Innovation @ BBG » Tablet http://www.innovation-series.com Fri, 20 Nov 2015 18:47:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6.1 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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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 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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Relay Gets Two Major Functionality Upgrades, More Features On the Way http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/02/24/relay-gets-two-major-functionality-upgrades-more-features-on-the-way/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=relay-gets-two-major-functionality-upgrades-more-features-on-the-way http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/02/24/relay-gets-two-major-functionality-upgrades-more-features-on-the-way/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 16:09:48 +0000 Randy Abramson http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=5948 Relay, the mobile-first, breaking news platform that was released by the Office of Digital and Design Innovation in December, 2013, has been upgraded with two major features:

1. Making Cards Sticky by ‘Pinning’
Previously, Relay displayed content in chronological order on a timeline at the bottom of the interface, with the first card on the left containing the most recent piece of content. However, we anticipated that users would soon request the ability to feature specific content and ensure that selected cards would be the first thing that users see when the Relay interface loads (similar to making content “sticky” on other platforms). With the new ‘pinning’ functionality, featured cards — that hold everything from live video streams to interviews — can be designated to display in the first slot of a card timeline.

2. Photo Card AutoGeneration
For our December, 2013 release, we were excited to offer journalists the ability to generate video, text, and Tweet cards directly from their mobile phone.  In our latest release, the new Photo Card AutoGeneration feature allows journalists to shoot photos on their phones and share them with Relay via Email. We are leveraging the Flickr platform and API for storage and image serving and the ‘Email to publish’ workflow is consistent with easy-to-learn video-Email process that received positive feedback from our field testers.

NASA GSM Launch

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

What’s Next?

The Relay team continues to prioritize enhancements based on BBG journalist feedback and also suggestions from NASA, who plans use Relay to cover the launch of the NASA-JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory on February 27, 2014. Features that we expect to release in the coming weeks include:

1. Easy Updates: The Easy Updates feature will allow us to publish new enhancements to existing Relay events without having to erase existing content.

2. Turn-key Language translation: Creating Relay instances for non-English language services is a fairly manual process. With some work, we can create sites in any language based off of a set of defined terms in Google spreadsheets or other cloud based document storage platforms.

3. Enhanced Alert Messaging: We’re re-working the flow and design for how users can sign up for Email alerts and will be rolling out SMS alerts in the coming weeks

4. SEO and Page Load Optimization: We’ll be re-architecting code to ensure that search engines can see our content and also provide for faster download times to mobile and desktop platforms

5. Audio Card Generation: We’ll be leveraging the SoundCloud API to allow journalists to record audio interviews from their mobile devices and publish that content to Relay

6. Designing For Multi-day/Multi-week Events: We are working with an information architect to design interfaces and user flows for events that go on for several days/weeks. We plan to make use of this new design for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

At the Yesterday and Today Beatles 50th Anniversary show in Washington, DC with Carolyn Presutti (donning Google Glass) and Jose Vega (center)

At the Yesterday and Today Beatles 50th Anniversary show in Washington, DC with Carolyn Presutti (donning Google Glass) and Jose Vega (center)

7. Continued Experimentation With Google Glass: Wearable technology is the shiny new toy that journalists are dreaming about for the collection and broadcast of on-the-ground content and Google Glass is the ‘must have’ gadget of the moment.

I joined VOA’s Carolyn Presutti and BBG’s Jose Vega to test Glass and to see how it would integrate with Relay at a tribute show for The Beatles in Washington, D.C. at the venue where they first played in the U.S., 50 years ago. Glass was able to transmit photos and video to Relay via Email, but, without some serious hacking to Glass, live video streaming is restricted to private Hangouts that can’t be embedded into Relay or other Web pages. We’re excited to monitor the evolution of Glass’ live broadcast functionality and see how it can be integrated into the set of Relay feature offerings.

What features would you like Relay to have? Mail Randy Abramson and let us know!

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Top Writing Tips for Journalists Writing to Video, Multimedia http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/02/14/top-writing-tips-for-journalists-writing-to-video-multimedia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=top-writing-tips-for-journalists-writing-to-video-multimedia http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/02/14/top-writing-tips-for-journalists-writing-to-video-multimedia/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 17:48:43 +0000 Erica Malouf http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=5910 Have you ever watched a news segment or video and been completely and happily absorbed in the story? Or conversely, have you ever been so distracted by the choppy audio and unnecessary narration that you didn’t enjoy it?

