Category Archives: Digital Storytelling

Updated: Build a Photo Slideshow on Flickr

One of my favorite iPad apps is Flickr Studio [iPad – $4.99]. I bought it originally to upload photos to Flickr while traveling, but have found it is also a delightful way to browse Flickr’s fabulous collections. And, when the iPad is on a stand, it can beautifully display a Flickr slideshow.  When I tried it out, I noticed that the app picks up the title of each photo when presenting the image.

. . . Hmmmm . . .

Like most of us, I’m in a hurry to get my latest photos safely tucked away on Flickr, often only providing the most basic information for those photos before I upload them. It’s important to insure that the details get added to those photos before my memory gets the best of me. (In my case that means do it now!) Fortunately, Flickr has created impressive apps for just about every mobile device which includes tools for organizing photos and performing batch edits. The apps are free and I highly recommend using them. However, they do not include any sort of slideshow capability. Right now, only Flickr Studio can build and display a slideshow of Flickr photos on the iPad.

Let’s take a look.

Flickr Studio editing

Batch editing in Flickr Studio

This first example shows you the batch editing capabilities in Flickr Studio. The information entered into this form will be attached to each of the photos you see in the grayed-out background. This can be done either as part of the upload process or at a later time.

Adding tags to a batch of photos in Flickr Studio.

Adding tags to a batch of photos in Flickr Studio.

In this example, I’ve selected a group of photos so I can add tags to them. From this screen I can also add them to sets (albums) or groups and edit who has viewing access to these photos.

Editing metadata in Flickr Studio.

Adding metadata to individual photos.

In this example, I’ve tapped the Batch button at the top of the screen to display this metadata panel where I can add titles and descriptions along with other metadata.

Although I can use the batch editing tools to add titles and descriptions, I prefer to do this individually when I’m doing a slideshow. Since many of the apps and devices used to display theses photos will include at least the title and often the description, this gives me an opportunity to tell the story of the photos.

Slideshow on Flickr

Viewing the set as a slideshow in Flickr Studio

Here’s what the basic Flickr set slideshow looks like on your iPad. The info panel can be turned on or off by the person viewing the slideshow.

Flickr Studio Slideshow

Viewing a set slideshow in Flickr Studio

And this is the Flickr Studio slideshow. I can adjust timing, photo size and effects used in the show by tapping the image to display the menu.

Your iPad isn’t the only place you can present a Flickr slideshow. Your photos are even more impressive when displayed on a big screen. Thanks to devices like the Roku box, Apple TV and the growing number of Internet-connected televisions, you can display your Flickr photos on your high-definition, big screen tv. And, they are drop-dead gorgeous!

You will need to experiment with your app/device to see how it works with Flickr. For example, my Roku box (an older model) allows me to play sets – and in the order I’ve arranged the photos – but doesn’t display information when on automatic play. I switch over to manual and it all pops up.

Once you’ve mastered the art of the slideshow, you can create photo sets just to tell stories. These can become fascinating exhibits at family or class reunions. I like to set up slideshows on the tv for family functions. And, I can always send a research cousin the link to a specific set/show at Flickr to share old family photos and the stories behind them.

Creating a Flickr slideshow not only builds an entertaining look at your family history, latest travels or a special place, it insures your photos are documented properly. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Here are some of the Internet-connected devices that support Flickr:

Meet Ulysses

I spent a delightful day yesterday getting acquainted with Ulysses, a new-to-me writing platform for Mac – and now iPad too. Those of you familiar with Scrivener will find Ulysses quite familiar but with a much shorter learning curve. The biggest visible difference is that Ulysses uses Markdown (they call it markup) for formatting text.

When you first open Ulysses, you are presented with a finished writing project – the user guide. It walks you through everything you need to know about the app. It took about 30 minutes to work through the guide and my first trial export – first to PDF, then to ePub – just blew my mind. It’s drop-dead easy and the results are quite stunning. Ulysses uses style templates and there’s a growing number of them available at their site. It’s quite possible to build my own style, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

Ulysses for Mac

Ulysses for Mac work area

Here you are looking at the Ulysses work area on the Mac. The panel on the far left is the sidebar. It contains groups and filters. Groups are used to organize and arrange content elements much like the folders in Scrivener. Filters are more like smart folders where content is collected based on a search. For example, I could tag content elements as “needs work” and have a filter set up to keep me updated on what I still need to do. The center panel contains what they call Sheets – text items – contained in the selected group or filter. Select a sheet and it’s content appears in the editor panel. There’s a fourth panel, called attachments, where I can stash notes, tags, and images related to this sheet.

