Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Twelve-string News

So the Knight Foundation gave Adrian Holovaty $1.1 million to create Everyblock (which answers the question "what is happening around me," block by block in various cities, and now the scuttlebutt is that Google wants to buy up Adrian. But he says it ain't so.

So we can relax, and see what the hubbub is about. Back in 2006, Adrian posted on his blog a pretty good summary of what it is that newspaper sites ought to fix—notice that even then, he didn't care about newspapers, just newspaper sites—using the words "newspapers need to stop the story-centric worldview." Read the last few grafs. What he's getting at is that content management systems (which haven't changed much since then) are story-centric, and that what would be better is a more granular method of databasing news information so it can be "sliced and diced" into such things as crime maps by block, and pulling information from the weather database to enhance the presentation of Little League information.

This would seem to have some implications for Matt Thompson's idea of Wikipedianizing the news, since that implies even longer stories that are group-edited, with breaking news showing up as the incremental change log. As of yet, there's no good way to manipulate Wikipedia information in database fashion, but maybe if Matt and Adrian put their heads together, it could be done.

As for Everyblock: it's pretty granular, all right, but even if I lived on, say, West 73rd Street, I'm not sure I'd find it all that useful, compared to whatever was plastered on the window of the deli down the block. It takes news aggregation down to the block level, for cosmopolitanites who live in big cities and certainly don't mind taking a subway ride across town to catch a poetry reading, gallery opening, or what have you. That doesn't mean granularity is on the wrong track, but Everyblock might be.

In any event, even if you don't agree with everything Holovaty thinks, he sure strums a mean guitar. Check out his YouTube channel. Play more than one of them.

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