NewsApp and collaboration in the newsroom – Week 3

During this third week, I continue working on my project prototype and I also have the opportunity to listen the Shazna Nessa (AP) about the challenges of push technology innovation in the newsroom. Between the challenges identified by Shazna that caught my attention, and that I’m planning to use them to checklist my project are:

  • Do more with less: Which means that the technology must ease the process of producing content.
  • Deal with resistance: Associated with identify and be prepared to respond to the resistance caused by the changes that produce the technology.
  • Talk tech to non-tech people: Which sometimes is one of the most complex issues in software projects, because there is a gap between tech and non-tech people in terms of understand aspects like technology limits or knowledge about a specific technology that don’t let users to use it to its full capacity.

Curiously, when I was looking for news APIs to include in my prototype, I found AP Breaking news API, and it was the best choice in order to have access to full text news; Feature that is not common in the news API providers.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to listen Mohamed Nanabhay (Aljazeera) ideas about the challenges that represent to have a more direct contact with people gather as source of information; Meaning that information can be available from many sources like blogs, social networks, among others.  However, this implies that journalist have to make a great effort to solve issues like: filter appropriated and relevant content, find strategies to summarize high amount of information and that is possible generated in real-time.

Finally, I also update some features in my prototype between the most important updates are:

  • More information about entities: I include more information from every entity identified in the news. This information includes entity’s image/photo and Google trends popularity image.

  • First visualization: I include a network visualization using the entities in the news. The idea is to create more automatic visualizations that user can use to filter and get understand better the news.

The prototype URL: , feel free to play with it and any feedback will be appreciated.


HTML5 + JQuery (+ My Idea) – Week 2

The second week is over. And during this week, I had the opportunity to listen Chris Heilman (Mozilla) and John Resig (JQuery creator) ideas about the possibilities of HTML5 as an element of transformation for the Web and how create and maintain a open source software project that not only is limited to the technical side but also implies to consolidate a community, in order to produce one of the most powerful and used Javascript library.

HTML5: During his presentation, Chris shows us many features available in HTML5. I was amazed about features that I have not listened before like: hardware integration, UI input related attributes like placeholders, etc. Plus, Chris share with us many interesting and worth links like HTML5 Boilerplate (A great source to learn HTML5 and CSS3 tricks using an existing code) and Modernizr (An HTML5 feature detection library), which are great tools to explore (and develop) using HTML5.

JQuery: John told us about his experience developing JQuery and the key to create a successful product and community. During this presentation, it caught my attention the high amount of websites worldwide that use JQuery and the strategies that JQuery community use to spread the word about JQuery and support new developers to use and be involve in the development.

Continuing with my idea for the course final project, I receive a comment from Stijn Debrouwere about the idea of combining many features and don’t have a specific purpose (or at least consolidated idea) for my final project. So, I decide to re-think about the features and I redefine my idea:

The idea is to create a tool that helps journalists to automatize and present additional information related with their news, this additional information could be: Description or facts about the mentioned entities in the news, additional data visualizations and user generated comments.

But this time instead create a mockup, I decide to start a prototype (using JQuery+JQuery UI and .NET) available in the following URL:

To use the app, first, the journalist has to decide if he wants to create a news from nothing or use an already create news from AP. Then, the journalist only have to modify the news content and use the “Process” button in order to let the app analyze the content and suggest entities.

Additionally, but not implemented in the prototype. The journalist can include some visualization using a step-by-step wizard, the idea is to offer an easy way to create visualization and even use some pre-created visualization using content text such as word clouds, entities diagrams, etc.

Finally, the comments sections will also let the readers include any comment about what they read and using the hyperlinks inside the news, they will also be able to filter entities and comments, in a similar way to my first idea.

Prototyping, creating and visualizing (and my first try to mix them) – Week 1

During this first week of lectures, I was able to listen and internalize some powerful ideas from Aza Raskin, Burt Herman and Amanda Cox. These ideas are simple but contains powerful concepts that I believe that will help me to refine my project for the Knight-Mozilla Learning Lab.

Prototyping: Basically, Aza Raskin told us about the importance of prototypes and how they are a key tool in the process to transmit and idea. Fact that is very common for people with engineering background, likes me, but Aza takes this concept to a deep level, defining levels of communication from a simple written idea to a video demonstration, as the richest way to transmit the idea.

Creating: Before Burt Herman presentation, I didn’t know anything about Storify. The concept is a tool that let people create and share stories using photos, tweets, among others resources. However, listening to Burt about his personal experience during the conception to implementation phases; it gives many ideas about the importance of the team and the importance of be flexible and listen the users, because the user experience becomes a key factor for the success in any idea.

Visualizing: I also have the opportunity of listen Amanda Cox experience about how design and create powerful visualizations; which are really important to help readers to understand high amounts of data. One idea that caught my attention is giving to possibility to users to interact and “play” with the infographic/visualization, feature that is extremely attractive in order to let the people produce and share their own information.

Finally, as a software developer, my experience is more given to build something. I think about how include these ideas in my project, and I just came with this new idea:

The idea is to create a tool that helps journalists to organize and manage information and comments during the writing and after publish the news, it helps readers to understand and collaborate with the discussion or sharing additional relevant information.

This is a mockup of the idea:

At this moment, the idea includes four features:

1. Entities: Using part of my first prototype, the news content will be semantic processed, in order to extract entities (people, organizations, etc) related with the news, using this feature, both journalist and reader will have the option to get a more information or access  related news for each entity.

2. Data (Visualization): In the second tab, the journalist will be able to add data that support or gives more detail about a news. For example, stocks price chart or any visualization. The idea is that users can play with this information. (I’m also thinking in a mechanism to allow users to contribute with data/visualization from standard/credible sources).

3. Comments: In the third tab, the user will be able read and share comments, using a similar scheme to the original prototype in which users will be able to filter comments related with an specific entity.

Additional ideas to consider:

  1. The option to let users interact with the text, for example, if I click in the entity name, and only will receive entities, data and comments about that specific entity (to avoid to giving too much information to readers).
  2. Explore other kind of information/tabs that users will find interesting/relevant.

Finally, the tool has the advantage that it will generate automatically information for journalists and it will have the option to generate a widget (which can be included with published news) in order to let users gather more information and contribute with more facts and options about a news.

Comments network and semantic analysis

My idea is a system that identifies common topics for each comment, then the system will create a graph that represent the connection between those topics. If some topics are out of the context (usually spam or non-related commentaries), they will be removed. And finally, the user will have to opportunity to follow a “conversation” about a single topic instead many commentaries about many topics.

I build a prototype that is available in:

To use the prototype: First enter any keyword, and then choose a news and you’ll be able to visualize the comments and semantic graph. The red nodes represent high relevant topics to the conversation and the blue ones represent less important topics. And if you click any node, only related comments will be shown in the page’s lower part.

Some screenshots of this tool:

And please, feel free to play with it and any feedback will be appreciated!

Welcome to the team!

I just want to start this blog as an space to discuss about how technology tools can contribute to journalism, in order to produce valuable information to end users.

My contribution is to present my experiments and advances about the information+visualization topic, however, I will need that YOU as reader, help me to contribute to this blog with your personal experiences, feedback and opinion about the experiments here presented.

Welcome to the team!