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Ask NewsTrust Founder Fabrice Florin About NewsTrust — Or Anything Else 72

Posted by Roblimo
from the searching-for-needles-of-truth-in-piles-of-dreck dept.
NewsTrust is, to quote from the site's header, "Your guide to good journalism." Specifically, NewsTrust links to stories published both by well-known media and by less-known blogs, and asks its users to rank and review those stories on accuracy, balance, context, evidence, fairness, importance, information, sources, style, and trust. It's an ambitious effort with an impressive group of advisors, that is starting to be taken very seriously by a growing number of people who follow media matters closely. Founder Fabrice Florin is reasonably impressive himself. He's been a leader in online multimedia content for many years, and if you remember the excellent mid-1980s documentary film Hackers, he's the guy who directed and produced it. Fabrice is kind of a "behind the camera guy," so there aren't a lot of interviews with him out there. Usual Slashdot interview rules apply.
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Ask NewsTrust Founder Fabrice Florin About NewsTrust — Or Anything Else

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  • News to me? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by conner_bw (120497) on Monday August 18, 2008 @12:13PM (#24646605) Homepage Journal

    Why haven't I heard about your site until reading this on Slashdot five seconds ago?

  • by anomnomnomymous (1321267) on Monday August 18, 2008 @12:18PM (#24646709)
    What's there to assure me that these newssites rankings aren't being astroturfed?
    • A sufficiently large, diverse, and dedicated body of active participants can neutralize most astroturfing efforts.

      I don't know if NewsTrust has that sort of community. Slashdot could certainly encourage more diversity in its views, especially political perspectives.

  • by dedazo (737510) on Monday August 18, 2008 @12:26PM (#24646825) Journal

    But after a quick look-see on Slashdot, Digg, Reddit, Propeller and a few other "important" social websites, I see that the prevailing majority is still parroting the usual "OMFGWTFBBQ BUSH 9/11 ANTHRAX MSM MIKKRO$AFTZ RON PAUL SHEEPLE TAH POLICE R BAD" line.

    On the other hand, Musharraf stepping down hardly got a peep from them as of this morning, probably because most of them can't figure out the importance of that event. Lots of funny lolcat links though.

    How exactly are your users any different from these?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zappepcs (820751)

      Wow, I agree with dedazo. How will you foster a user base that is news centric rather than lolcat centric?

      It's casual common sense to understand that the MSM is not going to go in-depth on news stories. Musharraf's resignation is huge, but there is (so far) no in depth analysis of this news. Anything that vaguely smells of conspiracy gets all too much of the wrong attention. How will you avoid falling foul of these types of news ruts?

      • by dedazo (737510)

        It's entirely possible that he has a different demographic, or that there's some sort of AI there (a la Google news) to make a difference, though I doubt that.

        I must admit I had not heard of this service until now, so I'm still going through it and trying to figure out how it works.

      • Musharraf's resignation is huge, but there is (so far) no in depth analysis of this news

        An analysis will show up in the Economist, New Yorker- eventually, Time, News Week, and Salon.

        Everything else is just garbage as you and the OP have noticed.

      • by hvm2hvm (1208954)
        True and the sad thing is that many people will think that what they find there is real, important news just because the site says so. It will be full of idiots convincing other idiots into believing and seeing only the sensationalist bullshit otherwise distributed through the TV, YouTube, etc.

        In case the post seems a little condescending I'd like to say that I am probably part of the sheep-like idiots group because I really don't follow much news of any kind. Still, I'm aware of my ignorance in many fie
    • absolutely correct (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Quadraginta (902985)

      I saw NewsTrust when it first came out, and was one of the "founding" user-editors. I spent quite a lot of time seriously reading stories and rating them, particularly focussing on stories in my area of professional expertise (physical sciences). But I gave up in disgust after a few months, as it became clear the community (or at least that segment of it fanatical enough to spend the time necessary to push its agenda) could have been imported whole from digg.com. A crowd of folks apparently amazingly sha

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday August 18, 2008 @12:31PM (#24646891)

    How do you really judge what is considered balance.
    If you are Left leaning then the balance will be towards the left. If you are right leaning then the balance will be to the right. Fox News "Fare and Balance" is from people who are right leaning, and saw the media and thought it didn't give their side appropriate thought. NPR the same thing but to the left. Being that it is the internet and it tends to attract more clique then a truly diverse set of people who is to say the ranking isn't done by a bunch of people to the left who feel that Fox News and other right outlets has tilted news to the Right so they group up and say the Left articles are fair or vice versa.

