03/15/2015 07:45 EDT | Updated 05/15/2015 05:59 EDT

Personalized swiping app wins CBC Montreal hackathon

We have a winner for the first CBC Montreal hackathon.

A team consisting of Marissa Cristiano, Madeleine Lahaie, Mohamed Abdelbaky, Mike Ghenu and Stephanie Pataracchia won for their idea to create a personalized app for CBC’s audience.

That app would determine what users are interested in based on what they click, as well as their stated preferences.

It would also involve a “Tinder”-type swiping function, a reference to a popular dating app.

Story ideas would be posted online before they’re assigned to reporters, and viewers would have the option of choosing what they’re interested in seeing CBC cover based on whether the user swipes right or left.

The audience’s feedback would be part of what our assignment desk considers when assigning stories.

Shelagh Kinch, managing director of CBC in Quebec, announced the winner on Sunday evening.

“One of the key criteria for this was that it had to be local and it had to engage with our audience, and we wanted to bring a new audience into the CBC,” she said, noting that the proposed app achieves all three criteria.

Members of the winning team were giddy after the announcement.

“We’re feeling really good… we’re really happy,” said Lahaie.

The team attributes its success to a wide-range of skill sets in the group.

“We really discussed our idea thoroughly… it really came through.”

The team won a $2,000 cash prize, as well as a meeting with CBC executives, and consultations with different tech firms.

There's no guarantee that their product will be developed to completion.

Dispute between judges

One of the event’s judges, John Stokes, an investor with Real Ventures, asked the group if they were worried using a Tinder-inspired model would diminish the credibility of the CBC, creating a more informal, shallow way of delivering the news.

But Phil Telio, the founder of Startup Fest, interrupted him to say he disagreed with the premise of the question.

He said it’s fair to ask people if they like something, or to indicate what they’d rather see in simple and understandable way.

The team also defended itself, saying this is a way to reach a younger audience that CBC has traditionally missed, saying the news content will stay the same regardless of whether people swipe left or right to get it.

The changing face of news

Although there's no guarantee this product will be developed to completion, part of the winning idea would require a shift in how CBC assigns stories.

Story ideas would have to be posted online before they’re assigned for people to be able to vote for their favourites.

That will also open up those story ideas to getting poached by CBC’s competition.

However, Pataracchia said that’s a risk that’s worth taking in order to grow a younger audience for the crown corporation.

“It’s a pro that outweighs the cons of getting an idea taken once or twice,” she said.

Second place winners

The team who pitched a geolocalized map of Montreal took home second place. That idea involved going through the data sets provided by CBC to determine in which boroughs news stories happened, then mapping them and making it clickable for people interested in searching their area for stories.

Emily Bottaro said her team has participated in many hackathons, but this is the first time they’ve placed.

“We may not have won, but we learned so much in the experience,” she said.