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Digital tools are an increasing impetus for innovation across African newsrooms. From crowdsourcing content to using infographics to tell stories, journalists are finding new ways to report the news. We’re excited to be supporting these innovators through the $ 1 million Africa News Innovation Challenge, announced in May this year—the latest in a series of projects to spur innovation in African journalism.

Run by the the African Media Initiative, other partners include Omidyar Network, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the U.S. State Department, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). The response to the challenge was really enthusiastic, with more than 500 proposals submitted.

The 20 winners are all exciting digital journalism projects that will contribute to solving some of the biggest challenges facing the African media industry. They range from mobile apps to mobilise citizens against corruption and improved infographics to communicate complex issues, to developing new platforms for sharing content on buses and taxis. Key themes among the projects include a growing concern about manipulated online content, the security of communications with whistleblowers and sources, and the need to improve engagement with audiences.

The projects have the potential to be replicated by media elsewhere in Africa, or to be scaled up across the continent, to create wide and sustained impact. Some projects will also develop new tools to support newsrooms and boost media revenues to support sustainable journalism. Winners will receive cash grants ranging from $ 10,000 to $ 100,000; technology support from a team of four developers at AMI’s jAccelerator lab in Kenya, and business development support from top media strategists affiliated with the World Association of Newspapers & News Publishers. Ten of the winners will also be flown to the Knight Foundation’s annual M.I.T. Civic Media Conference in the U.S., while the rest will be showcased at other important industry events.

The ANIC winners are:

  • actNOW (Ghana)
  • AdBooker (South Africa)
  • Africa Check (South Africa / Nigeria)
  • skyCAM (Kenya / Nigeria)
  • Africa’s Wealth (renamed NewsStack) (Nigeria / Namibia)
  • Citizen Desk (Mozambique)
  • Code4Ghana (Ghana)
  • ConvergeCMS (Kenya / Tanzania / Uganda)
  • CorruptionNET (South Africa)
  • DataWrapper (Nigeria / Senegal / Tanzania)
  • End-to-End (renamed LastMile Crowdmapping) (Liberia / Ghana / Kenya)
  • FlashCast (Kenya)
  • Green Hornet (South Africa)
  • ListeningPost (South Africa)
  • MoJo: Keeping media honest by monitoring online journalism (South Africa)
  • openAFRICA (Kenya / Nigeria / Rwanda / South Africa)
  • ODADI (renamed Code4SouthAfrica) (South Africa)
  • Oxpeckers (South Africa)
  • Wikipedia Zero (Cameroon / Ivory Coast / Tunisia / Uganda)
  • ZeroNews (pan-African)

You can learn more about the winners’ projects on the ANIC website.

We can’t wait to see how these innovations unfold and we look forward to working with more African journalists to help them use technologies to tell important stories.

(Cross-posted from the Africa Blog)

The Official Google Blog

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Make Money Online: Roadmap of a Dot Com Mogul
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Google News turns 10

Google News launched on September 22, 2002—exactly a decade ago.

Inspired by the widespread interest in news after the September 11 attacks, we invested in technology to help people search and browse news relevant to them. Google News broke new ground in news aggregation by gathering links in real time, grouping articles by story and ranking stories based on the editorial opinions of publishers worldwide. Linking to a diverse set of sources for any given story enabled readers to easily access different perspectives and genres of content. By featuring opposing viewpoints in the same display block, people were encouraged to hear arguments on both sides of an issue and gain a more balanced perspective.

In the last ten years, Google News has grown to 72 editions in 30 languages, and now draws from more than 50,000 news sources. The technology also powers Google’s news search. Together, they connect 1 billion unique users a week to news content.

Google News today

As we have scaled the service internationally, we have added new features (Local News, Personalization, Editors’ Picks, Spotlight, Authorship, Social Discussions), evolved our design, embraced mobile and run ancillary experiments (Fast Flip, Living Stories, Timeline). In parallel, we have monitored our quality and challenged our engineers to improve the technology under the hood—increase freshness, group news better, rank stories more accurately, personalize with more insight and streamline the infrastructure.

