The latest and greatest on CNN iReport, brought to you by Team iReport.
It's been an eventful year for everyone involved with iReport. We can tell because we've seen nearly 185,000 iReports shared through this platform, of which nearly 15,000 submissions were approved for possible use on CNN.
With a pool of participation that large, we were inspired to take a closer look at the numbers.
On average, we received 511 iReports per day in 2011, but the actual number of iReports shared spiked and dropped to the tune of the news. The East Coast earthquake, a singular and rare event which affected millions of well-connected U.S. residents, provided the highest spike in contributions this year. Other events like Osama bin Laden's death, the Japan tsunami, and Hurricane Irene, also fueled an increase in submissions.
Some assignments seem to work like magic. For example, iReporters end up documenting history in the making, or the submissions somehow tap into cultural zeitgeist. The number of contributions an assignment receives is one way to gauge what topics matter the most to our community, and to the CNN audience.
Let's take a look at the 10 most popular assignments of 2011.
Assignments with the most iReports submitted, in 2011:
|4)||Travel photo of the day||...||3728|
|7)||Occupy Wall Street protests||...||3235|
|10)||East coast earthquake||...||2151|
The "On CNN" stamp allows us to feature iReporters' original, well-produced, and relevant content on CNN. In 2011, veteran iReporter Kathi Cordsen had the most vetted contributions. Chris Morrow, another veteran iReporter, wasn't far behind. She was vetted 166 times and broke the mark of 1,000 vetted iReports, a first in our platform.
These iReporters were successful because they focused on specific beats, such as geographic or topical, and because they followed our assignment desk closely and made thoughtful contributions to iReport projects throughout the year, like iReport boot camp, Destination Adventure, Freedom Project, and the cultural census.
Most approved iReports in 2011:
A community like ours wouldn’t be successful without a steady influx of new iReporters. In 2011 we grew by an amazing 37%, to reach nearly one million registered users! We’ve had some standout additions in 2011. Fatima Puskar shared with us a steady stream of iReports from Cairo, Egypt, throughout a year that has marked history for the African nation. Rachel Cauvin and Craig Smith have done an exceptional job of documenting New York City happenings and globe trotting expeditions respectively. And one newcomer iReporter shined brightly from down under the down under. Jerry Gonzales has delighted us time and again with well-produced iReports giving us a glimpse into the sights and stories of his hometown of New Plymouth, New Zealand.
Rookies with the most "On CNN" iReports in 2011:
If an iReport story is generating a lot of conversation in the comments area, that's a fairly reliable indicator that it's resonating at some level in our community. We've already compiled a list of some of our most-commented stories. Tops was a story about a boy's love for his dad. We also took a look at the usernames who have commented the most in 2011. There's lots of ways to participate in CNN iReport that go way beyond uploading stories, and commenting is one of the most important ways users can contribute to the community. The most prolific commenter from 2011, iReporter NuYwk, regularly chimes in with opinions about issues in the news, and provides encouragement for other users.
Usernames with the most comments in 2011:
While our strengths lie in stitching tapestries of stories and ideas, we couldn't achieve that without strong, captivating, and sometimes controversial individual efforts. Our most-viewed iReports were about a surprising variety of subjects. We saw some big news stories represented, like the Japan earthquake and tsunami. But then, we also saw fun stories like Snake in the Christmas tree.
These are highly unique stories that were featured on CNN.com, and struck a nerve with our audience.
Most viewed iReports of 2011:
|1)||Swaying ground in Chiba, Japan||...||306,892|
|2)||Judgement Day: May 21, 2011||...||250,015|
|3)||Tribute to Bryan Nichols||...||213,042|
|4)||Black Friday violence||...||212,813|
|5)||F16 crash at aviation convention||...||182,223|
|6)||Malaysian newspaper controversy||...||180,377|
|7)||Snake in the Christmas tree||...||153,978|
|8)||Horse showering in the sprinkler||...||152,311|
|9)||Pepsi can celebrating September 11th?||...||140,872|
|10)||Green Bay ice shoves||...||136,794|
In just a couple of days we'll welcome 2012 and the new challenges and opportunities that it will bring. Help us say goodbye to 2011 and celebrate the New Year, wherever you may be.
We first met Chris Morrow during San Diego Comic-Con 2008, and soon she was iReporting, not just from her hometown of San Diego, but all over Southern California.
Chris has returned to Comic-Con every year, getting a rarely seen look at preparations for the annual event. And it’s safe to say, she is the first iReporter to have a life-size cartoon image of herself present at the Con.
But her contributions have gone far beyond comic book conventions. Chris interviewed Olympians like Lindsay Vonn at the 2010 Winter Games, the late Hollywood legend Tony Curtis, and countless other celebrities, including like Adam Lambert, Tony Hawk and Paula Abdul. She even asked adult film actors what they thought of body scanning at airports.
