This is roughly the idea of engaging lots of people in researching and writing stories about various topics in the news and world. In short, people working together to create their news and informaton business rather than relying on a few professionals. It's an interesting idea and there is certainly evidence that some elements of this idea are at work and may eventually evolve into interesting new media outlets, but Gillmor's project is over for now. In this letter to his readers he talks about why this didn't work. Some of the reasons he discusses such as his own interests, passions, and skills are worth reflecting on, but some of the reasons are important for others who are trying to develop various types of interactive participant-engaging communities. In particular, I am thinking of people who are attemping to develop robust elearning blogging enterprises.
He doesn't say this directly other than saying the site didn't take off as expected, but I think what he means is that there may not be that many people who are prepared to spend the time necessary to make significant news contributions in their spare time.
Here are some quotes from Gillmor's letter to the Bayosphere Community that I think we should reflect on:
Citizen journalists need and deserve active collaboration and assistance. They want some direction and a framework, including a clear understanding of what the site's purpose is and what tasks are required.This is a reminder that there are reasons for editors and copy editors and others who pay attention to the structure and big picture of helping people accomplish their work and present their information in coherent packages.
The tools available today are interesting and surprisingly robust. But they remain largely aimed at people with serious technical skills -- which means too ornate and frequently incomprehensible to almost everyone else.This is hard for many of the early tech developers to understand, but even the current relatively simple blogging tools require more sophistication that we realize.
Tools matter, but they're no substitute for community building. (This is a special skill that I'm only beginning to understand even now.)This may be the most important point in the whole article. Just because you can create communities in cyberspace, it doesn't mean that you will. Creating community whether F2F or in cyberspace is a skill, process all its own that doesn't have anything to do with technology. It is also a skill that is considerably more difficult than learning how to create an elearning blog. All of us who are interested in creating participant-engaging learning environments need to spend more time thinking about the "community" aspect of this work.
Though not so much a lesson -- we were very clear on this going in -- it bears repeating that a business model can't say, "You do all the work and we'll take all the money, thank you very much." There must be clear incentives for participation, and genuine incentives require resources.Although Gillmor here is I think referring to people being paid, it is one more reminder about the importance of community. People will participate in many different activities without monetary pay if there are other incentives or reasons for participating-- love of the activity, to help others, to reciprocate others who have helped them, etc. Again this is all about community-building.