Building a Better News Toolbox: NewsTools 2008
Today Alfred Hermida reports that his former employer, the BBC, is upgrading its blogs to handle comments better. Specifically, they're instituting required registration in order to comment (a controversial move), and they're also making their software more efficient so it doesn't keep slamming their blog database server to nearly 100% of capacity on a regular basis.
BBC News editor Giles Wilson explained more about the upgrades today and yesterday. As Hermida noted, one of the commenters there observed: "I guess the concept of Akismet was too novel and new for the BBC to have discovered for the spam handling."
Good point. Akismet is one of the premiere tools bloggers use for catching comment spam before it gets published to your blog. It's a plugin (free for individuals, paid for business) for WordPress, a popular open-source blogging platform. I doubt the BBC's blogs are running on WordPress, but still I'd be surprised if an Akismet-like option wasn't available to manage their comment spam problem.
...Coincidentally, yesterday I blogged again about the importance of teaching a real content management system like WordPress in journalism school. Andy Dickinson commented, "Wordpress [is] not a CMS in the same way as the kind of CMS they might encounter in industry and shouldn't be presented as such." To which I replied, "Yes, I agree WordPress is not the kind of CMS journalists would probably be using if employed by a major mainstream news org. Honestly, in many ways it may be superior."
...And then along comes Hermida with his BBC example. I'm not saying he's proving my point, or implying that there's anything wrong with the BBC's blog software. I'm just saying I'm often appalled at how limited and/or Byzantine news orgs' CMS tools are compared to WordPress and other tools available to the general public. Just food for thought.
This particular line of inquiry is especially timely since in just under two weeks I'll be attending NewsTools 2008, "a flexible, three-day convening that will offer journalists, technologists, entrepreneurs and funders a chance to explore ideas, form partnerships, develop projects, outline systems and businesses for sustaining 'journalism that matters.'"
In preparation for this, I'd like to ask Tidbits readers: What bugs you about the tools you currently use to gather information, create news and information content, publish and share that content, and engage your communities? What tools or features would you like to have? What problems would you like solved? What unnecessary tedium would you like to elimanate, so that your tools work for you (rather than vice versa)?
Please put your wish list in the comments below, and I'll see what the folks at NewsTools can offer. Or visit the NewsTools community site and engage directly with some people who might be able to help make your wish list come true.