How we can organize the news (long version)
This is the first public discussion of Infobitt.
We did a soft launch recently, meaning you can sign up for an account without an invitation (but that’s the only way you can see the site, for now). We are starting a 100,000-person pledge drive (when we reach 100,000 pledges to add one fact, we’ll ask everybody to show up at once!). We have also opened up our daily newsletter, and we are soon to kick off a discussion group. Please bear in mind the site is a little buggy; you might have to refresh. But do join us!
There’s a short version of this essay.
I begin with personal background. You can skip straight to the part about Infobitt.
Part 1: Background
Dreamer, nothing but a dreamer
I am a dreamer.
That might sound a little pathetic and weird for a 46-year-old short, bald guy to say. But ask anybody who knows me well, and they’ll agree. My life has been a never-ending succession of dreams, a few of which have come true.
In my childhood I dreamed of being a cartographer: I used to draw very detailed maps of my home state of Alaska from memory.
As a teenager, I dreamed of being a novelist, until my brother told me I was 16 and therefore had nothing to write about. So I decided to study philosophy, so I would become wise and have something to write about.
That led to a dream of being a philosopher and writing a great system of philosophy. So I majored in that.
While I was a grad student in the 1990s, I dreamed of playing the music I liked to listen to—Irish traditional—and took up fiddle.
I remember a dream I had in 1993, and I know the year because it was the year after the billionaire Ross Perot lost the 1992 presidential election. See, I wrote to Perot with this idea of getting a bunch of people together to summarize the news. I was excited, but of course it was half-baked and silly. I was only philosophy student and had no clue about how the business world works.
Another thing I did back then was start to organize online communities, in the form of Internet discussion groups. One of them was devoted to the idea that people could tutor each other online, leaving bloated, far-too-expensive universities behind. That was a dream and still is. (Many years later, this idea started getting real traction.) There were also a couple of philosophy groups, one of which (the Association for Systematic Philosophy) Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales joined; I had joined his group MDOP. These groups all taught me that people working together on common interests could produce things of great value for everyone involved, things worth spending many hours on.
My dream of becoming a professor withered. I still wanted to be a philosopher, though. I remember thinking about becoming an encyclopedia editor. Not sure why I didn’t try harder.
I ended up, in 1998, starting a website (the content appears to be archived) with summaries of stories about the Y2K problem (the Millennium Bug). Jimmy Wales followed the website but we argued about whether there was anything to worry about. I wasn’t sure one way or another; he was a “naysayer.” He turned out to be right. Anyway, the site was popular but, since the world didn’t end on Jan. 1, 2000, it had a limited shelf life.
After that, I came up with another idea for a website. It was the dream that I pitched to Ross Perot, but now I better understood how it could be implemented. What if everyone were to write summaries of the news as I did about Y2K? I knew that online communities could be motivated to work together to create great stuff that they shared freely. It later came to be called “peer production.” So I shared the idea with people I knew online.
One of them was Jimmy Wales. He told me to forget about my dream of a free, community-produced news summary site and come and work on his dream: a free, community-produced encyclopedia.
That job offer was a dream come true. I came to work for Jimbo’s company, Bomis, in San Diego. Bomis had various projects, all funded by their main product, a web portal called Bomis.com, and a thriving Internet boom. By the time I had arrived, some ten days later, Jimbo’s dream of a free encyclopedia had become mine, and then some: I knew the potential of groups working together online. I really believed it was possible to get them to write an encyclopedia. There had to be a way. It was just a matter of time and iterations.
Starting this encyclopedia was a great job because, though I often sought Jimbo’s direction or advice on the project, he rarely gave it and specifically and repeatedly said it was up to me. I was able to get creative on somebody else’s dime. Jimbo even gave me a raise when, in early 2000, I finished my Ph.D., fulfilling another dream.
