Innovation @ BBG » BBG http://www.innovation-series.com Fri, 20 Nov 2015 18:47:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6.1 Usability Research aims to create a better Radio Free Asia website http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/11/20/usability-research-aims-to-create-a-better-radio-free-asia-website/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=usability-research-aims-to-create-a-better-radio-free-asia-website http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/11/20/usability-research-aims-to-create-a-better-radio-free-asia-website/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 16:07:16 +0000 Xi Rotmil http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6589

Every time a person has a great experience with a website, a web app, a gadget, or a service, it’s because a creative team made crucial decisions about both design and implementation—decisions based on data about how people interact with a computer interface.

During August, September and October of this year ODDI and Radio Free Asia collaborated on an in depth user experience review of the the RFA desktop and mobile websites.

Radio Free Asia broadcasts domestic news and information of specific interest to its listeners in China, Tibet, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma.  All broadcasts are solely in local language(s) and dialects.

Remote testing sets the stage.

ODDI used the CrazyEgg platform to get an overview of user behaviors during the month of August. 15 pages were followed for a total of 150,000 impressions. This allowed us to see where people were clicking, and where they were not. We also got an idea of how many people scroll down the pages and where most people stop. Finally testing allowed us to see where those users are coming from to begin with, and who clicks on what the most!

Remote testing gave us an overview of users interaction with the pages, and where some follow up with in-person testing might be useful.

From there ODDI:

DEVELOPED TEST PLAN

We sat down with the RFA team and agreed on the test objectives, the questions used in the test, and characteristics of the people who will be trying out the design.

CHOSE A TESTING ENVIRONMENT

Radio Free Europe provided an excellent partitioned room. Video and audio was delivered from the testing room to the observer’s room via network connections.

FIND AND SELECT PARTICIPANTS

The best place to perform these kinds of tests would be in the target countries. Since travel and recruitment would be prohibitively expensive, we sought out English as Second Language students at local universities.

Most of our participants did not know anything about the site prior to the test, and we are grateful for their fresh and valuable insights.

We recruited six participants to test the Chinese Web site and six participants to test the Chinese Mobile site: they were screened to be:

·         Native Chinese speakers

·         Very active news seekers when in China – especially those who visited blocked sites

·         Particularly interested in sensitive Chinese domestic news

·         All under 30

We also recruited six participants to test the Vietnamese Web site and six participants to test the Vietnamese Mobile site: they were screened to be:

·         Native Vietnamese speakers

·         Very active news seekers when in Vietnam ­‑ especially those who visited blocked sites

·         Particularly interested in sensitive Vietnamese domestic news

·         All under 30

The final group, while adhering to the screening parameters mentioned were an interesting mix of backgrounds, including students majoring in electrical engineering, environment science, computer science, applied math and information technology, who also displayed a range of feelings and reactions to the website.

PREPARED TEST MATERIALS

In the test materials, we included specific background and warm up questions to ask, prompts for follow-up questions, tasks, as well as closing, debriefing questions that we want to ask each participant and an evaluation survey.

CONDUCTING THE SESSIONS

rev-test1

Each session was videotaped with one camera attached to the phone to record the user’s taps and gestures while a second one was focused on the user’s facial expressions. Observers in a separate room watched the live video feed and took notes.

We used software called Morae for in-house UX testing on tablets and mobile phones. Morae allows us to capture video — with more than one camera angle — and record scoring as we go. Having video of a participant’s hand movements allowed us to do a more accurate and thorough analysis of how they reacted during certain tasks. Also, since it was in-person, we asked follow-up questions immediately after a task to find out why a participant might have been confused about a task.

We also had a team of people from Radio Free Asia, who were observing the tests in a separate room and participated in the test by asking questions through Morae’s chat window at the end of each session.

The tests consisted of a detailed hour-long interview in English with a subject using his or her phone. After a short introduction, the user was asked to perform 9 tasks on the RFA mobile site. These questions and tasks were videotaped and timed (through Morae) to assess the ease with which the user could interact with the mobile site.

Participants were told they would be videotaped and asked to sign a photo release.

After an initial introduction and discussion of web news, each participant was read a set of instructions. The tasks were given to each participant one at a time on separate sheets of paper.  He or she was asked to read each task out loud before attempting to interact with the website. Mobile users were asked to bring their own phones and used them in the test.

The tests were administered in English, but each participant engaged with the website in their native language.

