Your Community

Grade us on 8 digital media experiments we launched in 2012

Categories: Community


"If the old model is broken, what will work in its place? The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments." -- Clay Shirky, media theorist

Dear CBC community members,

Have you noticed all the trial balloons rising up from the CBC Community blog this year? Over the past few months, we've let the wind out of projects that just didn't carry, and doubled our efforts to keep others afloat.

In fact, against the backdrop of a changing news landscape, we have made over a dozen changes to what we do and how we work in 2012 alone!

You may have noticed that we expanded our reach on social media by joining Instagram, Pinterest, RebelMouse and Tumblr, and that we've paid more attention to internet culture and the viral web in our stories.

But we've also tried to make complex issues more accessible by live-chatting with relevant experts on an array of social issues, and collaborating with the multimedia and features teams on projects like the Canada: Who Gets In series.

As part of the latter project, for instance, we produced an interactive advice map for new Canadians, and a skilled worker quiz that allowed Canadians to gauge whether or not they would stand a chance of coming to Canada under the new points system.

And that's not all.

What follows is an overview of 8 projects and priorities we've pursued over the past few months. Please take the time to tell us what you think worked, what didn't, and share with us your own ideas if you have them. Perhaps you liked the idea behind a project, but not the approach -- or vice versa!

Your feedback is invaluable to us and, like all eager students, we look forward to seeing how you grade our performance this year -- and learning how you think we can improve in 2013!

Click on an icon to read about the associated experiment:

CBC Your News community

Experiment 1

 Your photos, from across Canada, presented in an interactive map. In May, we unveiled a brand new place for CBC Community members to break free of the comment thread and share photos and videos with each other and with our newsrooms across Canada.

We called it the CBC Your News Community.

Whether our readers were at the scene of a breaking story, caught in a storm, entering our photo contest or sharing amazing images of Canada and Canadians, we wanted to make it easier for them to send in and share threir submissions.

The community has ballooned since we launched this spring, and we have been floored by the high-quality photos, videos and written reflections our thousands of members have posted.

It is an absolute pleasure to explore their individual pages. Some of our most prolific (and talented!) members include:

We often feature your photos in special, topic-specific galleries. Our favourite galleries remind us what unites us all as Canadians, like the fact that we all live under the same beautiful moon:

The first time members sign up, they are asked to tell us a little bit about themselves. Users are starting to share and comment on one another's posts, but our fledgling community has yet to develop it's own little culture.

If you haven't already, we hope you'll join us at the CBC Your News Community and help us improve it from the inside. How do you like the member pages? What more can be done to connect members with one another?

Please post your feedback for Experiment 1 in the comment thread, or email us at to give us your input!

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Live Online with Lauren O'Neil

Experiment 2

 CBC's Lauren O'Neil interviews Theo Fleury about The Victor Walk movement.  CBC Live Online, a national web-based current affairs show hosted by associate producer Lauren O'Neil, was launched in October and will continue on into 2013.

Every week, Lauren interviews anywhere from one to six guests on an issue that is making headlines that week. She also invites viewers to submit questions in written format, or to turn on their webcams and join the conversation. Since its inception, there have been 10 installments of CBC Live Online, including:

One of the most popular chats was about the ownership of exotic pets in Canada, a topic that came to the fore following the now famous Ikea monkey incident. 

The chat was well-subscribed, lively and even featured three animals -- two cats and an iguana (or "leather cat," as our guest described it!)

One problem Lauren and producer Andrea Bellemare have faced, however, is the unpredictability of third-party software.

Spreecast, the chat host presently used for Live Online, recently had a major server crash that wiped out most of their archives. The CBC Community Team, along with many of their other clients, lost the ability to replay recordings, and may never be able to recover them.

Prior to Spreecast, the team experimented with Vokle and TokBox, but neither proved to be the right fit.

Have you tuned in to any of the chats? Are you more curious about the web-based forum, or the topics themselves? What's the best way to notify you of future chats you may be interested in? Would you be interested in joining us via webcam to give your opinion on something?

Post your feedback about Experiment 2 in the comments below, or write to us at

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Ask CBC News

Experiment 3

 Adrienne Arsenault, Toronto-based correspondent for The National, has fields two tough questions from the CBC Community. The Ask CBC News project, a series of video blog entries by well-known CBC reporters, was launched in March and ran until November.

Our journalists across Canada and correspondents around the world accepted specific, news-related questions from our readers.

We received many excellent queries on how we gather and report the news, and about how difficult editorial decisions are made.

Initially, there was a fair amount of interest. Our post explaining the project generated hundreds of comments, and over the next few months we collected questions that were both somber and lighthearted.

In all, we posted seven installments:

Here is one of the more lighthearted entries by CBC arts reporter Deanna Sumanac:

Download Flash Player to view this content.

Although we received some really great questions at first, the momentum tapered off after a few months.

Feedback was minimal: none of the posts attracted more than a few comments. In the end, it felt like we were asking busy reporters to speak before an empty room.

We're left wondering why the interest died down, and what we could have done to sustain it. Please share your feedback for Experiment 3 in the comments thread below, or email

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Ask Dr. Karl

Experiment 4

 CBC's resident medical specialist Dr. Karl Kabasele shared his expertise in a new Q&A style video blog. In April, we launched a Q&A style video blog starring CBC's resident medical specialist Dr. Karl Kabasele - a familiar face and trusted expert who regularly appears on CBC News Network.

