This week’s edition of DIGITAL Storytelling is full of inspiration and creative ideas for the family history publisher.
This week’s edition of DIGITAL Storytelling is full of inspiration and creative ideas for the family history publisher.
How many favorite places from your childhood no longer exist? Do you have any photos of those places? Can you remember where they were? I have a first-hand account of my great grandparent’s 50th anniversary celebration that is full of great information about who came, what food was served, and even the songs that were sung. It mentions that the event took place at Hense Springs. I’m still trying to find out where Hense Springs is/was.
Because of this and the loss of other places that were part of our family’s history, I’ve taken to journaling photos and descriptions of people and places that are important in our current lives. I use the Day One journaling app [Mac - $9.99 & iOS - $4.99] which makes this easy. When I take a photo of a place with my iPhone and include it in my Day One journal, it adds location and date/time information as part of the journal entry. It only takes a line or two to add why this place is special. Now, when I mention that place in other journal entries, there’s also a reference note about the place that the app’s search feature can easily find.
As for those places that no longer exist . . . Day One’s also a great place to tell the tales related to them. And if I can find a photo, advertisement or news clipping that includes the place, I add it too.
If you’re like me, you have a number of different cloud storage accounts – anything from Dropbox to iCloud (Mac/iOS users) or OneDrive (Windows users) with an assortment of others in between. It’s hard to keep up with them all. Yes, they’re all visible in Finder on my Mac desktop, but the primary reason I have all these cloud accounts is to hold the things I want to access from my portable devices – none of which have a file management system that can “look at clouds from both sides now”. [I know, I just couldn't resist.]
The free iOS Documents app from Readdle keeps all those clouds within easy reach. It handles all the major cloud storage systems like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, SkyDrive, SugarSync and more. You can connect to FTP servers and WebDAV servers too. Download something from the Web? Sure, no problem. Documents not only lets you connect, but you can manage files on these services too – upload, download, delete and rename files and even create folders. Want to move a file from one cloud to another? You can do it in Documents by downloading it to the app then uploading it to the new service.
If that was all it did, Documents would be a pretty amazing tool, but it’s just the beginning. Documents is also an impressive media viewer. You can read PDF documents, ePub books, Office and iWork documents. You can view movies and listen to music. With Documents alone, you can search the text of PDF documents, highlight, strikethru or underline text and bookmark pages. If you also have the PDF Expert 5 app [iPad - $9.99] installed on your iPad, it becomes an add-on to Documents giving you even more markup functionality.
The Open In… feature lets you browse your files using Documents, but then open the selected file in another app. For example, I use Byword on my iPad to work on Scrivener projects when I’m away from my desktop. I can find the file I want to edit using Documents, then open it in Byword for editing. And, Documents is one of your Open In… options for email attachments – and the perfect place to send those attachments since it can read almost anything.
This free app is an impressive tool for both the iPad and iPhone. It will take a bit of effort to learn all its capabilities, but that will be time well-spent as it will reduce the time and frustration of trying to chase after those elusive cloud files.
Keynote, the presentation app for Mac [$19.99] and iOS [$9.99], is also a great platform for building and sharing digital photo albums. Jumsoft, a company that designs themes and graphic elements for all the iWork apps (Keynote, Pages and Numbers), has created some gorgeous themes with that in mind. Their Toolbox for Keynote apps [Mac & iOS- free] are catalogs of their themes and other design elements for use with Keynote. From these apps you can purchase themes, backgrounds and all kinds of graphic elements to enhance any creative project.
Here’s a look at some of the layouts in Jumsoft’s Bulletin Board theme. Building a photo album is as easy as choosing a slide layout, dragging photos onto the image placeholders and making a few adjustments. You can caption photos by adding text boxes right on the photo or you can choose a layout like this one to include more description.
I tend to create my photo albums on the iPad by taking advantage of the iCloud Photo Stream to pick up the photos I’ve taken with my iPhone. Just tap on the plus (+) icon in any image placeholder and you’re taken to the Photos app to select the photo you want to put there. Double-tap the image once it’s placed and you can manipulate it (enlarge it or move it around within the placeholder frame) to suit you. That’s it. Now use the template’s text boxes – or create your own – to add details about the photos and you’re done. Create another slide, choose a layout and continue adding photos until your album is complete.
