This is based on the thread generated by Celestina's recent meta article about improving Newsvine. When I speak of improving Newsvine, I speak about making relevant changes to the behind-the-scenes operation of the site from a position of strength. Newsvine, to me, is the future of internet news. The Newsvine staff has created a web page and a business model that, frankly and simply, works. It is visually appealing, informative to a broad audience while able to capture niche readers extremely well. It connects the readers with the authors directly and effectively, and generates the kind of discussion, news gathering and research that really does make it the kind of place that makes you smarter.
One of the items that Celestina hit on, followed up by others in the thread, is one of collaboration. Let's talk about this item.
Collaborative articles are one of the most compelling and possibly productive uses of the new tools provided by the Web 2.0 environments. Sites like Assignment Zero engage in collaborative news assignments. Online page creator applications, ranging from Google Docs to WriteWith to Zoho, enable sharing among users, not just for sharing content, but also for creating that content.
I'd like to open up a discussion about this, one which is geared towards developing a behind-the-scenes operation environment for Newsvine writers. For the purposes of this discussion, let's say we are a group of people with similar interests, not a formal Newsvine group. Let's say that we aren't worrying about how we would present a collaborative article (see next paragraph). And let's say that this is a fully optional tool around which writers and photographers, editors and researchers, would be able to collaborate when they wish.
There are challenges we'd have to overcome. Mainly, we are talking about adding a new pattern of behavior at Newsvine (for those writers who choose to do so, even in a limited fashion), not about adding a layer to reinterpret an existing pattern of behavior. In other words — when we talk about project management and schedules, we need to not only consider how a certain application treats those items, but also how we'd like to interact with them on a more basic level (emails, discussions, forums, shared calendars, etc.).
Another issue is usability. We'll be discussing two kinds of online applications, and they therefore must interact with one another. Some are basic, some are more complex. Some are easy to learn and use (like Google), some are buggy (like Zoho). There is a lot to think about, and I'm hoping that this discussion can begin to narrow the focus of such a topic.
TechCrunch recently presented a very interesting new website called Rusty Budget. To me, this was a timely introduction, keeping in mind Celestina's article and the discussion that followed. One of the challenges of collaborating on articles at Newsvine is that the posting model at Newsvine wasnt creating with this in mind. The current model is: One writer = one user. Each user collects his or her own income, based on the advertising banners at the top of each page. In order to address the desire for collaborative articles, we must assume that Newsvine, in its current form, supports a model for this. In the most simple terms, collaborative articles would mean that: two (or more) writers = one user. In this very basic model, the income of the one user is shared equally among the contributors. Rusty Budget is free for two contributors, and costs $4 per month for each additional user. It seems, then, like Rusty Budget may be a simple and direct way to leverage very effective (cost) Web 2.0 technology with an income-based Newsvine model. The contributions, for instance, of four people using Rusty Budget and one Newsvine username (for their shared articles only) would need to result in a monthly income of $8 in order to fund the use of Rusty Budget. The more articles written, the more income generated, and the greater is the possibility for users to earn income.
As a final note about sharing income on Newsvine, the more people that are involved in a shared user at Newsvine, the more coverage the articles will generate. Even if each writer only contributes 1 or 2 of his or her, say, 6 articles over the course of a month to the collaborative user, the result could be that the collaborative user ends up publishing a dozen or more articles. These would each then be clipped (distributed) by the various contributors, increasing exposure to the actual article as well as to the individual columns of the users. Most imagined scenarios would increase the income for both the individual writers and the collaborative column.
Now, for the purposes of this discussion, lets look at a few different ways to collaborate behind the scenes on a Newsvine column. I have chosen a few online applications to present here, and they cover two areas: CMS (Content Management Systems — applications where users share and discuss the content and then create a final document) and Project Management — applications which handle communication, deadlines, overall schedules, business plans, etc. Neither of these lists is meant to be all-inclusive, but rather to be the starting point for an ongoing discussion about how best to create a newsroom of sorts — an online environment in which to discuss and create original content to be published at Newsvine.
The first ones I'll are a combination of the two, and the already discussed:
ActiveCollab (a free version of Basecamp)
*These items, unlike the others, are not hosted solutions. This means that they are server-side packages that can be installed on personal domains. In other words, we would be the owners of the actual site we use, and we could create our own domain name. The upsides are that many NV users likely have their own personal website server that we could piggyback on (as I do ), and we'd have a lot more control over the customization of these applications. The downside is that there would be a cost associated with purchasing and maintaining a domain name. It's unlikely, based on the concept of piggybacking on someone's already-hosted server site, that we'd incur any extra hosting charges, except to the extent that that group may wish to help offset the owner's costs.
**Working in Google Applications has the advantage of inherently-integrated features, like email, search, book search, images, etc., not to mention the ever-expanding feature-pack.
I invite everyone to check out the sites I listed, to list their own, and to further develop the conversation. Let's assume that this is a good idea and work within that context — the idea itself can be discussed in another thread, perhaps. This is more (as I see it) to work out a proof-of-concept strategy — asking ourselves what something like this would look like, how we'd use it, etc.
Thank you in advance for your participation in helping dream the next great thing.
•Please feel free to clip this wherever you see fit. I am limiting its default distribution in the spirit of keeping meta articles off the front page.