1) The huge success of Slashdot (http://www.slashdot.org), Kuro5hin (http://www.kuro5hin.org) and Plastic (http://www.plastic.com) has spawned a host of imitators in ever smaller niches. Software to quickly build another of these sites on a hosted system is freely available. (see http://www.voidstar.com/node.php?id=167 for lists). These sites have different approaches to editorial control, but they all have features in common. First, anyone can post an article. Second, anyone can comment on the articles and they all support a full threaded commentary system. Lastly they all have some method of filtering the articles and comments on the basis of reader ratings.
2) Blogs or personal web logs are growing at a huge rate. These provide a simple, quick, easy to use content management system for personal or small group use. Typically they have a web based interface although increasingly people are building client side systems to feed them. They enable people to publish their thoughts on the web for all the world to see, with minimal knowledge of html needed. Usually they take the form of a diary or "Journal", although they can also be used for essays or longer rants. A number of freelance and permanent journalists are beginning to keep weblogs (some newspapers have even experimented with providing their journalists with a weblog system). These have one huge difference from a newspaper in that the author is the editor. There isn't anyone else to kill or sub-edit a story. http://manilasites.com/ and http://www.blogger.com are the most well known. Blog hosts are available on a free or paid for basis and as usual you get what you pay for.
3) The RSS XML format has taken off to the point where there are 3-5000 feeds of headlines and story abstracts available in an easy to create and digest, machine readable form. With aggregation/scraping sites like http://www.newsisfree.com and http://www.moreover.com and the many sites beginning to generate feeds themselves, it's becoming possible to get a constant stream of headlines from your favourite news sources. There's an RSS FAQ at http://www.voidstar.com/rssfaq/
4) Some systems are beginning to appear that take these three trends and mix them together into a virtuous circle that feeds on itself (eg http://radio.userland.com, http://www.drupal.org). Each blog creates an RSS feed which is fed back into comment on other people's blogs, which spawns a slashclone story, which generates more RSS, which is picked up by another set of blogs, that...
This is all resulting in what people have called the 2-Way web or Write the Web (http://www.writetheweb.com/)
Now one way of looking at this is that "We're all journalists now". But there's a problem with this. It also means "We're all amateurs now". Take one example, there's a well respected blog that concentrates on Apple issues (they're also fairly contentious!). They were refused access to a press conference by Apple's press agency because they weren't "a credentialed publication" despite the extensive journalistic credentials of the authors. http://www.contenu.nu/article.htm?id=1147
Take another example, a guy called Robert Scoble http://scobleizer.manilasites.com/2001/06/24 fought a noisy campaign against Microsoft and "Smart tags". His publication of all this on his blog resulted in him losing his job. Thankfully he's employed again at somewhere that has less scruples about this sort of behaviour and his blog will be back soon.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the mainstream media are doing less and less original writing and increasingly do nothing but re-cycle the newswires, press releases and analyst comment they are fed. (eg "CNET sub-contract Gartner to do their thinking for them") Of course this is a horrible over generalization, but way too much in the traditional media looks like a collection of hacks in a hall of mirrors being fed by anyone who can pay for entrance. Even the writing has been so dumbed down by editorial guidelines that it says nothing but cliches anyway.
So what's going on here? Is this a new blossoming for "journalism". Are we seeing the return of the crusading small town newspaper in a new form? Or is it just yet another example of a new technology pumping up the volume of noise?
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