Let’s make it hacken – at ZEIT Online in Berlin

Update: Sorry, we have to cancel this date and will hopefully provide you with a new one soon.



The great thing about Corrigo is that there are so many people encouraging us to carry on with it. You probably would not expect two guys bothering to set up a whole website, a facebook and twitter account, publish their thesis online, take part in a Mozilla contest – without a real plan. I mean: a strategy.

The truth is: We gave up the whole project more than once. There has never been a real plan – just a vision, or rather a wish. But people kept asking us questions about Corrigo and how it developed. They invited us to great conferences to have the opportunity to get to know even greater people!

So if not for ourselves, we had to carry on at least for all those nice and cooperative people. So let’s do it, or as it read in several of our presentations:

Let’s make it hacken!

And this time be assured: We do have a plan! Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Coders, please save the date:
February 22nd / 23rd 2013
ZEIT Online, Berlin

We are so happy and humbled to present you the renowned ZEIT to be our host!

We are planning a hackathon, so to develop a first protoype and will provide you with more details later.

If you are interested (you do not necessarily have to be a programmer!) in joining this special event, please register here (the corner on the righthand side) with our newsletter so that we can keep you updated.

So, who is in?

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Blogging is whose business? Let’s answer that in Bristol!

There are many reasons for people to blog: Keeping their family updated, sharing some nice cat (or owl!) content, earning a living by seeding Ebuzzing videos – or holding the mainstream media accountable. “And what are the quality control issues?”, you might ask. Well, this is exactly the question we will discuss this weekend:

MediaWise, the EU MediaAct project and the NUJ New Media Industrial Council organised a “weekend of debate and discussion” in Bristol – and we are very happy to announce that we have been asked to present “the Corrigo technique” to a wider audience. And wider it is:

The participants

Joan Canela Barrull - manager of www.mèdia.cat

Steve Baxter – New Statesman www.newstatesman.com/blogs/steven-baxter & Enemies of Reason www.enemiesofreason.co.uk

Gilles Bruno– L’Observatoire des medias www.observatoiredesmedias.com

Sean Dodson – senior lecturer in journalism at Leeds Metropolitan

Ronnie Grob – contributor to www.bildblog.de

Gary Herman - NUJ New Media Industrial Council

Philip Hunt – member of the National Union of Journalists’ New Media Industrial Council, blogger at www.shoeman.eu

Tim Ireland – www.bloggerheads.com

Mike Jempson – Director, www.mediawise.org.uk; senior lecturer in journalism, UWE; lead researcher for UWE on www.mediaact.eu

Eleanor Lisney - member of the National Union of Journalists’ New Media Industrial Council

Kristine Lowe - founder of Norwegian Online News Association (NONA),    blogs at http://kristinelowe.blogs.com

Will Moy – Director, www.fullfact.org

Sian Norrishttp://sianandcrookedrib.blogspot.co.uk

Sylwia Presley – GlobalVoices http://globalvoicesonline.org/author/sylwia-presley

Steve Riley – www.fivechinesecrackers.com

Martin RobbinsThe Guardian’s Lay Scientist www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist

Tom Schaffer - www.zurpolitik.at / call for input

Tim Tarrant – senior lecturer in Filmmaking and Creative Media at UWE Bristol

Judith Townend – journalist and researcher www.jtownend.com

Christina Zaba – journalist

The outcome

The overall aim is to eventually create an international forum / platform for and about bloggers. We will tweet from the conference and hope to count you in for some additional input. And now we have to pack our bags :)

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Media Accountability – Potentials and Pitfalls in the Era of Web 2.0

When we first got this e-mail from Colin Porlezza, I felt like I’ve read his name before. I talked to Tobias about it. And then it fell into place: We cited him in our thesis! More than once.

Some months later, we are happy to attend the conference “Media Accountability – Potentials and Pitfalls in the Era of Web 2.0” organised by Prof. Stephan Russ-Mohl and Colin Porlezza at the Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano.