A native speaker in Mandarin or Vietnamese was on hand if the participant had trouble putting his or her views into English. About half the participants took advantage of this option. Some particularly taciturn participants were debriefed in their native language to ensure the test team was getting all of the results and not suffering from a language gap.

Participants were not coached by the moderator. When something did not go well, they were asked to assess the website and offer advice on how the user experience could be improved.

Occasionally at the end of a task the moderator revealed what should have happened, and asked the participant how the website could be improved.

DEBRIEF WITH PARTICIPANTS AND OBSERVERS

rev-survey

At the end of each session, the moderator asked: “How’d that go?” Also, we invited observers from RFA to pass follow-up questions to the moderator or to ask questions themselves. We also prepared an evaluation survey for participants to fill out.

ANALYZE DATA AND WRITE UP FINDINGS

When we looked at those observations after the test, the weight of evidence helped us examine why particular things happened. From that examination, we developed theories about the causes of frustrations and problems. After we generated these theories, RFA team members can later use their expertise to determine how to fix design problems.

OUR FINDINGS AND SUGGESTIONS

The quality of design is an indicator of credibility. 

Our overall suggestion is to refine and redesign the site. Three users mentioned that RFA’s website looked like a blog or Facebook page, and they doubted its trustworthiness for that reason. Our tests show that elements such as layout, consistency, typography, color and style all affect how users perceive a website.

In addition, the RFA design is three years old and needs to be updated. Among the changes that research suggested:

  • Refine typography and visual hierarchy to be easier to read for mobile first, since this is the most challenging device to design for.
  • Add timestamp to news articles.
  • Create a shorter page, heatmaps show 50% of users are only viewing 25% of the current page.
  • Icons and text do not have sufficient touch/clear area for touch screens on smart phones.
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The illustrated stories of women struggling for human rights http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/07/01/illustrating-women-struggling-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=illustrating-women-struggling-human-rights http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/07/01/illustrating-women-struggling-human-rights/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 17:31:32 +0000 Xi Rotmil http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6542 Earlier this year, the Office of Digital Design and Innovation (ODDI) collaborated with Radio Free Asia and created  “It’s not Ok” – a collection of portraits of Asian women caught in the struggle for human rights in their communities, some willingly, others forced by circumstances.

ODDI UX studio head Steve Fuchs and senior designer Brian Williams were invited to illustrate the stories of these women.

“We wanted to create a series of distinctive portraits, using a variety of mediums and techniques. This goal was rooted in both the desire to treat each story as unique as well as the practical limitations of using the available reference photos and videos,” Steve and Brian wrote in the Artist Statement.

To know more about the creative process and details of this project, we interviewed both Steve and Brian.

Why did you use illustrations instead of photos?

Steve: For some women we found an abundance of photos documenting their public struggles, for others we found virtually no visual reference, as they struggled alone.

Also, rather than just having a photo, I think the illustrations can be more engaging.

 

Challenges

Steve: Capturing the essence of a person from a video or few photographs, is a challenging prospect. When the subject of your portrait is a part of a larger narrative, the project becomes even more daunting.

Brian: As Steve mentioned, one challenge was the limitations of what we had to work with. Some of these women are really well-known human rights activists, so they’ve been extensively documented and there are some really great reference photos that we were able to find. But other women are not well known. They really don’t have any photograph or reference. So how do you draw a portrait of someone without knowing what they look like? Or if you do have a photograph of them, it’s such a tiny one that you can’t see their face. That was definitely the case with Jiao Xia. So it was more about illustrating the scene from a story where she was protesting.

jiao_xia

Jiao Xia paid the ultimate sacrifice, divorce, for the love of her husband.

Process

Steve: For this project we used a variety of mediums: pen and ink, watercolor, pastel, scratchboard, pencil, and computer to not only reproduce a likeness, but illustrate an individual story of courage.

IMG_7286

Work in progress.

Brian: we wanted each of the portraits to be different, and unique. So we just kind of pushed each other to come up with new solutions, to find new ways to draw the portrait.

 

How do you and Brian go about drawing a character? Is it a combined effort?

Steve: We looked at each other’s sketches making suggestions, it was very collaborative.

Brian: A lot of times, for illustrations you kind of work in a black box where you don’t get a lot of feed backs. And in this case, because we were both partnering on illustrations, it was really nice to be able to bounce ideas off, to do some sketches.

Steve: We tried to do as many different styles as we could, because each case is different.

