Let’s face it: The great promise of citizen media has not really been fulfilled. News organizations have struggled to find ways to supplement their coverage of news events with contributions from citizens — and finding citizen media related to a news event is currently difficult at best.

Keyword searches and hashtags provide partial solutions, but still do not differentiate between first-person accounts and other kinds of content. And although more and more services allow their content to be geotagged, few tools take advantage of this data in meaningful ways.

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That’s where we come in. My company, Adaptive Path, is a user experience design firm based in San Francisco, and with funding from the Knight News Challenge, we’re building a tool that we call iWitness.

iWitness is a web-based software tool that will enable individuals and news organizations to aggregate and cross-reference news events with user-generated online content related by time and place. If you know when and where something happened, iWitness will show you first-person photos, videos and messages from people who were there, integrating diverse media types in a unified interface.

By leveraging the time and location data that is already automatically generated by online services, iWitness will simplify the process of finding this content and enable new connections between content from different sources. If it happened in public, iWitness can connect you to citizen media from people at the scene.

Over the course of the project, we’ll be giving you a look behind the scenes of how an application like this gets built, from design through technical development to testing with real users. We’re excited to have the project underway, and we look forward to having you along for the ride.

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