She documented the artist Wyland’s journey to paint the largest picture of the planet earth atop the Long Beach Convention Center, as well, and her iReports became part of a documentary, for which she won an award at the San Diego Film Festival.
She has been there for breaking news as well.
Then there was her trip to Haiti, shortly after the earthquake in 2010. She ranks that among her most memorable experiences iReporting, along with posts on charities dealing with multiple sclerosis and autism. Food is also a frequent topic (she has posted videos on how to craft beer and make a vegan Thanksgiving, not to mention food charities). And she says her experience this year on the oldest active sailing ship “was also a major day for me.”
She may be the first, but Chris is sure she will be is far from the last iReporter to have 1000 iReports reach "on CNN" status.
“There are so many other great iReporters out there who give their opinions daily, document the world, capture a significant moment in history and who just want to share life,” she says. “This small town journalist uses CNN iReport to reach the world, and with the help from the talented and thoughtful iReport producers, I've been able to learn a new craft of storytelling with video … We are in a unique place to be able to be part of the world’s largest news source and to have a voice.”
Congrats to Chris Morrow on this achievement! Click here for more on what she iReports, and watch her 2009 HLN interview below.
2011 sure kept us busy. From natural disasters to revolutions to the end of modern day slavery, iReporters were on the ground throughout the world helping to tell the stories of the year. Since it's the time of year for list making, here are our 17 favorite moments:
1. Revolutions sweep the Arab world
It all started in Tunisia when a street vendor’s self-immolation sparked protests throughout the country. On January 25, Egyptians took to Cairo's Tahrir Square, calling for their leader to step down. Before we knew it, we were getting iReports from all over the Middle East, north Africa and other regions of the world. We chronicled the perspectives of five people in countries experiencing the unrest and featured iReporters all over TV and CNN.com.
2. Earthquake in Japan
We received more than 1,200 iReport submissions in the first 10 days after the March 11 earthquake in northern Japan. Ryan McDonald, Harrison Peyton and Richard Dong were among our first eye-witnesses, picking up their cameras while the ground was still shaking and shooting dramatic footage. CNN invited several iReporters on air to share their experiences and showcased their photos of post-disaster Japan.
3. September 11, 10 years later
We marked the 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks by connecting 5 pairs of iReporters who had never met but whose lives were forever changed that day. The connections were surprising and powerful -- like Steve Jauregui and DeLicha Germany, who were 17 in 2001 and said the attacks motivated them to join the armed forces; or Brian Branco and Shelley Ram-Saban, who both escaped the South tower of the World Trade Center that day. Hundreds of other iReporters from around the world also shared their stories of how 9/11 impacted their lives in a scrolling interactive.
4. After Osama bin Laden
In the hours after U.S. forces killed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, celebrations erupted around the U.S. We received more than 400 iReports, including this piece from documentary filmmaker Zack McTee, who captured the feeling in New York City that night.
5. Taking a stand to end slavery
When CNN launched a international campaign to end modern-day slavery, iReporters in dozens of countries helped spread the message in simple and beautiful ways. More than 300 iReporters contributed to our "Take a stand to end slavery" project, including an entire school in South Korea, and iReporters in at least 32 countries made paper airplanes with messages about human trafficking. Others made efforts to educate their own communities about the problem.
6. iReport turns five
CNN iReport celebrated its 5th birthday this year and we wanted to celebrate with our community. We couldn't bring everyone to Atlanta, Georgia, so we sent party kits out for iReporters around the world to host their own birthday meetups. It was the first time we've tried anything like that and it turned out better than we ever imagined. We ended up having meetups in 41 cities, including Kandy, Sri Lanka; Cairo, Egypt; San Diego, California; Abuja, Nigeria; Hong Kong, China; Houston, Texas and Manila, Philippines. We also celebrated the milestone with a series of "Top 5" blog posts and looked back at our five years in this video.
7. 10 years in Afghanistan
October marked the 10th anniversary of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, a conflict that has drawn passionate praise and criticism since its beginning. To look back on 10 years of war, CNN asked service members, contractors and Afghans how the conflict changed their lives. We featured 10 perspectives outlining 10 very different experiences in the years of war, but the contributors all seemed to have one thing in common: Their lives will never be the same.
8. Son honors fallen dad
On August 6, a Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, killing 30 Americans including Bryan Nichols. After watching news coverage of the crash but not seeing his father's photo, 10-year-old Braydon Nichols turned to iReport. He posted a photo of his father with a simple message: "My father was the pilot of the Chinook. I have seen other pictures of victims from this deadly mission and wish you would include a picture of my father." Before long, Braydon's iReport went viral, getting more than 200,000 page views and leading to several CNN.com stories and a huge outpouring from readers. Just as he hoped, Braydon ensured that his father would not be forgotten.
