Archive for October, 2012

Creating Online News with Storify

Storify is a relatively new addition to an online journo’s toolkit.  Essentially, it’s a free online program that allows users to easily trawl various social media websites for comments, photos and and other material on any particular topic.  Just plug in your search term and away you go.  Once you’ve found a post or photo you think is relevant, you just drag it into your story.

Poytner Institute associate editor Mallary Jean Tenore has made a list of five different types of stories that can benefit from the Storify treatment – social movements (e.g. Arab Spring protests or the Occupy movement), breaking news, internet humour, reaction stories (public reaction to news events) and the weather.

Those who read my Brisbane Zombie Walk story will notice I used Storify to create the photo gallery at the end.  In fact, the story was actually written in Storify and then exported to this WordPress site.  While my story was neither breaking news or about a social movement, I still felt Storify would be a good tool to use.

As my story was written before this year’s event, and I didn’t attend last year’s, I would have been unable to create a photo gallery the traditional way (or would have had a much harder time).  However, a photo gallery (of some sort) was needed to liven up and help tell my story and Storify allowed me to go back in time and collect some interesting photos to use.

Unfortunately, while it worked out in the end, I’m not 100 per cent sold on Storify (yet).  It is definitely useful, I just feel it needs a bit more development work

The Storify Positives:

1. The program was pretty easy to use

Storify will search a wide range of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram etc) and a few simple keywords will pull up lots of results.  You can also search for a specific user/ username on the above media sites.  It also allows you to filter or search only for photos or information which have been released under a Creative Commons licence (this was very important for my story, to avoid copyright issues)

2. Published Storify creates a permenant record

All the media and photos you add to your story are actually copied into, and stored in, the story itself.  If a social media user later deletes one of their Facebook posts or photos, it will still show up in your Storify.  No hiding!

The Storify Negatives

Unfortunately, I ran into a few problems, which leads me to believe Storify still needs some development work.

1. It’s still a bit glitchy

The “Save” and “Publish” buttons frequently froze (if that’s the right word) and stopped working.  I had to restart the story a couple of times because these to functions just wouldn’t work.  My attempts to embed the Google map didn’t work either (despite carefully following the easy instructions).  I needed to leave space for it and then embed it in the WordPress version of my story (once it had been exported).

2. It doesn’t export to WordPress nicely (or easily)

It also took a while to to export my story to WordPress properly.  Also, the instructions for posting a story to WordPress are out-of-date.  The FAQ tells you to set this function up under the “auto-post” function/ menu.  As far as I can tell, this doesn’t exist anymore.  To export your story to WordPress, you need to:

  1. Publish your story
  2. Once published, at the top of the story, there will be three buttons – Export, Edit and Delete.  Select Export
  3. Tell Storify you want to post to either a self-hosted WordPress site, or one hosted on  Fill in the required details (site address and login details) and then tell it to export  your story
  4. Pray it works properly!

There is a (free?) WordPress plugin that you can download, which allows you to create a Storify post from your WordPress dashboard, but it currently only works with self-hosted WordPress blogs.  Annoying, as I though hosted ones would have been more common.

3. No choice of fonts

The default WordPress font is ok (not sure what it actually is), but it would have been nice to have a choice.

4. No ability to (properly) preview photos and posts

Particularly when looking at photos, the search results box crams so many into the one area that they become tiny and hard to make out.  I had to add them to the story just to get a proper look.

5. Creative Commons filter doesn’t catch everything

While the creative commons filter was handy, it didn’t pick up all the creative commons material available – only about half the photos I used were found in a Creative Commons search.  And again, because it only shows you a tiny version of the photo, I needed to add images to my story and then click through to the original Flickr stream to see if the author had made it available under Creative Commons.

Please note – many of the above “faults” might not actually be problems.  My inability to use technology properly without half a dozen manuals and serious advanced planning  might have had some impact…

The Storypad Bookmarklet

I found this little feature to be Storify’s saving grace.  Drag the bookmarklet into your taskbar and it adds a permenant “Storify this” icon.  Then, next time you’re browsing social media and you see something that would work in a story, simply press the icon and a Storify tool is added to the page itself.  You can then Storify that post or photo and it will be saved to the user’s “StoryPad”, easily accessible next time you “create story”.

