Lessons learned using Storify to cover news

This story is a companion piece to my entry about using Storify the first times.

Some of the guidelines I came up with based on my experiences with Storify, answering questions, making up answers to those I asked but couldn’t find answers to, and generally messing around. These are written to apply primarily to serious news reporting efforts, and some are meant to appeal to the less-technically-savvy.

Technical details for ongoing Storify stories

  • Log in to Storify.com and do a couple quick updates, then hit “Save.” Save often!
  • Keep the content variety as high as you can make it -– alternate photos or video between blocks of tweets and Facebook status updates to prevent the story from becoming monotonous.
  • Don’t include links to things likely to be dead (i.e.: live streams, etc.) — stick to things more likely to have a long lifetime online.
  • Experiment with the search functions to find what works best for you (some things work better than other at this stage).
  • Be careful with tweets including links to Twitpic photos –- if you add one, refresh the live page in Internet Explorer to make sure the picture displays properly. Some photos don’t seem to work right in IE, and Twitpic links seem to go dead fairly soon in some cases, as well.
  • Occasionally performance issues on the Storify page can be relieved by doing a forced refresh of the page (CTRL+F5). Once a story gets up to around 100 items it can be very difficult to keep working with, and is unlikely to have readers make it anywhere near the bottom.

Ethical details for choosing story items

  • Don’t include tweets with personally identifying information (addresses, phone numbers, etc.). Exceptions: Official channels, i.e.: Emergency Management offices, Police departments, etc.
  • Add descriptive text between time periods, types of content, or other logical divisions.
  • Actively curate until a story is over.
  • Do not editorialize.
  • Text is best to make logical separation, i.e.: between episodes of an ongoing event, when something major changes, etc.
  • Text can also be used to add description or fill in gaps.

When creating a new story

  • Start with an organizational account’s tweet, or link to the main website – this will let you pick up recognizable art for the header section. Beware that sometimes using a larger image, like a Flickr photo, can throw off the alignment on the page in some browsers, on some sites.
  • Have a plan for your story — are you going to arrange thing chronologically, into sections by topic, by medium, something else?

Auto-tweet blasts

  • Utilize auto-tweet function for people you mention.
  • Storify auto-tweet function
    Storify auto-tweet function allows you to send a blast to everyone mentioned in your story.
  • Do not use a hashtag in your blast — this will avoid clogging hashtag searches with less-than-relevant self-promotion.
  • Don’t send your blasts in the middle of the night before leaving the newsroom – no one will see your tweets.
  • Best practice is to still do blasts in batches; during an ongoing news event the ‘Twittersphere’ will be swirling with retweets of almost anything, including these notifications. If done in large batches, many people who would RT may see others in their stream also getting mentions and decide not to RT, reducing the RT clutter.
  • The tweet-limit is 100 tweets per hour, so trying to include more than 100 participants will lock you out of tweeting for an hour, and will miss some of your target audience.
  • Storify keeps track of who has been notified previously and should avoid doubling-up.
  • Some RTs are to be expected and encouraged.
  • Answer questions professionally via @replies without hashtags.

Observations about bugs and limitations

  • Observation: The Search widget on Storify.com attempts to track down the page as you scroll through your story to place things where you want them, but sometimes it gets stuck. There is a limit to how far down the widget will follow the page under any circumstances.
  • Suggestion: It would be nice if the Save button, or a copy of it, were either pinned to the side all the time like the current Feedback tab, or were attached to the Search widget that slides down the page.
  • Suggestion: The ability to assign multiple Twitter accounts the power to curate the same story (According to Storify’s Burt Herman, this is a much-requested feature).
  • Suggestion: The ability to “Ignore” people you don’t want to include in an auto-tweet blast, ever.
  • Suggestion: “Edit” links could be a bit more prominent, but that’s nit-picking.
  • Suggestion: Is it possible to increase the granularity of search by adding time/date, and possibly even location, to Flickr or YouTube searches?
  • Suggestion: Find tweets by their ID (I believe this is already in the roadmap).