After we did these initial sketches, we ran them by the individual language bureaus at RFA, because there are some cultural contexts, and cultural sensitivities that we do not know. For instance, the portrait I did for a Tibetan woman, I had it done in a Tibetan painting style, and turned out it is very offensive. The Tibetan’s feel their culture and art has been monetized and exploited by the Chinese. I toned it down, and took the illustration a different direction.

 

How long did the whole process take?

Steve: We made 12 drawings and it took six weeks in total.

The second edition, which is made for the International Women’s day, is more compressive because of the deadline. It took us three weeks.

 

What’s your favorite piece?

Dechen Pemba makes sure that Tibetan voices not heard inside China can be heard online.

Dechen Pemba makes sure that Tibetan voices not heard inside China can be heard online.

Steve: My favorite is the Tibetan woman Dechen Pemba. She really liked it and used it as her Facebook profile picture. As I said, because of  cultural sensibility, I had to change the original drawing. In the end, because we worked with the RFA Tibetan Service, we got something better.

Gao Yu is a veteran journalist in China who has been repeatedly imprisoned but never silenced.

Gao Yu is a veteran journalist in China who has been repeatedly imprisoned but never silenced.

Brian: I really like the one I did for Gao Yu. On this one, I know I want to do one that is more collage based. Sort of cutting out shapes and then putting them together, I started with the portrait. Because she’s a writer, so I put the keyboard there.

What’s next?

Steve: What we are hoping to do after this is to do something that moves. RFA has a project going forward on human trafficking. We are hoping to do some 30-second animations for that.

Brian: They’ve hired a team of documentary journalists to produce a series of video, and we are trying to take excerpt from the interviews, and produce a series of animations – something that hopefully will help pull people into the story through social media and from there they’ll see the longer documentary.

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Meerkat, Periscope and the Gamification of Live Streaming http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/04/27/periscope-meerkat-and-the-gamification-of-live-streaming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=periscope-meerkat-and-the-gamification-of-live-streaming http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/04/27/periscope-meerkat-and-the-gamification-of-live-streaming/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 17:23:00 +0000 Randy Abramson http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6428 Periscope and Meerkat are barely months old and they have already become the ‘platforms to most likely to replace your TV/browser/mobile stream/favorite YouTube channel.’ Why have these platforms grown so quickly? Because the streams are personal and interactive, but most of all, the entire experience is fun. Live video streaming is nothing new, but pre-Periscope/Meerkat streaming was far from a ‘fun’ experience, neither for the people shooting the live stream (which required a decent amount of configuration and prosumer equipment, at the very least) or for the viewer who passively watched streams with the exception of those that included chat modules that often competed with the stream for your attention. Periscope and Meerkat are easy to use for both the shooter and viewer and the entire experience has addictive game-like qualities for everyone involved. Here are the fun gamification challenges for both the viewer and streamer:

Gamification for the stream shooter:

Can I pack a room?
On Periscope, after a certain number of people join your stream, new viewers get a ‘room full’ message that blocks them from using the chat feature. This is frustrating for the viewer, but it reaffirms that the host can draw a crowd.

Can I keep up with the comment stream?
Watching someone like Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) of the observer.com on Periscope can be exhausting. Users continuously fire questions at him, personal and work related and Jack attempts to answer each one, alternating between brash opinion, keen insight and snarky defense, all while continuously smoking cigarettes.

Can I get keep the hearts flowing?
On Periscope, when users see things that they like, they tap on the screen and hearts float up the side to show their approval.

What’s my score on the Leader Board?
On Meerkat, each broadcaster is assigned a score and the app displays a Leader Board that shows rankings. Time spent on Meerkat and the number of viewers you have impact the score.

leaderboard2
The Meerkat Leader Board – the ultimate in live stream gamification

Can I get all followers to do what I ask them to?
Once you have a loyal fan base, is it possible to get viewers to read an article of yours, follow you on Instagram, share your website URL, etc.?

Can I get more followers by broadcasting?
Ultimately, increasing your number of followers is the most addictive part of Periscope and Meerkat. If you missed out on getting a big following on Twitter, you get another shot with these new platforms.

Can I get my stream featured on the Welcome page?
It’s not clear yet on how Periscope or Meerkat is featuring streams on the screen users see when they launch the apps. There will be a future where getting your stream promoted on the Welcome page of the app will be worth as much as page 1 results in Google.

Gamification for the stream viewers:

Can I get into a room before the chat room is at max capacity?
If there is a celebrity broadcasting on Periscope, you better get there early if you want your question answered!

Can I get my comments answered?
Even if you get into a stream’s chat room, you still need to say something interesting enough for the host to acknowledge you.

Can I get the streamer to do what I ask or show me something?
One of the most popular requests on Periscope is ‘Show me what’s in your fridge?’ Enough said.

Can I make the host stay on longer?
Often the host will say they have to get going, but an interesting question can keep them on the stream.

Can I rattle or stump the host?
This can lead to either hysterical laughter or flat out disgust, depending on the question and temperament of the host. Either way, the questions are embedded in the video for all to see.

But What Does All This Have To Do With Journalism?

Both of these platforms are still young and we’re starting to see various news outlets experiment with the tool. Some broadcasters are doing quick, informal recaps of trending stories and a handful of anchors have set up streams of their broadcasts in real time. There have been some breaking news stories on Periscope, but those broadcasts are competing for eyeballs with the intimate ‘ask me anything’ sessions that Jack Smith IV or billionaire Chris Sacca broadcast on a regular basis. Chris and Jack have mastered the gamification points listed above and audiences keep coming back for more. As a journalist for the Observer, Jack Smith has been keen to interact with his fans on a personal level, but he also makes mention of his digital work on the Observer site, Instagram and other platforms. He says that the Periscope fans have been anxious to consume that content and have been passionate sharers of his work.
Jack Smith
@jacksmithIV has found a regular following on Periscope by broadcasting daily

When you try to cover hard news with Meerkat and Perisocope, you get something that is interactive first, broadcasting quality second. Video is shot in portrait mode only, comments obscure the view of your broadcast and the user is free to float hearts (on Periscope) and unfiltered comments up the side of your video, even during the most downtrodden of events. There are other streaming tools that journalists should explore. StringWire, for example (a NBC owned app), allows for multiple mobile device input, landscape shooting and a mixing console where a producer can control the view of what users see and download clips for editing. StringWire is an incredible piece of broadcasting technology, but the interactive components of Meerkat and Periscope are absent in their early version release. StringWire is more about showing the news. Meerkat and Periscope audiences become part of the news and if they are winning ‘the game,’ the broadcaster might actually let the audience drive the camera views and the broadcast itself.

As a viewer, I’m drawn into Periscope and Meerkat streams that I would normally not seek out through Google search. I can sit shotgun with a parasailor or watch the bustle inside a Swedish restaurant kitchen. Hard news has always competed with whimsy for attention, but the number of cameras on the ground has just increased tremendously. News organizations will have to engage with viewers and build trust and allegiance in a way that they’ve never had to do before. As the young kids say, Game On!

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Alhurra app redesign wins international recognition from Society for News Design http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/alhurra-app-redesign-wins-international-recognition-from-society-for-news-design/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alhurra-app-redesign-wins-international-recognition-from-society-for-news-design http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/alhurra-app-redesign-wins-international-recognition-from-society-for-news-design/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:42:38 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6424 The Alhurra Android and IOS mobile and tablet apps were recently recognized by the Society for News Design’s Best of Digital competition with an Award of Excellence in the “Redesign” category.

The Alhurra app redesign, executed by the ODDI Mobile Team in partnership with MBN Digital, featured revamped branding and an interface featuring larger, bolder images and typography, a new tablet-optimized interface, a live video streaming channel, enhanced push notifications and redesigned user-generated content offering audiences tools for submitting video, photos, audio and text directly to the news organization in breaking news situations.

“This award is the result of an organization filled with amazing content partners, a team of fantastic designers and developers and a QA and support team that executes excellence and focuses on every detail to create a great experience for Alhurra audiences,” said Will Sullivan, Director of Mobile for the BBG. “SND is the big dog in news design and we are so excited for all of our hard work to be recognized in the industry alongside pioneers like NPR and The New York Times.”

“We are extremely proud of this recognition of the SND Awards. We always strive for excellence when it comes to generating content and delivering it to our audience,” stated the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) President Brian Conniff. MBN manages and operates Alhurra Television.

The Society for News Design (SND) is an international organization for news media professionals and visual communicators who create print, web, mobile publications and products. The Best of Digital Design is an annual competition that rewards skill, innovation and high-quality digital journalism. The competition was launched in 2002 and invites entries from all news sites published anywhere in the world.