I used this feature for about half my photos.  I knew a particular user had released their images under a Creative Commons license, but they weren’t coming up in the search results (or were buried in the hundreds of results).  This feature allowed me to go straight to their Flickr account and add content.  So a great little tool if you know exactly where you want to look, or you stumble across something interesting.

So there we go – my brief look at Storify.  A useful little program, but with the potential to be a lot better (if they just ironed out the glitches…)


, , ,

Leave a comment

Brisbane Zombie Walk festival lurches to new site after South Bank problems

  1. The Brisbane Zombie Walk will expand into a full day festival at Victoria Park later this month, partly because of financial necessity, after plans to move to South Bank fell through.

    The annual Zombie Walk, which has raised money for the Brain Foundation since 2009, has previously seen thousands of people don fake blood for an organised walk through the Brisbane CBD.

    However, this year’s Walk, on October 21st, will be expanded to a full-day festival at Victoria Park, Spring Hill, featuring music stages, markets and other entertainment.

    Zombie Walk organiser Anthony Radaza has had the festival idea for over four years and says it is an opportunity to bring the Zombie Walk community together and a commercial necessity to prevent the Walk running at a loss, which it had done in previous years.

    “The reason we’re doing it is we love the zombie walk… but we needed to have a proper business approach to it.

    When we say ‘lost a lot of money’, we’re talking around someone’s average wage for a whole year,” he said.

    Mr Radaza says the Walk relies heavily on local business sponsorship and the festival format provided extra reasons for sponsors to support the event.

    “Without sponsors, there is no zombie walk.

    “The last couple of years, the format we were running, the sponsors weren’t really getting much back for their money and no one gives money out for free – not even for charity,” he said.

    “We’ve had stalls there, but as soon as the walk starts, we go somewhere else… they only get about two to three hours to sell their product.

    “So the idea I had is – why don’t we open up a festival, where we can really get the community together, with market stalls and get all our sponsors to sell their wares, promote… and really get themselves out there,” he said.

    Mr Radaza says while festival entry requires a ticket purchase, people often underestimate the cost of previous walks, which only asked participants for a gold coin donation.

    “Public liability alone – we started with 5,000 people and that cost a fair bit.

    “The more people turn up, the more money we’ll end up spending,” he said.

    Mr Radaza says the size of Zombie Walk means the Brisbane City Council no longer considers it a “peaceful process”.

    “Once you’re over, I think 1,000 people… you have to pay for a license permit… and it costs around two grand,” he said.

    He also says entertainment licensing, fencing and other expenses run “into the tens of thousands”.

    “And most people think it’s free, because it’s a charity event, but there’s no such thing as a free event,” he said.

  2. Source: garykemble’s Flickr stream
  3. Source: garykemble’s Flickr stream
  4. No zombies for South Bank

    The move to Victoria Park is another major change for the Zombie Walk.

    Mr Radaza says the Queensland Police Service advised an alternative route was needed after record event numbers at the 2011 Zombie Walk caused severe traffic congestion in the CBD.

    “We expected 5,000 and ended up having 20,000 people.

    “Unfortunately, we didn’t expect that and the police didn’t expect it either and the flow of traffic didn’t go so well,” he said.

    However, plans to hold the Walk and festival at South Bank fell through after logistical issues arose.

    A South Bank Corporation spokesperson said, in a statement, that the event exceeded the Cultural Forecourt capacity, their largest space available for venue hire.

    But Mr Radaza says while the Walk itself was rejected, using South Bank as the festival venue was a “completely different issue” and he feels like South Bank was pushing them out after originally giving the event the “green light”.

    “The thing that really got me riled up was that we paid for our deposit earlier in the year.

    “They only got back to us a couple of months after and they’d decided ‘well, hang on, Zombie Walk… maybe it’s not the kind of charity we’re willing to take on’.

    “They should have read the proposal before they asked for our money,” he said.

    Mr Radaza says South Bank had issues with the zombie theme and did not want the festival’s main act because of “lyrical content” and musical style.

    “I was getting a lot of negative vibes… things like ‘oh, there’s going to be a lot of blood there, and there’s going to be this and that’,” he said.

    “They decided ‘we can’t have your main act’ because they considered it ‘doof doof’ music.

    “But it’s a family event… they’re a very commercial group, young kids love them, so they’re not that bad… and that was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.”

