Rebooting personal news

In Essay on November 17, 2009 by Dave Winer

Jay Rosen has observed that when stories appear on the web, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be accompanied by a detailed backgrounder that allows a new reader to catch up. That this isn’t a tradition in web journalism is a vestige of print journalism. It’s not possible to repeat all the background every time in print as it is in electronic media.

This is especially important for complex stories. Jay cites the Giant Pool of Money podcast by by This American Life that explains the financial crisis of 2008. It’s a wonderful example, and it should be linked into every news story on the subject.

Of course Jay is right, but I realized that it’s not just the big complex stories that effect everyone that need this treatment. The small personal stories need backgrounders too.

Over the weekend I took a train trip from San Francisco to Denver. I documented it many ways — on Twitter, with a set of pictures on Flickr, and blog posts on a variety of sites. With each tweet I’d get a flurry of questions asking why I was in Utah or Colorado. Or suggesting that I visit a place that I passed a day before. After the train trip, a good friend didn’t know that I had taken it.

All this suggests that “Dave Winer” is a story that needs a backgrounder. There ought to be one place where you can catch up on me. It should be very easy to locate from any individual bit of news I post.

Similarly, each thread in my life should stand as a separate object, and also be easy to find. So my train trip page would gather all information about the trip.

The news system needs to not only reboot for the stories we’ve always covered, but needs to work equally well for the stories we cover now that we didn’t in the past.

Update: I’ve written on this topic many times over many years, but I’m not going to try to assemble a backgrounder of those pieces, yet it could be interesting to read what they say.

Update: This is an example of a new form for Rebooting The News which we discussed in the last few minutes of #33. I’m going to write essays, and I hope from time to time Jay does as well, and the invitation extends to our readers. Please listen to the podcast to get an idea of what’s going on.

9 Responses to “Rebooting personal news”

  1. Dave, I forget how I noticed your train trip. Must have been thru Twitter. I actually followed just on the basis of travel log. Didn’t realize it wasa Droid test drive too.

    Heard the pod cast for the first time monday. You and Prof Rosen are answering my questions and filling my mind with knowledge! Thank you!

    Detailed Backgrounder! yes.

    I get so much vocabulary from you and Prof R!
    Have you guys created a dictionary? I would love that.

    Nice to make your acquaintence. You two are bringing this ole gal up to speed fast!

  2. As I read this I kept saying Amen to myself. The internet culture of breaking news really needs the ability to get the back story.

    Then I remembered an example of someone actually doing this. Every time Apple releases a new version of Mac OS X, John Siracusa posts a very detailed review on Ars Technica. Part of that review is a list to all previous reviews going all the way back to developer preview 2 in 1999. This information is interesting and useful to know where he’s coming from and why he feels certain ways about the new OS.

  3. Hmm maybe a graphical representation like google wonder wheel or google image swirl with dates?

  4. […] ideas for rebooting professional news applies equally, imho, to personal news. I wrote it up over at Comentários […]

  5. One of the things I appreciate about danah Boyd’s Apophenia blog is that she has front page links to the articles that she feels are critical to the thesis she has been developing throughout her career. Similarly, I wish more people would link to their year end synopsis and predictions on their front pages.

  6. Great back story on the Garbage Girl story. Why? It’s short, it gives salient details, it connects back to reliable authorities, and it is easily consumable because it is audio. IMHO, this would be a great addition to Lindsey Hoshaw’s about page, or front page. Part of curating your own personal news is providing an easily consumable synopsis of your own projects. Part of narrating your work.

    [ ]

  7. Why not let readers do the editorial work of adding sources and background information to the news article (or partly supervised to combat spam).

    – News Headline——|—————-|
    Lorem imposum——|suggested-|
    Lorem imposum——|readings—-|
    Lorem imposum——|—————-|
    .. comments…………….|—————-|

    Sure, at the beginning, suggested readings might not be as rich and useful as 1-2 days later when good sources were added by readers. But it raises maybe the chances, that the reader comes back again and follow-ups the story via the suggested reading list. Second, it embraces ‘do what you do best, link to the rest’.

    – Michael Jung

  8. I forgot, we actually doing it with code already, Blogs where up to 3 stories are chosen which might be similar or of interest related to the tags/category.

  9. Isn’t this the purpose of tagging blog posts (which you haven’t really done here, besides filing this under “Essay”)? You can use tags to follow a thread of all of a site’s previous content depending on where your interests lie. Same thing with linking within your content to important information in context.

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