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5 Aljazeera hackathon projects that signal future news innovation

On editorial teams that I’ve been a part of, two tasks not core to reporting still take up time that I think could be more automated. Both were attempted to be addressed at Canvas, the first media innovation hackathon organized by Aljazeera in Qatar this weekend.

I am proud to say I was there in Doha this week serving as one of 10 mentors for the 90 participants from 37 countries who were chosen out of 1,600 applicants (40 percent of those chosen were women). The winning projects were chosen out of 19. (Other favorites)

During the long weekend, I was able to see all the teams work and talk through or offer some advice to a half dozen. For three or four teams, I felt I offered real feedback, direction or, even better, was just part of team or member discussions that seemed to move the project forward.

So though I feel close to many of the projects, I want to highlight five, including the two that addressed challenges I know well, because I had real conversations with them and like what the projects offer the industry.

  1. Lasertag — To speed contextual, internal, in-story linking (and alleviate any loss of institutional memory) this WordPress plugin suggests relevant links for highlighted terms, words or entities.
  2. HEADitor — To arrive at smarter headlines, this project was to grow into serving personalized headlines for all readers, or at least a variety of segments to start. Leveraging Facebook social graph and learning from available Google Analytics for publishers, the tool would suggest keywords (or eventually full headlines) to serve up depending on the user.
  3. Tiny.FM — This Arduino project powers an FM signal with hyperlocal information or news. Built by three Frenchmen, it reminded me of the New American Public Art project in which users swiped a transit card to hear oral histories about where they were standing.
  4. Perspectives — This Chrome extension would suggest news articles about the same topic or subject but with an opposing or otherwise alternate viewpoint to broaden awareness.
  5. NewsClip.se — It’s like a powerful, automated Lexis Nexis search that runs a reporter’s article before it is published, suggesting and then delivering additional relevant information and resources.

I’m honored to have taken a part. Thanks to Aljazeera and the SecondMuse consulting team that helped organize and first got me involved.

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