What I learned at newsfoo #2011

What happens when you put 150 talented, passionate people in a set of
rooms for 2.5 days and help them connect? 

If you’re the Google,
O’Reilly, Knight Foundation team that planned the second newsfoo, you’re
just part of the crowd, staying up late playing Werewolf and talking
talking talking in-between product demos.  Part pajama party, part geek
fest, part insider mingle sprint, my first newsfoo–and the second
newsfoo organized by O’Reilly with the help of geekster media maven
Jennifer 8 Lee, was amazing.

Parts of the event were definitely
friendDA, but I’d like to share some of the flavor of the weekend, so if
you’re lucky enough to be invited (only 40% make will make it back for a
second confab) you know you have to clear your scheduler and go.

When you’re an obsessive, you never run out of things o discuss, particularly if everyone else is as obsessed as you are
Newsfoo made me remember that some people work at the intersection of
tech/civic engagment/media and community because it’s their job, but I
don’t think many of those people were at the meeting. Instead, I think
the group was a whole lot of people like me, people who are so obsessed
with solving particular sets of problems or answering specific questions
that they would work on these things whether they made money from it or
not. In other words, people who were so into their work they found ways
to get paid for it because it was something they loved to do.

Newsfoo is a frieNDA kind of place, so I’m not going deep dive into who said what and where, but here’s some info:

Topics/fields of newsfoo folks, in no particular order:

  • news apps
  • long form investigative journalism
  • community web-based radio
  • hyperlocal media, local mobile, local apps, local wikis
  • data visualization tools & models
  • scraping tools
  • e-pubs
  • organization change & the future of news
  • crowd-sourcing
  • research: organizational development, behavior of crowds, weighting algorithms
  • personalization
  • journalism (every flavor)
  • Journalism education and professional development
  • Internet freedom, journalists’ rights
  • CMS (and beyond the CMS)
  • data research, metrics
  • new ad models and tools/platforms
  • video, video documenter, future of video
  • Occupy, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Journal
  • civic engagement

and then some…. so many interesting people and projects it was obvious I was never going to meet or talk to everyone I might.

Unconference formats work, but hallway con is always tasty
So our newsfoo was a series of sessions on topics we self-organized and a
lightening fast Ignite series of talks with 17 brave souls on Saturday
night (before those games of Werewolf kicked in).

Some of the session highlights for me:

  • Danny O’Brien talking journalism and rights
  • Our group panel on local with See Click Fix and Localwiki
  • Baratunde Thurston on satire and snark and who to pay attention to right now in satire

Hallway con highlights

  • Connecting with Sasha Constanza-Cohen VozMob around share mission,
    shared Drupal back end and share obsession with feature phones and
    mobile publishing and interactivity tools (especially for undeserved
  • Talking Google + with the Google content team lead
  • Getting a deep dive into my friend Dan Pacheo’s excellent Book
    Brewer, a platform to do pub that I am going to jump into right now.
  • Occupy Wall Street: Michael Levitin is one of the editors of this
    NYC-based, moving to national Occupy site that is printing newspapers
    (remember them?) as a means to get the word out.
  • Catching up with Jody Brannon, Kim Bui, David Cohn, Maureen
    Jennings, Robert Rosenthal, Scot Rosenberg, Jay Rosen, Gabe Rivera, Dan
    Gillmore, Andrew Pergam, Jose Zamora, Brad Flora, and other smart folks I
    don’t talk to enough.
  • Talking with folks newer to me like the wonderful and smart Javaun
    Moradi, Lorrie LeJeune, Cyndi Stivers (someone I have always admired,
    since the days of her editorship of Time Out NYC), Karen Templer, Dan
    Victor, Ellen Weiss, John Barth, Andrew Fitzgerald and Karen Wickre.
  • Finding out Jose Antonio Vargas knows and liked Oakland Local made me so happy, I admire him.

Ignite #newsfoo

The level of polish, creativity, wisdom and–thank god–humor in these
17 presos would take more than Ignite’s 5 minutes to express, but if
they see the light of day, check them out.

So what did I learn from all these people that is going to affect my next 6-12 months? What were the high-level takeaways:

  • E-pubs: Get started now
  • Ad models: Some new tools have amazing promise, but everyone’s still in search of a viable business model.
  • Data visualization: As the tools grow, still some
    frustration on how to make data viz even more accessible is out
    there–how can we make this growing discipline more accessible?
  • Mobile and geo-location are becoming seamless in apps
  • Cultural change: Was there a journalist or
    developer from a big media company in attendance who didn’t reference
    the re sets that big media is going through (and needs to go through
  • O’Reilly: Great company, you get a feeling why people who work here have stayed 10+ years
  • Fun: Games, drinks, talk–when the tribe gathers it is hella fun, so enjoy.