Eric's Chi-Leaders

Brainstorm result

with 16 comments

Last Tuesday we were given the assignment to make a “social application that has something to do with either music or news”.
Yours truly  have chosen to make a digital environment in which you can collaborate with your friends on drawing on top of news articles.
This concept was inspired by the playful graffiti  that can be found in most public restrooms.

During the first session we worked on a mindmap representing the basic ideas behind our future application. We give the readers both the written mindmap we made during the session and an reworked more readable version.

Our ideal application would work in the following way:

The user logs on to the system (be it through his facebook-account or something else) and is presented with new news items that are likely to be to his/her interests.
Interest is defined by the user through inputted keywords, high rating on similar articles , or a substantial amount of friends having a high rating/comment on an article.
The news-items are to be presented as a list of titles, accompanied by some basic information as to why the system believes our user might like them.

Once the user has chosen  a news item of his/her liking, he/she is referred to a different page.
This new page will allow our user to read the article and to choose which “overlays” to activate or alternatively, the user can also make his/her own overlay and commence drawing/writing on it.
“Overlays” can be seen as transparent slides that are placed on top of the article on which users may draw or write.
In this way side-notes or funny pictures can easily be added.
Further options include whether or not to make the overlay private, allowing friends to draw on the same overlay,  rate other people overlays, and so on.

In this way we believe to digitize the restroom-door-writing experience.
As an extra feature to motivate users to keep using the application, we would implement some sort of “leveling” system.
Leveling would occur once a “tagger”‘s rating is sufficiently high.
The overlays of the most highly leveled users are featured at the top of the overlay list.

Eager to start working on this somewhat ambitious project and looking forward to your comments,

The Chi-Leaders

Written by chileaders

18/02/2011 at 14:26

Posted in Brainstorm, Men-At-Work

16 Responses

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  1. Original and fun idea! I like it a lot!

    There’s only a minor problem when scaling up the ‘restroom experience’. In a restroom there’s only 1 ‘overlay’, so no problem of handling multiple overlays. In a social application, there might be thousands of overlays for a single popular article. You partially solved this problem by ordering them (like you suggested by rating) and perhaps by interest (overlays of friends). But I’m missing the concept of groups. Suppose you have a private layer, you can allow individually selected friends, or allow them all at once. Now suppose you have a group of friends interested in a certain subject (music, gaming, politics…) perhaps they just want to assign all these friends directly to an overlay for every article about a certain subject. And instead of assigning the layer to 1 user (the creator), it would be more appropriate to assign it to a group.

    The way I see it, it could be implemented in multiple ways: 1) the user has friends and can create and join groups like in FaceBook. Every member of a group can create an overlay for that group. When the layers are sorted, the users can see as a creator of an overlay either an individual person or a group. So in this case the application explicitly shows the existence of groups. 2) In another case you can hide the usage of groups. Each individual has a list of friends which he can assign to private groups (so only the user knows who is in a certain private group). When the user creates a layer he/she can assign a private group to it. When users look at the layers of an article the application will display who the creator is and users won’t know if the creator made it all alone or with a bunch of friends (in a private group). In my opinion the first option seems to be the most elegant, but the second one is perhaps easier to implement and use.

    Apart from this remark on how to share overlays, your brainstorm is quite complete and well thought out.

    Bart Bottu

    21/02/2011 at 17:47

  2. It’s definitely a nice idea to be able to annotate articles or certain sections with extra notes, drawings or maybe even links to other articles. It is similar to a functionality available in PDF viewers where users can add notes, but then augmented with the social aspect and the ability to view other people’s notes.
    I could see it being used for example when doing research or when collaborating on finding information for a project. The groups concept Bart suggested could also help in that situation, so that only the users in that group can view and edit the overlay.

    Also, I’m not sure which articles will be used. Will the users have to submit articles they have written or will articles from eg. De Standaard or Engadget be used? If the articles are copied from the original sites, there might be copyright issues, but it would be more useful if “every article” (so to speak) on the internet can be used in the application.