In my family, we’ve got lots of tablet users – iPads and Kindle Fires – but not too many Keynote users (yet!). Your best bet is to export your photo album to PDF and post it in a shared cloud storage folder. When a family member opens the PDF photo album on their tablet, each slide will fill up the screen beautifully and your photos will be crisp and sharp. If you’re a Scribd user, you can post it there and make it private so only friends and family with the direct link to the document can view it.
Keynote makes great presentations, but it also does a lot of other things – photo albums being one of them. Jumsoft’s Toolbox provides lots of creative ideas along with the supporting themes and graphics to make them happen. What a delightful way to capture your family’s history as it happens!
My Moultrie Journal blog is full of stories about my family and my home town along with photos, news and other goodies I find interesting. Since my home town just happens to be gearing up to celebrate its 450th anniversary next year, there’s lots of interesting stories popping up all over the place – from the local paper to other bloggers and more. I’ve found a way to collect those things and share them from the Journal site. I’m using Tumblr and it’s amazingly quick and easy.
I’ve added the Tumblr widget [from the Tumblr Widget plugin] to the Journal’s sidebar and connected it to my Tumblr blog. If you scroll down a bit you’ll see excerpts from the five most recent posts on my Tumblr – all with links to that site.
First, I built a simple Tumblr blog and installed the bookmarklet on my browser’s bookmarks bar. I set up Tumblr’s queue feature to automatically post two queued posts a day – sometime between 8:00am and 8:00pm. I spend about two hours a week visiting Flickr, the state archives and other interesting Florida history/photo sites to add items to the queue using the bookmarklet. That insures there is enough content to keep the Tumblr fresh. Once the queue’s set for the week, anytime I stumble onto an interesting article, blog post or news item, it gets published immediately.
If you’re wondering what the “queue” is, it’s a great Tumblr feature. Yes, you can schedule posts to go live on a particular day and time, but the queue lets you set up a line – or queue – of posts and stretch out how often you want a new item to appear on your blog. That way you can create a number of posts in one sitting then let Tumblr publish them one at a time using your queue settings.
In this example, you’re looking at the Queue screen for my Tumblr. (Click for larger view.) You’ll only see the Queue item in the sidebar menu when there are posts in the queue – right now there are 10 items. At the top of the list of queued posts you’ll find the queue settings. As you can see, it’s pretty easy to set. Now look at the Publish icons at the bottom of the post. These are used to rearrange posts in the queue. Clicking the up arrow icon on the right will move this post to the top of the queue. Click and drag the crossed arrows icon to move the post to a new place in the queue. The gear icon lets you edit or delete this post.
Here’s my collection workflow. I visit my favorite sites looking for interesting photos, videos, articles or whatever. When I find something interesting, I hit the Tumblr bookmarklet on my bookmark bar.
A pane similar to this one appears over my web page. I can choose the type of post I want, change the title and add a description. Then I’ll click the Advanced tab at the bottom of the pane.
Here I change the Publishing options item to “add to queue”, add tags and make sure I’m posting to the correct Tumblr (only necessary if you have more than one Tumblr) before clicking the Create post button.
Once I’ve collected a number of items, I’ll go to my dashboard to rearrange things and do a bit of editing. Seldom does it take more than a couple of hours to collect enough items to fill the queue up for a week.
Since the support site worked so well for my personal blog, I’m working on a support Tumblr for the Gazette with the focus on personal publishing. It’s taking a bit more effort – mostly as I research the best sites for source material. As my source collection develops, maintaining the blog will become much easier.
By the way, all Tumblr blogs also support RSS feeds to if a reader wants to have my support blog delivered to his news reader, it only takes a couple of seconds to subscribe.
Tumblr is a great way to aggregate news and thanks to the queue feature, I can do it as my schedule allows. I continue to be amazed at the things Tumblr can do.
No, but it’s sure changed how I keep track of my research.
Thanks to Evernote’s updated Web Clipper on my Mac, I am able to add notes and annotate screen captures before adding it to my Family Research notebook. Yes, I only have one notebook for all my family research. I let tags and Evernote’s amazing search features handle the rest. I add tags for surnames, type of record, locations, events and whatever else I think describes this record. The comments section is a great place to include the notes I would normally add to a research log – what I was searching for, what I found and what I didn’t. Did a record generate new questions? That gets added in comments too.
I also download any original records I can. I’ll then drag those files and drop them onto the Evernote icon on my Dock. That operation copies them into the default notebook in my Evernote account. I’ll then take advantage of Evernote’s batch processing to quickly add tags and move them to my Family Research notebook.
