‘Jos Schuurmans wants to offer an individual news package to Net users’ | Länsi-Savo (#Uutisraivaaja)

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Headline: Jos Schuurmans wants to offer an individual news package to Net users

LÄNSI-SAVO ON SUNDAY 27.3.2011
Text and photo: TIINA KNAAPPILA

Jos Schuurmans from Mäntyharju figures out, how to filter news based on Internet use.

‘Uutisraivaaja’ (‘Newsplorer’) is a contest by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation, seeking new ideas and innovations for journalism. Jos Schuurmans, who lives in Mäntyharju, has been selected to a group of ten finalists.

The winner will be announced in September, but Schuurmans isn’t going to stay waiting for the “jack pot”; instead he is already looking for cooperation partners to develop his idea. At the same when he submitted his invention to the contest, he also published it on his blog.

This way he believes he has the best chance of finding cooperation partners interested in the matter.

“I believe that this is a value added service to news organizations, and that all of them will do something like this in the future. Now is the opportunity to be on the front row,” Schuurmans says.

THE NAME OF THE IDEA is ‘Gestures’ (‘Eleet’ in Finnish). It is a sieve, which looks for the most suitable news for users from the Net’s information flood.

The recommendations or suggestions for news interesting to the user are based on how the Net is being used, i.e. how the user shares, tweets or comments.

“To me, the big promise of the Net is that you can get from it exactly what interests you most.”
Jos Schuurmans

Schuurmans has experience with recommendation technology, as his company Cluetail offers a service which filters Web information based on content.

THE INNOVATION taking part in the Uutisraivaaja contest connects and compares Internet use, as news offerings cannot be made in the same way as, for example, recommendations on Amazon.com or other on-line shops.

On those services, a customer chooses a particular product and gets a suggestion about other, possibly interesting products. Those have already interested some ten thousand other people who have chosen the same product before.

“That doesn’t work for news since it’s fresh. There haven’t been ten thousand users selecting it before you.

“We therefore look at social media gestures, for what may interest the user. All the things you do on the Net tell something about you.”

The more users there are on the system, the more precise the recommendations are. The comparison base is decisive.

IF YOU WANT variation in your news, you can turn the machine’s surprise button in the desired direction. Then you will be presented with more unexpected suggestions.

An idol of Schuurmans, New York professor Clay Shirky, has said that our problem is not information overload, but filter failure.

“This is a filter. If we succeed in doing this, we will be allright.

“To me, the big promise of the Net is that you can get from it exactly what interest you most. No more, no less.”

SCHUURMANS has the Dutch nationality. He met the organizers of the contest and all but one of the other finalists last week.

“I was the only non-Finn in the group and I think I was also the only one representing the countryside. The others were mostly from the capital area.

“The jury was impressed with my idea. The concept is clear and ready, but the technical development is challenging.”

Photo caption:
Jos Schuurmans has got his work space from his home town. The offices of the entrepreneur who formerly worked in Mikkeli are now at the old shoe factory on the shores of Pyhävesi in Mäntyharju.

>> Jos Schuurmans

  • Born in Arcen, in the south-east of the Netherlands.
  • Lives in Mäntyharju.
  • Founded the company Cluetail Ltd. two years ago.
  • His family consist of his wife, Minna Ojamies, and three under-aged children.

>> The ‘Uutisraivaaja’ (‘Newsplorer’) contest

  • A contest by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.
  • 257 applications were submitted to the contest.
  • The winner will be announced on 15.9.2001.
  • Main prize 250,000 euros.
  • Those selected to the finals received 10,000 euros support for the development of their innovations.
  • The innnovation has to be based on open source code.
  • It has to be taken into use in Finland.
  • The example for the contest is the yearly Knight News Challenge in the United States.
  • It has, for example, brought about a location-based service, which collects local news from material on the Web.
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