December 31, 2014

With just a few hours left in 2014 I figured it was time for quick recap of the year that was and a quick preview of the year to come. I also just pushed a major update to the ‘production beta’ code, including the ability to use Facebook reference IDs to define characters.

A year ago Structured Stories was just a goal, a pile of research notes, some nascent ideas and a primitive prototype. The data model and architecture stabilized in Q1 and design and coding of the application began in Q2. The early beta application launched in October and has been continuously improved since then. Today it is an increasingly stable tool with an accessible user experience and a robust API, and users can use it to consume and create structured events and structured stories. Judge for yourself here.

2015 is about transitioning the Structured Stories project from coding to journalism. The beta application will be function-complete within a few weeks, and by February I hope to have editing tools in place sufficient to enable user-entered stories to become permanent. At that point the project changes from a technical focus to a journalism focus – coding will scale back to mostly bug fixes, and the creation and growing of stories will become the primary activity. Local government news in Los Angeles remains the domain.

Focusing on journalism requires discovering, understanding and addressing a complex set of editorial challenges that will probably be at least as daunting as the technical challenges of the past year, including:

  • Creating and applying editorial guidelines for the creation of event frames.
  • Creating and applying editorial guidelines for the entry of events and the creation of stories.
  • Building the event frame library from just over 100 frames now to several thousand frames.
  • Developing an editorial process that can accommodate many contributors to stories and that can support coherent editing of events and stories.
  • Understanding how story and event editing and maintenance actually work and building tools to support those activities.
  • Observing and reacting to how real users use Structured Stories to create and consume stories.
  • Discovering how to educate early users about Structured Stories, its functionality and utility.

The primary usefulness of the beta application in 2015 is to enable these editorial challenges and others to be clearly identified, defined and addressed. There is much to do and much to learn, but there has also been some progress. The Structured Stories concept works technically, and if it can also work editorially then it may be useful.