A team from the Digital Humanities and Journalism group at Insight @NUIG won the ‘Connecting the News’ category prize at the BBC NewsHack on May 1st-2nd. The team developed Hash2News, a Chrome Extension which enables users to find the news stories behind Twitter hashtags.
The #newsHack is an initiative of the BBC NewsLabs innovation programme, and organised by BBC Connected Studio and the Global Editors Network (sponsored by Google) and aims to foster digital innovation in news. HuJo-Insight competed alongside teams from other academic institutes as well as news organisations such as Sky News, the Financial Times, Storyful and the BBC.
The Hackathon saw some great products – from Storyful’s Chrome extension for assisting journalists collate cross-media news stories, to the visually beautiful BBC Brief, which optimises news articles for mobile devices by displaying them in minute, screen-sized pieces.
Inspired by the belief that a hack should identify and solve a particular problem, the HuJo-Insight team decided to use their expertise with handling Twitter streams and entity extraction to find the news articles most relevant for any given hashtag. Social media, especially Twitter, presents a large stream of discussion to users, often informed by external news events. The result is that users often feel like they’re ‘out of the loop’, and want to find out what is behind ongoing social media discussions. By providing a direct link from Twitter content to relevant news articles, HuJo’s Chrome extension enables Twitter users to find ‘the news behind the noise’; the news articles relevant to social media conversations.
The extension works by utilising Twitter’s Streaming API and extract named entities from hashtag streams, then matching them with BBC news articles via the BBC NewsLabs semantic API, which makes queries against semantically tagged news articles – so that the tags indicate what the article is about.
All this happens under the hood, however; any user of the HuJo Chrome extension will simply see a search icon placed next to each hashtag on their Twitter stream; clicking on this redirects the user to a custom page that displays and links to relevant news articles.
The judges saw the utility of this product and awarded the team the prize for ‘Connecting the News’, which requires the team to ”pique audience interests, to tap into social media habits, and support consumption across devices.” The other category winners were BBC Location Service (Explaining the news), The Independent (Tools for Journalists), Sky News (Theming the News), University of the West of Scotland (NewsCrack award) and BBC archives (Visually Inspired). The Best in Show winners were The Financial Times (Glasgow) and The Times/Sunday Times (Dublin).
The HuJo team plan to finalise their extension and make it freely available online.