Ideas blueprint
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Meedan, an international team of journalists, technologists and designers, is building ‘pipelines’ - tools that work together to help journalists investigate and translate information available online.

The team of 12 is looking for “ways to facilitate the work that journalists are doing”, said An Xiao Mina, who leads the product team at Meedan, speaking at the International Journalism Festival in Italy yesterday (8 April).

“As much as we value people, we also value bots," she added. Meedan has built three tools for news verification and translation, guided by the principles of open-source, and designed for collaborative investigative work online.

Checkdesk is an open-source tool that enables journalists to keep a verification log for the information they are gathering, as well as collaborate with others to source and corroborate reports.

For example, citizen investigative journalism initiative Bellingcat used Checkdesk to collect reports of military vehicles spotted in Ukraine.

Some 441 reports were uploaded between February and March 2015 from 29 collaborators.

Media content such as videos or photos can be added to each story, and users can leave comments under each material.

“This is important because it’s a way of showing to people which steps you’ve taken. Each piece there adds critical information. If you’re cross-comparing you want to make sure that information is public so people can corroborate.”

Each material that gets added to a story also has a verification status, which also specifies who verified it, as transparency about who is doing the verification is as important as the process itself.

“Checkdesk is a tool that is part of a pathway for journalists, not the be all and end all,” she said, which means it’s designed to work with other platforms journalists might be using, and Meedan also plans to integrate it with the rest of its tools.

Other Meedan projects include Sources, a platform to help teams of journalists keep track of their contacts and log any communication with them, currently in beta.

“It’s a collaborative format and allows for journalists to keep that institutional memory.”

Completing the current suite of products is Bridge, a collaborative translation tool. The Meedan team does not consider it a platform - it's an experience, said Mina.

Collaborators have access to an app and Chrome extension to translate and annotate, and Bridge posts the results to Twitter in a reply to the original tweet. This means the translation will always be attached to the original.

The tools Bridge gives translators include a dictionary and an automated translation option, but overall it’s about “human-focused work with the support of robots and algorithms,” said Mina.

And every translation that you click on is designed to be shared.

“Meedan products are not meant to be the landing place, they’re meant to be a pipeline."

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