Monthly Archives: September 2008

Thoughts on iTunes 8 and Genius

I’m generally impressed with the new Genius feature in iTunes 8. I want to give my reasons…

Let me clarify that the recommendation engine itself seems to be no significant improvement over thefilter, which is what Apple apparently bought and integrated into iTunes 8. However, the integration itself, and the UI job is commendable. If you haven’t tried it yet, the Genius music recommendation feature is essentially a button you push when you have a song selected, and it will create a playlist of “similar” songs from your iTunes library.

A lot of people I’ve talked to have complained about the quality of the recommendations… but I think we’re spoiled by Pandora. Pandora’s recommendations come from the labor-intensive “expert” analysis of their music collection, so naturally an entirely automated system can’t compete… yet.

I think Genius is a step in the right direction… and it should get better over time, assuming it takes into consideration how you respond the recommendations and leverages that feedback across users.

We’re Taking Back The Media

I’m writing an undergraduate research paper on the economics of citizen journalism. Or, more specifically, I’m researching and applying for a grant to build an open source platform for Collaborative Citizen Journalism.

I don’t want to waste your time with a really long paper. It’s not good enough yet.

However, I’m very passionate about this. I really think Citizen Journalism can happen, and needs to happen.
I recently explained the idea to a friend in an email, and it went something like this:

I imagine you’re sometimes suspicious of the news we’re told, and probably have a feeling that our government sometimes lies to us. But the extent to which we are controlled by corporate media is largely unnoticed.

Our world today is an a sad state, and in so many different ways. For some reason, I can’t just sit around and watch the world crumble… like everyone around us seems to be doing. Pollution, Erosion, Disease, Human Rights Violations, Hunger and Starvation…

Humanity can do better.

I want to make a difference. I want to make the world a better place. I hope you do too.

For myself, the way I think I can best make a positive impact is by helping “the people” take back “the media”. Yes, I’m talking about Citizen Journalism and Social Media.

Corporate news and corporate television networks rule our nation… and ever more of the world as our western culture is globalized through our government’s brand of capitalism. Corporate media has us in a reality distortion field.

The average American watches 28 HOURS of television per week.

As nice as watching TV can be, that’s just wayyy too much time to spend doing something so unproductive… that’s time better spent actually enjoying life on this planet. We buy the crap food we see on TV, buy the crap products we see on TV and listen to the crap music we hear on TV et cetera et cetera.

Anyway, I blame corporate media for leading people to live like this…

But now we have the Internet… something so fundamentally different from any form of communication humanity has ever experienced before. (I’m reading a great book called “A History Of News: From the Drum to the Satellite” … it’s an epic story, talking about how every human has been obsessed with news… that it’s a fundamental part of life, and this all leads me to think that everyone today is starved for real, true, important information and that we just stare at the fucking TV hoping to satisfy that desire… our natural desire to be informed is being exploited by corporations.

So what can we do about it?

Fast forward to the 21st century.

Everyone is a reporter now.

You, me, everyone you know.

Anything you do that’s awesome, I’ll write an article about it for the local newspaper.

Your family and friends will read about it. If it’s a really cool story it will spread. Neighbors will hear about it.

This is the promise of citizen journalism. A world where we inform each other about what is important to us.

I’m working on a platform for collaborative citizen journalism… a way for communities to work together to produce news easily and efficiently and provide it for free. Technically speaking, I’m applying for a grant to modify Drupal into an open source website system that we’ll offer for free to local newspapers so they can open up their reporting to citizen journalists. Readers of newspapers can get involved and write their own articles. The best may be edited for print.

So this system hasn’t been built yet. And instead of going out and trying to make money on this idea, and get VC funding and everything, I want to make it open source… with the hope that we can truly free the media from its corporate stranglehold.

I think this project could develop into something really cool… potentially incorporating the functionality of sites like Qik and Mogulus so these citizen reporters could even broadcast live video from events etc…

Imagine citizens covering every important local event. The latest cellphones will let you broadcast live video to the web. Other websites will let you aggregate those live video streams and produce a live online TV channel. Citizen Journalism doesn’t have to look like an online newspaper. Citizen Journalism can be fully multimedia and be more interactive and more accessible and better informed than anything we’re getting these days from the corporate news networks.

I’m not suggesting we totally dismantle the news industry. I don’t think that would be smart at all. I do, however, think that a little healthy competition would ultimately be good for everyone.

Are you ready for Citizen Journalism? Will you be a Citizen Journalist?