First published at NewAssignment.Net
Social news sites like Reddit, Digg and Propeller tend to judge submitted news articles by popularity. Often the snarkiest headline wins.
As sites develop niche communities, stories that are promoted often
cater more to the wants and whims of the group. Recently this lead to
some fake stories reaching the front page of Digg.
If the first generation of social news sites ranked stories in order
of popularity, then the next wave would do well to find a new rubric of
voting to separate themselves from the crowd.
Enter NewsTrust, a social
news site that rates stories based on “quality journalism.” The beta
site is up and running for public testing and is worth checking out.
“Increasingly, commercial news providers are giving their audience
more of what they want to hear, rather than what they need to know as
citizens. Our best hope for reversing this trend is to help citizens
develop an appreciation for quality journalism over populist entertainment,” said Fabrice Florin, founder of NewsTrust.
NewsTrust scraps the classic thumbs-up or thumbs-down voting.
Instead users vote on a scale of 1-5 whether a story is well sourced,
fair and gives appropriate background. Each metric of voting (there are
12) is clearly defined for users, and the resulting stories, as well as
news sources, are then ranked in order of reliability. The new rating method
was developed with Michigan State University so that “amateur citizen
reviewers using the site’s unique review tools are able to evaluate
news as reliably as experienced professionals,” according to Roy O’ Connor, part of the NewsTrust team.
NewsTrust is using the wisdom of the crowd to create a database of
stories that can be browsed by topic, so a reader can be assured that
the lead story has been reviewed and recommended as a good source of
All the other features we expect in a social news site are there —
tagging, comment threads, visibility of a users history — but NewsTrust
has made some minor changes. While Digg prides itself on letting users
remain anonymous, NewsTrust requires a full name to register, keeping
their reviewers accountable. That feature alone may prevent special
interest groups from creating a dominant presence on the site.
And as the site develops it hopes to add new features. “Future
versions of NewsTrust could check if you’ve been viewing too many
partisan opinions or entertainment news. We might encourage you to
balance your diet with more factual information, more international
coverage, or read more viewpoints that you don’t agree with.”
Suggestions for reading viewpoints you don’t agree with? Now that’s revolutionary!
Social bookmarking sites have done an amazing job at tapping into
the wisdom and energy of the crowd to highlight popular news items each
day. But without direction the crowd can veer off in ugly directions. Entire blogs have sprung up to comment on the daily drama involved in how these sites operate and perform.
Site moderators try to combat the problem of accuracy, even adding what Netscape calls Meta-Journalism, to give stories more context – but the crowd is still voting for stories based on the vague notion of “popularity.”
But that’s not to knock the crowd. Their collective wisdom could
probably judge the reliability of a news source/story faster and better
than any site moderator - but only if they are given the tools do so.
And until now, no social news site has given them the means.