On the one hand, this decision frees NPR staff from moderation duties, lifting the weight of battling trolls to adjudicating disputes or enduring abuse and allowing community managers to focus on moderating social media discourse. On the other, if NPR and other public media houses back away from hosting the conversations and shift them to social media platforms, the data and relationships represented in those people move with them.
Getting online comments wrong is easy. Building a healthy online community is hard, but outlets like TechDirt and forums like MetaFilter show that it’s not only possible but sustainable. Good comments are valuable in their own right. At their best, they’re improvements upon the journalism they’re focused upon, but they require convening a community and investing in editorial moderation and tools. At their worst, online comment sections are some of the most toxic spaces online, not only turning off readers but causing damage to public understanding of science or technology.
Ideally, comment sections provide valuable forums for people to share their thoughts on the issues and decisions that affect them, but the technologies and strategy that create architectures of participation need to continue to improve. Given political polarization, the need for public spaces that reward meaning participation and foster civic dialogue instead of shouting matches is critical to our politics.
Communities across the country rely upon public media to report on local government and inform us about what’s being done in our name. Social media and smartphones offer new opportunities for journalists and editors to report with communities, not just on them.
The original funding for RhinoBird came from the Knight Foundation in 2012, where a proposal to “aggregate live mobile video streams of breaking news events into an easily searchable world map, connecting users directly to global events as they unfold” won the 2012 Knight News Challenge.
A couple of weeks ago, I talked with Felipe Heusser, the CEO of RhinoBird and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, about the app and livestreaming in general.
Our video interview is embedded below.
As Heusser notes, along with Android, RhinoBird also works within the Web browser using the open WebRTC project. It is, as they say here in Massachusetts, wicked fast.
Whether its approach to organizing livestreams around channels in a #hashtag convention familiar from Twitter is adopted en masse by hundreds of millions of Android users over the coming months will be fun to watch, along with those watching runners today.
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