Wired on Drugs, or adopting a foreign language?: Assignment Zero

assignmentzero Wired on Drugs, or adopting a foreign language?: Assignment ZeroWired Magazine has announced the launch of Assignment Zero, a “collaboration among NewAssignment.Net, Wired and those who choose to participate” that they describe as “pro-am journalism in the open style made possible by the web”.

If this makes absolutely no sense, you haven’t seen the best parts yet. With reports that Wired online is about to relaunch, I’m at best guessing that they’re trying to test a CMS (content management system) for the new site, and that the new Wired might include contributions from the public, but I’m guessing, because I’d really need to be on drugs, or speak a foreign language to understand this gobbledygook. My comments follow each quote:

It’s called Assignment Zero because we needed to jump start our site somehow, and this project with Wired turned out to be it. We’re trying to create a pro-am, open-platform reporting tool that we can improve and modify later, for use in bigger, more sprawling and difficult stories down the road. Maybe about the environment. Or the schools. Or — who knows? — the war.

WTF? reporting tool = CMS I guess, but the rest of it, who knows.

We’re going to start with something closer to home, a story tangled up with the birth of NewAssignment.Net. I suppose some people consider it a “techie” subject. I do not. But it’s definitely web journalism about something happening in the wider world because of the web. As I understand it, that is Wired’s beat.

Oh yeah, signs of drug use here with the 60′s hippie word “beat” is used.

We’re going to investigate the growth and spread of crowdsourcing, which overlaps with something called peer production. (Yochai Benkler’s complete term is “commons-based peer production.”) This basically means people making valuable stuff by cooperating online, mainly because they want to and sometimes because they’re paid to assist.

OK, so maybe something here with reader contributions, potentially with a paid model. Crowdsourcing mixed with peer production, sounds like a great LSD trip!

Wired has paid special attention to the crowd-sourcing of new products, as with an open call for cool designs. This taps people outside the firm as potential producers, typically unpaid but doing it for their own reasons. (Like to get their ideas out there.) You know of outsourcing. Meet crowdsourcing.

Wired has an open call for cool designs. News to me, and why “cool” designs and not functional designs? Smells more like Wired is going to try and suck content out of people for free with the project, after all, it’s a lot cheaper that way.

Skip a few paragraphs of further nonsense:

After the crash of TWA Flight 800, the investigators cleared out a hangar and tried to find all the pieces of the plane so they could examine each and figure out what happened. In a way what we’re doing is crash-site journalism. But for a social wave that’s still breaking.

Crash-site journalism. People died, and yet Wired seems to think it makes for a good ol’ fashioned analogy. A social wave that’s still breaking, OMG.

We’ll give assignments to anyone who can complete the mission, and donate quality work. Anything you know that will help us track the spread of crowd sourcing and peer production can (if we do this right) be filed at the Assignment Zero site. Anyone you know who participates in “wisdom of the crowd” projects is a source for us. We’re asking those with real experience in open-source or crowd-driven projects to take our survey of volunteers. The more we get the better a survey it is.

Why pay journalists when we can get the same stuff from people for free.

It goes on and on, towards the end it sounds like a take on WikiNews, which as anyone knows who has visited the site lately has been a complete failure.

I’ll leave the last bit to Wired:

we’re trying to figure something out here. Can large groups of widely scattered people, working together voluntarily on the net, report on something happening in their world right now, and by dividing the work wisely tell the story more completely, while hitting high standards in truth, accuracy and free expression?

Pass the bong, then sign up here.

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  1. Just to let y’all know, me, from 901am is also a part of the project and it kicks some major ass!

  2. excellent muhammad, now presuming you’re not stoned can you please explain what all this means in English ;-)

  3. Definitely. Duncan basically you read an article that unfortunately doesn’t get the point across very well, which is unfortunate when coming from Jay. The article you should have read and covered, explains the project as follows:

    “We are the media.”

    “In partnership with Jay Rosen’s NewAssignment.Net, we are launching a novel experiment in the new, new journalism: Assignment Zero.”

    “This project offers any willing contributor the chance to do the work of a reporter, writer, researcher or editor in a joint investigation by Wired and NewAssignment.Net.”

    “Our hope is that a team of professionals, working with scores of citizen journalists, is capable of completing an investigative project of far greater scope than a team of two or three professionals ever could.”

    Let me know if this makes more sense now?

  4. Hey Duncan
    Thought I’d chime in too. Jay certainly does have a way with words. You have to remember this project is the culmination of the last 15 or so years of his career as an academic/media critic. Imagine trying to cram in a Ph.D thesis into one 2,000 words.

    But that article aside — Assignment Zero (of which I’m a part), has a lot of potential. It is not just another wiki. It’s a collaboration between professional journalists and citizen journalists.

    Think of it this way. People complain that readers aren’t engaged in the news anymore. Well, what better way to engage them than to make them part of the process.

    So Assignment Zero will have radically transparent editorial meetings. The direction of the story will be determined by the crowd, but it will be brought home by professional journalists and writers. The New York Times head office is still closed to the public. We have no idea what will hit the front pages tomorrow until it arrives on our doorstep.

    Assignment Zero, however, gives people a chance to become informed while the news is happening. The newsroom is open.

  5. Thanks for the well-needed skepticism, Duncan.

    One small correction: “beat” is US journalism jargon for “area of coverage” – maybe something like the UK word “[minister's] portfolio”

    FYI, not on journalism in specific, but on the sort of “hippie” connection in general, take a look at:

    “Web 2.0: It’s … like your brain on LSD!”


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  1. [...] of the response on the Net was positive, but Duncan Riley at 901am has a blistering response basically calling the idea a hippie pipe [...]

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