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Gathering content in a space you control: doubling down on #indieweb & journalism

Journalism and the indieweb were made for each other.

Because of the way we've been describing Known - particularly focusing on our ability to syndicate content to third-party social networks and important social interactions using brid.gy - we've received a lot of feedback that this is how we should describe ourselves as a business:

Known is a social media marketing application that allows marketing departments to justify ROI using aggregated data from audiences across multiple platforms

For all kinds of reasons, this isn't what we want to do. There are solid business reasons - social media marketing is a crowded market, for one - but there are deeper reasons, too. It's not why we got into this. It's not, on a fundamental level, what we're trying to do.

After all, this is how you could describe the product:

Known lets you own your own social website without having to give up talking to your friends on the web.

I believe in the indieweb as a movement that will empower people to own their own representations on the web. I know that will have broad implications over time, and that the success of these ideas and technologies will make a profound impact on the way the web works. I also think that running a commercial business based on indie web principles is a great thing.

I also think that certain groups of people are ahead of the curve when it comes to privacy and ownership - and journalists are very much among them.

There is a long-term trend towards greater ownership and privacy. Partially this is due to post-Snowden sentiment, but it's also driven by factors like generational differences, a growing commercial dissatisfaction with Facebook, and security breaches at companies like Target. Providing a service that is as easy to use as Facebook, while being respectful to its users, mindful of privacy, and yours, is a good idea. There will be a tipping point where people will be looking for something new, and we will be there for them, alongside other software in the indieweb ecosystem.

But there's also a growing need for this right now. Edward Snowden's whistleblowing was, of course, an important moment in journalism. We participated in a workshop run by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism on newsgathering in a post-Snowden world this week, and were inspired by the renewed focus on protecting sources and swiftly building stories, while being simultaneously dismayed by the lack of effective software to support them. Journalists value ownership, privacy, control and ease of communication - which, of course, are indieweb fundamentals.

We're investigating how Known, and the indieweb, can be effectively harnessed for journalism. This includes heavy research into the workflows people are using today. My experience with latakoo (which is used by professional newsrooms around the world) has told me that every organization is different - but then, my experience with Elgg tells me that it's possible to build a light-touch tool that allows people to customize it for their own needs. In fact, that's what Known already is, whether you take the open source code and build on top of it, or use the hosted service we'll launch this summer.

Journalism is fundamental to democracy. We need to know what's happening in the world around us to make effective democratic decisions. We're also living in a world where journalism is being pinched by changing models and rapidly evolving audiences. If we can help, we would love to.

If you're a journalist, or if you work in a media or news organization, we would love to talk to you. You can email me at ben@withknown.com.