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  • KING5 gives away $10,000 check at #HackingNews

    6:00 am on October 17, 2011 | 0 Comment Permalink
    Tags: Adam Loving, Becker IV, , Cory Bergman, , hackathon, , Leon Wong, Lewis Lin, , Mike Davidson, Mohammad Almalkawi, Shauna Causey, Startup Weekend, Vanessa Fox

    UPDATE: Mini Doc video from KING5 at bottom and criticism of the licensing agreement from open source developer Jeff Reifman (via Geekwire)

    King 5 Hackathon whiteboardHackathons are getting trendy. Not just in journalism, but health care, education, entrepreneurism, crisis management, mobile tech, government, and other arenas. Yes, it’s another technology buzz word, but one that hopefully sticks around and evolves into a combustible formula. Bringing together software experts and social leaders who sprint together to solve big challenges is a remarkable thing, especially when there’s a $10,000 prize attached to it.

    That’s the ante that KING 5 TV put up over the weekend, in the first ever hackathon run by the broadcast industry. The NBC affiliate’s digital media director, Mark Briggs, laid out his vision of unearthing quality news in the same way that one would find the right place to eat brunch in New York City. Describing his recent trip to the Big Apple, Briggs pointed out that finding a delicious spot could take hours, or it could take five minutes; the difference being whether you know someone who already lives there.

    Other information challenges were presented by co-organizer Shauna Causey and local meme expert Ben Huh, who both had different ways of expressing a similar need for relevant information served up in a dynamic, user friendly environment. Mr. Huh shared a mockup of his recently announced Moby Dick Project, which generated a warm current of ideas through the room, leading 12 people to step forward and pitch their solution in under two minutes.

    After punching away through the 48 hour weekend, “Dimensions” came out on top. Cooked up by Leon Wong and a team of four others (Mohammad Almalkawi, Lewis Lin, Adam Loving, Becker IV), Dimensions takes its own spin on on news filtration/curation. Based on the premise that even personalized RSS tools like Google Reader are still a dumping ground of too much information, Dimensions allows users to filter through their news feeds based on location, timeline, and friends’ interest. It has both a personalized element of delivering custom news that can be drilled down into various “dimensions,” as well as a social element, where you can view the different news feeds of your friends and other prominent users. The team managed to put up a live demo what was pretty impressive considering it manifested in 48 hours from start to finish.

    You can also check out the nine other projects that were demoed over the weekend by looking at the notes I jotted here (and feel free to fill in any details I may have missed).

    The other contenders also had some pretty nifty hacks to share. There were projects designed to break stories and publish audio through your phone, serve up personalized news based on similarities to others, and collaboratively curate tweets based on importance as well as chronology.

    The Crowd

    Grinding around the clock is not for the faint of heart. Roughly one half of the 65 people who signed up actually made it out to the Friday night kickoff, followed by a 30% evaporation of people by the start of the first working day. Part of the dissipation was due to another mobile hackathon hosted by AT&T the same weekend.

    Participants could sign up as a designer (8), news geek (30), technologist (21), or developer (11).

    As is typical in tech situations, the demographic was skewed heavily male. In fact, you could count the number female competitors on your nose (two). However, some have worked to change that with a ladies-only hackathon.

    Based on a show of hands, half the crowd reported that they had already been to a hackathon before. Some were graduates of Startup Weekend (which began in Seattle), others had helped with Random Hacks of Kindness and Crisis Commons.

    As expected, there was clear presence of Seattle’s tech industry amongst the room. The event took place on Adobe’s Fremont campus, who donated their shiny space and helped purchase some of the food. Amazon gave away a $50 of free AWS Cloud hosting to all participants who showed up and also footed the pizza bill. The winning team had a current Microsoft employee on board, as well as a former one who had recently walked away from his job a few weeks earlier to start up his own company. Most people were locals, though one pair came up from Portland, and one fellow even flew in from San Francisco to bust his chops for both the KING5 and AT&T hackathons. There were at least a few startups that were represented amongst the crowd as well, the ones I met with were from Timber Software and DocuSign..

    Also interesting were two Microsoft employees hovering the room who were evangelizing the Open Data Protocol (Odata), which they happily develop during their day jobs. They were very helpful in providing general information not just about their product, but all things big data, and even let me pick their brains about various pet peeves and challenges across tech in general. Although they were very candid and unbiased in their opinions, it’s worth mentioning that employees of big companies like Microsoft sign a contract that they cannot participate in certain activities outside of the job (i.e. hackathons) that may conflict with the business interests of their employer. They chose to forfeit their odds of competing for the $10,000 in order to avoid brushing up against any sort of dispute, but were pleasantly willing to donate their time to help others succeed.

    So what’s next…

    Even a $10,000 prize will have a tough time answering a few million dollar questions.

