Finding a Home for Your Story

Whether you’re an experienced storyteller or you’re picking up a microphone for the first time, you may still have the same question, “Where do I post my story after I’ve created it?” In conjunction with our Be Here projects about place-based storytelling, we’ve reviewed a number of free platforms where storytellers can post their content. If you’re unfamiliar with the project, its aim is to democratize cultural content, giving everyone an opportunity to document a place, event, or experience that has significance–historically or even emotionally. We’re helping people record and share stories about American places and traditions that are rooted in experience and accrued knowledge, not just facts and dates.

Based on those project parameters, we researched free, third-party platforms that will host these types of stories. All of the platforms could work well, depending on your content/audience goals. Nonetheless, with our project goals in mind, this is how we ranked the platforms:

  1. Ease of use–Is it techy? Does it require advanced knowledge?
  2. Shareability–Can you share directly to social media?
  3. User base–Are enough people using this tool that your content will be seen?
  4. Searchability–Can you find your content once you’ve post it?
  5. Story type–Are there a variety of stories/content posted?
  6. Geolocation abilities–Can you pin your story to a location?
  7. Accessibility–Are there options for captioning, adding transcripts, etc?
  8. Longevity–Will the platform be around the next couple of years?

Read through the WHY of our ratings. All of these platforms have utility and may be perfect for individual or organizational storytellers, depending on short-term and long-term goals. The highest rating is 5 stars.

SoundCloud (4.5 out of 5 stars)
4.5 out of 5 starsPROs:

  • Easy for first-time users; No tech skills required
  • Can share to most major social platforms (Many social media platforms don’t allow direct upload of audio files)
  • 175 million monthly listeners
  • Allows you to hear the latest posts from people you follow
  • Great searchability for tags
  • Unlimited description field for posting transcriptions of your audio content
  • Allows you to make your content available via Creative Commons licensing
  • Access to stats for free!
  • Allows you to create playlists for various stories
  • Accepts multiple file types, including .mp3, .wav. You can even upload a video file and it will extract the audio
  • Has withstood the test of time in the tech sense
  • Allows for stories about everything!
  • Why pick this option? You want to upload a limited amount of free content and get the maximum amount of exposure for it. Ease of use is paramount to you. You’re interested in quickly retrieving and showing off your content. 

CONs:

  • Audio Only
  • Can only upload 180 minutes of content for free. Pro account starts at $7 per month
  • No geolocation capabilities

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YouTube (4.5 out of 5 stars)
4.5 out of 5 starsPROs:

  • Easy for first-time users; No tech skills required
  • Can share to major social platforms
  • 1 BILLION active users
  • Access to stats for free!
  • Allows you to create playlists for various videos
  • Offers additional videos for users when they play a similar video
  • Works in tandem with Google’s My Maps
  • Ability to translate metadata into multiple languages
  • Allows you to geolocate video location
  • Very robust analytics
  • No limits to number of videos you can upload
  • Has withstood the test of time in the tech sense
  • Allows for stories about everything!
  • Has new geolocation abilities (see article)
  • Why pick this option? You want to upload an unlimited amount of free video content, are interested in access to detailed analytics, and want maximum exposure. Ease of use is paramount to you. You have a vested interested in the accessibility of your stories.

CONs:

  • Video Only
  • Searchability–So many videos that yours can get lost unless the tags are very specific

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Clio App and Website (4.0 out of 5 stars)4 out of 5 starsPROs:

  • Easy to use without advanced knowledge
  • Ability to share stories on multiple platforms
  • Allows for upload of images, audio, video, text
  • Presents geolocated point on embedded Google map
  • Allows user to search for different types of locations and by distance from your current location
  • Can be used to create connected walking or collections tours
  • Content about a location or site can be edited or improved, much like Wikipedia model
  • Includes a citation generator for help with crediting
  • Mobile app available for exploring content on site
  • Why pick this option? You’re telling stories about specific locations or historic sites. You believe in free and open content, and you’d like your content to be reused or used in study. Your content is about a building, natural resource, or historic site as opposed to a story about experiences, perceptions, memories. (Note: Those types of stories may be included as complementary content as it relates to a specific location.)

CONs:

  • Fairly small usage compared to other platforms, but platform is growing with content available in many cities across the U.S.
  • Content must be reviewed by developer before posting
  • Stories more historical in nature–not necessarily about experience

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Internet Archive (3.5 out of 5 stars)3.5 out of 5 stars
PROs:

  • Easy to use without advanced knowledge
  • Share stories on multiple social media platforms
  • Allows for upload of images, audio, video, text
  • Global content and audience
  • Has a special category for “Community Audio”
  • Options for creative commons licensing
  • Items can be favorited or flagged
  • Why pick this option? You’re telling stories about a variety of subject matters and are interested in sharing those broadly in a more traditional “library” environment. You are comfortable with data fields and metadata.)

