Urchin

Verify. Validate. Consume.

Brief

Design a system that helps users find truth on the Internet.

Category

Information visualization

Roles

Design + Research

chat

The more ideas there are in circulation, the more ideas there are for any individual to disagree with. More media always means more arguing.

— Clay Shirky

Mission

Help users verify, validate and consume information better.

"Truth is dead. Facts are passe."
— The Washington Post

I'm not sure I'd call it a post-truth age but... there's been an opening of the sluice-gate and everything is pouring through.

David Mikkelson, Snopes.com

The rise of so-called 'fake news' prompts for a closer examination of how we find & consume information in this day and age where Facebook is the new media.

Bruce H., Computer Scientist, Educator

The idea that the whole news media could collectively shut down a story because it was uncomfortable to the government just didn’t make sense.

Tim Lott, The Guardian

Facts can be twisted. Numbers do lie. I always encourage my students to dig deeper for the context around an issue. Getting toward an impartial view is the first step in finding the truth.

Nina Y., Sociology Professor

keyboard_arrow_up Expert Interviews & Secondary Research

I collected quotes from sources of various affiliations: educators, journalists & people who work with the media.

Methods

In Person. One-on-one.
Online Quotes + Remarks.

Role

Design research.

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Finding Truth

In the age of conspiracies & alt-facts

Beside being the repository of collective knowledge that it was once thought to be, the Internet is flushed with lies and half-truths. Helping the user navigate this landscape without losing their sanity and their faith in experts' opinions. To an educated individual, arguments are often the prelude of progress. However, it is often misinterpreted as signs of indetermination and weakness.

The media, in an attempt to provide people with varying angles on an issue, often appear to be in conflict with itself.

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The journey to find truth can be long and arduous.

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Critical thinking required

Although there’s no single definition, most people agree that [critical thinking] involves reasoning, evaluating, and making decisions based on evidence. According to the American Philosophical Association, critical thinking "always seeks the truth with objectivity, integrity, and fair-mindedness."

So we develop coping mechanisms to let ourselves consume more information in less time.

check

Trusting our gut

Action

Inundated with contradicting information, we tend to fall back on ourselves to look for what feels right.

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clear

Yielding to cognitive bias

Risk

Scientifically proven, we are more likely to succumb to our fears and subconscious feelings than we think. Especially in tense situations, our risk-aversion minds often opt for the familiar, easy way out over new, untested ideas.

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Relying on others

Action

When the answers cannot be found within, we seek for them in a more social context. What is deemed right by others may serve as the general truth.

arrow_downward

clear

Falling trap to groupthink

Risk

Submitting to an idea consented by others without questioning it often leads to groupthink. We as social creatures often choose to trade in the devil's advocate for a safer spot among the herd.

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Replying on wrong metrics for trustworthiness

A majority of us today get our news delivered via social networks. The brief, immediate, visceral response measured in thumbs-up's, hearts and emojis is extremely efficient at cultivating an emotional brain but not a critical-thinking one.

clear

Fighting for impressions

It is hard for social networks to take a stand against fake news without angering followers on either side of the aisle. Choosing to maintain their nonpartisan status, these companies often turn a blind eye to the matter in order to retain their monthly active user count.

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Persona

From user feedback and research of various sources, I created an archetypical user to sit in the driver's seat of my product.

AJ
McKenzie


Biochemistry Major, Santa Monica College

accessibility Bio

A student in his freshman year, AJ finds himself slowly easing into college life. To him, a lot of it has to do with self-initiated research and external reading. One of the most challenging courses this semester is aptly named Climate Change & Animal Habitat.

For this class, AJ has to learn about the effects of global climate change on the habitat and behavior of marine animals.

devices Tech

When it comes to research, AJ uses both online and library resources. Since he is always cramped for time, he skims the content on his laptop and review them on his phone whenever he has a free moment.

phonelink

Multi-device

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Omnivorous Researcher

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Speedreader


create From the interviews

Environmental matters are among the most discussed and controversial topics on the Internet.

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We want the truth, and we want it NOW!

With governments switching their views on issues in pursuit of political agendas, the power to find the larger truth lies in the hand of the people. Scientific agencies such as the US-Government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the EPA are under constant threat from politicians wanting to roll back decades of scientific discovery.

User Goal

Using secondary research, find out what really is happening to humpback whales as a result of climate change.

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Controversial

Enviromental issues are among the most controversial topics dicussed on the Internet. Debates about global warming and climate change stretch back to the early 90s, but only started to heat up and gain tremendous traction during the recent years.

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Politically-charged

With governments switching their views on issues in pursuit of political agendas, the power to find the larger truth lies in the hand of the people. Scientific agencies such as the US-Government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the EPA are under constant threat from politicians wanting to roll back decades of scientific discovery.

