News are fast and furious. Our attention span, lower than ever. This is a deadly combination when it comes to the news: we all get the initial headline but very seldom do we hear how the story really ends.
What if we had a way to have the news that matter to us tracked and updated automatically? From the data sources we trust? Being notified when there are updates? Having tamper-free traceability?
Sounds interesting? Keep reading!
What it does
So I have built an Edge extension that allows the user to select a piece of news for traceability right the moment they are reading it. It leverages Azure Cognitive services to strip the knowledge off the text and create a unique fingerprint. On a regular basis, it searches for updates to the selected news, with Bing Search News API. Those search result items that have a unique fingerprint similar to the original news will be added to its history. This history, by the way, is kept in a Blockchain stored in the browser, that guarantees integrity of the news history.
The user can optionally select their preferred news sources; they can add or remove news pieces from the list of tracked news; they can view the traceability history; they can check the validity of the Blockchain.
How I built it
I wanted to leverage Azure Blockchain Services, but the no URL results storage policy for Bing API meant I had to go for a local implementation of Blockchain, that I did by hand, too.
It's been hard, but it's been fun!
Challenges I ran into
I've only allocated 10 days to build everything from scratch, with many technologies I had not used before (see What I learnt below), so the learning curve has been definitely steep, and I'm screeching development to a halt just a couple hours before the deadline.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Pulling it off in time. I would be definitely happy if News, Updated is taken to the next level and certainly make a change in the way we keep track of our news.
On my end, family and friends will be definitely using it, and that's the awesomest feeling!
What I learnt
The question is - what have I not learnt? ;-) I've built an Edge extension that uses Azure Cognitive services, the Bing Search API, Azure Functions as wrappers and Blockchain as persistent storage, when I had never built an extension, never used cognitive services nor search programmatically, never built a Blockchain, and I had never created an Azure function.
A final note to my self of 10 days ago - storage.sync has a very low quota, don't try to build a persistence layer for a blockchain on it!
What's next for News, Updated
Fix a few bugs and also check with Microsoft if it would be allowed to store Bing search result URLs in a real, distributed Blockchain so that that News tracking history can be shared between users that are tracking the same piece of news.
Marketing-wise, I need to explore monetisation options that would cover the ongoing Azure costs. If I can find a way to make News, Updated sustainable, I would publish the Edge extension.