Think about it. Two or three years ago most people had never heard of Facebook. Tweets still mainly were owned by birds, not limited to 140 characters. FourSquare was some vague game from elementary school.
In general, most people had written off social media as some sort of high school fad.
Well, you should know by now, Web-based social media is not a fad.
If you still doubt this, temporarily remove your head from the sand and go talk to one of the more than half a billion people who spend hours and hours sharing news, photos or running a virtual farm. (For the record, I am not a fan of FarmVille.)
In its constant evolution, though, technology routinely leapfrogs past itself as it innovates and disrupts the status quo.
In other words, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Those creating these new tools typically don’t have journalism as a possible application in mind. But I, an admitted tech/journo/mad-scientist geek, can’t help but apply the journalism prism to some of the latest tools and technology.
So, in that vein, here are two emerging tools I’ve came across that I think are worth keeping an eye on. They might not be perfect now, but I encourage you to experiment with these and see if there is a journalistic application here.
NOTE: I recently posted my Web Journalism’s rules of tech engagement, so feel free to refer to them and keep them in mind as you read. All of them apply, especially #1 and #5.
This new social media site might sound similar to its forefathers, but it has one clear difference (that I think they underplay). It’s not about you, it’s about community… and it’s about moments.
On Twitter or FourSquare, you are telling the world where you are… in Whrrl, you are “creating a story.” Your posted photos and notes from your check-in are auto-grouped with others and, potentially, are telling the story of a moment collectively.
Example: We’re celebrating your birthday at a bar. We capture the moment by sharing pictures, videos, comments, etc. Those not attending could virtually experience the moment and add to the conversation.
Neat… but where’s the journalism?
Change the previous example from “birthday” to, say, “election.” Reporters and citizens are posting their experiences — comments, photos, videos, etc. — at polling sites, leaving a virtual marker filled with content for others to add or re-live. This would also work for a sporting event, a protest/rally or any news event where people gather in one location.
Collectively, we can capture the moment in real-time with rich multimedia. This doesn’t replace the article or video piece, but can really enhance them.
This tool launched earlier this year at SXSW and is referred to as digital graffiti. Now, how to explain this – um, think of a digital bulletin board or wall where anyone could post anything.
Like a Facebook wall? Sort of.
Instead of the wall living in your computer, it is at an actual, physical space – because the information is embedded onto a sticker with a barcode. Scan it with your smartphone and read or leave messages in multiple media.
While finding these stickers is a cute game, they’ve recently graduated to using standard barcodes, which are on millions of products.
You can get barcodes for free and even order them in sticker form if you want.
Where’s the journalism here? Well, my brain is still thinking of different applications, but what immediately stands out here is the distribution.
Imagine going to a polling place where people can scan a sticker to read or leave messages. The only way to get that unique experience from that polling place is to be at that location.
From news to reviews, we could possibly embed our stories on anything and anywhere. And, more importantly, we can get user engagement. We’re not talking about from behind a computer, we’re talking about out in real life.
Take some time and play, er, experiment, with these new emerging types of technology. Get in the habit of exploring this stuff… and share your experiences.
Robert Hernandez is a Web Journalism professor at USC Annenberg and co-creator of #wjchat, a weekly chat for Web Journalists held on Twitter. You can contact him by e-mail ([email protected]) or through Twitter (@webjournalist). Yes, he’s a tech/journo geek.