The reaction to the launch of Assignment Zero was so profound that even I was surprised (and I think it's a pretty important, if risky step.) By my rough count, there were well nigh 150 blog posts on us in the first 24 hour, and we've received inquiries from a number of journalists. This is all good news of course, as it drives more potential contributors to the site—they can't join if they don't know about it.
While reactions were generally positive (here's Assignment Zero's David Cohn with a representative round up), the critical reactions were more interesting and, frankly, helpful. Here's a brief selection:
John Bell from Digital Influence Mapping has a long, incisive Q&A with Andrew Nachison of ifocos.org (Institute for a Connected Society) on what we're doing. After expressing his best of wishes for the project, he points out the difficulty he initially had navigating the site. And sure enough, we're trying to bring more clarity and make the relationship between our various sections more obvious. He also points out that in first encountering our assignment desk, which is where we dole out story assignments to willing contributors, he gets no clear idea of what we're covering and why. We're hoping to make that more evident as well. This kind of concrete criticism is just what the transparency is about. We make our mistakes in real time, in front of everyone, instead of behind closed doors and a firewall. It's a little messy and a little humbling, but then again, real newsrooms are a little messy too.
But rather than defend ourselves, but Terry Heaton does it with eloquence and wit to spare. From his PoMo Blog:
The most refreshing thing about the whole deal is the almost playful spirit associated with those involved. It’s not that this isn’t terribly serious, for it is, but every person admits that this is being made up as it goes along. And let’s face it; we first learned how to do that in kindergarten, so why shouldn’t there be a little joy? The goals is great journalism and insight into how professionals and amateurs might work together. The path? Well, that’s open to discovery.
Finally, 901am.com asks is "Wired on Drugs, or Adopting a Foreign Language?" Take it from a writer, it's not easy to carry a drug metaphor (or any other metaphor, for that matter) over long distances. But Duncan Riley does it with great aplomb. Discussing our introductory essay on Wired.com Wednesday, he notes that whether or not Wired's on drugs, he'd "need to be to understand this gobbledlygook." Then there's the bizarre observation that the journalistic term "beat" obviously derives from the beatniks. But this is my favorite: "Crowdsourcing mixed with Peer Production? Sounds like a great LSD trip!" He ends with a link to our splash page: "Pass the bong and sign up here."
Right now I'm a fan of just about anyone who's not high on Web 2.0 fumes (and yes, I realize I've been hitting that particular pipe for a while now), but Mr. Riley lodges a serious charge that I'd like to address now: Not only is Wired not doing this to "suck free content from users," but our little foray into citizen journalism is costing us quite a bit of money. I know all big corporations are filled with evil cabals whose days are spent trying to think of new ways to screw the noble user and all, but Wired is honestly doing this because we want to be involved in the reinvention of journalism, and believes that our readers will bring a tremendous value to the process of making the media. And that's not the pot talking...