Jeanne Brooks welcomes the crowd at hackingjournalism

hackingjournalism: welcome to the #videohack blog

Matt Carroll
Jan 17, 2015 · 10 min read

By Matthew Carroll, Audrey Le, Jeanne Brooks, Lam Thuy Vo and Kawandeep Virdee

The second hackathon is focused on news video. The central idea is: “Rethink how we create, disseminate, and consume video news.” It’s being held at Conde Nast in New York on Jan 17–18. We’ll be blogging event. Have news, anecdotes, pictures you want added? Pass them along — @MattatMIT

Monday 10 am

The laptops have been packed up, the cold coffee poured down the drain, and everyone has gone home.

But the tremendous projects created by a wonderful group of participants remain here — and hopefully some projects live on, evolving into full-fledged products.

Even more than the projects, was the tremendous sense of community and camaraderie that developed over a short weekend. Many friendships were made, laughs exchanged, and inspiring work was created. We had enough great experiences to fill a month; how often does all that happen in less than 48 hours? Not often enough.

It was a wonderful weekend. This was our second hackjournalism event, following last spring’s hack at the MIT Media Lab, and we hope to have another again this spring. We’ll keep people informed and follow us on Twitter (I’m @MattatMIT.)

Some clear themes emerged from the work. There were tools for creating a better viewer experience, for helping reporters do their jobs better, and even some for protecting the identify of people reporting from dangerous zones.

If you haven’t taken a look at the projects, we encourage you to do so. A few, picked more or less at random.

  • Full Sight, which allows video to play under text stories;
  • MST4K’s tool which allows viewers to share their reactions directly on a video;
  • Shoutboost, which helps people submit, discover, curate, promote videos across social platforms;
  • Resume, which allows easy switching from device to device, without losing your place in a video;
  • Ojos Ven, which in dangerous situations allows anonymizing and sharing of videos shot on cell phones;
  • And Cume, a dashboard for newsrooms that would make it easier to curate livestreams from events.

Some thanks are in order to the organizers:

Let’s start with Kawandeep Virdee from, who provided nonstop enthusiasm (and cutting-edge fashion) from the first meeting, months ago. Jeanne Brooks of Hacks/Hackers did a sterling job creating balanced teams that got us off to a swift, smooth start and helped foster a noncompetitive but nurturing atmosphere. Our host, Conde Nast, through the indefatigable Lenny Bogdonoff, supplied a tremendous workplace, with what felt like dozens of meeting offices which were perfectly suited to hosting multiple teams. Lam Thuy Vo of Al Jazeera America was everywhere (including on a team). Laura Bucci provided invaluable logistical support that ranged from registrations to six-foot roast beef sandwiches.

And many thanks to our financial sponsors:, Conde Nast, Hacks/Hackers, and Future of News at the MIT Media Lab.

— Matt Carroll

A glaring omission in the blog: a heartfelt thanks to our great speakers, both in our lightning talks and for our workshops. Here’s some of the speakers for workshops.

Andrew Montalenti from Parsely helps publishers understand how readers are responding to content. Showed which analytics actually matter, and how you can leverage it for engaging content.

Andy Pellett from Demonstrated how to easily include images, videos, and rich media in your apps. Intro tutorials and demos on working with the Embedly API, Cards, and Player.js for rendering media and controlling video in your apps.

Scott Money from Ramp: Offered a showcase of interactive video experiences and showed how to implement them with RAMP’s APIs. Ramp builds products that use video to improve internal communication and marketing initiatives.

Rashmi Raman from Bloomberg: A quick turnaround to build prototypes can improve the creative process. Showed demos and tutorials for working with Brisket.

Michael Sagalyn & Morgan Timpson from IBM: Gave tutorials and demos on accessing Watson Analytics. Watson helps sift, analyze, and visualize datasets.

We kicked off Saturday with a number of lightning speeches, including words from Storycode founder Aina Abiodun; Ingrid Kopp, Director of Interactive at Tribeca Film Institute; Playmatics game designer Nick Fortugno; and The Wall Street Journal’s Jarrard Cole.

All the speeches can be found here.

Sunday 7 pm

Great presentations by everyone this afternoon. Lots of positive reaction from people. If you are looking for more info about a particular project, you go here:

Sunday 2:35 pm

Some Vines have arrived:

Team 9's “Take your video’s temperature”

and VideoPizza’s

Sunday 2 pm

What’s the usual gender balance at a hackathon? It generally skews heavily male.

Not here. Of 100 attendees, 50 were women, said Jeanne Brooks, who did the count. Also, there were also 32 people of color.

Sunday 1 pm

Thanks, @NotAlyce and @BostonDisPatch

Sunday 12:15 pm

Kawandeep Virdee has a great idea for teams: do a Vine. Essentially, it will act as a commercial for your project. It will help get people interested in what you make. (Besides, folks, it’s a video hackathon, hint hint.) Get those Vines done, let me know @MattatMIT, and I’ll post here.

Sunday 10 am:

Team names run from cool to fun.

Here are some — and hopefully they are matched with the right team numbers. But I need help getting the complete list! If your team name is not here, send it to @MattatMIT.