As many a broadcast and multimedia journalists know, achieving “happily absorbed” is a skill and an art. But as with any kind of writing, we can study what the pros do.

I’ve adapted most of these tips from a webinar given by a master: Al Tompkins, Senior Faculty, Broadcast and Online at The Poynter Institute. (With some notes of my own.)

TOP TIPS

When writing to news videos, whether for broadcast or a digital platform, it’s important to keep your writing tight! As Al Tompkins says, ‘the biggest sin is wasting the time of the audience.’

#1
Understand Storytelling: Engaging stories usually follow a tried-and-true formula because…it works. I like to think that the basics of such formulas were figured out during the campfires of cavemen. Storytelling is a defining characteristic of humanity, and your audience is definitely familiar with common story structure even if they aren’t conscious of it. Generally speaking, the audience will like it when a story starts with conflict and ends with resolution.

#2
Pick a Formula: Tompkins recommends the “Hey! You, See, So” structure for news videos. Meaning, start with “Hey!” (the attention grabber), then “You” (the WIIFM—why this is relevant to the viewer), “See” (show evidence), and “So” (the point—what this is all about).

#3
Start Strong: For a news story, jump into the information—don’t waste time with a fluffy introduction. For a narrative, create tension right away.

#4
Remove Redundancies: When you’re editing the accompanying narrative to a video, Tompkins says to “train yourself to spot redundancies.” And cut sound bites that repeat what was said earlier.

PRO TIPS:

  • Ask yourself, ‘Do I need that word for people to understand?’
  • Read your sentences backward in order to catch superfluous words.

#5
Prioritize Video Over Narration: Use narration only for what cannot be shown in the video or told in sound bites and ambient audio. For example, if the video is a man walking down a dirt road, don’t waste time telling us “a man walks down a dirt road.” Instead, explain what can’t be understood from the visuals or audio but is critical to the story. Let the viewer figure some things out on their own.

#6
Use Sound Selectively: Sound—ambient noise and sound bites of people speaking—should not stop the action or cut into the narration in a choppy or jarring way. Tompkins says that “popcorn audio” (described as sound that comes from no where and stops the story for no good reason) is a fad in editing that should be forgotten because it’s distracting. When woven into the story carefully, sound can add credibility to the action and bring the viewer into the scene.

#7
Write the Facts: Narration should be almost all factual. Let the emotion and drama come through sound bites and visuals. I once had a professor tell me to “write flat to drama,” meaning let the action speak for itself and leave out subjective opinion.

#8
Review Grammar: Be judicious with adverbs—try to remove words that end in “ly” because often they are unnecessary opinion.  For example, in the phrase “she cried happily,” happily can be removed, especially if the video or the story indicates that she was clearly happy. Use more active verbs that clearly tell who and what did what.

PRO TIP:

  • I suggest reading the book, “Writing Tools,” by Roy Peter Clark, and “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White, to brush up on grammar.

#9
Write for the Platform: Create the narration and edit each video based on the platform. Keep in mind that TV is still a passive experience (except for the second screen, meaning people using another device while watching TV). The Internet is about interactivity, plus know that people have shorter attention spans online and so are apt to bounce more quickly if a video isn’t interesting right away. (Try this free, journalist-friendly tool for creating interactive videos online called KettleCorn that our team at ODDI created.)

TRY IT

Watch this video about VOA’s use of Google Glass to record concert of a Beatles cover band. Do you hear any narration that could be cut because the visuals tell the story without it? What worked and didn’t work?

See more videos of the concert on the Relay platform.

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Radio Free Asia launches apps on Android, Apple IOS http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/02/06/radio-free-asia-launches-apps-on-android-apple-ios/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-free-asia-launches-apps-on-android-apple-ios http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/02/06/radio-free-asia-launches-apps-on-android-apple-ios/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 16:17:33 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=5829 I’m tickled to announce that Radio Free Asia is the latest BBG entity to join our suite of BBG applications for Android and Apple IOS mobile and tablet devices with support for 10 languages from English to Tibetan (including 3 Uyghur scripts).

