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On WikiLeaks, Kickstarter, Google News Pollution and a Very Bad Press Release

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NEW YORK ( -- When WikiLeaks released a huge cache of classified reports on the war in Afghanistan, it did so in a strange alliance that had The New York Times, The Guardian and the German weekly Der Spiegel coordinate a timed release of their narratives on the material. Just how those cats were able to herd themselves -- and not claw up the source of the material, which also happened to be a publisher of it -- was captured in a heart-quickening narrative on the Columbia Journalism Review's website.

"I've seen [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange in the last couple of days kind of flouncing around talking about this collaboration like the four of us were working all this together," says [New York Times reporter Eric] Schmitt. "But we were not in any kind of partnership or collaboration with him. This was a source relationship."

WikiLeaks has a creative cousin in Kickstarter, an online community of pocket-change Medicis who often contribute tiny donations to help get book, art, travel and just about any other kind of projects you could imagine off the ground. One of its fans is Tokyo-based designer Craig Mod, who turned to Kickstarter after buying the publishing rights of a book about hidden galleries in his city that he had co-authored. In a gorgeously produced text and photographic essay on his personal website, Mr. Mod detailed the ins and outs of the project to remake the book, offering along the way a meditation on the future of the creative economy and the publishing industry.

With Kickstarter, people are pre-ordering your idea. Sure, they're buying something tangible -- a CD, a movie, a book, etc. -- but more than that, they're pledging money because they believe in you, the creator. If you take the time to extrapolate beyond the obvious low-hanging goals, you can use this money to push the idea -- the project -- somewhere farther reaching than initially envisaged. And all without giving up any ownership of the idea.

This -- micro-seed capital without relinquishment of ownership -- is where the latent potential of Kickstarter funding lies.

What's the role of an editor during an age in which the self-publishing ethos has leached into professional newsrooms, when the web feels like it's growing faster than the universe? That's Paul Ford's subject in "Real Editors Ship," a sure-to-be-classic text for anyone working in information. It's too long, sputters at times, and it could probably be split into four posts, but, hey, as Mr. Ford admits, he needs an editor. (Note: this was published last week, but it's too good to leave out.)

[E]ven my most technically mystified editor pals could be trained to use Freebase Gridworks. Add to that the willingness to schedule the living shit out of everything, the ability to see patterns, a total dedication to shipping, and willingness to say "no," and you start to have this very interesting source of power inside your organization, especially given the changes coming in web content, where you need structure and connections in order to play with others. Editors can help you play nice. And they actually do understand standards, at least conceptually.

Google might strive to be the web's grand organizer, but Danny Sullivan, search-engine expert and sometimes Ad Age columnist, knows that's not always the case. The mysterious appearance of the word "chocomize" (a customizable candy bar) on Google Trends, a list of the most popular search terms at a given moment, led Sullivan, in a fun, obsessive post on Search Engine Land, to show how publishers can game the Google ecosystem, from its ads to its news pages.

The pollution within Google News is ridiculous. This is Google, where we're supposed to have the gold standard of search quality. Instead, we get "news" sites that have been admitted -- after meeting specific editorial criteria -- just jumping on the Google Trends bandwagon, outranking the actual article causing the term "chocomize" to be popular, polluting the news results and along the way, earning Google some cash.

We wrap up with an easy target : the poorly-written press release, as rendered by The Awl.

Press releases are almost always bad. Especially those that come to our personal email inboxes. Here's a better idea:Write an email to someone you know will care. Or don't! You could just blindly send out a bunch of crap and then bill your client for it. I mean, why not, right? It's not like some snarky asshole will publish your press release online, with derogatory inline notes. Oh wait.

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