CONs:

  • Fairly small usage compared to other platforms, but platform is growing with content available on many topics
  • Metadata options are a little overwhelming
  • Content can seemingly become buried in tag options
  • Adding simple cover art or other ancillary content can be complicated
  • Not specifically geo-located

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Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street Website (3.5 out of 5 stars)
3.5 out of 5 starsPROs:

  • Longevity and security–story becomes part of a Smithsonian archive
  • Easy to use and upload–no tech experience necessary
  • Allows for all types of stories, both historical, personal and experiential
  • Allows users to upload text, images, audio, and video–up to 5 items per entry
  • Easy to navigate share function–Easily locate your content after upload
  • Fields for story narratives and transcription inclusion increases accessibility

CONs:

  • Cannot share stories directly onto social media
  • Must upload consent forms for minors if included in stories
  • Doesn’t include robust geolocation feature
  • Website only, no current app in use
  • Limited user base (website has only been live since November 2016)
  • Stories are moderated and must be reviewed by administrator before posting

Note: The Smithsonian partners with MuseWeb on this project. Their website (still growing and improving) offers some beneficial features that others do not at this time–mainly its ties to Smithsonian’s collections and the inclusion of all forms of storytelling.

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Google’s My Maps: Add Your Story to A Map (3 out of 5 stars)
3 out of 5 stars
PROs:

  • Allows you geolocate your story; draw lines; add photos to a map point
  • Google’s usage is ubiquitous. Users are comfortable with the interface
  • Can be shared to Facebook, Twitter, Google +, email
  • As a Google product, it has a higher probability of long-term sustainability
  • Ability to import Google images into pins
  • Since it’s only a link, the story link can be about anything
  • Why pick this option? You want to visually show content on a map. You already have content on YouTube and want to easily connect the two. You want to upload an unlimited amount of free content. You are already tied into everything Google. 

CONs:

  • Not as easy for first-time users. No tech skills required, but platform not entirely intuitive
  • Cannot add audio files to pins–only videos or links to YouTube
  • While everyone uses Google Maps, YOUR pins and YOUR map content doesn’t come up in the general search. The idea here is that you’d create a map to locate your story and then share the link to your map.
  • Not as accessible as other platforms, though description fields are available for annotations

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Wikimedia Commons (3 out of 5 stars)
3 out of 5 stars
PROs: 

  • As a branch of Wikipedia, this platform has staying power
  • Includes options for an infinite amount of metadata
  • If tagged correctly, search function works well
  • Geolocation capabilities
  • Over 30 million files uploaded
  • Easily allows you to make your content available via Creative Commons licensing
  • Feels more like a “traditional” database for adding content
  • Accepts video, images, and audio and allows for unlimited descriptions
  • Stories can be about anything!
  • Why pick this option? You’re already familiar with Wikimedia in all its forms. You believe in free and open content, and you’d like your content to be reused or used in study. You’re interested in posting content for the long haul. 

CONs:

  • More techy than other platforms noted
  • Category tagging is complex
  • Only accepts .wav audio files
  • Isn’t a direct share on social media but does generate shareable links

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Historypin (3 out of 5 stars)3 out of 5 starsPROs:

  • Robust map search function allows you to select pins on the map for viewing
  • Is a very social platform: Allows posting directly into social platforms; Like Pinterest, allows users to repin content; Can favorite content
  • Large user base: 85,730 members are working on 27,844 collections and have made 33,536 comments
  • Platform has been around for a while and seems to have staying power
  • Allows users to create collections
  • Content about a location or site can be edited or improved, much like Wikipedia model

CONs:

  • Not as user friendly as Clio. Though visually stunning, the user interface is a bit confusing
  • This is a more visual platform–making the best use of text and image. If pinning audio or video, you must do so through YouTube. (If pinning audio, YouTube requires you to convert the files to a slideshow.)
  • Because of its focus on the visual, is not as accessible a platform.
  • Stories more historical in nature–not necessarily about experience
  • From their FAQ site: “We only “pin” things that have a specific date and location as this makes things easy to find and more useful for users.”
  • A desktop experience: No mobile app currently in use
  • Keyword or tag function often yields no results

Have a platform you think would meet the needs of #bHereMainSt storytellers? Let us know @museweb on Twitter.

 

Businesses and Culture

When business works with culture, everybody wins.

