We're putting the finishing touches on our Rails 3 upgrade and site design updates. We'll have more details soon...
We're putting the finishing touches on our Rails 3 upgrade and site design updates. We'll have more details soon...
First we made NewsCloud easy to install, then we made it cheap, now we're making it free to get started building a social media community for your favorite topic, neighborhood, city or school:
The generous folks at Rackspace are offering six months of credited hosting (up to $250 monthly) for anyone hosting NewsCloud in the Rackspace Cloud through their startup program. Now, there's no reason not to try your hand at launching your own social media community.
To get running, just follow these signup and installation steps. Then, send in the Rackspace Promotional Discount Agreement to activate your six months of credited hosting. Be sure to email us so we can tell you how to turn on the "Powered by Rackspace" text in your site footer.
While most content management systems are optimized around publishing, NewsCloud's features offer ways for your audience to participate and lead the site with user generated content. As activity increases, you can integrate advertising and paid content referral systems to capture new revenue streams. We also offer some innovative ways to populate your site with content from RSS and Twitter Lists.
NewsCloud is a free, open source project funded by the great folks at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Read more about our Knight-funded research into the engagement of young people in news in Facebook.
Check out The Boston Globe's new lending library. The lending library allows the globe audience to share and give away stuff they don't regularly use such as books, DVDs or other household items. It's a great way to bring their community of readers together in the real world to increase collaborative consumption.
The Globe is offering the lending library through its Your Boston community site at http://your.boston.com. Readers log in to Your Boston through their Facebook accounts.
NewsCloud makes it easy for readers to list items by allowing keyword searching and lookups of the Amazon product catalog. You can list books and DVDs in seconds.
NewsCloud's platform is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Our software is freely available to the open source community. Any publisher that wants to launch their own classifieds system or lending library can do so easily and affordably.
AllFacebook reports that Facebook will be removing discussion tabs from Facebook Pages on November 1, 2011. This is a pertinent example of one of the risks of relying on Facebook Pages for community building - you're only given the features they want you to have and they can take them away at any time.
We think NewsCloud's free, open source software platform is a great Facebook-connected alternative to pages. Read our post about the pros and cons of Facebook Pages and learn how to install our open source software.
Inspired by Howard Owens post encouraging Patch editors to jump ship (via @michelemclellan, @poynter) from AOL and start their own Facebook-connected, hyperlocal community sites, we'd like to offer a soft landing of six months free hosting, managed service and technical support to the first Patch editor who wants to run their site with NewsCloud.
We're a free, open source, community engagement platform funded generously by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Our platform offers features that encourage engaged communities filled with user generated content such as sharing news, blog posts, photos & video, crowdsourcing ideas, favorite places and resources, discussion forums, classifieds and lending library for sharing physical goods, peer Q&A, et al. All of NewsCloud's features are tightly integrated to Facebook and Twitter. Learn more.
We agree with Owens: "Jump on in, the water’s fine."
I watched Social WSJ's launch with interest but feel strongly that they've made a number of obvious mistakes with regard to working with Facebook and the nature of how their application works. Over the past three years, I've worked with a number of mainstream news organizations trying to get them to implement effective Facebook integrated solutions. You can read my post-mortem at Nieman Labs as well as results from our grant-funded research. While our news partners have struggled because they fail to link and promote their Facebook-community sites from their main web site, the Wall Street Journal's application strays in common ways that we regularly advise partners against.
Rule #1 is don't try to duplicate your web site content in Facebook. Mainstream news organizations already have great websites - so there simply is no need to try to replicate this experience inside of Facebook. In a sense, all you're doing is giving Facebook space to monetize your content with their ads. Essentially, Social WSJ just tries to present WSJ content inside Facebook's application frame.
Rule #1a is if you do try to duplicate your web site content in Facebook, don't make it ugly and unattractive. I'd argue that Social WSJ is extremely less attractive than the site's existing home page.
Another mistake Social WSJ makes is requiring readers to register up front. The first thing readers see when they visit http://social.wsj.com is the intimidating Facebook permissions popup. NewsCloud-powered sites allow passive reading without registration. So, readers can visit, browse, read and only need to register if they get excited about what they see and want to participate. In our climate change community site with Grist, University of Minnesota researchers concluded that applications that offer a variety of levels for users to get involved do better over time (research pdf). This is called a ladder of engagement which gives readers a chance to engage lightly at first, then more over time.
There's really nothing at Social.WSJ.com that readers can't get at the Wall Street Journal's home page. And, it's certainly not visually appealing enough to make Facebook users deviate from their news feeds to regularly visit.
We evangelize to news organizations that the value of social media is in creating sites that connect the audience to each other in new ways - ways that they often don't have the technical capacity to do with their existing web sites. So, NewsCloud sites are designed to feature community features that allow for user generated content, sharing and discussion - you could call it "moving beyond comments".
