Category Archives: Editorial & news content

Do you Digg Blik?

ZuluZulu discovered Blik today. Blik (Afrikaans: view, stare, look) is a web 2.0 Afrikaans link recommendation site ala Digg. Already there is an English language South African recommendation engine called Muti.

Digg, which started off as a tech news recommendation engine, is so popular that it soon overtook that other massive tech news site Slashdot. Slashdot used to be so huge that the phrase “you have been Slashdotted” became synonymous with the surge in traffic when Slashdot put a link to your website and cause your servers to keel over.

But where Slashot had editors recommending stories and deciding their prominence, Digg took this one step further, allowing its users to submit them and deciding how popular they should be.

Sites like Digg are bad news for traditional professional media and traditional marketeers. It allows the lone blogger, filmmaker, web producer to compete with mighty media behemoths like the BBC and Naspers. It allows an interesting web service to be found, without throwing marketing money at it.

If the Digg community thinks your point of view is better, or you know something before the Guardian does, your story can experience a traffic surge.

Did you know you can “Digg” Mhambi’s stories by clicking on the link at the bottom of each story? And that increases the prominence of my story on Digg. See, six of you Digged my story on how many $100 laptops Oprah could buy South Africa.

Back to Blik. Is it a good thing to have an Afrikaans recommendation engine? Well it certainly does not suffer like Muti does in competing with Digg (who has long since moved out of being just about tech news). There are allot of South African stories on Digg.

But this brings to the fore a perennial problem Afrikaans faces. By using Afrikaans, Afrikaners can have a very unique, local, and intimate exchange of views and maintain their identity free from cultural imperialism. But its also self referential, self contained and incestuous. Often really interesting, sophisticated, open debates happen, like this Blik to a story on a farmer who’s micro credit system has helped his labourers invest happen, but nobody outside the Afrikaans community would know about it.

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News media – To write hard news or opinion?

The Media Guardian speculated this week how traditional news media organisations like newspapers should react to the hordes of citizen reporters stalking the streets. The BBC, perhaps not unexpectedly, reckons that news media providers can make themselves felt by providing hard news. Blogs can out opinion the best of the papers op-ed pages they said. But they would say that – The BBC is uniquely resourced to do hard news and because of its public service remit, not big on opinionated pieces.

The BBC may only partially be right. Blogs will increasingly break hard news that institutions – even the mighty Beep – will not have the resources to cover. Or they simply just won’t be at the right place at the right time.

Ah, but you might say, no single blog will have those resources either. They might through serendipity get one great scoop, and that’s it. But do remember, its immaterial that the fractured blogosphere don’t belong to a single media entity. They work on a collective level and can be found through one or two interfaces.

Technology like Digg‘s link recommendation engine (user generated editing in effect), Technorati and Google’s time and Pageranked based blog search, will increasingly encourage bloggers to publish information nobody has access to and do so first. Take this review of Gmail’s mobile application for instance. All of these engines try to give users the best postings on the web, within a certain time frame. So the links they present are weighted for quality and news-worthiness.

But here is another reason why the BBC is wrong. There’s the so-called long tail and the workings of Google’s Pagerank to take into account. If your item on a particular subject is very incisive, funny, informative and gets voted for via links from blogs and sites across the web, Pagerank will like it too. And then you are pretty much guaranteed traffic long after the item’s published date. The links presented by Google search are weighted for quality as judged by other web users. This favours well written opinion pieces whose content transcends time.