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Mizzou Wire

The super social network

Students fuse public news and private media for the
Reynolds Journalism Institute

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  • Story by Chris Blose
  • Photo by Shane Epping
  • Published: March 4, 2008
Team Wallowr

Team Wallowr members, from left, Danny Beard, Matt Allen, Nick Leonard and Adam Hosp developed a product that aggregates social networking and news sharing tools.

Adam Hosp had been mulling over a problem before he ever saw the flier for a contest sponsored by the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and Adobe Systems — and long before he and fellow students Danny Beard, Matt Allen and Nick Leonard walked away with a contest victory and $11,000.

The problem was managing the mountain of online tools at our disposal — keeping up with “friend” updates, checking in at the various social networking sites that continue to sprout up, and keeping track of news feeds and messages.

RJI saw a similar problem, but on a larger scale. In an era of information overload and change in the journalism industry, how can community news organizations better distribute the news and interact with their consumers? RJI asked students to come up with a new computer desktop application, using Adobe’s new AIR technology, to do just that.

These common problems led to a common solution in Wallowr, the application that Hosp, Beard, Allen and Leonard developed. Wallowr earned them the $10,000 grand prize and the $1,000 “people’s choice” award voted on by the public at RJI’s Web site.

What Wallowr does

“Basically, Wallowr is a way to centralize all of your social networks into one super social network,” Hosp says. That’s the simple explanation.

The more complex explanation is that Wallowr aggregates messages, news feeds, friend requests and other information from social networking and sharing tools such as Digg, Reddit, YouTube and others. It uses the AIR technology to let users easily “drag and drop” files and convert video and pictures into formats they can share. It also allows users to update address books and personal information all in one place, rather than visiting several sites to make such updates.

Additionally, Wallowr has a “premium members” option for the media. Using this option, anyone from your local news station to a national newspaper or even a blogger down the block can promote their stories and news feeds to specific groups of people.

That’s not the only connection to journalism, though. Many social networking sites allow users to pass around news stories to their friends and rate them. Wallowr supports and takes advantage of that viral effect.

“There’s a journalistic aspect to me as a person reading something, saying, ‘Hey I like this. I want my friends to know about it,’ ” Hosp says. “If you’re KOMU (TV) and you put something on Reddit, our application just enhances the fact that more people will see that.”

Ideas into products 

Mike McKean, RJI project leader and chair of convergence journalism, praises Team Wallowr for blending public and private media uses into one simple application. McKean also lauds Wallowr and runner-up Team Contributr for not only hatching big ideas, but also seeing them to fruition. RJI plans to help both teams by introducing them at industry conferences and by figuring out the best way to proceed with their products.

“The students really did not only think about how to do it,” McKean says, “but with the applications they developed, they actually proved they can do what they promised to do.”

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012