#digiday - Gamifying The News

One of the most interesting comments from Digiday Social conference in New York City on Tuesday was that more people play social games, like Farmville, than read the newspaper. I haven't found a source to back up this comment or to get details about exactly who they are counting, or how, but on the surface, it is frightening. More people seem more concerned about acquiring fictitious grapes from a fictitious farm stand than about acquiring information that is necessary for our democracy to thrive. Perhaps the politician seeking to get elected would do better seeking ad placements in social games than they would be in participating in debates.

Yet perhaps there is a glimmer of hope from the Digiday Mobile conference for the future of journalism coming in the form of a neologism. The emerging buzzword of the conference was "Gamification". A San Francisco startup calledGamify defines the verb gamify, as "Applying game mechanics to bring fun and engagement where needed." Perhaps it is sorely needed to bring fun and engagement back to the news industry.

A few years ago, I participated in some "Play The News" games where participants would read up on a news story and make predictions about how it would turn out. As an example, people might read up on the primaries that happened last night, and make predictions about the outcomes. Will Christine O'Donnell and Karl Rove make nice? Will she win the general election? People who follow the news would be expected to perform better in this game. With game mechanics in place to track who is doing the best, people will feel encouraged to participate.

Unfortunately, this was a couple years ago, before social gaming really took off and I don't know whatever happened to the game. Another site that I've always been interested in is NewsTrust. This site crowdsources efforts to find quality journalism. They base their results not on gaming the news the way people do at Digg or Reddit, but on aspects of whether the story has multiple sources, anonymous sources, uses purple language, only presents one side of the story, and other means of judging the quality of a news story. You could review reviewers as well and see how well each reviewer was doing. They are on their way to gamification.

Of course, NPR listeners are likely to think of Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!, the NPR news quiz show. They have done a great job of gamification of the news. However, a social media game for listeners to play along at home could take this to a whole new level.

So, it may be frightening that more people play social games than read newspapers. On the other hand, it might be a great opportunity to encourage greater understanding of what is going on around us and greater civic engagement by gamifying the news.

Random Stuff

Well, we didn't make it to the firemen's muster or the CT Folk Festival today. Instead, we picked up two foster dogs from Big Fluffy Dogs. One is a Great Pyrenees and the other is a Great Pyrenees/Labrador Retriever mix. They are both young puppies, each around eleven weeks old. They will both most likely only be staying with us a short while until their forever families are found.

Yesterday, I read that Bloglines was shutting down on October 1st. I had copied most of my RSS subscriptions over to Google Reader quite a while ago, but really haven't been using RSS readers much at all. Mostly, I visit blogs through various blog networks and find specific posts when they are recommended by friends on Facebook or Twitter. As an aside, this morning I took a Zogby survey that was asking about blog reading preferences and asked about things like RSS, Facebook and Twitter.

Anyway, I exported my feeds from Bloglines and imported them into Google Reader. I did a little bit of cleaning up, deleting blogs that have disappeared, fixing categories, and moving feeds for blogs that have moved. One thing that I like about Google Reader is that if you join a blog with a Google Friend Connect widget, it gets added to your subscriptions. It becomes a good way of seeing which blogs on various blog sharing networks have been updated.

One blog that I read regularly a few years ago was Gotta keep on keepin' on........ The top says,

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on" I did just that. And I'll do it again.

When a friend of mine was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, I had her get in touch with KT. KT had a great spirit. I saw that the blog was updated on September 3rd.

This is John. I just wanted to post a note on this, the first anniversary of Kate's passing. I am posting the same note on her Facebook page, so sorry to be redundant for those who see it both places.

September 3rd: my wife's birthday, and the anniversary of my wife's mothers passing from cancer. Today is September 11th. As I take a moment to remember friends who died in the World Trade Centers, I also remember Kate and Janice.

On a happier note, I stumbled across Barbara Ann Radnofsky's website. She is currently running for Attorney General in Texas. It 2006, she ran for U.S. Senate. In 2005, we met Barbara Ann at DemocracyFest in Austin, TX. Here is Barbara Ann, Kim and Fiona:

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, Kim and Fiona

I also stumbled across a listing of an event at the Old State House in Connecticut: Does Media Bias Impact Elections? Join the Discussion. A panel moderated by CT-N Elections Coordinator Diane Smith will start at the Old State House at noon on September 15th. Sounds like a great event.

Now, Fiona has headed off to bed. The dogs are sleeping. Kim is reading. Barbara Ann is probably speaking somewhere right about now, and John has probably put his kids to bed. My earache prevails. The list of unread emails remains way too long, but it all fits together into something much bigger than any of us. Good night.

