Spot.Us: Building a Plan to Release the Kraken!

Note: The most important link is this Google Form where we are asking YOU for feedback/goals/etc. As always to stay more current on Spot.Us development check out our blog (recently redesigned). will have occasional updates but otherwise will remain my personal blog to rant and rave.

Spot.Us recently had its second community advisory board meeting at Tech Liminal. We experimented with making the meeting more open by invitingnew interns, volunteers and people in the community, so that we could have an open discussion about setting goals. We felt it was important to get as much input into this process from different community members in order to create a conversation about the direction of as an organization.

On the agenda: mapping out where we wanted to be in three months from now until we reach September 15, 2009. We received a lot of amazing and useful points to consider and are eternally grateful to our Advisory Board. Keep reading to learn more about what we hope to accomplish and how you can help shape our future.

Below is a quick recap of what we’ve accomplished and  the goals for the next three months, without any particular priority. We want you to help us prioritize them.

Are these the goals and activities we should undertake?
Is there an outside the box goal or activity we left on the cutting room floor?
Let us know via the simple Google Form at the bottom of this post.
You can also express your interest/vote for one of the goals that we have already put down.

  • What we’ve accomplished:

We’ve proven the concept of “community funded reporting.” The tricky part will be if we can build the platform and concept into a sustainable organization over the course of the next 1.5 years. Spot.Us has been labeled a “media darling” and, as alluded to in the six month “State of the Spot,” the challenge is to see if we can become a “media force.”Key to this, we believe, will be transparency – hence this post. This is a community site. The road to success is paved by including you in everything we do and how we create a viable and replicable model for journalism. So while the experiment continues, we do have to take root in firmer ground regarding what practices work and which ones need to rethought or reconfigured.

Mission Statement: To fund local, independent, original reporting.
(You thought we were selling shoes, huh?)
Goal: To Grow the community and launch Operation “Release the Kraken”


Activities to achieve the goal:

  • To create a bloggers network, like the East Bay Bloggers Network, that will the Spot.Us community grow and take root in the community’s flowerbed.
  • To build a volunteers corps, the “Kraken” of raw people force, that can move and support reporting projects, organizational development and more.
  • Create more opportunities for On/Offline socializing: The site doesn’t let folks interact. (This is also included under site development).
  • Highlight donation of talent so that volunteers can donate their skills and knowledge:  (This is also included under site development

    Goal: To create a business development plan.

Young speaker at a meeting

Activities to achieve the goal:

  • Work on a business plan. Our meeting and this post are intended to be step one in a five-step process to create a more solid business plan.
  • Create more infrastructure (what does this even mean?) Organizational structure of Spot.Us?
  • Make the Spot.Us model replicable and scalable. Asses the ability to replicate what Spot.Us does.
  • Assess cost per story: how much time does each story require from an organizational standpoint?
  • Marketing plan and brand: The marketing plan will emerge from a business plan, but should have a more organized marketing plan. Editorial Note: David is always skeptical here, but a little organized marketing never hurt. So far we have been pure word of mouth and David’s shameless self-marketing.
  • To develop an expansion plan and come up with expansion criteria for the next cities to launch Spot.Us.
  • Micro-payment in other forms: Let people donate regularly instead of to just to a story.
  • Come up with a money and funding plan to support the organizations activities.

Goal: To fund more independent stories.


Activities to achieve the goal:

  • Manage our relationships to get the most out of them for our activities. (See “Grow community” activities.)
  • To create a story workflow and standards – a more standardized process.
  • To create or support journalism training programs that provide skills to Spot.Us freelancers and reporters to deliver their product.
  • Put out a paper product, perhaps by using Printcasting, or partnering with more papers or bloggers to deliver a print version.
  • Create and invest in more “outside the box” pitches in areas such as corporate reporting, beats, multimedia.

Goal: To form more strategic partnerships.
Activities to achieve the goal

  • Develop a finer grained editorial structure.
  • Increase and build relationship with publishers.
  • Expand to other regions: Los Angeles is in our line of site and we might have a strategic partner.
  • Get a technology partner, perhaps as part of the volunteer core, so we can get much-needed technical support to be donated.

Goal: To develop the Spot.Us platform and tool.
Activities to achieve the goal:

  • Redesign the front page. We need more activity on the front page
  • Implement some SMS text-a-tip service that makes it easier to get more tips for story ideas from the community.
  • Feature the donation of talent high up on the Web site so people should be able to get involved in the journalism easier.
  • Implement features that highlight what other folks are doing on the site.

Give us feedback on the above via this simple Google Form.

Your help is more important and appreciated than you could ever know!