We all just want to make the Internet a better place, right?
So that's what a group of coders, designers and thinkers set out to do March 19-22.
At the first #SNDmakes, four teams set out to find solutions to problems users encounter when viewing content with current article forms.
And it. Was. Awesome.
As a student, I was able to sit in a room with a bunch of thoughtful professionals and observe the ways they approach different challenges.
I watched as representatives of traditional newsrooms and newer media brought their ideas to the table, finding answers that could work in either setting. And of course, I was able to bring my own ideas forth, too.
As a group, we asked ourselves, "How might we ... ?" until we had covered a wall with oversized Post Its with possible ideas.
We then selected four questions and split up into four teams to solve them:
- How might we create a mobile experience that makes long form content easily scannable?
- How might we better surface social sharing within a story to give newsrooms powerful social insights and readers more connection to the story and their Twitter community?
- How might we encourage discovery from different entry points in a story timeline
- How might we design video experiences that allow for variable time commitments?
My team worked on the last bullet.
With representatives from the San Francisco Chronicle, CNN, NPR, Knight Lab and two student publications, we believed we could all benefit from creating a better video experience.
What we came up with was a format that allows videos to determine their own pace when viewing video. By breaking up an existing video into separate sections and incorporating text, we cut a six-minute video down to an experience of about 45 seconds without eliminating content.
So what did I learn from all this?
• A solution isn't a solution if you can't identify the problem it's attempting to solve. That sounds simple enough, right? But when we were brainstorming about possible projects, several ideas came up that were interesting within themselves, but did not have a purpose except to be cool. In starting with a problem, then developing a solution, we were able to better focus our projects and use our time more efficiently.
• Don't be afraid to kill your darlings. Ask the tough questions along the way. By questioning the process of developing a product continuously, we were able to identify challenges to users and ourselves as we went. But we were also able to fine-tune our mission and create a better end product because of what we asked
• The Internet is totally whack, yo. The folks at #SNDmakes only worked to solve four problems of the many we identified, and so many more problems still exist. But that's awesome. That means smart people have the opportunity to continuously improve upon things and raise standards. And with the promise of new devices entering the market all the time, our job of improving the storytelling experience will never end.
So that's that. Be sure you check out the links above to experience and learn more about each project.