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Facebook advances the new unit of reporting?

The new Facebook stuff includes the concept of "social object" which is a fancy term meaning "something people want to talk about." (Yes, we could use a new term.)

A social object could be the focus of all the reporting, fact checking, and discussion around a topic.

Facebook apps could be used to vote up or down posts based on factchecking and perceived trustworthiness.

Apps could be used to raise the priority of a topic, so we don't forget big stories.

The deal is that a social object could be a living version of the whole story around a something.

The general observation has already been made, recently, when not long ago, Jeff Jarvis built on a deep observation from Marissa Mayer at Google, in Buzzmachine.

I want to suggest abandoning
the article
for the constantly updated topic page (a la
Wave
). The problem with an article online is that it has a short half
life

and gathers few links and little ongoing attention and thus
Googlejuice. It’s for this reason that Google’s Marissa Mayer has been advising
publishers to move past the article to the topic.

Abandoning the
article for some living, breathing news beast yet to be defined may be
a bit too radical for today’s publishers. So instead, I suggest, at
least place the article into a space with broader context – archives,
quotes, photos, links, discussion, wikified knowledge about the topic,
feeds of updates; make the article a gateway to anything more you’d
want on its subjects. Daylife
(where I’m a partner) is working on something like that.

The "short half life" of an article is why really the good reporting on
WMDs and the financial crisis disappeared before they could inform the
public. Failures of news curation like that not only hurt the country,
but
contribute to loss of trust in news media.

If you're looking at a topic, it could be easy to keep the topic alive.
We
might have noticed that something was really fishy re WMDs or the
suppression of financial regulation in the mid-2000's.

Tags: | 5 Responses »

5 Responses to Facebook advances the new unit of reporting?

Rakeshlobster says:

Isn't this pretty much what Wikipedia does? Even with fast moving stories, I find that Wikipedia editors usually do a pretty good job of capturing the latest developments on their topics.
While it doesn't have the trust afforded to MSM, it often does a much better job at synthesizing a lot of developments into something that is cogent.

Josh Wilson says:

Well, the topic page is an astute "first stop" for anyone seeking the latest info on a subject. Smart. But the topic page is made of things that make it worth visiting in the first place — those being the clusters of data, analysis, inquiry, response and perspective that are popularly known as "articles."
The benefit of serial or beat coverage of a topic is that, unlike the trackable revisions of a wiki page, serial coverage provides a more complete narrative record of the past as interpreted moment-by-moment.
The front-end summaries offered by a live topic page provide a place where the trackable-revisions of a wiki can be relevant and useful.
But without a complete picture of the context that those revisions emerged out of, one loses the depth and context of the historical narrative itself.
Two other notes:
* Calling it a social object is useful in meta or information-architecture context, but I wonder if the term is a bit abstracted for the practical, daily pursuit of updated news. The "thing people want to talk about" already has its own name — a link, a video, a cluster of text, an image — that folks can use without getting too technical.
* I want to call attention to Francois Ragnet's thesis on "The Future of Documents," in which he recognizes that documents as we traditionally understand them become more flexible repositories rather than static records. Thus clusters of information within a document — an image, an embedded video, a paragraph with links, a table or chart — become mobile and interchangeable. It's a more granular way of looking at how information works in a hypermedia environment. Read more here: http://wemedia.com/2010/03/09/francois-ragnet-deconstructs-the-document/

Sunil Mehta says:

While "social object" may be too geeky for some, it does capture the essence of this concept and can be incredibly useful. Not hard to implement, but not totally obvious how to make it simple in usage for the Facebook 500 million – otherwise someone would have done so