Our first “draft,” ultimately thrown away, was Nupedia. Nupedia was moving too slowly. The model wasn’t right; it was too complex. So it was my job (I was, after all, the full-time leader of Bomis’ encyclopedia project) to find a new way to involve more people.
Thus one fateful evening, Jan. 2, 2001, I had a Mexican dinner at a café in Pacific Beach with my friend Ben Kovitz. He was telling me about his interest in wikis. Now the next part seems to have become slightly confused. I don’t recall Ben suggesting, per se, that we should make a wiki encyclopedia. But he says he was talking about wikis in order to get me interested in the idea of a wiki encyclopedia. I don’t doubt that, and I certainly don’t begrudge him dropping the idea in my head, if that’s what he did: clearly it worked.
What I recall is that at some point in the conversation, I said something like, “This is very interesting, you know. I wonder if wikis could solve this problem I’m working on.” Skeptic that I was and am, but increasingly familiar with managing online content projects, I had a lot of questions about wikis and whether a wiki encyclopedia was really feasible. But based strictly on Ben’s description, I thought it was worth testing out; all we had to do was install a wiki, after all. So I asked Jimbo to have the software installed so I could play around with it.
Coming up with the idea isn’t what got Wikipedia started. The events of the first year did that. As I had done many times before, I started the community by inviting people and interacting with new arrivals. I watched the “recent changes” page, commenting and thanking people for their contributions, formulating our initial rules, writing essays, interacting with people constantly, and promoting the site elsewhere. Getting Wikipedia started became my full-time job and I loved it. (By the way, I’m just telling the same story I have told whenever anyone asked ever since 2001. I’m just telling it again.)
Then toward the end of 2001, the Internet boom turned to bust, as did the market for Internet ads—Bomis’ meat and potatoes. So Bomis had to lay off all but their original few people. I was the last to go, I was told. There was no money in ads, so my position as encyclopedia organizer, just representing a pie-in-the-sky dream for the company, couldn’t be sustained; Wikipedia, though it was growing like gangbusters, just couldn’t earn the money at the time to pay me.
I was getting married, so the situation was hinted at beforehand, and then I was given more official notice when I got back from my honeymoon. If I was then unemployed, at least I was able to live my dream of being married to an excellent woman. I left the project permanently in March 2002, 14 months after starting Wikipedia and two years after starting work on the idea of a free, volunteer-built encyclopedia.
Later I felt compelled to distance myself even further. My dream, or rather my specific version of a widely shared dream, was of a free, open, public-built encyclopedia—but also one that was a pleasure to contribute to and really authoritative. As of 2014, despite being a wonder and extremely useful, Wikipedia is still not authoritative and I still hear many stories of how difficult the community is to deal with. I still think we can do better.
In fact, I tried to do better.
After Wikipedia, I was actually unemployed for a little while. Friends of mine had become programmers, and it looked like fun, so I taught myself Perl. One of my projects for learning the language was a website that would—once again—let people collaborate on news summaries. But nothing came of that; the requirements became too difficult for a beginner to execute, and I didn’t stick with it.
I spent a couple of years teaching philosophy and wondering if any of my old dream of being a philosophy professor was still there. It was not. I still wanted to be a philosopher, but a professor not so much.
So I was hired by a Bay Area startup in 2005 that was going to make an attempt at a new sort of Internet resource, but after a year it was clear they didn’t have the funding to support my plans. One good thing that came out of that is that I was able to help get the wiki-based Encyclopedia of Earth off the ground. So, in 2006, I started Citizendium, another wiki encyclopedia. I won’t tell its story, but I will say that it’s still going, lo, these eight years, because there is a die-hard core of people who still share my dream of a different kind of wiki encyclopedia. I remain very grateful to them.
But ultimately the biggest problem Citizendium faced was the fact that it launched at the exact moment when Wikipedia was growing fastest, in 2006. A lot of people thought Citizendium was a good idea, but ultimately they went back to work on Wikipedia, simply because it dominated the scene and that was where the world could see their work. In a world with a limited number of volunteer encyclopedists, it’s probably true that only one could come out on top.
