Tag Archives: trust

Get your Instant News in The Daily Snap

Chaotic pile of books on a long table
    Start a conversation 
Estimated reading time 3–5 minutes

I haven’t been writing much recently, because I have been very busy getting a couple of StartUp projects off the ground. Building tech from scratch is very different from what I have usually done during my career, which is work with large and mature systems.

Early days

It has been a real adventure and we have had lots of twists and turns along the way. We started off rising to a challenge set by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) – the financial regulator of Quebec. They sponsored the FinTech Formathon and gave us a 3-month salaried runway to get the project off the ground at Concordia University’s District 3. The main issue their analysts and researchers have with existing news services is that they don’t do enough to avoid serving up the same story – albeit often in a slightly different form – over and over again. For a busy researcher, reading the same thing twice is very annoying – a problem that “churnalism” or “copy paste” journalism has exacerbated. Our first prototype for the AMF was a news search engine that clustered similar articles together, to help researchers identify when they already knew enough about a story.

We went on to develop a more sophisticated prototype, with a more interesting UI, and we are now building out our MVP which will use some machine learning techniques to improve relevancy and article similarity detection. We will work closely with the AMF to curate sources particularly relevant to them.

News services for businesses

We have also built a news search product that can be tailored to any subject area and is quick and easy to use. This will appeal particularly to organizations who want a lightweight straightforward way to keep up with news trends and hot topics.

Instant news – The Daily Snap

We then realised that ordinary people want to keep up with the news and are just as frustrated as the professional researchers. People want to know what is going on without spending too much time reading, but the level of trust in social media to provide quality news has plummeted. The problem with social media as a news source is twofold – on the one hand, free-to-use services need advertising revenue, and so what you see is ultimately what the “advertisers” want you to see. (In old media days, advertisers were usually large retailers and corporations because TV, radio, and print media buying was a convoluted process. Now anyone from anywhere in the world can pay a social media company to promote anything at all – even if they are Macedonian teenagers).

The second problem is that social media is a huge time suck. You might just want to glance at the headlines, but once you open up your social media app, it is almost impossible not to spend longer wandering around than you intended. No one wants to be left out when everyone else is talking about a hot news story, but no one wants to lose hours of their life to trivia either. This is why we created The Daily Snap. It is “instant news” – five headlines in your email inbox, so you can keep up with what’s going on in as little time as possible.

The Daily Snap will help us understand how people interact with their daily news and will help us develop our main product – a personalized, ad free, data secure, privacy respecting, high quality news service.

It has been a lot of fun diving into dataset classification for machine learning. My taxonomy skills have certainly proved extremely useful in helping us categorize articles and I will write more about the semantic aspects of our technology and our fantastic team in a future post.

Truba.News logo

Public knowledge, private ignorance

    Start a conversation 
Estimated reading time 3–4 minutes

Public knowledge, private ignorance by Patrick Wilson is one of those fascinating books that reads as if it had been written yesterday, but in fact was written in 1977. In what struck me as such a contemporary theme, he discusses the importance of personal contacts and trusted authorities as sources of knowledge – a theme that has returned with a vengeance in the form of “social search” and leveraging social networks for recommendations etc. A wonderful example of this was given to me by a friend last night who told me about how their archives division suddenly gained recognition when the new media lot realised they needed metadata for their rapidly growing digital repositories. The new media folks were in a panic until the talked to the librarians and archivists and realised they had already worked out – and been assiduously cataloguing all the digital assets. Without that personal contact, the new media folk might have ended up building their own catalogue, and duplicating all that work! It’s a sadly familiar story even in these days of information abundance when you’d think such communication would be easy, but even the problem of how to make sure “public” knowledge is actually used is nothing new. Wilson quotes Lord Rayleigh at a meeting of the British Association of the Advancement of Science in1884 (yes – eighteen eighty four – it’s not a typo) as noting how much scientific knowledge was published but unread, saying “It is often forgotten that the rediscovery in the library may be a more difficult and uncertain process than the first discovery in the laboratory”. Wilson points out that “knowledge existing only ‘in the literature’ is no different from knowledge possessed by undiscoverable or inaccessible individuals”.
Wilson also claims that “where there is knowledge, there must be a knower”, which struck me as a challenge to notions that publishing alone – whether it be tweets or academic research papers – is only half the battle. This reinforces to me the absolute fundamentalness of findability and serving the needs of the user both within individual publications and across the whole of our “public” digital repositories. Again, this is nothing new. Way back in the 19th century Charles Cutter was anxious to serve library users better, Grace Kelley (disambiguated from the other one by the extra “e”!) in 1937 was what we would now refer to as a “usability evangelist” and both Ranganathan (1959) and Bliss (1935) had a passion for getting the right information out to the right people.
As Computer Science from the 1970s took over much of information retrieval and then with commercial products being heavily marketed, I worry that this sort of passion has been lost in a blur of what you can get an algorithm to do, rather than what people actually need. As Wilson says “we do not make knowledge available simply by making available documents in which knowledge is represented”. Google is wonderful, but that is, essentially, all it does. Of course the more sophisticated programmatic tools we have the better, but as information providers we should never be afraid to say “this gets us so far, but not far enough”. We need to keep reminding everyone that it is the minds of the knowers and potential knowers we need to be serving and so we should not be afraid to keep demanding ever more sophisticated systems that are mixed, variable, and downright difficult to automate.