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A newspaper gets the crowd to do its dirty work

June 19, 2009

The MPs expense scandal is the political flavor of the month in the UK and set newspapers racing against each other to capture the story.

The Daily Telegraph has benefited most from the scandal because it broke the news is small chunks and put a dedicated team onto the story. This resulted in large circulation gains for the publication.

Not to be outdone, The Guardian has it’s own unique take on the story and instead of relying on its journalists to sift through the mountains of documents, it built a web application and invited “the crowd” to help.

“The application itself was developed at breakneck speed: coding
began on Thursday 11 June, and was complete – aside from ongoing bug
fixing as people began using it – by 3.30pm Thursday 18 June.

In the application, at,
each MP’s expenses and claims are presented as a set of images, and
users can determine – and detail – what entries there are on a page,
and decide whether the page is unimportant, interesting, “interesting
but known” – such as a duck island – or worthy of investigation.

half an hour of the launch, more than 2,000 pages had been reviewed.
Future additions to the application may include a “top analysis”
ranking for those who have contributed most to sifting the pages – a
task which the Telegraph’s team, despite having a three-month lead, is
not believed to have been able to achieve.”

We haven’t seen the end of this. I think it’s safe to assume that other publications and media outlets throughout the world, will be putting their source material up for access for the crowd. This alone is not especially interesting, but how the get to use the crowd, will be.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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