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Final assignment: Software product proposal

Deadline: August 8, 2011 5:00pm Pacific

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The final outcome to the four-week learning lab is a proposal for an open source, software idea that will improve the way that online news is produced or experienced. Sound lofty? Yes, yes it is!
Over the course of the learning lab we aim to provide you with an opportunity to develop this proposal – from concept to design. Based on an assessment of the weekly assignments, final projects and general participation during the course, 20 individuals will be invited to Berlin (expenses paid) for a four-day 'hack-a-thon' the last week of September.
Read on for more on what we’re looking for…
The idea
The final outcome of the Knight-Mozilla learning lab is a one to two page (800 to 1,000 words max) proposal – that includes a “show and sell” pitch, design document and business brief – for a software product to be integrated into a news organization.
Build upon an idea you submitted as part of one of the challenges (open video, comment systems or web apps) or pitch an entirely new idea. We encourage you to think big and bold…but, with one caveat: consider the viability of your project for the newsrooms and end users of the product.
And, keep in mind that your project idea is solely for the purposes of this lab – to the extent that your idea is short-listed, you won’t necessarily be required to work on it in Berlin.
Here are a few technical parameters for the product idea you pitch – it should:
  • Live and breathe in the browser, be it a desktop browser or a mobile browser;
  • Focus on very real needs, which can be verified by testing with users;
  • Be developed via an open and transparent process that welcomes feedback and collaboration.
Target audience
When submitting proposals like this it’s important to always keep your audience in mind.
The target audience for this proposal includes the Mozilla community and our news partners (Al Jazeera English, BBC,, Guardian UK, and Zeit Online). Consider the various individuals -- technical and non-technical -- who may read your proposal including editorial, marketing, sales, online strategy leads and senior management.
When reading your final project, we will be considering your wider audience and evaluating whether you have written to that audience.
Proposal structure
Your proposal should contain the following elements:
Part 1: The “show and sell”
The first step is to grab us with your idea. In one to two minutes (or less), “show and sell” us your product idea – making sure to include info about who you are, what your concept is, why it's unique, useful and how it works.
Here are a few ways you might deliver your pitch:
  • Option 1: Record a one to two minute video spot and post on YouTube, Vimeo, or another video sharing site;
  • Option 3: Upload a slideshow and accompanying audio ( / Slidecast).
Part 2: A design document or prototype
Help us understand how your project works by providing us with a design document or product prototype (paper, HTML, or whatever form is most comfortable to you). We want to understand how you'd plan to implement your idea. Though technical specifications for a prototype are not required for the proposal, you should plan to include diagrams, pictures or photos to explain the design of your product.
Provide us with some insight into how this product could leverage off a newsroom's existing infrastructure and be integrated into its operations. How would it be built collaboratively with reporters, editors, other newsroom or open-source developers, and -- most importantly -- the end-users.
In this section you should also address challenges and unknowns. What are the big open issues that need to be resolved, or are questions a reasonable person would ask? Identify them and demonstrate you’ve thought about those issues – ideally with a credible plan, or plan for a plan, for resolving.
Part 3: A business brief
Imagine yourself pitching to the managing editor of a news organization. How will you explain to them about why this product will facilitate telling a story? What problem does your product aim to address and the solution it provides? Who will benefit from it? Who are your competitors? Does your product leverage off other tools/apps/platforms already out there? In short, why does it make sense to build from a news organization's perspective?
How to submit
Use this form: final proposal can be submitted as a link to your blog post (with links as necessary, e.g.: YouTube, Scribd, Slideshare, etc.)
Feel free to also post a link in the comments to get feedback if you'd like!
Deadline: August 8, 2011 5:00pm Pacific

Task Discussion