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Facebook Global Hackathon: On.Reel News / 1st Place

Facebook Global Hackathon 2015, Grand Prize Winner

When the Paris Attacks happened, I didn't want to sit around and watch a CNN broadcast. The news channels reported the same content on loop. 

I wanted to see footage from direct witnesses who experienced the event first-hand. Watching the footage filmed by a victim inside the venue evoked feelings in me that I couldn't have experienced had I only stuck to reading articles about the tragedy. Where could I find short bits of shareable content that could be spread easily across social media platforms? 

For the Facebook 2015 Global Hackathon Finals, my team developed a new kind of social media platform centered around watching "live" videos. This project was pitched before Facebook Live existed on the platform. Connections could be drawn between this idea and Facebook's now public feature. 

Representing the only team from Carnegie Mellon University, our group placed 1st out of 21 teams, hailing from 11 unique countries.

Team: Avi Romanoff, Nikhil Choudhary, Sumanth Pandugula / Duration: 24 Hours
Feature Article: Student Team Wins Grand Prize at Facebook Global Hackathon 

 

I found it difficult to feel engaged by just reading articles on the Paris attacks. I could only piece the situation together based on interviews and quotes from bystanders.

Feeling frustrated by the lack of information, I started searching around the internet for live footage of what was going on but couldn’t find much. I decided to watch the CNN coverage of what was streaming "live" at the time.

The broadcast wasn't showing me anything new that I hadn't seen already. I figured maybe Instagram would have some more up to date footage being shared in real time. That night, my Instagram feed was filled with pictures of parties, food and selfies.

When I searched the hashtag "#ParisAttacks", I saw photos that had been made to help spread awareness and show support. Again, I asked myself, where could I watch live videos of what's occurring in Paris? There must be a place where people are uploading videos in real-time.

 

After a day or two, media outlets began reporting the "Vine Heard Around the World".

There was a single Vine filmed by a witness at the soccer game going on nearby where the shooting took place. This one Vine captured the moment when terror and fear was felt around the stadium. It was the first bit of media about the attacks that got shared around the world. It wasn't a CNN broadcast, a New York Times article or some tweet.

It was a six second Vine. I started researching more on articles that addressed this viral Vine and its impact on how people felt about the attacks. This sparked the idea to create a platform where people could upload and watch live footage from around the world in real time.

 

In 24 hours, we developed the idea for On.reel News, a platform that lets you track developing stories around the world in real time through videos taken by direct witnesses. 

We created this product in response to the way modern news distribution seems to be changing. Platforms like Snapchat and Instagram have allowed for the spread of viral news to reach audiences more quickly than ever before.

Users can navigate around the world map while dots appear in real time in response to where footage is being uploaded. Clusters of dots indicate areas  concern or interest. Hovering over a dot allows the user to see what trending hashtags users are tagging their videos with in relation to the specific location. Selecting a hashtag brings up a 3x3 grid with "Most Recent" videos related to the hashtag appearing first in the top-left corner. As more videos come in related to the hashtag, each square shifts over to the right to make room for the new content. 

If you come across a video that you want to share, flip the square over and post it to your various social media accounts. We want to empower people to go out and find that "one Vine" that will get watched around the world. Don't wait for news channels to pick up on it days after the content is uploaded.  Find it first and help bring it to the attention of everyone immediately.

 

We see the potential that social media platforms provide for delivering raw, unfiltered footage.

Users would be able to share video footage of natural disasters, protests, celebrations, parades, and more all in real-time. Some professors at Carnegie Mellon reached out to us to share their thoughts on how such a tool could be used to document human rights violations. We have considered the idea of building this project out to become its own video sharing platform so that the content doesn’t have to be attached to places like Instagram. Users would be able to upload footage directly through a mobile app. This would allow for us to manipulate or gather the metadata more easily in our favor as the Instagram API has become increasingly closed off to the public. Our teammates have also thought about turning this into an open source project.

 

Appendix

The images below showcase early iterations of the homepage and logo designs. 

Different iterations of what the logo for Onreel might look like.

Different iterations of what the logo for Onreel might look like.

An early version of what I imagined the website to look like. I thought it would be more of a search engine vs. an interactive map.

An early version of what I imagined the website to look like. I thought it would be more of a search engine vs. an interactive map.

Inspiration for the map UI was taken from Quizlet's homepage!

Inspiration for the map UI was taken from Quizlet's homepage!

A refined mockup of the UI for the website once we implemented the Leafle API and settled on a map style.

A refined mockup of the UI for the website once we implemented the Leafle API and settled on a map style.