Citizendium was a nonprofit, and I had to seek funding. An elderly Memphis philanthropist, Charles Boone, started helping, but eventually he invited me to adopt his dream of getting people to make excellent educational videos. WatchKnow, later renamed WatchKnowLearn, was the result.
Around 2008, a dean I think from Duke University contacted me out of the blue and encouraged me to apply for a position that would lead the development of a news crowdsourcing site. I told him I had ideas about that but no time to execute them, not without abandoning my other projects; so I reluctantly had to pass up the opportunity.
While Citizendium and WatchKnowLearn were starting, I fulfilled another dream. My wife and I had a couple of kids, and we’ve later been able to homeschool them—another dream. Also, I dreamed of teaching my first son to read when he was very young, shortly after seeing various YouTube videos of other kids doing similar feats. It seemed implausible at first, but it turned out to be an achievable dream.
When Charles saw a video of my son reading the First Amendment at age three, he asked me in 2010 to finish a book-length essay on baby reading I had started and to create a web-based tool that would digitize the flashcard method I had used with my first son. My second son made use of the result, called ReadingBear.org, and he too started reading very early.
Reading Bear turned out to be a massive effort (it’s huge), but we launched it in 2012, which was another dream fulfilled. A lot of people love that site, which is 100% free, ad-free, and nonprofit. Charles wanted me to promote Reading Bear, but I decided someone else would have to do that job. So, parting with him amicably, I found myself wondering what I’d do next.
In late 2012, I returned to the dream I pitched to Ross Perot in 1993, shared with Jimmy Wales in 2000, coded in Perl in 2003, and sidestepped in 2008. But it was a new approach.
It can be described briefly but somewhat misleadingly as Wikipedia for news; but it’s not a wiki.
Think back to the year 2000, before Wikipedia. If you didn’t know the answer to a question, and the answer didn’t come up immediately in a web search, you had to look it up in a book or ask someone knowledgeable.
Today, if you don’t know the answer to a question, you can find the answer almost immediately in Wikipedia—or by searching Google or by asking Siri, which both heavily rely on Wikipedia.
If you think about it, that’s a stunning development for human beings: we now have virtually instant access to answers. That’s a historical first.
Millions of people (all told) from all over the world were ready and willing to record their knowledge. Wikipedia gave them a way to do that. They showed that our dream was a practically universal dream.
Now let’s talk about another deeply important kind of knowledge: the news.
There is practically universal interest in the news. Perhaps billions of people follow it every day in one form or another. It is human to want to know what’s going on. So you’d think that, by 2014, it would be easier than ever to catch up on the news.
In some ways it is. There are more streams of news flooding the media landscape than ever before. Many of us would like to stay on top of the spreading pool of information. After all, we value the productions of journalists; just think of how many of us share neat articles on Twitter and Facebook. But the flood of news content is getting deeper and wider.
In an effort to at least see all the important headlines, the latest way to consume news is to skim many different sources, read news apps, consult your friends’ Facebook and Twitter feeds, watch videos, read some blogs, etc. This shotgun approach acquaints us with more stories than in pre-Internet days, sure—but we don’t understand the details unless we read the stories. Who has time for that? Only the news hounds; the news is their hobby (or profession).
The problem is not just the sheer quantity of news. Speaking for myself, I can’t stand the cacophony of redundant news, click bait, human interest stories, different news angles that add nothing, opinion masquerading as news, news broken by opinion columnists, reheated old news, and so on. Perhaps you feel the same way.
The news has become noisy and confusing. There’s a mountain of it, and it’s completely disorganized.
If you religiously stick with it for a couple of hours every day, then you will be caught up with the news all the time. (I know; I’ve tried.) It doesn’t matter what tools you use. There simply is no tool that organizes all the important news intelligently and filters out the redundancy and other noise.
