As alluded to earlier in the summer, ODM has completed most of its landing pages, which cover the basics of the region, such as land use, economics, and government. We are now looking to produce a new type of page to present relevant information and analysis of complex issues. From my understanding, these pages will be a marriage of academia and journalism with the objective reporting for which ODM is known. We will not break cutting edge news. Nor will we take an advocacy stance on any topic. There are other venues for both. But, data is only as a good as the context it's given. For example, open data on water in the region is fantastic. People that already understand the international and national governance implications can dive into the data. For those of us less familiar with the region or topic, a primer would help to breathe meaning into the data.
With this in mind, the last week I've researched and tested a couple of different tools to present such an analysis. Thanks to my background, I am able to use applications, like Final Cut Pro and Adobe Illustrator, that could produce excellent content. I will use these programs to produce some things focusing on a new social media push in the coming months. However, these are specialized tools that have a steep learning curve. So, I searched for a new tool with five criteria: (1) ease of use, (2) cross-platform access, (3) embeddable presentations, (4) long-form information, and (5) cost effectiveness.
The KnightLab tools, I’ve used for some other outputs are great in all but long-form presentations. Timeline and Storymap are slide based and great at telling a narrative story. In my case, I needed something able to give a lot of information in a visually appealing way.
I started with Racontr. There is a lot of potential in this one, but it is not ready. It fell short in ease of use and seamless presentation. While Racontr has been used to produce amazing presentations, doing so really requires using outside software to make a .psd file for import. Furthermore, the inability to group layers on the website and some unintuitive features of their timeline made the site hard to use.
I briefly explored Klynt, but it is prohibitively costly at this point for the organization. It also seems to require a bit of a learning curve. One day, it may be appropriate for ODM, but not right now.
Finally, I discovered HSTRY as a nice compromise. The basic version trades off customization for ease of use and cost. Its easy-to-make timelines look good and can include a lot of information and even some interactive quizzes. With some creative application, the embedded pages can create a multi-page analysis. It is not perfect though. We cannot embed a link into a photo, only text. The links open in another tab and most of the page has very limited options. HSTRY offers a pro version with custom embeds, which would eliminate many of these complaints.