On the weekend of Feb 22/23 The Times and Sunday Times Digital Team ran its first coding event.
Named Build The News, we invited 10 student teams and our two titles to compete in four categories over two days to see who could produce the most disruptive / useful / innovative new way to find information or tell stories digitally.
After almost 14 hours of idea generation, sense checking, designing and coding our attendees had to present back and show us what they had made and why.
We wanted the students to think very carefully about solving a particular problem - whether this was for journalists in the newsroom or for readers on digital platforms.
The teams rose to the challenge in spectacular fashion, some bit off more than they could chew and had to pivot to narrower solutions, others faced technical challenges that ate up precious time, two lost their developers at short notice.
Yet they were all still standing at the end to pitch their ideas to our judging panel.
The four categories we asked teams to focus on were:
Think about long form journalism on the web across multiple devices. How do you make sure the experience is immersive, readable and doesn’t distract from the story?
The power of the crowd is growing with the internet - can you develop a tool or platform that allows newsrooms to campaign effectively on issues that matter to their readers?
The Sunday tradition of sharing sections of the paper, the magazine and supplements around the kitchen table is evolving - can you think of an idea that enhances the reading/sharing experience?
It’s easier than ever to find out what readers / citizens / protesters think and feel - how do you make it easier for newsrooms to find the details and people that matter around big events and moments?
There was an fantastic atmosphere in the room all weekend with groups working incredibly hard to keep their ideas on track, often realising that they could simplify solutions further both technically and for their proposed users.
On the Saturday night we took everyone out for dinner and drinks so the teams could properly socialise with each other - the first day had been very intense and we wanted to make sure people were relaxed before day two began.
12 teams presented back to the group as a whole on Sunday afternoon; 10 student teams and two title ones. The title teams were only competing for bragging rights and it was closely fought, with The Sunday Times winning with their Trust.it concept.
We then had a judges prize for best presentation which went to Winchester with Longform.ly
Category winners were:
Crowd - Birmingham City University/HS2
Stretch - Kingston/Slide
Noise - Goldsmiths/Be There
Digest - University of Birmingham/Digest
Event winner - City, Imperial/Low Pass
Overall we were impressed with the ideas all the teams pursued, they had really taken to heart our advice to focus on solving a problem, rather than features for the sake of it - a good lesson for any newsroom.
We’ll be blogging in more detail about each of the ideas shortly as well as publishing a social roundup.
Thanks to everyone that helped make the weekend a success:
Main venue: BL-NK
Food: Speck Mobile
T-shirts: Action Advertising
Evening venue: Corney and Barrow