  • Download the Alhurra apps and learn more about all the other ODDI mobile products at:
    http://apps.bbg.gov/
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ODDI Mobile Team pioneers new BBG Java mobile apps for low-bandwidth users http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/oddi-mobile-team-pioneers-new-bbg-java-mobile-apps-for-low-bandwidth-users/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=oddi-mobile-team-pioneers-new-bbg-java-mobile-apps-for-low-bandwidth-users http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/oddi-mobile-team-pioneers-new-bbg-java-mobile-apps-for-low-bandwidth-users/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 16:03:13 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6415 The ODDI Mobile team is proud to announce the launch of the a new fleet of mobile applications for low-end Java phones for VOA, RFE, RFA, Alhurra, Marti Noticias and Radio Sawa, supporting more than 60 languages and more than 80 language news services.

This pioneering effort to reach low-tech devices uses Javascript-based applications for “feature” phones, especially the old Nokia phones that still have a stronghold in African, Middle East and Asian markets.

The apps are built using technology from BiNu, a popular caching and proxy service used by other services like WorldReader, to deliver content faster to very low tech and low bandwidth communities who often don’t have phones equipped with modern or fast-performing web browsers. For example, Wikipedia is 10x faster on the BiNu platform than their Wikipedia-optimized mobile website.

Danish Ahmed, from the ODDI Mobile Team who pioneered the Java app effort, said, ”Its amazing how surprisingly fast the application is on older phones. You can navigate through articles without any lag or long downloading.”

These Java app’s content is limited to text and photos but through at a smartphone-like interface, and in these markets and with limited bandwidth text and photos is a great place to start. The platform also uses a proxy, which helps get content into closed and censored markets around the world so it’s a win-win for audiences. These low-bandwidth apps will compliment our current fleet of multimedia-rich Android and Apple mobile and tablet apps for all entities.

  • Download and learn more about the BBG Java apps and all the other ODDI mobile products at:
    http://apps.bbg.gov/
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Radio Sawa & VOA News Apps honored by GSMA Global Mobile Awards http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/radio-sawa-voa-news-apps-honored-by-gsma-global-mobile-awards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-sawa-voa-news-apps-honored-by-gsma-global-mobile-awards http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/radio-sawa-voa-news-apps-honored-by-gsma-global-mobile-awards/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:44:36 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6412

Two of ODDI’s flagship mobile products launched in the past year were selected as finalists for the prestigious GSMA Global Mobile Awards: the VOA News relaunch was selected for “Best Mobile Media & Publishing App” and Radio Sawa was selected for “Best Music App.”

The GSMA is the largest global mobile industry group and they operate Mobile World Congress,  Mobile World Congress, the largest mobile event in the world with more than 93,000 attendees from 200 countries.

VOA News serves users in more than 200 countries and is available for Android and Apple IOS mobile and tablet devices in 44 languages and for Symbian mobile phones in 4 languages. The industry-leading application has also been recognized as a finalist in the Appy Awards for “Best Multicultural App” and in the Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s Meffy Awards for “Best Mobile Service.”

“It is amazing that ODDI has created apps for over 87 language services on different operating systems,” said Bo Kostro from the ODDI Mobile Team, “We could not have done it without the support of all the BBG language services”

Radio Sawa is a youth-oriented mobile streaming app for Android and Apple IOS devices offering more than a half dozen music streams, podcasts, news and user-generated chat feedback through an beautifully designed application.

“We are very proud of the Radio Sawa app and were honored to have been recognized by the Global Mobile awards,” stated MBN President Brian Conniff. “The app encourages user participation through the network’s popular Sawa Chat feature, as well as making Radio Sawa available to cities and countries where there are no Radio Sawa transmitters.”

 

 

 

 

 

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The new digital storytelling: BBG’ e-books on immigration, human Rights, freedom, and love http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/11/25/the-new-digital-storytelling-bbg-e-books-on-immigration-human-rights-freedom-and-love/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-new-digital-storytelling-bbg-e-books-on-immigration-human-rights-freedom-and-love http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/11/25/the-new-digital-storytelling-bbg-e-books-on-immigration-human-rights-freedom-and-love/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 20:35:59 +0000 Xi Rotmil http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6383 E-books offer new channels to engage with an audience and tell great stories, whether it is with a serialized collection of text-based stories for small e-readers or an interactive audio/video/photo magazine for tablet devices.

