The idea to create an Ethical Information Group (GIS, Italian for Gruppo di Informazione Solidale) was born at the end of January 2017. It draws from the Ethical Purchasing Groups (GAS, Italian for Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale), from the
Cooperative Commons and the Platform Cooperativism concepts.
The GIS has five objectives:
- To provide a varied, balanced and genuine information diet
- To ensure fair compensation to those who produce high-quality information
- To avoid tracking and protect user data and meta-data
- To ensure transparency on filtering and selection algorithms
- To create an easy-to-replicate scheme from both the organizational and technical points of view.
The GIS will be managed by a nonprofit, apolitical association, open to all.
The members of this association with a continuous process of research, discovery and comparison will jointly define the sources of information (sites, blogs, magazines, magazines, newspapers …) they trust, and fund the subscriptions to access them if required.
The association will own and operate an IT platform (already partially operational) consisting of three pillars:
- An aggregator to gather and read news: https://notizie.calomelano.it, purpose-built by volunteers as an open-source tool, source code here
- A social component for quick comments: https://commenti.calomelano.it, based on the open source forum tool Discourse (http://www.discourse.org/)
- A blog to write longer texts if one has the time and the will: http://calomelano.it, based on the open source tool WordPress (https://wordpress.org)
The platform’s main access point is the first page of the aggregator (https://notizie.calomelano.it), which for anonymous users looks like a simple newsfeed of links roughly (but not exactly) ordered in chronological order (the most recent ones on top).
This public version offers a minimal service to anyone, but only by joining the association and logging on the platform you can get the most out of it.
Once you log in, the newsfeed becomes customized, showing only the news you still have to read, sorted by your criteria (preferences for certain sources, keywords …) and ranked on the basis of importance, as estimated by an algorithm under development.
Clicking on any news item in the newsfeed brings you to a copy of the article within the platform, although you can get to the source link if you wish; it also shows the translation (for articles in languages other than Italian), the comments section and a list of “similar articles”:
If you want to read offline, from the newsfeed you can generate an extract and download it or get it delivered to your email in one of several formats:
- html and txt : to read on smartphones
- pdf : to read on tablet and PC
- epub : to read on tablet or ebook reader (except Amazon Kindle)
- mobi : to read on ebook reader Amazon Kindle
The same extracts if desired can be sent by mail from the platform on a regular basis, as a newsletter.
Finally, any member after a lot of reading and commenting can feel the urge to write a longer, more elaborate text; for this purpose members can also post on the platform blog http://calomelano.it. The separation between comments (of a more volatile nature and visible to members only) and blog posts (public) is meant to make users feel the responsibility when “generating content”.
The volunteer “work” of the GIS members simply consists in using the platform to inform themselfves on a regular basis: browsing the newsfeed, reading what looks interesting based on title, author or source, expressing a positive or negative rating or even leaving a quick comment.
In the GIS, this volunteer work generates data (clicks, read times, ratings, and comments) that the platform collects and uses exclusively to rank the news.
This is the same volunteer activity and user-generated data that users often unknowingly contribute for the benefit of for-profit social network platforms.
Back to the aggregator, news are collected automatically by scanning all agreed information sources (including the own blog calomelano.it) at regular intervals, and also manually by members who can pinpoint select news from different sources.
Of all these news, the aggregator stores a degraded copy (without attachments, images, videos, etc.) so that they can be read, extracted and sent from within the platform, without any external tracking.
The platform is currently in prototype mode and the association is yet to be formalized. We certainly need hearts, minds, and hands. If you are interested request an account andparticipate !
[picture above: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license from Clagett Farm CSA Week 11 thebittenword.com]