We’re at the point in the project where it is finally time to decide once and for all what we are going to do. We’ve done research. We’ve spoken to our audience. We’ve identified the needs. Now we need to know how we will charge ahead.

We all came up with ideas for what might work. While our ideas were varied, by the end of the day they had settled into two camps. Either we would build a niche website specifically targeted at a need as expressed by our audience (20-35 year olds in Cedar Rapids) OR we would focus on the way people interact with the news, with the goal of building conversations around the news.

We found there was a fundamental difference between meeting our class goals and meeting the big goal. Our class goals consists of things like: we want to build something new and innovative, something people will talk about and use, something that will help get us jobs. Our big goal is to build and strengthen interactions between 20 and 35 year olds in Cedar Rapids. We had a tough time figuring out one product that would meet both of these goals.

We split into groups. One team was charged with creating a niche website that would inherently address a need in the community, but would be something that hasn’t been done before, and would also take into account the unwritten goal of tying this project to the improvement of journalism. The other team was to create something new and innovative that would also take into account the needs of our community.

Enter Your Crew and Pie Social (working titles).

“Your Crew: Connecting friends, connecting family” is a niche website for young families in Cedar Rapids with a mission of strengthening family connections in the community by giving families in Cedar Rapids the very best news about what’s happening, where to go and how to have fun together. It would involve such features as an interactive calendar, social networking, a tie to local news, and a plethora of community created content such as reviews, how-to videos, recipes, craft projects and more.

In the end, we chose the Pie Social model. QuintanaRoo/Flickr

In the end, we chose the Pie Social model. QuintanaRoo/Flickr

The mission of “Pie Social: What are you reading?” is to make the community of interested people around local news and information visible and accessible and to encourage participation through ease of use and structure. Much of this idea has yet to be defined but the super-features in the works right now involve transparency, making connections between users based on what they read. This model will likely involve Facebook integration and improved systems of commenting.

Both presentations were incredibly strong and very persuasive arguments could be made in favor of pursuing either project. In the end, it came down to a vote. We will be pursuing the “Pie Social” model. And while we don’t know exactly what it will look like or how we will pull it off, we are relatively confident that it is the more experimental and innovative model of the two options.

Our professor, Rich Gordon, made a great point before he left the room so we students could debate until a winner was chosen and the white smoke emerged. He said that media companies, bound by tradition and financial constraints, often have to pick the safe model, the model that is proven to work. As journalism graduate students we have the ability to experiment, be wrong, mess up, fail, but hopefully succeed and come up with something media companies don’t have the freedom to pursue.

What do you think of our decision?

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5 comments until now

  1. Good decision! For all the reasons you cover in this post and as opined by Rich Gordon, you chose the “less safe” option, the more challenging choice. Good stuff.

  2. My 2 cents: I like the idea a lot as long as you don’t go nuts on the features. Make it clean and falling-down simple. Solve one problem only. Another consideration: audience. There are lots of social networking sites out there for readers. What makes your site something the good people of Cedar Rapids would use? I look forward to seeing what y’all come up with.

  3. @Aron – Glad to see you here! I couldn’t agree with you more. As my favorite little book on making software says: Build Less.

    And we’re currently in the process of defining personas, representative abstractions of our targeted end users in Cedar Rapids, based on information we’ve collected through phone interviews and ongoing surveys.

    Everything we build will be directed towards those personas, and we’ll be testing our work every week with real people from the community, to ensure that we’re building something that addresses their needs.

    I also look forward to seeing what we come up with! It should be neat.

  4. Pie Social sounds intriguing. Thanks for filling us in on the process. Can’t wait to taste the results.

  5. [...] chose a direction for the project and general idea of the problem we want to solve. After we made the decision Wednesday, we had a lot of work to really flesh out the problem we decided to [...]

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