This is why only the news hounds are really well-informed.
This is also why so many news apps are personalized: they know we just don’t have time to get caught up with everything we’d like to, so the apps help us make choices based on our interests. That strikes me as giving up on getting well-informed. That just makes you informed about your interests, perhaps, but not about the news, period.
Other news apps and emailed newsletters try to make reasonable selections of the top stories for you, curating the news and summarizing it. They are an attempt to solve the same problem, but they don’t: you’re still missing a lot. And you don’t want to.
News hounds of the world, unite!
The news about an ongoing story is often spread across many different sources. High-density sources would include AP, Reuters, and The New York Times. But then there are the second- and third-tier sources, blogs and Twitter feeds of journalists and newsmakers and eyewitnesses and experts, YouTube channels, influential academic journals, and more.
The facts about a story are scattered across dozens of sources. Nobody organizes them. No one of those sources has any motive, or the ability, for that matter, to promote the other sources and summarize everything.
But we do—we, meaning almost everyone in the world who follows the news. Billions of us have that motive, and if we unite, then together we’ll have the ability. So what if we pooled our efforts on the news in the way we did on an encyclopedia?
I have a dream about how we can do that.
Will you consider making this dream your own?
The news is made up of facts, significant facts that have come to light recently, and the facts are scattered everywhere, as I said. What we want is all the different facts about a story picked from different news sources, thrown together in one place, and then ranked by importance. Finally, we want the facts linked back to their original sources.
This is exactly what we want and need. It would save us all a lot of time, because it would make it really easy and efficient to get caught up with the news about a story.
I’ve just been talking about one story. We want this done for every article about every story. We want it up to date at every minute of the day. After all, it’s 2014. We see what online communities like Wikipedia, YouTube, Pinterest, and others have done. We can imagine a community doing it.
But only a giant, international, online community could make this happen. Organizing thousands, and perhaps even millions, of people to work together in this way is the only way human beings could do it.
Highly-paid programmers have tried mightily to do something like this with automated summaries, finding news clusters automatically, ranking them, and so forth. But the fact is that, like writing encyclopedia articles, deciding how to summarize the facts, how to rank them, and how to prioritize whole stories as they break—this all requires careful human judgment. And if you’re talking about ranking and summarizing a vast, never-ending stream of facts and stories, no traditional paid editor, not even a large team of paid editors, is up to the job. It’s a job for a massive online community. Like Wikipedia.
You might say that this is just citizen journalism. Well yes, it is. But I maintain that we have not fully grasped the potential value of citizen journalism. It’s not just about ordinary people adding more facts to the flood of information out there. That is important and potentially revolutionary. But unless there is a way to organize and make sense of the flood of data, the voices of citizen journalists will be drowned out. So citizen journalists must also perform, democratically, an enormous distributed editorial function, one that traditional journalists simply aren’t equipped to perform.
If many of us together ranked news facts in order of importance, then sometimes, a fact sourced only from a blog or a tweet would jump to the top of the list. And they should! Finally, citizen journalists really could have a loud and clear voice if they broke some interesting news.
This is the way, perhaps the only way, to finally shine a clear light on the long tail of news reporting, capturing not just the high-profile professional reporting by the wires and world-class newspapers, but also the humble blogs.
Let’s do this. In some years, we’ll be able to look back and say, “Remember when it took a couple of hours really to get caught up with the news of the day? Do you remember when, half the time, you didn’t even know what was going on? Remember when important facts sourced from authoritative blogs couldn’t get equal billing to those from influential reporters? Remember when you didn’t want to read the news because the noise made it so much work?”
Infobitt’s story so far
So that’s the Infobitt vision. How far along are we to achieving it?
