Whilst we have been using Storify at EDINA for a number of years for services, projects and events, it has gradually become a more routine part of our monitoring process. That partly reflects the fact that Storify is now a more stable tool to use (although still quite buggy), but also the interest in evidencing interactions, interest, impact and sharing of projects, services and events.
So, to support my colleagues I have been putting together a “How To” guide for Storify that includes a number of it’s quirks and issues and I thought I would share it here for others to use, add to, comment on etc.
Just to frame this post I would say that I highly recommend using Storify in tandem with other tools (some mentioned in this post) as it is a very effective and engaging tool for presenting and curating evidence of impact, but there is a lot it doesn’t do well (e.g. easy analysis of all comments made from the Storify itself) or is simply not designed to do (e.g. automatic updating). As long as you are aware of the limitations it’s well worth the effort.
What is Storify?
Storify is a way to (usually publicly) collect mentions of a particular search term, project, idea, event, etc. It is about creating a narrative around those items and, for that reason, is much more about manual curation rather than automatic collection. It is particularly useful for capturing tweets and other more ephemeral materials as you can build up a narrative that follows your project – including blog posts, news items, other materials, and your own notes to help provide context for the tweets, other mentions etc.
Why should I use it?
Storify is a great way to provide an attractive, easy to navigate record of your project and its impact, engagement with the community, and key achievements over time. However, as Storify is a manual tool you might also want to consider setting up an (automatic) “TAGS Explorer” (based on Google Docs) for your project account, hashtag or key search terms as an additional archive of mentions. See the Useful Links section here for more on how to set up a TAGS Explorer.
Storify can notify those people mentioned in your story, and the Storifys can be embedded in webpages.
What else should I be aware of?
Storify is a good tool but there are a couple of things to bear in mind:
- Storify enables you to do all of your editing in the browser, that can be quite taxing so can crash your browser. There are mobile/tablet apps but they can also be buggy
- Not all changes succeed/are saved, particularly when server maintenance is taking place (Storify servers tend to be up/down according to US working hours).
- Not all mentions may show up in Storify – but you can always add your own URLs manually to the Storifys you set up.
- You cannot export Storifys, they are intended to be experienced on the web and to be edited on the web.
How do I sign up?
You can log in to Storify using some other accounts. If your project has a Twitter account this is likely to be the best way to create a new login. Before you set up an account though do check in with Nicola Osborne, or take a look at the social media logins spreadsheet on Orthus to make sure another login does not already exist for your project or service. Nicola can also give you some advice on getting started.
Once you have created a login you just have to login via Twitter or directly to access Storify. If you are logged in you can click on your login name to access your profile and to view or edit your Storifys.
How does it work?
When you login you can view your profile and view the Storifys you have already created. You can browse through them or, as a logged in user, edit your own Storify, bringing in tweets, videos, presentations, really any web link.
Your profile is usually a public page so you don’t need to be logged in to view it. Public Storifys show up in your profile no matter who is looking at it (whether they are logged in or not), Private Storifys only show up for you when you are logged in.
For instance in the Palimpsest Project profile there is one Public Storify on the project, and one Private Storify called “Getting Started” – this is an example that Storify creates for you when you first set up a login, and it gives an idea of how to add new content to your own Storifys.
When a user comes to view or read your Storify they will see the story in a format like this:
Editing a Storify
If you are logged in you just need to click on the (blue) “Edit” button on the Storify to reach the editing screen, as shown below.
Note that there are three distinct areas of the screen:
- The top bar of the screen presents the navigation for the Storify.
- The left hand side shows the Storify that you are currently editing. The top part of this screen includes text formatting and editing options.
- The right hand side of the screen shows you all of the channels which Storify provides and, once you have searched for a particular search term or username, the results which you may wish to add or drag into your Storify.
Editing and Formatting Controls
We will look at that top bar in a bit more detail…
- Link back to your Profile Page.
- Indication of whether your Storify is (a) a Private draft (red editing/dotted line icon) (b) Published (green tick). This icon will update to a green box with a pencil, and have the subtitle “Unpublished edits” when there are unsaved changes in your Storify.
- Settings link, which allows you to edit the Storify URL.