    Then there is the statical correlation between Liberal and Conservative (And I am talking about the brawedest sense of the words), being the Liberals want to change things while conservatives want to keep things as they are. So in general Liberals make the news more then consertivies as they are trying to change things, vs. trying to keep things they way they are tends to be less news worthy.
    Think about it what is a better article.

    People Protest to lower the speed limit on the interstate in their state to 55mph.
    or
    People Protest to keep the speed limit as it currently is.

    There is more news in the first as there is the question of why the change is needed what benefit and tradeoffs it will gain. vs. the second which we generally know what is happening.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Monday August 18, 2008 @12:52PM (#24647221) Journal

      And of course, there's the problem that reality has a well known liberal bias. There are times when "balanced" coverage is really not representative of the truth. Think of the coverage of the intelligent design controversy. If you were to give each side the coverage it is due based on the facts, you'd have a pretty one sided article. But the ID proponents are loud, and likely to skew the coverage in their direction, just because they're loud.

      • And of course, there's the problem that reality has a well known liberal bias. There are times when "balanced" coverage is really not representative of the truth. Think of the coverage of the intelligent design controversy. If you were to give each side the coverage it is due based on the facts, you'd have a pretty one sided article.

        Not really. The entire controversy over whether whatever caused the existence of the universe happened randomly or as the result of as the result of some intelligent entity's actions inevitably deals with events outside of observable spacetime, and thus outside the realm of science. It's a purely philosophical distinction, much like rationalism vs. empiricism, and claiming that "reality" and "facts" favor your own viewpoint only confirms that your biases on the issue are highly internalized.

        • by eagee (1308589)
          Sure, the argument of what caused creation is outside of observable space time - but that's not what people are upset about. ID argues that creation did occur in what science would define as measurable space time. What I want to know is how they will filter bias from fact. It seems like "facts" are very subjective in the media today.
          • Ignorance is strength. Seriously. Not having to bother with reality, you can overstate and misframe to your hearts content while being convinced you are doing the right thing - because you are ignorant of how the world works but in the know of the conspiracies of those against you.

            We've got the same thing in Norway - they call themselves "fremskrittspartiet" (the progress party) and still their agenda is anti-science (it has an agenda!), anti-intellectual (useless people who only produce opinions!) and anti

            • by eagee (1308589)
              :( So I guess there's no escaping them. Although here (US) in the South people have always been that way. (It's what happens when a country is colonized by puritans)
        • by Hatta (162192)

          Except that the controversy over evolution vs intelligent design has nothing to do with the creation of the universe. It deals only with the process of speciation [wikipedia.org].

          This is what happens when you give equal time to nutjobs. They try to frame the question in a way that favors their viewpoint, and just end up confusing everyone.

    • by RingDev (879105) on Monday August 18, 2008 @01:01PM (#24647375) Homepage Journal

      Being that it is the internet and it tends to attract more clique then a truly diverse set of people who is to say the ranking isn't done by a bunch of people to the left who feel that Fox News and other right outlets has tilted news to the Right so they group up and say the Left articles are fair or vice versa.

      If the majority of the population segment leans "left" then the balance IS left. If the two primary stances being argued in the mainstream media for the population segment is over what form of socialized health care to introduce, the balance is a blend of those points of view. The balance would not be those points of view vs privatized health care.

      Then there is the statical correlation between Liberal and Conservative (And I am talking about the brawedest sense of the words), being the Liberals want to change things while conservatives want to keep things as they are.

      That is a quaint understanding of the terms 'Liberal' and 'Conservative' and as much as I wish it were true, it has long since died. The terms Liberal and Conservative have changed dramatically over the years to have had a wide variety of meanings to the point now where people just lump huge groups of odd political categorizations together and label them according to their opposition of their current opinion.

      If Liberal and Conservative meant what you feel they mean, why would Liberals be protesting to maintain Roe vs Wade while Conservatives protest to over turn it? Honestly, the two labels are almost worthless.

