Phillip Smith

Searching & curating the "river of news." Help define the challenge.

"the HTML5 community has opened a door for us. Which will allow creative people to collaborate and edit professional video on the web" -- Dirk-Willem van Gulik, Chief Technical Architect at the BBC

Today's starting points:

The technical advances that HTML5 brings to the open Web are making incredible things possible. Nowhere is this more evident, than in video. One month ago, the Chief Technical Architect at the BBC wrote "the HTML5 community has opened a door for us. Which will allow creative people to collaborate and edit professional video on the web." Dirk-Willem van Gulik was referring to recent browser implementations of frame-accuracy in HTML5 video, which he describes like so:

"Frame Accurate. Actually even more accurate than just a frame (which is important for audio). You can jump to any point in the video (i.e. 1 hour, 3 minutes, 6 seconds and 5 frames, or to frame 178127) - and it will be exactly at that frame. Not at the nearest i-frame, rounded down to the nearest second, or off by one. No it will be exactly at that very frame."

This was made possible, in large part, because the technical team at the BBC needed it, advocated for it, and worked with the browser vendors to test it, and get it implemented. This is an amazing example of "The Web is changing, and we are changing with it" -- of how news organizations are reinventing the future of the Web, and why Mozilla wants to be a part of the reinvention.

So, let's explore some ideas for "Searching & curating news:"

Searching & curating

  • Frame accurate video in HTML5: So now that this advance -- the ability to jump to a specific moment within a video or audio recording -- is possible, what does that enable? Looking at the projects coming out of Web Made Movies gives a little glimpse of what's possible today, but the question is What will be possible tomorrow? And what opportunities do these advances present for news organizations?

  • Searching more than text: Looking far beyond tomorrow, people like Alexander G. Hauptmann are demonstrating that's it's possible to index and search broadcast video and audio material -- as he refers to it, News-on-Demand. So, the question is: how far can we push these concepts, and what can be built on top of them?

  • Personalized search: For the news user, search is often a frustrating experience. Presented with a long list of results, and several pages of them to review, it's unlikely that many searchers make it past the first few pages. Search is often described as a tension between depth and precision, e.g.: do you want to provide all of the possible results, or only the most accurate results? However, news users are leaving a trail of data on news sites -- the stories they've read, liked, commented on, revisited, and so on -- all of which could become part of a better search experience. Can news search be improved, using better interfaces, or by using "ambient data" from users? If so, what does that look like?

  • Organizational search: Inside news organizations, data collected for a story or series even a few months ago is often hard to find. Short of sitting down with a colleague and asking for their notes, data collected for a story, audio interviews, fact-checking and verification details, are often invisible to the news organization for the most part. There are some historical workflow challenges here, but what if news organizations could make it easier for reporters to capture & mine their own data? Or share it with each other? What would that look like?

  • Curation: Many of the ideas above speak to the increasing need for better ways to find and filter information. Some news organizations are asking "How do we become gardeners of the ever-expanding news-information ecosystem?" Thinking beyond "topic pages" and explainers, there are new tools starting to appear, like Storify, which enable reporters and news users to curate information in novel ways. But, if these are still the early days of this kind of curating, how can news users & reporters be further empowered to be gardeners of the information ecosystem?

What grabs you from the list above, based on your experiences? How would you prioritize these? What ideas would you add to the "Searching & curating news" category? Which challenge would you want to solve?

Feel free to comment here, or on the MoJo community mailing list (or via whatever medium suits your fancy).

Next up: Listening & Enabling, and then Funding & Sustaining. Join the march.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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