As if it wasn’t already an honour to be invited to this distinguished conference they also asked us to contribute to it as speakers to speak about Corrigo. We accepted immediately.

The conference has been organised in collaboration with the research project MediaAct which has been a great help to our thesis and so we are also glad to meet again with Tobias Eberwein who will chair our panel on Saturday morning – and who has been cited by us a lot, too!


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Thank god it’s Webmonday

Photo by MicialMedia – thank you!

No doubt about it. We were a bit disappointed that we did not make it to Berlin. That our final assignment was – so far – the last post about the Knight-Mozilla learning lab, which was however a great experience.

This was at the end of August. The following weeks Corrigo got a bit out of our focus. To get us back on the track, what could have been better than a proper deadline? Thanks to Darren and Ali we got the chance to present Corrigo on the 33rd Webmonday in Brotfabrik, Frankfurt (very nice city by the way).

For those who missed it – no worries. The guys from sysops.tv recorded the 18 minutes we spent on stage. So watch the video! For those who saw and liked it, and for those who want to make Corrigo “hacken” as much as we do please let us know beneath in the comments or drop us a line: make_it_hacken@corrigo.org.

We are thinking about organizing a hackathon by the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012. You can push these thoughts forward by saying “yes, yes, yes I want to hack with you” or by saying “yes, yes, yes here’s some money to buy some pizza for all the awesome hackers” or by saying “yes, yes, yes I got the perfect location for this crazy hackathon”.

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Final assignment: Proposing Corrigo

Time has been flying for the past four weeks. It feels like yesterday having entered the virtual classroom of Knight-Mozilla learning lab for the first time. Now, by submitting our final assignment, we want to thank Knight-Mozilla for making this lab possible, the learning lab staff for your dedication and giving us valuable feedback and all our classmates for making this lab an interesting experience and great fun. See you in Berlin, guys – here we go!

“Whatever the future holds for accuracy and journalism as a whole, it seems certain that the river of errors and corrections will continue to flow for decades to come.”
Jeff Jarvis (2007)

It could be so simple. The journalist works accurately, his texts are wirtten to the best of his knowledge and belief. And if there is something wrong, his colleagues and readers will point that out. The journalist thanks them for the hint, corrects the error and has made the world a little bit “correcter”.

Well. There are doubts about the accuracy in journalism. Texts are produced under time pressure. The fact-checkers are retired, their colleagues are busy and the readers indignant. The journalist is annoyed by the hint, he might correct his error and blames the news business. Although you can hardly find the type of journalist described in the first place, there is something you definitely come by regularly: errors.

It’s these mistakes Corrigo is focused on. Of course, there’s a high degree of professionalism in online journalism and you can find both extremes of the case scenarios described earlier.

Technological change has not only increased the need for quality control – but made it possible in the first place. The internet in general and social media in particular enables all citizens to participate in quality control.

Good News – Bad News

That’s the good news: There are millions of fact checkers out there and you always find somebody who knows it better.

The bad news is: The european research project MediaAcT has shown that many of the established tools of media accountability – including the press councils – fail to systematically involve citizens.

Without the public’s voice, these instruments are too quiet. Only as a common orchestra, supported by the mighty choir of the public, they can be heard.

The Corrigo Orchestra

There are already some pioneering projects like MediaBugs and NewsTrust, which share some of Corrigo’s ideas. While their services vary considerably in function and degree of professionalization, they have one thing in common: they do not reach many people.

And as long as Crowdsourced Media Accountability Services do not achieve critical mass, publishers and media professionals will not have the pressure to diminish the number of errors.

Still: Pressure alone would not lead to less errors and transparency. If the Corrigo orchestra wants to be heard it will need the right “tonality”. This is one of our key findings  after analysing error culture in journalism. Instead of “crowd versus Journalism” Corrigos slogan should be: “Journalism featuring Crowd”.

