Collecting Bali coverage, and how aggregating data is good campaign strategy

Back before the Afghan and Iraqi wars, when it seemed like every month there was a different global summit in the news (primarily because of overblown and misleading reports on the protests surrounding them) I had an idea for a site that would aggregate the reports from a variety of NGO and citizen journalism sites covering the summits. It would have been a complement to indymedia and protest.net and would have provided aggregated RSS feeds which other sites could embed.

Sadly, it was yet another idea that never got off the ground. Back then very few people were publishing RSS feeds, so gathering the data would have meant a lot of “screen scraping”, writing a different script for each and every news provider, and the tools weren’t around to easily embed the feeds I would have offered into other peoples’ sites so only highly technical users would have found them useful. Atom and RSS took off, but the political climate changed so the site never did.

I was reminded of that idea by a post on an email list from Jamie Woolley, Web Editor for Greenpeace UK. A group of NGO “webbies” have used a Google Reader account to aggregate feeds from various blogs covering the current Bali summit on climate change. And they’ve pushed the aggregated feed from that to feedburner so anyone can use it. You can find the result here, see an embedded example on the Greenpeace Climate blog and embed the google reader feed with:


 

The fact that this is now such an easy thing to put together is one of the real strengths of that thing known as “Web 2.0”. With widely available feeds meaning data is available in consistent formats, and tools that help you repurpose that data, what a few years ago seemed like a lengthy project is now an hour’s work. The focus can be on finding good information, rather than on the technical requirements.

Including aggregated data is a good way not just to make sure your site looks fresh with lots of up to date content, but also to establish your site as a key source of useful information and to engage with the wider community working on and thinking about your issues. No campaign is (should be) a closed garden and if you’re confident of your campaign then there’s lots to be gained by using every resource available to educate your supporter base, and building stronger relationships with other campaigners.

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