Cervical Cancer Vaccine Scaremongering Pits Google Against The Blogosphere

vaccineFellow blogger Malcolm Coles is conducting a medical experiment, but you’re more likely to see the results in New Media Age than The Lancet.

Following death this week of a teenage girl moments after she had been immunized against cervical cancer, Coles  noted how many of the papers had failed to offer a balanced account of events, implying that the vaccination and the death were linked when at best there was no proof.

As we now know, the tragic death was later attributed to an unrelated tumour. Too late for the papers – and too late for the aggregator of the newspapers, Google.

Of course Google didn’t author any of these stories but it does disseminate –  and Coles wants those stories off the top of search and Google News results pages.

The solution?

He wants as many bloggers as possible to post about the jab, and rather than link to some scurrilous story, they should instead link to this NHS cervical cancer vaccine page.

The more inbound links, the higher the page rank, the more likely that particular NHS page is to appear on page one of Google.

The net result (no pun intended) is that concerned parents scouring the internet for information will more likely see the informed advice.

As I blog, the NHS cervical cancer vaccine page (oops, I’ve linked to it again), has yet to make Google page one but an NHS Q&A has. And someone – the Department of Health presumably – has bought a sponsored ad.

But none of this should stop the experiment. Go link…

Google Fast Flip Verdict – Good News For Users, Bad News For Newspapers
Google Ads. FAIL
BBC Goes Crowdsourcing To Save The NHS

Adebayor, Arsenal And The Limits Of Crowdsourcing

adebayor-daily-starWhen James Surowiecki coined the phrase ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ for his 2004 book, it was a play on a 19th century work Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay.

Well this weekend the madness returned, and not just inside the City of Manchester Stadium.

Surowiecki argument – “the many are smarter than the few” –  is a theme that’s been taken up by others, most notably Jeff Howe in his book Crowdsourcing, and applied in a variety of ways in the digital space.

One of the best newspaper adaptations of the crowdsourcing idea is player ratings – rather than rely on the opinion of one sports reporter, an irregular watcher of the players on view, source the opinions of the fans.

The aggregate marks out of 10 you’ll find on the Daily Telegraph ratings application are invariably a better guide to the true worth of a footballer’s 90 minutes than those from your correspondent of choice.

Counterintuitive, maybe, but the football fanatic is also the football realist and knows more than most when the talent is failing to deliver. It’s the media that often has the blinkers on when it comes to Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard, Fabregas et al.

But once in a while the crowd gets it wrong – and the correspondent gets it right.

Take Emmanuel Adebayor’s performance on Saturday when the Manchester City striker faced his former club.

Fuelled by festering animosity towards the Arsenal fans and some of his former colleagues, Adebayor was an effective footballer (one goal from one opportunity) but an ineffective diplomat (inappropriate, near riot-inducing goal celebration and a boot, seemingly put there deliberately, into a ex-teammates face).

On the football alone, the player deserved a strong rating. And that’s what he got from the writers – 7 out of 10 in the Sun and the Guardian; 8 out of 10 in the Daily Mail, the Sunday Times and The Times.

And in the Telegraph’s crowdsourced player ratings? 5.82 at the time of posting. In other words, the worst Manchester City player on the pitch. Surely not?  A case of Arsenal fans getting some digital retaliation, perhaps.

Of course these ratings are subjective but in this particular case the wisdom of football writers does seem nearer the mark than the madness of football fans.

Just as the custodians of Wikipedia put editing restrictions on pages covering the Middle East, perhaps the Telegraph should re-consider how it deals with some footballing conflict zones.

How The Guardian’s Crowdsourcing Experiment Ran Out Of Steam
Crowdsourcing 1920s-Style
BBC Goes Crowdsourcing To Save The NHS

How The Guardian’s Crowdsourcing Experiment Ran Out Of Steam

This morning, news of a crowdsourcing success. This afternoon, a high-profile example seemingly a little stuck in the mud.

Six weeks ago the Guardian invited its readers to help it trawl through hundreds of thousands of expense claim documents released (in redacted form) by Parliament.

