Tag Archives: #MozFest

#MozFest: Six lessons for journalists from the Mozilla Festival

The Mozilla Festival took place this weekend and provided journalists, open web developers and educators with a place to learn and to build.

Here are six tips from the festival, which was called media, freedom and the web.

1. In less than a week there will be a Data Journalism Handbook. Created in 48 hours with contributions from 55 people, the first draft was written at the festival and is due to be published next week. The book provides journalists the chance to get to grips and to learn from some of the key data journalists in the UK and abroad.

2. Journalists can now create web native, social video using Popcorn Maker. Take a video and add web content including tweets, Flickr photos and Google Street View images. This is a hugely exciting development in online video journalism.

3. Expect exciting developments in HTML5 news web apps. Developer Max Ogden presented a live web app in the final show tell which added photos tweeted by the audience with hashtag #MozFest. In real-time the images appeared in the app displayed on a large screen. This type of app has huge potential for news sites and user-generated content.

4. SMS may not seem like cutting edge technology but should not be ignored when it comes to engaging with the audience. Text messages can be automatically sent to Google Fusion Tables and uploaded manually or posted to a map in real-time. Here is an example where the company Mobile Commons enabled San Francisco public radio to map listeners’ earthquake readiness.

5. It will be worth keeping an eye on the five Knight-Mozilla technology fellows being placed in newsrooms at Al Jazeera English, the Guardian, the BBC, Zeit Online and the Boston Globe to see what is produced. Each news organisation selected an individual based on an area of journalism they wanted to develop. The five will now be embedded in the different newsrooms and tasked with bridging the gap between technology and the news.

6. Want to get to grips with HTML5 for journalists? Do you want to start coding but don’t know where to begin? The w3schools site offers guides to HTML, HTML5, CSS, PHP, Javascript. If you want to start scraping data then ScraperWiki, which allows you to scrape and link data using Ruby, Python and PHP scripts, has some hugely useful tutorials. If you simply want to take a look to see how HTML actually works within a webpage then Hackasaurus has an x-ray goggles tool to allow you to do just that.

There were several sessions, including on WordPress, trusting news sources, tools for a multilingual newsroom, online discussions, text edit for audio and real-time reporting, which were were unable to attend. Search for the #MozFest hashtag for further reports from the festival.

Photo by mozillaeu on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

#MozFest – Build ‘social video’ using Popcorn Maker

A still from “History in the Streets”

Imagine being able to add tweets, maps, and Wikipedia information to online video without coding skills. Consider having the ability to layer video with images from Google Street View as easily as hypertext allows you to link together web pages.

You can now do exactly that using the Popcorn Maker, a tool launched in alpha on Friday at the Mozilla Festival on media, freedom and the web in London.

Popcorn Maker is a web application that allows journalists who cannot code to add YouTube or Vimeo videos and select to add tweets, Flickr images and maps, plus use additional plugins to include images from Google Street View and even primary source documents from Document Cloud. Users of Popcorn Maker drag the elements onto the timeline using a platform that looks like Final Cut and other familiar software. Completed projects can then be embedded into news stories.

Online video journalism has had the tendency to follow TV conventions of talking heads, noddies (a cutaway of an interviewee nodding his or her head to hide an edit) and narrated video packages. What Popcorn offers is an easy way to create a web-native form of video storytelling. And because it is “social video” or “semantic video” experiences are dynamic, constantly updating, and customised right in the web browser for each user.

Popcorn.js is Mozilla’s HTML5 media toolkit, a javascript library for integrating the web into video production, launched version 1.0 at the festival.

The challenge of building Popcorn was first launched a year ago and since then the library has been gathering plugins thanks to an army of open source developers.

Popcorn has already being used in some newsrooms but until the launch of Popcorn Maker it has required embedded developers to code the mashups.

Brett Gaylor, project lead for Mozilla’s Popcorn told Journalism.co.uk what Popcorn offers video journalism.

It’s the ability to link to the relevant content that that video is about.

The basic function that Popcorn serves it to act as a timing layer over a video or audio file which means you are able to link times within video or audio to other content on the web.

