AllVoices to Adapt Twitter's Method to Gather Global News

Last Updated Apr 15, 2009 4:06 PM EDT

As Twitter ascends to the stratosphere as the communications channel of choice -- and there's no stopping it now -- media types can't be blamed for wishing there were some easier ways to separate out, say, what our dear fellow Twitterers may have had for breakfast, from significant breaking news stories.

Now, there are ways, involving tags and such, but the barrier to entry is so far proving daunting to multi-tasking journalists and bloggers. What I, for one, have been wishing out loud about for a while now would be a Twitter News Channel.

So, along comes today with an interesting approch to this very issue. You may recall that we profiled AllVoices here a couple of months back. The company is run by a dynamic Pathan-American, Amra Tareen, and its mission is to create a global community for sharing news from anywhere in the world in a multimedia format that dispalys multiple points of view -- "free from the traditional editorial oversight and censorship characteristic of global media organizations."

Today, AllVoices announced that it now can accept a 160-character text news submissions, and algorithmically build a rich media context around that small snippet of information -- think of it as a news headline submitted by anybody, anywhere that triggers a multimedia event page supplied by AllVoices.

A particularly intriguing aspect of this service is its global nature. According to the company, around 80 percent of the globe is now covered by SMS access numbers, so users can text in a news submission from almost anywhere.

Meanwhile, AllVoices is attempting to overcome one of the blocks to seamless global communication, which is that there is no free cellphone network for the world. Accordingly, the company has secured several dedicated international SMS numbers for overseas users to submit their stories, as well as one central number ("VOICES" (864237) for use inside the U.S.

Erik Sundelof, who led development of the new service for AllVoices, explained to me in broad terms how the company's unique credibility ranking algorithms work. "First, we evaluate the reputation of the poster to see whether (s)he has supplied credible, popular content before. Second, we search and supply online news stories, blogs, and citizen journalism to provide context for this particular submission. Third, we rate the community interactivity things like views, ratings, comments, or added content."

Once AllVoices receives a news submission, it sends the user back a short "report code," which can be used to add more content to the story at hand, or to share it with his or her community.

As CEO Amra Tareen said today in a prepared statement: "More than three billion people around the globe carry a mobile device capable of capturing a live event and posting it to the web in real time. That alone has driven the citizen journalism phenomenon to the interest highs we're witnessing today. It's become increasingly clear people want breaking news delivered immediately, and with little editorial bias or interference."

Let's see: Twitter's character count constraint is 140 (for Tweets). AllVoices' is set to 160 (for news). Are we just possibly beginning to see the emergence of the virtual equivalent of radio frequencies for microbloggers?

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital,, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.