ATTN-SPAN: Primary Sources for Common Folk

Oh debt limit! Those rascals in United States congress were at it again. At least that’s what I was told by CNN. In reality most of what I know about the whole issue has come from about four source types: blog posts shared by friends, anonymous info graphics, national media outlets, and conversations with people who get their information from these three things. As a result I have a vague idea about what went on, but since my senators didn’t do anything particularly crazy like walk around naked on the debate floor or challenge each other to a dual I get no knowledge of the thing that matters most: my personally elected representatives.

After the legislation was passed I saw a poll on CNN’s front page that I can only assume was a blatant taunt to drive this horrible situation home. The poll read something along the lines of “How satisfied are you with the actions of your elected representatives?” To which I responded by clenching my fists and screaming to the sky: “How the hell should I know?”

Of course I realize this is nobody’s fault. I realize this especially after listening to Mohamed Nanabhay describe the work and challenges faced by the journalists at Al Jazeera. The professionals manning the ships of media corporations must face countless unsolvable challenges involving what content to air, how to craft a message, and how to share information across many diverse communities in a way that makes sense.

ATTN-SPAN is my hopeful attempt to have my cake and eat it too. Don’t let MoJo or MIT fool you: I’m making it for myself. The idea behind this project is that most content out there is a product that was created for the masses – not for me. I can find algorithms and editors that try to pick out articles written for masses that are similar to me, but ultimately those articles are still written for masses. My theory is that the only way to get true personalization is at the source. The primary source.

The reason nobody likes primary sources is that they are a really inefficient way to transfer information. The irrelevant-to-information ratio is simply too high. Worse. The boring-to-anything ratio is too high. I mean seriously, who watches C-SPAN? But what if that primary source can be tagged, catalogued, and marked up in a way that will help generate digestible content on an individual level?

Once the footage of congress can be automatically organized in terms of not just things like who is talking and what is being discussed, but also in terms of when voices get louder or when gavels hit the table… Well, suddenly primary sources can be patched together completely dynamically in a way that tells a story just for you. Your information diet can be augmented with personalized, real world footage. Finally you’ll know for sure that your senator is just as ineffective as you had previously assumed!