The Big Picture

Posted: August 4, 2011 in My Data Journey

The Big Challenge:

The final outcome of the Knight-Mozilla learning lab is a one to two page (800 to 1,000 words max) proposal – that includes a “show and sell” pitch, design document and business brief – for a software product to be integrated into a news organization.

Build upon an idea you submitted as part of one of the challenges (open video, comment systems or web apps) or pitch an entirely new idea. We encourage you to think big and bold…but, with one caveat: consider the viability of your project for the newsrooms and end users of the product.

The Big Sell:

The Big Design:

The design consists of 3 separate but interconnected web applications. The submission application (the Big Bucket) allows crowd-sourced curation of online content. The live show (the Big Discussion) is a webinar format which allows multiple video links, a voting and question panel and content viewing. The end product (the Big Picture) is automatically generated from the previous applications.

The Big Bucket

Content is uploaded along with a justification (word limited), an email address (link to approve submission) and an online contact (to be added as a link). The moderator will have algorithmic support in the form of meta-moderation; weighting, social meta-data and user grading. Once approved, the content gets added to the Big Bucket and the contributor along with his/her details gets added to the ‘Contributors’ list. Those on the list get video and audio access. Invites to the Big Discussion will be sent via email along with screencast tutorials and spec testing.

The Big Discussion

During this live session there will be three types of participants. Viewers who can watch or vote in the live show and submit questions to the presenter, ‘Big Fish’ who can be called up on audio or video to justify why the content they submitted should be part of the Big Picture, and experts who will be discussing the content (permanently on video). The final Big Picture page will be automatically generated from this where the single video recording will be like the main window in Google Hangouts which shows the loudest speaker.

The Big Cheese

The presenter, or the ‘Big Cheese’, will be in control of the time allocated for each item of content and can change the content by moving the Big Bucket item into the content window. The items in the Big Bucket and ‘Question stream’ can be deleted and reordered during the Big Discussion. All questions are wiped after a new content item is selected and a viewer can only submit one question at a time. The ‘Big Cheese’ and moderators can add content to the Big Bucket during the Big Discussion, once it starts the Big Bucket will be closed to the public.

My main concern is that I have built my proposal thinking of the Minimum Viable Person rather than the Minimum Viable Product. The least use of Big Picture by the viewer is the Big Picture page. This adds news value online by providing the readability and finishability of a news issue. It makes the conversation the navigation and gives people the relevancy with the option to read the content items.

Not articulating content directly may seem inconsistent with the news media, however, we can no longer assume an entry point of knowledge consistent with a single publication. More and more people are getting news and updates from social media but also TV and good old fashioned conversation. Rather than assuming value lies in delivering what is new, news organisations are taking on a curatorial role and need to deliver depth and understanding but also a full product where people don’t feel lost and consumed by the tidal flow of information streaming onto a sea of devices.

The next level of participation, the Median Viable Person, is the viewer of the Big Discussion. This involves logging in, voting and possibly submitting questions. The entry threshold would be minimal but one would expect a smaller audience than that of the end product (Big Picture). The top level of participation, the Maximum Viable Person, is the person who submits content. This will require getting to know the command console and setting up audio and video. This commitment raises the threshold of participation, however I see this as a bonus, being the soft power that ensures content is of value to the news issue and lowers the energy spent on moderation.

So the value to the audience is weighted and the participation ladder is setup to aid the quality of the content, however, my concern on the product side is that 3 separate web apps need to be built in conjunction for the Big Picture to work. Dedication, belief and commitment will be required. However, three tiers of value are added to the newsroom with each application. The Big Bucket is a way of getting crowd-sourced curation coming into the newsroom whilst the journalists are busy working on the story. The Big Discussion is a way of not only creating a platform for UGC whilst allowing the social value to remain within the users’ space (thus encouraging UGC to come to you), but a platform for journalists and experts to interact with the audience and elevate their standing. The Big Picture automatically creates a ‘netcast’ built around a news story that works across multiple devices, keeping the conversation, insight and depth in one place i.e. not spread across articles across news outlets across media.

