After much anticipation, Team Crunchberry is proud to present to you our final product: News Mixer.

Our mission statement: “For busy young adults, News Mixer is the only place to find the news affecting Cedar Rapids that your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers are talking about.”

And why is that, you ask? Because it harnesses the credibility of an established media company, leverages existing online social networks and gives people a constructive way to interact with each other and the news.

The site we have created is a demonstration site.  You can log in now with your Facebook username and password and try it out.  The folks at Gazette Communications want to launch a site based on News Mixer in  2009, and there are already some other people interested in using our open-source software.

Here’s a quick summary of News Mixer:

3 commenting structures to encourage and engage readers to discuss the news.

Questions and Answers: Displayed like annotations in the margin of an article, readers can ask questions or answer others left behind by other contributors to the discussion.

Quips: Displayed as a small talk-bubble in a live feed on the article page, quips are short-form comments styled after Twitter that allow people to leave feedback in a quick, to-the-point form.

Letters to the Editor: For users who really have something to say, they can write a letter to the editor in 250 words or less. Instead of having this commenting form at the bottom of an article, our letters to the editor live on their own page. Letters are highlighted by the editorial staff, and are also featured on our home page, highlighting user feedback for the community.

Facebook Connect

Along with the commenting structures, we have used Facebook Connect to take down the registration barrier from using our Web site. Facebook Connect also allows us to display your friends’ comments on every article.  This allows for transparent discussion, and as a direct result, we hope this will encourage more intelligent discussion.

User profiles

Finally, all users of News Mixer get their own profile page. On News Mixer, users are allowed to follow each other’s activity on the site, and view the activity in their news feed. Along with your own contributions, recent comments from your Facebook friends and News Mixer follow-ees are aggregated and quantified in your user profile, which serves as the nexus for the News Mixer social community.

The home page

The home page of News Mixer weaves news articles together with letters and responses from your social network.  On the top of the page you will see recent comments by people in your social network, and a hot question of the day.  Down the left side you will see news articles and letters posted in reverse chronological order.  And on the right you will see a live feed of the most recent quips.  The idea is to provide a quick snapshot of what’s new and what’s generating conversation, while highlighting the conversations involving your social network.

More to come

We’re sure you have a ton of questions about our processes, suggestions for improvement, and of course, comments about what we did. Many of these questions will be answered soonwhen we release our final report, and a video of our presentation. These materials will be found here at, and will also be available on our News Mixer Web site.

Stay tuned…

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5 comments until now

  1. [...] Pollock writes at the Crunchberry project blog: it harnesses the credibility of an established media company, leverages existing online social [...]

  2. Fascinating ideal. When are you ready to take it to other communities? I am in Edmonton Alberta Canada, the home of the oil sands or tar sands as some call them. We are the largest supplier of oil to the US market. We are very interested in what is happening in the States ovbiously. I will follow the stories covered by this project and be participating, as a bit of anoutisde I expect. Hope that is all right.

  3. Ken: For now at least, the software development for News Mixer is finished — or at least, the part done by our students is done. We’ve made the code available on an open-source basis ( and we are hoping that others take it, improve it and deploy it. A good Web developer could set up a similar site using our software in a few hours.

  4. [...] Pollock writes at the Crunchberry project blog: it harnesses the credibility of an established media company, leverages existing online social [...]

  5. I stumbled on your site on and I’m very happy I did. I feel as though you’re reading my mind right now.
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