Team 1 = Dancing Pandas

Team 4 = working on it …

Team 5 = Greyhound

Team 8 = Gr8

Team 9 = Elephant

Team 10 = Mystery Science Theatre, aka MST4k

Team 11 = (got a big laugh last night)

Team 12 = ShoutBoost

Team 13 = Suncast

Team 15 = Full Sight

Team 16 = The “Tell Me About It” app. An audio app for those who get dumped and for the dump-ers.

Sunday 9:45 am

The nyan cat hoodie floating around the hack was drawn by Lorrie LeJeune, who used to be an illustrator for O’Reilly books, where she did the famous animal covers. The hoodie was done for the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab, where Lorrie is now the assistant director for Civic. It might’ve been the most RT’ed item yesterday at the hack. Thanks for the pic from Lam Thuy Vo.

Sunday 9:30 am

Right here:

Saturday 4:50pm

Audrey Le visited a number of teams to find out what they were working on. These are short descriptions of projects, many of which continue to evolve. Hey team members—got a better description?—please comment here or tweet at us, and we’ll update.

Also: We’re missing teams! What are you working on?

Here’s her report:

Dancing Pandas: Trying to build a web app that creates timelines for each news channel around specific topics, which the end user can run a query on.

Team 4: Creating thumbnails for video. Also would include a scroll feature involving comments.

Team 6: A 30-second video platform, with extreme privacy controls. For instance, selective blurring of faces; selective information about location to protect privacy; optional time lag.

Team 7: Looking for a way to insert quotes from video and embed a 15-second clip.

Mysterious Science Theatre 4000, or, MST4k: You and your friends can react with text, comment images, comments etc, directly on the content for a viewing experience that is high engagement, low noise.

Team 11: They are working on documentaries, which often have a point of view. They want to empower the viewer to see the documentary on his or her terms, with a timeline that links to relevant information.

ShoutBoost: Wants to help journalists find and share videos.

Team 15: The reporter would mark text; when someone clicked on the text, you would see short clips.

Saturday 4:12

Photos by Lam Thuy

Saturday, 3:35 pm:

Jeanne Brooks, an organizer and the executive director of Hacks/Hackers, did a visit with teams to get a progress report with each group. She wanted to make sure each team has solid ideas and a work plan to build something over next day and a half.

Some emerging ideas are about posting and sharing video, using secure strategies. They are also looking at features that can anonymize the user, that can give dynamic constraints on local data that is shared, or can allow delayed timing when sharing video, which could give someone time to get out of a dangerous area.

Another group is looking at text, search and remixing video. Some folks are building “Tinder” for video. The user they have in mind is a busy, on-the-go person who doesn’t care to read, but loves consuming video snippets. That person, who is interested in sports, sees a collection of short sports videos. If they like it, swipe right, get more. Don’t like? Swipe left and get a new video.

Saturday 2:45: Different teams, different paths to creation.

About 15 teams are working hard to make a news video product. But the ways they go about coming up with an idea and then implementing that idea vary widely.

All are working on a general theme, which is guided by the thought: Rethink how we create, disseminate, and consume video news.

About 10 of the teams have been observed and interviewed by Audrey Le, a doctoral student at Columbia University here in New York, who for her thesis is studying hackathons as sites of experiential learning, focusing on group interactions in teams.

Teams start in different ways and use different media for sharing notes — white boards, Post-its, hackpad, or Google doc.

Some started by creating single or multiple “personas” and different use cases. Then they think about the problems these personas run into. Others map out ecosystem for news production, and others still discuss their own issues, using themselves as a persona.

By lunchtime, they are identifying themes, which can mean reorganizing reams of colorful Post-its scattered on walls. They are closing in on “ideation” and the questions that help them focus on their product.

Saturday 11:45: The hackingjournalism event is well underway. The lightning talks were a big success. Jeanne Brooks is now assembling everyone into teams. Lots of positive energy. Before too long — lunch. Then the hacking starts.

The space offered by our host Conde Nast, at 222 Broadway in New York, is incredible. Lots of open room, conference room, white boards.

About 100 hackers have shown up. It’s a great list — even have someone here from the Czeck Republic.

12:30: Teams quickly colonized every office open in the Conde Nast space. Armed with Post-its, markers, and and networked creativity, they started coming up with ideas.

The focus of the hackathon is video, as it relates to news. But the goal is build a community that works together in its creation. To that end, there are no awards. We thought this would make a more cooperative event, where people willingly shared their talent and ideas with team members and even other teams which needed help.

Teams will work until about 8 pm tonight, when we break for party time.

Matt Carroll, who loves hackathons, works on the Future of News initiative at the MIT Media Lab. He can be followed @MattatMIT. He writes fiction under the name Sean Patrix. Blog posts on everything I write can be found here.

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A weekly trio of stories, videos, and data viz about the news media. Curated by Matt Carroll, journalism professor at Northeastern University.

Matt Carroll

Written by

Journalism prof at Northeastern University. Ran Future of News initiative at the MIT Media Lab; ex-Boston Globe data reporter & member of Spotlight

3 to read

A weekly trio of stories, videos, and data viz about the news media. Curated by Matt Carroll, journalism professor at Northeastern University.