Corrigo is a Crowdsourced Media Accountability Service that helps its users to flag and correct factual errors, missing links and typos in online news sources. It comes as a browser add-on based on web annotation technology. This makes you see errors and corrections right in the context. To give you a better impression of our idea we produced this screencast:


  • Corrigo increases the visibility of errors in the direct context of the article.
  • Corrigo accelerates the process of reporting and correcting errors and helps to document it.
  • Corrigo separates error messages from comment threads and helps editors, to identify them easily.
  • Corrigo lives and breathes in the browser.
  • Corrigo stops the spreading of errors by marking them in correlated texts.
  • Corrigo enables a comparison of the accuracy of online media.


  • New browser versions bring a need for constantly updating the required add-on with them.
  • Web annotation systems are barely known and used.
  • To sustain further development, communication and technical infrastructure, Corrigo is dependent on funding.
  • Up to now: Corrigo is not working in Apps.


  • Corrigo is able to establish a more open in dealing with errors and to increase the quality in online media.
  • Corrigo has the potential to build a network of existing instruments of Media Accountability.
  • Corrigo can be supplemented with additional function, for example, connections to services such as churnalism.com or tineye.com, web services, looking for the origins of texts and images to find unlabeled news releases and stock material.
  • Journalists may use Corrigo pro-actively. With the help of Corrigo they could ask the crowd to verify a statement in an interview or a text.
  • Via plugins Corrigo can be connected with content management systems, in order to enable an efficient management of errors and corrections within a few clicks.
  • As a non-profit open-source project Corrigo can be internationalized and extended functionally.


  • The existing culture of errors can complicate the introduction on the market.
  • Despite all methods of quality control within the community: An abuse of technology for can never be excluded.
  • Some legal issues are still unclear. Court decisions may change the legal framework to the disadvantage of Corrigo.
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Journalists featuring crowd

The third week Knight-Mozilla learning lab Mohamed Nanabhay, Head of Online at Al Jazeera English, and Shazna Nessa, Director of Interactive at the Associated Press in New York delivered insights of the work and workflows of their newsrooms.

For us this is an interesting issue as we do not want to burden editors with even more work. Some of the editors and journalist we talked to feared that Corrigo would ultimately mean more work load – and we take this seriously. Still, we believe Corrigo could be a real enrichment in terms of collaboration between “the users” and the newsroom:

Good collaboration depends on good communication. Having examined the error culture in newsrooms it became clear that journalists have difficulties with admitting errors. That’s nothing special. Nobody likes to say: Sorry, my fault. Because we live in a culture of blame-and-shame. There’s a bit of Nelson in all of us as we love to point a finger on people who made a mistake.

The better way would be to blame the error, not the person who made it. If Corrigo was the place where readers pillory the writers the latter would not accept the new tool and nothing would change.

That’s why Corrigo’s motto is not journalists vs.crowd but it’s journalists ft. crowd.

As we mentioned earlier, “we take the technology of web annotation but limit its use to reporting errors in news articles.” We wish to focus on factual errors. They are “deviations from objective fact” and are therefore called “objective errors” (cf. Blankenburg, 1970:376). By concentrating on those objective errors we leave apart all subjective errors which are subject to numerous debates – which can be continued within the comment threads. This would enable the editor to access reported (factual) errors more quickly.

If someday Corrigo gets really really popular, we will probably have many “potential” errors reported. In order to keep the correction procedure efficient we provide a “traffic light system”. Users who have acquired a certain reputation within Corrigo will have the power to verify errors reported by users with a smaller reputation (e.g. new users). So if there were many errors a day the editor would be able to only concentrate on all red / verified errors.

