Dan Gilmor Throws in the Towell on Bayosphere

From Dan: A Letter to the Bayosphere Community | Bayosphere I have to say that I never could quite get my arms around Bayosphere. I visited a few times, followed what Dan said a little bit, but never quite got how it was supposed to work or what it was doing. Now Dan’s calling it quits.

“I learned some things last year, about media, about citizens, about myself. Although citizen media, broadly defined, was taking the world by storm, the experiment with Bayosphere didnít turn out the way I had hoped. Many fewer citizens participated, they were less interested in collaborating with one another, and the response to our initiatives was underwhelming. I would do things differently if I was starting over.”

It’s difficult. In some ways it could be as little as the site design. Maybe I never got it because of how it was laid out or because it lacked certain features that I found compelling.

Although I’d never contributed to Bayosphere, I do very much like the idea of citizen journalism. For me though it works best when it is built around site concepts and basic design that you can understand. For instance, a number of times last year when I found newsworthy things around San Francisco I shot them over to Jackson West at SFist. This, to me, was citizen journalism. Whether taking photos of striking hotel workers or bomb threats on Market Street or whatever, it was local news covered (or at least photographed by me) and sent to what I consider a citizen news publication in some respects.

I’d publish my same photos from San Francisco events at Flickr and create sets for them, Prince Charles’ Visit to San Francisco, The Icer Air Ski Jump Thing, Ron English’s Son of Pop Show, Robots on Market Street, whatever. This too to me is citizen journalism.

And then of course there are things like Digg, where my expose on PriceRitePhoto got a lot of attention last year.

The thing these things all had in common was that they were sites and concepts that as a citizen journalist I could grasp quickly and easily.

We increasingly have short attention spans. I couldn’t figure delicious out for a long time, and now I get it. It wasn’t that it was so hard to figure out it’s just that I’d never give it more than about 45 seconds before saying screw it and moving on to something else. Citizen journalism sites can be built but I think they need to have some powerful concept or feature like Digg’s voting methadology, or delicious’ tagging functionality, or whatever, but at the same time they need to be simple to grasp and easy to use. The more intuitive the better.

Perhaps had Bayosphere had different designers this may have worked. Perhaps if it had some unique wrinkle or feature it might have worked. Who knows. But I wouldn’t give up on citizen journalism yet. It is here to stay and someone else will come along with the next reiteration of a Bayosphere type site and it very well may take next time.