Citizen media pioneer Dan Gillmor just published a lengthy letter to the online community he's cultivated at Bayosphere, his citizen media outfit. It addresses why his much-hyped site is essentially a flop:
Although citizen media, broadly defined, was taking the world by storm,the experiment with Bayosphere didn’t turn out the way I had hoped.Many fewer citizens participated, they were less interested incollaborating with one another, and the response to our initiatives wasunderwhelming. I would do things differently if I was starting over.
Gillmor graciously offers a thoughtful list of lessons he learned. If you're a citizen media purveyor in Vermont, and there are a few of you out there, this list is a must-read.
Here are a couple of his insights:
Limiting participation is not necessarily a bad idea. By asking for avalid e-mail address simply in order to post comments, you reduce thepool of commenters considerably, but you increase the quality of thepostings. And by asking for real names and contact information, as wedid with the citizen journalists, you reduce the pool by several ordersof magnitude. Again, however, there appears to be a correlation betweenwillingness to stand behind one's own words and the overall quality ofwhat's said.
And my favorite:
Tools matter, but they're no substitute for community building.