Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Public News Takeover!

Sunday night my associate pastor expressed frustration with the media. Nothing new here except the perspective offered. From virtually every point of view, there is frustration with the media. Many Americans despise the blatant biases of major "news services" from Fox to MSNBC. The frustration is that biases are heard with little avenue to respond with our own biased rebuttals.

Look a little deeper at Facebook status updates, Twitter tweets and Blogger blogs and you discover that the public is in the process of taking back control of the media. We no longer accept "That is the way it is", because we have come to realize that "news" is inherently biased. (Walter Cronkite passed away recently, God rest his soul.) In the past two months, there has been more video posted on Youtube than has been posted by the major media in all the years of existence! The growth in the "private" production of "news" has just begun!  

Facebook, Yahoo and Google are three of many companies rolling out new products that will give even greater voice to the public. The most interesting announcement this morning is Google Sidewiki.

On September 30, 100,000 people will gain access to Google Wave. Google Wave is the equivalent of the General Motors answer to the Ford Model T. Email is 40 years old and 90% of all emails are spam.  Google Wave will dramatically increase the efficiency of Internet communication in many ways, reducing spam is one of the most important features.  

One use of Google Waves will be to easily set up discussion groups. As many or as few people will be invited to virtual reality meetings, classes, book clubs, bible studies and bull sessions.  Participants will be able to attend several sessions all at the same time. The word multi-tasking will take on new meaning.

Old folks are amazed to discover that their teenage children will not answer a phone call but will respond almost immediately to a text message. Phone calls work best as one to one dialogs.  Teens can multi-task via text messages. Soon the rage is going to be 12 second video messages. Google Wave participants might "put in their 2 cents" via MMS messages (I think MMS is the correct short hand for multi-media message service). The method of input is not as important as the fact that multi-tasking is enabled.

By the way, MMS just became available though the iPhone. The AT&T data system is already struggling to expand fast enough to handle new traffic. Even 12 second videos are bandwidth hogs. It is going to be interesting to see how much new fiber optic cable will be laid and how many new satellites will be launched.

Google SideWiki is a separate animal from Google Wave but it is a related animal and it might even be a sub-species that helps attract the public to the Google Wave platform. Some of the best articles on the best web sites are followed by hundreds of comments in dozens of threads.  On most any topic, a few of the participants have great knowledge and insight on the question at hand.  Often the most valuable insights are buried deep within one or more threads. Google SideWiki will give Google toolbar and Chrome browser users the ability to quickly sift through volumes of comments in order to find "the valuable stuff". The cream will rise to the top. Those who consistently offer helpful information will receive high ratings among their peers and will thus be read by many more people.

Other companies have offered somewhat similar services with little or no success. Disqus is the best comment service to date, but it lacks important ranking and search features. What Google is doing is facilitating individuals in "building a published body of work". Potential employers can already go online to the public profile of Internet active individuals and see the numerous entries made over the years. Google's stated objective, to organize and make available all information, benefits Google by providing it with as many forums for advertising as possible.  The situation is one of the great win-win situations of all time, where the public is granted valuable services free of charge in such a way that third parties will voluntarily pay for easy access to the content produced. Through free services, including gmail, waves, blogger and sidewiki, Google is giving consumers the opportunity to take back control of the news stream.

Soon, if a politician sticks in a self serving earmark in the dead of night, the world will know. Even more important, the public now has forums on which to "call the politician out".  In the years to come, it may continue to be that "organized prayer" is prohibited in school, but prayers, and prayer request are once again becoming part of the news stream. Instead of always reading and watching the "news" about local criminal behavior, the public now frequently reading a hospital progress report posted by a church friend, coworker or neighbor. Hallelujah, the people are singing praise in the public square!  


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