organizational diversity in information infrastructure

Providing network infrastructure need not be limited to a choice between the model of public roads and the model of selling soap. The provision of public roads depends on market transactions for a variety of goods (construction worker services, trucks, asphalt, etc). Selling soap depends on a variety of public services (money supply provision, law enforcement, public right-of-ways, etc.). Whether in India, Ireland, or Silicon Valley, initiatives to provide network infrastructure are making interconnections between different organizational forms more complex. Revenue models are expanding from taxes, subscription, and advertising to include a variety of public and private sponsorships, in-kind contributions, and special benefits for anchor users.

Impurity is a traditional human concern. In some circumstances, another name for public-private partnership is bribery and corruption. Failed and wasteful network infrastructure projects that involve governmental entities undoubtedly exist. For-profit network providers, who cannot fail without serious public effects, have made dire business mistakes and squandered huge amounts of money. Government entities’ judgments about the services that users value are not likely to be better than those that for-profit network providers have made.

Table 1
Libraries Founded in the American
Colonies and U.S. Prior to 1876
Organization Founding Library Num. of
Libraries
% of
Total
non-commercial civic library
organizations (social libraries)
3296 33%
non-commercial civic non-library org.
(churches, medical societies, etc.)
2327 23%
mixed form service organizations
(e.g. colleges, hospitals, asylums)
1081 11%
governmental and quasi-governmental
organizations (public libraries)
2423 24%
commercial organizations
(inc. commercial circulating libraries)
663 7%
misc., other hybrid,
and unknown organizations
242 2%
Source: McMullen (2000), p. 59

The history of libraries in the U.S. suggests that organizational diversity can have enduring value in information infrastructure. In the American colonies and the United States prior to 1876, most organizations that founded libraries were neither government bodies nor commercial organizations. A wide variety of organizations established libraries (see Table 1). The most commonly created form of library was a social library:

a library owned by an association formed to establish and operate a library intended for its members’ use. Usually, the members subscribed for stock in order to purchase the initial collection, which was general in subject matter. Then they were assessed a smaller sum (a “tax”) each year to keep up the collection.[1]

Public libraries, meaning libraries that government bodies owned and made open to all or most citizens without a specific-purpose charge, began to grow only from the mid nineteenth-century. As late as 1900, about as many social libraries existed in the U.S. as did public libraries (see Table 2).

Table 2
Number of Functioning
Social and Public Libraries
Type Year
1850 1875 1900
social libraries 508 1154 944
public libraries 51 404 963
Source: McMullen (1985) p. 215.

Public libraries had different characteristics than social libraries. Smaller populations and more recently settled areas favored social libraries, while larger populations in cities with a longer history favored public libraries. Social libraries had typical lifespans about thirty-five years, with considerable variance.[2] Public libraries tended to be more permanent organizations that endured in organizational form through jurisdictional consolidations. Public libraries had a more secure base of funding and grew in size relatively rapidly. Across the last twenty-five years of the nineteenth century, public libraries came to predominate among the largest libraries (see Table 3). These historical facts are consistent with general comparative organizational characteristics: compared to social organizations, government organizations are more difficult to establish and require more developed government administrative capabilities, government organizations are more enduring, and government organizations are more favorable for organizational growth. Shifts in library organizational forms were in part a response to changing demographic and political circumstances.

Table 3
Top-1% Libraries By Size:
Social and Public Libraries
Type Year
1850 1875 1900
Number of Top-1% Libraries
social libraries 4 10 4
public libraries 0 7 14
Books in Top-1% Libraries (in 1000s)
social libraries 162 783 844
public libraries 0 716 3,229
Source: McMullen (1985) p. 215.

Different organizational forms, however, interacted significantly. Social libraries and public libraries coexisted as important forms of library organization for more than half a century. Through at least 1875 and possibly into the beginning of the twentieth century, social libraries were widely regarded as a valuable form of library organization.[3] Some public libraries evolved from the buildings and collections that social libraries established. In the 1930s, more than a sixth of all “public” libraries in cities with population 30,000 or greater were libraries for which “the library society and the town government shared control in a manner that makes it difficult to know how power was divided between the two bodies.”[4]

selling books in public library

In a long-run international historical perspective, the U.S. has had a relatively highly developed information economy. New organizational forms for book sharing, network infrastructure, and telephone service are not just necessary entrepreneurial experiments in rapidly changing technological circumstances. Diversity in the organizational forms of its information infrastructure has been an enduring characteristic of the U.S. information economy. Organizational diversity may be a key to growth of the information economy.

