Friday, June 06, 2008

Former Editor's Letter

Colin Kennedy is one of the big brains behind the very excellent (disclosure, ditto is a Bauer Consumer Media project and one I'm glad to help out from time to time).

Ditto puts the role of the editor in the hands of the crowd.

Colin was once the editor of one of BCM's great magazines. Interesting then to understand his journey.

Here's the letter he's written to the Ditto community. You can find it on the ditto blog, too - where you can read it with all the links intact!

"In another life, I used to be a professional entertainment critic. At one point, I was Editor-In-Chief of Empire, the British movie magazine, and its website

"I also spent some time developing a new entertainment magazine, but before it even had a chance to fail something called web 2.0 happened – the crowd got wise, the long tail wagged, the world went flat etc. etc.

"In short, it became clear to even old hacks like me that the entertainment guide of the future would require a very different solution.

"For the last eighteen months or so, I’ve been working on how to create what we’re now calling a ’social entertainment guide’. A best of both worlds solution - an entertaining entertainment guide read by the masses, created and edited by thousands of experts (this means you).

"There are more revolutionary solutions to entertainment recommendations of course: toolbar widgets that can capture your taste or gadgets that can scan your desktop – some are great, some are Skynet scary. But I feel strongly that there is a still a role for the relatively old fashioned way: the best staff in the world, working on the best entertainment guide.

"This isn’t simple nostalgia. There are things that an algorithm simply can’t compute - like who was the greatest Bond villain. And there are things that a hard sell online shop has no interest in ranking, like what was the best album title EVER.

"These are the kinds of lists that give all the best magazines 'soul’ and we proudly carry on that tradition here because I believe accidental discovery to be the most thrilling of all. And because it’s fun.

"Ditto definitely has to be fun because (beyond eternal glory) there are few rewards awaiting those who contribute. I could wax lyrical about the ‘personalised recommendations’ we can make once we have profiled your taste and how hard our developers have worked to make contribution effortless, but honestly, the best reasons to vote on our lists is a) it’s fun and b) it really matters - on Ditto every vote counts.

"We may be a very small democracy at the moment but we are built to scale - our existing entertainment catalogues are huge and they are only the beginning. (Organising YouTube comes next.)

"So basically, we’ve got big dreams and little to offer early adopters, but at least we’re not the first: when Jimmy Wales asked his friends to write the first contributions to Wikipedia, I believe he asked. “Humour me”. That’s about right.

"I don’t know if it’s even possible to create a Wikipedia of personal opinion - miracles seldom happen twice - but if you ‘humour me’ for the moment I will personally promise to do everything I can to make your choices really count.

"Besides, the way I see it - sooner or later, someone will create a new type of entertainment guide that covers the best of absolutely everything - might as well be us.

"And if we don’t quite get there… well, we can always try again after ‘Web 3.0’ - the inevitably disappointing threequel."


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?