users, but it isn’t happening. NewsCorp’s Times of London set up a pay wall which resulted in a sharp drop in traffic. Clay Shirky believes that this is, “the end of the beginning,” and that The Times is becoming a Newsletter rather than a Newspaper. According to Shirky, before the pay wall, the two Times sites had six times more readers than there were in print sales. Now, the web audience is less than one-sixth of print sales. Furthermore, the paying web audience is less than 1/20 of print sales.
But are all pay walls deemed for failure, or have the ones in the past just been poorly constructed? One thing is for sure, the Times pay wall doesn’t seem to be any better-organized. According to Felix Salmon, of Reuters, New York Times staffers don’t even understand the pay wall, so how are the readers supposed to? Mike Masnick from TechDirt agrees, “Obviously, some people will pay. But it’s not going to be nearly enough to overcome the costs of this program and the likely massive cost in customer service to deal with putting forth the most confusing pay wall ever.”

So? Is that really it? Just create a user-friendly pay wall? No it’s probably not, because there’s one more thing that the public always wants: options.  The New York Times pay wall doesn’t offer any options. First of all, you cannot just pay for access to the site only, even the most basic package includes a NYT app. People don’t want to pay for things that they aren’t going to use. My grandfather reads the newspaper everyday, but he doesn’t have a smart phone, nor would he use the app even if he did, and he definitely doesn’t want to pay for it.

So in creating my pay wall, I would give my audience choices. First off, I would offer an array of different packages to suit each type of reader, including one with only website access (at the smallest price) for people like my Grandpa. I also don’t agree that if you pay five dollars extra you can get iPad service, but they take away your smart phone service. The more you pay, you should get services only added on, not taken off.

Secondly, I would not go with a rigid all-or-nothing pay wall. Allen Murray, executive editor of the Wall Street Journal Online, believes that pay walls can be successful, but you have to make some distinctions. The Journal’s pay wall model is a mixture of paid and free content. It allows free access to political, arts, and opinion coverage, as well as blogs and breaking news stories. The rest of the site requires a subscription.

I believe that this is a smart way to go about the pay wall situation. My pay wall would definitely reflect The Journal’s model. If you keep hard-news or breaking news stories from readers, they are just going to get it somewhere else. Furthermore, another publication is bound to report on it for free, giving them revenue that could have been yours. The same goes for the most popular content on your site, why would you hide the section that is giving you the most views? Also, like Murray, I would try to keep as much of the paid content as possible to niche writing. Like I said before, people will get their hard news stories somewhere else, but they would be willing to pay for a niche section because they are interested in it and they would read it frequently.

Information wants to be expensive. I believe that pay walls can be a positive thing, and in this day-in-age, nothing is free, so I don’t think they can be avoided. But I do believe that more work needs to be done in order to get public support, and I think the Wall Street Journal Online has got the right idea. My pay wall is based off theirs, and I think other publications should do the same. Maybe then, “we can continue to invest in the quality of journalism you all know and love,” just as Ochs Sulzberger Jr. intended.

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Tell the whole truth

Going off the same idea as my last blog post, Girl Fight, the Shirley Sherrod story shows what can happen when videos/news is taken out of context. Sherrod was labeled as a racist because of a statement she made when she was giving a speech. The NAACP refused to back her and she felt compelled to quit her job.

However, the statement she made was taken completely out of context. The woman was referring to a white family whose farm, as it turns out, she helped save. The NAACP apologized to her, and offered her her job back, but it was to late. Sherrod refused to return to an organization that had turned their backs in her time of need.

Our job as journalists is to tell the whole story. Which was clearly not done in this situation. We are too quick to judge.

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Girl Fight

Since our last class I keep picturing the girl fight video that we watched and asking myself the same question, Is it journalism? According to Dan LaFave, “If someone didn’t know something and they’re interested in it, and you bridge that gap, that’s journalism.” I have to agree with LaFave on this one. Journalists are supposed to report on what’s happened. So if the story is true, and you report on it and it gets published, that’s technically journalism. I think instead we need to ask ourselves what kind of journalism this is. Are these really the kinds of things we want to take seriously?

Then again, we’ve created an entire industry on getting off of other people’s humiliation. There’s no question, embarrassment sells big. And news mediums need the money.  Videos are flashy. And they are easy. I love to read books, but I hate reading long articles/blogs online. I love Reddit, I go on it everyday. If you haven’t heard of it, check it out. But I will admit, I won’t click on titles that are more than a few lines long. If a link takes me to a long article, I’ll skim or read the first few paragraphs. If a video takes too long to download, i’ll just hit the back button and move on to the next post. As Huber said in class, “Who reads words anymore?”

