The Perplex & Other Stories

In 2012 I was one of the Knight-Mozilla Fellows, along with Nicola,DanCole and Mark. Below is the long story of how that happened.


I had an awesome year being an Knight-Mozilla Fellow, I worked with the amazing BBC News Specials team, went to all the relevant conferences and hackathons in US and Europe, learned a lot, made amazing friends. In the end helped me find out where I wanted to be. Continue reading

News and relative dates

You’ve probably heard by now that Chelyabinsk, Russia was hit by a meteor strike on Friday.


On Friday? (so neutral, I feel nothing, next…)

You mean TODAY. (OMG, TODAY?)

Next week I would like that to read “on Friday,” on next Friday read that as “last Friday,” then you can just use a date, or X days ago if X < 31.

It is known how to do this in JavaScript since 2008. Just have it in the article as a datetime microformat and use some magical JavaScript to display something relative to the visitor’s local date.

Relate things to the visitor’s frame of mind, space and time are the easiest to deal with automatically.

7 Months of OpenNews

In two months, my Knight-Mozilla OpenNews fellowship at BBC News Specials will end and everybody wonders what I’ll do next.

In a previous century, while studying medicine (long story) I got a part-time webmaster job at one of the most important regional newspapers in Romania (Monitorul de Iași). After working there on the newspaper site and other related online publications for over a year, I left with two colleagues — a designer and a strategist (both also med students and working part-time at the same newspaper) and founded what became one of the leading branding and interactive agency in Romania: Grapefruit*

That unlikely path led me to this fellowship, which has been its own adventure. Let me summarise the past seven months:
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Visualising My News Diet

On Sunday, at the Visualize Your Media Diet learning lab at the Mozilla Festival ran by Nate Matias, Matt Stempeck and Dan Schultz from the MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media, the participants had to draw how would they like to visualise their media diet, then discuss it.

Here is the sketch I made there on how I would like to visualise my news diet in order to understand not only the time spent with and the frequency of use of several channels/formats, but also the actual navigation relationships, the way I discover and I engage with the news.

The idea is that you can see on a timeline the frequency and duration of what sources and types of news items you consume, and how they interrelate; for example, a tweet leads to an article, then to a Hacker News article, then I come back to the article. Another Hacker News article leads to content creation (comment, or share via tweet, etc.), other tweet might get just retweeted, etc.

If I would have other dimensions like sources, authors, topics, etc. I might be able in time to have an algorithm that monitor the usual sources will predict what I might consume as news item, and only if I won’t actually find it via the usual way, then notify me “you might have missed this article, you usually read this type of article because…”.


Timeboxing the News

This Saturday at the Touch the News design challenge at the Mozilla Festival, I was in team 6 with Heather LessonPeter O’ShaughnessyCarlo FrinolliNick SmithGavin McFarland and Chris Warring.

We focused on how people consume news on the iPad with regard to location, time of day and time available to spend on news.

We discussed on the needed changes in font sizes and layout needed for various reading positions, discussed Craig Mod‘s Bibliotype article (A List Apart: A Simpler page) and prototype.

Then we discussed how the news site could use time of day and location as information to learn from various user settings (font sizes, layout) to what categories of news the user is reading at home, work, in the morning, etc. to adjust accordingly the suggestions of related articles.

The major issue we tackled with was: given a known time to spend with the iPad (while commuting, etc.) how do you choose what to read? How do you know what can be read in that time?

Continue reading