A while ago I received an email from Misha Leybovich asking me to try our Meograph “Four-dimensional storytelling.” I took a look at it but was a but busy with other things so I put it on hold. Many may describe Meograph as another timeline generator but I say NO! Timelines give you a brief overview of a series of events. The story is there but it’s not up front. Meograph focuses on the story of those events. As my high school history teacher said, “There is no history without a story.” Cheesy, but oh so true.
Like I mentioned I got the email a while back but have been just a little too busy to really give it a test run. Now, the test run is over and I’m hear to report back to all the millions of IT Babble readers out there. As always, if you agree, disagree or have a general comment please leave it below. To get all the meaty details on Meograph click on past the break.
UPDATE: Misha Leboyvich was kind enough to send an email to me after reading the review. He noted that the odd electronic voice that Meograph recorded was actually due to Adobe Flash. I suspected it may be that and tried it out with Soundcloud.com and got the same result. Basically this is not Meographs fault. There are a few more updates, click past the break to see them all!
Education vs the Regular site
Misha informs me that there will be special education logins where a teacher can create accounts for their students. That’s good news!
As with any good site, signing up should be a breeze and Meograph is no different. On the homepage you will see a Login/Sign Up option in the upper right hand corner.
Simply click on Sign Up and you will be asked the usual: create a username, valid email address, password and confirm the password. A nice touch is that when creating a password it gives you some very basic requirements to help you create a stronger password. Nice and easy.
Creating a Meograph
This should be an easy process and you know what? It is. After you have logged in, it takes you to your channel page. Basically it lists all of your Meographs on the right hand side and your latest is profiled in the middle. Since it is our first time here, instead of a Meograph in the middle we find a tutorial video showing us how to get started. The video is good but it goes a little quickly. I work with teachers and it takes time, practice and sometimes some hand holding in order for something to sink in. I’m not suggesting that Meograph is difficult to use but the video may be a little too much for some people to take in all at once.
You will notice there is a + Create a Meograph button on the right hand side. Go ahead and click that to get started.
It will take you to a page with a big Google Map dominating most of the page. On the left hand side is a button + Add a Moment button. Above the map is a place for you to change the title. Just type in what you want your Meograph to be called.
Now it is time to start adding moments to your Meograph. When you click on the + Add a Moment button (on the left hand side), a little box will appear and Meograph wants you to input some very basic information. You need to put a date (it doesn’t have to be super specific), a location and what happened. When you put in the location you will notice the Google Map on the right hand side will update showing you that location. Also, you should put in what happens. Here though, is just a small text box. I wish it would be a little bit bigger to accommodate more detailed descriptions, but that is all.
You may notice these two tiny icons.
When you click them it lets you put it more detailed information. For example the actual time of the event and the actual location in the city. In my example, I put in Atlanta, Georgia and then for a specific location I typed in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It found the CDC headquarters! Pretty cool huh?
Adding dates, locations and descriptions is not all you can do. When you add a moment you have the option of adding media like a photo or a YouTube clip. For the photo you have to upload it to Meograph and for the YouTube, you just have to add the hyperlink.
Of course none of this is new. You have this ability with other sites like Dipity and Timeglider, but Meograph has something up its sleeve. It gives you the option to add narration to each moment. When you hear your own voice explaining the story it makes it a little bit more real than just words typed in a description box and Meograph makes it easy.
On the moment there is a small box called Narration. When you click on that on you have the option to record straight from your computer or upload a file. If you chose to record from your computer you get 15 seconds to record your story for that moment. The first time it will ask you to give permission to do it with a pop up window. Just click on Allow and you’re ready to record.
If you upload a file you can talk for longer than 15 seconds. Also when I tried to record straight from my computer the audio was very choppy and compressed.
As mentioned above. This is a Adobe Flash issue and seems to only affect people using the Chrome browser. Misha was kind enough to provide a YouTube video that explains how to get it working.
It sounded like someone had added an electronic filter to my voice. You can check out my Meograph below to get a better sense of what it sounds like. What I did was just record my voice on my Mac and then uploaded it. I got more than 15 seconds, improved sound quality.
You don’t have to add all of this to each moment though. Just add what you need. If you’re planning on using Meograph you should definitely take advantage of the narration function.
Wrapping things up
Let’s talk about what I like about Meograph. I like how easy it is to use. A third grader could easily make their own story with Meograph (with a teacher’s account) and that is a very good thing. I also really like the narration aspect. It gives the story a life that words alone cannot seem to convey. Hearing the cadence and inflections of a student’s voice really makes it a lot more real and the fact that it is online also makes it more real knowing that just about anyone in the world can hear it. I also like the importance of the story. You see Meograph knows that history (whether fact or fiction) is a story that is made up of a series of moments. It really keeps this focus first and foremost which means you’re not simply writing in dates and seemingly unconnected events-you’re writing a story. This is an facet makes it stand apart from other timeline sites.
There are some things that I am not super thrilled about. For such an easy to use site, it still requires an email address. A lot of elementary students will not have this. That’s OK, some other sites usually have an education package that allows a teacher to create accounts for their students. Meograph doesn’t have this option . . . yet. There is a dedicated education site but as of this post it does not seem all that different (if at all) from the regular site.
Another thing I don’t like is the quality of the audio recording. It is such a big part of the Meograph service and the results were not that great. I also wish that I could have more than 15 seconds. I am sure there are practical reasons for the 15 seconds and I hope in the future those can be lifted. Another thing that I think would be nice is to have a larger area to type in.
It is always a difficult balancing act for websites to create a powerful service that is easy and intuitive to use. I think Meograph has a good idea of what that balance should be. It’s not a perfect site by far but for a new educational service it definitely makes some right moves.
You can view my Meograph here.
Here it is on YouTube (I can’t embed iframes into wordpress.com accounts). Also thanks to Misha for clarifying some points and questions I had.