That was just one of the questions that Gray and others discussed with WaPo Labs during a session at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab. In a session on Thursday, we talked about the ways in which content producers could make beautiful music out of the cacophony of statuses, tweets, checkins, links, and other tidbits on Facebook and Twitter.
The students at USC aren’t just spectators; they’ve got skin in the game.
Perched outside the lab was a screen showing an analysis of tweets for positive and negative statements about the 2012 presidential candidates. (President Obama had both the highest highs and lowest lows when we snuck a peek.) Such sentiment analysis played a role in a product that recently earned Annenberg some press: The Oscar Senti-meter, a tally of several months’ worth of Twitter traffic on Academy Award-nominated stars and films.
But our talk wasn’t just a social call. Among our other discussion points:
– A look at Annenberg’s news site Neon Tommy, during which we talked about the difficulties of mixing tried-and-true reporting (lock eyes with person, open notebook, ask questions, write) with the mainstays of aggregation (find information, summarize information, attribute information).
– How student journalists can best interface with professionals. The Annenberg crew seemed to have had some negative experiences, especially with pros feeling insulted or threatened by student journalists entering their turf.
– The inner workings of Trove, WaPo Labs’ original personalized news aggregator, which uses natural language processing to translate RSS feeds from thousands of sources into interest-based channels.
– What the newsroom of the future should look like. This editor’s reply: It should be a hub of information gathered from a series of inputs (reporters, social media, user-generated content) that is coordinated, prioritized, and disseminated by editors and engineers who work together to create a unified product.
– Mobile products: They require a greater degree of individual thought and design than they’re getting now, said one student.
Our University Tour is winding down for the week, but it’s not over yet: We’re heading to San Francisco, home of WaPo Labs West, to visit UC-Berkeley on Tuesday and Stanford University on Wednesday. See you there!