Soylent: Community-Based Writing
Over the past week, I have given much thought to the idea of crowdsourcing, particularly in the context of triangulating data and developing more opportunities for collaborative journalism. The idea that became chiefly interesting to me was that of Michael Bernstein’s Soylent.
After exploring and researching the properties of Soylent, I am truly convinced that this kind of word processing tool could be integrated into a variety of professional settings, namely the newsroom. The immediate thought is that copyediting would be uniquely impacted by this. Tailoring the software in a way that would allow editors within the news organization to collectively locate spelling, grammatical, and style errors would be an efficient way of preparing content for publication. Copy could also be shortened to varying lengths in order to package content for different mediums such as web, print, or social media spaces.
Additionally, I believe this type of software could effectively alter the way news is written and produced. What if news organizations, primarily writers, could consult with an extensive network of identified experts on a given topic within minutes, regardless of location? These networks could consist of experiential experts, researchers, scholars, and data analysts that might bring valuable insights to the articulation of a given story. For example, using a tool such as Soylent, a journalist in the UK interested in reporting on water contamination in Flint could send her story to not only editors, but also a network of health practitioners, historians, government officials, hydrologists, and community organizers in the Flint area to garner information and data needed to develop a well-rounded story. This information could, then, be supplemented by interviews and direct accounts.
I believe that the idea of accessing a community of individuals via computer-mediated interfaces to contribute to the production of a text is one that will transcend simple editing and shortening. Maybe Soylent can be adapted into an app or website that users can subscribe to, disclose areas of interest and expertise, and list texts or projects that they have contributed to