Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Investigation Exchange: a future for ...

Investigation Exchange: and the future for journalism

Investigations are an important part of civilized life. Scientists conduct investigations in order to understand aspects of reality. Police and other investigatory arms of government are joined by private investigators in investigating aspects of business and private life where the facts impact on legal decision making. Journalists conduct a wide range of investigations on matters of public interest. And all people and organizations conduct investigations to understand matters relevant to our activities, though this tends to involve more collation than primary investigation. Journalistic investigation is an important part of a free society and it is financed by sales of media or advertising. This revenue has been moving to the Internet and the Internet is yet to work out how to finance investigations.

This posting will describe an Investigation Exchange. While it can apply to any sort of investigation, it is particularly intended to be an Internet way of supporting journalistic investigations.

At a bare level the Investigation Exchange works like this. People or organizations that want investigations done put up proposals for investigations and commit to pay a certain amount to an accepted offer. Other people can add extra financial commitment to an existing investigation proposal. People or organizations that carry out investigations can just accept an existing proposal (including some standard legal boilerplate). However more commonly they will generate a combined or partial or compromise investigation proposal that fits with their investigatory skills, and try to get people with related requests to sign up to it. In practice something like this will always happen because the people requesting investigation have to accept the investigators, based on reputation or other consideration, and it will always be natural for the investigators to want to restructure the proposal to fit their particular skills and knowledge.

The Investigation Exchange can not be a simple market. It needs to a complex ecosystem with private and public communication between the participants. It may need brokers who can combine the skills of multiple investigators to address complex challenges. The results of the investigation can be public or private or some combination. For example media organizations might combine to pay for an investigation where what they want is the scoop, then after a short while the detailed result of the investigation can become public.

So come on Google: we need Google Investigations.