Tag Archives: Stuff

Strangled by the Grassroots

 Steve Outing writes a bittersweet eulogy to his failed startup, the Enthusiast Group, which tried to build a business around grassroots media. His conclusion: with the exception of one or two sites that make it big (YouTube, Flickr) user generated content is not strong enough to stand on its own.

In my view — and based in part on my experience with the Enthusiast Group project — user content when it stands on its own is weak. But it’s powerful when appropriately combined with professional content, and properly targeted.

It’s an important lesson to learn. Steve found that while quite a bit of content came in, it was of such varied quality that it just didn’t hold users’ attention. YouTube and Flickr made it big, and so while there’s tons of rubbish on both, there’s still enough to engage and entertain users. The fact that both make it easy to find the best stuff (usually because it’s the stuff a lot of people are looking at) helps.

What Steve found is that on smaller sites, however good your good stuff is, if you’ve got bad or mediocre stuff for most of your content, you’ve got a mediocre publication. Unless it’s highly targeted, hyperlocal content it just won’t hold the reader’s/viewer’s interest.

Of course, the bigger lesson here is that quality matters. Which means good writing/photography/video/reporting/editing still matters. Which means that despite all our fears, journalists still matter. What we’ve yet to do is find out how best to merge citizen journalism with professional journalism. Or, as Steve concludes:

I depart my latest venture nevertheless convinced that grassroots or user content is immensely powerful. We just have to figure out how best to leverage it.

An Important Lesson About Grassroots Media

Enthusiast Group enters deadpool reflectively

Another Task Manager

In this week’s WSJ.com/AWSJ column (subscription only, I’m afraid) I write about online calendars, mentioning towards the end of it Backpack, an excellent online project and stuff organiser using Ajax. Here’s a slightly different version of the same thing, sproutliner:

Sproutliner is a free web service that helps you manage your projects and ideas (think of it as a supercharged structured to-do list). It uses some rather smashing client-side technology to make things as quick and easy as possible, without forcing you to worry about hitting ‘submit’ to save your precious data.

This week’s column – Not Wired, Just Weird

This week’s Loose Wire column is about some of the more obscure gadgets I found at CommunicAsia Expo in Singapore last week:

WANDERING AROUND last week’s technology exhibition, CommunicAsia, in Singapore, I was struck by the gulf between the big players–with their huge, noisy stands, populated entirely by well-shaped, scantily-clad men and women all under the age of 25–and the somewhat forlorn little booths in the ghettos at the back. I’m sure this is not a phenomenon exclusive to CommunicAsia but it seemed to be particularly acute there. Sure, there were some cool gismos on display among the big boys, but I found the most interesting stuff off the beaten track, most of it in the alleys and byways of exhibition hall 6 (just past the toilets, and turn left.) Here is a selection, some of which may not actually be easily available until the manufacturer finds a local distributor.

Full text at the Far Eastern Economic Review (subscription required, trial available) or at WSJ.com (subscription required). Old columns at feer.com here.

News: Sun, Surf and Laptops

 Email is the bane of our lives. It arrives even when we’re not there, and is usually full of junk (I’m not talking about stuff from the boss, but only because he’s reading this.) Now, it seems, we can’t actually detach ourselves from it. According to a British Computer Society (BCS) survey, there has been a 20 percent rise in the number of British executives bringing their laptops on holiday with them. Roughly 15 percent of the executives polled, an article in ElectricNews said, tool their portable computers to keep in touch with the office and keep abreast of work-related e-mail.
 
Given I’m writing this while on a mini-break, I find all this quite believable.