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Twitter photo sharing service Zuu.li to pay citizen photographers

Citizen journalism agency Citizenside has launched Zuu.li, a photo sharing service that offers those who take a newsworthy photograph to be paid a minimum of 50 per cent in commission.

“Conventional image-sharing services don’t give photographers a fair deal,” said Citizenside editor-in-chief Philip Trippenbach. “If you take a photo and share it through a conventional sharing site, you could see that picture published around the world, and not get a cent in fees or even a named credit.”

After a citizen photographer (if we can call them that) uploads a photo to Zuu.li and ticks a box saying “scoop”, the Citizenside newsdesk, which is based in Paris, monitors the feed and seeks to license any newsworthy pictures.

Citizenside carries out picture verification to ensure a photograph of an exploding volcano, crashed plane or train on fire is authentic. The agency then tries to sell the photographs on, including to the agency AFP, which it has a relationship with. Trippenbach told Journalism.co.uk they are working on ways to improve the speed and process of verification and hoping to use the community.

The citizen photographer is paid 65 per cent of the money Citizenside sells the picture for if it is published in the same country where the picture was taken; the photographer gets 50 per cent if it appears in a different country.

Philip Trippenbach on Zuu.li by Sarah Marshall

Trippenbach told Journalism.co.uk that Citizenside will “fight to get credits” for photographers so they are named by news outlets publishing their newsworthy photos.

We cannot be responsible for the publishing practices of newspapers or websites that we have no control over. However, credits are very, very important and it is our objective to make sure every picture that is published will have a named credit.

Zuu.li was due to be launched later this year but bosses decided to bring the beta launch forward after Twitpic, a photo sharing service, changed its terms and conditions resulting in some users believing Twitpic could sell on users’ photos without crediting or paying royalties to the person who took the picture. That took place shortly after Twitpic signed a deal with entertainment news agency WENN. Twitpic responded by apologising for any confusion and seeking to limit the damage to its brand by assuring users that the photographer always retains the copyright.

Android and iPhone apps are planned for Zuu.li, which will be launched after version two of Citizenside’s app, which will include a photo request service from editors looking for citizen journalists to provide specific photos.

Zuu.li launched on the same day as Twitter announced its photo sharing service. Trippenbach said it offers something different. “The thing that sets us a side is that we’re dedicated to a community of people who want to share images in a fair way,” he said.

“You take personal pictures and if you share them with your friends and contacts, you should be able to trust that they should stay personal. If you do want to see where they can go, see if they can get published and get paid for them then you should deal with the experts and Citizenside are the experts,” he said.

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Citizenside: Al Jazeera Talk blogger responsible for Facebook page that took down Mubarak

According to a video report from citizen press agency Citizenside, it was an Al Jazeera Talk blogger, a member of the Egyptian army, that created and managed the Facebook page central to the uprisings in the country.

So far only Google engineer Wael Ghonim has been credited with administrating the page.

In the video, Ahmed Ashour, managing director of Al Jazeera Talk, speaks to Citizenside editor-in-chief Philip Trippenbach.

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#ijf11: Playing at engagement and verification with Citizenside

Journalists, a lot of journalists in this room probably, recoil at the G word. “Oh you want to turn my really serious story into a game…

This was Citizenside editor-in-chief Philip Trippenbach speaking in an #ijf11 session earlier today called Beyond the Article.

Trippenbach has been trumpeting the benefits of gaming for journalism for some time now. He made a convincing case for gaming at a recent Journalism.co.uk news:rewired event called, coincidentally enough, Beyond the Story.

Trippenbach has worked on interactive projects for the BBC and a host of other outlets. But clearly the “G word” is still a long way from taking root with most journalists.

He made a convincing case again today. This time – having joined citizen press agency Citizenside in January – for the power of gaming for citizen journalism initiatives.

The most powerful interactive form is gaming, in terms of interactive journalism, that is where the win is. When you talk about gaming baked right into the heart of a package, that is very profound.

With the addition of Trippenbach to its staff, Citizenside is certainly baking gaming right into the heart of its operation, and he outlined how it is using the form for two key purposes.

Citizenside users are encouraged to progress from level to level by accomplishing certain tasks, or “missions”, just like you did when you played computer games as a kid (or maybe as an adult too – according to Trippenbach more people in Western Europe and North America play computer games than don’t, although I forgot to ask where he got the data for that one).

And just like those computer games, the missions at Citizenside get harder as you go along, with the early stages requiring you to capture a relatively easy-to-obtain image, and the latter requiring, say, a good image of a state leader or an important newsworthy event.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Trippenbach talked about was how the agency uses that points-based gaming system not just for engaging users, but to help  with assessment and verification of user-generated content, always a thorny issue for citizen press agencies.

If we get a picture from a level 35 user, well, it takes a long time to get to level 35 or 45, and the Citizenside editorial team know that that user has demonstrated commitment to our values.

So not only does the gaming element of the operation help engage users by breaking down their involvement into a series of incremental tasks and levels, it also is a huge advantage to Citizenside for an indication of the reliability of the content it is receiving.

If its someone who has submitted five packages and five of them have been refused, well, we know what that is, but if it’s someone with a 100 per cent record, well, fine.

We have a trust system that allows some users to post directly to the homepage and be post moderated.

As well as information about the user, Citizenside uses software to access data about the package itself.

This technical side of the verification process can potentially allows the agency to see whether an image has been edited in PhotoShop or uploaded to Flickr, and reveal when and where it was taken and uploaded.

I want to return to the issue of gaming and engagement quickly before I finish. However many journalists Trippenbach has seen turn their noses up at gaming, I have seen examples at this festival of gaming creeping in to some of the best and most popular mainstream journalism taking place.

Citizenside’s example of breaking the user engagement down into small, incremental stages has echoes in the Guardian’s MPs expenses app, which aimed to crowdsource the examination of the 458,000 documents published.

The app had two million hits in the first two days but, as the Guardian’s Martin Belam explained recently, users were unenthusiastic because the process hadn’t been broken down into achievable-seeming stages.

When a second batch of documents were released, the team working on the app broke them down into much smaller assignments. That meant it was easier for a small contribution to push the totals along, and we didn’t get bogged down with the inertia of visibly seeing that there was a lot of documents still to process.

So gaming doesn’t necessarily mean the fully-fledged computer games we play on a PlayStation, it can be the simple interactive engagement of the Guardian app, or the New York Times’ Budget Puzzle interactive in which you attempt to solve the deficit.

As Trippenbach acknowledged after the session, gaming is not yet taken seriously as a medium. But at Citizenside it may be the solution to the two key problems facing any citizen agency, engagement and verification, and for that reason you can bet that they take it very seriously.

See more from #ijf11 on the Journalism.co.uk Editor’s Blog.

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