By late 2012, when I first had the idea, I had been working in academe or for nonprofits for almost my whole adult life. Almost all of the nonprofit projects I had worked on had very limited budgets. I didn’t want this project to be spoiled by lack of sufficient funds. I knew that if it were a for-profit project, we would have a shot at raising the money we needed for necessary experimentation and iteration. After all, the software didn’t exist yet, and the idea is very complex and there’s much that could go wrong with both conception and execution. For a really ambitious idea like this, a long runway was needed.
I thought the nascent enterprise might parlay my reputation as Wikipedia co-founder to get funding. So, with help of an awesome early investor/adviser, the L.A.-based Terrence Yang, we did! We ultimately closed our first round in November 2013. I thought the seed capital we raised wouldn’t give us a long runway if we didn’t cut expenses to the bone, so we did. We focused on building a working tool.
Here’s how it works now.
We begin by making bitts, which are collections of news facts. We get citizen journalists, news hounds, and you together into a news-curating community. We grab different facts from different news sources, summarize them in sentences, and put the sentences in order. The result is a bitt. You can add to any bitts in the system, and you get points both for adding facts and for creating new bitts. We also vote on fact order: we each drag-and-drop the facts into the order we prefer, and the system calculates the sense of the community.
That’s not all. There’s a stream of new bitts arriving in the system. We want to be put bitts in order of importance. “Importance” could mean your prediction of what will have the greatest long-term historical impact, your judgment of what most profoundly affects us, or whatever you think “hard news” means.
Editors vote on bitt order by drag-and-drop as well. By “editor,” I mean you, or anybody who shows up to work on the system. Sometimes we call ourselves “bitters,” because we’re writing bitts, but without bitterness—although the news is often a bitter thing.
At any moment there are ten “Top Stories”; the rest of the bitts are filed away in categories. We’ll add a tagging system too.
From the reader’s point of view, the Top Stories list looks like this (for now; it needs a snazzier design, and the content will improve too):
And here’s a representative bitt:
This is actually the second version of Infobitt. We started seriously coding the first version in summer 2013. We worked on it for about nine months, then decided to pivot because it wasn’t easy and fun enough; our early adopters were losing interest. We started coding the second version last March. It’s a lot easier and more fun, so we’ve had more enthusiastic feedback.
Unlike with Wikipedia and Citizendium, the software was not already written when we started, so there was little I could use to attract a community. I didn’t want to try to cause a splash with a mere idea that people have to wait to be developed; talking about vaporware gets old very fast. So for purposes of testing and feedback, I started a beta-tester list with around 80 people (to whom I am very grateful).
Despite being a “stealth private beta,” we’ve been creating 119 bitts per week since August, with 8-20 people out of that small group working on it every week, 4-12 per day. Two editions per day are posted automatically. The quality of the evening edition (subscribe here, it’s just a hand-managed Google Group for now) is to me surprisingly good for such a small number of people. The way the software is working now bodes very well for the future.
The software is fairly stable, but not entirely bug-free. If you join us, please be patient, and remember to refresh if you need to.
We quietly removed the invitation system and are now, for the first time, starting to promote the Infobitt vision and build the community. It’s not hard-launched because the system still has bugs and is under heavy development.
Still, the current version is now good enough to start galvanizing a community around. Do join us!
How we will grow (with your help)
So, you say, this all sounds very nice. But it’s one thing to talk about thousands or millions of active contributors. It’s quite another to cause them to show up. As many sad startups have discovered, it is not the case that if you build it, they will come. So what’s our plan to build the community?
First, Infobitt’s content will be open content, as you might expect: if you contribute, and even if not, you’ll be able to reuse the content from our feeds in your own projects. We haven’t finally decided which Creative Commons license we’ll use, but it’ll probably be CC-by-sa. The point is that our contributors will know that they are building a public resource.
While an encyclopedia project needs hundreds of active contributors to make much headway, we’ve started an interesting news report with far fewer people. With our small group of around 8 beta testers per day, we’ve been able to create a pretty good evening news report on most days.