With access to RFA and VOA’s websites restricted in mainland China and some other Asian countries, short-wave broadcasts jammed and other filters hampering access to the broadcaster’s output, e-books also has the potential to circumvent the firewall – once it has been downloaded on to a tablet device, it can be shared easily among friends, relations and colleagues.

To test the feasibility of using e-books for BBG, the Office of Digital Design and Innovation collaborated with RFA and VOA on the creation of four e-books using different tools.

The four ebooks in the pilot project featured topics ranging from immigration, Asian women fighting for human rights, China’s pro-democracy movement that ended in tragedy, to a  jailed Uyghur writer’s tale of longing for lost freedom.

Remembering Tiananmen

“Remembering Tiananmen” represents the first foray for BBG into the iBook world of interactive storytelling. The Chinese edition is

aimed at an audience that was not even born when these events happened, and because of censorship, may not have any idea that the turmoil of 1989 ever took place.

The publication leverages previously published audio eyewitness accounts, historic “RFA exclusive” photography and video, archive photos, along with newly created custom maps and diagrams. The heart of the book is an interactive timeline that allows the reader to navigate events chronologically, in addition to traditional chapter-based browsing. Through the multimedia interface the viewer not only reads the narrative facts of events, but also experiences the sights and sounds of Beijing in the spring of 1989.

View RemberingTiananmen in the iTunes Store

 

Caged, The Illustrated Writings of Nurmuhemmet Yasin

In 2013, Radio Free Asia released Caged: The writings of Nurmuhemmet Yasin in the iBook store. The project represents another successful collaboration between RFA and ODDI, following on the success of Remembering Tiananmen.

This e-book features the now banned tale and an essay about love. Nurmuhemmet Yasin was a successful Uyghur author living in western China when he published “Wild Pigeon”. The short fable tells the story of a wild pigeon prince who is captured and caged by men. He ultimately decides that suicide is preferable to a life spent in captivity. After it was published, the Chinese government recognized that the story was an allegory for the Uyghur people living under Chinese rule. The court sentenced Yasin to 10 years in prison for inciting Uyghur separatism.

View Caged in the iTunes store

Unsettled: A Story of U.S. Immigration

Unsettled, a story of U.S. Immigration, produced in partnership with VOA, gives insight into the economic forces, social pressures, and policies that have shaped American immigration and explores where the nation may go in the future.

“Unsettled” presents the triumph, tragedy and contradictions of the immigrant experience through a multimedia exploration of history and economics. It includes interactive charts, maps, info graphics, audio clips, archival films, audio, stills, a U.S. naturalization quiz, and over a dozen video clips totaling more than 20 minutes.

View Unsettled in the iTunes Store

 

“It’s not OK.” Women struggling for human rights

“It’s not Ok” is a collection of portraits of Asian women caught in the struggle for human rights in their communities, some willingly, others forced by circumstances.

This e-book is based on reporting and interviews conducted by the RFA language services in Burmese, Lao, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, Uyghur, and Vietnamese.

Each story is a testimony to the courage and determination of these women. The title, “it’s not OK,” comes from the public cry by one of them, in court, as she heard that her husband’s sentence had been extended by eight years.

These women urge us to look closer and peer into the reflection of their world. Only when we open our eyes to their struggle can we realize it is a shared, universal struggle for justice, fairness, and compassion. Their lives are made even more beautiful by the weight of their tireless convictions. When the light of the world’s attention shines on them, these women like hidden gems brighten, dazzle, and amaze,” president of RFAS Libby Liu wrote in the foreword.

View “It’s not OK” in the iTunes Store

One e-book in the pilot program, Tiananmen Square Remembered, won the International Media Excellence Award, held by the Association of International Broadcasters last year.

In addition, VOA News mobile application “Unsettled” has been selected as a winner for the 2014 W3 “Silver Award.”

 

 

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VOA Indonesia trip: BBG Direct and Affiliates http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/11/05/voa-indonesia-trip-bbg-direct-and-affiliates/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=voa-indonesia-trip-bbg-direct-and-affiliates http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/11/05/voa-indonesia-trip-bbg-direct-and-affiliates/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 16:00:14 +0000 Xi Rotmil http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6324

During the conference in Indonesia, VOA’s booth placing participants in front of a poster of the Capitol to give a 60 second broadcast was very popular.

