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As an admirer of Dan Gillmor and what he has done in the past — and what he tried to do with his “citizen’s media” venture, bayosphere.com — I felt more than a twinge of regret when I read his open letter about the demise of Bayosphere. But I think Adam Green of Darwinianweb.com has the right viewpoint: Dan should be proud of what he tried to do, not ashamed because it didn’t work (neither should Mark Evans).

As Adam notes, failure is almost a prerequisite when it comes to trying new and challenging things. He says he asks almost every executive of a startup to describe a failure from their past, and is suspicious when they don’t admit to one. Adam also congratulates Dan for providing a “sincere and thoughtful analysis” of what happened at Bayosphere, and I would like to echo that thought as well. At this point, everyone is making their best guesses about what is happening with Media 2.0 or whatever you want to call it, and (hopefully) trying to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Dan’s post definitely helps in that regard, but it also raises plenty of questions — as it should. Was Bayosphere too local? Were the restrictions on who could be a “citizen journalist” too strict? Would a model like Newsvine.com, which is both broader in scope and more open, work better? What about one that incorporates both “old” media sources and new media, with a voting system — a la digg.com or reddit.com — built in? What about a system that compensates citizen journalists based on their articles, which Gather.com seems to be trying to build? Kent Newsome thinks Bayosphere is a sign of how hard building an audience in Media 2.0 is.

Anyway, congratulations on a valiant effort, Dan. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Update:

Tim Porter has a thoughtful discussion of some of the issues raised by Dan’s experience at Bayosphere, one of which is that “community can’t be forced.” (hat tip to Online News Squared for pointing that one out).

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

20 Responses to “Well done, Dan — failure is educational”
  1. So, are any of these citizen journalism heavyweights going to acknowledge that FuckedCompany.com was the real innovator and that they should abandon their love affair with old media to fully embrace the new? I see a lot ofarticles asking the question, but no one seems to know it has been answered already.

  2. More on Bayosphere — Failure is Educational for Entrepreneurs Matthew Ingram 1/25/2006 07:11:00 AM

  3. On editorial quality control a la Digg, see the latest from Kottke:

    http://www.kottke.org/06/01/quality-editorial

    (Hey, cool comment feature!)

  4. I’d have to agree with Kottke. Digg’s selection process (and reddit and the others) is a little too scattershot for me, and Slashdot is somewhere in the middle — although often the comments about other people’s comments are as much fun as the post itself. Still, there is some human filtering that goes on, which adds a lot. That’s what I like about the Newsvine model too.

  5. Yes, I must admit that I like and admire the Newsvine model as well, at least at this early stage — it’s really nice mix of “hard news” (with the ability to comment added, something you’ll likely never see at a reuters.com) and bloggy elements. What that bloggy element “brings to the table” and adds to the mix will be very interesting and will likely help to determine the long-term success of that venture.

    Your work seems to always hit on the themes I’m thinking a lot about, Matthew! I agree, everyone interested in this area is looking at what works, what doesn’t, what *should* work but doesn’t, and vice versa! And yes, unless you have the enormous built in traffic of a Google or Yahoo, it’s very hard to build a stable traffic base. So I think that’s partly why we’re seeing aggregators on top of aggregators. It’s really a mess in a lot of ways! But it also makes perfect sense given the explosion of media, information, people coming online, and relative newness of it all.

  6. Dan Gillmore’s Start-Up Lessons

    Dan Gillmore has a fascinating open letter about why Bayosphere, his citizen media start-up, has stopped spending VC money. It’s a frank and insightful piece on the emerging citizen journalism trend and the trials and tribulations of running a start-u…

  7. I agree, Eric — and it certainly makes it an interesting time for those of us in the media business. Nothing like a little upheaval and/or creative destruction to keep you on your toes :-)

  8. I’m curious to see what he does next – whether he tries something else or goes back to working for someone else.

    He’s clearly learned a lot; much of it will be applicable to his next venture(s).

    For me I know I cut my teeth organizing an event. Lost a pile of money the first year, was profitable for the next six (having broken even again in year three). I learned so much in years one and two about how to live and succeed (read learned about entrepreneurial lifestyle) when building something. Dan’s learned this now too…again, curious to see if he applies it.

  9. I’ll be interested to see what comes of it too, Mike. I know Dan is going to be working on a non-profit centre for citizen media, but hopefully he’ll be doing other things too. I imagine he’s learned a lot.

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  16. […] Ingram asks why I think New Assignment will get any more traction than Dan Gillmor’s Bayosphere. Good question, one that many have asked me. One answer is that I have Dan’s lessons learned post, a masterful self-examination. (See Ingram’s failure is educational.) […]

  17. […] I don’t live in the areas covered by Backfence, which has 13 sites in three metropolitan areas (Washington, Chicago and the Bay Area), but I have taken a look at it from time to time because I’m interested in local citizen journalism efforts — and spent a bit of time looking at Backfence after it absorbed Dan Gillmor’s failed local CitJ experiment, Bayosphere, which I wrote about here. And it certainly never seemed like a thriving entity to me. […]

  18. […] I don’t live in the areas covered by Backfence, which has 13 sites in three metropolitan areas (Washington, Chicago and the Bay Area), but I have taken a look at it from time to time because I’m interested in local citizen journalism efforts — and spent a bit of time looking at Backfence after it absorbed Dan Gillmor’s failed local CitJ experiment, Bayosphere, which I wrote about here. And it certainly never seemed like a thriving entity to me. […]

  19. […] down, of course. Dan Gillmor’s Bayosphere was a valiant effort that failed (I wrote about it here) and was later merged with Backfence, which then also failed. Jeremy Wagstaff of the Wall Street […]

  20. […] down, of course. Dan Gillmor’s Bayosphere was a valiant effort that failed (I wrote about it here) and was later merged with Backfence, which then also failed. Jeremy Wagstaff of Loose Wire says […]

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