Digital 2013: Keynote 3 Open Thinking, Open Design, Open Digital

When curating online media and using digital networks
to amplify what’s important and interesting in our
world, crowdsourcing innovation through collaborative
design can create some amazing results. Sharing
behind the scenes details of the Guardian’s hyperlocal
mobile publishing platform – n0tice, Matt will examine
how a hack day project became a live community and
turn into a citizen journalism tool.
Q: did a somebody’s masterplan go really well or really
A: yes

Speaker: Matt McAlister, Director of Digital Strategy at Guardian Media Group 

Twitter: @mattmcalister



(The below are Tim’s notes from Digital 2013.  They have been posted during the session and will be tidied up later – more Digital 2013 here)

You can also see Matt McAlister’s slides and a video of this presentation at the bottom of this blog post.


Key theme – Lessons learned from the story of Notice. An app that shows you stuff near to you.

Started out as a hack day. Matt is a big fan of hack days but recognises that they are quite scary too.  He wants to show us that taking something developed in a hack day and turning it into something usable is not easy.  He likes the idea of starting with commercial intent (oppossed ot the “see what happens” approach.

Noted move away from make soemthing and sell it to soemthing that is more about collaboration, ecosystems. See users, partners and innovation as ingredianets of  a system. The entrepreneuer was

The Hack

Figure out how to locate a user, then post stuff to them from a database.

Challenges: working on something on the side, inspiring others to work with you, and getting funding for a vision that doesn’t fit directly with vision of company.

Hacks are not products, it takes some doing to turn it into a product.

Reached 10-30k users very quickly. Dorset floods used it ot create a collaborative blog.  Gained loyal users…But the classifieds model that they wanted to use to earn the cash, didn’t work. And growth hit a wall. So went back to the Guardian to request more cash.  They then “pivoted” the proposition to a single purpose: doing something about stuff happening in your physical locality.

They also opened up an API to allow others to build stuff on top of it.  Massively increased functionality – allows people to add photo gallery for example.  It was the map app that really led to growth – allowed gig goers to add pictures to post pictures using a hashtag that would then be published on map on the Guardian.  This allowed the Guardian to increase advertising revenue.

During the prodict development period, learned:

  • admitting that don’t know how to grow it was helpful – allowed then to get outside input
  • Play to strengths – really leveraged Guardian relationship (even though desire to be independent), being mobile first too. Able to not focus on getting people onto notice site, but an ecosystem instead
  • let creatives be creative – let people get on with it, rather than interfere (lesson their for me!)
  • having commercial intent helped keep focus

They won a pitch form the Guardian to build “Guardian Witness” – which they did in a way that they could license out to others. Number 3 free UK news app yesterday (growing really well!)

Lot of people to influence with a lot of different agendas. Amazingly all came together in nice way. In part due to Guardian’s mobile designers.

Built the app in 6 weeks. Able to do this as had the API but still had quite a few additional challenges (getting video/youtube integrated). Guardian built the Guardian CMS part themselves using the API.  Needed a moderation workflow to stop nakedness, copyright, truthful (e.g. compared to Google streetview to check locations genuine for example).

As made it licensable etc, they are about to launch Notice VIP – who knows you might see it on the Attacat brain in due course?


Digital 2013 – Matt McAlister, The Guardian Media Group from Interactive Scotland

Digital 2013: Matt McAlister, Guardian Media Group – Open Thinking, Open Design, Open Digital from Interactive Scotland on Vimeo.

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