Creating Technology for Social Change

Knight News Challenge Winners:, Behavio, PeepolTV,, TOR

Today, the Knight Foundation announced winners of the latest Knight News Challenge, which was focused on on Networks.

Watch live streaming video from knightfoundation at
(I missed this one, but it looked awesome. It waspresented by Haroon Meer and Mohamed Nanabhay from Al Jazeera)

Nadav Aharony of Behavio asks us to think about what we have in our pockets: our keys, our wallet and our phone. Our smartphones sense thousands of signals every second. Put together, these simple signals can be used to construct more complex inferences about our lives and our communities: how much time you check your email in a meeting, how much time you spend with your friends. It’s peven ossible to measure the progress of Alzheimers. Software can track more than the location of a photo to include who’s in the vicinity and what they’re doing. With an aggregate of anonymous data, it’s possible to create knowledge of a living community, constructing what roads are operational and where people might be stranded.

Behavio lowers the barrier of entry to taking this idea the world. It’s hard to tap into the smartness of our phones. Even when the privacy is gotten right, the data isn’t available to developers and users. Small developers end up developing the same functionality over and over again. They do this with the funf framework that was developed at the Media Lab. The funf journal app on the Android Market helps you collect and track data about your own life. “Funf in a box” makes it easy to create a custom data collection app which dumps the data into a dropbox account. Finally, the funf sdk makes it possible for developers to build data projects that have privacy built in.

Funf is already being used in the world. It’s being used by the One Laptop Per Child project to learn how children are using the technology. Nadav also talked about his PhD thesis work within the Human Dynamics group in the Media Lab.

Several hundred developers are already using the funf framework to make apps, but funf is still in its early stages. Behavio is using funding from the Knight Foundation to develop the project into maturity.

PeepolTV is a project by Felipe Heusser (cuidadointelligente) and Jeff Warren ( focused on protest mapping. Coverage of the protest in Chile were focusing on riots and violence. Felipe and Jeff wanted to show people what was happening on the streets of Santiago. They used balloons and mobile phones to take live videos of the protest. When they put the video online, they had more than ten thousand people watching live video of what was happening in the streets. Mainstream media started to embed live content into their websites.


Live content helps us catch things like protests and contents that we typically miss. Why is that? Even though we have smart phones that are capable of sharing content, we’re not using them. Finding live content is also very difficult. Livestream hasn’t reached the continuous loop of information. We don’t post live content because we don’t have certainty that the content will be seen. Other times, we only see live content because an editor thinks we should see it. is a social network of livestreaming that makes livestreaming more fun, easier to post, easier to find, and to share. First, they create aggregate maps of livestream data. Then they make it searchable. Using peopoltv, you can stream the concert you missed or watch a stream of the traffic jam ahead of you. offers followers, content curation, and video filters.

Overall, aims to democratise live content.
Caitria O’Neill tells us about her hometown getting hit by a tornado. After the tornado, they got hit by tons of volunteers, donations they didn’t know how to process, and incredible gaps in information. After the tornado, Caitria and her sister showed up at the church that had become the unofficial coordination point for local initiatives. The church was overwhelmed, didn’t know how to structure relief, and had to turn people away.

Armed with a wireless card, several cellphones, and two laptops, Caitria and her sister put in place infrastructure for disaster recovery: facebook, google docs, and their personal cellphones. They took in all of the interest in helping, and finding where to plug it in.

Two things became immediately apparent. Firstly, it’s hard to run a disaster recovery program with no training and tools. Secondly, people really wanted to help. The Red Cross and United Way are amazing at channeling resources, but they don’t focus on immediate volunteers or long-term recovery.

After the tornado was over, they created to support the three basic responses to a disaster.

  • I want to help
  • I want to donate
  • I need help

It’s not always best for volunteers to help right away. Imagine: You have just been hit by a disaster, you’re sleeping at the Best Western, and you don’t know what to need. You can’t ask someone to help because the insurance company hasn’t looked yet.

If your town’s not online, your servers will go down. So can host your region’s recovery page at a click of a button.

Tor Project
Karen Reilly tells us about Tor, which gives ordinary users control over how much data they give people. In the early Internet of pseudonyms, your reputation was grown by being knowledgeable and helpful, and it was easy for journalists to find sources. Journalism is a very dangerous line of work right now, and journalists can’t always ensure the security of their anonymous sources.

Furthermore, if you publish reporting about people, you can’t be sure that people will actually see the report you wrote. Internet censors can prevent your articles from being seen. Censorship can happen miles away with a single click. “You can’t object to something you don’t know is happening.” News reports are downgraded to rumours– some people in China consider the Tianamen Square protests to be merely rumours, and they can’t find out about it online.

Using Tor to browse the Internet, neither your ISP nor websites know where you’re coming from or you’re going. Tor will also help you secure your email. Although these tools have existed for some time the open source community hasn’t been very good at educating users and making the software easy to use.

Karen thinks the open source community needs to become more open, warm, fuzzy, and welcoming (cue cat photo). With funding from the Knight Foundation, Tor is establishing a helpdesk. Anyone can contact the Tor project to get advice on uploading videos or photos. They’re also producing secure versions of Linux on live-cds which can easily run on any computer. Finally, they’re reaching out to the journalism community to help journalists become more informed about how to talk to anonymous sources securely.

Adriano Farano begins by asking us to imagine: It’s 7am in the morning, you have just woken up, and you want to get the news. You don’t want to move from app to app. You just want the best and latest news videos. Watchup (@watchup) lets you create your own newscast in segments. Watchup will show you a list of news sources, and you tap the ones you want to watch. You can now enjoy your morning routine while watching the show that you selected.

Watchup wants to be the TV of the post-pc area. News is already the second most popular activity on the iPad. Adriano shows us a graph that demonstrates that far fewer advertising dollars are allocated to mobile, even though it’s starting to rival television in content consumption.

Before receiving a Knight Challenge grant, Watchup was incubated at the Stanford Startup Accelerator. The company relies on content partners to provide video, so Adriano concluded by asking content providers to sign up.