Here’s why I find this exciting, although I am speculating:
With 15 active users per day, our news would be reasonably fresh throughout the day, with both morning and evening editions being good. Also, most or all the top stories would be fleshed out with many facts and multiple sources.
With 30-50 active users per day, the top stories would be consistently fresh and excellent; the community might demand more editions per day; generally, the site would have the latest news within an hour or two. Also, 3-5 of the main categories would be consistently fresh throughout the day.
With 100-500 active users per day, we’d see news being posted within minutes of its breaking. The top stories would be fully fleshed out with, perhaps, dozens of facts from many sources. People would create “beats” in which they frequently check up on specialized news feeds, Twitter feeds, blogs, etc., multiple times daily, in order to be the first to add new facts, or new stories, to Infobitt. All the top categories would be high quality and rarely lag behind breaking news more than an hour.
With thousands or millions of active contributors, the top stories and the main categories would be a marvel unlike anything seen in the history of journalism. Every story would break on Infobitt within seconds of breaking anywhere else. Bitts would be exhaustively detailed within minutes. For the top 50 stories of the day or so, the sources would be carefully selected and vetted. The writing of the top stories would be as excellent as in the New York Times. The ranking of bitts and of facts within bitts would be superb. Other exciting features would be achievable on that scale as well.
Now, 500 active users on a peer-production site is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s also not ridiculously ambitious to aim for. We can do this!
That’s assuming, of course, that we can squash any crippling bugs and slowdowns fast enough. Bugs and slowdowns seem inevitable. But we’re totally committed to fixing them as fast as we can. It will help when we hire some A-list web coders, so send us leads to awesome programmers who might be excited to work on a startup like this.
I’ve got another idea for growing our community. When Wikipedia got started about 14 years ago, many people still weren’t online, and most people who were online weren’t deeply immersed in the Internet the way they are now. Back then, there were lots and lots of little communities. So I initially recruited many people for for our free encyclopedia projects by reaching out to those groups. But since then, the social organization of the Internet has changed a lot. We really couldn’t organize Infobitt the same way today. Little communities still exist, but now, most people are organized through the big social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and SnapChat, where things can go viral very fast.
The few-thousand strong grassroots community that it took me over a year to gather in 2000 and 2001 for Wikipedia could be done in a matter of days or weeks in 2014—if we went viral.
I have a plan about how Infobitt can go viral—how we can go from being a cool dream with a beta website to a massive community excited to work together making the world’s first peer-produced front page news site.
It begins, in fact, with this very manifesto.
I’m announcing a pledge drive. To join, you pledge to add one fact to the system. A “fact” means a sentence, preferably in your own words, summarizing some fact that you found in a news article, together with the URL of the article. Easy, right?
When we reach 100,000 pledges, then I contact everyone who has pledged, and I say, “OK, people, let’s get this party started!” Everybody converges on the website for 24 hours of fun, and our project really kicks into high gear.
Of course, the big question is how we collect the 100,000 pledges. This is where I need your help. I want you to take the pledge. Not only that, if you value democratic involvement in news collection, ranking, and summarizing, you could share the pledge drive and the project (a few times—many people won’t get it the first time) with your local networks. I’ll do my best to get publicity for the pledge drive. I’ll do interviews. We’re making a promotional video. I’ll write more.
Within the growing Infobitt community, we’re opening two mailing lists. On one, we’re posting news editions daily (please subscribe!) and discussing project policy (join if you like!). Soon we’ll set up a wiki where we can hammer out the rules, or guidelines. Just bear in mind that most project policy won’t have the same bureaucratic weight as on Wikipedia, because the content and its ordering is all determined by your voting habits, which needn’t be strictly controlled by the rules.
I can only hope that by that time we do have 100,000 pledges, Infobitt.com is in a state where it can handle 100,000 simultaneous users! But wouldn’t that be cool? In our interconnected world, it’s not unusual in the least for things to go viral, and 100,000 pledges for a project as cool as this would mean we’d kick Infobitt into high gear.
