Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
James Pindell is trying to bring The Boston Globe’s election coverage to everyone by being everywhere
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
June 20, 2012, 3:30 p.m.
Reporting & Production
Felipe Heusser's balloon cam

Knight-backed Peepol.TV aims to be a social network for live video

“A channel guide for the entire Internet,” the site would guide users to breaking news happening around them.

When student protestors took to the streets of Santiago last year, Felipe Heusser watched as the press covered the darkest side of that movement, seeming to ignore the kiss-ins and superhero costumes.

To give his fellow Chileans an unfiltered view, Heusser attached an iPhone to a balloon and sent it high above the streets, transmitting live video. Within an hour that feed had attracted 10,000 viewers, he said. “What’s even greater is we saw the mainstream media begin to embed the content we created in their own websites,” he said.

This serendipitous act of balloon journalism, along with many others, inspired the idea for Peepol.TV, a newly minted Knight News Challenge winner. Heusser will get $360,000 to build a social network for live citizen video, what one external reviewer described as “a channel guide for the entire Internet” — tagged, mapped, and searchable. Heusser’s co-founder is developer Jeff Warren, whose Public Laboratory has pioneered balloon and kite mapping. Independent designer Chris Rogers is also joining the project.

The team plans to build a smartphone app that ties in to the Peepol.TV network. Warren said they want to consider all the needs of a typical user; for example, if you’re an Occupy Wall Street protestor, you’ll want to be able to download an archive of the video if a cop seizes your device. You’ll want an app that launches fast and sips on battery juice for reliability in the field.

“An open-source, nonprofit-backed project, as opposed to a company doing this for profit exclusively — we’re thinking about these use cases that aren’t necessarily the No. 1 business decision,” Warren said.

Peepol.TV mockup

After Heusser’s balloon idea first took off, so to speak, public interest waned. The aerial pictures were pretty but not very informational, “basically a bunch of dots of people several meters below,” Heusser said. So he and his colleagues at Ciudadano Inteligente, a Chilean NGO he founded, started working the ground, interviewing protestors on camera while simultaneously managing the bunches of balloons overhead. Heusser — like nearly all of this year’s Knight News Challenge winners — is not a journalist by training, but he had developed a sophisticated little newsgathering operation on the fly.

“We’ve been talking about it like an anchorperson,” Warren said. “There’s people out in the field shooting film, and then there’s an anchor person weaving together a story and presenting it to an audience, switching between videos.” The Peepol.TV team wants to write software that can let anchors create television-style broadcasts. They want to add Instagram-style filters to the video and music via SoundCloud’s APIs.

Heusser sees Peepol.TV being used in sporting events, concerts, traffic, or any place where lots of people are gathered for a common purpose. He wants to “democratize access to live content,” making it easy for someone to find out what’s happening nearby or to start shooting on a moment’s notice when news breaks. The problem with video streaming today, the reason so few people do it, he said, is “they don’t have the certainty that someone will see it.” People tweet, he said, because they know people will read that tweet. That’s why he thinks it’s important that Peepol.TV has social features like profiles, followers, and notifications. People need to know they have an audience.

It’s an ambitious undertaking that will be challenged, in part, by the limitations and variations of consumer hardware. Heusser said he would like to launch a product in a year. An early prototype of the software is live now, but there isn’t much to look at yet.

POSTED     June 20, 2012, 3:30 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
James Pindell is trying to bring The Boston Globe’s election coverage to everyone by being everywhere
“Whether it’s their inbox, whether it’s for Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Instagram — the idea is to reach audiences where they’re at.”
The New York Times collaborates with This American Life on a special investigative report
The New York Times is running its story Friday, while This American Life’s complementary report will air this weekend and be available for download as a podcast Sunday.
With an interface that looks like a chat platform, Quartz wants to text you the news in its new app
“The content type is always messages, and that’s always true whether you’re getting the message inside the app or as a notification.”
What to read next
0
tweets
Working with young reporters, City Bureau is telling the story of police misconduct in Chicago
“Those areas, more than any part of the city, have been disenfranchised over the past 100-plus years. Even though there’s coverage there, it’s often quick, one-hit coverage — parachute journalism.”
0The New York Times’ new Slack 2016 election bot sends readers’ questions straight to the newsroom
“Instead of asking you to come to us and be part of this massive room of people shouting over each other, you can bring us to you, and have us be, essentially, one more person in your conversation.”
020 years ago today, NYTimes.com debuted “on-line” on the web
“We all had a sense that something important was happening, but at the time there were actually very few users. So it was a bet on people getting online and buying more PCs.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Bloomberg Businessweek
CBS News
Talking Points Memo
DocumentCloud
Media Consortium
Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism
Groupon
Global Voices
Charlottesville Tomorrow
ReadWrite
Voice Media Group
Patch