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December 08 2011


New York Times launches Election 2012 app

The New York Times has launched a stand-alone election app, including the latest poll numbers, candidate information, state-by-state updates and the top headlines from both The Times and other websites. Watch for more stand-alone election apps from other news organizations coming soon. Among the...

July 27 2011


Just in time for 2012 elections: NewsTrust dives into the fact-check business with expanded Truthsquad

Niemanlab :: Just in time for the 2012 elections, the cottage industry of media fact-checking is ramping up. That latest addition is Truthsquad, which began last year as a pilot project of NewsTrust. TruthSquad will differentiate itself from its peers by bringing in the crowd, combining the talents of professional journalists with the eagerness (if not competitiveness) of the public to separate fact from less-than fact. As the Truthsquad homepage puts it, they’re “developing a pro-am network to fact-check political claims during the 2012 elections.

Continue to read Justin Ellis, www.niemanlab.org

May 04 2011


Globe's Live Election Results Dashboard powered by the Open Web

The Globe & Mail's Live Election Results Dashboard

The election results are in for Canada.

But how did those results come in for the growing number of Canadians that don’t have televisions or radios in their homes? That’s what I was curious about on Monday night when I started to review what each of Canada’s national news organizations was up to online.

Social media was a big source, obviously — possibly the primary source for many? — and lots has already been said about it. Most interesting for the social media channels is Canada’s curious rules about reporting on the election, which are easy to run foul of, it seems.)

However, I wanted to look at what was being offered up on Canada’s national news Web sites. Specifically, how each organization approach the information design, the tension between live results and background stories, and what Web technologies they employed behind the scenes. It’s quite educational.

I should probably put together a little chart of features and a ranking for how well they were implemented, but that would possibly require some real effort, and everyone knows that I’m pretty lazy. But, hey, who knows!

Either way, I did want to highlight the excellent work by the team at The Globe & Mail online. The Globe’s “Live Election Results Dashboard” is a study in well-presented data. It’s not only easy to read, but it’s delivered using only the basic building blocks of the open Web — HTML & JavaScript — making it just as useful on my tablet or smart phone, as it is on my laptop.

I’ll be following up with colleagues there to get the full breakdown, but it looks like they converted the live results into a JSON feed that they then used to update the pages in real-time.


What election-night Web site(s) did you rely on for results?

November 10 2010


Augmented Reality Invades Newsrooms, Kids' Shows, Ads

You point your wireless device -- cell phone, iPad, whatever -- at a graphic on a box of unassembled furniture and then the instructions, complete with 3-D diagrams, instantly appear on-screen. Point at a piece of paper and it's suddenly a game board shared by friends across the room or across the world.

This is augmented reality, or AR. While still in its infancy, it's light years ahead of old-fashioned virtual reality. For one, you don't need bulky gear; you can use AR anywhere your wireless device can go. Plus, the environment is real -- only the graphics are simulated. All you need is a webcam or wireless device with the proper software and a nearby "marker," a graphic that activates the application.

"With augmented reality you can go around the real world and see information and data overlaid on top of anything out there," said Ori Inbar, co-founder of augmented reality firm Ogmento.

Inbar and AR experts from PBS, Qualcomm and Alcatel-Lucent spoke recently on a panel at FutureMedia Fest at Atlanta's Georgia Tech. They all agreed that AR is about to show explosive growth. It's already cropping up all around us.


CNN debuted an augmented reality effect during its 2010 election night coverage. Instead of routine full-screen graphics, Ali Velshi strolled through a 3-D bar graph of exit poll results that seemed to hang in mid-air. Watch it here:

Anderson Cooper used a huge virtual Capitol to set the stage for the results. John King used a touch-wall election matrix to scroll through 100 races, showing the depth of the Republican incursion into Democratic incumbent territory.

"What we did [on election] night was actually incredibly complicated," CNN senior vice president and Washington bureau chief David Bohrman said the day after the elections.

While the effect looked seamless, Bohrman said it required a huge network of infrared lights, computers and of course, people. "What's important is that we're able to clearly explain what's happening," he said. "The election matrix was absolutely illuminating on the changes in Congress. It was one of the most revealing and informative graphic devices I think I've ever seen used anywhere."

The correspondents were indeed manipulating the graphics themselves, he says. Velshi, for example, controlled the graphics from an iPad app. "It made it much better," Bohrman said. "It's better to have the person who's telling the story trigger those things than have someone off-camera."

Bohrman, who also dreamed up the 2007 CNN/YouTube presidential debate and the virtual Capitol and hologram effect in 2008, is already planning for 2012.

Other News Media Applications

Ogmento's Inbar sees additional potential uses for AR by news organizations. "You see a big crowd and you don't know what's happening there -- you point your device and all of a sudden you get 'the president is visiting' or 'there's been an accident,'" he said. "It's kind of like Twitter but with a visual aspect to it."

