Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Students: Enter the Knight-Mozilla Challenge

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

This is a open invitation to students to get involved in the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership and enter our News Innovation Challenge.

At this year’s SXSW Interactive, I sat in on a News Apps panel where Aaron Pilhofer, NYT’s Interactive News Editor, noted that “this is a unique historical moment where academia can lead the [news] industry.”  The industry is looking to students, teachers and researchers to experiment, break some rules, and collectively invent the future of journalism.

We believe you can do it, and we want to help you succeed by involving J schools and computer science departments (and the combinations they are forming).

Students, recent graduates, teachers, researchers, deans and more: please follow @knightmozilla on Twitter and sign up for our community discussion list to join the conversation.

But most importantly, we want students to enter our Innovation Challenges, starting with the current challenge: Unlocking Video: How can new web video tools transform news storytelling? In the coming weeks, we’ll release 2 more challenges: one focusing on evolving commenting and debate for online news and one on developing cross-platform news apps using HTML5 and other new tools.

What you can look forward to as a challenge participant

Our news innovation specialist, Phillip Smith, recently summarized the incentives we have put together for participants, including the chance to get a great job.  But we have even more opportunities lined up for participants. By entering the challenge, you can:
  • Take your news-technology idea from napkin sketch to specification to working prototype, with Mozilla’s help.  For students, we hope this means actualizing classroom work.  60 people will move on from this year’s challenge to our online Learning Lab, where they’ll get exposure to tech and journalism leaders, including  Christian Heilmann, Burt Herman, Aza Raskin, John Resig.
  • Put your best ideas in front of the people shaping online journalism’s future. Our stellar challenge review panel and dozens of news organanizations are looking to the Knight-Mozilla Innovation challenge to identify talented people and put them to work in the news industry.  Entering the challenge is a great way for students to make contact with this folks.
  • Get flown to Berlin for a face-to-face prototype-building event. 15 Learning Lab participants will earn this great experience – 3 days to make your ideas a reality in one of the most energetic hubs of open innovation in Europe.
  • The ‘big prize’: spend a year evolving your ideas in one of the  world’s most prestigious newsrooms as a paid Knight-Mozilla fellow. This is your opportunity to bring your ideas to market with our news partners, Al Jazeera, the BBC,, The Guardian, and Zeit Online.

Enter the challenge today and contact me with any questions.


Knight-Mozilla for Innovative Video Makers

Friday, April 29th, 2011

By Popperipopp (Own work) [Public domain

Calling all video makers & hackers, remix masters and mashup gurus: the Knight-Mozilla News Partnership (aka “MoJo”) wants you to enter our Unlocking Video challenge.  We believe that you can help us figure out how new web video tools can transform news storytelling. Unlocking Video closes for entries in 1 week (May 6), so head on over to our challenge site to enter today.   Read on if you’d like to learn a little more before taking the plunge.

I talked with Brett Gaylor of Rip: A Remix Manifesto and Popcorn.js fame today about recruiting a wide range of creative video makers in the challenge.  Here are some key points for people in that community to consider:

  • You don’t have be an expert in journalism per se to enter the challenge. In fact, we believe that bringing together an interdisciplinary community will make the MoJo partnership a successful hub of innovation for journalism.
  • We’re looking for ideas AND people. You have great ideas for innovating in documentary or cinematic video formats online, but maybe you haven’t considered applications for journalism.  That’s OK.  Participating in the innovation challenge is just the first step – like raising your hand – so we can get to know who you are.  Think a bit about how what you’ve learned outside of journalism might help news users engage with stories and enter the challenge.  We’ll work with you from there through our Learning Lab, Hackfests, and Fellowships to develop your ideas with the support of our growing community.
  • We’ve got to do a better job reaching out to the wild and wonderful world of web video makers. That means talking to the Web Made Movies community, and reaching out to organizations like National Film Board of Canada and the Tribeca Film Institute, and networks like Shooting People.  We can’t do it alone, so please share this post with your networks.

If you’re new to MoJo, here are some resources to get you up to speed fast:

Now that you’re read the basics, head over and enter the Unblocking Video challenge before we close it on May 6, and share this post with your web video-loving friends.


MoJo Innovation Challenge 2011: Start Your Engines!

Friday, April 15th, 2011

The stars are beginning to align for the launch of the 2011 Knight-Mozilla News Innovation Challenge.

On Monday, April 18th, we will be making some important announcements and the following week, we will open the gates for public entries.  I want to give you, our faithful MoJo friends and followers, an early notice and ask for your help in spreading the word in the coming weeks.

What’s going to happen

The 2011 Challenge will run from April 25-June 20.  We will be posting 3 distinct challenge statements in 2 week intervals.

For new readers, the ultimate prize for successful entrant is a yearlong, paid fellowship at one of our partners’ newsrooms around the world, including the Al Jazeera, BBC,, The Guardian and Zeit Online.  Along the way, we will also offer online Learning Lab and Hackfest experiences to develop the expertise of our candidate pool.  Every single participant will play a part in shaping the future of news with Knight and Mozilla.

Here is the basic calendar for the challenge and the topics our challenge statements will cover.

