“So you say… and who are you, anyway?”: User needs for trust in social media

I’m just starting to explore the needs for journalists who use social media and other crowd-produced reports (SMS, blogs, Flickr, etc.) to become aware of breaking events, or for surfacing topics, or for cultivating sources.

It’s my hope that social science, qualitative research, and a good understanding of the technical issues can help us break down: What affects confidence in a report? In a source? What is relevant to identity?

And different beats might have different use cases and sets of needs. I was a journalist for a decade, but never faced the challenges of crisis or war reporting, or did a long-term investigative piece. Is there a way to find what’s in common, and what varies, and design that into a tool?


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About dan turner

I'm a recent masters graduate of the School of Information at UC Berkeley (http://ischool.berkeley.edu) and even more recently returned from a summer as a visiting researcher at the Helsinki Institute of Information Technology (http://hiit.fi). At the former, I concentrated on computer-mediated communications, social science and their implications for user experience design; at the latter, I researched user needs and poli sci theory on how voters make decisions, and prototyped UX designs of a mobile voter advice application for developing democracies. Currently I'm independently researching issues of how to evaluate trust and verification for journalists using social and other rapid, crowdsourced media (with the possible option of looking at this as a pedagogical tool for teaching how to evaluate sources). Input, pointers, feedback encouraged!

2 Responses to “So you say… and who are you, anyway?”: User needs for trust in social media

  1. cziogas says:

    Dan, will you be leading a talk on this? As a fairly new journalist (2 years), I find this topic very interesting and would like to explore it further. I was not trained to do old school journalism, but was raised reading it. I feel that instant reporting–i.e. using social media to spread the news as quickly as possible–has often resulted in sloppy and inaccurate reporting that isn’t of much benefit. But what can we do when everyone thinks they can write/report/spread information without bothering to do a background check on the strands of information they’ve picked up?

  2. dan turner says:

    Thanks, Carol (and I’d love to hear about your experiences coming to journalism, and what you’ve thought about it).

    I’d like to propose this as a discussion, as I’m just learning myself some of the details of how a few people are also starting to look at this.

    You raise good questions! It seems there are economic motivators (news organizations measure success in certain ways, which get plumped by “first hit” breaking news), system motivators (the low barrier to seeing a single report through social media and the web in general, the high barrier in confirming it), social science hurdles (balancing anonymity/pseudonymity concerns against reputation/trust), and things I’m sure I’m blanking on at the moment. Most, if not all, of these were problematic before the internets, but some are now worse.

    I’d like to keep focus on 1) the use cases of of journalists w/r/t social media (breaking events? surfacing trends? cultivating individual sources? crowdsourcing?), b) their user needs towards verification (what raises confidence, what lowers it), iii) what can be designed into a system that is either automated or leverages humans to help raise confidence as defined in b).

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