Coming down from the mountain with a few ideas for iPad apps



Last weekend I spent an intensive and fascinating weekend at the Snowbird Resort in Utah working on ideas for applications for iPads, other tablets and smart phones. It was one of those events where the positive energy and creativity of the people there fed on itself.

Dallas Morning News Publisher and CEO James M Moroney III held the "Snowbird Digital Storytelling Conference" to brainstorm some good ideas for tablet and mobile applications for that newspaper. But it wasn't just an internal brainstorming binge; a diverse group of other people were invited to join in. And that, I think, was part of the secret sauce that made it much more rewarding.

They included some tech industry folk, a science fiction writer, a folklorist, an entrepreneur or two, a couple college professors and some just interesting folks. They brought different perspectives of what they want from news and began from different vantage points.

And in one of those small world moments, I wasn't the only person from Knoxville among the 30 or so people in conference rooms 8,000 feet up in the Utah mountains. I traveled across the country and met someone who is doing some intriguing mobile projects just a few blocks from my desk. That would be Eric Ogle of the University of Tennessee Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment's Community Partnership Center.

Ogle has been involved in bringing free WiFi to downtown Newport with the aid of a grant and worked on a project that first came up with a browser-based multimedia tour called "The Beck Tour." a tour of some historically significant sites around downtown Knoxville. That now has been released as a first-of-its-kind iPhone and iPad app.

We were divided into three, later four, teams, that developed ideas, winnowed them down to a handful and then honed in on the best from Friday evening through noon on Sunday. The goal was to come away with ideas that could be developed rapidly and introduced as early as the first quarter of 2011. We had to use available technologies and require days instead of months or years of development.

There was no skiing, snowboarding or snowman building.

The video above is about one of the concepts that bubbled up to the top. In it are Cassie Clark, web editor for the Dallas Morning News' neighborsgo.com, and Steve Ross. a long-time journalism professor at Columbia who now is corporate editor of Broadband Properties and continues lecturing around the globe. The concept is called "Take Back the Morning" and it is focused on regaining with the iPad and iPhone that "morning with your newspaper" experience.

You can see videos about some of the other ideas on the MediaWiki created for the conference. In addition to the presentation videos, Ted Kim did a nice conference overview shot and edited entirely on his iPhone.

Moroney had former Belo Interactive vice president/technology and digital journalism pioneer Chris Feola run the conference. He said it was the first "Feola Fest" he had put on in more than a decade. Chris, you need to do these more often. Seriously!

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