Ever find you’d like to share a bit more than your Facebook status update or Tweet will let you? Perhaps you’d be interested in writing more long-form content, or sharing more context with your images, but you don’t want to go to the trouble of setting up a blog. You have a story to tell, and you don’t want to have to figure out 50 thousand settings to just write and share what you wrote with your social network friends. And if you discover other great stories from other people in the process, that’s great.
Sounds like you need Storylane. It’s the latest twist on an almost-blog app that feels more like a social network. Similar to Tumblr, but even simpler, it lets you have the space to tell your full story, not just 140 characters of it. And it’s rather fun to use, too.
Everyone Has a Story
I love social networking as much as anyone, and it’s played quite the important role in my life so far. But it’s easy to lose meaning in status updates. That’s why URL shorteners were so popular early on for Twitter: many of us were sharing links to blog posts, images, videos, and more that let us share what we were thinking, far more than 140 characters could.
This shouldn’t be quite as big of a problem on Facebook, where you’re now allowed to write tens of thousands of words in one status update, and you can easily add photos and videos with captions. You can also add notes, which aren’t that much different than a blog post. Still, somehow Facebook doesn’t seem that conducive for telling stories.
That’s the gap Storyline is trying to fill. It’s a new take on a simple blogging app mixed with social networking, and it’s pretty nice. It’s strongly built around Facebook, having you sign in with your Facebook account by default, and using Facebook as the main way to find friends and share posts. Once you’ve followed friends on Storylane, it’ll automatically show you their stories in your Facebook news feed. Thus, it feels like it’s built mainly around Facebook, much in the same way Tumblr feels more tied into Twitter (or at least did originally). You could use it without Facebook, but if you (for some reason or other) don’t want to use Facebook at all, it seriously might not be the way you want to share your stories. The good thing is, it’s nice enough that it might still tempt you to use it.
That is, once you’ve got your account fully setup, because first, you’ll be asked to pick three topics that interest you, from a handful of topics that are popular on Storylane. This makes it feel more like a tablet news app like Flipboard, and is a tad frustrating to have to click through if you’re just wanting to start sharing your stories on Storylane, but the good thing is it only takes a few moments. After that, you’ll be shown your Facebook friends on Storylane that you’re automatically following, as well as popular Storylane users it suggests you follow to get started.
Then, you’ll be dropped into your dashboard, where you’ll see top stories by everyone, sorted by the amount of feedback they’ve gotten. You can search for stories, or drill down to find stories by individual people or about topics that interest you. Your main Stories by Everyone feed will show stories about the topics you previously selected, while the People you Follow list will show your Facebook friends’ posts and other Storylane users you’ve followed. It looks much like a text-centric Pinboard, or perhaps an online version of Flipboard. Still, it looks nice, and if you want to discover interesting things others have shared, the top stories provide some decently interesting content already.
So What About Your Story?
It’s a bit easy to get sidetracked with everyone else’s stories, but the main reason you’ll want to use Storyline is to share your own stories. First off, you’ll want to head to your profile, where you can add your profile picture (which should have been imported from Facebook automatically, but you can add your own unique image if you want) and add a cover image (which you can import from Facebook or upload from your computer). It would have been nice if you could use any of your Facebook images for these pictures, but instead, you’ll only get to use your current Facebook cover image and profile pics, or upload your own.
Once that’s done, you can write stories right from your own profile page. Storyline will ask you questions for you to answer, based on the topics you selected when you first signed up. If they give you inspiration to start writing, you might find that the initial signup process wasn’t so frustrating after all.
After entering an answer to the prompts on your profile, you’ll have to add more details to your answer before you can post it, as your answer combined with the initial question is turned into your post title. You can then enter extra text, or add an image or audio to make your point. Finally, you can
When You Just Want to Write
But perhaps you just want to write your own story, unprompted. That’s fairly simple: just click the Add a Story link at the top. There, you’ll get more prompts for potential stories you could write about, many of which might be interesting. If you choose to write them, just click the Tell this story button and get started much as you would have from your own dashboard. Otherwise, just click the green Tell a Story button to finally get to write your own unique post in Storylane.
Writing in Storylane is quite nice, though, even if you don’t need prompts to get started. The writing interface is clean, and just lets you focus on writing. I know that sounds clichéd today, but the Storyline team has done a great job at reducing posting articles to just what you need to get your story written. You add a title, then can add text, an image (via upload or link), or audio (recorded live in your browser), or a combination of all three. As you write, your draft is automatically saved, so you can close the window and come back to finish writing later if you need. Once you’re done, click the sharing buttons at the bottom to share the post on the networks you want, then publish your story. The tweets aren’t formatted as nicely as I’d have liked, looking more like a promo for Storyline than just your own post, but still, they have made it very easy to share your posts online.
Published posts look quite nice on Storylane, with the image you (if any) used as a large header image, and your text presented in a clear, simple template below. It looks much like many of the newer clean blogging themes, and gives you an uncluttered way to share your thoughts. Your name will appear on the left, along with your brief bio, and readers will be able to give you feedback from the button on the right. They can like your article, share it online, or give you a variety of other one-click feedback. It’s not the traditional blog+comment combo, but it still works out pretty nice. Then, below your article, you’ll see other featured stories, much like on your dashboard, again reminding you that this is more of a social network than your own private blog. Still, it’s a much more your-story-centric social network than most.
All in all, Storylane is quite a nice place to write and discover things others have shared online. It’s much more of a social network, one that’s semi-attatched to Facebook, but if you’re simply looking for an easy way to share an extended version of your thoughts and add more info to your images you share, it might be just what you’re looking for. It definitely wouldn’t be a bad starting place for anyone wanting to write more online and share it seamlessly with their social network friends. I’d love to see an easier way to just write without having to click through so many options, but overall, it still makes a nice place to begin sharing more of your thoughts online.
If you’re really wanting a blog to make your own, it likely not what you want, but if you want the benefits of having a blog without the trouble of setting one up and maintaining it (and even a WordPress.com or Tumblr blog is more complex to maintain than this), then Storylane is definitely a service you should try.