Unconference session focuses on harnessing the vastness of knowledge

October 3, 2009 | By | Category: General News

By Armand Emamdjomeh

Ryan Sholin, Publish 2 from Online News Association on Vimeo.

Abandoning the typical lecture format, Ryan Sholin and Scott Karp prompted a conversation among approximately 40 journalists at one of two “Unconference” sessions Saturday at ONA09.

Sholin and Karp’s presentation was titled “Context and the Coming Link Economy, Why We Link, What We Get, What Comes Next.”

Links serve as “the compilation of what we all know,” said Matt Thompson, an online journalist who blogs at Snarkmarket and Newsless.org.

In the early days of the commercial Internet, news sites were hesitant to use links in articles. Now, however, Sholin and Karp say links are used to manage the vast amounts of information written on any topic. Reporters are expected to use editorial judgment to aggregate and curate what’s important on the Web.

The philosophy is to “send people away so they keep coming back for more,” a line Sholin credits to blogger Dave Winer on his Twitterfeed.

Sholin and Karp run Publish2, a website that enables journalists to aggregate links and collaborate with others online. The site incorporates collaboration tools such as newsgroups, which are aggregations of links from multiple media sources grouped by regions or themes.

Even with breaking news, Thompson said, links serve as backgrounders, explainers, how-tos and as an answer to the question “What is our assembled knowledge of what is happening at this point?”

The end result, Sholin said, is “a much more powerful work of journalism” than could be produced individually.

Thompson brought up the example of a website he created last year called The Money Meltdown, which was simply an aggregation of links summarizing coverage by media about the economic crisis. The site received 20,000 hits in two days.

Sholin compared it to why people follow the people they do on Twitter.

“If people keep sending you interesting things, you’re going to keep coming back.”

Kat Powers, another conference participant, asked what to say when bloggers who want to provide alternatives to mainstream media object to their content being linked to on major media websites.

Karp had one suggestion.

“Go print it on paper. You’re in the wrong medium.”

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