Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tell me more…

The first week of #MozNewsLab kicked off with great lectures from Aza Raskin, Burt Herman and Amanda Cox.

For the learning lab phase of the Mozilla Journalism challenge, we’ve been encouraged to select a new idea - the weekly lectures will provide us with inspiration for developing and progressing our ideas.

> My challenge: To improve the display of related articles.

[I’m sure I’ll refine my challenge as I go - but for now, you get the gist of it!]

> Why is this challenge important?
Breaking news brings daily updates. Take the recent News of the World scandal, the story has grown and unfolded with new insights. The leading articles on BBC, Guardian and New York Times all have related articles and yet, it’s difficult to gain an overarching view of how the story has developed.

Moreover, news articles rarely stand-alone and can be linked to others by:

  • Mapping the history/time line of a story,
  • The individuals involved,
  • Author,
  • Geography, and
  • Topic etc.

Related links generally sit at the bottom of the page added like an afterthought. Occasionally the BBC highlights relevant content (at the side of the page), categorises the related links and links to other news sites.

As we heard from Amanda Cox, infographics are about making things relevant. The Guardian complied a moving infographic of “How Twitter tracked the News of the World scandal" - This idea inspired me! What if articles came with a visual element depicting the story?

> What difference will improving related articles make?
I see a challenge to enrich the user experience, engage users and promote relevant articles (a bit like Joomla). Let’s get one thing straight, I do not mean to create a “filter bubble” to use the phrase coined by Eli Pariser - but to show readers how articles do connect with one another without any personalisation based on previous browsing history. My aim is to move related articles to a rich information experience that readers are free to explore.

> Inspiration
As Aza said, “it’s our job to change the way people think”, he encouraged us to ‘develop tangible ideas and turn these into new ideas’. Burt Herman said “build it and start iterating” and Aza encouraged us ‘to take the initial idea and get a prototype out by the end of the day’.  I took on what Burt had to say along with Aza’s seven principles of prototyping and got sketching!

I really like no. 5 from Aza, “you are iterating your solution as well as your understanding of the problem”. As I started sketching, I began refining my idea.

Have a look at where my sketching got to

What’s next? 

I’m going to get these ideas out there, see what people have to say and keep iterating! 

1) How related articles look at the moment

2) How they might look - v1

3) Close up

4) v1.1 with time line to show the story unfolding