For example, between 30 and 40 seconds into a video you could show a map of where where this interview took place. Or if you are doing a report on the second world war and you what to show where the Canadians were in Dieppe you could have a Wikipedia article that would appear at that given time.

And because it has the ability to link out to changing web content, a video, say, on the credit crisis will link to a hashtag and give the latest tweets.

In the above test example I added a YouTube video and grabbed the Twitter tool (bottom right), adding it to my timeline and searched for the #MozFest hashtag.

Gaylor hopes the beta version of Popcorn Maker will launch late spring 2012, with a polished, finished product by the end of next year.

We are now working on how to allow the user to lay those out on the page. We’ve conquered how to do it and now we have to make it a pleasing experience for the author to place those items on a page.

There several inspiring demos online, including History in the Streets, which links to Google Street View, and, on Wired.com, there is the documentary the One Millionth Tower, premiered at the festival and showing at the Frontline Club this evening (Monday 7 November) and produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

Popcorn gave filmmakers the ability to control a 3D environment and augment that environment with real time information from Wikipedia, Yahoo Weather API, Flickr and Google Maps.

Still from “The One Millionth Tower”

Ideas and examples of potential uses shared by Mozilla:

  • Pull a football player’s real-time stats, Wikipedia entry or twitter feed right into the action of a game or sportscast;
  • Pull a politician or pundit’s “truth score” history or voting record into an online interview;
  • Dynamically inject photos from Flickr as “b-roll” or context for video or audio stories;
  • Match footage about an oil spill with real-time footage of the spill’s present size in real time;
  • Annotate political speeches or newscasts with viewers’ own media, commentary and social responses;
  • Pull Google Street View onto the screen to dynamically explore depicted neighbourhoods and places.

Examples of uses of Popcorn so far include:


PBS Newshour used Popcorn to annotate President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address.  The French/German broadcaster Arte augmented current affairs programming using the platform. Both implementations involved developers working in the newsroom to code the social video.


Popcorn’s ability to augment video also applies to audio.  Radio pioneers Radiolab used Popcorn to invite fans to create accompanying visualizations for their “seeking symmetry” episode, while Danish Radio augmented their broadcast with an innovative “hyper-transcript” that allowed viewers to see a dynamic transcript of the audio, and select parts of the broadcast to tweet to their followers.

Commercial applications

Semantic video pioneer RAMP is using Popcorn to augment commercial content like the People’s Choice Awards.  RAMP’s MediaCloud technology produces automated tags and transcripts across 1800 videos and seamlessly integrates celebrity content from across the web into their video archive.

Video-conferencing and other applications

At the application layer, the open source web conferencing platform Big Blue Button has adopted Popcorn for playback of presentations and webinars. The educational platform Grockit also uses Popcorn to provide richer feedback from learners and teachers.

Project lead Brett Gaylor told Journalism.co.uk technology correspondent Sarah Marshall more about Popcorn.

Popcorn.js, an HTML5 javascript library for integrating the web into video production by journalismnews

#MozFest – First draft of new Data Journalism Handbook written in 48 hours

The first draft of a handbook to help journalists deal with data has been created this weekend, with plans for it to be published next week.

You can read the table of contents of the Data Journalism Handbook here.

The book was written in 48 hours at the Mozilla Festival in London, with contributions from 55 people, including staff from the BBC, Guardian and New York Times. It has six chapters and 20,000 words and is a response to a challenge set by Mozilla, a nonprofit technology company, to “assemble a utility belt for data-driven journalists”.

The challenge stated:

There’s increasing pressure on journalists to drive news stories and visualisations from data. But where do you start? What skills are needed to do data-driven journalism well? What’s missing from existing tools and documentation? Put together a user-friendly handbook for finding, cleaning, sorting, creating, and visualising data — all in service of powerful stories and reporting.

Jonathan Gray from the Open Knowledge Foundation and Liliana Bounegru, European Journalism Centre hosted sessions at the Mozilla Festival to create the handbook.

A blog post written by Gray lists some of the contributors

Interested in getting started in data journalism? Kevin Anderson is leading an introduction to data journalism one-day training course for Journalism.co.uk in January 2012.