How we tried to build a video tree

Instead of going out there to source YouTube videos and Twitter posts, we decided to create a new tool to source content that helps people better understand others in all parts of the world.

Before online news and social media (yes, there was a ‘before’—weird right?) people stayed updated by reading print copies of local or national newspapers. The newspapers had editors who curated material and aimed to show a diversity of content. Readers would stumble upon whatever news stories were included.

Now, readers are able to seek out news. News websites personalize news for the particular readers. Many readers say they ‘get their news’ through social media sites. Personalization and social media lead to often-discussed ‘echo chambers’ or ‘filter bubbles’, e.g. exposing people to repeated articles carrying political views that align with their own.

Attempts have been made to make people care about global news. News editors often want to include more global news, but need to meet the demands of the readers. They are confronted to very tangible barriers, as simple as the language barrier. Global Voices is a site for citizen media reporting from 167 countries, co-founded by Ethan Zuckerman that aims at overcoming the language obstacle by providing translations.

There’s another problem. We argue that we should pay attention to what is happening elsewhere in the world, and particularly in countries that are socioeconomically and culturally different from our own. We also think that it is only by reaching out to people who are different and by trying to understand conflicting points of view that we will be able to foster a news ecosystem within which people can mutually understand one another. Initiatives to increase communication between people holding different political opinions have recently taken place, for example in the state of Washington. A group from a highly Democrat county simply drove down to the most Republican county of the State to have a face to face conversation with the people who voted exactly opposite of what they did. (

We believe that these face to face interactions are important to create empathy and a deeper understanding of issues. However, face to face interactions are not always possible, for geographical reasons for example. Or simply because sometimes our circles of friends are people who share similar views and daily experiences. How might we encourage people to reach out to others in a way that encourages asking questions and listening? How might we engage all parties, so that rather than passively reading news about an event at a distant location, people are reaching out to those locations and asking questions?

We propose a new kind of community—one where community members answer any question that someone else has asked previously, and then contribute by asking a new question. Responses are submitted as videos, because, as we just stated, videos are human and induce empathy. Over time, the sequence of videos constitutes a tree, spanning responses from all around the world. This is the tree of global connection.

What might a tree of global connection look like? Well, we went ahead and created a prototype.

Landing page

Submitting a video 


Okay, so taking aside some of the fluff:  We have a thing that lets people submit YouTube links and then displays them on a website.

We had fun making the website (aside: we had quite a laugh when writing “gray” with a green font), but the website now does not communicate the vision that we have articulated in this blog post. These are some steps to improve the website to better meet its purpose:

  1. Certainly:  
    1. Instead of listing the videos one by one in a row, display the videos in a tree graph to show how questions and answers are connected.
    2. Determine a name, slogan, and symbol.
    3. Tag each video, enable browsing by tag, each tag having its own tree graph
    4. Miscellaneous:  Additional effort for users to upload video to YouTube; There’s no verification that users submit YouTube videos that they have personally uploaded; We’re currently using an MIT video for the banner; We’re using a heroku domain
  2. Maybe:  Implement geolocation and a map view, and show the trail of the question-answer “ball” being passed around touching different areas of the world.

Further, while we tried to post a link to the website on Reddit and, we need to gauge interest from a wider audience and engage with people who might potentially use this tool.

In the end, to more properly reconnect our project to the assignment, we think this tool could be used for people to ask questions about world events they cannot witness in person, and that they have trouble understanding. Through these short videos, users could create question chains on all issues going around the world and create a deeper understanding of news events that can tend to be stripped from personality.

The tree layout would enable users to have an overall view on each issue, and to quickly find answers to the questions they are asking themselves and respond to what they feel they can add knowledge to.


— Katrine and Marie.