Over the last year or so, NPR has done a number of projects related to online communities and social networks, from Facebook to Flickr to Twitter. We'll continue to push further into services like these in a variety of ways, but we're also getting ready to bring it all back home with the launch of our own set of social networking tools on NPR.org.
Beginning the first week of October, we'll start rolling out a number of new features on the Web site:
User profiles. Visitors to the NPR site will be able to create a profile page for themselves. A profile page will let you upload an avatar, post a short bio and share your interests. This will also allow other users with similar interests to find each other. For example, if you say you're a fan of a particular band, you'll be able to click a link and see all the other people on NPR.org who like them as well. We'll also show you recent stories from the site related to that topic. Users will also be able to "friend" each other and post comments on each other's profile wall. We're also going to encourage NPR journalists and other staff to create their own profiles, so you can interact with them as well.
Discussion threads for all stories. Currently, discussion threads take place only on blogs, but we'll now have the ability to incorporate them in news stories. Each time a comment is posted, you'll be able to see the person's avatar, access their profile page, recommend their comment or even report it if you think it breaks the site's discussion rules. You can also sort the comments for each story by newest, oldest or most recommended. Meanwhile, site editors will follow the discussions to see what's taking place, so we can feature interesting comments either in the story itself, or even on the NPR homepage.
Story recommendations. Along with recommending comments in a given story, users will be able to recommend the story itself, not unlike the way you digg a story on Digg.com. This will let you explore stories on the site based on how often they've been recommended by the community.
Not too long after we roll out these features, we're also planning to launch a set of community tools not unlike groups on Facebook. We'll be able to set up community pages for shows and other NPR activities where users can start conversations in a discussion forum, upload photos and video, post event listings and the like.
We're really excited about rolling out these new features on the Web site. It's the latest step we've taken to open up the ways we interact with the public. NPR community members have always been eager to engage each other - just go to Facebook and take a look at the number of groups that have been created by members of the public. And we're eager to reach out to the public as well, using the Internet to foster new relationships between our journalists and the public. By creating new ways for that interaction to take place, we hope it'll impact the quality and diversity of our journalism in a positive way.