Take a look back at the past decade in Google News through the top stories from each year and a few notable features that have launched in the interim:

It’s undeniable that the online news landscape has changed immensely. Smartphones and social networks have transformed how news is accessed and sourced, and shifted the relationship between readers and authors. Open journalism is the norm, and aggregation by humans and machines is an integral part of the ecosystem. New technologies such as Hangouts on Air have the potential to connect users, journalists and opinion makers and transform how stories are discussed.

Opportunities abound, and we are excited for where we can take this product in the next decade. While change is inevitable, one thing remains the same: our mission is to bring you the news you want, when you need it, from a diverse set of sources.

(Cross-posted on the Google News blog)

The Official Google Blog

Supporting Innovation in African News

Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog

We’re eager to see journalism flourish in the digital age, in all forms and on all continents. Today, with half a dozen other generous sponsors, we’re taking a big step forward with a new $ 1 million African News Innovation Challenge.

This initiative is the latest in a series of projects to spur innovation in African journalism. Since 2010 we’ve been working with newsrooms across the continent to show journalists how the Internet can help them be better reporter. In Ghana we’re helping journalists produce evidence-based reporting on the country’s new oil wealth; in Senegal we gave journalists training on election reporting, and in Kenya we helped pioneer Africa’s first data journalism boot camp. Participants produced eight separate data-driven stories or news apps, including a TV documentary that exposed the plight of rural schools and an analysis of government spending at county level that has been nominated for an international award.

Now, we’re looking for even more innovations aimed at strengthening and transforming African news media. The News Innovation Challenge will provide grants ranging from $ 12,500 to $ 100,000 for project proposals falling into four categories: news gathering, storytelling, audience engagement and the business of news. Proposals can include ideas that improve everything from data-based investigative journalism and crowdsourced citizen reporting, to new ways of distributing news on mobile platforms, or new revenue models that help wean media off a reliance on advertising. In addition to cash grants, winners will receive technical, business development and marketing advice.

The African Media Initiative, Africa’s largest association of media owners and operators, is running the Challenge. Other partners include Omidyar Network, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the U.S. State Department, the Konrad Adenhauer Stiftung and the World Association of Newspapers & News Producers.

Entries must be submitted to this website by midnight Central African Time on July 10, 2012. While news pioneers from anywhere in the world are welcome, all entries must have an African partner that will help develop and test the innovation. Entries will be judged by an international jury, and finalists will get a chance to refine their proposals during one-on-one mentoring sessions at a “tech camp” in Zanzibar in August 2012.

The winners will be announced at the Africa’s largest gathering of media owners and executives, at the Africa Media Leaders Forum, in Ivory Coast in November 2012.

We’re also active in promoting digital journalism outside of Africa, such as supporting the Nordic News Hacker, the Global Editor Network’s data journalism prize and International Press Institute media innovation prizes. As media organizations continue to adapt to the new digital world, we’re committed to working with journalists to help them use technologies to gather and tell important stories.

The Official Google Blog

Latest Automatic Income News

98/365: 1979-1980
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Monday, 01 September 2008.

40 Years in 40 Days [ view the entire set ]
An examination and remembrance of a life at 40.

For the 40 days leading up to my 40th birthday, I intend to use my 365 Days project to document and remember my life and lay bare what defines me. 40 years, 40 qualities, 40 days.

Year 12: 1979-1980

In the spring of my 6th grade year, I tried out for the following year’s 7th grade cheerleading squad. I did so primarily because I wanted to be able to go to all the basketball games, but I was not completely unmoved by the promise of popularity. The social ecosystem had begun to take solid form, with clusters of kids congealing around such ephemera as perceived family income (not necessarily actual), wardrobe choices, grades, and of course, the less mutable attractiveness. There was considerable overlap in these groups out of practical necessity. It was a very small school. Each grade had fewer than 100 students (usually much fewer), and it was not possible to field a credible basketball team without band geeks, or put on a theater production without jocks. Still, there was a social hierarchy, and I was not entirely benefitting from it.