* * *

Notes:

[1] From “Definition of Types,” American Libraries Before 1876, Davies Project.

[2] McMullen (1985) p. 214.

[3] Id. pp. 218-20.

[4] Id. p. 223.

References:

McMullen, Haynes (1985), “The Very Slow Decline of the American Social Library,” Library Quarterly, vol. 55, no. 2, pp. 207-225.

McMullen, Haynes (2000), American Libraries Before 1876 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press).

science in action: the trireme Olympias

A great way to study the ancient Greek trireme is to build one. Frank Welsh, a trireme enthusiast and funder, John Morrison, an ancient historian, and John Coates, a former British naval architect, established in 1982 the Trireme Trust with the following objectives:

  1. To resolve a long-standing controversy about the design of this historically important type of ship
  2. To discover its true performance at sea
  3. To enable the realities of sea power at that time to be understood
  4. To draw attention to the maritime and technical skills which were the keys to the cultural achievements and lasting influence of ancient Athens.

The Trireme Trust and Greek shipbuilders worked together to build an ancient Greek trireme. In 1987, the full-scale, fully functionally trireme Olympias was ready to be commissioned into the Greek navy and taken out for its first sea trials around the island of Poros.

trireme Olympias under sail

I was part of the crew that rowed the Olympias in its first sea trial in the summer of 1987. The crew was collected mainly from British universities. We stayed for a couple of weeks in the Greek naval officers school on Poros. Being on the crew of an ancient Greek warship undoubtedly included great hardships and suffering. But by 1987, that job made for a very good time.

The trireme has 170 rowers arranged in three tiers: thranites (top tier), zygians (middle), and thalamians (bottom). I was a thalamian. Because the seats were fixed wooden benches, the effort of rowing was shifted towards the arms and back compared to boats with slides (rolling seats). From where I sat I couldn’t see the water nor feel any breezes coming across the boat. The rowing section leaders and master would shout out instructions, and I could see and feel the rhythm of rowers both in front of me and above me.

crew rowing trireme Olympias -- first sea trial

Being down in the boat has advantages and disadvantages. It was hot. I drank a lot of water and sweated it out. Arranging fresh water supplies must have been a major challenge. Being a thalamian wouldn’t be a good position for being rammed by another trireme. But it would be a great position in winter, or in battle with projectiles flying.

The boat itself is an engineering marvel. John Coates, the architect, would climb around the boat, fixing various broken parts, and talking with rowers. You can find more pictures of the boat here. That the Greeks could build hundreds of these boats 2500 years ago is amazing. That the Greeks and the Brits could together rebuild one based on scraps of archaeological and textual evidence is astonishing. I remember Mr. Coates saying that the design constraints implied much of the design.

bow view of trireme Olympias under sail

We rowed the boat through a variety of test maneuvers. One was was to accelerate to full speed and hold that speed for a short period. Another was to reverse direction quickly and turn sharply. Given that no one had any experience, and given the difficulties of coordinating 170 rowers, the boat performed amazingly well.

A recent study has analyzed the power output of trireme crews. The study found:

rowers of ancient Athens – around 500BC – would had to have been highly elite athletes, even by modern day standards.

Says Dr Rossiter: “Ancient Athens had up to 200 triremes at any one time, and with 170 rowers in each ship, the rowers were clearly not a small elite. Yet this large group, it seems, would match up well with the best of modern athletes. Either ancient Athenians had a more efficient way of rowing the trireme or they would have to be an extremely fit group. Our data raise the interesting notion that these ancient athletes were genetically better adapted to endurance exercise than we are today.”[1]

This is an interesting finding. The historical record seems diverse enough and clear enough to rule out performance exaggeration or misreporting, an issue that always should be considered carefully. Perhaps some subtle difference in ship design made a huge difference in performance. That seems highly unlikely.

Were the ancient Greeks genetically better adapted to endurance exercise than persons around the world today? Note that “persons around the world” is the relevant comparator, because the market for athletic performance today is globalized. No negative selection for endurance seems plausible for all human beings around the globe over the past 2500 years. Genetic differences, it seems to me, isn’t a plausible explanation.

Trireme crew performance is puzzling. I personally believe in the potential of modern athletes.

Update: The trireme crew’s t-shirt shows the different oar shapes for the rowers at different levels in the boat.

Update 2: Freely available on the web: John Morrison, “British sea trials of the reconstructed trireme, 1–15 August 1987,” Antiquity 61 (1987): 455-9.

