StoryCorps app helps preserve family stories for posterity
Unfortunately, it doesn't help enough. By not offering integrated recording tools, it kills the chance for spontaneous interviews.
StoryCorps is a terrific nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, sharing, and preserving stories told by friends and family members. If you listen to NPR's Morning Edition, you've almost certainly heard some clips.
The StoryCorps app for iPhone lets you listen to some of these stories, then learn how to record and share interviews of your own. Unfortunately, the app falls short in one key area: it can't actually record.
The Stories tab is pretty straightforward: scroll through the list of available stories, tap one that sounds interesting, then listen to the streaming audio. If you like it, you can tap Share to disseminate a link via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter.
I'm not sure why, but most of these stories are just abbreviated clips, usually no more than 2 to 3 minutes. It's the same on the StoryCorps site, whatever the reason.
The How To tab offers a four-step tutorial on creating a story of your own: selecting a partner, creating a question list, choosing recording equipment and location, and preserving and sharing the story.
Next, the Questions tab lets you build a list of great interview questions from a roster of about 10 categories (Friends, Growing Up, Working, etc.). Once you've finished your list, you can e-mail it to yourself.
Finally, there's the Interview tab, which is where the app should allow you to record right on your iPhone using the list of questions you just created. Alas, it merely tells you to switch to the built-in Voice Memos app or developer Bottle Rocket's $1.99 Voxie Pro Recorder (which has lots more features).
Either way, there's absolutely no integration with StoryCorps. Whatever app you use to record your interview, you won't have access to your list of questions (unless you've printed it beforehand). So much for spontaneous interviews with friends and relatives. (OS 4's multitasking will no doubt help with this, but it's still not the ideal solution.)
What's more, any interviews you do record on your iPhone can't be added to the StoryCorps archive. For that you have to visit a StoryCorps recording studio or rent a StoryKit. I understand that the organization wants top-quality audio for its archives, but why not have a section for "amateur" recordings or the like?
In any case, as much as I love the idea of the StoryCorps, the app really misses the mark by not offering a built-in recording option. On the other hand, it's a freebie, so I can't complain too much.