Like Scrivener, groups are arranged in an outline format and both groups and sheets can all be rearranged just by dragging them to their new location.

Ulysses for iPad

Ulysses on the iPad

The iPad view above shows that it’s not always convenient to have every panel open at once. Ulysses makes it easy to just display the elements you need at any given time. On the iPad, it’s as simple as swiping left or right.

Users have the option to store their project content on their local drive or in iCloud. If you are using both the desktop and the iPad apps, using iCloud makes it easy to move between the two. As long as you have Internet access, your project is within easy reach.

If you aren’t familiar with Markdown, it may take a while to get comfortable with the markup schema Ulysses uses for formatting text. It uses simple characters like hashtags and asterisks to define formatting options like italic and bold text as well as headings. Both versions of Ulysses have a cheat sheet included in the user guide and the iPad version has a toolbar built into the on-screen keyboard. When using a Bluetooth keyboard, that toolbar is at the bottom of the screen.

The formatting toolbar on the iPad's keyboard.

The formatting toolbar on the iPad’s keyboard.

Yes, there’s still much to learn, but in less than one day I was quite comfortable with the app’s basic operation. I will need to develop workflows and define how I will deal with front matter and other repetitive content, but right now Ulysses’ ease of use, amazing export function and style choices along with an impressive mobile app make it a lot more attractive than Scrivener.

Ulysses for Mac is available in the App Store for $44.99. A free trial can be downloaded at the Ulysses site. Ulysses for iPad was just released this week and is $19.99. The iPad edition and a nice bluetooth keyboard could be all you need to write your own masterpiece.

Yearbook Journaling

Do you journal your memories? I do. Often they are just quick “snapshots” – like cleaning fish for a neighborhood fish fry or getting the car stuck in the sand at the beach. Sometimes they are actual snapshots – scanned copies of old family photos along with a description. Sometimes they are longer entries about special places that no longer exist.

Recently I was looking for a photo of one of those special places – McCartney’s Drug Store. It was a favorite hangout after church or the movies when we were kids. I decided to look in the advertising section of my high school yearbooks. Not only did I find an interior shot of McCartney’s, I was delighted to find an ad for the Straw Market – a shop my mother owned.

Journaling from a yearbook

This business was a part of our lives for more than a decade. We all worked there and our lives revolved around the store. This one advertisement has brought back a number of memories that will soon become even more journal entries. Now, imagine what journal entries the rest of the yearbook will inspire!



Updated: Capture Your World in Your Journal

When I hear someone rant about how email is destroying the personal letter or the disappearance of cursive handwriting in the digital age, I just smile. Thanks to technology – and particularly the app phone with its still/video camera – we’ll leave behind a rich view of our world and our place in it. I love playing with my camera along with an outrageous number of apps for editing and manipulating the photos I take. And, because I no longer have to buy film or pay to develop my photos, there’s no need to wait for the “perfect” shot to take a picture. The same is true for video.

sample journal entry

The specials board at our favorite diner.

I don’t know how many times I’ve wished I had a photo of the soda fountain at McCartney’s Drug Store or the lobby of the Matanzas Theatre during a Saturday afternoon matinee. These and many other places that were part of our day-to-day lives are no longer there, but because they weren’t “special” we never took photographs of them. Today, thanks to my iPhone’s camera and the Day One journal app [Mac – $9.99, iOS – $4.99], I’m not only capturing photos of our favorite places, the camera and Day One automatically add details like date, location and weather for me. No, I’m not going to tap out a description during dinner. That can wait until I’m back home and have time to add details.

So now I have some delightful views of my world captured in my journal thanks to my phone’s camera and Day One. They include a number of not-so-momentous occasions like dinner on the deck at Aunt Kate’s or the dogs at the front window supervising road work along our street. I’d like to think future generations will enjoy this look at our world, but even if they don’t, I will.

Note to Android users . . . check out the Day Journal app [Android – free]. It’s got many of the same features as Day One.

Scrivener Classes

Gwen Hernandez is a romance novelist. She is also a Scrivener expert and the author of Scrivener for Dummies. She just announced some upcoming online classes:

  • Scrivener I: The Basics and Beyond (Mac & Windows), September 8-24
  • Scrivener II: Intermediate and Advanced Concepts (Mac & Windows), October 14-30
  • Scrivener Master Course: Compile (Mac & Windows), December 8-17

The first two classes will cost $25 each with the compile class costing $20. Registration is open now for the first two courses. You’ll find details at Gwen’s Scrivener Training page.