    He says South Bank also disagreed with plans for a stage playing dubstep (harder edge music).

    “They felt that kind of music would bring out the ‘bad’ sort of crowd in society,” he said.

    The South Bank spokesperson said while problems with the main act were based on noise-level concerns, if the event had been feasible a risk-assessment process would have been undertaken to address issues surrounding the music.

    Mr Radaza says the South Bank problems were a major set-back because they developed after event advertising and tickets had been prepared.

    “As soon as the deposit was paid, I actually went out there and promoted that it was going to be at South Bank… I paid money for the tickets and advertising.

    “When they told us all those conditions, we had to find an alternative place, an alternate route… another park to hold it… so all that time spent promoting and organising it got cut short,” he said.

    “I would prefer if they’d been upfront from the start about it and said ‘we’re not happy to have you in our area… we don’t know much about Zombie Walk, but it’s not what we’re looking for’.”

  5. Source: cofiem’s Flickr stream
  6. Source: cofiem’s Flickr stream
  7. Zombie Walk moves to Victoria Park

    Mr Radaza says the Brisbane City Council and Queensland Police Service “actually saved Zombie Walk” by allowing them use Victoria Park.

    “I should have been working with them since we started Zombie Walk… they’ve been really good and they’re still helping me now,” he said.

    However, while Mr Radaza says there has been some negativity about Victoria Park’s out of the way location, he does not believe it will significantly affect attendance numbers.

    “It’s not the route which defines the Zombie Walk… it’s having the right, like-minded people.

    “The people that actually know and follow the Zombie Walk, a change in route won’t make a difference… it’s the people … the community we’ve built in the last six years,” he said.

    “If I party with 100 people or 100,000, it doesn’t really matter, because I’m having fun with the people I can share the day with.

    “And we collect money for charity too, which is always a bonus,” he said.

  8. Brisbane’s charitable undead

    The 2011 Zombie Walk raised around $20,000 for the Brain Foundation, an Australian charity funding research into a variety of brain disorders, although Mr Radaza says he would like to double that amount this year.

    Brain Foundation CEO Gerald Edmunds says the Zombie Walk is important not only for raising public awareness of the organisation, but also the importance of brain health and research funding.

    “When you think of all the things that can go wrong [with the brain], both in terms of disorders and diseases, it affects many people.

    “Brain diseases and disorders count for 45 per cent of the death and disability in Australia,” he said.

    “Raising funds for research… leads to earlier and more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of these diseases.”

    Mr Edmunds says the Foundation often sees a spike in website traffic following events like the Zombie Walk, as it attracts the attention of many tourists and passers-by.

    Mr Edmunds also says the Zombie Walk has become a “signature event” for the Brain Foundation and has a “happy-go-lucky” link with the idea of “keeping your brain healthy”.

    “Many of the other ones that deal with diseases have, say, pink ribbons, but that doesn’t have the same connection as the zombies have with brains,” he said.

    Mr Edmunds says the Zombie Walk is a “wonderful event to have in the community” and is something in which Brisbane leads the world.

    “Everybody has a great spirit about them… it’s a big community event.

    “And for Brisbane, we’re the biggest in the world,” he said.

    “They love to act out the whole part… some like to tease the crowd… move towards the crowd and the crowd all backs away from them.

    “It’s all good fun in a very good cause.”

    Interested in attending the Brisbane Zombie Walk?  The event starts at 10am, Sunday, October 21st, 2012 at Victoria Park, Spring Hill.  Tickets are $20 general admission & $10 concession.  Visit the Zombie Walk site for more information, and keep up-to-date on Facebook and Twitter.

    Need inspiration for a zombie costume?  Take a look at the 2011 Brisbane Zombie Walk photo album

    If you would like more information on brain health or research, or would like to donate, visit the Brain Foundation site

    *All photos in this article are from the 2011 Brisbane Zombie Walk and were available under a Creative Commons license.
  9. Source: garykemble’s Flickr stream
  10. Source: garykemble’s Flickr stream
  11. Source: cofiem’s Flickr stream
  12. Source: cofiem’s Flickr stream
  13. Source: cofiem’s Flickr stream
  14. Source: garykemble’s Flickr stream
  15. Source: cofiem’s Flickr stream

, , ,

Leave a comment