Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Noded working – a new way to do journalism?

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on July 18, 2009

As the BBC’s  top journalists wrote in a newly published “Future of Journalism” document [PDF], the age of closed cup journalism is over. “…the fortresses are crumbling and courtly jousts with fellow journalists are no longer impressing the crowds” writes Director of BBC World Service Peter Horrocks.

People like Charlie Beckett have been promoting the idea of Networked Journalism for some time now, encouraging an openness throughout the entire journalism process.

Well, I was introduced recently to the idea of Noded working, by marketing consultant Jon Moss. It’s  about connecting and working with people across the world, and it’s becoming more popular among other digital creatives,  so I wondered – what could journalists do with it?

What is Noded working?

Here’s how Noded‘s creators Andreas Carlsson and Jaan Orvet describe it:

Noded is a new and better way of working. It is based on logical and natural ways of interacting with people, nurturing ideas, and simply doing a better job without the constraints of everything that comes with traditional ‘business life’. The Noded philosophy is also about flexibility and efficiency in collaboration, especially among people who are geographically far apart.

It runs off the idea that working in offices (or newsrooms) is rubbish. We’re tied to our desks, forced into ways of working which suit management, and forced to work with people we don’t like. We’ve all heard of “office politics” – now imagine a world without that.

The main characteristic of us Noded type professionals is our desire to set our own goals, and build businesses based on our own values.

So you start-up a new project – say, you’ve got funding to report on the increase in electrical waste in sub-saharan Africa. You’ve been given a grant to go out and film there, but you need a researcher. So you look around and find a good one, in New Zealand.

In a Noded network each member is an individual professional, running his or her own business. We come together to work on projects, as and when a project calls for it. Sometimes we all work together, some times only a few of us. It’s up to who ever brings the project in to choose who, and when, someone contributes.

And our only obligation is to ourselves; if we don’t want to participate in a project we don’t have to. No hard feelings.

Then you need a web designer, and know a good one in India. Noded working lets the three of you collaborate no matter where you are.

The project a success, you then return to your freelance ways…until another journalist approaches you: they’re in America, but need a good shooter to help them on a documentary project. Great! Noded working would let you get involved – this time, not as the project leader, but as an assistant:

This way of working ensures that we can take on different roles in different projects. From Project Manager in one project, to developer in another, to Account Manager in a third.

It’s about what skills match what project. There’s no newsroom politics (“oh, she got to go to Afghanistan last time”) – in fact no newsroom. And that’s the thing Noded can’t help with-established newsrooms. Carlsson and Orvet admit themselves:

In traditional employment this is not an option; company policies dictate how and when employees can further their careers and what if any impact they can have on the companies direction.

But for the burgeoning new brand of ‘creative freelancers’ emerging from the decline of traditional journalism, this presents a really exciting new way of working on stories. Why be limited to people in your own newsroom?

And the forms of Video Journalism startups eschewed by Michael Rosenblum et al, are in a way, already doing this.

I haven’t tried this out yet, but would be interested to hear from anyone (journalist, or otherwise) who has.

And some links for you:

An interview with Jaan and Andreas on Social Media Club

37Signals: a site with tools for noded workers

9 Responses

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  1. Russell said, on July 18, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Makes absolute sense. And a simple bit of search engine research should also help to find those virtual colleagues, especially in far-off lands.

  2. Jaan Orvet said, on July 19, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Hi Adam,

    I enjoyed reading your post about our Noded concept in the context of journalism. My own background is in journalism and if there is one topic I will always fight for it is strong, independent media. If Noded can help journalists transition from the old way to the new way, well, I would be the happiest man on the planet.

    Please let me know if there is anything I, or Andreas and I, can help with as you explore Noded in journalism.

  3. Jon Moss said, on July 19, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    As Russell says, it does make sense. Having worked in the corporate environment for 11 years, it was a very closed, and constrained working environment. Most of the time, there were people who could do the work, the biggest challenge was working with people who you genuinely respected and trusted – a problem that was rarely overcome – way too many politicians and dithering, blinkered muppets😉

    The Noded concept is most powerful for me when working and collaborating with people who inspire me, are passionate about what they do and are experts in their field. We are all on the same page, learn from each other, and produce top results.

    A much, much better model.

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  8. Charlotte Britton said, on November 2, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Interesting to see how this principle works across so many sectors. I came across this concept on Twitter during Hull Digital Week and was intrigued as it’s a working style that I’ve adopted over the years. It’s obviously predominant in the IT open source community. So I was thinking there must be other industries and sectors this applies to. So it’s great to see that this way of working is being working.

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