Our partner in collaboration, Catherine Antoine, Director – Managing Editor of RFA Online, welcomed the launch saying, “These multilanguage applications delivering Asian news will inform the new generation of mobile users, who are tomorrow’s leaders.”RFA Article Page

This project took a lot of extra hard work from superhero developer and all-around nice guy, Michael “Flip” McFadden, as RFA is on an entirely different content management system than other BBG entities so ODDI Mobile marauders, Bo Kostro and Danish Ahmed, had to do a lot of testing, localizations and custom development work to get all the framework connected and working.

RFA joins RFE, VOA, Alhurra and Marti Noticias on the Umbrella App framework, which going forward we’ll be able to build features for all five entities in parallel providing innovative, enterprise-quality news experiences customized for the challenges that our audiences in emerging markets face.

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How to Do UX Testing on Tablets, In Cartoons http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/01/27/how-to-do-ux-testing-on-tablets-in-cartoons/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-do-ux-testing-on-tablets-in-cartoons http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/01/27/how-to-do-ux-testing-on-tablets-in-cartoons/#comments Mon, 27 Jan 2014 16:01:33 +0000 Erica Malouf http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=5682 One of my great passions is traveling — I get a kick out of understanding other cultures, and how they use technology. As a graduate student, I am rarely able to travel, but working at the BBG is truly the next best thing.

We frequently interact with people from a broad array of cultural backgrounds, with fluency in various languages, who each share their unique perspective and offer a fascinating glimpse of a distant place. (The holiday parties and hallway networking spreads offer a tasty glimpse of distant places — BBG staff can really cook.) This cultural diversity also happens to be convenient for user experience testing because we are able to tap into our ‘natural resource’ to test our digital products, which are often targeted to a specific segment of our global audience.

Typically, when we’re doing in-house testing, we test each application in it’s intended language as well as in English, whether it’s a product for one of the 44 language services at Voice of America or another BBG entity. Most recently we have done testing for Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

The cultural diversity within BBG is convenient for user experience testing because we are able to tap into this ‘natural resource’ to test our digital products.

And so we need bilingual participants, who also fall into our target demographics, to provide our English-speaking developers, designers and testers with feedback we can understand. Thankfully, our gracious multi-lingual employees and interns are happy to oblige.

We’ve been using 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 allows us to do a more accurate and thorough analysis of how they reacted during certain tasks, as opposed to just having a heat map and data that provide only part of the story. Also, since it’s in-person, we can ask follow-up questions immediately after a task to find out why a participant may have been confused about a task.

This comic strip breaks down how we do UX testing. Hat tip to the illustrious Steve Fuchs (one of our lead UX testers and designers at ODDI) who illustrated these, and who I often work with on UX testing.

1-stake-holders-managers

2-3-design-book-volunteers

4-tv-tray-plus-chair

5-6-table-top-mic

7-two-cameras-record

8-laptop-software

9-test-team

10-collect-analysis-report

One of the more interesting UX tests that I worked on was for RFE/RL mobile websites, which we tested in English and in various languages common in Russia and nearby. Without knowing anything about the site, several of our participants commented right away that it must not be from a Russia-based news network solely from the editorial choices, referring to the top stories on the home page. I recall one participant commenting that no Russian news outlet would dare have the Pussy Riot story front and center, if they reported on it all, because in-country news typically paints the Kremlin in a positive light.

Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 10.01.22 AM

In addition to a responsive website, RFE/RL now offers a mobile app for Android and iOS.

Comments like those remind me why it’s so critical to provide an alternate point of view for people in countries where the press isn’t truly free — where people only hear one side of the story because the media is subject to repercussions for content published.

I find it ironic that in the U.S. we have so much freedom to chose what we read and so many options of media offering all points of view, and yet pundits and others are saying that we are increasingly choosing to consume news from organizations that support or confirm our existing point of view. Are we self-imposing what is forced on people in less free countries? It’s a similar concern to that voiced by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, at the recent BBG tech panel, who cautioned that we should consider the downside of personalized content streams.