As it turns out, being a cheerleader didn’t give me an automatic in with the top of the social food chain, and that suited me fine. The more time I spent around them, the less I wanted to be a part of that full-time. Toward the end of the year, the popular crowd literally sent an emissary (no, I am not kidding) to ask if I wanted to switch groups and be in their group of friends. I was so offended by the painfully inorganic ritual, and what it probably meant about how these people operated, that I said no. The emissary, who was a girl I actually liked quite a lot, seemed shocked. I don’t think any of them expected I would turn down what must have seemed to them a very generous offer. I wonder if any of them, even to this day, would understand how absurd it was. So, I continued to be a floater… a middle-dweller, occupying the space between the jocks and the brains, translating the languages of one for the other. It was a spot in which I was very comfortable, and one in which I’ve opted to stay.

In the previous year, we’d purchased an unfinished house just north of town, and we spent the following months doing much of the finishing work ourselves. We put in walls and insulation, laid flooring, painted and spackled, and when we were done, we had a little, square, two-story, chalet-style house. My little brother and I finally had our own separate bedrooms. They were small, but they were ours. Our parents bedroom was upstairs in the A-frame portion of the house. The bedroom walls sloped in sharply to a point along the center of the room. It was only possible to stand completely upright in an area about 4-5 feet across. The house had a forced-air, natural gas heating system, but it was rarely used. Right in the middle of the open downstairs living/kitchen area sat a large wood-burning stove, and we kept its fire burning non-stop from late September through early May. The stove was propped up on a brick bed, and I quickly learned that standing on the edge of the bricks, with my toes hanging off and my backside warming against the heat, was a peaceful vantage point from which to view the various goings-on in the house.

Who am I?

I am a cultural dichotomy.

People who meet me as an adult are often completely baffled when they discover that I used to be a cheerleader. I have always been, to varying degrees, a counterculture kind of person. That’s probably less obviously true of me now that it has been in the past. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve just had less energy to care about whether I looked suitably edgy enough. But, anyone who knows me well, knows that I have a hearty streak of disdain for most social norms, and that I am as much a nerd as any of my ten thousand acquaintances who work in IT, and as much of a misanthrope as any black-eyeliner abusing, angsty teenager.

And so it always flips people out when they discover that I love sports, and American Idol, and America’s Next Top Model, and any number of other trashy, pedestrian, un-intellectual, and even anti-intellectual pursuits. I had a boss once who said he had to completely rework his understanding of who I was after I told him I enjoyed bowling. Later, after I told him I’d dated a coworker who was generally understood to be the baddest bad boy, he had to start all over once again. I think if I’d told him that I had football season tickets and that my secret heros are all drag queens, his head might have melted from the strain.

This sort of complexity shouldn’t be hard to understand or anticipate, but for some reason it always makes people uncomfortable. But then, I’m OK with that, too.

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Latest Money Making Blog News

20110213We-make-money-not-art_Open_Sailing [Belgium]
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"Open Sailing, drifting lifestyle to cope with looming disasters"
By Regine Debatty

Been slacking a bit with my reports on the work in progress show i saw wow! months ago at the Royal College of Art in London. As you might guess i’ll keep on focusing on the works from the students of the Design Interactions department.

Meet Cesar Harada!

Together with , Hiromi Ozaki, Martin Gautron, Nasser Moustakim, Adrien Lecuru, Valérie Pirson and the help of a whole range of collaborators and experts, Cesar is currently busy developing the Open Sailing project, a floating architecture that evolves like a living organism, a laboratory for techno-social experiments.

