Today I interviewed my mom and my dad about some of their life experiences using the free Storycorps iPhone app. Our son used the app last fall during his Boy Scout Eagle Project, which involved interviewing local senior citizens about their lives. Alex didn’t have any problems with the app for the interviews he and his fellow Scouts conducted, but I had lots of problems today with the uploaded audio not playing on the Storycorps website after I uploaded them from my iPhone. In this post, I’ll recount some of my lessons learned troubleshooting and getting these audio recordings to work. I’ll also discuss how I’ve cross-posted these audio recordings several places to help insure their preservation as part of our family’s digital legacy.

I created a new page on our family learning blog, “Learning Signs,” for “Family Oral History.” In addition to linking both of today’s interviews to their respective pages on the website (linked from my profile page) I also linked cross-posted versions of these audio MP3 files from the Internet Archive and Amazon S3. I actually have 135 uploads to date on the Internet Archive, because “early” in my podcasting career I cross-posted many of my podcasts there. It’s free to post media files to the Internet Archive. Amazon changes very small fees for files downloaded from its S3 service, making it a cost-effective place to post podcasts, but if you stop paying your monthly bill to them the files go offline. The Internet Archive promises to preserve files uploaded to it forever, for free. By uploading these files three places, I’m hedging my bets in the hope that these files will remain preserved for posterity.

While the Storycorps iPhone app can work great and without problems, it also can be glitchy. Tonight both of the audio files I recorded played fine on my iPhone, but even after waiting four hours, never played online. The official Storycorps support website cautions that it can take up to an hour for some uploaded audio files to play correctly on the site, but also warns that some uploads can fail entirely and require users to transfer the audio from their iPhone to a laptop or desktop computer (using iTunes) and then manually upload the file in a web browser to Here are some of the key things I learned doing this tonight:

  1. It’s possible to entirely delete a recording you make and publish to from either the iPhone used to make the recording, or from a web browser after logging in to Users can also edit uploaded files using a web browser. This includes replacing the audio file with a new one, changing the title, description, tags, etc.
  2. Be sure to make a backup copy locally on your computer before deleting a recording made with the Storycorps app. iTunes would not work to transfer the audio file for me, I had to use the PhoneView app which I blogged about earlier this week.
  3. The Storycorps iPhone app records audio interviews in WAV format, which results in large file sizes. I used iTunes on my laptop to convert those WAV files to MP3 format, and chose to create 64 kbps versions. These were approximately one-tenth the size of the original files, and uploaded much faster. I didn’t find guidance on the specific encoding settings recommended by Storycorps. These are the settings I used which worked:
  4. Be patient if your uploaded audio file doesn’t play immediately on If you’ve waited a few hours and the file still doesn’t play, however, you probably need to try something different to get the file to play. Re-encoding the file with different settings in iTunes and re-uploading the file to eventually worked for me. It would be helpful if Storycorps published the specific encoding settings they recommend, however, so users don’t have to guess about what might work best.

If you haven’t yet recorded some oral history interviews with members of your family, I strongly encourage you to do so. The Storycorps app offers a good option for recording and sharing. Hopefully the glitches and quirkyness of the app will be resolved with forthcoming updates.

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