— words and things

Show and Sell

i want to mine user input as a real time news discovery tool for journalists and news consumers. imagine if you could aggregate, process and graphically visualize user generated geolocated data from as many sources as possible all over the world in an instant. watch data change while using web sockets to feed your html5 graphs. first start with the worlds largest cities. break them down into smaller regions and add monitors to each district producing a graph of real time data. You can analyze and compare to other areas around the city or anywhere in the world. see who is producing the most data and use this to your advantage. when breaking news hits the social media will tell you about it. you can use this media generated by web users to get a heads up on the next big thing. Not only do i want to display real time tweets but I also want to display beautiful analytics inside a “geo dashboard” that will let the users of the app really dial in on what they are looking for. I will be using some awesome javascript libraries like Jit and D3. This will be a web app that works on the mobile platform as well. Open is the way to go, once I have a solid prototype the code will be open for anyone to have and mash up free of charge.

Go Go Gadget Code!

My plan is to make this a stand alone web app that can be duplicated anywhere you can copy and paste into a web page. Basically, I would like to make an embeddable widget out of my code that way ANYONE can use it to show their friends the data that they are mining. Originally, I will work with new organizations to perfect the app making it useable by some of the best journalists in the world. I have written all the code in javascript ( yes even the service side of this is written in javascript thanks to node.js )

How would I use this?

Use this tool to show real time data to users based on a given video or story. Use this tool to find some new story and get the most up to date news from the interSocialWebs as it is being published.

Scenario: 1,
Location: London summer of 2012

The legendary olympic open ceremony is about to begin, the whole world is watching. Everyone around the world is waiting to see their country enter. You place a geo target around the stadium and mine the social media coming from that even displaying it side by side your live video stream. Every 15 seconds you check for more tweets and continue to update your feed to the user to see all while displaying an overhead image of the stadium matched against the correct geo coordinates and to give the appearance that the user watching is actually looking and the real stadium.

Scenario 2,
Berlin: September 11 – 16, 2012

Berlin hosts one of the worlds largest air shows. In preparation for this air show you set up geo targets to monitor all social data coming from the air show venues. You begin to notice trends as data starts to come from only certain parts of the trade show. You can use this data to see what was most popular to the users there and write a story or create a video of the particular popular interest.

Scenario: 3,
Location: Iran February 2012

Tehran Is under siege by it’s own people. Twitter has caused a revolution and you want to see what is happening on the ground. Instead of searching twitter for hash tags you can use my geo location search and mine all the social media coming from tehran to get the latest on the ground.

Who are you? Where can I see this live?

If you would like to see this demo for yourself please contact me and I can walk you through it. my skype handle is cole_g and my twitter is @theCole. See my video intro to the mozNewsLab to learn a little more about me. I would really like to speak with other journalists and developers to get their thoughts on this idea.

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Last week brought collaboration and some awesome insight on what a news room is like on the inside. The trending theme in all the lectures from mozNewsLab last week was the importance of collaborating and working together in the news room. Shazna Nessa said that at times you may have to drop everything you are doing when news breaks in order to get quality content out as fast as possible.

Aza said in the very first lecture that the hard part about software is not programming but culture. Aza is not the only one that shares this idea. It was repeated in every lecture last week. Communication, collaboration and politics can really spur innovation if they are executed improperly. So what can we do to combat those three things? I think listening to the issue at hand and breaking it down logically is one way I deal with others when they request my help. Really understanding the problem that someone comes to you with makes a huge difference when you are trying to solve things for others.

Knowing who to go to when you want to make change and how to influence the “big fish” of the news room ( or in any work environment ) is very important to the success of you novel idea. One thing I took from the lectures last week is that usually a few people really run the show in news rooms. If you want to make a change you are going to have to sell your pitch to these influential few. To do this it will take patience. You will have to really take a step back and figure out what it is that you are going to have to do to influence the ones that have the largest influence.