      -Rick

      • If the majority of the population segment leans "left" then the balance IS left. If the two primary stances being argued in the mainstream media for the population segment is over what form of socialized health care to introduce, the balance is a blend of those points of view. The balance would not be those points of view vs privatized health care.

        I don't really like that interpretation. Preceding the 2nt gulf war most Americans were pro Iraq war. At the time not much of the media was doing any digging to s

    • by pilgrim23 (716938) on Monday August 18, 2008 @01:01PM (#24647377)

      Sorry I do not currently have mod points. Well said. in 1982 I stopped watching ALL network news and never got the habit again. Yes media gives you moving pictures of what is (may be?) happening and a reporter with just the right amount of wave to their hair. I prefer black and white print. I have found that a blend of the reportage of US News as reported in Singapore, Hong Kong, New Delhi, and Wellington is FAR more reliable then anything the Alphabet Nets produce. I do miss a lot of drug commercials that way but I think I cankive (longer?) without that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RingDev (879105)

        I do miss a lot of drug commercials that way but I think I cankive (longer?) without that.

        Interestingly enough, a friend with a life-long condition was recently introduced to a new drug treatment option through one of those direct to consumer adds (on that thar moving picture box). She looked it up on the internet after seeing the add, took that information in to her doc at her next appointment. He did some research on it and wound up giving her a perscription for it. Turns out that drug has had a huge effect on her life and she has gone from popping pain pills multiple times every day to taking

        • by pilgrim23 (716938)

          I agree about education and the fact that some drugs MAY help, but seeing it on that picture box is a knee-jerk turn off to me . Idiots in Medicine: My ex works for a medical association (Docotor's Guild) reviewing bills. They are a RN with a MBA and has for years told me tales that would have people in deep trouble if they did not have "MD" after their name.
          Used to be, Hospital was where you went to die. Now it is where you go to die and loose a life time's savings and work so Admins, Doctors, gove

      • News print isn't free from the same problems of balance that the rest of the media has. They have the ability to give more depth however they often fail with breath. Besides they still want to leave enough room for adds. And want to make sure the news attracts people to read it.

      • I do miss a lot of drug commercials that way but I think I cankive [sic] (longer?) without that.

        Yeah, but I bet the commentary isn't as easy on the typing fingers as flipping channels.

  • How did you get such great stealth advertising on Slashdot for your Digg-clone site?

    Regardless of the answer - hats off to you - I'm sure it will be quite a boon!
    • How did you get such great stealth advertising on Slashdot for your Digg-clone site? Regardless of the answer - hats off to you - I'm sure it will be quite a boon!

      And...who owns you? So you have any link what so ever with Slashdot?

      Unfortunately, with the web, journalistic and editorial integrity has become questionable. Unlike print or broadcast which takes millions of dollars, putting up an internet "journalist" site takes nothing. Anyone can call themselves a journalist and post whatever they want.

      • Be careful! (Score:5, Funny)

        by bigtallmofo (695287) * on Monday August 18, 2008 @01:06PM (#24647453)
        So you have any link what so ever with Slashdot?

        Don't ask these types of questions or someone with copious (maybe even infinite!) mod points will mod you as Flamebait!

        I'm sure that Rob just felt that we needed to know about a new, obscure news aggregation site with Digg-like submission and voting buttons. Rob only had our best interest at heart. And of course, in addition to knowing about this site, he realized without us knowing that we'd be fascinated to ask the person who launched this site all kinds of questions because he had some tie-in to a movie with a technical cult-following.
  • Javascript (Score:5, Interesting)

    by imunfair (877689) on Monday August 18, 2008 @12:34PM (#24646941) Homepage

    It would be nice if there was actually content displayed without turning on javascript. Maybe it wouldn't allow you to rate articles without JS on, or something of that sort. It's an instant turn off to go to a site and see no content without javascript. Unless that site has content that can't be obtained elsewhere there is little reason to even bother turning it on to inspect the site and see if it is worthwhile.

    • Re:Javascript (Score:5, Informative)

      by _xeno_ (155264) on Monday August 18, 2008 @01:32PM (#24647843) Homepage Journal

      It would be nice if there was actually content displayed without turning on javascript.

      It's especially retarded because if you view the source, the content is all already there. The reason it doesn't show up is because of the little tab thingies. Rather than have a single tab already visible, it has all the tabs initially unselected and then selects one of the tabs when the page loads, thereby making a single tab visible.

