Global Witness, an NGO focusing on the politics and human consequences of environmental problems and natural resources, has made its digital storytelling tool Longform available as open source software. Longform was specifically developed with the organisation's audience and objectives in mind: it works seamlessly on mobile devices, and supports a text-only modus for people in low-bandwidth regions.
We know we're not the only organisation to face these kinds of problems, data journalist Sam Leon wrote in a blog posting. We want other human rights organisations facing similar challenges to benefit from the investment we have made in the technical development on this project.
Features and development
The storytelling tool comes with five key features:
- Seamless support for mobile devices: In addition to an ever-increasing share of visitors from mobile devices in general, investigations in countries like Cambodia, Myanmar and Honduras result in mobile shares of up to 70 percent from from those countries. This trend towards mobile devices persuaded Global Witness to move away from the PDF format which it previously often used for reports.
- The extensive navigation system makes it easier for readers to jump through the various sections of a longer report, while the interactive footnoting system allows rigorous referencing to external sources.
- Extensive support for social and mobile sharing.
- The software code is available as open source on GitHub.
The development of the Longform software was supported by the MIT Media Lab, the Sundance Institute and NAMAC (now The Alliance). The tool was implemented by the company Torchbox, an experienced Django developer that created the Wagtale CMS.
Most important, of course, is what the stories published using Longform look like. The first report, Cursed Treasure, a photographic journey into Myanmar's famed jade mines and the links to the military and ethnic armed conflict, is now available online.