How would you create an online community at SJSU?

Daniel Sato, online editor of the Spartan Daily student newspaper at San Jose State University, is trying to come up with a way to let readers vote their own stories up the charts, to tackle the twin problems of there being little sense of community at SJSU (online OR off, in my opinion) and organizations constantly complaining that the school paper ignores them.

He’s talking about using Pligg to build a site where clubs and teams can essentially submit links to their own stories, and then the readers can vote on them as they please, a la Digg.

Will it work?

I’m skeptical, but then again, the first time Daniel pointed me to Digg, I wrote the site off as a bunch of losers who didn’t know anything about the stories they were voting on.

What do you think? Would you give your readers a “Submit This” button and then let them vote stories up and down a user-generated-content page?

Go tell Daniel.

How to juggle multimedia and Digg interactivity

In two back-channel online news discussions this week, folks have been debating how newspapers should be gathering video and how they should handle comment moderation.

The video discussion among Howard Owens, Mindy McAdams, and others, is notable because the question is no longer IF newspapers should be running video online (Yes) or HOW they should be presenting it online (Flash), but How they should be gathering it, Who should be doing the shooting, and What sort of video should they be offering viewers?

On a theoretical note, this could be an indication that newspaper video has taken a step out of the early adoption phase and toward take-up — but that’s not what my thesis is about.

My thesis (still in the way-early stages of paperwork and preliminary data gathering) is about the adoption of interactivity.

A quick primer:

  • Multimedia journalism uses more than one communication medium to tell a story. (Go figure.)
  • Interactivity in a technical/graphical sense gives your readers buttons to push and click to navigate their way through a story.
  • Interactivity in a participatory sense gives your readers/viewers/users a space to talk back to the newspaper and each other.

On the online news e-mail discussion list that Jay Small pointed to, there’s a mention of Slashdot-style comment moderation, and I’ll speak to that by pointing my colleagues over to Digg, where they’ll find a variation on Slashdot’s moderation points theme.

Pick a post on the front page of Digg and click on the comments link:

Now take a look at those little thumbs up and down on the right of each comment.

Close up of Digg Comments page

Readers participate in comment moderation by “digging” or burying comments. You can only do this when registered and logged in.

No need to assign points, moderate the moderators, or worry about coming off as censors.

Instead, you let the readers most authoritative and passionate about the topic (registered users bothering to click through to the comments on a particular story/message board posting/blog entry) do the work for you.

They’ll be happier, and you’ll be happier.

I’m planning on taking a closer look at Pligg, an open-source CMS tool based largely on the Digg interface.

What are some other ways we can harness the wisdom of the crowd without muzzling it?