This week in Boulder, we introduced an innovative website that represents an unusual and valuable new take on local and hyper-local news and information aggregation, and (we’re pretty sure) the most in-depth service that continuously tracks, analyzes, filters, and personalizes the digital-content flows of a single community’s digital media-sphere. SlicesofBoulder.com
If we had to come up with a slogan to explain what the website is about, it would be something like: “Links to Everything You Want to Know About What’s Going on in Boulder, CO, Right Now!” And even though that’s already too long for a slogan, we’d need to add: “Curated From a Wide Range of Sources, From Traditional Local and Other News Media All the Way Down to Relevant Local Twitter Accounts and Institutional Information Feeds.”
No, SlicesofBoulder.com is not like focusing Google News on Boulder and having it spit out a stream of local news links from media sources and blogs using only computer algorithms. Rather, it combines a lot of hard work up front by human researchers and curators who know Boulder well, combined with sophisticated content-aggregation and filtering technology.
The site represents several months of work by a small team at the University of Colorado School of Journalism & Mass Communication and the Digital Media Test Kitchen, and Eqentia Inc., a two-year-old Toronto-based company that uses its semantic publishing platform to create rich, deep “information portals.”
Working with Eqentia, the CU-Boulder team utilized Eqentia’s technology — which previously had been used only for topic-based information portals — to for the first time apply it to a city (Boulder) and its surrounding area.
This “slice” selection from SlicesofBoulder.com includes multi-source news and information about recent crime on the CU-Boulder campus (click to enlarge)
From CU, Journalism instructor Sandra Fish, Journalism master’s candidate Jenny Dean, and Digital Media Test Kitchen director Steve Outing created a taxonomy of Boulder, identifying what categories of information are important to the community. This meant not only including in the taxonomy categories that are relevant to all cities (Education, Government, Transportation, et al), but also categories that are especially important to what makes Boulder, well, Boulder. (If you’ve seen bumper stickers with the phrase, “Keep Boulder Weird,” you should get the idea.) Open Space, Rock Climbing, Snow Sports, etc.
The team also identified Boulder People who are newsmakers; significant and well-known Boulder companies; and identified the neighborhoods within the city of Boulder as well as neighboring towns, to complete the taxonomy.
Human-drafted word strings were created for each category, so that “Pearl Street Mall” mentioned in an article about Boulder would properly be attached to the Shopping and Tourism categories, for example.
SlicesofBoulder.com includes selected local Twitter feeds and searches; breaking Boulder news often appears here first
Next came the task of identifying all the media, news, and information sources in the Boulder area that publish online, as well as identifying media outlets outside of the area that periodically cover Boulder news (e.g., the New York Times, Associated Press, HuffingtonPost.com, credible national blogs, etc.) so that those stories can be filtered out from the rest of their content flow.
The information-source inventory was not limited to news media, but also included blogs, neighborhood and school websites and e-newsletters, press-release and announcement feeds from companies and institutions, Twitter feeds deemed Boulder-specific and interesting, and more.
We encourage you to look around the site to get a feel for what kind of news and information streams you can find that are of interest. While the site can appear overwhelming with its wealth of news and information streams (a.k.a., slices), it’s a simple matter — and useful for local residents — to narrow it down. For example, a homeowner in Boulder’s trendy Chautauqua neighborhood could view links to fresh news and information about that part of town (click here for an example), and add that specific RSS feed to Google Reader or other RSS reader client.
According to Outing, SlicesofBoulder.com should be useful to several groups of people — not just Boulder-area residents looking for a one-stop destination to process the hundreds of digital news and information sources pumping out content about their home town.
Reporters covering the Boulder area, including student journalists at CU-Boulder, will find the site to reveal a wealth of story ideas on locally specific topics. Scientists wanting to monitor the flow of information coming out of Boulder’s numerous federal and university-based scientific agencies and research centers will find the site valuable.
Also intriguing, says Outing, is the research potential of the SlicesofBoulder.com site. At its debut, the site contains a snapshot of Boulder’s digital media-sphere in fall 2010. The site will be monitored over time to capture and observe trends in the local media scene — say, the rise in neighborhood bloggers or the decline in the content output of traditional Boulder news sources.
A major benefit of such research using the site’s statistics will be to identify topic areas that may not be receiving much or any coverage, thereby identifying coverage opportunity areas for local media entrepreneurs, he says.
For additional information about SlicesofBoulder.com, you can visit this information page.
For other inquiries, please contact Steve Outing of the Digital Media Test Kitchen: e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org; phone, 303-834-7810.