- “Save Now” button. It is wise to save regularly. Clicking this button saves the Storify and you should see a green banner to indicate that it has been saved.
- “Publish” button. Clicking on this will allow you to publish your Storify and either continue editing, or view your Storify.
- This area of the screen indicates your login name. Clicking on it brings up a menu which provides links to your Profile, Settings, and to Logout.
Other areas of the Storify screen are almost all editable. You can edit the title, the description, or you can click on any item in the Storify (left hand side of screen) to move it around/change the order. You can click at the edges of any item to add your own text to the Storify.
Other editing commands are shown in more detail below:
From left to right the commands allow you to:
- Embolden any text in a text box you have added/are editing.
- Italicise any text in a text box you have added/are editing.
- Underline any text in a text box you have added/are editing.
- Strike-through any text in a text box you have added/are editing.
- Create a link in any text in a text box you have added/are editing. This link can either be a regular text link, a red button, or a blue button (I suspect a Matrix joke)
- Turn text into a Header – again this applies to any text in a text box you have added/are editing
There are then two buttons for ordering Storify content automatically… Some warnings about these:
- Once you have reordered it is extremely difficult to revert to the previous order as there is no simple “Undo” option and Storify tries to autosave as it goes, particularly for big tasks like reordering content.
- When content is reordered ONLY content with a clear date stamp is reordered. This typically means tweets which are very clearly date stamped. Some accompanying text will reorder but not all items will – images, videos, urls, etc. may not reorder properly. That means you need to reorder content manually if you wish to retain your narrative.
- So, reordering works really well for large collections for tweets around short events like conferences, and very poorly for long term archives.
- BUT Storify does warn you before reordering the items, so you do have a chance to change your mind.
So here is how they work:
This button allows you to reorder items by Time Descending. This means the most recent/latest item appears first, then the older items display below. This is not unlike how Twitter streams look/work. It works well for ongoing stories without a clear end… those where discussions are continuing and the most recent comments are the most important/relevant.
This button allows you to reorder items by Time Ascending. This means the first/earliest items appear first, then the most recent items appear at the end of the story. This order works well for telling a story with a clear timeline – a beginning and an end.
The final link on the editing bar provides the option to see a “Collapsed view”, a way to view just the outline of the contents. The button looks like this:
This collapsed view of the content shows Twitter handle and the first line of text from a tweet, or the username and title of the blog post or webpage:
Storify offers a search of other Storifys, a number of specific social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, at present) as well as some more generic spaces (Google search, GIF searches (currently via Giphy or Google)) and a button for adding your own choice of URL. Buttons on this panel change from time to time.
Although these channels and the results for each search term will vary a lot, here are some examples of the types of results and content that will appear.
These look through Storifys across the site (you can filter by item type). Any elements appropriate for the search terms will be shown and can be pulled in.
Storify will search Twitter. Usually this includes Tweets from the last 7 days, but does go further back for the “User” search. “Top Tweets” tend to show up much more prominently than others (which may not show up at all) and there are number of filters and settings you can tweak to improve the relevance of your results.
What do all the options mean?
- Search – is a search for keywords or phrases (like the standard search.twitter.com interface)
o Links – limits results to those with URLs
o RTs – includes ReTweets in your search results, this can mean lots of duplication so sometimes you may only want to see tweets with original content (untick the box to do that).
o Recent – includes tweets from the last day or so. Unticking this box allows you to see only tweets posted before today – useful if you are wanting to make a lot of updates without risking those currently coming in around your event/tag/etc.
o Near… – enables you to filter by location, with the “Within 10km/50km/100km” limitation further allowing you to filter. BEWARE: many tweets are not geotagged so this will substantially limit/filter the results.
o Language – allows you to filter to any language of your choice (there is a drop down list). This could be useful if you expect a large number of tweets in a language other than English, or if you wish to filter the results down to those relevant to your project or service. For instance for the Palimpsest project there is an active Twitter user with peers tweeting in Russian – so a language filter could be useful for honing possible tweets down to those in English and therefore more likely to relate to this particular project.
- Images – searches for Tweets with images. The search term is likely to be in the tweet accompanying that image since it is hard to tag/add metadata to an image on Twitter.
