Articles by

Chris Barr

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    Photo credit: Flickr user Samuel Mann In a 2011 essay, MIT’s Joichi Ito championed the idea that the architecture of the Internet and free software have slashed the cost of innovation so much, that it’s cheaper to try something than to “sit around and try to figure out whether to try something.” In this spirit, last summer we launched the Knight Prototype Fund, which helps journalists, technologists and tinkerers take that first step, bringing media innovation projects from idea to demo. This is our attempt at grantmaking gone lean. Following a mantra of fail fast, fail forward, the fund offers small teams six months and up to $50,000 in funding to build and test core assumptions needed to prove - - the viability of a tool, technology or approach. We want to test more ideas, find out what works and help scale projects that show promise. As part of the initiative, we encourage teams to embrace human-centered design, rapid & lo-fi prototyping and iterative development models to quickly pivot and connect solutions to uncovered needs. We want to learn and improve - before moving to the bigger, more expensive steps of building out a full project. And as we learn, we want to share with others working on similar problems. So what are we experimenting with? Today, we are excited to announce eight new projects receiving grants from the Prototype Fund: Associated Press: Seeking to make newsrooms more efficient by creating a tool that enables journalists to easily combine data for their stories with geographically related data sets, a task that currently represents a significant technical hurdle for many reporters on deadline. Data Toys: Building physical and digital models of complexity in the news that encourage open-ended play. Their first projects are in partnership with Public Radio International and Radiolab and are being built through a class at Parsons The New School for Design.  
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      “I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking” ― Albert Einstein “Ideas come from everything” ― Alfred Hitchcock Two weeks ago, we opened up our Knight News Challenge on Open Gov, where we’re offering a share of $5 million to the best projects that answer the question, “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?” We began with an invitation to share in a week of inspiration. In that first week, 176 inspirations were posted to the News Challenge site, with more than 10,000 views and 245 comments.  
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    About Knight News Challenge: Open Gov from Knight Foundation on Vimeo. Today, as we open the first Knight News Challenge of 2013 on Open Gov, we’re looking for answers to one central question:  “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?”  We think that new tools and approaches are giving citizens to drive change, and we’ve crafted a News Challenge to help deliver on that potential. To get there, we are partnering with OpenIDEO, a division of the design and innovation firm IDEO, on a new platform we hope will  not only improve the challenge application process but also open the conversation to more people while pushing creative thinking. The first difference you'll notice is the introduction of contest stages -  the Inspiration phase starts today. We are looking for a range of people - innovators, community leaders, government officials - to share their ideas, hopes and needs for improving civic life.   We’ll be featuring these inspirations throughout the challenge to help spur more ideas. When that stage ends on Feb. 19, we’ll open the contest to submissions. (A full list and timeline of the stages follows.) In the end, we hope to find and fund ideas - big and small - that rethink the relationship between people and governments. Our definition for Open Gov is broad, and includes innovative ideas for anything from data transparency to citizen participation. We’re looking forward to this, and hope you’ll join us on this journey. Here’s the timeline for the Knight News Challenge on Open Gov.  
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    In June, we announced the creation of the Knight Prototype Fund to support the building and testing of new ideas in media and public information. This initiative allows small teams to create minimum versions of projects, test major assumptions and understand user behavior before making decisions about full-scale development. We believe this rapid and nimble approach to innovation will help us and our grantees move at "Internet speed" to solve complex problems in a changing information ecosystem. Since then we have developed grants to groups working on diverse problem sets. Today at the Mozilla Festival, we are happy to announce four of these projects: FOIA Machine, Djordje Padejski, Center for Investigative Journalism  FOIA Machine will aid journalists and private citizens in accessing millions of important governmental documents around the world that are covered by freedom of information laws (which exist in more than 90 countries). FOIA Machine will help people navigate FOI laws by automating submissions, creating requests in the proper format, making documents publicly available on the web and using the web to rally support when governments are not responsive. GroundTruth, Andrew Haeg, World Press Institute GroundTruth is a communications platform designed to help journalists, researchers and community organizers establish engagement with people who have valuable expertise via text messages and mobile phones.  It will give producers the tools to build panels of sources, send out simple surveys, visualize resulting data and followup with sources for interviews and other needs.  Kon*Fab, Katy Newton & Sean Connelly Most newsreaders are built on predictive behavior algorithms that can lead to an uninspiring repetitious flow of the news.  The mission of Kon*Fab is to explore news and information through a more serendipitous discovery. Kon*Fab will improve user experience by linking news with the real-time activities of individuals inhabiting physical locations. This alternate model for presenting the news will provide users the opportunity to stumble across new people with new interests potentially improving local engagement around news and community.