9. Occupying Wall Street
On September 17, hundreds of people inspired by populist movements in Europe and in the Middle East descended on Manhattan's Zuccotti Park for what would be the beginning of a prolonged encampment and demonstration. In the following weeks the Occupy Wall Street movement spread to cities and towns across the world. CNN iReport received more than 3,000 submissions from demonstrations in more than 300 cities and 30 countries. You can explore their contributions in the Occupy Wall Street Open Story and a portait gallery of 100 people who joined the movement.
10. Irene's aftermath
Hurricane Irene barreled through the Caribbean and swept up the East Coast in August, leaving behind a swath of destruction. iReporters were there in droves, telling stories that mirrored the path of the storm. Their images and videos were featured in the Irene Open Story, our new storytelling tool that spotlights iReports alongside footage from CNN journalists in an interactive timeline and map. It was a true collaboration between iReport and CNN and one of the most successful Open Stories to date.
11. Defining America
CNN took on a huge task in 2011: Defining America. Literally, that’s what we called the project. Our goal was to paw through the 2010 census data, and nationwide data from other sources, and report on any interesting trends we could. iReporters’ contribution to Defining America was the cultural census, which paired your personal submissions with hard data to get at some of the nuances and explanations behind these trends. You helped put a personal spin on some of the most interesting analysis pieces of the year, like why our Facebook profile pictures look the way they do and whatever happened to cursive handwriting.
12. The things we carry
Atlanta photographer Jason Travis was the inspiration behind the iReport Persona project, a look at what people carry on them and what they deem essential. We took the project to the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, where more than 700 attendees took pictures of themselves and their possessions –- including R.E.M.’s front man, Michael Stipe -- and yielded some interesting trends.
13. Comments in the spotlight
Sometimes the reaction to a story is just as interesting as the story itself -- or even more so. Our Overheard on CNN.com feature really took off in 2011. The goal was to find the great conversations happening on the site and let people know about them, in turn generating new discussions. We weren't sure what would happen, but people started to really enjoy the stories and add comments of their own. Readers shared their opinions on topics ranging from "oops" debate moments to Jesus on trial to Thanksgiving leftovers.
14. William and Kate get hitched
Oh, the hats, the scones, the dress. Jason Sauter was CNN’s first official Royal Wedding iReporter, beating out thousands of contestants to report first-hand on the festivities surrounding Prince William and Kate Middleton. And on the day of the nuptials, we heard from royal wedding watchers the world over sacrificed sleep to watch the big event. Our favorite came from a remote territory in the South Pacific that normally has electricity for just 10 hours a day but kept the power on so locals could watch the wedding on CNN.
15. iReport joins Instagram
We started an account on the mobile-only photo app for the iPhone to share some of the special moments we enjoy around the office. Before long, thousands of followers found our #cnnireport hashtag and impressed us with their passion and talent. We tapped into that community when we partnered with Mashable to ask how people use technology in their everyday lives. We love the creativity in the mobile photography space, and we can't wait to see what else happens in 2012.
16. Muppets take iReport
iReporters have interviewed the President, the cast of “The Walking Dead,” and Kim Kardashian. But when it came to the stars of the latest Muppet movie, once just wasn’t enough. So many great questions came in for Kermit, Miss Piggy and Walter that we gave Muppet fans (puppet and human alike) three opportunities to get their questions answered and share how much the Muppets have meant to them. Check out the first two interviews with Kermit and Miss Piggy and the interview with Walter, the newest Muppet.
17. iReport relaunches
We couldn’t write a post about 2011 without mentioning the brand-new iReport. We completely rebuilt the site to focus on the most important part of our community: Its people. The new iReport has a personalized home page so you can see the stories and assignments you're interested in and lets you favorite the stories you think deserve attention. To top it off, we've rebuilt our media player so that every video and photo iReport can now be seen in beautiful high definition format.
It was a great year, but it's not over. Help us say goodbye to 2011 and ring in 2012 iReport style.
The holidays are fast approaching but things haven't slowed down at the iReport desk. Let's take a look at this week's highlights.
Lights, camera, ho ho ho!
It seems not too long ago that we received the first jaw-dropping, over-the-top video of thousands of blinking lights livening up the neighborhood. This year's "Holiday tech light displays" assignment, a collaboration with Mashable, was a hit. Through it we were entertained by rocking homemade productions and larger-than-life commercial displays. We even had a love story! Mashable compiled some of the best; for more, head over to the assignment page and bask in the bright lights from nearly 100 iReporters who contributed.
Holidays without God
We asked atheists and other nonbelievers how they spend the holidays and received more than 500 responses. Turns out, they celebrate a lot like everyone else. "This is the time of year where you put special emphasis on your loved ones," said Scott Pigeon, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "This matters to everyone, regardless of belief in a deity." Check out Michael Saba's quote wall highlighting the stories, sentiments, and holiday rituals of our contributors.
