Youtellyou: Unlocking the power of photo-stories

One of the most stirring things I’ve seen on the Internet in a while (besides this) was a photo-story of a young Army recruit in Colorado.  A photographer followed him from enlistment at the age of 17, to basic training, to combat in Iraq, and a tearful homecoming.  Something about the medium resonated far more than mere video.  It was compelling, heart-wrenching, and inspiring.  I think it’s because in our instant-gratification techno-world, we often times simply don’t have the time to appreciate nuance, texture, and context, particularly across a narrative arc (I blame Google.)  The medium of photo-sharing, at its essence, is conducive for deeper more rewarding immersion.

Bottom line: I gained an appreciation for such photo-stories, in that I, rather than a director, controlled the tempo of the experience, and like a good drive down Rt. 1, had the ability to proverbially pull-over to the side of the road and check out the view.  This photo-story – and the question, “That was cool, why aren’t there more photo-stories out there? – immediately popped into my mind the minute I checked out YouTellYou, a wonderful site that streamlines and expands the photo-story creation and viewing process.

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In short, YouTellYou is a crowd-sourced photo-story magazine. Anyone can create and publish photo-stories in minutes linking to his/her Flickr, Facebook, or Smugmug account or uploading photos from a PC or a camera. Stories can also be published from a mobile phone via email.  The stories are presented in an online magazine, according to number of views, ranking, category, publishing date.  Let it be known that YouTellYou is not just another photo hosting service.  Photos don’t sit there in a vacuum; rather, the emphasis is on creating and sharing stories via pictures.   Of course, the stories you wish to create are up to you: travel diaries, family or sports events, vision quests, etc.

So I signed up. YouTellYou conveniently lets you voluntarily enter your Flickr or Smugmug nickname (I figured that’d come in handy down the road.)  Upon signing up I was informed that I had no stories…yet.  So I clicked on the New Story link, where I entered the date and time, the title of my story, a summary, location, category (e.g. music, family), and tags.  I entered some information about the fine Italian dinner I’m about to have, and upon hitting save, learned that “A Fine Italian Dinner” (my story name) was story #767 in their library.  Next it was time to enter pictures.  Which did not exist yet.  What was cool was that each story is comprised of smaller sections.  I figured the first section could be, say, about my first glass of wine (specifically, Arbor Mist.)  I chose the layout the photo and was prompted to upload the photo, by accessing my photo library, which pulls pix from my computer, Facebook, Flickr, or Smugmug.  I uploaded a dummy photo from my computer, and then entered text to the left.  And there you have it.  I could also manage My Stories from a dashboard-like page called – brace yourselves – “My Stories.”  It was there I could view the story in its final form, delete it, or make edits.

Naturally the other neat part about the site is, as a user, the ability to browse other stories.  Due to my former and sordid past as an office guy, I couldn’t resist the urge to check out “30 Years Working at NTI,” a photo-montage of Leonie Hall’s last day at work.  What I liked most about it was the commentary provided by each picture and the fact that the flow was horizontal (up/down) not vertical (left/right), unlike other sites.  There’s a reason by newspapers are comprised of columns that flow horizontally, right?  It’s more natural to read it that way.  So it was cool.  And you, as a user, could also add comments.

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Ever, say, stare at a big apartment building in New York and look into the windows (legally – no funny business; just, y’know, checking it out)?  In one window you may see a man making dinner.  In another a couple is arguing.  In another a cat is sitting on the fire escape.  Each has a story.  Now, were you to try to take a closer look – say, with a high-powered telescope strategically propped in some bushes across the street – you’d be rightfully hauled away.  So spare yourself the embarrassment of a ragtag court-appointed defense attorney and check out YouTellYou, which enables you to peek through the proverbial blinds and escape into peoples’ worlds at your own pace and at the time and terms of your choosing.