      There are several ways to solve this. Method A is to have a tab selected in the HTML and just accept that the tabs will be broken if JavaScript is broken (the easy way). Method B would be to have JavaScript create the tabs, and default to having all content displayed in a list. This is arguably "the right way" unless NewsTrust really has to have those tabs. Then they could use Method C, which is to allow the generating page to display different tab content based on query strings and linking the tabs appropriately as a fallback when JavaScript is not available.

      But displaying nothing by default is kind of silly. The content is already in the page, it just needs to be made visible.

      And I disagree that the parent is offtopic. It's a legitimate complaint, and the article is about the website. There are a ton of ways to browse the web these days, and not all of them fully support JavaScript if they support it at all. For example, if I pull the page up on my cellphone, which supports enough CSS to hide the stories but not enough JavaScript to support the tab JavaScript, I get an effectively contentless page.

      Since this is an interview, I'll make this a simple question: why don't you add "sel" CSS class to the first tab? That should fix the problem without breaking the JavaScript tab system. (It's Method A above.) Note that, as with all Slashdot advice, I haven't actually tested that.

      • by zobier (585066)

        why don't you add "sel" CSS class to the first tab? That should fix the problem without breaking the JavaScript tab system. (It's Method A above.) Note that, as with all Slashdot advice, I haven't actually tested that.

        I tested it w/ Firebug (I <3 being able to edit the forms/pages I'm viewing) and verify that it works as advertised.

        I was originally going to chime in with the same bug as the P&GP, however I realised that I could
        View > Page Style > No Style

        And get to all the content that way.

        I do agree that sites should be designed with graceful degradation in mind.
        It's the '00s people; either don't expect your site to work for other ppl the way it works on your set-up or get one of these [codinghorror.com]!

      • Commenting on the 3 UI improvement suggestions:

        Method A: A good start, but with only a fraction of the content visible, someone's bound to complain, or worse, claim that the site is censoring content. Not so good.
        Method B: This is probably the most reasonable, given the stated goals of the site. The only ones that might possibly complain are the visual designers who actually created the UI, the armchair visual designers in the audience, and the less intelligent of the whiners who now complain that their con

  • by Greg_D (138979) on Monday August 18, 2008 @12:35PM (#24646955)

    The secret societies of politically biased internet kooks will tear that site apart.

    Unless the entire point of the site was to get all these idiots to continue to drive up the number of page views (and ad revenue) as they try to spam the ratings mechanism, then it's going to be fairly worthless in the long run.

  • Folder or scruncher?

  • Hackers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Monday August 18, 2008 @12:47PM (#24647139)

    if you remember the excellent mid-1980s documentary film Hackers

    Is that a prequel to the excellent mid-1990s documentary film Hackers?

  • Rewards? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nhojovadle.> on Monday August 18, 2008 @12:50PM (#24647181) Journal
    How do you reward your users? What mechanisms will/do you employ to promote meaningful and thoughtful tagging and discourse?

    How is this better or different than the 'diggs' or 'mod points' people on other News sites acquire?

    Naturally, I am concerned with positive reinforcement being given to those that deserve it and the ability to overlook the inevitable negative material the internet is so adept at producing en mass.
  • have you by the short ones.

    Sorry, I went through a dozen or so stories, checked out the comments and the scores, nope, there is nothing fancy about yet another rating system taken over by groups with an agenda.

    So, what does he do about near obvious or cloned reviews, reviews without substantial comment? A site like this is only good if it has a large number of participants as anything will be skewed if its determined to be important.

    Even sites as popular as Digg fell sway to organized attempts to skew stor

  • Obviously the way to rank the accuracy, objectivity, and fairness of a news report is to subject it to an anonymous internet popularity contest.

    Wait--I think perhaps I mean the exact opposite of what I just said.

  • by internic (453511) on Monday August 18, 2008 @01:55PM (#24648239)

    It's clear that some news sources are just plain bad at getting the facts correct. It's also true that many of us feel there are news sources out there that are very biased in their presentation of matters, in some cases (e.g. with state media) becoming little more than propaganda. But in talking about issues of fairness and balance isn't there a danger of getting bogged down in these more subjective matters, to the detriment of a focus on more objective things like factual accuracy?

