Visualizing Community News

Mike Davidson has been working lately on an innovative (I said innovative, not trendy) online news company, Newsvine, that provides articles from mainstream media outlets. The Newsvine team is a well-respected web group, most of them formerly of Starwave, a studious anti-hype third-wave (i.e. late 1990s, post-bubble) internet company. (Here's Starwave's startup profile from a 1996 Fast Company article.) Davidson's also a major contributor to SiFR, which typophiles (that's typography, not typos) and web developers everywhere love.

The trick of Newsvine is that it comes in a really well designed interface and allows community input, both by linking and commenting. Here's an extract from a larger rundown at Solutionwatch:

One of the main frustrations of reading normal news sites for me is how they all have cluttered sites with advertisements everywhere, news mixed around, and when I find a story of interest, I can't even comment about it. Newsvine is the complete opposite and I immediately felt at home with their beautiful interface that allowed me to easily find and read what I am interested in. The design consists of a style that I feel has the unique style of its founder, Mike Davidson. The main page gives a clear overview of all the news submitted from the Associated Press and the Newsvine users, along with buttons to vote and comment on stories (more on this below). "The Wire" being news from sources like the Associated Press, ESPN, and other services. "The Vine" being user submitted content.

Personally, I'm very excited to see companies that understand my Sysiphean-Kafkaesque nightmare of flashy, obtrusive, cluttered websites like Yahoo! and all the major news outlets (see image). And of course I'm excited to see (another) community-building website that allows for the development of local folksonomies and scalable collaboration.

Clutter

I would very much like to start using Newsvine in order to tag and collect news items that are relevant to my organization(s). Considering Newsvine's focus on usability and design, I think it would be a serious alternative to using something like del.ico.us to share links. Del.icio.us just has such an uber-geeky interface that is seriously off-putting to most warm-blooded nonprofit people. And of course, there are a number of other "social news sites" that are doing something similar to newsvine, including:

Digg.com, in my experience, is the best of these and has the largest user base (there are even rumors on the Digital Divide listserv from Phil Shapiro that it will soon be larger than geeky heavyweight slashdot.com. As Phil says: "Community editing of news. Community. Editing." It's a huge thing indeed.)

For an example of Newsvine's potential, look non further than this map (see image), created by Fraser Mills today. In the "tradition" of the best web applications, developers will soon have a Newsvine API (a kind of cookbook for developers, saving lots of time) into which all kinds of fun can be had, and Fraser is just a little ahead of the curve. His map represents news items according to their location. You can click on each country and get a rundown of the news in that area. I imagine that you will soon be able to sort and filter to create some impressive maps of information.

news

Most impressively, Davidson has written today that an API is in the works and that: "Once true location data like this makes its way into posts, wire articles, and seeds, the map will be even more useful. You'll be able to zoom in on Seattle, for instance, and get stories down to the micro-local level."

Now that would be useful.

Newsvine is still in beta and registration is limited. But based on Mike Davidson's previous work and the projects promising future for collaboration, I'm eagerly anticipating my invitation.

[This post was edited 2/7 to reflect the correction as indicated in the comments section below. Pictr.org regrets the error, as they say. I did get the invite last week. We'll see how it goes.]