Stories” are getting into the mainstream lexicon for tech companies. Facebook is certainly pushing the concept in all their communications:
Facebook is inherently telling a story, Deng said. Stories are about remembering the past, helping us understand the present and building an identity of who we are. This is why Facebook exists. It is inherently a storytelling platform.
Oh yeah. Stories.
Your photos [on Flickr] – everyday captures and extraordinary sightings, local scenes and exotic moments – are central to our DNA because they reflect your individual stories.
The idea of narrative in tech has been around for while. Notably ex-Flickr guys like George Oates and Aaron Cope were early thinkers way back in 2008/2009 and I first thought about stories in social products from them. “Stories” have now progressed from academia to current marketing campaigns, and Tumblr Storyboard, Facebook Stories and Twitter’s Stories are literal interpretations (like most marketing ideas).
Stories have basic ingredients:
1) What’s happening: everyone does this now via feeds/streams, and Path in particular is killing it with their network UI.
2) What happened: No one is doing this well. What happens to the stuff you post on Facebook, Twitter, et al? Lots of that stuff is amazing! So much is stored in your likes, your faves, your hearts and your archives. Ever go back to Friendster and read your testimonials? In fact, it’s why I use Foursquare — I like to remember where I’ve been and what I did.
Timehop (a la Photojojo’s Time Capsule) is investigating this space. So is Recollect. Facebook’s Timeline gives some lip service. And Tumblr’s archive view remains one of the most well constructed features for users to go back in time (although Tumblr’s not really set up to be personal stories as much as some other networks).
By and large, the major networks are still focused on the the tiny sliver of the present. It’s expensive and hard to process the past. But there are huge opportunities here.
I think (maybe it’s crazy) that’s there an optimal UX to re-affirm the past. The current reverse chronological feed isn’t it. And funneling it to search sidesteps the serendipity core to every story.
3) What will happen: An interesting aside. How do you capture intent & aspirations? There’s a whole category here for drafts, works in progress, queues, etc… but I have no idea if there can be an interesting product to be built around the idea of the future as a bucket for stories.
How will the “stories” concept evolve? After all, we’ve all been sitting around campfires gesturing at each other and putting dyes on cave walls in some form for thousands of years.
The potential is amazing for a Facebook or a Path with growing datasets to do something besides literal interpretations — and we’re still in the very early phases.
What if timelines can offer users thematic clusters like:
- Natural group dialogues between friends that carry meaningful themes and phrases;
- Events (and their media and their attendance and other contextual info)
- Venues that have personal significance (e.g. a cafe where you have early breakfast meetings during an important period in your life, for instance)
Can you tease patterns out and create narrative arc from the data that we put in the system? Can features be mined from slideshows or event-mapping or something else? Dialogue needs to occur not just between you and your friends, but also you and the platform; otherwise we’re just generating a bunch of data for advertisers.
/late night thoughts, rambling
From our work on dodgeball (an early location-based project), we knew that while check-ins were interesting in the present tense (“Hey, Alex is at Ace Bar!”) they were most interesting when viewed in aggregate, as a history of the places you’ve been and people you’ve overlapped with. The world becomes so much more fun, social, and interesting when you have that context.