Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, January 14, 2005

Grassroots News Sharing Community: Take Back The News

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If you've always wanted to put your news-gathering, journalistic talents to the test, then here's a new initiative that claims to enable any news consumer to

"determine for themselves which stories and topics are worthy of attention, share that news with others and to have a say in a specific coverage and news in general."

The Take Back The News web site logo

Will this service be ready for prime time?

Read my take on it.

John W. Little and Craig Henderson—proud brainparents of Take Back The News— offered us a preview peek today, ahead of the public release that will be due this weekend.

At first glance, Take Back The News (TBTN) looks a lot like a group blog, but it soon becomes clear that this is not just any participatory wiki-type initiative: it has a definite peer-review-based credibility twist to it.

Contributor Fame
TBTN Contributors will see their own name appear with each link, quoted article and original story accepted for publication. With this incentive Little and Henderson hope to trigger massive flow of news content submissions. Depending on a contributor's aspirations, experience and interests, the following types of submitters are distinguished:

TakeBackTheNews currently contains about a 100 articles.

Guidelines and Submission Process
To ensure a high quality Little and Henderson put in great care to design distinct submission guidelines and a FAQ. Readers who want to become a TBTN contributor first need to sign up for an account confirmed by email. To share a news story a contributor logs in to the system and fills in a simple webform. All content submissions are scrutinized prior to publication by TBTN volunteer editors (currently a handful of them), who will be judging content according to criteria like timeliness, newsworthiness, correctness and appropriateness. TBTN welcomes thought-provoking, opiniated articles. Each article referring to an external source only gets accepted with a clear link to that source. Only registered users may comment on existing articles.

Weblog Appearance
The Take Back The News site appearance resembles a regular 3-column weblog, with all features usually offered in sidebars:

  • 14 Topic categories

    • Breaking News

    • International

    • U.S.

    • Global Conflicts

    • Politics

    • Science & Technology

    • Sports

    • Money

    • Entertainment

    • Health & Medicine

    • Opinion

    • Bloggers Speak Out

    • Arts & Culture

    • Humor & Odd Stories

  • Polls, created by TBTN editors

  • Links to today's popular posts

  • Recent posts

  • Archives

  • Forum Comments

  • Search site

  • New Members

  • Who's Online

  • Contact Info

Submission Categories
TBTN offers RSS feeds by category. In my opinion, the choice of categories will certainly need to be adjusted when TBTN really takes off. As you can see from the following snapshot, there's currently only a very limited list of categories available, and there's no way a contributor can suggest a new category:

TBTN offers a limited selection of categories

Browse by Author
In addition to the Browse by Category approach, TBTN readers will most likely look for posts by their favorite author. Currently there is no way you could call up your favorite author's profile or track down their articles, unless that author has recently published an article; in that case you could find that author by opening the Recent Posts view. By clicking on an author's name you will see that each author is referenced by an internal number, probably to facilitate homonyms.

News Feeds
Contrary to what the top menu button labeled News Feeds on the web site would make you think, TBTN does not seem to offer any form of RSS feeds or other type of syndicated output. This is a missed opportunity that I strongly suggest the TBTN web developers get fixed as soon as possible.
Instead, the News Feeds button refers to news headlines and podcasts automatically pulled in from external sources:

External News Headlines
Besides being a hand-picked-news sharing community, Take Back The News also offers categorized, automatically generated lists of news headlines pulled in from reputable sources like Yahoo! News, BBC News, Reuters, ABC News, MSNBC, All Headline News, BoingBoing, Wired and iPodder. TBTN claims to refresh these feeds every minute of the day.

By coincidence—not because it was clearly linked to— I found out just before this article's deadline that all of TBTN's external sources are listed on an aggregator page. I humbly suggest that this list clearly gets described and linked to, at least from the News Feeds page. At the bottom of the aggegator page is an XML button that links to an OPML file, as it apparently is the basis to the gathered headlines. All this is not at all entirely clear to average readers or potential contributors.

Wrapping Up
During the course of composing this article I saw many new contributors add themselves to the list of new members of Take Back The News. I have no doubt they too will bring up some of these issues on the forums and encourage Little and Henderson to improve their service to the level everyone using it deserves.

Check it out and share your news!

[ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
2005-01-15 01:09:41

John Little


Thank you for your thoughtful analysis. I agree with most of your points. We're still tweaking the site and I hope that we will have many of them addressed before the official launch on Monday. Of course, the site will continue to evolve past that point. Probably almost daily.

Your confusion with "News feeds" is understandable. I've renamed that link "External News Feeds" for now and will consider further changes over the weekend.

Syndication is a bit more challenging with our architecture. We did add an xml feed for our main page this afternoon. I'm looking into options for our category pages.

The feedback we're receiving is extremely encouraging. Constructive criticism, like yours, is extremely valuable as we move forward. Thanks again.

posted by Marjolein Hoekstra on Friday, January 14 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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