Last but not least a short note on friday’s lecture. Oliver Reichenstein talked about several web projects his design agency Information Architects had realized over the past years. Among the relaunch of Zeit Online in 2009, which was notably interesting for me. Having worked in Zeit Online’s newsroom as an intern when the “switch was flipped”, it was great to have the designer’s perspective towards it. If you’re interested: Knight-Mozilla learning lab recorded the lecture, and I encourage you to watch it!

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Tailoring existing technology

When Shazna Nessa from AP interactive showed the prestige project her department is currently working on, she admitted that nothing was coded, yet. She actually used the chance at Mozilla’s Learning Lab to tell the coding people there that they were still hiring :) Anyway, Shazna made clear that they would not create new technology but rather take existing technology – and tailor it.

And that’s exactly what we think would be sufficient regarding Corrigo.

The technology Corrigo is based on is as old as the internet itself (cf. Peiwen, 2008: 2 ): web annotation. We chose web annotation because it brings some advantages which are crucial for Corrigo’s core functions:

  • highlighting (good for pointing to the paragraph in question)
  • annotation (e.g. sticky notes)
  • independence from the annotated document

The two first points are important for the user experience because it will show annotations right in context at the article. The last point is important because it really gives the power to the people. We want to crowdsource media accountability and encourage free speech. That’s (only) possible if we do not rely on any implementation on the part of the publishers.

Another nice feature is the fact that the user does not have to pro-actively click on a button such as “Show me annotations for this article” because the browser add-on would automatically load any annotation when there’s data to that specific URL.

Funny enough, all this already exists. The probably best known service using web annotation is Diigo. But there are (or often: were) many other web annotation systems.

Also the idea of reporting “media bugs” is not new, but either depends on the pro-active clicking of a bookmarklet or on a (wordpress-)plugin installed by the publisher.

In our research we could see that there were many good projects – but none of them ever got to the critical mass. We think, this is why:

  • most web annotation services are too powerful
    users were probably overstrained by the large feature set. Proof: check any “big” site like Google’s front page and enjoy the public Diigo annotations…
  • fact-checking services like Mediabugs are a click too far away
    users have to actively check for new comments but are not pointed to the information upon clicking an article

So how could we do things better? Well, by tailoring and stoating these two smart approaches:

We take the technology of web annotation but limit its use to reporting errors in news articles.

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How to build an open source community. And why this is the wrong question.

Mark Zuckerberg once was asked by a newspaper publisher for advice on “how he could build and own his community.” The facebook founder just answered: “You can’t.”

What Zuckerberg later explained was that you cannot “create” a certain community because the community already exists. All you can do is to provide “smart tools” that help people to connect and communicate.

We often thought about this simple but important theory. Before starting to evolve the concept of Corrigo we did a big deal of research / market analysis. What we found were concepts that were never realised, venture capital driven start-ups that did not survive its seed funding or even projects that still exist but certainly could use more user interaction.

So in the end one thing became clear: Critical mass is, well, a critical subject. To us this result was not that surprising as we experienced, built and tested several (journalistic) projects that failed to reach a sufficient audience.

But regarding Corrigo, we see at least two “communities” that we have to think of. Besides the user who is supposed to mark and correct factual errors, there is also the undefined group of hackers that we hacks do count on.

One thing is clear: This group has to be the open source community as Corrigo has to be open source. In our thesis, we follow the idea that media accountability has to rely on the people and thus could not be the product of a privately held company. We think, this fits the spirit of the open source community.

Long before we applied for the Knight-Mozilla challenge we read through the Mozilla Manifesto because we wanted to understand how “they” feel about open source. Chris Heilmann also referred to this manifesto and described Mozilla as the “Red Cross of the Internet”.

I like this comparison in terms of openess, image and usefulness (not so much in terms of fundraising though :)). Still, the fact that the idea of Corrigo and the spirit of open source  fit quite well, this “does not guarantee that hordes of active developers will suddenly
volunteer their time
” to our project.

For reaching the critical mass among the hackers we already know the wrong question: “How to build an open source community for Corrigo?”.

