New online storytelling tools: Curating/collaborating with Pearltrees

Pearltrees  could be an interesting take on curated and collaborative storytelling. I discovered the site via Mo Krochmal, who hade made a paella tree using the Flash tool, and I liked the idea so much I wanted to try it out.

Basically, Pearltrees allows users to collaborate on just about anything that exists online. I’ve found everything on there from beauty tips to nude photography, to political debate, all available to be updated in real time by multiple users. So it should be fairly simple to adapt as a way of telling a story online, in the same way you can use Prezi for visualisations.

I installed the Firefox addon for Pearltrees, which lets me add web pages, and then had to pick a topic. The question was, what?
Time was pressing so I combined it with something that I’ve been doing as alongside my day job (although, of course, it is part of my day job as well) which is getting to know more about my new home city of Cardiff.

I tried to group topics and themes together, so information like maps, Wikipedia and TruKnowledge are linked pearls. Likewise, sport, Dr Who, Torchwood and some social media elements have linked pearls.
It’s not perfect – in fact it’s downright sprawling compared to Mo’s lovely paella pearltree, but it has a rough shape and more elements can be added in as necessary. 

As a storytelling tool I like it. It can be very realtime and linear, or it can branch out and span multiple topics. You can invite users via email, Twitter or Facebook, publish via Twitter, embed or link.
Downsides (for iPad-ers, at least) are that it’s Flash-based, plus it would be really useful to be able to add comments (in text boxes to clarify a timeline or the choice of content, for example), as you can on Storify. Also to upload media as well as curate existing information.
But it’s only just out of beta, and it’s a very interesting, and very simple tool.

[Update: Overnight my Pearltree on Cardiff had accrued 65 hits. It’s also got followers, one of whom is now a team-member as well. 

[So, maybe this will start to take on a life of its own – I certainly hope so.]

I did think of curating a journalism Pearltrees but – frankly – the one below takes the blue ribbon… so I’ve simply shared it here…

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4 thoughts on “New online storytelling tools: Curating/collaborating with Pearltrees”

  1. I foresee problems with the idea of real time updating by multiple users (basically because I can't see how a collaborative story would work in practice). I mean, what happens if someone wants to develop a story in one direction, but someone else wants to push it in another? There could be disagreements about killing off characters, or simply about word choice. With real time updating, one could end up with a game of verbal tag.

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  2. Hi Sean, thanks very much for sharing your thoughts. I see your point on the lack of control and certainly I'd bet there would be some occasions where 'verbal tag' (nice line) could break out.

    Two things make me think it is still worth considering for storytelling, however. One is that as the 'owner' of the tree you can delete additions – I'm thinking trouble-stirring/inappropriate additions that you wouldn't countenance on a newspaper website or printed page – and the other thing is that community is very good at self-moderating. Possibly I'm overly-optimistic – and I've been lucky in the past with real-time community reporting using hashtags, for example – but I'd hope a good level of audience participation would keep a theme on track. Man will not destroy that which he has helped create etc etc. Maybe.
    I'm going to build a music one next, and see how that goes.
    Although I guess the real test for hijacking-potential will be a football one…

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  3. Hi Ed, I don't know if a bookmarking tool covers it. It definitely does that, but also – you could use it to curate your work on a specific topic (like articles, photo galleries, videos, tweets on Wales' Six Nations campaign?) and promote it across websites – and allow others to add their six pen'orth. Or not – you could just lock it down. I'd see it as a collaborative visualisation tool that allows easy content-sharing, given the embed opportunities. Have a play; I'd say it has good potential for bloggers.

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