A controversial can
A Diet Pepsi can in the Middle East has been raising eyebrows among Americans who see in it images conjuring the terrorist attacks on New York City's Twin Towers. A Pepsi spokesman told us the company has stopped production of the can, which was "inspired by the Dubai skyline." But iReporter Lyndsay Brock, an employee at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center in Iraq, found the can and said, "I think it is at best in very bad taste and at worst direct anti-American marketing to people in this area." Her iReport inspired more than 360 comments and was viewed more than 138,000 times.
Newly homeless Philippines couple marries
Flash floods in the Philippines following Tropical Storm Washi have left some 285,000 people homeless. Perhaps none lost their home in as dramatic a fashion as did Lilian and Edward Ferrer, whose modest dwelling and nearly all their possessions were washed away just hours before their wedding. American David Larson, the Asia and Near East Director of a Christian relief organization called Cross International, and a friend of the newlyweds, sent us the story and was interviewed on CNN International's World Report.
Witnessing conflict at Tahrir Square
A new iReporter from Cairo, Egypt, Ahmed Raafat, has been a steady source of information and images coming out of the protests and clashes in Tahrir Square and its surroundings this past week. Egyptian security forces and protesters have clashed, sometimes violently, as a segment of Egyptians seek to pressure the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces into accelerating the transition of power to democratic institutions.
Think you have a story to share? Check out our assignment desk for ideas, or submit your own view of the news.
Have you ever given someone a bunch of bugs for Christmas?
No? We can't blame you. Seems like it's barely above a lump of coal on the present scale. So why, then, is iReporter Penelope Penn giving a good friend just that?
Well, turns out he loves praying mantises -- it's as simple as that. So she decided to get him some for Christmas.
He "just happens to think that praying mantises are beautiful, and loves watching them and letting them crawl on him. He also loves to grow his own vegetables, so it seemed the perfect gift for him," explained Penn.
Penn thought she’d buy about 20 live mantises for her friend from a local garden store. But when she inquired, she learned that the minimum number available for purchase was 10,000. Yes, 10,000. And she went for it!
"He'll have plenty to choose from, and plenty to give the neighbors for some pesticide-free gardening in 2012. All the neighbors for blocks and blocks," joked Penn.
It just may be the most bizarre gift we've seen on iReport, and it inspired us to ask the whole community: What's the weirdest, strangest, most outlandish present you've ever gotten or given? The responses were hilarious -- and cringe-inducing.
10 years ago, Renee Kammer and her now-husband were moving into their first apartment together around Christmastime. He gifted her the most practical of items: paper towels, toilet paper, and a shower curtain for their new place.
"I thought it was a joke at first. I said something like, 'Are you kidding? Seriously?'" Kammer remembered. "Eventually I just said 'Thank you, how thoughtful.'"
Apparently, her husband wasn't aware that this might be a less-than-ideal present: "My sister-in-law received diamond earrings from his brother," said Kammer. "When I commented on this, he said, very practically, 'But your ears aren't pierced.'"
And speaking of fancy gifts, Laurie Hime's aunt was an interior designer, so as a 14-year-old, she expected something "classy and age-appropriate" from her aunt for Christmas. You can imagine her surprise when she unwrapped seemingly the most random gift in the world: a roll of Life Savers encased in Lucite.
Hime remembers being "less than thrilled" with the odd objet d’art and thinking, "I rather expected some nice jewelry."
She's not sure what she did with it, and only hopes she wasn't the only confused person subjected to the piece:
"I hope she did not use it as an interior design element in any of her clients' homes!" she said.
Hime wasn't the only iReporter to be surprised by décor that didn't match her tastes -- it was a common theme among the responses we received. In Lorena Isla's case, she thought her brother really ought to have known better.
Isla is an artist and painter, so she was a little surprised when her brother gave her a Christmas gift of...a painting.
It’s a cartoonish painting of a soccer player, which he thought she’d like since she’s into soccer.
"But...me being a painter, I don't think I needed a painting," said Isla, who admits to being "a little picky" when it comes to presents. She ended up giving the picture to her 13-year-old nephew, who’s also a big soccer fan.
Think you can top these? Tell us the story of the strangest gift you've ever given or received in the comments below.
Politics, race and religion are touchy subjects, but they can also inspire fascinating conversations. CNN iReporters had a lot to say in 2011 -- from debates on atheism, gay marriage and interracial relationships to an unlikely Confederate flag controversy in South Carolina. They also took time to comfort a young boy whose father was killed in Afghanistan.
Here's a look at the iReports that attracted the most comments of 2011:
7. Occupiers take K Street -- 627 comments
Armando Gallardo's dramatic photos of arrests during an Occupy protest in Washington this month inspired a spirited discussion about the future of the Occupy movement and whether the demonstrations were doing more harm than good.