    Overall, I think it’s a very promising idea! 🙂


    22/02/2011 at 16:30

  3. This is a neat idea. Apart from the analogy to the toilet-door you could easily think of multiple people reading the same news paper, adding some comments or highlighting items while passing it along. The group suggestion made above would be a good addition. Considering the implementation, which is indeed not for now, I immediately think of a HTML5 canvas element which would make this all possible. Just a thought.

  4. The basic idea is really good. Being able to draw comments on an article and sharing those might be very useful. I think users would already come back, just to see what their friends added to articles. I would stick to only the basic concept, and not add the extra leveling system.
    Adding a leveling system doesn’t really fit in the overall idea if you ask me. How would ratings be given? If it is just depending on how much comments they add, it will result in a lot of spam. With a very large community it could work by letting users rate other overlays, but with a small community people will probably just give good ratings to their friends. It will become a “who has the most friends” competition, instead of a competition for writing the best overlays.

    Tanguy Monheim

    23/02/2011 at 13:41

    • first of all: thanks for your input.

      The idea was in fact to let other users up- or downvote other people’s overlays. In a system similar to the one used on youtube.
      In general we can state that if one friend-group has the ability to control what get’s on the frontpage one of two scenarios is true:
      1. only those people are using the app, in which case let them mess about and have fun.
      2. Other people don’t care about the front page or don’t mind the ‘abuse’

      in any way, if this app is going to be maintained such griefing would be detected fairly fast and can be dealt with appropriately.


      23/02/2011 at 17:22

  5. In general this app looks like a really fun way to share news and views on the news with friends!
    Like the previous comment stated, I agree that groups might be needed, a facebook-style group would be excellent. Because if an overlay can be adjusted by everyone, a lot of ‘discussion’ might start on one overlay. Think about a political article, where different people have different political views and a flame war might start.
    This can of course also occur between friends, but scince you’re friends, the discussion will probably be a little more civilized.

    I was wondering how you were going to collect the news, or what you’re sources will be. Are you going to collect from various news sites, or just one?
    I personally think one site would be better, because this way, you will prevent having numerous articles about the same subject, and the doodles would be centralized with one article, instead of distributed across several.
    If you use multiple sites, you might want to consider making a linking system (related items), so that one article overlay may contain links to other articles.
    I wouldn’t use own articles. If a user wants to add an article, he can just write it on an overlay of an existing article.


    23/02/2011 at 16:36

    • We haven’t quite discussed this thouroughly, but one of the ideas laying on the table is to incrementally provide users with more datasources.

      The users themselves can choose from which sources articles will be crawled. This way they can make a selection from all currently supported news-sites.
      The resulting system would be a lot like a cross-sources news RSS reader with a social touch.

      As for your suggestion on ‘users writing their own stuff on top of existing articles’: the general theme for this application is users adding little anecdotes in the marges of the article. If people were to add entirely unrelated articles in this fashion the overal look will be very messy indeed. Also we don’t really see the advantage of having a lot of unrelated topics bundles together (with all the usual overlapping occuring)on a single page.

      Off course, we could have miss-interpretted your comment. In that case, would you be so kind as to clarify yourself?


      23/02/2011 at 17:28

  6. Nice idea!

    I think there are 2 main aspects to the UI:
    1. getting to the article with the mindmap
    2. reading the article and using the overlays

    The second step seems to be most popular in the discussion above (which is good and is obviously the innovative thing here!). I think there are also many open opportunities to achieve more with the first step. Which is also an important one, because it enables the user to pick the right article for himself. You could experiment with different techniques to guide the user to an article. For example larger tags in the mind map for nodes with more articles or more relevant ones or regrouping the branches based on the relevancy. Or maybe for very quick click through you could have a best guess option like google.

    Do you plan to look into this aspect of the app as well or do you want to focus on the overlays?