* * *

[1] Quote from Leeds University Press Release. These findings are also reported in Stephanie Pain, “When men were gods,” New Scientist, Feb. 10, 2007, pp. 46-7. That article provides a few additional details. It notes that ancient writers consistently indicate that triremes crews could row at 13-15 kilometers per hour for 16 hours or long. Modern measurements indicate that 30% of the crew’s power output is lost. But even with 100% power efficiency, the crew could not achieve ancient performance. The New Scientist article is not scholarly documentation of the study. Such documentation apparently is not yet available.

new frontiers in advertising business models

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, recently honored as Bureaucrat of the Month, has identified advertising-funded business models as Microsoft’s top concern:

Today, the big phenomenon that we can embrace – the big fat thing for us to think about, embrace, endorse, compete with – is what does ad-funding mean? Whether it is for search, or whether it is for business-services, or whether it’s for other online services, what does that funding mean as a competitive business model and do we embrace it as is? Do we modify it? Do we just compete with it, with more of a transaction or subscription model? But how we deal with that is a Job One issue.

Advertising spending as a share of GDP has been relatively constant across large changes in media. This past constancy provides useful background for thinking about innovations in advertising business models.

Google targets textual ads to moment-specific user desires indicated by user search queries. Demographic and interest segmentation and targeting has long been a central concern in the advertising business. Targeting advertising based on search queries effectively segments individual persons. Ads depend on what you want right now.

Less noticed has been innovation in another direction of advertising. Brand advertising typically has depended on expensive, mass-media ad campaigns. Online marketing campaigns, in contrast, depend on more diffuse patterns of example and influence. New sorts of online advertising relationships, such as pay per post, sponsorship of bloggers, or endorsements by bloggers, require working out norms of integrity, respect for personal relationships, and fair disclosure. But the challenge of working out online advertising norms shouldn’t be exaggerated. Logo-branded clothing typical requires users to pay extra to advertise fashions in their daily interactions with others. That’s not even controversial. Ethical online brand advertising is likely to be a major advertising growth area.

Consider, for example, Life of a Farm blog. As Jonathon Trenn notes, the blog offers the authentic voice of Joel Combs, a small farmer, describing details of his life. Joel uses a Mahindra tractor. Mahindra Tractors clearly sponsors the blog, which is hosted on a Mahindra domain and includes a Mahindra logo on the right. Mahindra Tractors’ connection with Joel through this blog speaks to how they understand who they are as a company and contributes to the meaning of their brand. At the same time, each post seems to include at least one link to Mahindra Tractors. Those links don’t detract at all from the personal quality of the posts. But it seems to me that the brand value of the Life of a Farm blog is not in its explicit links, but in bringing Mahindra’s brand into the real life of a particular person.

This is the sort of guy who uses a Mahindra tractor:

Unfortunately my Chevy truck is on the fritz. The stupid thing will just die on you for no reason. It may go a mile or 30 miles then usually starts right back. I suspect it is the PMD (Pump Mounted Driver) on the injector pump. $389 new, wow that hurts! I’m seriously considering changing brands when I get it fixed. I have always been a GM guy, but I don’t think I will ever own another GM diesel truck. That kind of puts me in a bind though because I absolutely worship Trans Ams and I can’t see driving a Ford or Dodge truck and a completely opposite brand car. I’m sure Mustangs are fun to drive like TAs, but I like the T-tops and 6 speed tranny in the TA. Not to mention that thing still runs great at 187,000 miles.

This guy also loves a Mahindra tractor. That’s an impressive endorsement of Mahindra Tractors.

reality sports

Forget about the Tour de France, the World Cup, and the Super Bowl. More extreme than extreme sports are reality sports. Check out, right here, exclusive coverage of the 2006 Galbi Brothers’ 800-Meter Challenge. Will the Duke Varsity Letterman once again lose? Will the Lanterne Rouge Star once again lead the field? You’ve gotta watch to find out!

For more exciting sports action, check out last year’s epic race.

Carnival of the Bureaucrats #7

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s Chief Executive Officer, is an inspiration to bureaucrats world-wide. The recipient last year of a 25-year service pin from Microsoft, Ballmer has been in the middle of immensely important developments. With Microsoft’s software, a large chain of managers can rapidly exchange edits to a document describing the feature set of an animated paper clip. Every day Microsoft’s software helps bureaucrats to process a much larger volume of documents than they would otherwise be able to handle.

