Homework Assignement 1: Let’s try some mockups…

My proposals for connecting citizen journalism with professional reporting and bringing back the web to commenters began life as a pile of rough ideas hastily thrown together. Over the course of the Learning Lab I shall be refining them into a (hopefully) useful product.

To help us on our way, we have lectures from successful figures in the world of Internet journalism, and we’re asked to write up our responses to those lectures, so that’s what this is. Take a look and let me know what you think.

We heard this week how interface designer Aza Raskin focusses on using the prototype as a way of both selling and developing his ideas. He was keen on the idea of making things, not for use but for communication. Hang on, that’s art isn’t it? I’m no artist, I’m an engineer. This is a complete shift in my way of thinking. I’m came into this project with some solutions for some stated problems. Now it seems problem solving is, at most, half the problem. The rest is getting people to engage with my solutions. This is good. This exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to learn here.

We also heard from Burt Herman, who used his experience in journalism to build the community from which Storify eventually emerged. Burt was all about communication. Build a community. Build a team. A people first approach. I started this lab on my own and I can’t see me building a team in the remaining few weeks – certainly not from people with their own projects to work on. But I can certainly start discussions with other lab members. If that’s you, do stop to say hi.

Both speakers started by leveraging their different skills but they both ended up in a similar situation – with an embryonic project supported by an enthusiastic community.

What came through most strongly in this week’s lectures was the importance of getting something built. I can’t succeed alone – success is when your idea takes on a life outside your own mind. And for that to happen I need to show people what sort of things I’m looking to achieve. In summary, I need to get on with it. Build it, show it, find out what’s wrong, try again.

My product needs to be something people will look at and understand right away. Amanda Cox’s lovely data visualizations showed the importance of thoughtful design and the fine line between brilliantly intuitive and baffling. I’m well on the wrong side of that line. I need feedback. I need to start a discussion.

Something that’s at the heart of what I’ve been working on is the idea of bringing together user-generated content from different sources. That seems like a great place to start exploring. What would it be like if comments from other websites could be brought in to a discussion?

So I’m going to start making one of my ideas. Here’s what I’m trying to achieve:

1. Give comments parity with articles.
2. Enable users to organize content themselves.
3. Mix local content with content from other sites.

So might all that look like? You can find that out in my next blog post… right now!

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