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#swforce A Perpetual Virtual CityCamp?

Tuesday morning will see the second meeting of those interested in establishing a Social Web Task Force for the City of New Haven. I’ve written a little bit about this in #swct Social Media and Civic Involvement Redux and Embracing the Untaskforce, Social Media and Civic Involvement - #swct. Andre Yap wrote about this in The New Haven Project: 100 Common Visions in 100 Days and Brandon Jackson has written about this in New Haven 2.0. Now, we need to start fleshing out what this really means.

How To Blog

On a mailing list I’m on, a person recently spoke about the challenges she experiences writing and asked for ideas on books or classes to help her improve her writing. The following is the message I sent to the list, and it seems like a good blog post reflecting my views on how to be a good blogger.

I've always wanted to be a writer when I grow up, maybe a Great American Novelist or a Poet Laureate. After decades of struggling with my writing, I’m settling for being an Internet Raconteur. I do not know any good classes or books on how to write better, but I’ll toss out a few different thoughts.

First, read. Read anything and everything. I’ve been in discussions with other bloggers where it was asked who everyone’s blog mentor was. I typically respond E.B. White. His essays for the New Yorker and for Harper’s back in the 40s, are perhaps the best example I can find of good writing the way I think bloggers should write today. I also like to mix it up with Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Hunter S. Thompson.

Second, experience some deep emotional difficulty, or find some other experience that leads you to work with a good therapist to figure out who you really are, what makes you tick, and helps you learn to be more open an honest. Authenticity is a great virtue in writing and therapy is a great way to work towards it.

Third, read some more. Read philosophers and theorists. Find a framework to put your thoughts and feelings into. It can help organize your thoughts if you don’t let it become stifling.

Finally, write. Write as much as you can. Spend time reviewing and editing, but know that at some point, you need to let it go and simply post it online. Know that you’re going to write some really horrid stuff, but you’ll also write some gems. Balance being open and authentic with a strong enough defense to ignore criticism that stings and thwarts you, but still try to find nuggets of truth in the criticism.

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Follow Friday - #DPAC Recap

@tap11 @tristanwalker @lynneluvah @liveintent @perkyjerky @ckieff @geekychic @motherhoodmag @MaryAnnHalford

Well, I’m back from the Digital Publishing and Advertising Conference. I’ll probably be tweeting a bit less today than I did during the conference. As I often do on Fridays after a conference, I like to write a brief Follow Friday blog post about tweeting from the conference. With Twitterfeed, it will end up as a tweet as well.

Let me start off by mentioning Tap11. They provide ‘Twitter Business Intelligence’. I took a look at their product at the conference and it looks really interesting. As I commented to @ckieff @motherhoodmag @ geekychic during cocktails, I would love to see Tap11 do a spotlight on their product at some future DPAC or Digiday conference. It would be interesting to see which speakers or panels get the most twitter traffic while they are speaking.

Some of this came out of a discussion about spotlight presentations. Several of the spotlight presentations came across a little bit too much as infomercials. They didn’t tell me anything new and excited that would get me engaged. Instead, I surfed the web during some of them, and I noted that Twitter traffic dropped off significantly during the least engaging spotlight sessions.

@tristanwalker from Foursquare was on one of the Local Content Creates Local Ad Sales Streams panel. That panel started off slowly, coming across as a little too much of an infomercial for the various speakers companies. Tristan brought a little bit of life to that panel.

@lynneluvah moderated the panel The Big Shift: Buying Content vs. Audience for Advertisers. This was a panel that had a lot of potential, but just didn’t live up to it, despite Lynne’s efforts.

To me, what makes conferences like this most interesting is what happens on Twitter during the conference. I had problems getting power during part of the day, so I wasn’t as involved in the twitter stream as I would normally be. It seems like future conferences might want to have power sponsors as well as wifi sponsors. provides the power and helps you get connected.

@liveintent was the wifi sponsor, as well as a provider of @perkyjerky, “The worlds first performance enhancing meat snack. Caffeinated Beef Jerky!” With my blood pressure, I figured I’d skip the perkyjerky. Caffeine and I just don’t get along well together.

I’ve met @ckieff and @geekychic at various other conferences and we tweet well together. It was fun to see both of them at DPAC. Joining in the serious conference tweeters were @motherhoodmag and @MaryAnnHalford. I met @motherhoodmag on the way to cocktails and we engaged in some traditional face to face conversation with @ckieff and @geekychic as we waited to get our drinks.

All in all there were some good conversations on Twitter and over cocktails at DPAC.

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