Before I leave a search results screen behind, I’ll take a few seconds to capture it and use the annotation tools to point out what was useful and what wasn’t. In this example, I’ve captured the search parameters along with a page of results. I have pointed out which items in this screen were useful and which weren’t and I could easily add any notes that might be useful later.
Evernote automatically date stamps notes as they are created. The web clipper captures the web address of each item you capture. If I’m researching in a library, I’ll turn on location services and it will include that information in each note I create too. I’m getting in the habit of including questions, noting coincidences and other tidbits at the top of web clipped notes as I create them. I also maintain a note for each family group where I add questions, task lists and other useful information. There’s no formal procedure or format involved – just a place to capture questions/ideas when they happen.
How do I get away with this messy arrangement? Because it’s Evernote! When I want to see what I’ve got on a particular person or family, I head for the search box. In a split second, everything I have on the person, family, location, event or record I’m searching is right in front of me.
I’d much rather spend my research time researching and thanks to Evernote I can. The process of capturing, tagging and annotating an item gives me an opportunity to assess the value of each record. With Evernote, everything’s in one place so if a new record creates a need for a quick review of earlier research, that can happen in an instant. I’m really liking this!
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Is this awesome or what? You are looking at my iPhone with the Scanner Pro app by Readdle [iOS - $2.99] sitting on a Fopydo scanning stand [$30.00]. The stand is made of hard plastic and folds up into a lightweight “portfolio” you can easily take with you. The page you see in this example is resting against a tacky strip (enough to keep it there, but not enough to make it hard to remove) making it easy to insure the scanner app captures the entire page. The iPhone is sitting on a metal “shelf” and can slide left or right to adjust for whatever piece you are capturing. The shelf is substantial enough to support the phone, plus it gives me a “steady shot” of the item – something that can be difficult when I’m holding the phone over an object.
I’ve found the stand is great for those oversizes and/or odd shaped items and I’m loving the Scanner Pro app. This little jewel lets me capture and clean up just about anything, then quickly upload it to Evernote, Dropbox or Google Drive in a matter of seconds. It can save the scanned item as a JPG image or a PDF document. And it supports multi-page scans too. Using the stand, my phone with Scanner Pro and a Dropbox folder for saving, my workflow is actually faster than using the flatbed scanner and my desktop. The one down side is the resolution limits of my phone’s camera.
Is this going to replace my flatbed or document scanners? No! However, it will make capturing oversize items much easier and it gives me a mobile option to take when visiting relatives with interesting archives of their own.
One of the really delightful things about ebooks is that they can be easily updated. This is especially useful in two of my favorite categories – family history and technology. One thing that really irritated me about technology books is that I paid a lot of money for a book that was basically obsolete before I got it home. And, when the technology improved, an updated version of the book would be published – just waiting for me to fork out even more money.
The first dent in that little monopoly was made by Safari Books Online – a subscription reading service for (mostly) tech books. For a monthly fee, you had access to a huge library of tech books – with a search engine that could not only find the book you needed, but the chapter and paragraph containing the information you wanted. Even better, my employer was paying for it!
But then I retired.
As a dedicated WordPress fan, I was delighted to discover the guys at Digging Into WordPress and the PDF edition of their book with lifetime updates. For more than two years I’ve been downloading updated versions of the book full of all the latest WordPress goodness.
That was my first good ebook investment, but not the only one. I have the iBooks edition of David Sparks’ Paperless which just released an impressive update to include the latest apps and services. This book was created with iBooks Author so it’s got lots of video clips demonstrating the apps and workflows discussed in the text. It was so good, I bought his Email book too!
Kindle authors also have the ability to update their titles and pass those updates on to their readers. Until recently, that didn’t happen too often, but I’m now finding update notices appearing more frequently. That’s a good sign! If you see the updates banner at the top of your Kindle library screen, just select the Available for Update view to display the titles that have updates. Click the Updates link and Kindle takes care of the rest.
While this discussion has been focused on technology books from a reader’s perspective, it’s also a reminder to the family history author that your publishing efforts don’t have to stop when that book is published. When new research adds to the story, update your original manuscript and follow the update procedures at your publishing service(s). It’s almost as easy for you to upload an update to your book as it is for your readers to download the updated version.
Whether you’re just beginning a publishing project or already published, the ability to update your ebook is an option to incorporate in your overall publishing plan. Your readers will love you for it.