Challenge 1 – Open Video

Explore how HTML5 and open video can make news video more engaging.

April 25-May 6: Submission period

May 9-20: Community voting

Challenge 2 – Re-imagine Comments & Debate

How can open web tech improve the quality of online discourse?

May 9-20: Submission period

May 23-June 3: Community voting

Challenge 3 – HTML5 News Applications of Tomorrow

How can news organizations best deliver high-quality journalism across devices and platforms?

May 23-June 3: Submission period

June 6-17: Community voting

Winners announced during the week of June 20th! Approximately 60 challenge entrants will be invited to our online Learning Lab to interact with top thought leaders and makers at the intersection of web and news innovation, taking one more step towards the fellowship.

Spreading the word

We’ll need all the help we can get to make sure that lots of great people submit their ideas to the challenge.  I’ll be reaching out to a long list of people we want to engage next week.  In the meantime, help out by:

  • Joining the MoJo community mailing list for up-to-the minute and follow along with our thinking on the project wiki. A new public-facing web site is coming down the pipeline shortly.
  • Follow @knightmozilla on Twitter and ask your followers to do the same.  Here’s a sample tweet: Please follow @knightmozilla for Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership updates. RT love much appreciated. #knightmozilla #drumbeat
  • We’re planning meetups in Berlin, Boston, London, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle with local partners. We’ll treat participants with beer and great company in exchange for a challenge entry to help feed the pipeline. Stay tuned and be in touch if you’d like to participate in an event or make your own in a different city.

So, if you want a shot at the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Fellowship or know someone who should enter, start your engines – the race is about to begin.


5 Ways to Integrate Hacking in Newsrooms

Friday, March 18th, 2011

An excerpt from my post at the PBS MediaShift blog.

I jumped right up at Q&A time and asked for more: What are some best practices you’ve seen for getting over this “people problem?” And the panel really delivered.

I’ve distilled their answers into 5 “To-Do’s” for news innovation. Jenny and Trei Brundrett from SB Nation deserve special recognition for their answers.

1. No surprises. Involve the newsroom from the beginning.

2. Constant communication. Use chat tools like Campfire to keep the conversation going across working groups.

3. Iterate, iterate, iterate. Get software versions into the hands of journalists for testing, and then make the changes they suggest to the best of your ability. When you’re ready to launch, journalists will be using tools that they themselves helped to design.

4. Credibility. Successful implementation will flow from high-level editorial buy-in. Early experiments in social media were often driven by marketing teams and saw mixed results; don’t repeat or mimic this formula from the tech team!

5. Risk-friendliness matters. Traditionally, news organizations follow a “perfect, then release” model, whereas technology is teaching us to fail early and often, as long as you learn and change.

Read the whole piece here.


Build the MoJo FAQ

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

MoJo FAQ Etherpad

We’ve got lots of questions coming into MoJo headquarters, mostly via email. I’d like to open up the process for getting questions answered.

If you have a question and would like to support the project, please join me in building our public FAQ document.

Just navigate over to our FAQ Etherpad and add your questions.  If you know an answer, you can add that in, too.

Mozilla Drumbeat has used this crowd-sourcing method successfully in the past.

Take a look at this video to see how it can work if lots of people chip in:

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MoJo Announcement in the News

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

We got quite a bit of buzz when we announced the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership, just over a week ago.

Below are some quick excerpts from some of the stories that have been circulating.

If you’re interested in a fuller listing of our coverage, head over to our wiki, where we’ll be tracking our “clippings.”

GigaOm: “Mozilla Tries to Help News Media Figure Out the Web”

In terms of reach, this story from GigaOm (pictured left) took the cake. We found it tweeted dozens of times and re-posted all over the web.

Silicon Valley Watcher: “Knight And Mozilla Foundations Join To Spur Media Innovation”

For a conversation starter, this piece by Tom Foremski, took the prize.  While broadly positive, Foremski questioned our choice to start out with large news organization partners that have “plenty of their own resources.”

It’s true – we need to figure out how to represent and serve the news ecosystem at large (and small).  Last week, I posted a reply, requesting feedback on how we can go about doing that.  We haven’t seen any public input in the blog comments, but these questions are being discussed, along with a number of other topics (like including public media) at our new, but already vibrant community list serve.

Technology News Report: “News for Digital Journalists”

I liked the opening line from this story:

If technologists and journalists ever needed a matchmaker, they just found a big one. Mozilla, the folks behind the widely used open-source Firefox browser, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, have launched a multimillion-dollar program to embed 15 technology fellows in newsrooms worldwide to help figure out how to better engage news consumers.

And, finally, it was good to see some coverage in Spanish

Bitelia: Mozilla y Knights Foundation se unen para desarrollar un software de código abierto que salve el periodismo

Which came with this eye-catching graphic…


Mixing it Up: Engaging News Partners

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

It’s been an amazing launch week for the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership (aka “MoJo”). We saw hundreds of tweets every day, coverage by 15 news outlets and blogs (plus lots of re-posts), almost 200 sign-ups on our new community list serve, and over 20 news organizations have already asked me how to get involved.