But fortunately there is a good “homework” to work on for the final of the Knight-Mozilla learning lab: a software product proposal.

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A hack diving into the world of hackers

It’s the third week of Knight-Mozilla learning lab and as we’re looking forward to the lectures of Shazna Nessa, Director of Interactive at the Associated Press in New York, Mohamed Nanabhay, Head of New Media at the AlJazeera Network, and Oliver Reichenstein, CEO of the amazing Information Architects, let’s sum up the second week.

Hacks usually fear to dive into the world of hackers. So it was good to have Christian Heilman, a Mozilla Developer Evangelist, focusing on HTML5 and John Resig, the creator and lead developer of the jQuery JavaScript library, in the boat. They pushed us into the ocean and showed us what’s under the surface of the water: the fascinating world of the open web.

John Resig gave us some interesting insights in the conception and realization of an open-source software project, which is first and foremost organizing communication and documentation in a smart way. Concerning Corrigo this is going to be a real challenge.

Corrigo is planned to be a tool to control quality in journalism. It’s our democratic conviction that such a tool mustn’t be in the hands of the state or the economy. Since the media as the “fourth force” control the government forces, the state in turn and in the sense of “checks and balances” may have no means of controlling the media. And as quality control of media is too important to be run by enterprises with economic interests it has to be run by the public, which is – going back to the philospher of the Enlightenment John Locke the supervisory of a balanced political system.

This means that while building and coding Corrigo as a non-profit and open-source project it’s important to find a balance between the liberty of the open-source community and the goal of creating a tool which empowers the public to take part in controlling the quality of the media without giving them any chance to abuse this power.

As John Resig made me think about the development of open-source software and let’s say some political or economical aspects of Corrigo, Christian Heilman inspired me to rethink the technical realization of Corrigo. Heilman told us what’s possible with today’s and tomorrow’s browsers. He’s a big fan of applications run by the browser because you don’t have to install software or to update a plugin. At the current state of conception we think that a browser add-on is the only way to realize what we have in mind.

Corrigo shall enable its users to flag and correct errors, missing links and typos in online news sources, so that other users see errors and corrections right in context (to get a better imagination of our intent we recommend to check our presentation on slideshare including some first mock-ups). We think that web annotation is the right technology for that. But is a browser add-on based on web annotation technology the only possibility? After having puzzled a playing music video in my browser we’re not sure anymore. There must be ways we haven’t thought about. So let’s go diving! Share your thoughts with us.

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Let’s make it hacken!

Having studied online journalism for four years we’ve thought a lot on how to enhance journalism with excisting tools. We experimented with Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, Diigo – let’s say dozens of services. But I’m not sure if we – despite our diploma thesis – have spent any minute thinking about new tools for better journalism. Which is a pity. Germany in general and Darmstadt in particular might not be the Silicon Valley but we have a bunch of talented hacks and hackers around. Though, most of the time separated.

And that’s where Burt Herman steps into our virtual #MozNewsLab classroom. He is a journalist and entrepreneur, he co-founded Storify as well as Hacks/Hackers, an organization and network that brings together journalism and technology. Taking Storify as an example, Burt gave us advice on how to realize our ideas.

By the way: As I already had the chance to work with Storify, I have to say that it’s a smart tool for the kind of journalism, Jeff Jarvis once named process journalism. Due to the fact that “online, the story, the reporting, the knowledge are never done and never perfect” building a tool which helps journalists picking up tweets, blogposts, videos and photos, to rearrange and to comment on them is a great idea.

But as Jeff Jarvis’ lecture will come soon enough, let’s get back to Burt Herman’s advices. Let’s focus on these: Build a community, build a team and hey, just build it! So far our team consists of two hacks. Now it’s time to find some hackers and Burt Herman encouraged us to do so.

To pick up on Kersten’s thoughts on Aza’s lecture about prototyping, a maker space or a hackathon could be a good start.

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