A few days ago Matt McAlister, the Guardian's director of digital strategy, invited me to join the private beta and have a look around. Here are eight things you should know about n0tice.
1) N0tice brings together elements of the traditional coffee shop noticeboard, a healthy dose of geolocation, and some pretty nifty personalisation options.
N0tice is a community forum where members can post three types of content: news reports, events, and offers. The content you see is arranged according to your location, and users can set up their own custom noticeboards within the community.
Besides custom sub-domains and some basic design tweaking (background, font, text color, etc), Matt explains in a blog post that on their own noticeboards, members will also have the option "to customise the content using some filters like following people, tags and locations, though that feature is still being developed."
2) Designed for mobile first and desktop second, n0tice is built on HTML5.
Thanks to HTML5, the experience of browsing and posting to the community is great, no matter which device you are using (I tested it on my MacBook Pro and Android Nexus S). This also means that your location can be automatically detected (if you allow it), so you arrive on a page with events, news, and offers sorted to within a five-mile radius of your whereabouts.
One drawback to the HTML5 build, however, is that it's currently not possible to upload a photo or video to go along with your n0tice post when using the mobile version.
3) This seems to be the Guardian's answer to Craigslist's utter domination of the online classified advertising space.
Classified sales used to be a major revenue stream for newspapers, but this has been in a steady downward spiral since Cragislist fundamentally changed that market when it emerged in the late 90s, offering a free online space for the public to post ads.
"The support n0tice provides should come in two forms: new approaches to open and collaborative journalism and new revenue streams," McAlister explained to HowDo.
4) The key difference between Craigslist and n0tice is the latter's inclusion of a "citizen journalism" aspect by allowing users to post local news as well as ads.
How exactly this potential new wealth of news content will be used by the Guardian in its newspaper and main website is still unclear. The Terms and Conditions state the usual legalese about "an unconditional, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free (unless otherwise agreed with us) worldwide licence to use, publish or transmit...your content in any format and on any platform."
When I asked Matt how the paper might take advantage of the n0tice community news, he responded, "We haven't developed any specific plans for integrating with Guardian products and services, yet. But it could be a really useful platform for some of our open journalism efforts."
5) The Guardian plans to make money from n0tice by allowing users to pay for premium posts for better visibility (similar to Twitter's promoted tweets).
For regular usage n0tice is completely free, whether you are browsing, posting news reports, or placing a basic ad.
For better ad placement, the FAQs explain how "Featured positions are sold based on region size and duration so, as an example, if you want to be certain of premium position on all pages displayed within a one mile radius the cost is £1 per day."
6) There are also plans to license the n0tice technology as a white label product.
Sarah Hartley, community strategist at the Guardian, told Journalism.co.uk that n0tice "could potentially work just as well for hyperlocal community bloggers in northern England as it could for cricket fans in India or birdwatching groups in Oregon".
The "community solutions" space is already packed full of competitors, even with outfits offering services specifically for the media like Citizenside (full disclosure: my work for Citizenside involves setting up strategic partnerships with media houses, and Matt and I worked on a past collaboration together). While many current offers are based around users sharing content, n0tice's new combined approach with classifieds, citizen journalism, plus an events calendar will likely be its unique selling proposition.
7) A game layer is involved, and there's space for badges on the profile page.
The use of game dynamics in news communities has become more and more prevalent as online operations begin to realise how powerful they can be for engagement when applied intelligently.
Matt explained to me how n0tice makes use of a badge and reputation system:
"We'll use the badges for some playful types of things that reinforce positive and constructive behaviour. We could obviously do things like offer badges for consistently submitting posts that the n0tice community finds interesting, for example. Those kinds of things will also help people develop a reputation on n0tice. Once that starts to take shape then we can improve information discovery for everyone on the network."
Here are some other examples of game dynamics used for citizen journalism as detailed by the Columbia Journalism Review.
8) The community moderates itself, and more.
There are some interesting ways for visitors to provide feedback on a report (that's what news items are called on n0tice), besides your standard "report abuse" button. Users can offer input in three categories (interest, importance, and accuracy) with a single click, making this first tier of engagement both extremely easy and potentially very useful. This information could be used by the Guardian to help sort what news from n0tice gets brought to the attention of its journalists for larger stories.
On the other hand, comments to reports are called "updates", which might actually prevent interaction from some readers. I've already experienced this myself, as I wanted to leave a note on a friend's post but refrained because I didn't consider it an update to the story. It will be interesting to see how that affects engagement.
Matt explained how these features are designed to require minimal involvement of Guardian staff. "We're tying to create a space where positive and constructive behavior is rewarded so that the community can take care of itself. Our job is to ensure that the platform is useful and that nobody gets hurt. Otherwise, we hope to stay out of the way." It is still too early to tell which of n0tice's uses will be best taken advantage of. One blogger from Manchester in the UK has begun using n0tice as a live blogging platform, reporting local political goings on through the beta community.
As a professional in the field of building communities around news organizations, I have to tip my hat to the Guardian's new initiative. N0tice nicely integrates the SoLoMo (Social Local Mobile) aspects that are all the buzz right now. At Citizenside, we believe that the 4th key element that's missing from many online news communities today is gaming, and so we often speak of our own SoLoMoGa approach. Judging by what Matt told me, the Guardian has plans to include some game dynamics too, making n0tice an exciting and well-rounded newcomer onto the scene.
Whether it gets picked up most widely as a location-aware Craigslist killer, or an organ for interest groups to organise with the communal events calendar, n0tice presents a new way for readers to interact in an online community, or, as Matt puts it, "a really really old one reinvented for the new world."