NewsCloud Facebook communities let users do things they can't do on existing news sites e.g. crowdsourced idea gathering, discussion forums, blogging, sharing local photo and videos, adding resources to directories of popular restaurants or city guides. We even have a predictions game that lets readers guess at future news events and a lending library that lets them share extra household items with their friends. Furthermore, because we authenticate users with their Facebook accounts, their real identity and accountability make NewsCloud communities more civil than the typical news web site. You can see examples of this in action at our prototype site in Seattle, The Needle, or from our Web site.
We just don't see what Social WSJ accomplishes other than to help Facebook earn revenue from the Wall Street Journal's content - and that's if anyone wants to use it.
Taking advantage of Facebook requires that news organizations think in new ways and provide truly unique and innovative offerings. This often requires embracing the idea that readers will find it exciting to share content and engage in conversation with each other. We think it means hosting a space especially for community - and leveraging social networks like Facebook and Twitter in the ways that are most effective. Often, this just means applying these services for authenticated identity and friend connections. It means that news executives and editors need to be open to the possibility that there are new revenue streams available to those who delve into the world of community. In some ways, it means stepping back into the world of Craigs List and moving beyond pre-social-media text-only town halls.
This is why the Knight Foundation funds NewsCloud to provide these kinds of technology solutions free, open source and easily adoptable for news organizations to take and use to their advantage.
Most importantly, news organizations need to promote their community sites from their web sites and other outreach (e.g. email, TV, radio, marketing). Otherwise, there's no point to investing in these new approaches.
Psst...Rupert, we'd be glad to set your team on a path to social media success... However, if you want to stick with your existing editorial focus of wrecking American society, then you should probably find another software consulting firm to run our open source software.
Update: A reader email asked if NewsCloud has a political bias in its work. Let me clarify. As part of our grant work, NewsCloud's software is available freely as open source software - anyone of any political stripe can download and use it. We also operate a support site at http://support.newscloud.com ... we answer all queries there that we can regardless of who they are from. However, if Rupert Murdoch approached us and wanted to hire us as consultants to help him with NewsCloud, we'd probably encourage him to find another software consultant. The issue isn't right wing or left wing - the issue is the lack of intellectual integrity and commitment to fact inherent in Murdoch-run organizations. I take the practice of journalism quite seriously - and I believe that integrity and honest presentation of facts are hugely important qualities. I would be letting the Knight Foundation down if I began working with organizations that don't practice journalism with commitment to truth telling.
Some fun photos from our lecture in Saint Petersburg, Russia put on by our friends at iUni.ru. NewsCloud founder, Jeff Reifman, presented. Topics included NewsCloud, the Knight Foundation and entrepreneurialism. Great audience, great questions and we hope we didn't disappoint. Translation generously provided by Dinara Asadulina. Slides. View the entire album. Video coming soon.
When I was a child, I used to love Sea Monkeys. You'd just add the magic powder to a bowl of water and the next day you'd have tiny little baby sea monkeys swimming around. Starting up a social media news community in Facebook has always been harder, until now.
Beginning today, you can take NewsCloud's free, open source Facebook application platform and create a community site with news content from Twitter.
There are two big challenges to creating a community news startup. 1) Aggregating relevant, timely news content for your site and 2) Promoting and marketing your site. NewsCloud's new Twitter integration address the first challenge.
How It Works
You choose a topic for your NewsCloud Facebook application. e.g. Seattle or Baseball. Then, you create a Twitter List with Twitter users you believe do a good job of focusing on this topic area. When you set up your NewsCloud site, you can tell it to populate content automatically from this Twitter List. NewsCloud will appropriately filter tweets from news related sites (you can white list and black list sites to further control for relevance) and publish these to your site with links back to the Twitter users that posted the content in the first place.
You can see an example of this at The Needle, using our example Twitter list for Seattle. Your NewsCloud site will pull in content from Twitter users you choose and select stories that come from relevant news sites. You can create your own Twitter List, curating your favorite twitterers for your site topic or region. Or, you can use someone else's existing Twitter List. It's about as simple as growing sea monkeys.
We'd love to see you set up your own topical or hyperlocal community using our free, open source Facebook technology and give us feedback on this new feature. To be successful, you'll still need to promote your community actively, but this is a great way to leverage Twitter to seed your community with interesting and relevant stories from day one.
While NewsCloud also can automatically add stories from RSS feeds, we feel that using Twitter lists with members you curate is more effective at finding higher quality content. RSS feeds tend to firehose too many stories and are less personal. Also, the presentation of Twitter content on your community site highlights the personalities and profile pictures of each Twitter user. Whereas, RSS feeds are posted by a single user account.
This is a very early release of this feature. We're curious what you think about it. Please share your feedback on our discussion page.
Update: Photos available here.
Thank you for the excellent turnout tonight. Here are the presentation slides:
Check out Indiali.com (on Facebook as an app here), the latest Facebook application powered by NewsCloud's free, open source software. The Indiali news community began as a Facebook page and has grown to have 3.3 million fans. Indiali's using NewsCloud to improve the quality of community features that they can offer.
NewsCloud's free open source Facebook software is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through April 2012. NewsCloud can be installed easily in minutes and hosted for less than $45 per month.