    24/02/2011 at 11:09

  7. I like the idea a lot, it could make boring news (like politics IMO) less boring by adding own anecdotes, jokes, cartoons, etc.

    I also think the group concept would add an extra strength to this app. But I wonder if it is actually possible to create an ongoing discussion within a group about an article. If users can add their own anecdotes in the margins, related to the article and stating their opinion about it, wouldn’t it also get messy? Maybe your app isn’t meant to be used this way but there could always be users getting involved in a heavy discussion. A possible solution for this is adding a comment section for discussions only (but than you add the possibility for creating a discussion) or you could put a maximum on users contributions to the article.
    Or maybe I’m seeing this the wrong way and there is no problem at all. 🙂

    But I think, in general, this could be something very fun and interesting for sharing news.


    24/02/2011 at 11:13

  8. I do like the idea of adding remarks to articles which you can share with friends.
    When you provide the user with a list of overlays, will these be the overlays of all the users of the app or just the user’s friends’ overlays?
    In the first case the number of overlays will soon be really high and there will be no more overview for the user.
    So to my opinion it would be better to give the user the opportunity to add friends he wants to follow.
    This brings me to my second remark: I don’t know if the motivating part of your application will really work. If the user is only interested in the comments of a specific friend, he will just look for his friends’ overlays and ignore all the other user’s overlays which will make the ranking quite useless.


    24/02/2011 at 16:29

  9. I also like this idea, especially in a professional context concerning project-topics. It would make a good “private” way to discuss in a group, easier than per mail and more concealed than facebook. I also like the RSS background you’re thinking of : choose your own news-sites to follow and comment on. I’m curious to the progress of this project… Keep it up.

    On a site note, though I don’t have a smartphone, it would make a good app for them.


    24/02/2011 at 22:58

  10. We think the idea has some great potential, though it can become complicated really fast. The fact that there is some sort of ranking in the layers is certainly a plus!

    But we got some remarks too:
    – Articles which your friends like, won’t always be of interest to you. So keep in mind this isn’t always possitive.
    – There is also another concern. We think this concept would be great for papers and stuff, but will it work for news? For sure there is information you can add to an article. But normally, press brings correct and full information. So is there enough information to add? The concept of making remarks in this way or writing down your concerns or thoughts is really nice!

    But overall this is a really original idea with a lot of potential!

    Team SachiniNews


    25/02/2011 at 17:47

  11. I like the idea.

    It probably would be best if overlay could be edited by a small group of people. If everyone can edit, this would first create massive backend overhead to coordinate large number of simultaneous edits and create general chaos.
    How free would the scribbles be, complete position and rotation or more constrained? You could also allow scribble to be connected to other scribbles as well as the article in a graph-like fashion, creating a kind of 2D forum.
    Would you put a constraint on the available space or maybe make the overlay zoomable and pannable so as to allow virtually unlimited scribbles.



    26/02/2011 at 00:05

  12. We think the idea has some great potential, though it can become complicated really fast. The fact that there is some sort of ranking in the layers is certainly a plus!

    But we got some remarks too:
    – Articles which your friends like, won’t always be of interest to you. So keep in mind this isn’t always possitive.
    – There is also another concern. We think this concept would be great for papers and stuff, but will it work for news? For sure there is information you can add to an article. But normally, press brings correct and full information. So is there enough information to add? The concept of making remarks in this way or writing down your concerns or thoughts is really nice!

    But overall this is a really original idea with a lot of potential!

    Team SachiniNews


    26/02/2011 at 12:34

  13. I would definitely suggest NOT doing the groups or ratings in the beginning: if you get loads of users making loads of comments and that becomes a problem, then that solution could be useful. But, in order to bootstrap the application, it seems better to me to leave everything together…

    Have you thought through how you could apply the restroom graffiti style also to the lay-out and interaction?


    27/02/2011 at 16:12

    • We have discussed this in our last group meeting and the first result can be read in our new storyboard blog post 🙂


      05/03/2011 at 14:43

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