The aim of Open Sailing is not to fashion new kinds of entertainment for your holidays but to propose a way to cope with impending natural and man-made disaster, while stimulating people’s ingenuity, fostering hyper-connectivity and sense of solidarity. To make the project all the more relevant, a map has been compiled that visualizes areas of looming crisis: overpopulation, tsunami risk, violent conflict, nuclear fallout, pandemics, global warming, etc. No place on Earth appears to be safe. Except maybe a few large spots above the ocean. And that’s the area where Open_Sailing villagers would drift and live. Each village unit is made of comfortable shelters surrounded by ocean farming modules : reconfigurable, sustainable, pluggable, organic and instinctive. The Open_Sailing_01 is about 50 m in diameter, for 6 persons.

Open_Sailing aims to ask questions about the way we currently inhabit our planet. Can we reach a harmonious dynamic state of interdependence with each other and the earth? Is this the next step for civilization? Will we disassociate our concept of progress with rigid infrastructure and metropolis?
The prototype Open_Sailing_01, currently under construction, will set sail in May 2009, attempting to drift from London to the Netherlands. If the first journey goes well, Open_Sailing_02 will embark on a trip around the Mediterranean with enhanced fleet operating and hardware system, then Open_Sailing_03 will head to the Azores Islands (Portugal). Finally Open_Sailing_04 will set sail from The Azores and drift to Brazil. & concept and world map

I was fascinated by the mix of Archigram-esque vision, the gutsy ambition behind the idea, the sheer beauty of the installation at the London show, and that hint of micronation ambition i thought i could smell (but how wrong i was!) around the project. So, as usual, i had to ask a few questions…

Why 2012? Does it have to come so soon? Do you want to spoil the London Olympics euphoria?

Ollie: We’re not particularly in the market for disrupting athletics events!
The project started with research into fear being used as a driving force of mind control. Unfortunately fear is often used as a way of controlling peoples’ actions and justifying things that would otherwise seem irrational. Through this research, Cesar found that a lot of people are predicting bad things for 2012, ranging from the semi-logical to the outright wacky. It’s the end of the Mayan Long Count Calendar, for example, which some New Age figures have heralded as a sort of spiritual renewal, people talk about the galactic alignment and the apocalypse…

Instead of seeing this doom and gloom as something negative, we have taken the fears and used them as design constraints, designing for the apocalypse. By compiling a list of the fears surrounding 2012, and overlaying these onto a series of maps, we have created a series of safe_zones where you can be assured to be free of pandemics, earthquakes, tsunamis, pole shifts, nuclear disasters, violent conflicts, etc. The recurrent safest places are in the middle of oceans : open_sailing aims to make the ability to live there comfortably a reality.

Cesar: I hope the open_sailing is going to continue long after 2012, and actually by 2012 we may have a series of serious prototypes ready for a real sport challenge, steading an ocean for good for example!

Detail of solar oven

Is it a project you plan to pursue as your final project at RCA? Can we expect to see a more advanced version of it come June?

Cesar: This is just the beginning of the project. The bigger picture is to develop technologies and everyday life solutions for a future International Ocean Station. We have an International Space Station, we need an International Ocean Station, there is so much to discover about the blue planet! At the 25th of June 2009 at the Royal College of Art SHOW in London, we want to show prototypes of the tested shelter, energetic modules, aquaculture facilities etc. We are working on the design of the prototype at the center for the study and practice of survival technics in Lorient France. In April we are building it, in May we will depart from London river Thames and attempt to drift across the north sea escorted by a regular boat for safety. Follow us on the blog. We are still looking for scientists, partners, sponsors, funders : please contact anyone you think could be interested by this project.

I suspect that your project might have given way to feedbacks, questions and reflections during the work in progress show/ How did people react to your project so far?