    If you build it, will they come?

    As evidenced by the lackluster adoption and later abandonment of Google Wave, even really cool tools have to be picked up by a fair amount of people in order to stay healthy and remain useful. It’s easy to forget how wide the digital divide really is, and difficult to predict what kind of new habits people are willing to adopt. Are there enough news junkies out there who will want to add yet another tool into their consumption diet?

    If you build it, will it stand?

    Similar to other high energy gatherings, hackathons still have a “post-conference blues” effect. Many projects with good intentions undergo silent decay once the creators step back into the vortex of life’s routines. It was good to hear that local disaster expert Pascal Schuback is still working tirelessly to get the MadPub framework deployed on a national scale (built in Seattle during Random Hacks of Kindness 2.0), and he reported feeling optimistic about its eventual adoption by FEMA and other government agencies. However he told me that it’s rare to see hackathon projects evolve into live deployable applications.

    It is undetermined if KING 5 will find a way to integrate Dimensions into their news product, but Briggs spoke of his intention to be a liaison for the project and see what happens. It would be interesting to see KING 5 reporters themselves using the app to share the “dimensions” of stories that they both report, as well as consume.

    Regardless of the tangible outcomes, there is still a feeling of accomplishment that pervades the hackathon spirit. Professional networking is inevitable when working under a time crunch with a room full of strangers, and everyone walks away having learned a little bit more about what it takes to make technology work for the rest of us.

    Image credit by Lucas Anderson

    (More …)

     
  • New local partners for Seattle Times

    5:02 pm on July 15, 2011 | 0 Comment Permalink
    Tags: Bob Payne, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, Cory Bergman, Inside Bainbridge, J-Lab, Justin Carder, Kate Bergman, My Everett News, News Partner Network, Next Door Media, Northwest Asian Weekly, Northwest Vietnamese News, , Public Eye Northwest, , Seattle's Child, , West Seattle Blog

    The Seattle Times announced it has added three websites to its News Partner Network. They are Inside Bainbridge, My Everett News and Seattle’s Child. All together, The Times now has forty partners in three categories:

    The Times launched the network in August 2009, with a relatively small grant from J-Lab. At the time there were just a handful of local partners, but they included real online news pioneers such as Tracy Record of the West Seattle Blog, Kate and Cory Bergman of Next Door Media and Justin Carder of the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

    The network has grow remarkably. I’m unaware of any newspaper in the country that has done as much as The Times to build such a collaborative network. A list of success stories on The Times’ site includes cross-linking to stories, photo swapping, training on topics such as mobile reporting and video editing. It also mentions two collaborative news projects, one on homeless families and the other on graffiti.

    The Times says it wants to establish and build cooperative relationships with other news sites. If you have questions or suggestions to include in the network, contact Bob Payne – bpayne at seattletimes dot com, Times editor for partnerships and audience engagement.

    The News Partner Network is a prime example of what’s working in the Seattle area news and information ecosystem. Other examples are included in the State of the Media section of the Seattle Journalism Commons. We invite you to submit other examples.

    P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I worked at The Times for 30 years, but all of this wonderful work happened well after I retired in 2008.

     
  • Ben Huh – CEO of Cheezburger Network – May 16

    6:54 pm on May 14, 2011 | 1 Comment Permalink
    Tags: , Center for Public Integrity, Cheezburger, Cory Bergman, Investigative News Network, , , , , Paul Balcerak, ProPublica, ,

    Part two of the #NewsNext series brought to us by the Online News Association/Society of Professional Journalists collaboration featured a lively discussion with Cory Bergman (msnbc.com, breakingnews.com, Next Door Media) and Ben Huh (Cheezburger Networks).

    As the owner of the largest humor network in the world, you’ve probably stumbled upon one of his many sites FAIL Blog, Babies Making Faces, There I Fixed It, Engrish Funny The Daily Wh.at, Totally Looks Like either on purpose or by accident through a social network.

    Many people in the online news circuit cover Huh for his ability to turn internet memes into a profitable enterprise (his company employs 50 staff and they’re looking for more) and has been consistently topping the Seattle 2.0 startup index for the last year.

    Instead of his typical appearance to discuss the secrets behind making something go viral (he says consistency is much more important), this particular room full of people wanted to hear his ideas on keeping journalism strong. Coming out of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern in 1999, he never became a reporter, but has been thinking of ways to fix what he sees as a lingering problem in online news.

    “The story structure hasn’t changed for hundreds of years…how many times have you read a story and think by the third paragraph didn’t I already read this before?”

    Huh believes that we have lost touch with the golden days of journalism where everything was partisan and there were multiple diverse points of views fighting for what they think is right.

    But isn’t that what we have now? (More …)

     
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