Recently, the amount of news & information programming from the BBG broadcast entities listened to or watched through our global affiliates exceeded the amount distributed directly to our audience for the first time. A recent trip to Indonesia highlights the diversity among BBG affiliates, including Suara Surabaya Media, Dreamers Network, Baranews and KPK.

Indonesia is a collection of 922 permanently inhabited islands spread over three time zones. The needs of Indonesian affiliates are as diverse as the islands themselves.  For instance, in the competitive, dense media environment of Java, affiliates are looking to enhance their existing content with interesting short audio and video specialty pieces. In less populated islands, media entities are interested in large chunks of content, even entire shows.

In May, Steve Fuchs, our UX Studio Manager, traveled to Indonesia to show affiliates the new BBG Direct content distribution website.  While in Indonesia, Fuchs attended the 20th Annual Conference of Independent Journalists.

About 40 organizations participated in the conference. Other networks were also there. Many them were our affiliates. There were workshops on content creation, movie making, and citizen journalism. The crowd was young and enthusiastic.

A breakout session on environmental studies taught with comics: kids made their own green themed comic stories with typing paper and number 2 pencils.

A snapshot of affiliates who aim to engage, inform, and inspire.

Dreamers Network, one of our affiliates,  does a great job of engaging its audience.  In three years, Dreamers Network founder Daniel Hartono has built a streaming only radio website focused on giving young people what they want, when they want it. The station is ranked number one in Korean-pop in Indonesia with Dreamers’ coverage of k-pop even being picked up by Yahoo.

Dreamers also has a very active social network. The office sits above its own branded cafe and listeners are invited to come and eat. Listeners also get to network with each other via radio (cos-play, zombie groups etc). Dreamers also has a glass studio facing the street so people nearby can see when guests do a broadcast. The station now has a dating site which allows members of the listening audience to see each other and chat online. Dreamers will also add there own job search where listeners will be allowed space to demo their skills. For instance, a barista can do a quick video of themselves making a cup of java, or an artist can show their work. Dreamers has allotted space for bloggers to do fan fiction and this has been picked up by a publishing firm and made into print books.

Dreamers uses VOA for breaking news (Korean Ferry, Chinese claims to the Spratly Islands, and missing Malaysian plane were popular topics) but also looks for entertainment, music and film content.

Suara Surabaya Media focuses on meeting their audience’s needs and being the most relevant station in the region. Listeners send the station pictures of fires, traffic accidents, and other local events. Suara then posts these pictures, along with advice on how to detour, or best cope with the conditions. They also makes sure the proper authorities are called. Suara has an FM radio station and runs the website suarasurabaya.net.  Suara Surabaya uses VOA content on business, entrepreneurs, green sites and urban farms. Inspirational news and features on Indonesians in America are also very popular.

As an anti-corruption group, KPK  is very interested in providing VOA news on corruption, economics, and environment to its audience. On the day Fuchs was visiting, the office was surrounded (peacefully) with protesters and local police. Besides exposing corruption, KPK is most interested in VOA providing inspiring content such as “positive role model coverage” of life in other countries.

Baranews  has  also launched a website promoting reform issues. Like KPK, Bara was interested in progressive political news, economics, technology and environmental reports and positive stories from around the world.

Bara will soon launch a live streaming TV app for smart phones in Indonesia, Singapore and Beijing. This is an on-demand and live streaming TV app with integrated social media components where people can chat and share while watching. Users will also be able to record and play later, as well as create their own channels.

Republika.co.id is the online version of the popular Muslim daily newspaper. They are an old line media firm (in 1992, they had a linotype machine in their lobby) with a large campus in the city. They have a strong interest in a mobile-first small bites approach to reaching new audiences and say they are most interested in reports on economics, science, technology, and the United States.

BBG Direct works to meet the needs of today’s affiliate.

BBG Direct is specially designed to reach the broadcast affiliates and digital partners of the BBG. You can download content, find satellite information, schedules and much more. Our suite of digital services includes free, fast, and reliable live streaming, a hosted, branded digital player optimized for mobile, and online support.

Overall the new BBG Direct site was well received in Indonesia. Despite regional and other differences, all affiliates said they hope VOA will continue to supply them with materials that can be used to engage, inform and inspire their audience.