It’s something I want to be more conscious of — in fact, I’ll be checking multiple news outlets tonight in order to get a more balanced view of the world, starting with the VOA news app that I recently helped test. Speaking of the VOA news apps, I have to brag that our mobile team at ODDI led by Will Sullivan has just been dubbed one of the top five mobile platforms in the world by the GSMA, which means we’re in the running to receive a prestigious award at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Please comment here if you have any questions or thoughts! We’d love to hear how you do UX/UI testing, especially for products intended for global audiences. You can also find us on Twitter: @BBGinnovate, @ericamalouf and @stevefuchs1.

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Rating Our First Relay Event http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/12/24/rating-our-first-relay-event/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rating-our-first-relay-event http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/12/24/rating-our-first-relay-event/#comments Tue, 24 Dec 2013 21:07:09 +0000 Randy Abramson http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=5437 Relay is a real-time, live-blogging platform that allows journalists to easily report breaking news and developing stories from their mobile devices (note: it was formerly called Beacon). Relay is still in beta, but its user-friendly interface and sleek design has already caught the eye of HuffPoPBS MediaShift, MediaBistro and Poynter. Here we’ll take a look at our first pilot event, conducted with the Voice of America Urdu team, and grade the results.

In late September, 2013, we outlined the guiding principles behind the development of Relay. After three months of design and development time, we were excited to take Relay out for a test run! Our supremely talented VOA Urdu digital team (Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and several Indian states) stepped forward for the first pilot project to cover the death of Nelson Mandela from inside Pakistan.

Relay Mourning Mandela pilot

This photo of Pakistanis mourning for Nelson Mandela was used in our first Relay pilot with the VOA Urdu team. The card that is being viewed is highlighted in white on the bottom timeline, and the icons on each card signify the type of media–photo, video, quote, producer note, poll, Twitter highlights, and so forth.

Publishing Workflow: B+

We successfully published video, text and photo reports, as well as LiveStream video reports and Google Hangouts–all from mobile devices. In this regard, the publishing workflow functioned as planned and was successful in allowing our journalists inside of Pakistan to ‘shoot, send and go.’ They could create their content quickly on mobile devices, email it to the Relay platform and continue with their reporting.

As smooth as the publishing workflow went, we did hit a couple of snags:

  • Title character limit was too low: 100 characters for English titles suffices most of the time, but Urdu titles tend to be longer. We’ll have to adjust the character limit for future Relay pilots.
  • Photo size limit was too small: We had a 2 MB photo limit size for incoming images. One photo that hit the system was larger, so we’ll need to increase this limit as well.

One of the most interesting learning experiences of the pilot came through the Google Hangout that we had with the Urdu team in Pakistan. The Hangout began as a video Hangout, but despite our reporters being hardwired to the Internet via ethernet, bandwidth fluctuated. We were very happy to see that the Hangout technology did not allow the presentation to stall — instead, the Hangout simply downgraded the experience to audio only. It was clear from this example that there were benefits to relying on best-in-class 3rd party broadcast tools like Hangouts when working with varying connection quality.

Customer Facing Front End and Responsiveness: B+

The user was able to swipe between cards on mobile devices and click through timeline items as planned. However, we did run into a couple of presentation bugs:

  • Video loses image: We noticed that if a user plays a video and did not click pause before moving to another card, the video did not display an image when they user came back to the original card. This is a high priority fix for the next release.
  • We found another bug where text runs over the timeline interface, but only on desktop display.
  • Interface adapted correctly on Apple and Android mobile devices, although Window phones were seeing the tablet layout.

Language: B+

  • Urdu language was presented as planned, although a couple of cards reverted to left to right alignment. This is a ‘must fix’ for our next Urdu pilot
  • One card needed to be edited due to character count limits. We spent a bit of time trying to grab all the right to left aligned copy from GMail.

relay-mandela-death-pakistan

Another photo of Pakistanis mourning for Nelson Mandela from the Relay pilot with the VOA Urdu team (photo from Reuters).

User Engagement: B+

Having users alerted about updates to the stories that they care about was a key function that we wanted to be part of Relay from the start. For this first release, we programmed in the ability for users to subscribe to updates via Email alerts. The functionality worked flawlessly in our Urdu pilot, but we would like to build in the ability to subscribe for updates through SMS alerts. Be on the lookout for that functionality soon! Also, we incorporated Disqus comments into Relay so that users can leave feedback about individual pieces of content.

