Untangled: New Lab project aims to improve browser-based knowledge management for journalists

When we canvassed the community at News Foo late last fall, many people described tools they'd like to see which help journalists manage and make sense of data. These suggestions encouraged us to make a specific 2013 initiative we're calling "Reporters' Notebook," in which we'll look at existing tools and imagine new ones.

As one step in brainstorming possibilities, we returned to a student project called Untangld. This project came out of our collaborative innovation classes, where journalism and computer science students have a single academic quarter to build a prototype of an interesting tool. In this case, the project was intended to "help investigative journalists easily record and correlate information they find in online data repositories." Several people were impressed by the demo, but the project hasn't been revisited since the class ended.

Whiteboard sketch, Untangled

Seeing potential in the basic idea, we are revisiting Untangld and working on a more comprehensive implementation. Beyond restoring the lost 'e' to the project's name, we are envisioning a more complete system for browser-based knowledge management.

Here are a few pieces of the new scope:

  • Implement a more robust datastore. Based on how reporters have told us they work, we think that a graph database is a promising way to store the information.
  • Simplify the capture process. Rather than having to select text for each important player on a web page, we're exploring entity extraction techniques which can reduce the number of steps required to store the important facts.


We're aiming to have a prototype which shows some of these ideas sometime this summer. We look forward to sharing it with you and getting more feedback on where this idea could go. If you have some thoughts / ideas to share, please leave a comment below or shoot us an email: knightlab@northwestern.edu.

About the author

Joe Germuska

Chief Nerd

Joe runs Knight Lab’s technology, professional staff and student fellows. Before joining us, Joe was on the Chicago Tribune News Apps team. Also, he hosts a weekly radio show on WNUR-FM – Conference of the Birds.

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