Sunday, September 21, 2008

Use Case: RSS Readers as News Radars

Here's a current use case to track "events on the ground" through Feed Demon. There have been reported instances in the media recently of attempts to confuse or intimidate potential voters, particularly new or youth voters. College age voters are traditionally the most under-represented part of the electorate.

Whether it's due to cynicism or naivete a third more concrete factor (inexperience) makes this group prone to believing falsehoods and misleading statements aimed at creating doubt about their residential status. Ahem. So participation in their democracy will jeopardize their financial aid or even come back to haunt their parents during next year's tax season. What could be more American than not voting?

One way to monitor attempts at voter suppression around college campuses is to use a broadly descriptive search statement on Google News:

location:nh college students registration election

You'll find a piece of syntax snuck in here. It helps us focus exclusively on content sources on Google News originating from the Granite State. New Hampshire is my location of choice as the nearest swing state to me with area colleges signifying the swingiest of voting blocs.

You'll also note that the semantics of this search statement are not in anyway prejudicial or skewed towards a certain outcome. Any attempt to tune this search at the outset would overly constrain the result set (n=109) as of yesterday's test run. In other words a more effective content analysis occurs by introducing results-based logic once the feed appears in Feed Demon.

That's where you can construct "Watches" to pull instances of terms like:

* suppression
* fraud
* misleading
* confusion, etc.

...from the New Hampshire tracking folder where these hits reside.

Don't forget to sample several of the more questionable hits. They will acquaint you with terms you hadn't considered or steer you away from outcomes that are clearly off-the-mark from your search objectives.

The second stage of tweaking your RSS reader as news radar is to harvest the feeds sprouting from the sources included in your search results. Gathering up the list is easier than confirming each source's deployment or policy regarding RSS. The range is huge! Some papers package their outputs by sections of the paper. Some don't. Some dispense with RSS altogether, figuring that it will only cannibalize their beleaguered media empires.

There are a couple of alternatives to site hopping in search of the bright, orange RSS icon. One work-around is to include the inurl: syntax in the regular Google web search:

inurl:rss OR inurl:xml [insert semantics from Google News search] intitle:new intitle:hampshire

This workaround should get you a pre-confirmed list of feeds although it doesn't guarantee that they originate from ground zero live-free-or-eat-granite country.

Another way is to work from the colleges themselves as news sources. The very first hit I pulled yesterday yielded this list of Students for McCain backers by their academic institutions:

State Co-Chairs

Greg Boguslavsky -- Dartmouth College
Shaun Doherty -- Rivier College

University Chairs

Lianna French -- New England College
Joe Doiron -- New England College
Brendan Bickford -- New Hampshire Technical Institute
Trevor Chandler -- Plymouth State University
Brittany Puleo -- Rivier College
Julie Kraus -- Southern New Hampshire University
Regina Federico -- St. Anselm College
Allison Krause -- University of New Hampshire
Brandon Mancuso -- Franklin Pierce College
Dasha Bushmakin -- Keene State College
Ryan Dorris -- Daniel Webster College

In closing the follow-up would be to Google each college with the inurl syntax, filtering the pages that can be used to build your tracking folder in Feed Demon.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.