Ballmer exemplifies the passion for an organization that distinguishes outstanding professional bureaucrats. What matters is not just who you are or what you do, because you know that you’re good and that you’re important. But what you really love is more than yourself. In the words of this month’s Bureaucrat of the Month, “I have four words for you: I LOVE THIS COMPANY!”

[if you don’t see the video, try here]

Jon Swift asks, “Who Needs Books?” Books are handy for propping open a door, giving your kid a bit more height at the kitchen table, and supplying emergency bath tissue needs. Neatly standing at attention on a bookshelf, books provide intellectually impressive room decoration (book titles also provide learned decoration for blog posts). Unfortunately, many government reports aren’t bound and issued as books. Government reports should be treasured nonetheless. More harmless satire? Mr. Swift, think again.

Corey discusses “The Problem With Anarchy (Short Version).” Corey observes:

People do not care about one another enough to live in a society where there is no government to be there for them. As depressing as that may be, it is true.

Cheer up! Government bureaucrats care about you. That’s why you’re in this carnival.

Leon Gettler observes, “The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seems to have lost tens of millions of dollars through improper and fraudulent payments, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.” The Government Accountability Office is a government agency. Once again government bureaucrats are saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

Jack Yoest at Reasoned Audacity describes an astonishing educational initiative:

So instead of running away from the problem, my wife and I [the Amoses] decided to do something about it directly. My son brought home three boys, who needed the kind of support that our family could provide, and what we did was adopt them. And over an 11 year period we adopted 87 children into our home. We sent 73 kids to college, 61 have graduated from college, 14 have advanced degrees. I spent about $600,000 of my own money on this effort, another $400,000-some from Xerox, over a million dollars we’ve pumped into the D.C. public schools, prior to anything they’re doing with charter schools

But local government needed education too. Especially on the Amos no-nonsense business approach to solving problems on kids and schools. When the city children’s agency knocked on his door asking for his license to work with all the children (quietly studying) about his house — Amos shows them his driver’s license. The bureaucrats were not amused, but were eventually persuaded.

“I don’t need a license to raise my kids,” Amos told me as he tells the story. And he is right.

While those with questions about educational licensing should contact another bureau, I personally agree that Amos is right. A family with 87 kids requires a great wealth of love. Moreover, running that size household is an impressive bureaucratic achievement. For the record, Steve Ballmer just barely edged out Kent Amos for this month’s Bureaucrat of the Month.

In the midst of a recent blog kerfuffle about public relations (PR), Shel Holtz declares:

For me, one of the great frustrations of working in the PR profession is the number of people who think they understand it without the benefit of any background in it. Public relations is a field in which scholars devote their lives to researching models and theories. You can earn a doctorate in PR. The field of PR research has exploded to align effort with results. Associations collect volumes of case studies and analyses. The body of literature that comprises the study of PR is vast and rich.

Yet there is no shortage of people who have never studied the business, never read a single textbook, never attended a single workshop, who are ready and willing to tell the profession how to do its job.

Whether they have an advanced degree in public affairs or decades of experience, government bureaucrats regularly encounter exactly this situation.

Gary Becker, in a critique of libertarian paternalism, asserts:

Even best-intentioned government officials should be considered subject to the same bounds on rationality, limits on self-control, myopia in looking forward, and the other cognitive defects that are supposed to affect choices by us ordinary individuals. Can one have the slightest degree of confidence that these officials will promote the interests of individuals better than these individuals do themselves?

Yes. I have a high degree of confidence in hardworking, conscientious government bureaucrats.

Remarking, “Just something I heard two bureaucrats saying and thought of you all!” the Gnome reports:

Today, in the lift of a large council building he heard the following alarming news… “The bollard situation has now become critical – there are some people in this council who are working against us.”

A critical bollard situation? What could that be? Too many? Too few? The wrong kind? Is there a government appointed bollard tzar handling this critical issue on our behalf? Can we expect a bollard hotline to be set up, similar to the much lamented cone hotline initiative by the failing Major government of 1997?

Good questions. Citizen involvement contributes to good government. Ask not what government bureaucrats will do for you, but how you can help government bureaucrats to do what you want them to do.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of the Bureaucrats. Submit your blog article to the next edition using the Carnival submission form. Submissions should conform to the Carnival regulations. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the Carnival index page.

reverse caching saves trees

Energy is a significant cost of running data centers. Over a three-year operating period at typical U.S. power costs, a server’s acquisition cost is about equal to its power cost.[1] One documented estimate puts the annual power cost of U.S. data centers at two billion dollars in 2003.[2] IT power costs should be incorporated into a sensible evaluation of IT budgets and considered in energy policy.