6. Same-sex marriage brings out love and hate in NYC -- 673 comments
Julio Ortiz-Teissonniere was outside the city clerk’s office in Manhattan on the first day that New York state allowed same-sex couples to get married. He captured a festive series of photographs as couples smiled and posed while waiting in line as well as pictures of protesters who objected to the ceremonies.The debate on the story was also mixed: Some commenters wished the couples well, while others were upset that the weddings were allowed. But some didn't see what the fuss was about.
5. Struggles of an interracial couple -- 821 comments
Janna Lynn Imel says some of her relatives won't talk to her because she's white and her boyfriend is black. She says it hurts that the people she cares about look down on her and even call her names because of her relationship. Her post drew more than 800 comments from others in interracial relationships, people who wanted to offer support and some who tried to explain her family's attitudes.
4. Judgment Day -- May 21, 2011? -- 964 comments
Frequent iReporter Greg Reese spotted a billboard that warned the world was coming to an end on May 21, 2011. Reese went to downtown Cincinnati and asked people what they thought. His video sparked a passionate conversation on the Bible and the possibility that Judgment Day was coming. The discussion also got a little silly at times.
3. 'I will NOT take my Confederate flag down!!!' -- 1,025 comments
Byron Thomas is a proud Southerner and was upset when the housing office at his college told him not to fly a Confederate flag in his dorm room. He's also black. His iReport raised questions about race and heritage and whether symbols such as the Confederate flag and the swastika could escape their infamous pasts.
2. Atheist billboard goes up for the holidays -- 1,319 comments
Lulis Leal took these photos of an atheist billboard on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel and said she was surprised how angry it made people. The story got a lot of reaction from Christians as well as from atheists who enjoy the Christmas season. It also inspired us to ask how nonbelievers celebrate the holidays.
1. Son's tribute to a fallen soldier -- 1,714 comments
Braydon Nichols, 10, posted a tribute to his father because he didn't want people to forget his dad. Army Chief Warrant Officer Bryan Nichols was one of 38 U.S. and Afghan troops killed when their Chinook chopper was shot down in August. The outpouring of support was heartwarming, with hundreds of comments thanking Braydon for his sacrifice, offering advice and promising never to forget his father. True to their word, many people didn't forget and posted comments months later because they were thinking about Braydon as school started and during the holiday season.
We invite our readers to be part of each and every story we tell on CNN. If you want to be a part of the conversation, you can leave your comments below, or share your thoughts in a short video.
From heartwarming stories that made us say "aw" to devastatingly beautiful in-depth photographs, here are the some of the top stories that caught our eye this week on iReport.
iReporter Brett Hinson proposed to his girlfriend earlier this month by decorating their home in Christmas lights and writing out "Marry me" in rope lights on the roof. She loves Christmas lights and the holiday season, so "there was really no other way for me to propose to her," he said. The proposal in lights worked. She said "yes." And, we got another holiday lights proposal on iReport the next day!
As the U.S. withdrew its last troops and ended its involvement in nine-year Iraq War this week, veterans shared their personal experiences from the war. One exceptional submission came from Jim Lewandowski, 48, who deployed to Iraq in early 2004 as a member of the South Dakota National Guard. He made a beautiful slideshow of images chronicling life on the highway as a gun truck commander.
We were moved by a heartwarming video of photographers organizing free portrait sessions for people in need through a project called Help-Portrait. “All I saw through out the day were smiles. And that's really what the world needs right now ... is to just to smile,” said iReporter Abdullah Raslan.
Toby Binder captured haunting photographs of Nigerian children who have been condemned as witches. The freelance photographer from Munich, Germany, spent 10 days at a children's home in Eket, Nigeria, last month. "Children branded as evil are being abused, abandoned and even murdered while the preachers make money out of the fear of their parents and their communities," he said.
Here's a true CNN International fan – he tattooed the logo on his face! iReporter Sherbien Dacalanio was with some other iReporters in Legazpi City, Philippines, when they spotted the man, Carlos Pasahol. We were amused to hear that when the iReporters asked him who his favorite anchor was, he said he didn’t know. He just likes to watch the news on CNN.
Think you have a story to share? Check out our assignment desk for ideas, or just submit your own view of the news.
Beautiful photography comes to iReport in multiple forms, whether it's imagery from professional gear or crafty cell phone cameras. With the boom in mobile storytelling, photography apps have given people a new way to share their stories. Instagram, one of these photo-sharing apps and social media platforms for the iPhone, uses photo filters to make unique Polaroid-style images.
For those of you who remember Tyson Wheatley, former iReport editorial lead and now CNN Digital's Senior Editor for Asia/Pacific, he’s become an influential Instagram user. He’s got a posse of more than 19,000 followers and he’s a budding mobile photographer. (Yes, this is my former boss, but I speak the truth.)
Wheatley moved to Hong Kong about a year ago and he’s been documenting his new life via Instagram.
"It was my first time setting foot in Asia. I didn't know the place or anyone in it," he said. "Not only could I share my photos with the friends and family I'd left behind, but I quickly connected with Instagram's incredibly supportive community, and made real, lasting friendships with local Instagramers."
A year later, he's seeing things in a new light. "I'm looking at the world in a new way, and experiencing Hong Kong's people, architecture, nature -- whatever catches my eye -- through filters, and the lens of a really smart phone."
A collection of Wheatley's "iPhoneography" is being featured on CNN Photos today. See his colorful images and read about how he does it in his full post here.
What you may not know is that CNN iReport also has a massive following on Instagram: We're almost 77,000 users strong. The Instagram community has used the platform to share everything from breaking news to slice-of-life moments in time.
For all of you on Instagram already, we invite you to join iReport and start sharing your stories. There’s a lot of powerful photography in the mobile world and we’d love to see more of it on our site.
If you've got a story to tell with Instagram photos, upload your images to the photo essay assignment. We're looking for a series of images that conveys a fascinating story. So, let the message be heard: iReporters and Instagramers unite!
Please join us here in the blog at 2:30 p.m. ET for the iReport roundtable discussion. We're looking forward to talking with everyone about what's going on in the community.
We'll open comments at 2:30 p.m. ET so you can share your questions, comments and concerns.
We'll look forward to talking with you.
We’re always excited when we have the opportunity to launch an assignment with one of our awesome partners, but this one was extra special. Why’s that, you ask? Because Mashable visitors can upload directly to iReport without leaving their site thanks to a fancy widget we call a portable uploader.
Here’s what it looks like on Mashable. Sleek, huh?
As we continue to work with partners like Mashable, Vimeo, GOOD, Team Coco and others, we want the uploading experience to be as easy as it is for community members visiting our site.So this is an important step towards that goal.
If you are the proud owner of a holiday display that's powered or inspired by technology or know of one in your area, share your videos and photos with iReport by Friday, December 16. The best submissions will be featured on CNN and Mashable!
We wanted to let you know that our developers have fixed a couple of video issues and added some new features that we're pretty excited about. Monday's software update solved a problem that was causing videos bigger than 200 MB to fail, as well as an issue with videos getting cut off at the end.
The team also added filter buttons to the profile pages so you can sort individual iReporters' stories to see which ones were approved for use on CNN, shared most often, or garnered the most page views or comments.
Finally, we rolled out a joint assignment feature for projects with our partners around the Internet. We couldn't wait to try that one out, so we launched an assignment with our friends at Mashable to find people who are incorporating technology in their holiday decorations. If you go all out with your holiday decorations, or know someone who does, please share your photos and videos.
As always, if you see something that looks strange on the site, please email email@example.com and we'll take a look at it.
For the second time ever, here's a look at some of the most striking, funny, or just plain unusual stories we saw on iReport this week.
On Wednesday, protesters swarmed Washington, D.C.'s K Street, home to many powerful political lobbying firms -- a frequent target of criticism in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Armando Gallardo was there when it all went down: “The protesters, defying rain, sat down on 14th and K, blocking traffic and a few others on 13th and K laid on the floor,” he said. “Soon enough the police came with horses, and a bigger than expected police force. After three warnings regarding blocking a highway violation, the police started arresting the protesters.”
Usually, the most outrageous thing you expect to find in a Christmas tree is, say, a tacky beer mug ornament that holds sentimental value for one of your loved ones. Casey Baine's family found a slithering surprise nestled in the needles of their coniferous evergreen: A snake! “The snake, whose name is Tinsel, now appropriately lives in the woods,” she said.
Janna Lynn Imel has witnessed racism from her friends, family and community for being a white woman in an interracial relationship with a black man. She shared this powerful video explaining her thoughts and struggles with the discrimination she faces: “I made this video in hopes of showing people that their attitudes toward my boyfriend and I are not right,” she said. “Racism is not dead, as many people believe. It still exists in our lives everyday and it's time that more people take a stand.”
Janna's iReport sparked a fascinating conversation in the comments section -- join in on the discussion and weigh in with your thoughts.
In the aftermath of the hotly contested Russian elections, Irina Kruchkova witnessed a massive anti-Putin protest on December 6 in Moscow's Triumfalnaya Square. “We have youngsters appearing on the protests to provoke aggressive reaction amidst the crowd. These poor young boys and girls do not really comprehend what is happening and are only capable to repeat what they are told to say. It is the first moment of my video that shows kids with a leader some holding their teddy bears as they shout out 'Putin, Medvedev, Russia,’” she said.
Irina was interviewed on CNN International's Connect the World program -- Check it out!
