Following is part 3 of my 3-part series on open APIs and crowdsourcing community news. Part 1, Part 2.

At the NetSquared conference for nonprofits in San Jose on May 27-28, one of the most intriguing projects I heard about was Social Actions,
a project to tie together disparate cause movements through an open API
that would aggregate information about dozens of different campaigns
and allow users to take action to further a cause.

“Our mission is to
put actions in front of people who are most likely to take part,” Peter
told me. A few hours after our chat, NetSquared announced that Social Actions had won $10,000 as a winner of the 21 Featured Projects winners as well as a second grant for $10,000.)

Here’s our 6-minute video interview on Vimeo and on Ourmedia.

I think this is relevant to news organizations for two reasons:

  • Traditional
    news organizations have been in passive mode for decades. It’s time to
    consider planning campaigns that engage the readers/users and invite
    them to participate in a direct way toward a goal, whether it’s a
    charitable cause or a public service, such as a public awareness
    campaign. The traditional mindset of journalistic objectivity has
    turned newspapers into passive observers, out of step with the passions
    and interests of their communities.
  • There’s
    that term “open APIs” again. As Peter explains, online news
    publications are free to hook into these APIs, meaning that instead of
    just reporting about a problem or issue, news reports could go one step
    further and offer tools and links that let users take action, whether
    it’s to donate, write a letter, sign a petition, join a mailing list,
    become a member of an organization — and that only scratches the
    surface of the potential for interactivity and collective action.

Howard Rheingold wrote about Smart Mobs
in his latest book. The approach of participatory media flies in the
face of the traditional media paradigm of delivering content down
one-way pipes to a passive audience of consumers. But increasingly,
we’re turning to social networks and collaborative tools to make sense
of and take control of our media, our communities, our lives.

Where are the news organizations willing to play in this new social sandbox?