Innovation in news: Al-Jazeera Labs

Image: Al Jazeera Labs website
Image: Al Jazeera Labs website

Fascinating to see how Arabic and English news service Al Jazeera is approaching the innovation imperative with its Al Jazeera Labs project.

In the first couple of months of this year the company has rolled out many deals and pilots in interesting areas, according to a great report on Journalism.co.uk. I’m especially intrigued by things like its experiments with Creative Commons licensing of content and use of data visualisation in news stories like the recent war in Gaza.

The map is using both mainstream media reports and what people are saying in social media, via Usahidi, a “platform for crowdsourcing crisis information”. It is designed to help build up a picture of what is happening in a crisis situation – be it a natural disaster or a military conflict – based on what people are saying (by text, blog, Twitter etc.) on the ground.

Image: Al Jazeera's Gaza map on the Ushahidi platform
Image: Al Jazeera's Gaza map on the Ushahidi platform

It’s a very interesting concept, and interesting to see serious attempts to make sense of and filter the rich information – with all the sensible caveats about reliability – that personal content from people involved or near to a crisis situation create.

Here’s a map that has been created from data about the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Image: An Ushahidi map of incidents in DRC Congo
Image: An Ushahidi map of incidents in DRC Congo

Inauguration day in social media…

I wanted to write a round up of all the Obama ’08 campaign and social media analyses, so I did a search for his name in my Google Reader. The search results, a bit like me and a lot of people today around the world, seems unable to get past the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.

Fair enough. I’ll come back to that. For now, here’s a round up of some of the incredible ways that people have been experiencing and talking about this wonderful day on the web…

An Open Source government?

First up the White House website was replaced with a social media-influenced design, including a blog, a commitment to transparency and the whole thing’s under a Creative Commons licence… Wow.

Image: New & improved, social media style White House website
Image: New & improved, social media style White House website

And what’s more, the whole website is licensed under Creative Commons (the “most permissive” version, according the the Creative Commons blog).

NB: VentureBeat has a more critical analysis of the bloggy website’s lack of things like comments…

CNN, FB Connect and Photosynth

CNN’s gone to town with social media for the inauguration. You could watch it live after logging in with Facebook Connect and see a scrolling list of other viewers’ status updates as they reacted to it. One friend of mind said she really enjoyed this…

Image: CNN Facebook live viewer
Image: CNN Facebook live viewer

These won’t be the last, but Mashable‘s published some Facebook stats from this afternoon. Goggle ye at the following:

1. 600,000 status updates posted through the CNN.com Live Facebook feed

2. Facebook averaged 4,000 status updates per minute during the broadcast

3. 8,500 status updates were posted during the first minute of Obama’s speech

4. “Millions” of people logged into Facebook during the broadcast

This is a worldwide media event playing out as much on the web as on TV…

But even more amazing was the Photosynth CNN set up for the inauguration itself. This you have to see – it’s a great use of the technology. What’s amazing is that already – four or so hours later, the Photosynth panoramas are rich enough to enjoy browsing through. I imagine it will be worth taking a look again in a few days when more of those lucky people who can say they were there upload their pics…

Image: One of CNN and Microsoft's Photosynth montages
Image: One of CNN and Microsoft's Photosynth montages

Speechifying

The main event of the day was of course the speech itself,  co-written by a 27-year-old sitting in Starbucks, renowned for his late night speech “crashing” sessions interspersed with games of Rock Band.

ReadWriteWeb has been one of the first to word cloud the text of the speech on Wordle and offer it up alongside a selection of inauguration speeches from presidents past…

Image: A word cloud of Obama's inauguration speech
Image: A word cloud of Obama's inauguration speech

And Neoformix has created an image of President Obama made out of the words of the speech. You can even download it as a poster if the desire takes you…

Image: Neoformix's speech-as-portrait
Image: Neoformix's speech-as-portrait

And finally…

I watched the Inauguration ceremony in a Big Daddy’s Diner a block or so from iCrossing’s New York office. It was a random choice at the last minute, but it felt like a great place to be for “the moment”. After he was sworn in the whole place applauded and whooped a little before settling in to listen to the speech.

obama-in-big-daddys-diner

I’ve submitted the pic to the very sweet Flickr group of people’s photos of where they were when “a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath”.

What a day.

: : Bonus link: I’ve written about search and social reactions to the inauguration speech at iCrossing’s Connect blog.