At the end of the mozNewsLab some people are going to be placed into news rooms. They are going to be thrown in and expected to preform. We are going in with these novel ideas that more than likely are unlike anything that has been done before in a news room and I guarantee there is going to be resistance. To the lucky few that do get selected, you better be ready to combat this resistance in the most friendly non combatant way possible. If you want to make change you are going to have to find the ones who have the power to influence change and make an impression strong enough to give them the courage to hand you the reigns. Once you have the reigns you are either going to crash and burn or you are going to make a huge difference in the way news is delivered from now to the future.

To everyone in the mozNewsLab, it has been an awesome month of talks and collaboration. I wish the best for all of you.

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One of the things I learned this week is that the mozilla learning lab is lacking developers. i put this post together to try and help the non programmers in the class understand basic and intermediate javascript.

With javascript you can find all of the code in the source (right click view source, or in webkit right click inspect element / view source) , every web page is a mine of code for you to translate.

If you are brand new to javascript start here

This week Christian Heilmann and Jon Resig inspired me to publish all of the source of my #MozNewsLab project to date ( clone my mojo github repo or check out the alpha demo with the twitter feed and map). I also wanted to talk about my ideas / philosophy oh web programming. My hope is that this post can shed some light on how to mine social data and display it. My main purpose of this blog is to advocate openness and to prove that anyone can write awesome javascript. Three vitally important things to keep in mind here: computers do what you tell them, programming is easy, and geeks love to share ( ⌘+C, ⌘+V and git clone are your friends).

computers do what you tell them

computers only listen to “well spoken” instructions. use webkit to debug. javascript is an unforgiving language. mastering debugging is key.

programming is easy

anyone can program javascript. we have so many resources at our fingertips. take advantage of the open web. pick a library. read about it. learn from it. write some code of your own. share and contribute back.

geeks love to share

geeks take the data you give them, save it and then redistribute it to their friends in an API. In my project I am going to be using the following tools to programmatically mine geolocated social media for the web news media:

those are the only tools i need to grab up to date, user generated data and embed them into my own web page. For those of you who are not sure how to easily grab endless data using jquery and json please refer to my recent gist.

please ask me questions in the comments and let me know how i can help you get your prototype up and running

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“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.” In the sixth century Buddha said the same thing that Aza stressed to us in our first lecture last week. An idea is worthless unless it can be communicated. It all starts with a simple thought.

Throughout the week one slide from Aza’s presentation has stuck with me. The life of a prototype. After fridays optional lecture on data visualization it made sense to create an interactive version of Aza’s slide. Based on the mojo lectures this week I have come up with some advice on how to successfully build a prototype. Below I will merge Aza’s advice on rapid prototyping and Burt’s advice on success.

Follow your passion and come up with an idea

Undoubtedly following your passion will cause you to conjure ideas, this is where it all begins. The first step in a prototype’s life is an idea. Your brain acts as an idea incubator, cradling newborn ideas until they are ready to be released into the wild. The only way to really know if an idea will influence others is to set it free and move on to the next step of a prototypes life.

Write it down and send it to everyone

So you think you have a great idea? Write it down, it is ok if it is a sloppy misspelled email in the middle of the night. Writing it down is you telling yourself that you want to bring this idea to life. By writing it down you are one step closer to making it happen. Share it with your friends and try to build a small community around your idea.

Create a wire frame with your team

Your idea has caught on and you have built a small team from the community you formed by sending out your write up. Now it is time to create a simple wireframe that will show people what your idea may look like. Once you feel comfortable with your wireframe move on to the next step and make something people can “touch”.

Hack out a proof of concept

Just build the thing! In the shortest amount of time possible create a working prototype. Prove to yourself that your idea can work. Once the prototype is complete get it out there for people to play with.

Make a video demo and prepare for feedback

Once you get a video out there it will be easy for people to connect to your idea and find some sort of use for it. Once people start to use your prototype make sure you stay flexible and listen to the users, they will have a ton of feedback so get ready for feature requests and suggestions!

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