Timeliness: A+

All in all, we were able to publish an entire Relay presentation including a live audio interview using the Google Hangout platform with and an in-studio video stand-up in under an hour. We couldn’t have been happier with the way the Urdu team demonstrated the amount of content that could be produced in real time while using tools they already had in their back pockets.

We shot a quick stand-up with Imran Siddiqui in the VOA studio and emailed it to the Relay platform for publishing, all within a couple of minutes


Next Steps

We are looking forward to working with VOA Music on broadcasting their Roots and Branches program using LiveStream and adding extra behind-the-scenes footage on the Relay Platform. We also have a 3 week test with our VOA Spanish group in mid-January. Equally as exciting is a request from the Davanac Journalism Lab in Belgium to use the Relay platform in an upcoming Master Class in February. We’re hoping to learn from these upcoming pilots and iterate on the platform to make it even better for future internal and external users of Relay.

Want more info about Relay? Contact Randy Abramson, Director of Audio/Video products at BBG.

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TRANSLATION PERSUASION: Localization & Quality Assurance in a Global Media Organization http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/08/22/localization-quality-assurance-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=localization-quality-assurance-2 http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/08/22/localization-quality-assurance-2/#comments Thu, 22 Aug 2013 19:00:13 +0000 Borana Kostro http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=3986
Our VOA News App Sets a Record

Hi, we are Borana Kostro and Danish Ahmed and we work for mobile team at ODDI. The Office of Digital and Design Innovation (ODDI) took on the task of creating a news application for Voice of America for both the Apple iOS and Android operating system. No big deal you say? How about having this application support over 40 different languages. Yes, that’s right, a single mobile application that can deliver up-to-date news to people around the world.

Download VOA app today for free!

Download BBG apps today for free: http://bit.ly/bbgapps

This has never been done before, and the closest thing to our 40+ language application only supports 9 languages at the most.

This application does more than just give a user a few articles to read. The VOA app offers photos, videos and audio, along with the capability of being able to submit your own stories to VOA journalists in the newsroom—stories which could potentially be featured on the VOA website and application. Creating an app that had those features translated into 43 different languages was not easy!


Over 40 Languages!?! How Did We Do It?

Just in English, you can imagine how many terms are needed to be able to navigate through any application. It was overwhelming to discover that the app would require about 500 or so key words for each of the 43 languages.

The estimation was well over 20,000 items that needed translation in a matter of months.

There really was no reliable, easy shortcut on getting all the terms translated for the application. If Google Translate was a little more accurate, it would have made the daunting task of translating those items much easier. But Google Translate is notoriously unreliable. The only plausible option that would accurately get the job done was to get 40 or so individuals who are proficiently fluent in those languages to translate 20,000 terms for us.

Borana Kostro (Bo) “Translation Persuader” working with language services

Borana Kostro (Bo) “Translation Persuader” working with language services

Luckily, the ODDI office is located in a building that houses more than 40 language services. A language service is an office for specific language and is comprised of journalists, editors, producers and broadcasters who are fluent in those languages (i.e. Albanian language service, Urdu language service). Unfortunately, they are not hired translators, but they were the only resources available to us. Basically, this meant that those editors, journalists and broadcasters we thought we could have at our disposal, in reality, had their own work to worry about.


So How Did We Really Do It?

You have got to give something to get something…and for the most part we learned that chocolates were the key to getting our peers to do us a great service. We probably went through 10 large bags of chocolate candy in the four months it took our team to get these translations from our peers. I’m not saying they wouldn’t have helped if we didn’t bribe them with sweets, but it did make it easier to go to them week after week asking them to translate “just a few more” things.

Finding and scheduling a point of contact with each language service was the first, laborious step. And then meeting with language services and explaining what needed to be done for Mobile apps was also time-consuming. There were 500 plus words and phrases we needed translated, so it wasn’t like they could take a few minutes out of their day and quickly give us what we needed.

This was hours and hours of work navigating through our language localization database and filling in words and phrases.

Sample of  mobile app  localizations

Sample of mobile app localizations

Take a look for yourself at the sample of mobile app localizations and multiply that by about 500 lines for 43 languages. It looks intimidating doesn’t it?

Also, there were additional “legal docs” (Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and About Us) to be translated.

