HonorTags and Citizen Journalism

Jeff Jarvis’s lists the first duty of a news editor in citizen journalism to “Aggregate, organize, and highlight the best of newsroom and citizen media”.

That’s *exactly* what our volunteer editorial team attempts to do at Philly Future. You can be the judge whether we are successful or not. Doing so requires tools and knowledge to use them. The tools we have are evolving, but are not yet where they should be.

One of the evolving tools we have is the practice of self tagging our own writing and photos with terms that make it easy to aggregate them – to pull them together for use. Folksonomies – collections of these collaborative categorizations – and tools that make use of them – are springing up all over the web

If it wasn’t for this practice, we would have had a near impossible time bringing together our regional web’s coverage of Live 8 . Technorati’s Live 8 aggregator, which brought together a tremendous amount of posts that were tagged as relating to Live 8, and Flickr, which had photos tagged as relating to Live 8, helped to identify relevant posts for review to highlight them at Philly Future.

Our Live 8 Philly coverage will continue to grow long after the event – specifically because of Technorati, Flickr and Philly Future’s own aggregator, which has who we consider the best bloggers in our region in it.

Philly Future attempts to be a tool that brings together the best of our regional web. Opinion, news, information, and more. It’s a daunting task for a volunteer effort. One of the issues we face is finding and attempting to discern if someone is posting something that is a factual news item, or an opinion piece. Reading is the ultimate arbitrator of this, but how to locate these posts initially is very difficult and flawed.

Think about it. How did you find *this* post? Probably from your aggregator. Or another blogger. Maybe a blogroll. What if no one linked to me? What if I had posted a quality piece and had no initial audience among those who are already well read? If I was some feed in a larger aggregator – that no one referenced – this post would easily be missed. Part of the din.

Clay Shirky wrote, way back in 2003, a piece that keeps getting overlooked in some places
“Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality”. Essentially, you must be linked to from those that are already linked to, in order to garner initial attention and traction. Shelley Powers has wrote extensively on this subject.

I took part in a related discussion at Jeff Jarvis’s site the other day. A great quote from Jeff: “I have to constantly kick myself to stop thinking of blogging in big-media terms, to stop judging it by the top of the power law and in silly lists, to stop assuming that bloggers want to do what media does (emphasis mine – Karl), to stop thinking that blogging has to be media, to stop thinking of blogs as publications and remember that they are people.”

Me too. He’s absolutely right. A tool to help combat that is to know a little about what the intent of a blog post is. What is the author attempting to achieve? Share his opinion? Post a news item? Do some activism? Tags can help here.

Look – we can rely on those that are already well linked to for telling us what is the news. For telling us who to read. For telling us what is important. Or we can search. Search for the new voice. Search for the new perspective.

Let those that are creating their own content tell us their intent.

Tags help us to do just that – help us to know the intent of an author. In Technorati, Flickr, and del.icio.us they help us to filter based upon the author’s choice – not some “authority’s”. This helps a host like me find content that I am looking for.

Still we have a long way to go – this volunteer still needs to read far too much to tell ya the truth. And it’s growing by the day.

That’s why I when I saw Dan Gillmor’s post about his group’s concept to help – HonorTags – I became very intrigued and did some thought. I believe – after the team has some discussion – we will use these within Philly Future to help folks identify – for themselves – what they consider the intent of their own writing. I believe it will help readers – and editors – know whether an author wants them to consider a post in different important ways.

Self-tagging is imperfect, for sure. It can be easily abused. And I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. But I welcome any new tools in my belt that can make life easier. I think this can be one.