What browsers does NarraFirma support?

We have tested NarraFirma primarily with Firefox and (somewhat less) with Chrome and Safari. We have not tested it with Internet Explorer, mainly because so few people are still using it (according to Wikipedia, the percentage of browser users using Internet Explorer as of November 2018 is less than three percent).

If you are using NarraFirma with IE and something doesn’t seem to be working, we suggest you try using NarraFirma with either Firefox or Chrome.

Can I create a multi-page survey in NarraFirma?

No, you can’t. Not being able to group questions into pages in NarraFirma was a design decision. Asking somebody to tell a story (and then reflect on it) is a different category of interaction than asking somebody to answer factual questions, and this leads to different requirements, thus:

  • Individual questions on a factual form usually stand alone. But with a story form, questions often build on previous questions, and certainly on the story itself. So the story form has a need for coherence, or a continuity of context, that most surveys don’t. For example, when you can’t see your story anymore, it’s hard to answer questions about it; it doesn’t feel “present” to you.
  • Because telling a story is more revealing than answering factual questions, people tend to want to evaluate the entire form before they decide to participate. When they can’t see the whole form up front, they seem to tell more distant stories, to be safe. For example, when I plan to use a story form in a group session, I make sure people have a chance to look over the forms before they start sharing any stories, so they can see what they will be asked to reflect on. People need the same transparency on the web.
  • People filling in a story form tend to look back over their form when they’re finished, and sometimes change their answers, or even the story itself, because the questions make them rethink the experience as they go along.
  • When you ask someone to tell you a story, it’s important to avoid having them feel like they are being tested, judged, interrogated, or asked to perform. A typical web survey with separate pages and a progress bar may be familiar, but it tends to make people feel that they are ticking off tasks, not having a conversation. From what I’ve seen, this leads to “just the facts” stories and “am I doing it right” performance over reflection.

All of these things combine to make me want to give people the freedom to move about the entire story form quickly and easily. I know that most web survey forms have “back” buttons, but I’ve also noticed that a lot of people don’t use them. That’s why I decided to make NarraFirma story forms one-page affairs. I’ve seen people react to them like they do paper forms: they scroll down to the bottom and back up again very quickly, evaluating the situation they are in; they tell their story and answer the questions, and at the end they usually scroll back up and down some before they are ready to submit the form. I think this design gives people an experience that feels closer to the negotiations that go on during a conversation where stories are shared.

Of course, not everybody agrees with me about this. Some people think the one-page form doesn’t look as professional. Some think its length turns people away. I think if your story form looks too long, you’ve got too many questions, and/or you haven’t yet found the questions that people want to answer!

However, if you disagree with me on this point, you can collect stories using other surveying software and import them into NarraFirma through a CSV (spreadsheet) file.

I don’t want guidance. Can I hide all of the hand-holding parts of NarraFirma?

No, sorry. We wrote NarraFirma primarily to help people who are just getting started doing PNI projects and need some help working their way through their projects. If you are an experienced researcher or facilitator, you can ignore the guidance in NarraFirma, but you can’t hide it. But if you are experienced, don’t discount the guidance NarraFirma offers out of hand. Taking the time to work through your plans and reflect on what has happened in a project isn’t just for novices. It can help even an experienced professional get new ideas and keep learning.

Can I use NarraFirma as a front end (or back end) for story collection?

Yes. If you want to collect your stories using some other method (like SurveyMonkey or LimeSurvey or some other surveying method), you can import you stories into NarraFirma in CSV files. Look in NarraFirma’s help system for its “Guide to importing data.”

If you want to collect your stories using NarraFirma and export them to some other system (Tableau, R, a spreadsheet), you can export your data (on the “Export stories or story forms” page) in CSV format.

What is the current state of NarraFirma?

As of this writing (January 2019), NarraFirma has been in use for a few good years – not by a million people, but enough to have grown a little.

However, we still suggest that you back up your work every so often by exporting your project to a JSON file (go to Project administration and choose Export). We also strongly suggest that you set up SSL security on any web site that runs NarraFirma (unless you run it locally).

Can I import stories I collected in another way?

Yes, you can import stories from a spreadsheet (CSV) file. To do this, you need to create a story form description (using NarraFirma or with a CSV story form file), which will tell NarraFirma what to find in your data file. This helps NarraFirma support import from any survey taking system you might be using.

What about web security?

We strongly suggest that you set up any web site on which you intend to install NarraFirma (WordPress or Node.js) with SSL (secure sockets). Your hosting provider should be able to help you do that.

How many stories can NarraFirma handle?

Because the stories (and answers to questions) are text only (so far), NarraFirma is able to handle quite a few. We have stress tested it with more than 10,000 stories, and it worked fine, though slowly. With larger numbers of stories you will see slower performance (depending on what sort of computer it is running on). But with typical projects of 100-300 stories, and even several hundred stories, you should not see a problem.