Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Journalist Rank (jRank) & News Feeds

I just got back from a run and wanted to flesh this notion out a bit. I was listening to a This Week In Startups "news" roundtable in which Declan McCullagh was talking about his new "news" app called "Recent" (btw Declan, if you're not using Stream on the backend, you should consider it (disclosure, I'm an investor)). Someone started talking about ranking journalists, and someone else used the word "jRank" and jokingly compared it to Google's gRank. Declan passively suggested Recent was doing something like this in its algorithm to filter news. During this latest rush to build news apps, I'd like to see journalist rankings blend into the algorithms, and ultimately I'd love to be able to turn jRank dials in my profile to tune my feed accordingly.

You'd have to start with a ranking system first of course. From there, software could consider it when producing my feed, and from there a UI element could be presented to me to allow me to filter/dial journalists accordingly.

Proposed jRank factors for a given journalist

  • age
  • languages
  • primary country (city?) of residence
  • mediums (video, books, newspapers, web, a... blah blah blah)
  • first published article/video
  • most-recent published article/video
  • freelancing date-ranges
  • on-staff date-ranges
  • outlets (e.g. cnn, foxnews)/platforms (Twitter, Instagram...) published on (incl. links)
  • sponsors (explicit/implied) (this one would take some work, but the idea is to have transparency into where the journalist gets their dollars). think 
  • website (system can cull gRank-like data from it)
  • list of social profiles (to be crawled and individually ranked, then those ranks are subsumed into jRank)
  • etc.
The idea would be consider all the interesting factors that go into a producer of words. There are times I want to see content from random citizens who happen to catch a "news worthy" moment while walking the dog, and there are times I want to see stories on a known topic produced by someone who just spent a year of their life embedded in a specific environment studying a topic. And, everything in between. The combination of deeper knowledge around who produced the content, and the platform aggregated/presenting it, gives me, the user, a lot of control. Of course, "news platforms" relying on the crowd for the content can have all the dials turned up to 11 for the default stream.

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