Aside from CNN, another TV operation in Atlanta has already adopted AR. WXIA-TV 11 Alive will beam the day's headlines at you if you click on a graphic next to the Twitter and Facebook icons on its website. The station will also use AR at two upcoming public events. The audience at a Social Media Atlanta 2010 discussion about the Democratization of News will be able to receive information and videos about the panelists on their phones. (Disclosure: I am providing public relations services for that conference.) The station will also put a marker in a printed program for a holiday lights display to give visitors traffic updates in order to help them get home.

Magazines dove in last year when actor Robert Downey, Jr. leapt off the cover of Esquire's December "augmented reality issue":

A fashion spread inside the issue also let readers change both the weather and Jeremy Renner's clothes. Floating animation surrounded actress Gillian Jacobs as she told a joke.

AR For Kids and Ads

Aside from the world of news, it also has tremendous potential for education.

"Every new technology is an opportunity for learning," said PBS Kids Interactive vice president Sara DeWitt, who notes that one of AR's most exciting aspects is its ability to connect kids to the real world. "We see some real possibilities for young kids to interact with these 3-D objects in a way that they normally wouldn't."

PBSKids.org recently launched Dinosaur Train Hatching Party, an augmented reality game for 3- to 5-year-olds. An adult prints out a colorful graphic and when a pre-schooler holds it in front of a webcam, a 3-D dinosaur egg appears on-screen. Because eggs need the warmth of the sun to hatch, the toddler turns the paper so light hits it from different directions. A baby dinosaur cracks open the egg and asks the child simple science questions he or she answers by touching the paper.

AR also opens up a whole new world for advertising. This spring Calvin Klein Underwear partnered with GQ to present AR underwear ads. In July, Gannett subsidiary PointRoll and marketing company Oddcast announced they'd bring AR to banner ads. The press release cited a possible use case: "a car manufacturer can create an AR environment that mimics a new car model's interior where users can examine the interior freely, almost as if they were physically sitting inside the car."

More gee-whiz uses, especially in gaming, could be coming soon. On October 4, Qualcomm announced it was giving away its AR Software Development Kit for Android smartphones in order to encourage developers to build new applications. Then, of course, there is the potential for AR to integrate with and impact the world of social media.

"I think social media is inseparable from augmented reality," Inbar said. "You're in the real world and you want to interact with your real friends. In a sense it's going to be an integral part of any AR experience in the future."

There are still barriers to be overcome before AR is commonplace. On the panel, Jay Wright, director of business development at Qualcomm, joked that augmented reality is a battery's worst nightmare due to its power-draining abilities. Much more work is needed to make AR reach its potential on devices. User adoption is another significant challenge.

While it could take years to enter the mainstream, augmented reality is clearly gaining momentum. It's only a matter of time before it enters a classroom -- or a newsroom -- near you.

Terri Thornton, a former investigative reporter and TV news producer, owns Thornton Communications, an award-winning PR and social media firm. She is also a freelance editor for Strategic Finance and Management Accounting Quarterly.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

October 27 2010


DocumentCloud Users Make Ballot Design An Election Issue

When we make lists of the kinds of source documents users can upload to DocumentCloud, they can get pretty long. DocumentCloud is court filings, hearing transcripts, testimony, legislation, lab reports, memos, meeting minutes, correspondence. I can say with absolute confidence that in all of our planning, "ballots" never once came up as the sort of document a news organization might want to annotate for readers. Our relentlessly creative users have shown us otherwise.

This summer, the Memphis Commercial Appeal rounded out its guide to August's primary elections with a sample ballot. Their digital content editor told us that many readers who'd missed the sample ballot in the print edition turned to the version online as primary day approached. Earlier this month, they added the general election ballot to that guide.

New York Ballots

WNYC, New York City's NPR affiliate, also published a few ballots this summer. In an effort to comply with a 2002 federal law that mandates significant updates to voting systems in each state, New York City introduced paper ballots for the 2010 primary election, replacing the city's famously arcane voting machines. One look at the new design and everyone was up in arms, proclaiming its absurdity, but WNYC actually invited a group of ballot design experts to review the city's new ballots. Their findings: the ballot was confusing

Design for Democracy works to increase civic participation, in part through a ballot design project that aims to make voting easier and more accurate. WNYC used Design for Democracy's feedback to annotate a sample ballot on their blog, offering readers vital voting advice.

When the city released sample ballots for November's general election, a local think tank pointed out that the instructions erroneously advise voters to mark the oval above their candidate's name. In fact, the relevant ovals appear below candidate's names. WNYC highlighted the issue by embedding a sample ballot on their blog. Apparently the "oval above" language was mandated by state law. Don't believe me? See for yourself -- WNYC posted the legislation, with the relevant passage highlighted.

