Search Mailing List Archives

Limit search to: Subject & Body Subject Author
Sort by: Reverse Sort
Limit to: All This Week Last Week This Month Last Month
Select Date Range     through    

[liberationtech] Fwd: Knight invests $4 Million in "next-generation community platform" for online news (hopefully more), E-Democracy lessons

Steven Clift clift at
Thu Jun 26 09:31:50 PDT 2014

Any thoughts on how the wider civic tech/open gov community can
contribute to this effort? How might we help ensure the code is widely

Having viable online communities tied to our local news sites seems
crucial to promote local democracy.

Steven Clift

From: Steven Clift <clift at>
Date: Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 9:42 AM
Subject: Knight invests $4 Million in "next-generation community
platform" for online news (hopefully more), E-Democracy lessons
To: newswire <newswire at>,>

Key links, then commentary, then some excerpts ...

OpenNews - Building New Communities with the New York Times and the
Washington Post:

The Mozilla-New York Times-Washington Post project: Turning comments
into community

Press release:

Join OpenNew's online group:

Clift/E-Democracy Comments:

As a non-profit that started with "community" online twenty years ago,
it is AWESOME to see journalism waking up to the potential for real
change with online news engagement.

Connecting people in groups (be it an neighborhood, an interest, a
desire to be mixed up ideologically, or to be connected with
like-minds) AND then bringing in news for discussion is far more
natural. It is what people did around the community well, the luncheon
counter, or on Facebook today which each person essentially the center
of their own dynamic group.

R.I.P. "drive by" online news commenting which assumes that each
atomized news story works as a center piece for engagement with news
and journalism.

By putting people in communities or groups online in the center, human
nature will be embraced. Current online news commenting - about
politics, crime, or practically anything - is an embarrassment to our
society and nation ... not just a failure of journalism. I can't
imagine how you could better design a better system to foster
unaccountable, extreme, vitriol that fundamentally drowns out 95% of

So with the current bar so low, let's hope with $4 million investment
will help fix this problem with tools that actually work and limited
the loudest voices problem.

(On the tech side they will probably spend in one month what our
scrappy non-profit has been able to invest in the open source
GroupServer platform over the nearly 10 years we have used it! Coders
note: - Let's hope this is new
project is fundamentally open source and available for any site
wishing to contribute and use it. Perhaps they will add to existing
code too and not just re-create the wheel.)

I invite you to join me on the OpenNews online group where I plan to
share some of our insights from building online civic communities that
in some neighborhoods reach everyday people and 30% of households. (I
am not a rep. for the project, but hope to get more involved.)

      Join OpenNew's online group:

Key to E-Democracy is that our online groups are democratic by design
as public spaces (to the extent possible as a non-profit), embracing
real names for power and agenda-setting, and engage journalists,
elected officials, civil servants, local businesses and more. The
resident-only gated-community models threaten the future of "public"
engagement with local news if they are not meat with similarly
pleasing experience for everyday people. (Meaning many people love
neighbor connecting online and if we don't offer a civic
engagement/community news friendly option the eye balls, local group
purchasing, and ad/sponsor dollars will be heading to Silicon Valley.)

In Knight's blog post they ask, "But what if we could build a
commenting system that gives commenters a real sense of ownership?"

To that I add - What if the online community system could share real
ownership (or benefits) with participants as well as community and
news organizations contributing measurable efforts and outreach to
make the system work in a region? If done right, this could be an
awesome community fundraising engine that inspire "readers" to become

I've been talking for awhile about the need for a reverse Associated
Press style non-profit or online producers coop that inspires
community volunteerism to guide and facilitate online groups in local
communities (ones that could be connected more to news sites). Many
news rooms say they can't afford more paid facilitation and our nation
can't afford trashed engagement on news sites either. So, I have ideas
on how to fix this ... and create incentives for shared community-wide
engagement that invests back in the local community.

OK, below is the official stuff.

Steven Clift - Get similar announcements from:

>From OpenNews:

OpenNews - Building New Communities with the New York Times and the
Washington Post

Community is at the core of what we do at Knight-Mozilla
OpenNews—helping to build and strengthen the community of people
writing code in journalism. And community is a big part of what has
made Mozilla successful—the global community of contributors that has
helped to build the Firefox web browser.

Community is also at the core of journalism: whether it’s geographic
communities that form the bedrock of local news or the communities of
interest that form around subjects as broad as basketball and
politics, journalism has always had community at its core.

Which is why it’s exciting to announce that today, Knight-Mozilla
OpenNews, the New York Times, and the Washington Post are joining
forces to create a next-generation community platform for journalism.
The web offers all sorts of new and exciting ways of engaging with
communities far beyond the ubiquitous (and often terrible) comments
sections at the bottom of articles. We’re looking forward to writing
code together to enable them."


Knight's official post:

The Mozilla-New York Times-Washington Post project: Turning comments
into community

"Many readers who comment on articles are valuable to a news
organization. They are highly engaged, often knowledgeable about the
subject and their comments attract other readers, swelling page views
and time-on-page statistics.

And yet, commenting sections are often some of the worst corners of
the Internet. Vicious attacks and even racist and sexist language are
routine, whether the commenters are anonymous or not."


Get Involved with OpenNews:

Also from the notes of the June 25 OpenNews call:

OpenNews/New York Times/Washington Post communities partnership:

Working with these news partners, but the code will be applicable and
usable to other news organizations too.

A little about the collaboration, the Washington Post and NYT both
mentioned independently to the Knight Foundation that they were
thinking about building new systems to engage their audience. Knight
said, you should talk. You're both already working with OpenNews. They
might be interesting partner. Brought in former IDEO designer to do
some user research, better understand the landscape, to build
something around real user need. Put together proposal, it was
accepted, a few months away from working on code, but both news orgs
committed to putting existing code into the mix. Hope is to not be a
three-headed monster, want to create an advisory board between orgs,
hire a team to manage this and work mostly autonomously.

The grant itself is 2yrs. Not take approach of work in silence and
release a bunch of code on last day.


[enter questions for Dan here]

Will the community platform be open source from the get-go? (vs first
building product, and open sourcing it later)

aren't at a point where devising the exact strategy, but we bend
toward open, and expect that process of getting this opened up will be
open process. This succeeds when other people contribute as well.

The Washington Post and NYT Fellows will work together on this next
year, excited to loop directly into fellowship.

Steven Clift -
  Executive Director -
  Tel/Text: +1.612.234.7072

More information about the liberationtech mailing list