Thursday, April 19, 2007

New media projects at Computerworld: Internet video news and Tech Dispenser

One of the best aspects of my current job at Computerworld is that I am often involved in many new media projects for the Computerworld website. I was hired in early 2005 to get Computerworld's blogging area and editorial webcasts off the ground, but since then I have also helped develop Computerworld's podcasts as well as user-generated/community content offerings such as Shark Bait. Currently, I am involved in two new editorial initiatives: Web video programming and Tech Dispenser.

The event video is a sponsored daily recap and interview show from one of Computerworld's largest events, Storage Networking World. The event ended this morning, and we created three episodes in all. The second episode will give you a good idea of what the program is about in terms of the format and content:

SNW In Focus, day 2: Mini SANs and the UK's fastest supercomputer

This is not the first time I've worked with video -- my first job in journalism, back in the mid-1990s, was working as a newswriter and narrator for an English-language TV program at the China Television Company (CTV, 中國電視公司 or 中視 in Chinese). Then, as now, producing professional-quality video programming was an extremely labor-intensive effort, requiring a great deal of teamwork and coordination. I know there is a big movement toward vlogging and user-submitted video content a la YouTube, but anyone interested in sponsoring or creating professional, TV-quality content should know that it's not as easy as it looks. My colleague Lucas Mearian and I were the faces of Computerworld Events: SNW In Focus, but behind the scenes there was a video production crew working full time, not to mention additional help from editors and online production staff back at Computerworld HQ in Framingham. Despite all of the work required, we consider the program a success, and look forward to doing similar editorial video programs in the future.

The second new initiative that I am involved with at Computerworld is Tech Dispenser. This is an editor-driven blogs aggregator that I think could be a useful alternative to traditional, algorithm-driven aggregators like Megite.

Wait a second, you say: Aren't you the same guy whose research interests include advanced data-mining technologies and computer content analysis? What have you got against algorithms and existing aggregators that highlight interesting news and blog content in the giant, semi-structured database that is the Web?

My answer to that is best summed up on a recent post on my Computerworld blog:
The aggregators are extremely efficient in finding and highlighting news or topics of discussion, but there is a flaw that all share: An inability to identify quality content. Computers are good at counting the number of links pointing to a specific blog post, or measuring the number of topical keywords in a news article. But they are incapable of spotting a scoop, let alone an elegant analysis of a technology trend. Hence, we see lots of highlighted articles and blog posts on the aggregator sites that are simply repeating what someone else has already said, or weak writing samples that are a waste of readers' time. A few sites use deceptive SEO techniques and other weaknesses in the algorithms to manipulate the aggregators to get their articles or posts to the top positions, and on several occasions I have seen suspected astroturfing campaigns highlighted on the blog aggregators.
Tech Dispenser hasn't launched yet, but I am interested in seeing how the tech blog community reacts to the idea. Besides driving traffic to blogs that participate in the Tech Dispenser blog network, the site also includes a revenue share model that should appeal to many tech blog writers.

1 comment:

  1. Nice starting news aggregrator. You may want to license or acquire our technology at Megite:)


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