From now on, my laundry list of things DocumentCloud catalogs will most definitely include ballots.

July 22 2010


Journalism students’ Skype election coverage project available online

A live election webcast created by a cross-university team of journalism students is now available to view online.

Using Skype and Livestream, students from University of Buckingham, Kingston University and University of Westminster collaborated on the project to run live outside broadcasts and live output as well as interviews and packages from the studio, remaining on air continuously from 10:00pm to 6:00am.

The output has been edited into a series of segments which can be watched at this link.

Twenty students also covered the counts at a range of constituencies in Winchester, Eastleigh (Chris Huhne’s seat); Southampton (two constituencies); Isle of Wight; Devizes; Bethnal Green; Twickenham (Vince Cable’s seat); Battersea; Whitney (David Cameron’s seat); and Aylesbury.

The webcast attracted an audience of 1,500 users.

Additional coverage of the project by Journalism.co.uk can be found at this link.Similar Posts:

July 16 2010


Currybet.net: Will social media’s influence on political engagement continue post-election?

The Guardian’s Martin Belam has produced a great summary of the panel debate at the launch of Nic Newman’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) paper on social media and the election, on his site currybet.net.

The research document, titled ‘UK Election 2010, mainstream media and the role of the internet’, outlines the significant role social media, in particular Twitter, played in informing the public during the election process.

One of the big questions which emerged from the panel debate was whether this social media engagement would continue now the election is over:

People need something to be engaged with. It remains to be seen whether the major parties will continue with digital campaigning, or whether, rather like leaflets, we will see a lot of them at election time and not much in between.

Outlining the main findings, Newman reportedly told the audience that Twitter became a “political newswire” as well as having a direct impact on the behaviour of politicians.

Reports Belam:

The best of the social media – jokes, spoof posters, reaction on Twitter – was reflected and amplified by the mainstream media. This ultimately influenced the behaviour of the politicians. David Cameron, for example, toned down his habit of citing anecdotal stories of people he met after it was spoofed online.

(…) William Hague announcing he was about to go back into negotiations with the Liberal Democrats via Twitter suggesting the service was beginning to be used as ‘a political newswire’.

See Martin Belam’s full post here…Similar Posts:

May 04 2010


UK General Election 2010 – Interactive Maps and Swingometers

Tony Hirst takes a look at how different news websites are using interactivity to present different possibilities in the UK election. This post is cross-posted from the OUseful.Info blog:

So it seems like the General Election has been a Good Thing for the news media’s interactive developer teams… Here’s a quick round up of some of the interactives I’ve found…

First up, the BBC’s interactive election seat calculator:

BBC election interactive

This lets you set the percentage vote polled by each party and it will try to predict the outcome…

The Guardian swingometer lets you play with swing from any two of the three big parties to the third:

Guardian swingometer

The Daily Telegraph swingometer lets you look at swing between any two parties…

Telegraph election map

The Economist also lets you explore pairwise swings

Economist - election map

The Times doesn’t really let you do much at all… and I wonder �" is Ladbrokes in there as product placement?!

Time election interactive

Sky doesn’t go in for modeling or prediction, it’s more of just a constituency browser

Sky Election Map

The Sun probably has Tiffany, 23…

From elsewhere, this swingometer from the Charts & numbers �" UK Election 2010 blog lets you model swings between the various parties


As to what swing is? It’s defined in this Parliamentary briefing doc [PDF]

April 20 2010


Telegraph launches powerful election database

The Telegraph have finally launched – in beta – the election database I’ve been waiting for since the expenses scandal broke. And it’s rather lovely.

Starting with the obvious part (skip to the next section for the really interesting bit): the database allows you to search by postcode, candidate or constituency, or to navigate by zooming, moving and clicking on a political map of the UK.

Searches take you to a page on an individual candidate or a constituency. For the former you get a biography, details on their profession and education (for instance, private or state, oxbridge, redbrick or neither), as well as email, website and Twitter page. Not only is there a link to their place in the Telegraph’s ‘Expenses Files’ – but also a link to their allowances page on Parliament.uk.

Constituency pages feature a raft of stats, the names of candidates (not many at the moment), and the swing needed to change control.

At the moment both have ‘Related stories’ but these are only related in the loosest sense for the moment. And there is a link to the election map and swingometer that The Telegraph built previously.

Advanced search

All of which is nice but not earth-shattering. Where the database really comes into its own is with the Advanced Search feature.

This is so powerful that the main issue may turn out to be usability. I’m not sure myself of everything it can do at the moment but apart from the fundamentals of actually finding a candidate, this allows you to filter all the candidates in the database based on everything from what type of education they had, to their age, gender, profession, county and role (i.e. contesting, defending, standing for the first time or again). The Swingometer filter also appears to let you filter based on who wins as a result of predicted swings (not just Lab-Con but Con-Lib and Lab-Lib)

The site is still rough around the edges – it appears that the Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Grieve went to “Lyc‚àö¬©e Fran‚àö√üais Charles de Gaulle” and ’Oxbridge University’, while the link to his website is missing a ‘http://’ and so doesn’t work.