Reverse caching can significantly reduce data center energy costs. At the State of the Net Conference this past Wednesday, Dick Sullivan of EMC stated that 70% of data on high-performance drives in data centers hasn’t been touched in the past ninety days. Caching traditionally moves some currently relevant data to relatively fast memory. Reverse caching goes the other way. Moving data unlikely to be used to energy efficient storage (a kinetically idle or unplugged drive, or a dismounted tape) saves significant costs.

At the far end of reverse caching are major issues of digital preservation. Reverse caching puts digital preservation into a framework of shorter-run operation and maintenance issues. That may be a valuable management reform. Digital preservation is probably a larger business opportunity than reverse caching. Reverse caching might help to make digital preservation more prominent in (short-run) management strategy.

Update:

1) I fixed a few mistakes in the earlier version of this post.

2) Chuck’s Blog has a good discussion of data center power usage.

3) Jonathon Koomey, with AMD sponsorship, has recently estimated total server power consumption in the U.S. in 2005 as 45 billion kWh. That represents 1.2% of total U.S. electricity consumption, about the same amount of power that color televisions consume (Koomey (2007), p. i). At an electricity cost of $60 per MWh, that power costs $2.7 billion. Koomey’s server power estimate includes power for cooling and auxiliary equipment associated with servers. It doesn’t include data storage and network equipment power, which Koomey suggests accounts for 20-40% of data center power consumption (see p. 2). Koomey’s server power estimate also does not include power for custom-built servers. Google’s custom-built servers, if included, might increase the total power consumption figure by 1.7% (see p. 3).

Koomey, Jonathan G. (2007), Estimating Total Power Consumption by Servers in the U.S. and the World (pdf), Final Report, Feb. 15.

[1] The Real Story about Dynamic Smart Cooling, Fact 1, citing HP, Christopher Malone, PhD, Christian Belady, P.E., “Metrics to Characterize Data Center & IT Equipment Energy Use”, Digital Power Forum, Richardson, TX (September 2006).

[2] Jeffrey S. Chase, Darrell C. Anderson, Prachi N. Thakar, Amin M. Vahdat, Ronald P. Doyle, “Managing energy and server resources in hosting centers,” ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles, Proceedings of the eighteenth ACM symposium on Operating systems principles, Banff, Alberta, Canada, 2001, pp. 103 – 116, (available pdf). Citing Jennifer D. Mitchell-Jackson, Energy Needs in an Internet Economy: A Closer Look at Data Centers, Master’s thesis, Energy and Resources Group, University of California at Berkeley, July 2001. This estimate used a power cost of $100 per MWh. Where power supply costs are higher, the power consumption cost of a server would be proportionally greater.

Adrienne #1!

The pinnacle of life.

[if you don’t see the video, try here]

Originally the video had a better soundtrack that used two short excerpts from copyrighted songs from albums that I purchased several years ago. Since the use of short excerpts of a copyrighted song in a non-commercial video made available on a personal website is highly controversial under copyright law, I deleted my original soundtrack and replaced it with the present one.

Given that I spent significant time to make this video, I would have been willing to spend a small amount of money to get rights for non-commercial use of the song excerpts in a video posted only on my personal blog. One song used words and melody from “Happy Birthday,” which itself is a copyrighted work. Not sure how to sort that one out.

The website of the group that recorded the other song had a FAQ on song use that pointed fans to a licensing site. The licensing regime is very complex. In addition, the licensing site notes, “EMI does not allow their songs or recordings to be used on the Internet in any form.” The licensing body encourages potential customers to send them a written proposal. It explains:

Due to the high volume of requests, the amount of research involved as well as the various levels of approval your request will have to go through, it may take 4 to 5 weeks for you to receive your license, which will be sent regular mail. We are unable to respond directly to each request as they come in. Rest assured, we will process your request as quickly as possible.

Of course they will. That’s why they use regular (snail) mail!

Telephone companies could teach music licensing bodies a lot about customer service.

ferrous mashups

A great thing about a bike is that it comes with major user rights. Public display, public performance, sharing with friends, adaptations, derivative works, mashups — you’ve got the rights. Alabama folk artist Butch Anthony took advantage of this wonderful freedom to create a vibrant design for a new bicycle rental kiosk at the corner of 19’th and N. Moore in Rosslyn, Virginia.

flower wheels sculpture

From a plaque at the site:

Butch Anthony takes his inspiration from society’s castoff metal parts found in junkyards, backyards or the side of the road. A self-taught artist who hails from Seale, a small town on Alabama’s eastern border with Georgia, Anthony’s style of working is grounded in rural southern traditions of making do with what the environment provides.