Let me briefly talk about project governance. If we’re starting a giant news community, do I want to become the dictator of the news? No. I want the community’s governance to be democratic; ultimately I want it to approximate a constitutional republic. Reining in bad actors on the site (a chronic problem for Wikipedia) will be done by randomly-selected users and mediated by automated tools. The brief, modular nature of Infobitt’s facts makes this feasible.
Let me make one thing clear. I’ve rallied people to work together on high-minded collaborative projects before. I’ve been doing it since the mid-90s, and I really like doing it; I love the barn-raising sense in us, the sense that we can come together and create something really awesome out of nothing more skill, good will, and mutual trust. So I have always felt that the project’s the thing: I just want Infobitt to succeed. Like Wikipedia and my other projects, it’s a lot bigger than me.
So, to maximize our chances, I’m going to listen to you closely and make sure you’re happy and motivated. I’m going to get it off to a roaring start, and then, as I’ve done many times before, I’m likely to step aside and hand the reins to someone else. Frankly, I’m a starter. I have no interest in being the pointy-haired boss or a community figurehead. Once the dream is alive and thriving, I’ll probably be off working on another one.
Call to Action
We’ve already done a lot toward getting this project ready for wider participation. But we still have a lot to do.
You can help! Here’s how:
Pledge to add a fact when 99,999 other people have pledged to add a fact. We’ll hold you to your pledge! Fortunately, adding a fact is easy.
Create an Infobitt account.
Send Larry an email at email@example.com with the subject “I’m in” in order to volunteer for a 50-person test pledge day, which we’ll do much sooner.
You could read the news with your new account!
Better yet, contribute! Add bitts, add facts to existing bitts, and rank bitts and facts.
Join Infobitt-Daily-Update for a peer-produced top stories of the day, as well as news about the project.
Join Infobitt-talk and discuss the future of the project. If you’re really interested in this project, you no doubt have a zillion questions. Possibly also a zillion opinions. Great!
A project policy wiki is coming!
One last word.
Remember what we can achieve with relatively few active contributors. We can do this.
People used to tell me that Wikipedia would go nowhere. They had all sorts of objections. The quality would be awful. We wouldn’t be able to handle the vandals. We wouldn’t be able to get people to volunteer to write encyclopedia articles (who wants to do that?).
The naysayers were wrong. We got together and created a resource that enables us to get practically instant answers to very many questions.
Infobitt tackles a similarly universal problem and requires a similarly global solution. The problem seems enormous and unsolvable: think of how much reporting is done every day, not just by mainstream news sources but by blogs, videos, tweets, and other things. Summarizing and ranking all the facts contained in that steady stream of data seems impossible. We’ll inevitably have naysayers.
But they’ll be wrong, too. We can do it.
And in time, perhaps soon, we’ll be in a position where, if you want to get caught up with the news, you don’t have to skim a dozen different sources and try to detect the latest important facts through all the redundancies, deciding what is important out of all the noise that the news media throw at you. You’ll still have to make choices—you still won’t be able to stay abreast of everything—but you’ll have a credible starting point that makes more sense.
In 15 minutes you’ll be as well-informed as a news hound was who formerly took an hour to comb through the confusion that is the news media.
As a result, we’ll all be better informed. And tyrants had better beware, just as I used to say they should beware of Wikipedia. When you have thousands of smart people from across the globe pooling their efforts in making sense of information, it becomes more difficult to count on widespread ignorance. We’ve done that with general knowledge. Now let’s do it with the news.
What do you think of the idea? Let’s discuss below.
About the author
I call myself an "Internet Knowledge Organizer." I started Wikipedia.org, Citizendium.org, WatchKnowLearn.org, ReadingBear.org, and Infobitt. I write about education and the Internet from a broadly philosophical point of view.