Redux: How we are experimenting with journalistic innovation

17 Nov

This Prezi presentation outlines the steps we are taking in this class to practice journalistic innovation.


Usability testing

3 Nov

Usability testing can take many forms depending on where you are in the design process. Some of you may still be testing assumptions about concept and approach; others will have questions about specific variables and some are ready to test navigation and sequence.

Here are a few resources to help with your planning:

OJR’s ‘five guide’ to do-it-yourself website usability testing
By Laura Ruel and Nora Paul
A useful resource provided by the federal government on usability testing for government websites (relevant to many types of products).

A well organized test
Example Usability Test with a Paper Prototype

A less organized test
Paper Prototyping User Test 1

Prototyping journalism products

27 Oct

Now that our class has completed the ‘immerse-yourself-in-your-community’ phase, it’s time to move into the “demo, don’t memo” phase.

Oct. 27
Review the key insights you’ve learned about your community
Act out the user experience using your paper prototypes
Revise your ideas; plan for the next phase

Gannett experience with brainstorming and prototyping
Devorah Klein from IDEO on prototyping
Satisfy the Cat

The elements of user experience — visualization of the multiple layers of design

What kind of prototypes?
Two types of prototyping: Conceptual, formative testing
Why Prototype in code?

Nov 2
Second round of prototypes due – Testing Phase
Practice on each other in class
Design for usability testing due by the end of class

Nov 10
Preliminary reports on usability testing due — 50% completion
Make revisions, address implementation issues
Outline final report on your projects

Nov 17
Usability test results due — 100% completion
Identify key lessons learned

Dec. 1
Draft report due
Prepare presentations

Dec. 8
Present results to stakeholders and users

Should journalists focus on attentive publics?

15 Sep

“The general public” is mostly a fiction except in cases of immediate and clear danger. Then we all pay attention. Otherwise, information targeted to an ill-defined audience only sporadically reaches its target.

However, if we assume the attitude of a PR or advertising manager and transform our conception of the ‘public’ into target audiences, we will have lost the essence of public service. The ‘public’ will be an object and not a partner.

Instead, it seems the challenge is to identify like-minded publics who share values and goals and work with them to serve their information needs. The journalist can be a hub in the network, facilitating publics who can benefit from interaction, knowledge sharing, empathy and partnerships.

For example, it’s clear that many people in Reno are not interested in homelessness. But some are: the homeless themselves, of course, social service workers, businesses in areas where homeless hang out, the police, hospitals, the families of the homeless. What information would make their lives easier or safer or more healthy? What information might reduce risks and waste and exploitation? Who might benefit from improvements in how information is collected, organized and shared?

If journalists developed products and services that met a genuine need within this network, it is likely that information about the homeless would then circulate even among those who are less attentive to the problem. Through the strength of weak ties and the dynamics of networks, focusing on those who attend to a particular problem could have the counter-intuitive result of actually spreading information more widely in more meaningful ways over the long term.

How we approach each group will be different. For some people, we need to listen to their stories. For some, we need to ask specific questions. Others we can watch and observe. In all cases we need a reservoir of examples, questions and prompts to elicit the ideas that will generate the most useful innovations.

Excerpt from graphic in the Knight Foundation report on the Information Needs of Communities

The concept of networked journalism

15 Sep

The term is often attributed to Jeff Jarvis, who wrote this post in 2006, suggesting that “citizen journalism” isn’t quite the right term, whereas “networked journalism” was a better representation of the concept he wanted to capture:

“Networked journalism” takes into account the collaborative nature of journalism now: professionals and amateurs working together to get the real story, linking to each other across brands and old boundaries to share facts, questions, answers, ideas, perspectives. It recognizes the complex relationships that will make news. And it focuses on the process more than the product.

Charlie Beckett from the London School of Economics has also written as much as anyone about the concept:

By ‘Networked Journalism’ I mean a synthesis of traditional news journalism and the emerging forms of participatory media enabled by Web 2.0 technologies such as mobile phones, email, websites, blogs, micro-blogging, and social networks. Networked Journalism allows the public to be involved in every aspect of journalism production through crowd-sourcing, interactivity, hyper-linking, user generated content and forums.

It changes the creation of news from being linear and top-down to a collaborative process. Not all news production will be particularly networked. Not many citizens want to be journalists for much of their time. But the principles of networking are increasingly practiced in all forms of news media.

Beckett wrote about his book: “SuperMedia: Saving Journalism so it can Save the World” on the Open Democracy Forum, explaining his concept of networked journalism further:

We are in a world where data is vital to daily and lifetime decision-making for individuals. Interaction and analysis are crucial to community cohesion. Fluid information-flows are the lifeblood of the information-based economies emerging globally and locally. And in a complex world where multifaceted issues such as migration and climate change are both difficult and unavoidable, the media forum and its potential for dialogue and debate about such concerns is vital to a healthy public sphere.

Blogger Alex Lockwood has explored the relationships between climate change and networked journalism. In 2010 the World Economic Forum held a panel on “Networked Journalism and Climate Change.” The panel is available on YouTube and includes interesting examples of how journalists around the world are practicing networked journalism. The concluding remarks summarize some of the ideas:

My own view is that networked journalism requires even more collaboration with citizens than is often considered for two reasons:

1. Given the volume of information and data available, the role of journalist is not just that of facilitator and moderator but also editor, curator and filter. The best filters and curators know their audiences. Genuine networked journalism requires knowing what information people need, in what form, in what manner, at what time. Data driven journalism requires deep familiarity with the needs of potential users.

2. Given the need to invent new information products, using innovation processes like that developed by IDEO could be a tremendous asset for journalists. The insights gained through observation and interaction with the end users of a news product are invaluable in helping journalists produce the best, most useful and most accessed information.

IDEO human factors expert Leon Segal says, “Innovation begins with an eye.” Tom Kelley writes about ‘human factors’ and the importance of observing people carefully to understand how they really do things. He’s not a fan of focus groups and makes the point that customer interviews are unlikely sources for insights about new products.

It’s hard for us to directly observe people using information. But we can certainly spend time listening, watching where possible, and brainstorming to generate ideas about what constitutes useful information and how to deliver it.


Awesome hacking opportunity

15 Sep

From Colin Lorenz:

Reno Collective has partnered with the City of Reno to put on Reno’s first Open Data App hackathon in October. The event is called Hack4Reno and will include a 24 hour hackathon where teams of developers and designers will build applications (web apps, websites, mobile apps, tools, etc) that either uses openly available data or collects it. We are working with companies like Github, Twilio, Foursquare, Twitter and other web applications that provide services for other developers to build their own apps and are looking for teams to build apps that benefit the Reno community.

The applications will be built over 24 hours at the event, which is being held at the Pioneer Center in downtown Reno. We are making this event very transparent and open to the community so that Reno can see what goes into building web apps. Teams will then have time to present their finished applications for judging to win various prizes like Apple products and a Best in Show cash prize.

This event is a barn raising for the Reno tech community. We are not seeking any financial sponsorships as the entire event is being put on in a very open source manner and we instead are asking for support in terms of promotion and/or resources as they are available.

While I keep talking about designers and developers, the kinds of apps that I’m talking about are even things like online news and aggregation websites. Things like or are wonderful examples of story telling and technology/digital media coming together. We have quite a few classes leading up to the hackathon that are free and available for students (or professors) to learn new things about various technologies, open data and open government.

Want to form a team?


Make it funny

15 Sep