Operations director Joseph Stashko says the team are planning to roll out a public beta by the end of the year
Ocqur, which underwent its first private test yesterday, allows users to quickly create an interactive liveblog with insert functionality for tweets, video and audio. The whole code can then be embedded on news sites and in WordPress.
Jonathan Frost, a student at the University of York and CEO of Upstart Media Ltd, which produces Ocqur, told Journalism.co.uk while he was aware of competitors, Ocqur was born out of a desire to better cover live news:
"We realise there are similar products out there, but we wanted to make something easier to use and more accessible. We think there is a gap in the market for a new tool for liveblogging, and that Ocqur has the potential to fill that gap. Ocqur has a range of features aimed at speeding up the process of live news."
Among the services supported by Ocqur are Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, content from which can be added by simply dropping the URL into Ocqur's 'Add Media' box. And while functionality is basic at present – offering a headline, basic text and colour manipulation and linking capability.
Frost said the team of students, which also includes chief technology officer Andrew Fairbairn who like Frost studies at the University of York, and operations director Joseph Stashko who is studying at the University of Central Lancashire, were particularly excited about Ocqur's all-encompassing 'Add Media' feature.
"Our 'Add Media' feature allows you to paste in the URL of a piece of social or multimedia," Frost said. "Ocqur then pulls out the appropriate information, formats and embeds it in the liveblog, and also attributes it to your source automatically without the need for working with any embed code. It's a really quick way of, say, pulling in reaction from Twitter or adding a video."
Attribution remains a significant issue for social and multimedia content providers but Ocqur consolidates the lengthy process of tracking down the original content sources to a single copy and paste.
With testing underway, Stashko said the team were excited by the prospect of seeing their project in action.
"We're keen to see what people think of it, and we think letting people test the essence of our core product is really important to our future development. We want it to be guided by the users, and we want it to be intuitive and feature-rich for the user, as well as having a great reading experience for the viewer,” he said.
"Our first testers have around a week to try it out and they're free to embed Ocqur on their site. All we ask is that they contribute to our system of feedback at the end of their allotted week.
"We've had interest from almost 100 people to test the product, and we're staggering testing over a period of a fortnight. As this is the first time we've given the product to someone outside of our team, we're really looking forward to seeing what people do with it."
Stashko added the team are planning a public beta before the end of the year so users will not have to wait too long to have a go for themselves.
Reaction to the launch has been overwhelmingly positive. Jonathan Cresswell said: "Had my first play with @Ocqur. Works fantastic - still some features I'd want but the no-fuss embed media things is really nice."
Adam Haworth added: "Actually laughing to myself at how nice @Ocqur is. Definitely the future."
There were some teething issues, however, with some users reporting problems when viewing Ocqur on mobile platforms. Ben Burton said: "Scrolling doesn't work that well on mobile, just a bit of feedback. Looks really good though, I like Twitter integration."
But Frost said he was "really pleased" with how initial testing was going: "Reaction seems positive, and we’re already spotting some things to fix."
Have a look below to see Journalism.co.uk's first go with Ocqur: