Webby for Good is a collaborative program formed by The Webby Awards and WP Engine to showcase Webby-recognized projects built to change the world.
What’s the elevator pitch for your project?
Gun violence kills people every single day in America. 14,731 people were shot and killed in 2018 and yet most deaths go completely unnoticed. Only the mass shootings get coverage. @DailyGunDeaths was developed to raise awareness of this issue every single day and push for change. We created an automated way to generate a daily video that highlights the street location of each death across America from the day prior. This video is then tweeted out at politicians, the media, and active influencers to make sure no gun death fell through the cracks.
What was the impetus for this project? What real-world challenge were you trying to solve?
A friend of our agency was shot in the Las Vegas mass shooting. Fortunately, he survived, but it left us feeling frustrated and helpless about the issue of gun violence, so we decided to take it upon ourselves to try and raise awareness of this epidemic. As we started researching the data we realized that mass shootings get a lot of press, but they are only a small percentage of the deaths that occur each year. It became clear that mass shootings happen every single day in America, just not all in one place. So, we set out to raise awareness of this issue on a daily basis and push for change.
We needed to create a dynamic video that was simple to cut, yet impactful. The combination of the actual street locations and the gun shot sound effect punctuating each death was exactly what we were looking for. The first time we watched our demo video, we knew we had something powerful that would make people stop and pay attention.
Once you settled on your idea, what was your first step in moving it forward?
We needed to find a reliable data source that we could access, allowing us to create a new video every day. gunviolencearchive.org publishes real-time data that accounts for all gun violence deaths across the country. Once we found our data, we focused on creating the most powerful way to bring it to life.
Was there a moment during the project where you ran into a hurdle; or faced a problem you didn’t know how to solve? Take us to this moment, what happened and what did you do next?
gunviolencearchive.org made their data public, but it required a manual download. We needed a way to automate the download process for our video production process. We reached out to gunviolencearchive.org in hopes they would help us with a solution, but they were unresponsive. Without their data we were stuck. Ultimately, we were able to write a program that automatically scrapes their data from the site at a specific time each day, and we accomplished this all in the background without any further assistance from gunviolencearchive.org.
Did the real-world impact meet your expectations? Can you share an example?
We’ve seen millions of #endgunviolence mentions as a direct result of our effort. A large number of politicians across the country and a number of celebrities and high profile activists who want to put an end to gun violence now follow our daily twitter feed. Finally, over 126 gun safety bills were written into law in 2018. The issue of gun violence in America is far from resolved, but the conversation is heading in the right direction.
What technologies/media did you use to develop this project (AI, Social Media, WordPress, etc.)?
In order to automate the production of our videos, we needed to write a custom Adobe After Effects script that dynamically pulled in the real-time data and google streetview images. The end videos are pushed out through our twitter account: @DailyGunDeaths
Was the tech/medium you chose crucial to conveying your message? If so, why?
Twitter was the ideal social media channel for our effort. The social conversations happening on Twitter perfectly aligned with our efforts and it allowed us to specifically target politicians, the media, and engaged citizens and celebrities.