September 22, 2014

The first releasable version of Structured Stories is almost ready and will launch in October in five languages (English, Spanish, Swedish, Irish Gaelic and Indonesian), focused on local government news in Los Angeles. Yes, you read that correctly.

I have been demonstrating the application in Los Angeles since August and will demonstrate it to interested people at the Online News Association conference (ONA14) in Chicago in late September. I invite anyone who would like to see it to either meet me at ONA for a live demo or to get in touch for a remote demo (my email address is david[AT]structuredstories.com). In the meantime I am including a short series of screenshots below to convey the gist of the application.

After many months of immersion in the design and creation of the public-facing Structured Stories application I believe that there are at least six major novel functions that this approach can provide to news consumers:

  1. It makes news permanent. By enabling news to accumulate over time in a way that can be consumed intuitively and naturally, Structured Stories turns news from flow into stock – building a permanent history from news streams.
  2. It enables highly efficient consumption of news stories. By organizing news as narrative structures instead of as written text, Structured Stories makes it simple to navigate and understand vast and sprawling news stories that would otherwise be inaccessible without significant research. Navigating single stories at the scale of libraries becomes possible.
  3. It makes news universal. Structured Stories does not use language as its primary representation mechanism for news, and therefore any news can be easily consumed in any language. The prospect of a single, global news platform that is equally accessible to anyone in almost any language becomes a very real possibility.
  4. It enables queries of news and reasoning on news. Because Structured Stories are, well, structured, they are accessible to explicit search queries (think SQL, not Google) and are also available to computational reasoners. The application of computational tools like machine learning to all/any news events is realistic.
  5. It separates the method of storing news from the method of consuming news. There are many, many ways to tell the same story, and Structured Stories enables all of them, using built-in features, custom ‘discourse elements’ and through a Structured Stories API that enables unique story readers, story viewers or other story display concepts. Even video is possible.
  6. It publishes journalistic news events as Linked Open Data. By providing each individual news event, no matter how small, with its own unique address on the Internet, Structured Stories can open up news sharing and news mashups in lots of new and exciting ways – facilitating entirely new forms of discussion, verification and validation.

The Structured Stories approach to news also has characteristics that enable multiple novel functions for news producers. By separating reporting from writing it becomes practical as an adjunct to existing newsroom processes – a typical local government newspaper story of 3-4 core events can be entered into Structured Stories in under a minute. At the same time it also enables the possibility of ‘re-bundling’ news as value-accumulating networks and has the potential to reconcile civic journalism with professional journalism and editorial oversight in an economically sustainable way.

A demonstration is highly recommended.

Screenshots of the Structured Stories BETA application:

The home page: Turning News Into Knowledge.

The story directory: Los Angeles local government stories.

A story as bullet points.

A structured story.

A Story Knowledge query.

A detailed description of the Structured Stories technology in PDF form is available here.