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Fast, Cheap and Out of Control

In my interview at with Jon Greenberg, executive editor at New Hampshire Public Radio, I asked him if he would be better off using a fast, cheap and out of control model of weblog mining rather than a controlled one with a limited number of individuals. In his Primary Frontline Pen Pals project he is using 11 bloggers to get a closer look at what voters are thinking in Iowa and New Hampshire.

He said:

My first concern would be that if the number of streams of information coming at me are too large, I won’t be able to sort out much of anything. It could turn out to be the same experience as when you scroll through an endless string of comments and replies on a bulletin board. Pretty soon, you glaze over. I also think that you stand a chance of getting more insights from people who have a sense that their words will be read by somebody.

I think he is using the wrong model.

Basically, as he said later, he is training them to be citizen reporters. He would be better off training them as aggregators. Mini-Romeneskos, who are searching for the best information on the web. For Romenesko it is the media. Here it is presidential politics in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Some of it might be news stories. Some of it might be citizen interviews. Some weblogs. Occasionally it could be commentary by the aggregator. He or she would be have to be very good at it, just as Romenesko is.

A staffer or trusted freelancer could be the super aggregator who tries to see the big picture. The 11 citizens could do their own aggregating around their own positions. And the super aggregator could dip into these satellite aggregations for the best of them. What is more productive: Eleven people fishing individually, basically with their individual poles in the water, or 11 people casting wide nets?

Yes there would be lots of junk fish in their nets, but there would also be lunkers and some interesting species that would never get hooked. The super aggregator would select the most choice.

In the end you would have lots of people going to the super aggregator gleaning information and hopefully mixing it up. Some might prefer the satellite aggregations. Those to the far left would find their sub group probably. Those to the far right theirs. But the people in the middle, the ones who might actually decide the election and who want to think about issues from all sides, might find their way to the super aggregator.

Of course, this is not about right or wrong. It is just two different possibilities. And we are talking about experimentation. That’s why we need more risk takers, more experimenters like Greenberg.

3 Responses to “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control”

  1. MattS Says:


    Great site! We just blogrolled you!

    We’re using a karma system to handle this problem. Chris Lydon’s Blogging of the President: Notes on the Transformation of American Politics and Media at has a community site called (still in testing) that’s going to be self-organizing, with anyone being able to contribute stories.

    We’re also combining audio blogging, radio, and community to allow for citizen audio reporting.

    This is so cool. People from all over are having the same ideas about the communications revolution.

  2. MattS Says:


    What’s your email address?

  3. Leonard Witt Says:

    Hi Matt:

    My email is