Daniel J. Schneider

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Following a new Twitter chat for social journalists (#sjchat) I was invited to try out social media curation tool Storify. When I first heard about it it was shortly used by TBD to follow reactions and responses to a death outside of Washington, D.C., night club DC9.

Storify story on DenverPost.com

Storify story on DenverPost.com covering the Dome Fire in Boulder Canyon west of Boulder, Colorado.

I went to Storify (@storify) and started experimenting, and once I began to understand the tool I started to see the power it had. The idea of the modern journalist as a curator of information isn’t new, but tools and methods are still being developed.

As a Twitter user, I use hashtag searches all the time, but separating the wheat from the chaff can be difficult and time consuming. And then add that information doesn’t always come in 140-character nibbles — valuable updates might also be found in Facebook posts, Flickr photos, YouTube videos, (social networks natively supported by Storify as of this writing), and a multitude of other places. CoverItLive has tools to do some of this automatically, which is nice, but unfiltered, your results might be as bad as any raw search.

Storify rectifies this by letting you use only what you choose, precisely ordered and with or without commentary, and keeps everything live — links to accounts, hashtags, and more.

Storify in Action

Days after getting my beta invite, a fire broke out in Boulder Canyon, just west of Boulder, Colorado, prompting evacuations all the way to downtown Boulder. Earlier this year, the Fourmile Canyon fire became the costliest in Colorado history, and also prompted widespread evacuations. Tensions about the new fire were understandably high.

Given that we had discussed using tools like this on election night, this seemed like a good opportunity to try it out. I didn’t add a lot of commentary to the story, I mostly followed Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and so on, and tried to give readers a window to what was going on in social media circles. The story is still on DenverPost.com.

Between the announcements that we were using Storify, and the reactions to our blast to everyone included at the end, we got quite a bit of reaction (powered by Storify) considering the story itself was only marginally popular.

After the positive response we were sold on the idea of using it for the elections, although to be honest, the day was hectic enough, and the internet buzz was big enough, that much of the two stories we created wound up being lists of tweets. They do still show the progression of discussion through the day.

We created two stories for the 2010 election: one intended to primarily curate response and reaction of a more personal type, and one designed more to follow output from campaigns, news outlets, politics aficionados, etc.

Reaction this time was even bigger, though traffic was about the same as for the Dome Fire in Boulder.

Purpose and Promotion

It was my hope that taking a slice or cross-section from the night’s social interactions online would freeze the speed with which thoughts and information travel through social networks and provide a window in for people who don’t otherwise participate.

I think we could’ve done a better job promoting the stories, but how was a big question we couldn’t answer yet. What about the social sphere is the to attract those on the outside?

Storify, like many additions and permutations to our online communities, is fascinating and useful from the outset to those who already understand the concepts and methods. The difficulty lies in understanding how (and why) these things are interesting or useful to everyone else, and then presenting them usefully to your readers.

I would appreciate ideas anyone has in the comments below.

Read my entry listing lessons learned, guidelines, and suggestions about Storify for more.

Categories: Social Journalism
  • http://www.facebook.com/susanna.speier Susanna Speier

    Perhaps the readers were too removed from Storification process for it to make sense to them. Its often difficult to read interactions between people you don’t know without getting confused. Just easy to lose that who said what thread. I’ve only done three of these but found recreating a single person narration has been my most fluid experiment, so far. (He wrote a rough version of the narration and then I restructured, in his voice, to go with the imported images. bitly.com/f2R7Kz Was more like storyboarding than reporting, tho.

  • http://twitter.com/schneidan Daniel Schneider

    It’s true, thread is easy to lose. My goal during the #Boulderfire was primarily to aggregate things that were both relevant and credible, screening the chaff and filtering the numerous retweets, as well as bringing in photos and non-Twitter content, although Twitter was a big winner there.nnAt this point, I would add to this post by mentioning that the text we write ourselves is far more crucial than I initially realized. You can use it to help show readers that flow of conversation that they might lose without a guide.nnSingle-person narratives, or small-group discussions definitely seem to shine on the Storify platform. Yours, in particular, shows how we can get inventive with a relatively simple story. It could be coded up on a webpage easily in similar fashion, but by using Storify you can quickly pull content from multiple sources with links back, attribution; it helps preserve not only the moment, but complete transparency in your reporting.nnAs much as the removal from the situation (although, since the Hayman fire, the Front Range is united in its understanding of and sympathy to fires and their victims) played a part, I feel like “social media” as a concept beyond “Facebook” or “Tumblr” also hadn’t really taken hold. It was a buzzword, and still is, but more people still need an explanation of the term that don’t, it seems like. We’re not far from a place where we can say it and people will understand what it means (realtime, instant, personal, diverse, powerful, etc) without having to think — and then the real power of it all will begin to show the flames today’s sparks are igniting.nnThat sounded cheesy. But that’s okay, I meant it. Trying to think in terms of “Epic!” for a photo challenge.nnThanks!