Dan Gillmor's 'citizen journalism' project deflates

The future seems a little further away this lunchtime, when you read this open letter from Dan Gillmor, the guru of ‘citizen journalism’. I mentioned the other day that his Bayosphere project hadn’t ‘set the world on fire quite as we probably hoped’. I’d love to say I had an inside track on this landmark posting, but it was sheer coincidence (even though Dan used almost identical words!).

Many fewer citizens participated, they were less interested in collaborating with one another, and the response to our initiatives was underwhelming… Long discussions with potential partners — including several whose participation would have been game-changing in a journalistic and business-model sense — didn’t pan out.
I concluded that I could do more for the citizen journalism movement by forming a nonprofit enterprise, a “Center for Citizen Media” where I could put my skills and passion for the genre to better use — looking at lots of disparate elements and connecting the dots… The dots I’m connecting include Bayosphere… No promises here: But if we can keep Bayosphere going in a good way we’ll work hard to make that happen.

He doesn’t exactly say ‘the dream is over’, but it’s there to be read between the lines. I’m genuinely disappointed myself at this news, even if I did call it 24 hours early. I met Dan a couple of years ago, and found him truly inspiring. There’s no doubt that he’s a brave man, and he’s certainly on to something here. It’s a pity this wasn’t the breakthrough moment. But – if I can summarise his list of lessons learned – we’re going to need a bigger brand, with a more clearly defined product, to lead the charge.