We also received our first bit of critical feedback publicly.

Regarding our first cohort of news partners, Tom Foremski wrote at the Silicon Valley Watcher:

It would be better to concentrate on the smaller media organizations, especially neighborhood newspapers. These have fewer resources and need the most help in transitioning to a new media economy.

The first and most important thing to say is that we welcome feedback like this. The partnership will only thrive if hundreds or maybe thousands of people check in with their ideas and questions.

With so many news organizations responding to the announcement, I too have been thinking seriously about how we recruit and support a great mix of news partners.

To Foremski’s point, our priority is to shape the marketplace of news applications by offering solutions built on open technology. Marketplace intervention requires a certain scale. But there is definitely a place for smaller organizations in the partnership.



Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership

Monday, February 7th, 2011

I’m excited to announce the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership, a Mozilla Drumbeat project supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Journalism Program.

For the next three years, we will have the opportunity to engage a huge community, bring people together for trainings and in-person events, and ultimately build software and thought leadership to address the challenges that news organizations are facing today.

We’ll be working with some amazing news partners: BBC,, The Guardian, and Zeit Online, who are launching the partnership with us, and many more who we will invite to join the initiative.

If you’re excited about the challenges and opportunities facing journalism, we want you to be part of this: if you’re interested, please join the project mailing list.

We are creating a major new opportunity for the growing community of news innovators, sometimes called news hackers.  Every phase of the  partnership, from the innovation challenges to our online courses and in person news hacking events, will help participants learn, network and build a community around their interests, develop their careers, and take leadership at the intersection of news and technology.

Over the course of the  partnership, we’ll be awarding at least fifteen yearlong fellowships to participants who demonstrate passion, great ideas and collaborative skills. This fellowship cohort might include software developers, user experience designers and statisticians.  We’re open to many types of candidates.  The fellows will be embedded within the news partner organizations, where they will work side-by-side with newsmakers, producing experimental news applications based on open-source, open-web technologies.

In the coming months, as we get the partnership underway, I will be sharing more of our thinking, announcing new partners, and so on. In the next few weeks, we’ll be asking some big questions that will help to refine the plan for the project.

We’re aiming to formally launch the program with a design challenge in the spring — aimed at finding great ideas, and great people — so, if you haven’t already, please join the project mailing list [link] and follow along with our thinking on the project wiki.

Also check out the Knight Foundation’s blog post here and a post from our news innovation consultant, Phillip Smith here.


Sarah Silverman, TED, and the Chilling Effects of Enforced Optimism

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Admittedly, I am a johnny-come-lately to this story.  I don’t know how I missed it.  Two things in the world that I deeply appreciate: the TED talks and the edgy-cute humorous stylings of Sarah Silverman.  Upon watching a recent Real Time with Bill Maher episode (clip below), I learned that the two came, very publicly, into conflict.


TED began as an annual conference for the elite of the technology, entertainment and design worlds and has blossomed into a trend-setting media behemoth, whose speakers now include cutting-edge scientists and political leaders.  For example, Bono’s ONE campaign to end poverty received an enormous boost in its early history when Bono received the TED Prize.

At first rendered relatively obscure by design ($6,000+ entry fees for invitation-only attendees), TED began offering their talks for free via online video a couple of years ago and organizing new conferences in India and the UK.  Now, hundreds of people are franchising the TED experience through the local TEDx program.

Sarah Silverman’s comedy is known for its raunch, self-deprecation, irreverence (even sacrilege), psychedelia, and (on the surface) a juvenile approach to social commentary.  As fans know, this is the window dressing – Sarah’s work constantly exposes the juvenile hypocrisies of “serious grown ups” and celebrates imagination through sophisticated gems of free association strewn throughout her pieces.  Still, right up front in the window is juvenile raunch, self-deprecation, irreverence/sacrilege, and psychedelia.  For anyone who books her, this isn’t even a buyer-beware proposition – Sarah isn’t hiding anything.

So, when I heard TED was bringing Sarah to their conference this year, I was surprised and satisfied.  Then I promptly forgot about it.  Until I saw Sarah talking with Bill Maher…



Cyborg Watch: New BioFuel Cell Uses Glucose in the Body to Produce Electricity

Monday, May 24th, 2010

BioFuel Cell

The rise of cyborg technology and culture is one my lesser known interests, so occasionally, I’ll be linking to such developments.  Maybe later, I’ll include some of my own thoughts on the matter, as they develop.

To that end, Aaron Saenz writes on the Singularity Hub:

Researchers at Joseph Fourier University in France have created a new biofuel cell that harnesses oxygen and glucose from the body to produce electricity. Glucose biofuel cells (GBFCs) were placed inside the bodies of rats, and displayed peak energy densities of 24.4 microwatts per milliliter – better than many pacemaker batteries. Glucose and oxygen flow into the fuel cell, and waste products flow out, but the enzymes and metals inside don’t contiminate the body. The work was detailed in a paper published in PLoS. The JFU team hopes that a new generation of GBFCs will be able to power all kinds of implants in humans. This is another small step towards creating cyborgs.

Read the whole post here.