Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai terrorist attack: the 21-hour evolution of a co-authored document.

We discuss writing for the Internet, including co-authroing composite and co-authored documents and collaborative writing by small and very large groups.

The Mumbai terrorist attack provides an illustration of a co-authored document with many authors. The Wikipedia page on the attack was started at 18:20, 26 November 2008 by a user named Kensplanet. The initial posting consisted of two sentences:

The 26 November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks were a series of attacks by terrorists in Mumbai, India. 25 are injured and 2 killed.
Kensplanet revised his initial post 5 times during the next ten minutes, then others began to contribute. By 15:44, 27 November 2008, the article was 4,780 words long with many links. During this time, there had been 942 edits. Of those, 149 were anonymous (IP address only), 199 people made only one, and 93 authors could not be identified. Two contributors had made over 50 edits. Kensplanet, who started the article, had made 57.

The organization of the article also evolved during this period. While it began as two sentences, 21 hours later it was organized into 6 major sections with 5 sub-sections:

For the story of the evolution of another Wikipedia page, see this most interesting screencast by Jon Udell.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Anyone might be a reporter with Twitter

We have seen that portable Internet access devices capable of streaming live video are becoming available. Video cameras are not yet ubiqutous, but portable devices capable of micro-blogging with Twitter are now quite common.

Here is a sad example of the use of Twitter during the terrorist attack in Mumbai.

What would be the implications for news reporting, police work and security if most people carried location-aware, mobile Internet access devices capable of Twittering, uploading pictures and streaming video?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama uses the Internet after the election

This New York Times article describes the role of the Internet in the presidential campaign. As we saw earlier, both candidates used the Internet for fund raising, mobilizing and organizing volunteers, videos of speeches, etc.

Now Barack Obama is using the Internet in the government transition process, see The blog will inform the public of upcoming events, appointments, and other news during the transition. There are also descriptions of the administration agenda in 25 policy areas.

But they want the site to be more than a one-way broadcast of their message. We have discussed structured means of soliciting user input, and they have taken a step in that direction by allowing the public to "tell us your story in your own words about what this campaign and this election means to you" or "share your vision for what America can be, where President-Elect Obama should lead this country."

You can also apply for "non-career" jobs in the administration. Some of those are in high positions, requiring Senate approval.

The current site is clearly just a start. Links to the "Obama National Service Plan" and "Find a way to serve" are still under construction, and when you complete the job application form, you receive an email saying they will get back to you with a more detailed application in a few days. There is plenty of room for the site to improve, and I am confident that it will.

It seems that President Elect Obama is using the Internet to reiterate President Kennedy's admonition that you ask yourself what you can do for your country.

Can the Internet facilitate government "by the people?" Would you consider applying for a job in the new administration? Have you a story or suggestion you would like to share with them?