AJ starts his research by typing into the search bar

search

climate change humpback whales

AJ swiftly scans the top 10 search results

The first few results quickly establish a 'status quo' of sorts about the topic. Initial impressions usually have a far better chance of sticking around in our memory, thus advertisers have been trying to game the system in order to claim the top spot.

climate change

humpback whales

timer 0:09

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He clicks the first link

The first article he sees quickly concludes the matter in a condemning, sweeping demeanor. It belongs to a news site that is known for their left-leaning opinions.

climate change

humpback whales

starving

blame

pacific ocean

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Interesting...

In the same search, AJ also finds a few ideas of opposition — each and every one of them backed up with sound scientific studies — including a first-hand account from an ecologist working the field on the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

climate change

humpback whales

krill

food

population

booming

timer 1:45

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Hmm?

Some news sites even tried to debunk scientific claims using scare tactics and a host of conspiracy theories, depsite clear evidence proving otherwise.

climate change

hoax

NOAA

pilot whales

dead

new zealand

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TL;DR

While scientific journals such as this one proved to be a gold mine of information, most of them are either inaccessible to people outside academia (paywalled) or sometimes composed in a way that feels very unappealing to the average Joe.

baleen whales

adaptation

warmer ocean

migratory species

reproduction

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Flashpoint

This is the critical moment where the user is most likely to abandon their research, often due to overloading of information.

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A quick sum-it-up

Get the meaty part of the source text condensed into a quick summary, accompanied by relevant keywords describing high-level concepts.

with options to dig deeper.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut fermentum porttitor ipsum, eget sodales mi eleifend eu. Morbi augue tortor, volutpat a nisl at, lobortis imperdiet lacus. Sed lacus arcu, venenatis id suscipit blandit, finibus vitae felis.

Solution

verified_user

Sometimes the answer is really just a mouse click or two away. Urchin should take advantage of available, preferably non-partisan, fact-checking services such as FactCheck

check Verified

Increased frequency of years with reduced krill abundance, due to global warming, is likely to reduce the current rate of recovery of southern right whales from historical overexploitation.

Elisa Seyboth

Karina R. Groch

Luciano Dalla Rosa

Keith Reid

Paulo A. C. Flores

Eduardo R. Secchi

8.1

Trustworthy

check Peer Reviewed

Increased frequency of years with reduced krill abundance, due to global warming, is likely to reduce the current rate of recovery of southern right whales from historical overexploitation.

Elisa Seyboth

Karina R. Groch

Luciano Dalla Rosa

Keith Reid

6.7

Mostly True

autorenew In dispute

Increased frequency of years with reduced krill abundance, due to global warming, is likely to reduce the current rate of recovery of southern right whales from historical overexploitation.

Elisa Seyboth

Karina R. Groch

Luciano Dalla Rosa

Keith Reid

5.4

Debateable

clear Debunked

Increased frequency of years with reduced krill abundance, due to global warming, is likely to reduce the current rate of recovery of southern right whales from historical overexploitation.

Elisa Seyboth

Karina R. Groch

1.2

Mostly Incorrect

clear False

Increased frequency of years with reduced krill abundance, due to global warming, is likely to reduce the current rate of recovery of southern right whales from historical overexploitation.

Elisa Seyboth

0.1

Completely Incorrect

language

A more relational web.

Interconnectivity is built into the Internet. Knowing that no content exists by itself, Urchin set out a mission to provide greater context around the information provided. Crawlers among different platforms and services bring together a comprehensive view of the metadata.

grade

E pluribus unum.

Starting from a simple RSS feed, the script applies machine learning to figure out the structure of the site - and more importantly - which set of content the reader prioritizes over the other. Prioritized content is more likely to be featured on the timeline.

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Fact-checker integrated

Sometimes the answer is really just a mouse click or two away. Urchin should take advantage of available, preferably non-partisan, fact-checking services such as FactCheck, Politicfact, Snopes...etc as the initial step toward true neutrality.

dashboard

Get the whole picture

The best way to finding the truth is to get multiple perspectives on it, then review the context in which the opinion is formed: How credible is/are the source(s)? What do they stand to gain from this particular point of view?

done_all

Checked, and checked again.

Starting from a simple RSS feed, the script applies machine learning to figure out the structure of the site - and more importantly - which set of content the reader prioritizes over the other. Prioritized content is more likely to be featured on the timeline.

flash_on

TL;DR.

Starting from a simple RSS feed, the script applies machine learning to figure out the structure of the site - and more importantly - which set of content the reader prioritizes over the other. Prioritized content is more likely to be featured on the timeline.

chat

Even in a world of expanding voices, “getting it right” is the foundation upon which everything else is built – context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. The larger truth, over time, emerges from this forum.

— The Elements of Journalism, American Press Institute