DW Innovation Projects 2016: Don’t Memo — Demo!

As the newest team member, my first task was pretty straighforward: talk to the colleagues, ask their opinion on what was in important in 2016, and familiarize myself with the formidable projects currently pursued by @dw_innovation. The material I collected turned out to be a very good basis for a year in review post. So here is exactly that.

First of all, it seems that 2016 will go down as a bad year for journalism. Freedom of expression was severely restricted in many countries. At the same time, fake news and propaganda were extremely successful. And of course, a lot of news stories were simply disturbing, shocking. Journalists had to witness global unrest. Yet, despite the unsettling big picture, 2016 was a highly rewarding year for the DW Innovation Projects Team on its deliberate quest to improve (or fix) digital journalism aka use "technology to tell big stories better".

Tangible progress was made in particular because DW Inno tended to quite a bit of software development in the past 12 months. That's right: development. The team has not only been gathering requirements, writing white papers and drawing wireframes. It has also frequently written and tested code, refined interfaces, clicked on buttons and eventually showcased useful, technically interesting prototypes.

There is Verify Media (a Reveal spin-off and DW's first Google DNI project), which may provide entirely new options to expose lies and fakes on the web in a collaborative way. The project is especially relevant and thus listed first as the issue of verification and fact-checking on the web will become even more important in 2017. Anything that aids in the verification process (tools, software, networks etc) will be most appreciated by newsroom folks and fact-checkers.

Another interesting project is SAM (Socialise Around Media). Its core principle: Don't make the users find media-related content, make sure the content finds the users and their devices. In 2016, the SAM team was able to showcase new production and delivery tools for enhanced video content.

The NewsStream consortium tries to create editorial systems and tools within a big data architecture. It is about supporting journalists in filtering out relevant information from heterogeneous data streams in a fast and reliable way. In 2016, new tools were introduced. Most recently, the team has launched a state-of-the-art audio application that allows to quickly transform spoken word into text, then publish it as part of an article.

There also is SUMMA (Scalabale Understanding Of Multilingual Media), a monitoring platform aimed at dealing with large volumes of data across many different languages and media types. While user requirements are still being structured, SUMMA already came up with a tool to visualize newsroom output in a polyglot way.

In some cases, the team enabled or supported new DW products by drawing on findings and prototypes from ongoing projects: DW's first take on an Apple TV app (currently in closed Beta) uses Mixed Emotions research to explore new ways of video content recommendation. An easy-to-use data-driven dashboard (currently being tested for in-house application) was developed in the scope of Orbit.

Of course, cooperation was and always will be key–which brings me to the final project and the one I have recently been assigned to: Fader. Part of a collaborative platform still in its design stage, this editor tries to establish VR storytelling in every newsroom by making the handling of the raw material exceptionally easy. Fader is created by Berlin-based startup Vragments (full disclosure: a company co-founded by a member of DW's Innovation Projects team) and currently available as an alpha version. It will be scaled-up in 2017–with research input by Deutsche Welle and Euronews funded by Google DNI.

The list of projects goes on. 2016 certainly was a very productive year that saw DW Innovation Projects live up to a nice mantra: don't memo–demo!

Needless to say, DW Innovation projects is trying to keep it up by tackling everything from drones to data in 2017. So bear with us (@dw_innovation)–and please get in touch if you are interested in testing any of the tools and apps mentioned in this post.

Happy holidays, and have a good start into 2017!

Alexander Plaum