Topix, Roboblogger Open Up Local News

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Topix, which is majority owned by traditional newspaper companies, is pushing to promote citizen journalism:

The cool thing about this plan is that it leveraged a lot of the good stuff we had already done. But the aggregation technology we had built would be redirected at assisting human editors, providing dashboards of candidate stories for them, and taking care of the boot-up and vacation problem. The new site would put people front-and-center, and people in our local forums had been driving all of our growth over the past year. And we were better positioned than anyone else to do this, we had millions of users and the seed content to boot it up.

How do the new areas get seeded? Roboblogger:

Anthropomorphize our existing technology into the roboblogger. This was a brilliant idea from one of our lead engineers. It simultaneously solves three problems: 1) Booting up a new city -- you need posting activity to draw the first editors. The roboblogger would give us that. But he is shy and gets out of the way if humans show up and take over a page. 2) If the community editors go on vacation, the roboblogger can step back in and take over while they're gone. 3) People know when a robot is editing the page vs. a human. His profile icon is a picture of a little tin-can robot. His handle is 'roboblogger'. No more confusion.