Abigail: One big difficulty we’ve had so far is creating an explanation of what the project’s about, simply because there are so many different parts to it. There are a lot of people working on this project, a lot of new ideas. Some people seem to have misinterpreted Open_Sailing as being some kind of crazy ‘Apocalypse Boat,’ but it’s not like that at all. This is a very real, very exciting project where we’re developing a lot of innovative technology. Non-sustainable living; overpopulation; global warming… The way we’ve been doing life so far could do with a rethink, don’t you agree?

Sea shell harvesting pods

Cesar: Most people are very excited by the idea to live on the sea, most of them think it is impossible. The people who started to dig and understand a little bit more about our project were fascinated, there are so many different perspectives! The Open_Sailing is a floating laboratory in the first place, we are attempting to address many issues in "labs":
- open_farming : a new way of doing aquaculture and fishing, creating nomadic open ecosystem toward a full nutritive autonomy at sea and more
- swarm_search_engine : an artificial swarm algorythm that runs on geoRSS mashup maps, suggesting safe_zones and structural organization
- energy_animal : an ideal energy module that combines solar, wind and wave power to provide renewable energy in any kind of weather
- life_cable : a connection norm, and API that enable living modules to exchange electricity, water, air, data in one single cable.
instinctive_architecture : which is a new family of ship design that adapts to the most extreme weather conditions by changing shape and texture.

Shelter Buoys

Abigail: Instinctive_architecture behaves a bit like a sunflower. It opens out when there’s lots of light and nutrients, and closes in on itself when weather is bad, stretches to move quickly.

Cesar: There is a lot to do, we address many real problems and people are interested because we are developing all these hardware and software technologies open-source.

Can you describe and explain the vessel prototype you were showing at the RCA work in progress exhibition a few weeks ago?

Cesar: What we showed was a 1/20 model, one open_sailing "family" facility, for 4 to 6 people. From afar, it looks like a "floating bunker" surrounded by a large ocean farm (~50m diameter), lines of algae, inflatable fish nets, plankton basins, floating gardens, underwater sea-shells pods, energy_animals…
Imagine the open_sailing in the ocean, it will be covered with fouling, algae and all sorts of parasites everywhere, shrimps, hundreds of fishes swimming around it, birds in the sky attracted by the fertile drifting structure. Maybe I should describe the instinctive_architecture : when the weather is nice, the open_sailing is spread over maximizing the farming surface, that’s what we showed as a model. When the weather is bad or a danger approaches, all the modules amalgamate and compact to resist. When the open_sailing is moving pulled by a traction point, it becomes long and thin. In many many ways the open_sailing behaves like a living organism, or an adhoc mesh network. The labs I presented before are the first, we will host many more researches on site if it works well.

View of Open Sailing from 1st floor at RCA

I know you’d rather shun the reference to art but have you heard about the floating cities of Tomas Saraceno?

Cesar: I don’t shun the work of Tomas Saraceno at all, I think it is beautiful and visionary. We are sharing a very similar perspective about the transformation of the society with technology.

We are trying to make the open_sailing exist as soon as possible, so we’d rather show shorter term objectives and use a simpler vocabulary to appeal both general public and partners. Please find more details in the pdf on our website.

Have you thought about the status of Open Sailing villages, would they have some sort of sovereign independence similar to one of the micronations?

Abigail: That’s a really interesting question. In short, we’re not interested in establishing any sort of sovereignty. We don’t have a political agenda.

Cesar: We are trying to avoid problems. Sovereignty is a problem, as it implies that you’re being recognised by other states, we are people, we are not a competitive group, our perspective is more practical. Maybe our status is closer to the one of the International Space Station…

Ollie: We’re a floating socio-technological experiment. We’re part of many disciplines (art, architecture, science, etc) but not really bound by any. We’re an international team, and we don’t feel allegiance to any country or political stance – at least within the framework of this project.