Two major concerns are scalability testing of the software and the legalities of republishing content that is not the intellectual property right of the publishing organisation. These would need to be discussed with the developers and the news organisation. Others include avoiding the duplicity of online content and making the control of the Big Discussion flexible yet simple, to accomodate the pliability required for working in a live news environment. All the applications will be built with existing web infrastructure in mind.

The (not so big) Brief:

The Big Picture is a platform not a product. It is built using human consumption rather than content management as the template for story telling. It is to enlighten rather than inform. It is to source rather than supply. It is to finish rather than continue. It is to build on what is open rather than compartmentalise what is closed. It is to cross platforms rather than cater for them. It is to find the voices that add authority rather than echo the voices in authority. It is the studio discussion for online news and it’s sole purpose is to provide everyone with the Big Picture.

The Big Pictures:

The Little Links:

  • How I got the idea for The Big Picture
  • Where I got my extra thinking from, with a talk through of the design slides
  1. […] well rounded advice, and I am going to take it. Her project pitch “The Big Picture” has been posted on her site, and I am simply blown away.I’m suffering from separation anxiety at this point […]

  2. I like this. A lot.
    One of my only stumbling points is that I am unsure if the approval of content by a moderator is necessary. Perhaps everything could be ‘approved’ and the best content works its way to the ‘top.’ I’d suggest an public upvote/downvote system.

    Also, am I correct in thinking that users can both submit content they create themselves, and content they have found elsewhere online which they find to be interesting and relevant?


    • Nicola Hughes says:

      “Also, am I correct in thinking that users can both submit content they create themselves, and content they have found elsewhere online which they find to be interesting and relevant?”
      Bingo, this is the main point of the platform. Especially when it comes to content that is behind a firewall or in a different language. They could (and should) write their own piece if it so speaks to them and submit that (with a link to the original content) or submit the original and translate during the discussion. The relevancy to the individual is what is most important to the Big Picture platform.

      As to your first point, please read this piece by Anil Dash which I linked to in the MozNewsLab article before this. Regarding news, I think we have to have human moderators. Not just to to prevent spam, trolls and game play but for a community to develop you need people on the inside and not just the outside. This is a news platform to say that your piece of content has been chosen by the Guardian/BBC/Zeitonline/ Jazeera to be part of the Big Picture for their readership. You have been chosen by people in a newsroom dealing with this issue, not an algorithm. Regarding technology platforms, I am very wary of taking people out of the equation. We should be using the growth in social media to put them back into the equation. That being said, I do have a public voting system in my mock up (the arrows with + and – in the coverflow of the Big Bucket). This along with number of submissions and social media metadata would push that content to the top of the bucket but a human moderator will have to approve it for submission to the Big Discussion.

      Although you didn’t bring it up I thought I should put in the comments a lovely side effect of my design. It’s about people and place. I noticed it at the Jeff Jarvis webinar for the learning lab. He was at his home. For the Big Discussion everyone will be at their “home” (i.e. not a studio where a desk and microphones separate the audience from the ‘experts’). So citizen journalists and experts will have the same place. I say this because when I was doing my masters’ at the School of Oriental and African Studies a film-maker told me how she decided to film sex workers in India by putting them in a studio discussion. Traditionally, this is the scene of ‘knowledgeable experts’ and we the people are filmed in our native setting (the streets, the shelters, the savage lands). By elevating people with title, the media build their aura of authority. With the Big Discussion, everyone will be in the same place, have a title, have content and have their say on equal footing.

  3. […] This catchy blurb from creator Nicola Hughes‘ pitch video brilliantly summarizes The Big Picture perfectly. Users, viewers and guests submit content (audio, video, text) to The Big Picture along […]

  4. […] pitch for the Learning Lab, Big Picture, is asking a lot of developers coming with their own great ideas and prototypes. I would love to […]

  5. […] then, my scepticism told me not to expect any part of my MozNewsLab pitch, the Big Picture, to be built in 4 days and so I made a little side project, MoJoNewsBot. On the third day of the […]

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