Capstone, Design, HCId, Journalism

What are we going to do about the news?

During the second and final year of graduate school I worked on a research and design project related to news, design and storytelling. I created a platform and UI called Newskite, to engage people around the world about major global current affairs. This project helps understand what people are hearing in our connected but disjointed world. What are people in Peru hearing about the earthquake in Japan? How is did the Arab Spring affect how people in China thought about policy? Newskite brings those answers.

Presentation Video

Scrub to 01:02:00 for my 15 minute talk. You can follow along with the slide deck below.


Audio Stories
Below are the audio stories from actual people in other countries making calls and telling stories about what they’re hearing in the news about our global events.

Full stories

Newskite Poster 2.0

Thank you to very many many people but especially to professor Hans Ibold who pushed me hardest and mentored me more than anyone else at Indiana University.

Thank you to my trusted colleagues

I also received constructive feedback written commentary.
Presentation Feedback

Tweets during and soon after the presentation
Newskite Tweetstream

Capstone, HCId

Carl Alviani: What Do You Do Anyway? Describing IxD to the Outside World for Students

Carl Alviani

Carl Alviani, writer and editor at Ziba took some special time to talk over Skype with a small group of Human-Computer Interaction Design Master’s students at Indiana University in Bloomington. He a talk similar to that from Interaction’s 11 Conference in Boulder.

Wesley Michaels and I tracked him down in Boulder and asked if he would share his insights with our peers who couldn’t make it to the conference. His invitation was part of our semester long research and design project to improve the professional development resources for HCI Master’s students in the School of Informatics and Computing at IU.

Much of our community is struggling to communicate what we do and why it is important. Carl emphasized how important it is for us to tell stories that have characters and tangible examples. Otherwise, people will continue thinking we do magic, or do nothing. The best thing we can do is open a dialogue with people who don’t understand what we do and above all–thank them for being interested in the first place.

Major Points

  1. An example would be useful about now. Got a GPS device in front of you? Talk about it.
  2. Tell an “IxD at work” story that people can see.
  3. Don’t sweat the edge case. It’s ok to start by saying we make website or phone apps. Something like that is tangible and can open a dialogue.
  4. It is your job to shield the world from IxD’s internal debates.
  5. Start where the listener is. Think of your listeners as users. Then have a user-centered designed conversation. You know how to do that!

Q&A with students

  • Is UX and IxD a buzzword? Not necessarily. A buzz word is when usage exceeds comprehension and maybe more people are using the word but don’t know what it means.
  • The best work comes from identifying part of a project where you can have an impact.
  • The industry will benefit as a whole from students coming from young programs. From schools will come more agreements on terminology and practice in the profession.
  • It’s common and expected for interaction designers to inherit and learn new tools fast.
  • There is a difference between user research and market research just as there is a difference between users and consumers. When designers engage in research they come out of their research transformed and empathetic.
  • Getting excited about work is essential. You can begin to think, “do you have any idea of what this will mean to people!?” When you have a person in mind you can really talk about solutions and begin to solve them.
  • Play well with others.
  • People can be very creative. Even or especially non-designers. Let them know you realize that and draw on it. Be interested in them and make sure they know.

Carl, thank you so much!


Capstone, Design, HCId, Journalism

Why journalists should pay attention to

There is an remarkable amount of opportunity to do game changing work in the journalism space. There always has been and there always will be. Why? Because there will always be uncovered stories, truths and narratives to be told.  There are always people, problems and more than two sides to an issue.

I’ll start by telling you about my transition from being a news designer to interaction designer. Then I’ll talk about at large.

I’ve been asked how I made the leap from one field to the other. Really, folks, they are one in the same to me. Both roles share the same toolbelt:  sketch, iterate, prototype, reflect, tell stories, interview, explore, think big, collaborate, write and design at all fidelities.

People ask me why I made the leap

Why did I jump the journalism ship? For me, there really was no other choice. I wanted to improve the quality of how we learn about what’s happening in our world, what I think news does. To do this, I needed new tools in my tool design belt. So, I went back to graduate school to study HCI.

The other reason I jumped ship is actually quite sad. I tried and tried and tried to motivate digital approaches at various media organizations I worked for–not just one in particular. And my freshly graduated tech savvy peer/colleague journalist friends were all trying to do the same thing. Some have been successful. But most of us realized weren’t going to get anywhere until publishers were willing to invest in the future of digital, in a real, thoughtful, way.

Sure the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and other major news hubs pump out fantastic digital work. But we don’t talk as much about solutions for readers of all the gazettes, journals and couriers across the country. That’s why creating a platform can be so powerful.

I wasn’t going to make progress any time soon in the old boys club, so, I jumped. I didn’t want to spend any more time commemorating the good ol’ days, I wanted to design for the future.

Do I look back? Of course. Do I want to go back? No. Am I obsessively grateful for all of the brilliant mentors and experiences I’ve had? Of course.

People ask why I went to graduate school

In my grad school application I said I wanted to work on the news problem. I  said I would graduate and leave the traditional news community for a while and arm myself with education and experience at smart tech companies. And when the timing and opportunity is right, I would work in this opportunity space again. I had a really nice metaphor with light and darkness.

People are doing things outside journalism that benefit media

I’m writing this post today because it relates to which has me oozing with excitement.

Watch their demo at 500 startups. Scrub to about 34 minutes in.

What does

  • celebrates story + data +design
  • connects dataviz pros  + advertisers + publishers + compelling content
  • is a platform
  • a mix of design, journalism and analysis

Free Personal Finance Software, Budget Software, Online Money Management and Budget Planner | (20091102) The cofounders, Stewart Langille and Lee Sherman come most recently from, the infographic heaven for visualized data about your money. They are taking advantage of a space and area that has never been more important and had more opportunity. Watch the video and see how they view the future.

They are trying to solve the problem of “big data” and are “targeting publishing and advertising.” A publisher has a monthly with subscription with which connect them with third party data sets, designers, analysts and an an editor who oversees the creations of these visualizations.

I’ve said this many times before, and I’ll say it again, if journalists in newsrooms don’t take serious, thoughtful action to move the news industry forwards, other people will. Quoting myself:

Newspapers, radio and cable television should be taught in media history classes. Students should be taught to produce for and think about Mobile apps, Google and Apple TV, Ubiquitous Computing, Virtual Environments, Chat clients, Facebook, Twitter, Bloggers, GPS devices, etc. The list goes on and on. If the medium is the message, it’s time to open our eyes to everything else out there.

We should have invented Twitter. We should have invented RSS feeds. We should have invented Craigslist and Groupon and Youtube and the iPad and Google Search and Yelp. It’s okay to hire developers. It’s okay to take a risk. If people inside the news industry don’t change the model, people outside will.

10 August 2010 “gives publishers the horse power of a New York Times visualization team without the cost; New York Times has 40 people on their visualization.” It’s curated crowdsourcing. “Using our data, or their own, users can grab-and-go making amazing visualizations” the founders say.

Watch their interview with TechCrunch to learn more about how it works.

So, to my dear friends in newsrooms, fighting the good fight, every day, whatever you do, keep moving forward. If your editor is not taking advantage of your potential, work for someone who will. If no one will, start doing whatever you think needs to be done, yourself.