 

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VOA News selected as a finalist for “Best Mobile Service” in the 2014 Meffy Awards http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/09/23/voa-news-selected-as-a-finalist-for-the-2014-meffy-awards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=voa-news-selected-as-a-finalist-for-the-2014-meffy-awards http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/09/23/voa-news-selected-as-a-finalist-for-the-2014-meffy-awards/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 18:45:37 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6306 We’re pleased to announce that the VOA News mobile and tablet application suite for Google Android, Apple IOS and Symbian has been selected as a finalist for “Best Mobile Service” the 2014 Meffy Awards!

VOA News KhmerThe Meffys are held by the MEF mobile trade association which is focused on cutting-edge mobile and entertainment companies. The awards this year attracted more than 250 entries from 30 countries across the 13 award categories, and was judged by an independent panel of 40 journalists, academics, analysts and VCs from around the globe.

The ground-breaking VOA News application offers original journalism in more languages than any media organization in the world (44 total) and has previously been honored this year as a finalist for the 2014 GSMA Global Mobile Awards for “Best Mobile Publishing Platform or Service” and the Appy Awards for “Best Multicultural App.”

“Hundreds of hardworking journalists, producers, designers and developers helps us create this amazing, unrivaled application,” Will Sullivan, Director of Mobile for the BBG said. “We owe all our thanks and share this honor with them.”

The new version 3.0 of the VOA News apps are launching within the next month on both Android and Apple IOS mobile and tablet devices with a big new design and enhanced features including customizable Android Widget support and Google Chromecast streaming.

The winners of the 2014 Meffys will be unveiled in San Francisco at the MEF Global Forum 2014 in November.

 

 

 

 

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BBG Mobile News apps get a huge update and redesign http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/08/27/bbg-mobile-news-apps-get-a-huge-update-and-redesign/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bbg-mobile-news-apps-get-a-huge-update-and-redesign http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/08/27/bbg-mobile-news-apps-get-a-huge-update-and-redesign/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:29:25 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6286 The ODDI Mobile team is excited to announce we’ve begun rolling out the 3.0 redesign and functionality update to the BBG mobile news applications on the Google Android and Apple IOS mobile and tablet platforms. The platform that was awarded as 2014 finalists for “Best Mobile Publishing Platform or Service” by the GSMA Global Mobile Awards and “Best Multicultural App” by the Appy Awards is getting a big refresh.

Alhurra Android mobile app version 3.0Alhurra and Martí Noticias are already live for Apple IOS in the app stores and the Google Android version should be submitted soon after we iron out some last bugs and the analytics integration.

The mobile and tablet apps 3.0 version features:

  • Redesigned for all platforms to feature bigger, bolder images and typography
  • More easily accessible and usable navigation with a deep, touch-friendly side-loading feature
  • A new tablet-optimized version for larger format Androids and iPads to take advantage of the extra screen real estate
  • Much richer analytics suite to track usage and learn how to improve what our audiences demand
  • Related story suggestions to give audiences more information about the stories they’re interested in
  • Social media sharing improvements and Google+ support added
  • More prominent user-generated content submission on the app home screen so audiences can report news tips, photos, video and audio and send it directly to our service’s content management system
  • Language service UGC submission available directly in the Android system sharing tray for easy access to send multimedia content and news to our services
  • Android Home Screen Widget support with customizable categories, sizes and refresh intervals
  • Additional languages added for VOA (now supporting 44 language services) and RFE (now supporting 29 language services)
  • Google Chromecast streaming support for audio and video content
  • Tons of bug fixes

Marti Noticias on Apple IOS

We’ve done all this while still maintaining an app that is amazingly optimized for emerging market audiences with a small binary size (around 5 mb), offline saving of content, low-bandwidth mode, proxy integration, and a wide range of Android and Apple OSes supported going back more than 5 years (equivalent to decades in mobile technology history).

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless work of hundreds of language service producers (too many to name), their digital leaders Matthew, Hutch, Billy, Alen, Iscar, Mark, Martha, Steven, Rohit, Saeed, Catherine, Enver, Arkady P., Arkady B., Sasha, Martina, Natalia, Matilde, Kim and the Pangea team, our amazing analytics czar, Rebecca, and Ashley and Tyler, and last but not least the marauding ODDI mobile team of Ashok, Danish, Bo, Mo, Marian, Marek, Pavol, Pauli, Stan, and Al for his help last minute on screenshots and Adam and Rob for their support and leadership.

Over the next month (depending on final qa, analytics and localization testing), we’ll be submitting the VOA, RFE and RFA updates too. Get them all and learn more about our award-winning apps at:
http://apps.bbg.gov

 

 

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