Longtime iReporter Luis Leal has been visiting Key West since the '80s, and she always makes sure to check out the amazing performing cats in Mallory Square. Feline impresario Dominique Le Fort has trained housecats to do all kinds of stunts, like jumping through a fiery hoop.
Think you have a story to share? Check out our assignment desk for ideas, or submit your own view of the news.
Heads up: We're not hosting an official roundtable discussion this week, but we wanted to open a thread where you can ask questions and share your thoughts. Whether you want to know more about a CNN iReport feature or you would like to suggest a new project, we're all ears.
We did hear about some issues uploading files over 200 MB, and our techs are working on a fix that should be ready by Monday.
You've shared some remarkable stories, including a very personal and thought-provoking story about what it's like to be an interracial couple. We've also seen tales of a snake in a Christmas tree and cats leaping through fiery hoops.
We've also got a lot of new assignments you might want to check out. Here are some of the highlights:
Check out these links and share any questions in the comments area below. We'll be checking back here and responding to your posts. Looking forward to seeing what you have to say!
Tara Miller is legally blind. Her eyes can see less than 10% of what an unimpaired person can see. She's also an award-winning art photographer.
Miller took up photography as a hobby when she was a kid, but gave it up when she started to lose her vision to glaucoma - until about two years ago. That's when she realized that, using a digital camera and her computer, she could blow the photos up big enough that she could see them again.
"It woke up something inside me," Miller said.
After shooting, Miller enlarges her photos anywhere from 200% to 500% to make sure everything is crisp and clear. Blurry images "drive me crazy," she says. "I want to produce an image that I'd be happy to sell. If a client is paying for something, it has to be 100%." She's memorized the settings on her camera since she can't see them, and uses her hands and arms as guides to judge angles and distance when she's setting up lights and other equipment.
"It took me about six months to learn [to set up the equipment] because I was so scared that I was going to drop something. But I knew that I had to have the skills to use the equipment," she says. Her husband, also a photographer, helped her figure it all out. They balance each other well when they're working together: "He was commercially trained, and I'm more the artistic one," says Miller.
The image above, which Miller shot in summer 2010, is "just the most incredible photo I've taken." It won the grand prize in the 2011 Canadian National Institute for the Blind Eye Remember national photography competition, which was open to all photographers, sighted and non. Miller enjoys photographing weather events, and says the timing for this Manitoba, Canada picture was perfect - just before the rain started.
If you're thinking the image looks Photoshopped - it is. After shooting a photo, Miller usually adjusts the coloring to match what she sees rather than what a "normal" eye may see.
"I bring the colors back to how I see it," she explains. Because of her condition and many treatments, "I'm able to see UV light, so I tend to see colors differently."
Since winning the competition, Miller has been in the spotlight of the Canadian media - "I had to join Toastmasters because I had speech requests!" - but she sees all the attention as a positive thing, since she hopes it will help educate others about vision loss.
"I like to educate people on eyesight and how important it is to go to the doctor," she says. "I do a lot of volunteering."
Miller is active on Facebook and welcomes questions about her condition and requests for advice from the visually impaired. "I answer all my email!"
Believe it or not, Tara Miller isn't the first blind photographer to show off her work on CNN - she's the third! Check out the others: Kurt Weston creates art photography mostly about his vision loss, and Craig Royal uses autofocus and slow shutter speeds to create his abstract works.
Hello iReporters! Last Thursday we introduced some new features and fixes thanks in part to your feedback and comments. Unfortunately, it looks like we also introduced a new bug which is affecting uploads of files larger than 200 MB.
We've been informed by our development team that a fix will be introduced next Monday, December 12, which will raise the upload file size limit to its customary 600 MB.
In the meantime, if you're having trouble uploading files, we invite you to use this alternate upload mechanism.
As we look forward to making iReport better every day, we welcome your feedback always.
Today, GOP presidential primary contender Herman Cain officially suspended his campaign following weeks of scrutiny for alleged sexual harassment and an extramarital affair. We asked iReporters what they thought of the collapse of Cain's campaign, and most agreed that the allegations had tarnished his reputation. Others cited his lack of experience and readiness to lead.
Sonya Renee Taylor believes that the only reason Herman Cain was popular in the first place was so that the Republican party could challenge the perception that it is unfriendly to African Americans. "[Republicans'] focus on business, the reduction of taxes and the elimination of major social programming in a country that still disproportionately disenfranchises people of color makes the needs of African Americans often invisible in Republican rhetoric," she said.
"'Cain's success is greatly tied to the policies of the Republican party. He would like to believe that the GOP sees him as a businessman first and a black man second," she said. "He is currently learning that he is black man in America, which means his contenders such as Newt Gingrich can have extramarital affairs, even presidential predecessors such as Bill Clinton can have sexual harassment charges (Paula Jones). The bar of being blemish-free is a bit higher for the black presidential candidate, and the fall is often hard and fast."