Data geeks will be disappointed that the data doesn’t appear to be mashable, and there obviously isn’t an API. The Telegraph’s Marcus Warren tells me that they are looking at mashups for after the election, but for the moment are focusing on researching candidates.

That seems a sensible move. The MPs’ expenses scandal may turn out not just to be the biggest story of the last decade, but the foundation of a political database to rival any other news organisation. The Telegraph have a real strength here and it’s good to see them building on it.

March 30 2010


How Twitter added to the #askthechancellors TV debate

Channel 4’s Ask the Chancellors has provoked a range of reactions as the live TV debate was the first big social media event of the election campaign in the UK.

As well as watching the debate live on TV and online, people could share and discuss their impressions and comments on Twitter, using the hashtag #askthechancellors.

Channel 4 estimated that the debate generated 20,000 tweets over a two-period, becoming the number one trending topic in the UK and London on Twitter, and number three worldwide.

The existence of a live back channel online as the debate unfolded added a new dimension to the traditional political argument and counter-argument.

The director of Polis at the LSE, Charlie Beckett, described it as a small triumph for democracy:

It all makes for much richer, multi-layered reportage. The TV debate alone would have been worth it. But the fact that tens of thousands of people were taking part reminds us that citizens do care about politics. And they want to be part of reporting the debate as it happens.

The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones suggested that:

Twitter, rather than television, could be the place where the issues are really dissected.

Others, like George Brock, the head of journalism at City University London, struck a more sceptical tone, saying he was “not buying this as transformative change.”

An interesting event occurs on mainstream television. The leisured, educated and tech-savvy classes discuss what they see and hear, with – in this case – a heavy injection of tweeting political spinners in the mix. Cafe conversation gone digital, if you like. I just don’t see what’s transformative about a bigger conversation. It’s just larger.

It is too early to talk about social media as bringing about transformation change in the way politics is conducted.  But Brock takes too narrow a view on the conversation taking place on Twitter.

The exchange on Twitter works on several levels.  At first glance, it is about the content – what people are saying.

But the information is not simply dependent on the content of the message. A user’s profile, their social connections and the messages they resend, or retweet, provide an additional layer of information. This is called a social graph and it is implicit in social networks such as Twitter.

The social graph provides a representation of an individual and their connections. Each user on Twitter has followers, who themselves have followers. Thus each tweet has a social graph attached to it, as does each retweet of that message. Accordingly, social graphs offer a means to infer reputation and trust. The following section discusses the relationship between Twitter and journalism.

The messages on Twitter have sentiments attached to them that can be analysed and aggregated, providing a measure of the general feeling. This is called sentiment analysis.

By approaching Twitter messages as data fragments, rather than as content, we can develop a more nuanced approach.  As I have argued before, the value of Twitter lies less in each individual message, but in the mosaic they collectively create.

March 03 2010


Broadcasters agree terms for election debates – with some caveats

BBC, ITV and Sky have reach an agreement on how the televised Prime Ministerial debates during the election campaign will be run.

The three programmes will feature a “pre-determined theme” for half of their airtime, says a release from the BBC, and the debates will be broadcast live in mid-evening weekday slots. Members of the audience will be allowed to ask questions and viewers will be invited to submit questions in advance by email.

The full BBC release is at this link…

But at a Journalism.co.uk-supported event last night on the role of new media in the election, BBC Today programme presenter and chair of the event Evan Davis explained some additional rules for the audience:

  • no clapping will be allowed
  • there will be no cutaways back to individual audience members after they have asked a question

Speaking on BBC Radio 5Live this morning, a BBC producer involved with setting up the debates said after audience questions had been taken the focus would be on the candidates interacting with one another. This would not involve interjections from the audience, he quickly told the interviewing presenter.

The full rules for the debates will be available online via each broadcaster’s website, says the release, but they haven’t been published just yet.

The planned restrictions led some in last night’s audience to question the value of the debates. But BBC political editor Nick Robinson, who was speaking as part of the panel, was quick to respond:

“If we cannot be excited after 5-and-a-half decades about seeing the PM and politicians debate the issues, what more do you want?

There’s a cynicism about the rules here that is over the top. There are things you won’t get, but there are things you will get because they’ve ruled out the bear pit. They’ve ruled out the heckling and shouting. To get three guys to agree with this they had to set some rules. Would I trade what we have [PMQs] for four hours of our leaders debating on national TV you bet I would.

More to follow on last night’s event from Journalism.co.uk…

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