Most of the people who viewed the girl fight post, only looked at the headline and watched the video. Hardly anyone read the actual content of the article. They did not get the context or relevance of the story. I think we need to decide what kind of journalism is truly important, and then actually read that news thoroughly and objectively, so we can form our own well-informed opinions.

 

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Proactive Parents is the Answer!

Tonight we attended a conference at Saint Rose in which a wonderful panel of experts commented on one of today’s children’s favorite new pastime, cyberbullying. No longer is it just the big boy on the playground who steals your lunch money or the stuck up little girl who calls you names on the bus. Now bullying has gone public. Taking it to new levels of hurt and humiliation, now bullies can post those hurtful comments online for all to see, add to, and comment on for as many days, months, or years as they please. According to i-SAFE Inc., 58% of students have had something mean or hurtful to them online. Online Bullying Research Studies - Victims

For the original site of this chart and many more on cyberbullying, visit the Cyberbullying Research Center site.

So what’s causing kids to want to do this to each other? Is it the same old line mom always fed you, “He is just insecure so he has to take it out on someone else to make himself feel better.” Or is it simply just because these sites are available, so kids are going to make use of them? One thing is for sure, it’s happening, and not only are egos being hurt, but teens have actually killed themselves over online taunting.

Some believe that cyberbullying is a result of kids being less empathetic than they use to be, damn those video games! Sara H. Konrath of the University of Michigan conducted a study in which she measured empathy among college students. Konrath found that college students’ self-reported empathy has declined since 1980, especially within the past ten years. I just don’t see how this study could be accurate. First of all, it is “self-reported” empathy. For me, I feel like it would be very hard as a person to gage your own empathy. Someone might think they are empathetic because they buy nice things for their boyfriend or girlfriend, but when it comes to actual compassion, they are totally lacking. On the other hand, a person may think of themselves as not empathetic because they mock and tease their friends, but when it comes to a serious situation, they are always there for them. Not to mention the fact that they say the numbers are in decline, but they never say how much.

I don’t know whether college kids are more or less empathetic or not, but I don’t think that this is the cause of cyberbulling. Kids are kids. They make fun of each other. That is just the way it is. I believe that the reason bullying is increasing is merely due to the fact that now they have more ways to do it. It’s easy. Facebook and Twitter have given kids new mediums to bully and be bullied on. Lydia Kulbida, news anchor for WTEN and mother of two teenagers, lead the discussion tonight. According to Kulbida, these mediums provide tormentors with not only new mediums but permanent ones. I personally don’t think kids realize what they are doing when they post something hurtful about a classmate. They don’t realize that once it’s up there, it’s up there for good. Even if it can be deleted, it’s possible that thousands of people have already seen it and filed it away. Like a “virtual bathroom wall.”

But it’s not just crude ims or writing a mean comment on someone’s wall. Kids are now creating entire “fake facebooks” to hide their identity or steal yours. They can also create Facebook groups devoted to making fun of someone. At the forum, two students did a live demo showing just how bad things are. They said they had created a fake facebook for a not so attractive girl. Not only had people posted horrible things on her wall including, “Go kill yourself,” but they had also created a group calling her the biggest slut ever. I tried to find the group, but I couldn’t because up popped hundreds of groups titled “<Insert name here> is the biggest slut/bitch/whore ever.” I couldn’t believe it. Looking back at me were girls faces whose reputations are now completely ruined.

So what can we do about this? Sandra Morley, principal of Bethlehem Middle School, said that schools are doing all they can to combat this issue, and that anti-bullying is “embedded in the curriculum.”

However, according to Lt. Joeseph Donohue, a member of the State Police in the computer crime unit, this is not enough. “Once we get involved there is already a victim, that’s too late,” Donohue said, “It must start at home with the parents. Prevention! We must instill a sense of right and wrong right from the get-go.” James Preller, author of the book, Bystander, agreed with Donohue. “Schools are doing all the right things, but it’s not enough,” Preller stated, “Punishment may stop the behavior, but it doesn’t teach the correct behavior.”

One thing was evident at the forum tonight: the answer lies with parents and communication. Lt. Donohue described how he asked a class of 5th graders if they were on Facebook and every single one raised their hand. Later that night, he asked their parents if their child had a Facebook. They all said no. Not one parent knew their child was online. Donohue’s answer? Monitor your children’s online activity. If they have a Facebook, the parent must have their name and password. I agree with this. Kids are always going to find a way to get online, so parents must be honest and open with them. Remember that statistic from the beginning of this blog? 58% of students have had something mean or hurtful said to them online? Well, 58% of students did not tell their parents about it. Like Kulbida said, “Just like we can’t be embarrassed to have the sex talk with our kids, we can’t be embarrassed to have the online talk with them.” Facebook is not liable for the action of bullies, parents must be proactive.

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