NYT to Open API?
NYT is the New York Times and API, if you don't know the acronym, stands for application programming interface, or a series of tools that programmers can use to hook their own software into an already-existing pacakage. What makes this combination of six letters total is that it could spell a revolution in online media delivery. According to a story on ReadWriteWeb
, if this rumor is true, it would make the entire online version of the paper a tool just waiting to be included in so-called mashups, or the Web applications that hook into existing services to provide something more than either party could deliver on its own:
In addition to the API, New York Times CTO Marc Frons told mediabistro.com that internal developers at the paper will use the platform to organize structured data on the site. Following that, the paper plans to offer developer keys to the API allowing programmers to more easily mash up the paper's structured content -- reviews, event listings, recipes, etc. "The plan is definitely to open [the code] up," Frons said. "How far we don't know."
The API itself should be done by the time summer arrives in the US, with more significant chunks available to the public within 6 months.
For example, you might go to a site, click on two points on a map, and get every story that includes the names of both locations, or clicking on a city might bring up all restaurants that have had their recipes printed by the Times. In a way, this takes a stroll from the traditional job of newspapers. Papers did not
focus on simply delivering facts, but arranging them in the context of telling a story. When the data is all open, do the stories become less important?
Labels: computers, mashups, programming, web, Web 2.0
The Wisdom of the Usual Suspects
I wish I could take credit for the title "The Wisdom of Chaperones," what with all the droning on about the wisdom of crowds, and ho, miraculously, they're supposed to come up with smart answers. Maybe they do, when they're not looking for a free lunch in a dot com bubble or heading off to blow each others brains to a gaseous physical state when at war. No, the credit for the title goes to Slate.com, for an article by Chris Wilson about the myth of online democracy in such "Web 2.0" sites
at Wikipedia and Digg - or, I'd add, Slashdot.org. Wilson's essential point goes like this:
Social-media sites like Wikipedia and Digg are celebrated as shining examples of Web democracy, places built by millions of Web users who all act as writers, editors, and voters. In reality, a small number of people are running the show. According to researchers in Palo Alto, 1 percent of Wikipedia users are responsible for about half of the site's edits. The site also deploys bots—supervised by a special caste of devoted users—that help standardize format, prevent vandalism, and root out folks who flood the site with obscenities. This is not the wisdom of the crowd. This is the wisdom of the chaperones.
Wilson continues to point out that in 2007, 100 people at Digg were responsible for 44 percent of the site's top stories.
I'm not surprised, having noticed something similar in a practical way. I look at the story entries at Slashdot.org on a regular basis, and I notice that most of the postings are by the same group of people. In fact, I've tried on multiple occasions to suggest a story and have never had one chosen to run. The concept runs beyond Wilson's thesis. Not only does a tiny portion of people contribute the vast majority of content (or at least popular content), but I think this can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. When publications hire writers, they often rely on the same names, because those people get the tone of the publication and are proven to the editors. There's a relationship.
I suspect there are also relationships in the social media sites. It's such a human reaction, to trust those that you know and be wary about newcomers, who might bring something fresh, but who also have the possibility of upsetting the apple cart. Even though there is no money exchanging hands, you still have the comfort of the devil you know. Of course, the flip side of this situation is the movie Casablanca, in which the local police would generally look for the usual suspects in the case of a crime, even if those people had nothing to do with it. And the line between an effective oligarchy and five year Soviet planning is, perhaps, not that broadly chalked.
Labels: publishing, Web 2.0
No Web 2.0
You may have heard the term Web 2.0, which is supposed to be the next incarnation of applications that do ... oh ... something or other with ... uh ... communities and ... mm ... interactive whatchamacallits. I think. Confused? Join the club. Marc Andreessen, Netscape founder, had an interesting post
on his blog about how Web 2.0 originated as the name of a technical conference, and that people had been moving toward an understanding of what exactly the Web is. So there isn't really a Web 2.0, just a web. Unfortunately, those looking to make money don't always leave well enough alone:
Web 2.0 has been picked up as a term by the entrepreneurial community and its corollaries in venture capital, the press, analysts, large media and Internet companies, and Wall Street to describe a theoretical new category of startup companies.
Reminds me of when everything was an ERP system ... uh ... supply chain optimization system ... ohhh ... [dancing around here as though in dire need of a toilet] ... marketplace ... errr ... CRM ...
Sometimes you have to forget coming up with new terminology and just do something.
Labels: Andreessen, entrepreneurs, Netscape, venture capital, web, Web 2.0