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NMC: 50 Web 2.0 Ways To Tell a Story

Here I get to try and blog my own presentation (?). 50 Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story presentation by Alan Levine at NMC Regional Conference at Tulane.

So this is not a detailed blog coverage- pretty much as I said in the talk, the entire pile of stuff is freely, openly available for use, re-use, lining bird cages at This is the workshop I prepped for workshops done during my October 2007 Australia tour.

[download MP3] 51.2 Mb 1:14:05

The idea for the 50 Ways came at a time early in the summer of 2007 when I was taking notice of new web -based tools like Voice Thread and Slideshare’s Slidecasts that made it easy to create audio narrated slides shows. I knew of flickr based tools for assembling slideshows, and I began to wonder if there was a whole range of these kinds of tools. At around the same time, I watched on TV when Paul Simon was awarded by the Library of Congress the Gershwin award. I’ve always had immense respect for Simon’s range of talent across music genres and his brilliant lyrics, and my mind went almost of course to the toe tapping 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover “Hop on the bus Gus, Make a new plan Stan, Don’t need to be Coy Roy…”

So I had a light bulb go off as I felt I could 50 different Web 2.0 tools to tell multimedia stories. Or maybe there were only 30.. or 60? The criteria were they had to be completely web based tools, free to use, and provide some functionality to mix together images and text, images and sound, sound and text, sound, images, and video, etc to create a multimedia “show” that could be viewed by others on the web.

As this was intended as a workshop, the materials are designed that can also be used standalone. It starts with some suggestions for generating ideas for a story, with some simple writing prompts, or using flickr to find images to stimulate ideas. They are asked to develop a bullet point outline, ideally about 6-10 outline items. A key is encouraging participants to pick something that would be easy to find images to represent the steps in a story.

The next step is using a collection of resources to locate media that can be used copyright free, preferably creative commons.

It while I was still just compiling lists of tools that it struck me to be able to teach and recommend the tools, I’d have to use them myself. So this is where I decided to take a single story and try to recreate it in all 50 tools. Brilliant? Or crazy?

So I resorted to one I had done a few years ago for the 60 Second Story contest- where people were invited to submit a 60 second video story. The original site is gone, but Grand Text Auto has a copy of the prize announcements, where I actually managed to come in 11th place! My story was about my first dog Dominoe, who disappeared while hiking, and eventually returned after I had given her up for lost, and our adventures traveling west. It is very hard to do a 60 second story! So my Dominoe Story is available in video (from YouTube, the original) and the versions done in the 50 tools.

A rather staggering discovery is that the majority of the 50 tools (I think 38) offer what I call the “YouTubed” effect of offering cut and paste embed code, a bit of HTML you can put into your own sites, blogs to embed the video in your own content. So my list has links to versions that are stored on the tool sites, but also links to examples of how they look embedded into wikispace pages.

So in using this project, I had all of the media I needed- I had the 18 images, which I had on my computer and as a flickr set (A fair number of tools can import directly from flickr). I had the script I had used to record the audio of the story, which I posted as a storyboard (the text is easily cut/pasted to the tool sites). I had the audio stored on my web site as an mp3 file. Video took a bit more work- while I had the entire story as a single video, that was not much help in the tools that allow you to mix video clips together. So I found a few slightly relevent clips from the Internet Archive and I recorded my own videos with my laptop camera. The clips are stored as a YouTube playlist, as like the images, a lot fo the tools allow you to use video directly from YouTube.

The bulk of the presentation was walking through the 50 tools, showing examples for each one, and trying to remember in some cases what I had liked/disliked about each one. I cannot even resurrect what I said for these, but there is the audio recording available above.

The audience here seemed very excited and appreciative, and like the series of sessions in Australia, I just had fun doing this.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Thank you for this extraordinary resource. I teach Spanish. The hardest part of any language class is getting the students to take risks in the new(er) language. Research shows (and anyone who is in a classroom knows) that the more you prep and anticipate and practice, the better the outcome. Digital storytelling is yet another way for students to pull together thoughts and ideas prior to being put on the spot to talk with others. They are also great conversation starters all by themselves. And what is glorious is that these tools have come SUCH a long way in terms of flexibility and ease of use. Hooray.

    Bravo! Thank you!

  2. Well … yup 50 ways to do anything IS a crazy concept but you’ve proven the key point that might comfort some that are overwhelmed by so many web 2.0 options out there (see for the staggering list). The fact is there are many ways to achieve your product. Yet people sometimes get stymied by the “have you heard about …. ?” kind of questions. People love to leverage being one step ahead on the latest app that’s out there. Anther fact is that we’ve been doing these kind of multimedia mash-ups FOREVER – how many of you remember the earliest versions of Hypercard … gosh if you were at all talented you could pull off the same thing with Commodore 64’s … even a PET if you could deal with Robot voice. Alan why is everyone so amazed with the ability to make these talking slide shows … is it that “anyone” can do it now, and you can repurpose it across multiple sites / locations / purtposes (i.e. portability) whereas you had to be steeped in geekdome 10 years ago to pull it off?

    What’s all the fuss mate?

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