- Timelines – seems to pull tweets from those that you follow on Twitter, the search part of this doesn’t work well but these can be useful to browse.
- User – search for a username to find tweets from that user. You don’t need the @ symbol, just the username is fine. This search goes back beyond 7 days. At the bottom of this search – and others – you can click on “Search more results” to see more/older results.
- List – allows you to search Twitter lists. This is only useful
- Favourites – allows you to add to Storify from any Twitter users’ Favourite tweets (anything that has been favourited – you do this on Twitter by clicking the star on a tweet).
In order to search Facebook posts/content you need to connect your Facebook account. This will only be relevant for the (very few) projects or services with a Facebook account (rather than page) and where that connection will be worth making, and where posts might be relevant.
This search allows you to search both posts/content and people on Google+. No other filters or options are currently provided…
This search enables you to include YouTube videos. Because of the volume of content a carefully crafted searching phrase helps. You can also search for “User’s favourites” or “User’s videos” – enter the username to do this (e.g. search for “repofringe”).
You can search for Flickr images via this search. Be aware that the quality of metadata on Flickr is very variable – not all items have a title, often they will not have tags or other information. Note: Storify allows you to limit Flickr searches by license with two supported options: “Any” or “Creative Commons”. Creative Commons searches are preferable because Storify tends to include quite large preview images which are prominent in your Storifys.
Like Facebook, Instagram can only be searched once logged in. Again this search is only worth including if your project is active on Instagram…
This button enables you to run a full Google search for your search term/event/project/etc. This can be a useful way to both spot and gather mentions of your work – although you may want to set up a Google Alert for your project as well so that you are not reliant on your Storify searches to capture everything.
From within the Google Search area you can filter by News (as with Google News this is a bit patchy in terms of what is and is not indexed), by Images (more useful) or by Gif (only likely to be particularly useful if you expect to find lots of animated gifs around your project – only likely with more viral content, community created content, or materials you know you have created yourself).
As already mentioned this may not be useful in many cases but this search enables you to search either the GIF sharing site Giphy, or Gifs indexed by Google. As with image search, but particularly true for gifs, bear in mind that not all images will be relevant and not all will be safe for work.
This enables you to add any item from a URL. If the item can be easily embedded in an interactive way – a video, a SlideShare, etc. – then Storify will generally recognise that in the process of adding that link to your Storify.
To add a URL just paste or type it in, hit return, and wait for a preview to appear in the box below – that might be textual, include an image, or be the type of interactive item already described.
How to add an Item to your Storify
To add any item from any social media channel simple run a search, select an item, click on it and pull it across from the right hand side to the left hand side Storify.
Alternatively, in all searches Storify includes an “Add them all” link. This will allow you to pull in all search results at once – they will be added in a relatively sensible order.
BUT Storify does not recognise duplicates so, if you manually add some items, and hit the “Add them all” button you may well find you have duplicates. In theory duplicates can be deleted from your Storify (hovering over an item in the left hand editing screen will show a “x” in the top right hand side of the box for that item which allows you to delete the item) but that does not always work.
Once you have added an item to your Storify you can hover/click on the item to move that item, to delete that item, or hovering at the top or bottom of the item enables you to click to add a text comment.
When you are finished editing a Storify you should ensure you Save the Storify. If you wish to share or make your Storify public, make sure you hit Publish as well. Always have a look at your saved Storify to make sure everything looks as you want it to.
Once everything has been saved and published as appropriate, click on your login name to use the Logout option.
- Storify website: https://storify.com/
- Storify Tour: https://storify.com/tour
- Example Storify from EDINA – Trading Consequences: https://storify.com/digtrade/trading-consequences/
- Example Storify from EDINA – OR2012: https://storify.com/edinadatacentre/open-repositories-2012/
- Example Storify from Sync – Culture Hack Scotland 2013: https://storify.com/synchq/culture-hack-scotland-2013-2014
- TAGS Explorer – at the time of writing the current version is V5.1: http://mashe.hawksey.info/2013/02/twitter-archive-tagsv5/
- How to set up your own TAGS Explorer (V5.0): http://sblasi2.blogspot.com/2013/02/instructions-for-tags-v50.html
- See also my related posts: How to LiveBlog Part 1 and How to LiveBlog Part 2.