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features /  column
editor content by: editor
webslinky: the news
This week, fact me.

News: it's a funny old business. Oh wait, sorry, that's comedy.

News is much more serious. But it's changing. After all, when you're operating in a modern 24-hour news environment, there just isn't time to waste checking facts: much better to report everything now, and then correct mistakes as you go. And while of course this might not really be true of traditional broadcasters, it does represent a genuine approach to delivering “news” that’s come about thanks to the interactive nature of the internet, which allows for instant responses to feedback.

Google News aggregates news from a variety of online sources so that users can choose to read the same story from different perspectives. This is handled automatically by an electronic brain. Wikinews, meanwhile, is very much a human affair - just like Wikipedia, any visitor can in indulge in a bit of “participatory journalism” and edit the stories. Also like Wikipedia, this idea might not sound viable, but in practice is remarkably successful.

Another new format for interactive, user-sourced news is to let the audience decide which stories are most worthy of attention. Digg's users can either “digg” or “bury” stories submitted to the service as well as other user's comments, with the most popular stories and comments floating to the top of the page.

Meanwhile uber-community site MySpace (remember MySpace? It's a bit like Facebook) recently attempted to move into a similar territory with the launch of MySpace News. But with very few stories attracting any votes at all there's something clearly amiss.

The web has also cultivated its own method of reporting breaking news, “live blogging”, whereby a blog is updated in realtime as events unfurl (during a conference, for example). Basing it on flat web pages isn't ideal: when self-explanatory blog Mac Rumours covered the launch of Apple's iPhone, the homepage refreshed automatically after a set time to discourage users, who were in the hope of catching an update, from refreshing the page constantly and thus wasting bandwidth.

A solution to this may be to utilize RSS feeds (also offered by pretty much any major news provider), and perhaps even use a service like Twitter to deliver them to a portable device for key updates.

Or you could just listen to the radio.

David Thair 31 May 07
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see also
previous web columns
webslinky #134

webslinky #133

webslinky #132
practical magic

webslinky #131

webslinky #130



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