n0tice, the lean startup style company working within the Guardian Media Group, has launched their “open journalism toolkit”. n0tice describe the toolkit as a ”free off-the-shelf solution to some of the digital newsroom’s current challenges”.
For some background on what n0tice has been working on up till now, check out our interview with n0tice’s Sarah Hartley. She spoke to us when n0tice was first emerging, and it’s come a long way since then. Just 6 months later, we now have the open-journalism toolkit, which offers a plethora of services and an iPhone app. The toolkit boasts:
This is essentially a smoothed out version of collaborative Google Maps. The tech isn’t ground breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it does encourage publishers and users to be contributing to a story, as is the open-journalism way. n0tice have a portfolio of examples, but all of these are based at the Guardian. I would like to see whether any third parties have really adopted the crowdmapping tool successfully. My main criticism of the crowdmapping element would be that the process to create a new crowdmap needs to be far simpler; this 5 step instruction list, involving use of HTML, isn’t very user-friendly for the newcomer.
- Mobile Publishing
Consumption via the app also works nicely. Users can search tags, locations, and users, or have local content served to them by enabling location data. I enabled location data for York, and it’s still a bit of a ghost town, though. I liked the ability to socially mark content as “interesting” as I browsed, adding to a count of people who had rated is as such also. Disappointingly though, I could not find a way to sort by the most “interesting” content.
Overall, there are some less intuitive moments when using the app, but I think it’s a solid attempt at taking hyperlocal mobile.
While I might be biased (I am involved in the development of some alternative liveblog software), I feel that to describe n0tice publishing as a liveblogging tool is a push. n0tice is built around small manageable updates, but seems too slow to really be described as a live news publishing app. It’s good that updates can be published from the web and via the app, and that multiple contributors are possible; it would be possible to use for live coverage, but I wouldn’t choose n0tice over something purpose-built. That said, if you’re a small hyperlocal n0ticeboard, driven by the community rather than journalists – why not?
- Social news
This is a cool new feature. n0tice allows you to make Pinterest style “re-posts” of interesting content, and allows you to edit the headlines and tweak as they feel appropriate, giving good users an element of social reach. It’s a nice touch that enables good posts to travel further.
n0tice also offer in-built Google Analytics, moderation tools, custom content feeds, easy multimedia embedding (via Oembeds, presumably), classifieds (revenue is split between the owner and n0tice), and social event listings. Furthermore, they offer a range of free APIs for developers to play with and take further. n0tice say that the toolkit will “easily integrate into your existing content management systems”. What’s not to love?
A lot of the tech within the toolkit isn’t actually that innovative, and has been repackaged from other places. But that doesn’t mean you should turn your nose up at it. The n0tice team have been really resourceful, bundling together everything from Google APIs and open source code, to WordPress plugins and their own n0tice tech.
I’ve seen grumbling on Twitter lately that open journalism is falling “out of fashion”, but this toolkit would suggest otherwise. I really hope we see some third parties getting stuck into what’s on offer here, rather than it just becoming an estranged development wing at the Guardian. Wannabes/entrepreneurs looking to start their own platforms would do well to start here.
While publishers might have concerns about getting on board with a platform that might have problems later should GMN decide to can the project (after all, it is being treated a startup in its own right), I think the tools on offer are well worth the risk.
My main complaint is that while n0tice has been resourceful, and isn’t a huge team, I think they might be trying to offer too many elements – they are tackling everything from crowdmapping to liveblogging, and while I understand that they are trying to create a conclusive toolkit, I would have liked to see them add more polish to some elements before expanding and adding to their kit; we don’t want this toolkit to end up in a “jack of all trades, master of none” category.
In conclusion, the package may lack some polish and the app needs work, but it’s a great effort at pointing publishers and communities in the right direction for a more collaborative style of journalism. Matt McAlister, head of the n0tice project, commented on my previous post: “We’re really building this as a service and an enabler rather than as any kind of nameyourfavoritedotcom-killer.” 6 months down the line, they are sticking true to this, and with promising results. I’d thoroughly recommend you take a look around n0tice.com if you haven’t already, and check out the toolkit.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look