Build a virtual family history center

My Moultrie Creek blog is my scrapbook of family and local history. Here’s where I post interesting photos, stories, multimedia presentations and other bits and pieces about my family and this wonderful place we call home – which just happens to be our nation’s oldest city*.

Mission video at Moultrie Creek

Mission video at Moultrie Creek blog

Because it’s a blog I can pull in all kinds of content in all sorts of formats. It doesn’t matter what kind of digital storytelling project I create, they can all be showcased here. Often a post is nothing more than a photo with a caption. Others are embedded content like the Mission tour shown in this example. I save my photo documentaries as movies which can be embedded from my Vimeo account. PDF documents can be saved on Scribd and also embedded on the blog site. It’s an eclectic mix and that suits me just fine. Add a couple of categories and tags for each post and WordPress carries most of the organizational load for me.

Why embed much of the content? Two reasons. First, these movies, photographs and slideshows are not taking up space on the blog site (especially important if you’re using a hosted blog with limited free space allowance). Second, these media platforms also serve as off-site archives/backup for my personal archive and the projects I create with them. I have content spread out across photo-sharing, video-sharing, slide-sharing and document-sharing platforms, but the blog is the one central spot where it all comes together.

There’s loads of content from other sites too. I have no problem including photos from the Florida Memory archives – with proper credit and links of course. Should I discover a cousin who’s blogging, I’d be delighted to include posts that point to her stories. One very nice benefit of this idea is that the more you link to other sites (and, hopefully, they link to you) the more attention you all get from the search engines. That could lead to finding and connecting with even more cousins.

Chances are good your family history center will look and act nothing like mine. That’s as it should be. Fortunately, blogs are flexible enough to suit just about any style so we can each create our family’s story in our own way. Ain’t technology great?

*The politically correct description is “oldest continuously-occupied European settlement in the contiguous 48 states”.

Day One As Art Journal?


I have been having a lot of fun playing with the growing number of photo-manipulation apps available on the iPad and was looking for an easy way to keep track of the apps and settings that were used to create this effect or that look. Day One is a great solution. Using the iOS app I can quickly pull in a finished image from the Photo Library and add notes describing the steps and apps used to create it.

By adding tags to the entry, I can use them later to quickly find specific images. And, those tags are also useful should I ever want to export/print a portfolio.

Photo art isn’t the only kind of art I can capture in my Day One journal. I have several drawing and painting apps on my iPad and the images created using them can also be added too.

But that’s not all! Now that Day One’s publishing feature will also publish the entry to Tumblr, I can post selected pieces to my Tumblr blog. See for yourself.


On the spot blogging

As family historians, it’s our job to insure that our current history is captured for future generations as well as protecting and preserving the history of earlier generations. In today’s fast-paced world, that can be a challenge. Fortunately there are a number of easy-to-use and reasonably-priced tools that can help. The first is a camera phone – preferably a smart phone that supports apps, but even a basic camera phone with the ability to email photos will work. Next is a platform to send those photos to so they can be preserved and shared with others.

Most blog platforms support mobile blogging in one form or another. While it is possible to post to WordPress and Blogger from a mobile device, it isn’t always a simple process. However, there are two platforms – Posthaven and Tumblr – that can make mobile blogging so easy that even the most technically-challenged member of the family can do it. You may be asking why you should use one of these platforms to share news and photos instead of Facebook? The answer is privacy and control. You have more control over your content on a blog platform than you do on Facebook. You also have more privacy with a blog than on a social network. You wouldn’t want to post vacation pictures on Facebook because you’re announcing to the world that your home is empty and just waiting to be robbed. With a blog, you can restrict access with a password. And, if you should decide to move your collected archive to another platform sometime in the future, it will be much easier to move blog content than Facebook updates. So, let’s take a look at these mobile-friendly blogs . . .

Sample Tumblr

Sample Tumblr

Tumblr fits somewhere between Twitter and a full-blown blog platform. You could think of it as Twitter without the 140 character restriction. Your updates can be text, photos, music, links, videos and even recorded voice messages. You can post updates by email, telephone (voice messages) or using the Tumblr app [Android & iOS – free]. The app not only helps you post, it is also serves as a reader to follow other Tumblrs.

Tumblr is free to use and has a huge collection of themes – both free and premium – giving you plenty of opportunities to find the perfect one for your purpose. And, you can make a Tumblr blog private by adding a password. In addition to using the apps to keep up with Tumblr blogs, public Tumblr blogs also have RSS feeds for content distribution.

Tumblr was recently purchased by Yahoo and is well-maintained. Yahoo has added some new features – like the ability to “dress up” your blog’s mobile feed. If you reach a point where you want to move your Tumblr content to WordPress, you can perform an import directly from WordPress’s Tools > Import page.