In a six-part series, Dr. Karl answered several of your questions, including:

Dr. Karl was both informative and engaging, traits that have made him popular on television.

The videos were only a few minutes long, and often featured information boards. Here is an example of the final product:

Download Flash Player to view this content.

Although there were a modest number of comments and shares on some posts, the project didn't quite take off in the way we had hoped.

This is where we need your diagnosis. If you're interested in health care issues, what would have attracted you to a series like this one?

Perhaps you'd like to tune in to a weekly blog in this format, but you'd prefer regular consultations with a different kind of expert?

Please share your diagnosis for Experiment 4 in the comments thread below, or email

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The CBC Community Weekly Webcast

Experiment 5

 CBC's Lauren O'Neil explains an offbeat story that attracted lots of attention. The weekly webcast was designed for busy readers looking for top news of the week and posts that generated the most buzz on our blog in the preceding days.

We invited community members to kick back and spend a few minutes on Friday watching a fast-paced, illustrated overview hosted by associate producer Lauren O'Neil.

Lauren, who appeared in a box in the corner of the screen, would walk through her list of stories, as multimedia elements from that story would flash by.

The idea was to get our community members ready to chat about what happened in news that week with friends at the pub Saturday night or at the farmer's market Sunday morning.

To put the show together, we used a third-party, web-based service called Qwiki. Their service was great in its original form, but unsuitable for our purposes after they switched gears to became a mobile-only app.

Unfortunately, all of the webcasts we recorded with their software were purged when Qwiki changed formats, but the webcasts were starting to grow in popularity when we stopped producing them, and we're wondering if the idea itself is still of interest to you.

If we could find similar software with another company, is a weekly overview something you would like to watch? Please share your suggestions for Experiment 5 in the comments thread below, or email

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More emphasis on collaborative live chats

Experiment 6

 Arts reporter Deana Sumanac and four special guests took to the web for an Oscar night live chat. Although this was not the first year we ran live chats at the blog, we more than doubled the number of chats from 2011 and put more emphasis on collaborating with other teams.

For instance, we worked with CBC Marketplace to answer your questions about their two-part investigation of hotel cleanliness, and how to avoid lemon cars

We also participated in CBC-TV's Connect with Mark Kelley awardwinning #BullyProof series by inviting experts to weigh in on bullying in the 21st century.

We  have also been joined by more CBC personalities, like foreign correspondent Nahlah Ayed - who answered your questions about Egypt - and arts reporter Deana Sumanac - who hosted our digital Oscar night party.

By way of example, here is a live chat that we hosted the day after the first head-to-head debate between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, featuring CBC Washington correspondents Neil Macdonald and Susan Bonner:

We're wondering if you tuned in to any of our live chats this year, and what you thought of them. As more and more people seek out a two-screen experience, how can we best deliver a real-time discussion to your computer, tablet or smart phone device?

Please weigh in on Experiment 6 or email us at 


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Showcasing your stories
Experiment 7

 Mubotulo Louise shared her painful immigration story with us in her own words.. We know this much is true: our sprawling and diverse readership can offer personal insight on just about any story we cover, whether it's an interesting anecdote, professional expertise or hard-earned life lessons.

Over the course of the year, we experimented with many different and increasingly sophisticated ways of showcasing your stories.

For instance, in one of our most popular posts from this category, we condensed your stories, gave them a narrative backbone, and peppered your words throughout the entry: 5 readers share tales of being bullied as kids.

Although that style seemed to do well, in subsequent posts we decided to stick as closely to your original words as possible, as in: 9 readers share their stories of Mexico.

We also collaborated with the multimedia team to present your stories in an interactive format, as in: CBC readers share tales from the dentist's chair.

When your stories were especially compelling, we asked you to guest blog your eyewitness or firsthand accounts at length and in your own words, as can be seen in these examples:

We've learned that you are interested in hearing from your fellow readers in places other than the pseudonymous comments section. You are kind to peers who volunteer their stories, and eager to discuss the perspectives they bring to the table.

It is our pleasure to facilitate this peer-to-peer connectedness, but feedback on the best format to do so would be greatly appreciated.

How should we flag these stories so that you know they are not written by journalists? Please share your suggestions for Experiment 7 in the comments thread below, or email

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Showcasing your photos

Experiment 8

 This photo, which we used as our Facebook cover photo for a day, was sent to us by Daniel Bowman from Belle River, Ontario. Your photography, most of which has been submitted through the aforementioned CBC Your News community page, has been nothing short of amazing this year.

In an effort to showcase your work much more than we have in years past, we've displayed your photos as our Facebook and Google + banners, tweeted and pinned your best shots, created more news photo galleries built entirely from your pictures, and generally encouraged our colleagues to use member created content more regularly.

The feedback has been incredible. Our fellow journalists, readers, and those who follow us on social media regularly marvel at the photos we share - and we are always proud to include the names and hometown of the great readers who took them.

We've also pushed to have your images more prominently featured on Our recent post Top photos of 2012 submitted by CBC Community members was posted on the main homepage.

This magazine-style presentation, created with a tool called Glossi,  was also an experiment:

How else can we use your images? Is our upload tool easy to use? What do you think of our efforts to showcase your work?

Please offer your feedback on Experiment 8 or email us at

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Tags: Community, Community Reaction

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