Within three days 20,000 people had helped classify 160,000 pages. The paper was rightly proud of its crowdsourcing experiment and splashed the news across the front page of its Monday print edition.

But now it seems user involvement has slowed to a trickle.

These are the bare facts:

We have 458,832 pages of documents. 23,185 of you have reviewed 201,587 of them. Only 257,245 to go…

By my reckoning, around 500 documents were processed last week. At this rate, we’ll be nearing 2020 before the project is complete.

This is not to say the experiment has failed but the paper does need to work out how it ties up some loose ends. If it cannot re-energise the crowd, that is.

 – Is That The Sound Of The Crowd? Just Maybe.
 – Crowdsourcing 1920s-Style
 – What MPs’ expenses tells us about the clash between new and old media
 – The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing
 – BBC Goes Crowdsourcing To Save The NHS

Is That The Sound Of The Crowd? Just Maybe.

There’s a good chance you are not one of the Birmingham Post’s 12,700 daily readers and therefore may have missed something of a landmark event in crowdsouring.

Help Me Investigate, the public journalism project designed to kick-start investigative reporting with public involvement at its heart, has its first story in print today.

Via the pages of the Post, it reveals the worst places to park in Birmingham, a story based on an initial inquiry by a resident called Stacey and followed up by seven others (including, it must be said, some intimately involved in the Help Me Investigate project).

The Freedom of Information request that led to the release of the parking data was written by Heather Brooke, she of MPs’ expenses fame.

For the record Alum Rock Road leads the list with 4,000 tickets handed out last year. In total Birmingham City Council issued 135,656 parking tickets in the year to 2009.

So far the crowd is modest but this morning’s Post story points to interesting things ahead.

Crowdsourcing 1920s-Style
What MPs’ expenses tells us about the clash between new and old media
The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing
BBC Goes Crowdsourcing To Save The NHS

Crowdsourcing 1920s-Style

Much maligned it may be by Malcolm Gladwell and others. Faultless it is not. But Chris Anderson’s follow-up to The Long Tail is a great read, full of insight and anecdote, and – for the large part – convincing.

I also think it provides an important counter-point to all the doom and gloom around the media and broken business models, something I’ll touch on in my Journalism.co.uk column later today.

For a favourite anecdote in Free: The Future of a Radical Price we go back to 1925, the early days of radio and the origins of free-to-air.

In the knowledge that only content was going to shift the hardware, Radio Broadcast magazine asked its readers: “Who is to pay for broadcasting and how?”

It received 800 responses including the following suggestions:

  1. volunteer listener contributions
  2. a charge of programme listings
  3. a tax of vacuum tubes as an “index for broadcast consumption”

Not only did this magazine competition pre-date crowdsourcing by 90-odd years, it also foresaw the model that became National Public Radio in the United States (1.) and the licence fee that we pay here in the UK (3.).

Readers of Radio Broadcast also made it plain that they were not keen on advertising. But that’s what they got.

The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing
BBC Goes Crowdsourcing To Save The NHS
‘I Consider Google News A Gift, Newspapers Consider It Theft.’

The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing

I began the week reflecting on the BBC’s initiative asking radio listeners to come up with pain-free ways the NHS could save money.

The week ends with an army of Guardian readers sorting and classifying 700,000+ MPs’ expenses documents.

Two examples of old media embracing crowdsourcing and it will be interesting to see how both fair.

From the outside, the Guardian feels inherently more switched on to the potential of outsourcing some of its journalism to the crowd. Continue reading The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing

BBC Goes Crowdsourcing To Save The NHS

This morning the Today programme devoted two in-show trails to its how-to-cut-NHS-spending-without-feeling-the-pain feature.

It’s a nice conceit – the politicians are reluctant to talk about cuts in general terms and any suggestion that the NHS in particular will suffer is political suicide.

credit: Tulip Diva
credit: Tulip Diva

So Evan Davis and co are throwing it out to the ‘informed listener’ – the NHS doctors, nurses, administrators, consultants, suppliers – to come up with some practical answers.

Whether they know it or not they are also embarking on a crowdsourcing experiment. Continue reading BBC Goes Crowdsourcing To Save The NHS