You can see more of Butch Anthony’s work at his Museum of Wonder.

bike rental kiosk

The bicycle below, which I saw in the nearby Gateway Park during the Rosslyn Jazz Festival, is the fully functional work of a local folk artist. Arts are alive in Arlington County!

bicycle useful art

localism in news reporting

Localism is now attracting considerable attention in media business strategy. Stephen Gray of the Newspaper Next project observes:

It’s becoming a truism these days that “local” is the core value proposition for newspapers.
The reasoning goes like this: With tons of national and international news and other non-local content available free online, “local” is the one thing a local newspaper can do better than anyone else.

Gray emphasizes compiling a wide variety of local information:

How often do you wish you knew where to buy something locally? What contractor, plumber, doctor, lawyer or mechanic you could trust? What you or your family could do on the weekend for fun? How to help with your daughter’s algebra assignment? What’s the best pizza joint, Thai restaurant, dry cleaner, etc.? Where the cool parties are? (Yes, much of this is age-dependent.) What’s a good elder care or child care solution? Whether there’s a traffic jam right now on the expressway home?

While much valuable information has a local aspect, local information isn’t a good concept for bounding a media business. Local traffic data, like local geographic data that Mapquest and Google Maps offer nationally, is associated with objective technical problems of acquisition, database organization, and query services. “Where the cool parties are?”, in contrast, is information inextricably intertwined with social relations of the sort that friending functions support in social networking sites. In another business direction, identifying a trustworthy service supplier is a reputation management problem of the type that Ebay and Amazon rating systems address. The way and extent to which local information is embedded in local personal relationships matters a great deal for a media business.

Traditional local newspapers’ comparative advantage is in making news. Making news means defining what’s publicly important. Putting you, your friends, schoolmates, workmates, and neighbors into the newspaper makes the newspaper more interesting to you.

Citizen journalism is not the same as hyperlocal news reporting. Orato bills itself as “True Stories from REAL People: Featuring FIRST PERSON, Citizen Journalism from Around the World.” In a post entitled “The Scoop on Citizen Journalism,” Paul Sullivan in Orato’s editor’s blog observes:

Today, as the Pickton trial begins, Orato is coming off its highest traffic week ever. Most of it, we’re sure, comes from recent media play over our decision to give ex-sex trade workers Trisha Baptie and Pauline VanKoll an opportunity to report on the Pickton trial [the trial of a man accused of killing 26 Vancouver women, most associated with sex-for-money transactions with a large customer set]. I guess you could say we’ve made a great leap forward, but after a 15-second self-applied pat on the back, it’s clear to me, and no doubt, to the small army of citizen journalists who regularly visit and contribute to this site, that we’ve got a long way to go.

This is the sort of story and reporting that would be extremely valuable to traditional national news organizations. Measured with respect to journalistic ideals, neophyte journalists can totally outperforming highly experienced, resource-rich, professional journalists. Among Louisiana folk storytellers, “true stories” is a term of art in the art in which they excel.

Yourhub is an excellent example of innovative, hyperlocal news reporting. In a recent top story, Ann Himel reports:

Cabin fever hits in less than 12 hours for me, but I waited it out without maiming any of my family members in order to venture into the depths of snow today, Thursday, December 21, 2006.

Dateline, Littleton, CO: Ann Himel and her two companions, daughter Catherine and faithful Labrador Rocky, ventured outside in (not quite) the worst blizzard on record to clear a path to freedom. Where will they go?

The best stories from Yourhub are published each week in a printed newspaper delivered to subscribers of the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. This is like the idea of a placeblog, or neighborhood networking, married to an important physical news reporting form and distribution system. It’s news provided on real (dead) wood that has endured many seasons of weather.

Hyperlocal news reporting faces some significant challenges. Only a small share of citizens are likely to be interested in writing news stories, although a larger share would be interested in reading them. Professional journalists need to figure out how to expand efficiently the personal scope of their coverage and how to encourage and work with citizen journalists. Generating sufficient volume of hyperlocal news stories and distributing them to interested persons are significant business challenges. In addition, policies for hyperlocal news reporting need to be discussed and considered rationally. These are challenges that traditional local media are best positioned to meet.

Business models and policies for hyperlocal news reporting are just starting to be explored. Localism is a potent issue in U.S. national communications regulation. With new communication technologies, localism in communication is likely to become more important to many more persons and local organizations.