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Founder of @kommons.
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Answers from @codybrown

@katelaurielee asked@codybrown
12 days ago
@chasews follows this question
I have a bunch of answers to this but these are the three biggest that I can think of at the moment.

1.) Old School Promotion

So last night @StevenbJohnson tweeted that he has spent 30 of the last 40 days away from home in 21 different cities. He was promoting his new book, doing readings, and taking questions from fans so this meant buying a lot of plane tickets, hotel rooms, and traveling all around the world.

I wouldn't say that in person readings or Q&A's can be *replaced*, they are a distinct kind of event, but if you're looking to promote a book kommons offers a way to do that that is cheaper and more native to the web.

We make it easy for anyone in the world with a twitter account ask an author a question but I think more importantly, we offer a way to organize interest around these questions.

A good example came recently from @cshirky. A professor from Toronto (@Makurrah ). who has never met Clay, asked him a follow up question on a post he wrote the past year, and after a month of people following the question, he answered. Everyone who said they were interested in getting an answer got an email and his answer started to fly around Twitter. It was picked up by Alexis Madrigal at the @atlantic, then was eventually translated into french and published in Le Mode.

This all came without @cshirky even saying he was available to answer questions on the site. Imagine what would have happened if he would have tweeted: "Taking questions on "Cognitive Surplus" over the next week. Will answer any question that gets over 15 followers."

2.) Research

We help authors discover what their fans/peers/intellectual opponents really want to know about a subject before they dedicate months (if not years) of their lives researching and writing about that subject.

Twitter is good at being a kind of 24 hour feedback loop but those interested in providing feedback can go much deeper when they have more than a 140 characters.

3.) Author Battles

Remember when Nick Carr and Clay Shirky had dueling books out about the internet this summer? Instead of getting a @wired writer to mitigate their debate wouldn't it be more fun for them to go direct? They could direct questions to each other and bring their supporters in to contextualize the debate/spread it around the internet.

In this case, kommons could be used as a nerd colosseum.
8 days ago
@cbmyers asked@codybrown
19 days ago
@lavrusik asked@codybrown
20 days ago
3 following this question
Two big angles that I can think of right now.

1.) We're Building a Valuable Public Record

There is a reason almost every organization, whether its the Obama Administration or AT&T, wants you to send feedback and concerns through a private channel—they own the record. If someone, for instance, has an issue with the @knightfdn, they are encouraged to send feedback to them and wait for a reply. This is a win for the organization if they can pull this off because the interaction remains private and they don't have to deal publicly with the repercussions of their actions. Of course though, it's a loss for everyone else.

I use the @knightfdn example because a @kommons user, @danielbachuber asked them a fair but challenging question about a month ago. Despite it being followed by 8 other influential people it never got a response. It was upsetting at first that an organization that funds, "projects that promote informed, engaged communities," was not responding to a direct information request from its own engaged community, until you realize that them not answering is just as powerful of a signal.

Now, any journalist investigating the knight foundation or philanthropic organizations more generally, can stumble across this question in google and get a direct insight into the way they work, not to mention nine sources to interview. All because someone made a casual request for info months ago. This is the inherit value to doing it in public— kommons is designed to help more people ask questions but we're also designed to help others easily find them later.

2.) More Successful Questioning

Getting a public figure to answer a question he/she doesn't want to answer is one of hardest things a journalist can accomplish. Having more public leverage of any kind, whether it's through a big brand like the @nytimes / @wsj or a follower count, helps you get your calls returned. Most people though don't work at the @nytimes and if they want answers they need to work a lot harder. Kommons helps you tap into the base you already have.

I did this personally with @niemanlab. I asked them a question on twitter but it was only when others started to follow it that I got an answer.
18 days ago
about 1 month ago
2 following this question
If you're an undergraduate journalism major, my advice would honestly be to switch majors. I've said this before but going to journalism school now is analogous to going to law school while your country is in the midst of a Coup d'état.

There are awesome people in NYU's journalism department and it's good that they require you to double major but the curriculum was created for an entirely different time.

What should a student who wants to do journalism be working on? Two big things I can think of off the top of my head.


If your goal is to be a 'general reporter' you are in deep shit. I'd even say that if your goal is to cover a beat like "technology", you are still too vague. Focus on something small, become an expert in it and keep going deeper with the subject. Opportunities for expertise come up all the time. For example when @barackobama was elected, no one was really following how he was totally transforming a variety of .gov websites. If someone, a student, would have started a blog about this and gone deep into the subject, they would have been on CNN in a few months. @jayrosen_nyu pointed this out but I don't think anyone took him up on the observation. Instead you get a bunch of 'reporters' going a quarter inch into a story, turning out an article, then leaving it and never returning. This is stupid. Find an expertise hole, something you are passionate about, then fill it.

Learn How to Build a Web Application:

Notice that I didn't say learn html/css or flash. That is important but basic. Learn how to build an application. This will teach you how databases work and will make you start to think differently about the way information is structured. If you get comfortable with the development, this will fundamentally transform the way you approach reporting. Ruby on Rails is a good language to start.
about 1 month ago