Futures Lab Update #69: Open Source Commenting System; the Verification Handbook

    by Reuben Stern
    July 31, 2014
    The Verification Handbook is a guide for authenticating and using user-generated content.

    This week we learn about a collaboration to build an open-source commenting and discussion platform for news organizations, and we explore how the Verification Handbook can help inform the use of citizen-generated materials.

    “When [comments are] done right, people get very enthused about it. What we think is really important is to have this dialogue that’s good for democracy, that actually has content and makes them more engaged with the news. All those things are important for moving forward in the digital age.” - Michael Maness, vice president of journalism and media innovation, Knight Foundation

    PART 1: Building a new engagement platform

    The New York Times, the Washington Post and Mozilla are working together to build an open-source platform that other news organizations could use to improve commenting and discussion on their websites. We learn what the project hopes to accomplish from Marc Lavallee, editor of interactive news at the New York Times, and Michael Maness, vice president of journalism and media innovation at the Knight Foundation, which is funding the project.
    Reporting by Tatiana Darie.
    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]


    For more information:

    In this previous Futures Lab report, we show five ways people have been trying to make online user comments a thing of real value to both audiences and journalists.

    PART 2: The Verification Handbook

    More than 20 practitioners from some of the world’s most respected news and aid organizations worked together to produce the Verification Handbook, a guide for authenticating and using user-generated content. We explore what went into the guide and how it might be useful to newsrooms.
    Reporting by Tatiana Darie.
    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]


    For more information:

    The Verification Handbook is free and online here. It explores the main challenges of dealing with citizen-produced media during emergencies and offers a list of free verification tools available on the Web.

    Some tools listed in the handbook include:

    • GeoSocial Footprint combines social media users’ location information based on their tweets, check-ins, natural language location and profile information.
    • FotoForensics is a free research site that allows users to submit a JPG or PNG picture for forensic analysis and get more information about the content: where it came from, when it was submitted and how often it was accessed.
    • Banjo is a mobile technology that provides real-time content discovery by location across social networks. The platform collects social signals around the Web by curating breaking news, events and social media posts in real-time.
    • Panoramio is Google’s geolocation-oriented photo sharing platform that allows users to explore places through photography. The site adds photos sent by users to Google Earth and Google Maps.
    • Free OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a free service that converts scanned document pages into editable text files.
    • AnyWho enables users to find people by their names, address or phone number. Similar people search engines are PiplSpokeo and Webmii.
    • Snopes is a search engine for legends, folklore, myths, rumors and misinformation. 

    Reuben Stern is the deputy director of the Futures Lab at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and host and co-producer of the weekly Futures Lab video update.


    The Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Futures Lab video update features a roundup of fresh ideas, techniques and developments to help spark innovation and change in newsrooms across all media platforms. Visit the RJI website for the full archive of Futures Lab videos, or download the iPad app to watch the show wherever you go. You can also sign up to receive email notification of each new episode. 

    Tagged: comment moderation commenting mobile reporting mozilla new york times verification verification handbook washington post web comments

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