The all-in-one, super-duper, deluxe everything citizens’ reporting machine

The all-in-one, super-duper, deluxe everything citizens’ reporting machine
: If you were going to invent the ideal gadget for reporters — or better yet, citizen-reporters and witness-reporters — to carry around, what would it be?

I was lucky enough to go attend Clay Shirky‘s NYU ITP class this week to bring a real-world (read: old-fart) perspective to the students’ inspiring social-software projects. I was carrying (read: flaunting) my new Treo 600 phone/palm/camera/web device and so Mark Argo, a student, and I started talking. He said he’s been thinking about the perfect moblogging device. I liked that perspective; that’s why I also like talking to students so much. I said if he invented that, it would be the perfect reporting device. And I so started thinking about what that would require:

1. Capture. It needs to grab and store photos, video, and audio.

2. Selection. You need to be able to easily edit — that is, select — the key chunks of those media bits.

3. Comment. You need to be able to write (or speak) your comment to wrap this.

4. Connect. You need to have a resource that lets you search and find out more about the topic you’re reporting or commenting on.

5. Publish. You need to be able to get it online with a click.

That is the all-in-one, super-duper, deluxe everything reporting machine.

We’re not too far away from that. My Treo is still awkward but it lets me take a picture, comment on it, connect to the Web, and post it.

ticket.jpg: To prove that, earlier that same day, I happened upon a scene: A New York parking cop giving a ticket to a U.S. Postal Service truck. It struck me as rather dumb: One arm of our government tickets another arm of our goverment to get our money and pay for a lot of bureacrats in the process. It wasn’t worth bringing my camera out of my bag but then I remembered: I have my super-duper camera-phone. And it has the further advantage of being quite unobtrusive; the ticket lady wouldn’t even notice me taking the picture.

As with anything new, this will, of course, cause nervousness and efforts to control it. We’ve all heard about gyms banning camera phones. And USA Today reports that attendees at a Britney Spears/Rolling Stone party had to hand in their cell phones at the door.

Steve Outing predicts that there will be a backlash against efforts to take away our cameras.

Right. In the day when we’re all reporters and we all carry our all-in-one, super-duper, deluxe everything reporting machines, we’ll demand the right to witness what we witness and tell the world about it. For we’ll have all the tools we need to do that — not only our machines but also our weblogs.

We’ll be capturing scenes of politicians, police, celebrities, and fellow citizens doing or saying bad or stupid things everywhere. (Why isn’t the Gawker Stalker photo-ready, already?)

And friends will be saying to friends — just as bloggers say to bloggers today — “this is off the record.”

But news will be everywhere and everywhere, there will be citizens with their all-in-one, super-duper, deluxe everything reporting machines ready to capture it and share it with the world.

  • ken

    I wonder if the Postal Service has a better record at paying their tickets than the U.N. does.
    Maybe it’s some directive by Bloomberg: “If the Feds aren’t going to give us the money we need, well, we’ll just take it from ’em”

  • Scott

    Lately I had been mulling around your prediction that newspapers would beat local television stations in providing online video content. To that effect I started thinking that wouldn’t it be even better if such a local provider allowed people to somehow electronically deliver footage of some event in the market so that everyone COULD be a reporter. That way, sudden or un-publicised events could get covered. (As I envisioned it, the editors of such a service would decide what, from all the submissions to use in their content). I figure if you made a big enough deal out of such submissions and credited the submitters, the better ones would turn themselves into amatuer roving reporters (until, that is, they figure out that they’re good enough that you should be paying them). What makes this possible is smaller and smaller digital recorders. I guess the same could be done for stills.
    Right now I’m just not sure how the reporter could get the footage to the website (If possible email would be best, but I guess we would be talking some really big files.”