    It seems to me that any community rating system on "balance" or "fairness" runs a big risk of falling prey to groupthink. For one thing, if a majority of users favor one sort of bias, users with a minority viewpoint may feel marginalized and eventually stop contributing. I haven't seen any systematic research on the topic, but I think many of us feel we see this happen on various user-driven sites. It isn't even clear to me how one can have an objective standard for fairness or balance.

    To put a fine point on it, I am part of the group that loathes Fox News (among others) for their exceeding bad news coverage. People seem to focus on the issue of bias, and this argument usually quickly devolves into a a stalemate between ideological camps, with people arguing about, for example, whether Fox News is worse than CNN. I wish people would just focus much more on all the facts they get wrong or make up: Obama's so-called "terrorist fist bump" and labeling Mark Foley as a democrat come to mind as two examples. I think most reasonable people can agree that these are simply false and constitute bad journalism, and we can agree to work against any source prone to such errors on that basis.

  • First, it's almost impossible to prevent people from gaming the system. For instance, on Amazon.com, reviews are frequently written by people who haven't actually read the book, they just don't like the author. I foresee a lot of "I hate liberal blogger x" and "conservative outlet z sucks" bias creeping in.

    Second, the Wikipedia problem: why is the input of millions of idiots more insightful than the intelligent analysis of someone who knows what they're talking about? Answer: it isn't. As an example, democr

  • Is NewsTrust funded by George Soros? Who funds NewsTrust?

  • 1) Will Joey ever get a 1337 handle?

    2) Would journalism improve if the organizations were non-profit?

  • by guanxi (216397) on Monday August 18, 2008 @02:24PM (#24648663)

    I happen to lean left myself and I've read Newstrust daily almost since it came out; it's an excellent resource. But I think it's clear that the selection of articles leans left:

    * For example, see this list [newstrust.net] of the most highly rated posts. You see the NY Times, Wash. Post, NPR, Huffington Post, The Nation, Alternet, FAIR, which range from moderate to liberal. What is missing is right-leaning publications, like the Weekly Standard, National Review Online, OpinionJournal, etc.

    * Also, a few months ago, NewsTrust formed a partnership [newstrust.net] with a partisan liberal publication, The Huffington Post [huffingtonpost.com] to find new about John McCain. Not surprisingly, the articles that were posted leaned very heavily left.

    What can NewsTrust do to address these issues?

  • "if you remember the excellent mid-1980s documentary film Hackers, he's the guy who directed and produced it."

    If I don't remember that movie, is he still the guy who directed and produced it?

  • What are you doing to stop the censorship of images from the war? The public cannot make an informed decision about the war if the media sheilds them from seeing bloodied soldiers and civilians. When a journalist takes an accurate photo of the destruction, what is the process where the newspapers and television suppress it?
    • by gothzilla (676407)

      I never understood why people needed to make a decision about this war. If someone kills your people, then kills more of them, then even more, and 40 years later is still killing them, then you've already been at war for over 4 decades. You just haven't been fighting your end of it. Your choices are either force the people killing you to stop, or let them keep killing you with no repercussions. Perhaps publishing bloody images of all the victims of terrorism would help you understand this, or do you only wa

  • Echo Chamber? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PoliTech (998983) on Monday August 18, 2008 @04:06PM (#24649925) Homepage Journal

    Will this site be encouraging homophily, or will there be a negative feedback mechanism such as LibraryThing's UnSuggest to encourage more dynamic balance?

    Are the News stories and blog posts themselves subject to this "balance" or is it the "perceived credibility" of the source news outlet that determines ratings and discussion?

    For example if a given story is from LGF, ones preconception may be that the news presented will be heavily slanted to the right regardless of the facts, and if the source were Daily KOZ one may expect the opposite.

    Do you think that "balance" is currently reflected in the site's "front page" results?

    Is any evident "political" bias currently on display subject to any editorial change or negative feedback mechanism in the future?

    Is this to be simply another clone of politically leaning news/blog conglomerations like Pajamas Media or Village Voice?

    Do you think that all social networks are eventually destined to become echo chambers in one form or another as evidenced by Digg's deterioration, and as currently on display at NewsTrust?

  • to change your memory a baseball bat with v > 10m/sec toward your head is enough. Maybe have some band aid ready too!
  • I can't see the news without JavaScript. Why is JavaScript necessary? Can't it not be done without it?

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