Cesar: When you develop a technology, you can’t predict how people will use and modify it. We don’t want to determine how Open_Sailing is used by other people, that’s the openness of it, or a form of respect, an invitation. There must be something more advanced than "nation". Nation is constitution, hierarchy, pride, it is slow, inefficient – we don’t have the time to be a nation!

Hiromi: We have a sort of operating system, the "swarm search engine", it is an object oriented politic computer program, managing in real-time weather, available resources (food, water, energy etc.), people’s desires and fears (threats, attractors), moving the fleet into its optimum geographical positions and proposes a general arrangement of the structure.

Ollie: A country by definition has an intrinsic value – in the form of minerals, farming space, infrastructure, buildings, etc. Open_Sailing doesn’t. Open_Sailing is more like an organism. The whole thing is alive – it moves, it reacts to its environment, it evolves, it grows. The people onboard are its source of energy – if you take the people away, it would be like starving an animal of food. In this way we’re different to a country, we are neutral and don’t want to become involved with unnecessary legal issues… for now.

Thanks a lot for your time Cesar, Ollie, Hiromi and Abigail!

All images Cesar Harada.

A couple of weeks back, we delved deep into the Scottish tech startup scene, and unearthed one small company that was born out of Skyscanner, Europe’s largest flight search engine.

Just to give you a quick recap, Eilidh Donaldson joined Skyscanner in March 2007, progressing through different positions before eventually leaving in February this year. Eilidh launched her own startup back in April, Tweetsport, which she calls a “360° real-time sports news service, available online and as an app, which takes users to the heart of the action by mixing articles, videos, pictures and Tweets.”

The app is free to download from the Apple App store, but there’s a premium upgrade available for £0.69, which lets users filter by sport, search tweets and headlines and remove all adverts.

Using verified Twitter accounts, which offer access to the instant reactions of top sports men and women, as well as leading media pundits, Tweetsport channels multiple viewpoints before, during and after a given match, with a number of sports covered – from football and tennis, to rugby and cricket.

On the Home screen, you’ll see a steady stream of conversations from across all channels:

You can then click to view what key people from across the media are saying:

And you can view what individual sports people are saying, or view a list of headlines from across numerous media outlets:

“Tweetsport is the sports lover’s free ticket to every sporting event,” says Eilidh. “This gets them closer to the heart of the action than anything else. With Tweetsport they can really feel part of it – experiencing the tension as it builds; getting inside the players heads as they prepare for the final or deal with defeat; getting analysis and commentary by experts in their field; and breaking news which could change the result.”

TNW Aggregated Feed

(Cross-posted on the Google News Blog)

News organizations tell stories online in ways that bring together the best of traditional and digital journalism, whether that involves long-form investigative features, compelling photo slideshows or interactive maps and charts that add new levels of engagement to the day’s news. To help connect you to the best works of news publishers, Google News is introducing a new section in the right-hand column of the U.S. edition. The section is called “Editors’ Picks,” and it displays original content that publishers have selected as highlights from their publications. This is the latest addition to recent improvements we’ve made to the variety and presence of stories and multimedia on Google News.

An array of news organizations, including local, national and niche publishers, are now using Editors’ Picks to display their best, most engaging content. Because Google News relies on algorithms, Editors’ Picks will always be just that—picks provided by publishers themselves, and not by Google. You can browse a set of publisher feeds that span national, specific and local interests—like The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, ProPublica, the Guardian and The Root, among many others—via the side-to-side arrows next to each publisher’s logo. The feeds you see are chosen based on a variety of factors, including your news preferences. If you’re interested in using source preferences on Google News, Editors’ Picks helps you do that with the slider that appears just below the articles.

You may have first noticed Editors’ Picks as an experiment last year. Based on the data from that experiment, we have been working with nearly two dozen publishers in recent months and have seen a positive response from readers and publishers alike: readers get the news they’re interested in from the sources they trust, and publishers receive higher traffic to their websites. We encourage any news organizations that are interested to visit our Help Center to get started.

The Official Google Blog

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