How to get your antennae up

A while ago, I said that once witnesses can share what they see live to the world from wherever they are, one of the great challenges for news organizations will be finding this stuff as it happens. The challenge, I said, is keeping our antennae up.

Robin Hamman has been trying to answer the challenge with a Yahoo Pipes demo that looks for newsy keywords — e.g., explosion, evacuation — across many (pardon me) user-generated-content services (Flickr, Twitter, et al). Very clever. It doesn’t work terribly well right now. But the idea’s right. Next, he tried to take news stories from the BBC and match that with chatter online. Also clever, and it will surely generate after-the-fact coverage from witnesses. But it won’t solve the problem of live.

How do we solve that? I’m not sure. One answer is Digg and its ilk: thousands of editors telling you what’s hot right now. Another may be producers charged with combing the live world online to find interesting stuff (that won’t scale, though). Another may be sniffers that see clusters of links and traffic around spots online where live content may be (we don’t know what’s happening here, but the crowd is telling us that something is).

The next challenge, of course, is to figure out who’s legit. But first things first. We have to get our antennae up.