Egberto Willies, on the other hand, thinks that Cain was never serious about winning the nod, and was using the media attention as an opportunity for self-promotion. He believes that Cain's campaign was being supported by the GOP establishment as a strategy to ensure that Mitt Romney is the eventual nominee.
Mark Ivy believes that "the Cain campaign self-imploded by not being prepared for what the campaign should have been aware," he said. "The campaign should have been ready to respond when the personal character issues and concerns were brought up during the primary vetting process. What appeared at first to be a viable candidate devolved into a series of increasing displays of not being prepared, not being ready and not being able to divert focus back to the national issues away from personal imperfections."
And Jay O'Conner sums it up this way: "At the end of the day, it's Mrs. Cain and his family whom he has embarrassed greatly. It's time for Herman Cain to turn out the lights and take a long vacation with his wife."
Here at iReport, we get a variety of stories from people all over the world any given day. It’s almost impossible to keep track of them all, which is why we’re starting something new: A look back at five of the most interesting, compelling, or just plain unusual stories of the week.
This week’s offerings didn’t disappoint. Here are five of the best iReport stories we received:
iReporter Jerry Gonzales visited a lumberjack show in Stratford, New Zealand, last weekend that featured log-rolling, wood-chopping and climbing up 40-foot poles in record time. Gonzales said he enjoyed “every minute” of the action-packed event.
Anelia K. Dimitrova was on the scene Wednesday in Waverly, Iowa, as local students challenged Republican candidate Michele Bachmann on LGBT rights and bullying. “They were very gutsy as you can see in the video,” said Dimitrova, referring to the students. “It takes tons of courage to identify yourself as the ‘other’ in rural Iowa.” Likewise, she was impressed that Bachmann didn’t back down on her views and allowed the students to continue asking questions.
Lizzy Showman and Kathleen Fitzgerald, students at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, used design to show appreciation for the drivers on the M15 bus line, the second busiest in the nation. They designed custom seat cushions and shot video as they delivered them to bus drivers. Just try not to smile as one gentleman exclaims “this is the nicest thing anybody’s ever done for me."
iReporter Byron Thomas is a proud Southerner who believes he should have the right to hang a Confederate flag in his dorm room at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. He's also black. Thomas shared a video expressing his opinion and sparked a passionate discussion about racism and tradition.
Freelance photojournalist Matt Hartman rushed over to the San Gabriel Mission after 70- to 80-mph Santa Ana winds tore through California and damaged the historic church yesterday. "The crucifix, the wood part was standing, but the Jesus part had fallen off and was really badly damaged. … The hands were knocked off and the arms and hands were pointed upward to the sky," he said, describing it as an eerie scene.
Think you have a story to share? Check out our assignment desk for idea, or just submit your own view of the news.
The hard-working iReport development team rolled out a new site update on Thursday that fixed some of the issues that you've reported since the relaunch. We appreciate everyone's patience and your help chasing down bugs. A lot of the improvements were behind the scenes, but there are two big changes that we think you'll be excited about.
1) You can now see all of an iReporters' stories from their profile page. That was probably one of the biggest complaints that we had, so we're glad to have that fixed.
2) We added a bunch of new groups! Think of groups as a personalized assignment desk that keeps you up-to-date on the topics you care about. When you join the travel group, for example, you’ll get an update in your activity feed every time we post a new travel assignment. If you’re not in the group, you can still participate in an assignment by .
Here’s a list of all of the groups:
TV shows and partners
We’ll be adding new groups regularly, so let us know if you think of something we missed.
The developers are already working away at our next batch of updates, so we’ll keep you updated on their progress.
Hirsute gentlemen the world over took part in a follicular challenge during the month of November: Start the month freshly-shaven, and see how wicked of a 'stache you can grow over the next 30 days. Dubbed "Movember" (a portmanteau of moustache and November), the movement aims to raise awareness of men's health issues. Naturally, iReporters got in on the action.
Mark Vincze lost an aunt to lung cancer recently, and said the Movember project "seemed like something I could do to raise money for cancer awareness." Despite his solid impersonation of Tom Selleck, he couldn't wait to shave it off after his thirty days were up, since he thought his moustache looked "kind of creepy."
A large number of moustache-aspirants in Chad Grossman's office took part in this year's Movember en masse. "The good thing about Movember is that it raises awareness about men's health issues, and allows us to make a difference in the community as well," he said. Overall, his office raised more than $2,500!
Do you have any before and after photos of your Movember achievements? Or do you just want to share your well-honed arsenal of facial hair-maintenance tips? Either way, join in on the fun with iReport!
Please join us here in the blog at 2:30 p.m. ET for our roundtable discussion.
We'll be talking a lot about groups and how they can help you keep up with the projects you're interested in.
We'll also be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Comments will open at 2:30 p.m. ET and we'll talk with you then.