Storytelling social media site Intersect unveiled

Intersect explainedFor the past couple of weeks I’ve been on a busman’s holiday in Seattle – getting some R&R but also dipping into the local tech scene.

During that time I’ve been exploring a storytelling, social network start-up called Intersect which has just come out of Beta.

At first glance it’s just another blogging platform but a second look reveals a number of interesting features that really mark it out as something different.

And the more I’ve used it the more potential I’ve seen for it to be harnessed for pro-am newsgathering.

One of the most interesting aspects is the way it deals with levels of privacy, an area that has bedevilled Facebook and Google.

Intersect allows its users to create their own private circles, mirroring the kind of complex social relationships we all maintain.

This fine-tuning of people into circles of, say, family, or close friends, acquaintances, work colleagues or business contacts, gives a much greater degree of control over who gets to see what you choose to publish.

It also makes use of place and time to create intersections between users’ stories.

For instance, it’s possible to see not just the stories that have been filed about a particular area, but also to define a time period to filter what you might be interested in.

In my case I’d been to the Evergreen State Fair and was keen to see who else might have been at this year’s show and what their impressions had been.

Seeing the world through other people’s eyes is always interesting, especially if it extends an experience we’ve had.

Now imagine what it would have been like to extend the timeline backwards to the 1950s and to hear stories and see pictures from the State Fair then and to reflect on what had changed – and what had stayed the same.

Intersect founder Peter Rinearson says stories are a big way we share, connect and remember.

“On Intersect, like in memory, stories live at the times and places we experience them, where they can reach out to people who cross our path.”

These threads of the past overlapping with the present open up all manner of serendipitous possibilities for discovery.

Rinearson likes to relate an example of someone finding a shoebox full of pictures in the attic, not knowing who is in them, posting them on the site and not only getting answers but possibly providing a third party with a treasured piece of information related to an image, or place, or time.

He wants Intersect to be a place where people tell stories that foster community connections.

The site has editorial staff selecting what they consider to be the best material for highlighting as Intersect Story Picks and this goes towards enhancing a contributor’s reputation.

It also has a borrow function in which a story you’ve found interesting can be borrowed and brought into your own timeline. The more times your own stories are borrowed the more your reputation is enhanced.

This reputational element could prove especially helpful for journalists when curating crowd-sourced content around an event or theme.

There’s also potential for seeding event coverage in advance, by finding who will be attending and, if they’re willing, adding them to a circle of contributors who can supplement journalists’ material.

It doesn’t have all the answers to the thorny questions over trust and objectivity of contributors but it’s the best example I’ve seen of a set of tools that might, just might, foster a new form of collaborative journalism between professional newsrooms and the people formerly known as the audience.

The site has $1.6m seed funding and its initial launch will be in the US only.


One comment

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