About the SlicesofBoulder.com project & website
SlicesofBoulder.com (a.k.a., Slices of Boulder) is a joint project developed by the Digital Media Test Kitchen at CU-Boulder and Eqentia Inc. of Toronto. It is a curated news-and-information aggregator of links to the massive amount of content streaming from many digital sources serving Boulder, Colorado, and its surrounding area.
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The website is designed, foremost, to present a close-to-live stream of links to content (news and information) about what’s going on in and around Boulder currently and in the recent past. It is a reflection of the many current and growing number of emerging sources online that publish news and information meant for residents of the Boulder area, and those interested in Boulder.
The name “Slices of Boulder” is meant to indicate that the website can give users with an interest in the Boulder community the ability to carve out pre-identified and/or customizable slices of local news and information, from a wide variety of online sources, on specific niche or interest areas within Boulder. (Such “slices” can be as narrow as tracking news and information recently published about an individual — say, the mayor of Boulder — or much broader — say, a stream of fresh news and information about Transportation in and around Boulder.)
SlicesofBoulder.com is, we believe, the deepest one-stop source of links to what’s going on and what information is being created by digital publishers and other sources in a single city and its surrounding area — and perhaps a model for what might be created for other cities.
The website is NOT just a directory of Boulder-area digital sources, but rather a continually updated stream of news and information about Boulder.
Slices of Boulder is the product of advanced information-processing technology AND considerable human effort and judgment. Here’s how we developed it:
- Faculty, staff, and students at the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism & Mass Communication developed a taxonomy of the city of Boulder and its surrounding areas as the first step in creating the website. The taxonomy includes:
- Physical areas: neighborhoods, nearby towns, etc.
- Entities: business, government, and organizations
- Topical areas and interests: industries, local issues, popular local activities, etc.
- New news-media entities
- Local bloggers
- Neighborhood bloggers, associations, and online groups
- Key Boulder Twitter account feeds (local personalities, educators, politicians, government agencies, and much more)
- News and news-release feeds from selected businesses, business groups and associations, etc.
- News and news-release feeds from government agencies, scientific institutions and researchers, non-profit groups, educational institutions and educators, etc.
- Boulder-area video and audio news and information sources
- Media websites from Denver and elsewhere around Colorado
- National media websites
- Important and credible Colorado and national blogs
- Event-listing services that include Boulder-area events
- Press-release services
Pulling in that huge flow of links relevant to the Boulder community is just one part of the process. Using the pioneering technology from Eqentia, all this information is continually processed into the “slices” that are relevant to users needing a deep flow of Boulder-relevant content.
Eqentia’s technology further allows “slicing and dicing” of of the Boulder “slices.” For example, a site user might select to see a content flow about “environment,” and then filter that further by asking for environment content that is only about Boulder’s neighboring town of Longmont. Users also can search for links to news and information about any keyword (e.g., “forest fires”).
Most content “slices” and keyword-search-result pages can be turned into RSS feeds, or a custom widget created which can be placed on any website or blog as a continually updating content element.
The website was created for several purposes, including serving the Bouder-area community by providing a simple way to track news and information from an increasingly growing number of local information providers operating online. In an era when traditional news providers are struggling and have cut back on staff and the amount of reporting that they do, SlicesofBoulder.com can help keep the community informed by tapping the output of many other sources of local news and information.
Slices of Boulder also has a research purpose: In addition to at its debut providing a snapshot of the Boulder area’s digital news-and-information landscape, researchers at CU-Boulder’s School of Journalism & Mass Communication will maintain and update the sources in the system, and track and analyze trends in the Boulder “media-sphere” over time (such as the rise of non-profit local news coverage, should that occur).
Another use for the website is for journalists to be alerted to new developments in and story ideas about the Boulder area. Because the site tracks so many sources, reporters should find that using SlicesofBoulder.com will provide them with a wealth of ideas and intelligence about what’s happening in the community and what issues residents currently are concerned about.
Of course, anyone with a specific interest restricted to the Boulder area (e.g., news and information about atmospheric science flowing out from the city’s research institutions that focus on that field) likewise will find SlicesofBoulder.com a useful resource.
Eqentia, a two-year-old company based in Toronto, uses its digital-content aggregating and filtering technology primarily to create customized information portals for businesses. It has been likened to an industry-specific Google News. Its focus is on trying to help businesses manage information flow in their specific industries, making sense of and stemming the information overload faced by many businesses by simplifying and targeting the information flow.
Eqentia’s portal sources are curated by people, and once that is accomplished the technology does most of the work other than updating sources as they come and go. (For more about Eqentia, see this article on GigaOm including a video interview with founder and CEO William Mougayar.)
SlicesofBoulder.com, a university-corporate project, represents an experiment and the first time that the vertical portals concept has been applied to a physical place.
The Digital Media Test Kitchen and CU-Boulder wish to thank the company for its willingness in allowing us to experiment with its technology for the purposes of journalism research and better informing Boulder-area residents during a period of media fragmentation and news-industry distress.
University of Colorado team:
- Jenny Dean – masters candidate, School of Journalism & Mass Communication
- Sandra Fish – instructor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication
- Matt Hemmendinger – masters candidate, School of Journalism & Mass Communication
- Steve Outing – director, Digital Media Test Kitchen
- Mike Jarema – chief technical officer
- William Mougayar – founder and CEO
- Neil Sanderson – director of client services and chief curator