Written by Peder Godvik and Fredrik Davidsson, Teknograd AS, for Verdens Gang AS (VG).
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The VG News Portal is a web application that has been developed by VG to handle the challenges with incoming information from readers. VG has close to 40 years of experience with letting their readers contribute with background information or so called “tips” or leads.
Tips may be information about anything that the reader feels that the newspaper should consider to write about or investigate, e.g. information about things going on in a political party, fires, car accidents, celebrity information or regional information about things going on where you live.
As more and more people has started using both email, SMS and MMS to communicate with each other, VG saw the need to meet these new habits and also needed to make sure that they could monitor incoming information in several channels at the same time;
- SMS, MMS, Email, Twitter, WEB Forms and phone calls.
With the news portal, editors and other people who are using the tool within the media company, are able to monitor the incoming information and tips in real time. This gives the news organization a great advantage, and let them publish pictures and start writing stories only seconds after the information arrives!
Some of the features
- Easy “drag and drop” functionality
- Tiper database. Records tiper information and is able to recognize when an existing tiper is sending in a new tips, by trying to match email / name / phone numbers. – Including ability to “block” specific contributors to avoid spam and bombardments.
- “VG Mobile Reporter”. High resolution image upload from mobile phones. Keeps the original picture size. Geo tagging included. Release the iPhone version on your market for wider penetration.
- “Resource Locater” – Find photographer, journalist or t$iper or any other type of geotagged resource.
- Fast searching!
- Video handling!
- The system supports external conversion of incoming video material. VGNP portal supports Adobe Flash movies. So any movie imported must be converted to Flash to be able to be show within the application. Conversion of movies must be done by external applications.. Either you can use your own video conversion tool or you can rent hosted conversion engine from our partner http://www.teknograd.no. We can also recommend other conversion engines if you like to host this in-house.
- Easy integration
- Export data to multiple destinations.
- RSS support for sharing contents of tip folders.
- Trash folder
- Let’s the users send items to a “trash can” which will be emptied on given intervals.
- Advanced folder administration where the folder ordering can be easily given
- Online forms
- VGNP handles web forms in two different ways. The first way is to convert the submitted web forms into mail and import it into the system. The other way is to create a web form based on a template we provide for direct import. Both ways are pretty simple.
- Extensive code word handling
- Matching specific words and forward them to a specific folder/department.
- Navigation between tips is easy, using “next” and “previous” buttons.
- Mail import rules
- Ability to set up special handling for incoming email addresses, e.g. route this directly to specific folders.
- Supports multiple mail accounts.
- Store multiple comments per tips
- You can setup the system with multiple numbers for receiving tips, and can also route different numbers to different incoming baskets in the system.
- Statistics – view statistics for user specified date range
- Send multiple tips to email recipient
- Tips assignment
- Editors can assign one or more tips to a reporter.
- Twitter monitoring
- Monitor brands, locations and/or special phrases to pick up trends and events as early as possible.
VG News Portal Main screen
The folders are used to sort tips according to different status information.
When new tips arrive, they first go into the “Inbox”-folder. The people monitoring the portal will consider each tips and decide to move it on to other folders, for example;
- “In progress”, “Not interesting” or maybe a folder for a specific region (“North”, “South” etc). Folder structure could also reflect different departments.
By clicking on the folders name, the contents will be shown in the main tip list in the middle of the screen.
It is possible to set up a 2-level folder structure (sub folders), which makes it easier to let people work in specific areas of the systems (e.g. a given folder for their region, with sub-folders for different statuses).
It is also possible to set up permissions for each folder so that your users will only have access to the folders relevant for their task.
2: Filter box
The filter box lets you list only tips of one or more specific types (sms, email, tweets, phone tips etc). This may be useful if different people are responsible for different media types.
3: Main tip list
This list shows the tips in the chosen folder. On top there is a box containing various useful functionality, for example:
- Full text search
- Date range search (from … to date)
- Easily change status of selected tips (move to other folders or assign department)
- Navigate within the result pages (back, forward etc)
The tip list shows the following columns
- Type (SMS, MMS, Email, Phone, WWW, Tweets)
- Date/Time when tip was received
- Sender information (Phone number, email address or name)
- Tip description (the first lines of text or the first picture attached)
When clicking on a tip in the list, a new window will open, displaying more details about the tip. See below for a description.
The detail window shows all available information about a tip. This includes:
- Message title
- Message text/body (“Description”)
- Pictures or other documents attached to the tip (all kinds of documents may in theory be attached).
On the right side of the window the user is able to fill in information about the sender of the tips, e.g name, address, phone numbers, date of birth and other information received when contacting the tipper. It is important to always call back or send a message back to verify that the tip is not a fake. It is also possible to add your own comments to the tip, about the progress etc.
In addition there are various useful functions that can be used in this window;
- Send SMS back to the sender
- Send Email back to the sender
- Reply to Twitter from group account.
- Open printer friendly page of the tip
- Send any pictures to the photo system for printing in the news paper
- Forward the tip as email
- Open tip history (the system keeps track on what is happening to all tips in the system, e.g. “who did what when”)
- Assign a tips to a journalist.
It is also possible to change the status information for the tip, and also assign a specific department or region. This is useful when you for example see a tip that you believe should be looked at by the sports department. Change the status to “Waiting” and set the department to “Sports”, and it will be found by the people in the sports department when they enter the system to look for tips for them.
Running on UNIX and Linux platforms, using Apache Web Server, MySQL database and PHP. We also offer hosted (ASP) services to get you quickly up and running.
Normally we recommend using your favorite Linux on a dual cpu 3.x Ghz xeon based server with 2+ GB of RAM and additional storage system for the binary data.
In addition to what is shown in these screenshots, the system also supports the following;
- User authentication with local user database or connection to an LDAP service
- Statistics showing how many tips are received per month and for what types
- Code word handling;
Normally, we do not want the readers to use any code words when submitting tips to the news organization. We believe that a simple, short, number for sending mobile messages should be enough for the readers to remember.
Nevertheless, there are situations when use of code words makes sense. For example, when there is something special going on and you want to collect information about this, e.g the “Idol” singing contest. Then you can set up a code word in the system, called “IDOL” and tell your readers to start their mobile messages with the word “IDOL”. This will automatically detect these messages and put them into a specific folder. If wanted these messages may also be automatically forwarded to one or more email addresses, so that it may go directly to the reporter(s) working on this case.