  • ….a moment with Easycure

    Technology is what keeps our society open. Because we have these handy-dandy cameras at public diposal keeps everyone on their “best behavior”. It is a good thing.
    The only way it becomes a bad thing is if that same technology is if government (or anyone wielding power) restricts their public use. At that point the technology has become a weapon to be used against the people, not by the people.
    Much like guns, these cameras can make it easier for seedy people to do some very bad things, but you have to take the bad with the good, because the greater good is more important than the lesser instances of “bad”.
    Just like our constant fight to maintain freedom to bear arms, we are going to have to fight for our freedom to record. They are similar battles in the same war.
    It will come to head not too far down the road….

  • linsee

    The Rocky Mountain News won the Pulitzer for photography this year, for a portfolio of pictures of wildfire coverage. One of the most dramatic photos was of a slurry bomber breaking apart in midair. It was taken by someone who just happened to be there with his camera when the fireball blew. So what Scott suggests above is already happening in unusual cases.
    I don’t know how the image was delivered to the paper.
    This link to the story should work, if you put it all on one line:
    and then click on the “related links” to bring up a window with the photos. Matt Inden’s photo is the middle of the third row.

  • charley

    Look at these reviews of new products to see how close this is to becomming reality.
    Evidently the Voice over IP is working and being used. A review of two possible services is here:
    Free Internet Telephone Calls As Good As Bell
    It’s Kazaa vs. Lindows, in a heated battle for the ears and
    voices of VOIP. Robertson, founder of Lindows and
    has just released the SIPhone, for free internet calling
    around the world – and Kazaa’s founders have countered with
    Skype, designed to do the same. The good news: our
    reviewers found both products work nearly as well as regular
    phones, with none of the drop-off and CB-Radio nature of
    previous internet VOIP. But which is best? Read our review
    and stop paying big bucks to the phone company!
    Free VOIP Has Arrived:
    Then there is also this review of WiFi PDAs.
    Take It With You – 10 Wireless PDAs
    Want to go mobile with your PDA? We round-up the top 10
    wireless handhelds, and provide in-depth guidance on setting
    up Wi-Fi for both Pocket PC and Palm. There’s nothing like
    having the internet in your pocket, I should know! If you
    want to go mobile, start here.
    Top 10 Wireless PDAs:
    The connecting thought would be to put the speaker and mike onto the PDA and do away with the cell phone or landline.

  • Reminds me of Max Headroom . . . who would have thought it?

  • ed

    Referring back to the ticket incident, what’s wrong with the Police department enforcing parking rules on postal workers? What, the post office can park it’s trucks all over the freakin’ city obstructing bus stops and loading docks? Great! That’s a real money saver! FedEx, UPS and mail trucks cause more problems double parking than most other vehicles in this city. I hope this is a new trend! Take some of the bucks we pay the feds and stick it in the city’s pockets!

  • Jeff:
    I’m jealous. I have a Treo 300 and want to get a 600… glad to hear it’s working well.
    I’m working up a plan to engage citizen bloggers in the news here in Spokane. I think the first step will be to link to some select community bloggers, then open a contest to get more people involved. Soon, reporters and editors will be combing community blogs daily to find good story ideas. And that’s just the beginning…
    You’re really on to something here.

  • There is one more necessary part for moblogging: metadata. How do you tell all those photos and video feeds apart with key words? A sophisticated metadata at time of capture system is what needs to be put into every phone.
    Garage Cinema, a research group at Berkeley is working with Nokia on that, but it’s a ways off. But the only way to computationally mess with all that visual data, to make it make sense later, is with good metadata that doesn’t involve words, like the musical notation system used to describe music. Media Streams is one idea. Check out for the latest.

  • And then all this “stuff” won’t be news. You’re expecting tens of hundreds of people to devote their time to doing reporter work for free? Including audio and video? Unh-uh. I think you overestimate people. This stuff reminds me of the 50s versions of the future where we all have flying cars.
    And I don’t think Steve Outing’s backlash is going to be that great. I think the opposite will be true. People will, at some point, expect people not to act like hi-tech voyeurs.