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.
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).