Sample Posthaven blog

Sample Posthaven blog

Although Tumblr gets more attention, I think Posthaven may be the better choice for most family sites. There are two reasons for this. First, Posthaven uses email as their default distribution system. In my family, eyes start glazing over when you talk about news readers and RSS feeds. Most will tell me they are “way to busy” to be bothered checking a web site on a regular basis, yet every one of them is delighted to find a new photo or story show up in their inbox. Second, Posthaven offers both a password system and a membership system for managing private sites.  Since remembering a password is also an impossible task for many of my relations, it’s much easier for me to use the membership system – listing each authorized person by their email address. It also authorizes them to post content to the site – by email. Surprisingly, most of them have been able to master the task of using their mobile phone to take a photo and email it to someone so they have been quite good at posting pictures.

Posthaven is still a work in progress. It is fully functional as a blog site, but does not yet have much in the way of design. Members can choose to receive distributed content by email or RSS feed. Like Tumblr, Posthaven supports text, photos, videos and even documents in your email submission. It will embed the media in the resulting post and forward it on to all the email subscribers in your member list. In addition, you can set your Posthaven blog to autopost submitted content to a number of social networking services. So, one email can send a photo or video to the family’s Posthaven blog AND to Facebook AND to Twitter AND to every individual subscriber. It doesn’t get much better than this. Posthaven will cost you $5.00 a month, but that includes up to 10 blogs per account. Each blog can have a different set of contributors and subscribers.

By taking advantage of these lightweight blog platforms, you can share your family stories with them and encourage them to share their photos, videos and news. In the process, you all are building a family news service which can also provide future generations with a look into daily life as well as special moments of our current generations. Don’t just stop with photos and videos either. Encourage members of the group to share their favorite recipes, pass on book recommendations and other “everyday” things. All the group members will enjoy these tidbits and you will be building a very rich history of today’s family in the process.

If you’d like to learn more about Posthaven, download a copy of my Posthaven Primer. It’s free!

Thoughts on Developing a Publishing Platform

Although it will always be a work in progress, this Barkers of Kincaid Mountain project does have a plan. It’s part of a publishing platform that has evolved over the years. First I was blogging individual stories – something I continue to do. Then, as the number of stories grew, I began pulling them together as published projects – some print, but most of them digital. During that same period, I’ve moved from Windows to Mac computers and jumped on the iPad bandwagon. I’ve found some amazing applications that have made writing, digitizing, photo-editing and design more fun than effort. Fortunately, most of my family have also gone mobile and all have easy access to some kind of tablet. Which is perfect now that I’ve discovered the joys of digital storytelling and publishing.

Over time I have created a publishing platform that supports my working style. It supports my publishing goals and fits nicely into the way I work. It took time to master some of the software and there are always new apps to check out, but I’m quite comfortable with it and enjoy the progress I’m seeing with my projects.

I’m using Scrivener to manage the writing effort and the Keynote presentation app for layout. I have my Scrivener projects set up by family group and each project serves as both a writing platform and story archive for that group. The collected stories in a Scrivener family project have the potential to be used in a number of different publishing projects. Keynote provides a broad range of layout capabilities and offers a lot of flexibility. I have the option to give each page its own unique look or use a template that will keep the style consistent throughout the publication. Using Keynote, I can create a book, photo album, multimedia scrapbook or even a video documentary. The one other tool I need is a photo editor. I use Pixelmator.

My favorite format is a story collection – a sort of story scrapbook. These story collections are built one story at a time as my research and writing effort allows. Because each story is laid out as one or more slides in Keynote, it’s easy to position new stories at the appropriate point within the collection’s timeline when they are ready. The result is a scrapbook where text and photos getting the design priority. Although I do include design elements in my layout, they aren’t the centerpiece of the design. My style is more minimalistic than most scrapbook layouts.

Whille I do use some purchased graphic elements in my layouts, many designers’ terms of use seriously limit the types of projects I can create. I’ve found several designers – like Catherine Haugland at Eclectic Anthology –  with liberal terms and I now limit my purchases to them. I’m also finding that it isn’t that difficult to turn my personal archives into one-of-a-kind digital ephemera which add even more value to the stories I’m creating.

Most of my publishing platforms are digital but I don’t rule out a print project. Digital offers many benefits like color at no extra charge, functional hyperlinks and the ability to update and redistribute a project at any time. Since family history is a never-ending story, there will be many updates.

Have you considered a publishing platform for your family history? If so, I’d love to hear what works for you.