INVSTG8.NET ["Investigate Net"] is an open source microcollaboration tool designed to help journalists overcome obstacles to reporting. It is currently under development.
INVSTG8.NET will empower journalists to surmount information and communication barriers by fusing accessible technologies like mobile text messaging, e-mail, and the open Web to help them connect and microcollaborate.
INVSTG8.NET will enable journalists to report stories that might otherwise never be told.
Our original two-minute explainer video:
INVSTG8.NET is in development right now, but there are a few ways for you to get involved:
Sign up for early access to INVSTG8.NET on our home page. You will be given your own unique address to share with your colleagues and spread the word. We will contact you when we are ready for beta testers. Until then, "like" our Facebook page and connect with us on Twitter for updates.
DEVELOPERS & TECHNOLOGISTS
We are always keen to talk to, and work with developers and technologists who have a passion for journalism and the public interest. We have published proof-of-concept code to our Github repository. If you have ideas about how you can help us build INVSTG8.NET, let us know.
FUNDERS & INVESTORS
INVSTG8.NET is an entirely self-funded project to date. That means we know how to stretch a dollar, but it also means that every milestone has been a challenge, and development has been slower than we would prefer.
If you can help us to accelerate progress, we'd like to talk. We are especially interested in receiving funding and investment from angel investors, foundations and organizations that aim to advance journalism and the public interest. Please contact us.
We are aware that the INVSTG8.NET platform has applications in other fields, and have been contacted by individuals and groups in emergency response, foreign aid and development, health care, and other NGO sectors. Although our current focus is on solving problems in journalism, we are open to discussing future uses. If you are interested in using or customizing our platform for your sector or specific application, please get in touch.
Stay in touch: "Like" our Facebook page at facebook.com/invstg8net, connect with us on Twitter at @invstg8net, and spread the word by sharing our updates. If you think you can help us build INVSTG8.NET or make it better, please contact us.
INVSTG8.NET was inspired by North-South conversations initiated by Saleem Khan at the fourth Global Investigative Journalism Conference, held in Toronto, Canada, in 2007. Out of these conversations, a common pattern emerged:
Journalists working in the global South had trouble gathering basic but crucial facts and information due to a lack of access, or when local experts wouldn't talk to them. The problem was compounded by limited communications technology, such as simple mobile phones and only minutes of slow, dial-up Internet or e-mail access per week or month.
The effect was that these journalists toiled for months or years, striving for information that peers in the North could obtain in mere minutes.
Similarly, journalists in the North and South said that they were often unable to follow a story where it led due to budget constraints, or lack of access to appropriate source and contact networks.
The discussions revealed that the kinds of information these journalists sought were often simple and immediately available to geographically and technologically disconnected peers, or could be obtained in five minutes or less.
These factors sparked a search for existing tools and technologies that could solve what seemed like an obvious problem: Bridging low and high bandwidth communication technologies to connect people and enable them to exchange knowledge. After an exhaustive search over several years, it became apparent that although such a tool should exist, it did not.
With that realization, we shifted focus from trying to find tools journalists could use, to building INVSTG8.NET. That journey has generated consistent, enthusiastic praise and feedback from journalists and non-journalists alike, and led to several awards and honours for the project.
MICROCOLLABORATION"Microcollaboration" is a concept we created to describe the kinds of interactions that INVSTG8.NET aims to seed, and which we believe can solve the majority of scarcity related reporting problems.
Microcollaboration occurs among peers in many fields, including journalism. It is the answer to a quick question, verification of a fact, a five-minute telephone call to a source to help a colleague, and so on. These simple transactions can be powerful, providing a key piece of information that could not be obtained in any other way, or that the seeker didn't even know about.
INVSTG8.NET's long-term goal is to encourage and amplify these microcollaborations, and to foster larger, deeper collaborations in the future.
INVSTG8.NET is led by Saleem Khan, a Toronto-based journalist whose editorial, consulting, and research and development services practice Technovica supports news organizations, and specializes in strategic innovation in media enabled by emergent and disruptive technology.
Saleem launched, managed and reported for CBC’s [Canadian Broadcasting Corp.] technology news service; was news and global technology editor for the world’s largest international newspaper Metro, and held editor roles at Toronto Star newspapers. Other work includes the New York Times, BBC, PBS, and Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper.
Saleem was chairman and director of the Canadian Association of Journalists for a decade, through 2010. During his tenure, he led the professional association from its worst times to its best, marking record membership, funding, and activity since it was founded in 1978.
Robert Cribb, Toronto | Deputy Investigations Editor, Toronto Star; journalism instructor, Munk School of Global Affairs at University of Toronto and Ryerson University School of Journalism; Canadian Journalism Fellow; president, Canadian Journalists Education Foundation; director, Investigative Reporters and Editors.
Kaleem Khan, Toronto | User experience strategist and designer for Global 1000 companies, telecom, consumer technology, finance, governments; OCAD University sLab advisor; leader of UXI, Canada’s largest UX professional group.
Heather Leson, Nairobi / Toronto | Director of community engagement, Ushahidi; open source community developer, library and information technician.
Susanne Reber, San Francisco | Senior Coordinating Editor, National and International multi-platform Investigations, Center for Investigative Reporting.
Michael Saniga, Toronto | Co-founder, near-realtime business intelligence/data insight generation software firm Quant Inc.; chartered accountant, former finance director and manager at Cara, Dell.
Green Hornet, Capetown | This project that aims to enable encryption from the hardware level on feature phones, smartphones, tablets and other devices. Green Hornet is an African News Innovation Challenge winner.
iHub UX Lab, Nairobi | The first user experience testing lab in sub-Saharan Africa aims to improve the quality of software and apps being developed by and for Africans. They will be testing INVSTG8.NET's prototypes and product.
AWARDS AND HONOURS