We believe that when cultural organizations and local businesses work together, amazing things can happen, but too often, each sector operates independently, unaware of the incredible missed opportunities for creating connected communities right in front of them.

One element of our new Be Here: Main Street (#bHereMainSt) partnership with the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program is to encourage GLAMS to reach across the proverbial isle, bringing together community museums and libraries with businesses, from restaurants to hardware stores and gift shops. Why would this be an imperative?

There’s something deeper than the obvious opportunity for potential sponsorship. Small businesses depend on positive word of mouth for sustainability. Small museums often rely on the knowledge of residents to direct people to their facilities. With that in mind, ponder this coffee shop scenario:

A tourist arrives for a bite to eat, has a nice meal, and asks the waitress what she should do in town. The waitress recommends the local museum. In fact, there is a brochure and postcard for the local museum at the cash register that she promptly returns to the tourist. The visitor then walks to the museum and, in turn, chats with museum staff about any local stores that might sell a speciality item. The visitor receives an impassioned endorsement about a local antique shop that might have her desired object.

This scenario plays out organically on main streets and towns across the world, but more often than not, it’s a random series of one-off conversations. What if that collaboration between cultural organizations and local businesses was well crafted? What if the museum offered a coupon for lunch at restaurant A, and restaurant A offered a 10% discount for the museum’s gift shop? What if the same restaurant offered lunchtime lectures from staffers at the museum? What if both the restaurant and the museum were included on a tour of the town? What if, now this is REALLY crazy, the museum actually featured some of the stories of the local business owners? Or, even crazier, if the restaurant’s menu was inspired by the collections at the local museum. We could go on and on . . .

These are all things we’d like to see transpire through the Be Here: Main Street project. But, there has to be a first step, and that initial step is just to make conversations happen. Here are a couple of tips for getting businesses involved with your community project, provided by Julie Heath, Director of Strategy & Partnerships at Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts.

business + culture = successIn order to approach businesses in your community, know the local business landscape:

  • Identify the top 20 employers in your town. These are the businesses that rely on your community as a source of talent, for services for their employees, for word-of-mouth reputation, and for civic buy-in regarding their presence and growth. They likely want to be seen as part of their community.
  • Make a two-column list: One column “B2B” and one column “B2C.” Sort each employer into the appropriate column by asking, “does this company sell its product or service to other companies or to individual people?” If a company sells to companies, its business model is called B2B (business to business). If it sells to individuals, it’s called B2C. It’s important to understand that an employer may have different relationships with its community based on its business model. Your job as a community partner or sponsored prospect/recipient is to determine what type of relationship(s) that company wants to have with its community.

Good to keep in mind:

  • B2B businesses’ products and services are sometimes less obvious to the community member than B2C products and services.
  • B2B businesses sometimes have higher profit margins than B2C businesses.
  • These two factors together can make B2B businesses better sponsorship prospects, provided you can figure out who you should speak with at the company.

Part II of “Business and Culture” is coming next week. Until then follow posts about our project using the hashtag #bHereMainSt.

Creative Content for All

Baltimore streetThe idea behind the new “Be Here: Main Street” project, a partnership with the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program, is that regular people can contribute to the cultural landscape, sharing stories that help give others a sense of time and place. It’s not only an effort to add more diverse voices to our local and national narratives, but also a way of legitimizing the value of non-traditional histories, based on lived experiences and accrued knowledge. Be Here stories offer an authentic glimpse into the history, traditions, and culture of a community.

Accordingly, one of the goals of the project is to empower new content creators to produce their own stories, using free and open platforms. It’s a big ask, given the complexity of various software types and the sticky web of digital copyright laws, but we’re paving a path of least resistance for novice storytellers with a series of tools and solutions to make the process of editing and publishing content a bit less intimidating.

Whether you’re a media-producing pro or an absolute novice, a consolidated list of Creative Commons resources is a must! Here are a few of the best places on the web to find public domain and Creative Commons assets. Have additional go-to stops for CC content? Tweet us @museWeb and tag your post with #bHereMainSt

Creative Commons and Public Domain Resources

Example of how to credit an image.
This is a good example of how to attribute a Flickr CC image. Thrift Store Books,” photo by Kate Geraets. Flickr Creative Commons. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0). You could just include “(CC BY-NC 2.0)” and not spelled out the license; however, I like to make the credit easy to understand. 

To keep the text brief, I’ve included live links to the original source and the license information. If an image link isn’t possible, include the long form of the url. Ask yourself, “Can the viewer find that original resource again?” Finally, if you’ve downloaded the image to your computer or device, be sure to save the image with a name that captures the relevant information for appropriate attribution later.