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