After collecting all the translations for 43 languages, and receiving new version of the app, all of these translations had to be checked against the app. Many of the keywords had to be changed due to their length, inaccuracy and other issues. Rinse and repeat, again and again. Working with 43 language services and typing translations directly, sending e-mails and copies of documents with translation terms, were the means of acquiring massive amounts of localizations.

VOA News App Home Page for Tibet (Right)

VOA News App Home Page for Tibet

We developed the bulk of this app during vacation season, which we now know not to do in the future; our designated translators who originally agreed to help us out when we asked near winter’s end were not around for spring and summer. This forced us to scramble to look for other credible translators and basically start from square one. After countless hours of begging and chasing via Skype, Google Hangout and after-hour emails, we were eventually able to get the translations we needed.

Another obstacle we came across was that some technical terms just did not exist in certain languages. There were a few language services that decided that some terms (i.e. multimedia, which did not exist in their language), would just appear in the app in English. But some language services weren’t content with just popping in an English word in the midst of a completely different language.

It was pretty neat to see the creative minds of those language services get together and create a new word for certain journalistic and technical jargon that did not exist yet.

Application users for some languages will notice new terms in the VOA mobile app that are appearing for the very first time in the history of those languages.

 

Working with Different Devices and Operating Systems

QA Specialist, Danish Ahmed, testing the application on multiple devices

QA Specialist, Danish Ahmed, testing the application on multiple devices

For those that are thinking about creating a multilingual application: TEST YOUR APPLICATION ON AS MANY DEVICES AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE!!!!

For those developing for the Apple iOS, you probably won’t come across any major problems with trying to do something with many different languages and font types. I will give credit to Apple for being multilingual friendly. The fonts render beautifully and all languages that we created this app for were supported without any hiccup.

Android was a completely different animal—man was it a headache. Not sure how many of you know this, but there are over 11,868 different types of Android versions and devices out there in the world today. They come in all shapes and sizes and all different resolutions. As much as we would have liked to be able to test on all 11,868 versions, we were able to get our hands on just a fraction of that to test our app on. Near the completion of the application we discovered that Samsung, which happens to be the largest retailer of Android devices, did not support many of the major languages, including Urdu, Pashto, and Kurdish.

At first we thought there was a problem with the fonts we provided our developers, for all the languages with font issues on android. We provided our developers with multiple TTF files for right to left languages (Urdu, Kurdish,  and Pashto). Eventually we discovered it was just on Samsung devices that we had an issue with the right to left languages, and that Samsung devices did not render the fonts as they should.

Android devices as a whole had a problem with Amharic, Azerbaijani, Burmese, Khmer, Lao and Tibetan fonts. The TTF files provided, which were the best TTF files known for those languages, the fonts still appeared broken or failed to appear. We are still working on a fix for these and, unfortunately for the time being, had to hold off on releases for these languages for our Android version: Amharic, Azerbaijani, Burmese, Khmer, Lao, Tibetan, Urdu, Pashto, Kurdish and Deewa language service (Pashto to Pakistan).

 

Partial List of Languages (Left)

Partial List of Languages

Triple-checking the Translations

The ODDI Mobile Team worked round the clock training and handing out different devices to different language services to have them try out the product. VOA was excited and enthusiastic about having a robust news application. Some stated this would be the very first application in their respective language. Everyone was eager to make sure that their language worked without any flaws. I truly believe that without them we would have not been able to find as many defects and font errors as we did. The translators were hands down the greatest asset we had to making sure we had a quality product.

What’s Next in Terms of Localization?

The Office of Digital and Design Innovation is currently working on creating an application to make the whole process of getting translations a little bit easier. The current project of ‘Localization Database’ will be an open source tool for anyone that will allow users from all over the world to provide translations to this application, kind of like a Wikipedia but for translation purposes.

Thank you to VOA language services who have provided us with translations for VOA mobile apps. It has been a lot of work on your part and finally we have a great product we are proud of. Special thanks to all and especially IME’s and web editors who participated in this video: Will Sullivan, Martha Townes, Hakki Ocal, Steven Ferri, Alen Mlatisuma, Rohit Kulkarni, Hasib Danish Alikozai, Abdulaziz H. Osman, Al Neustadter, and Abdushakur Aboud.


Authors: Danish Ahmed | Borana Kostro

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