TIMELINE: Telling stories 2.0

By Gabriel Fraga de Cal. April 10, 2012


We live in the era of the "faster, better, stronger". We like it or not, technology and aesthetics are in command of our lives and of the changes and revolutions of the 21st century. The way stories are told and read has also changed completely in the last few years and, although many journalism university departments still persevere on the age-old Five W’s and the tiring Inverted Pyramid, now it’s all about Timeline.

Timeline is an online tool to tell and read events (short, long or very long) in an easy and practical way, but, also, with visual appeal. This interactive timeline, easy to browse through, also pulls in media from Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, Vimeo, Soundcloud and Google Maps. Timeline is open source software –anybody can use, copy, modify or distribute the source code without the need for permission– which basically excels its predecessors TimeToast, Dipity and Vuvox in both ease of use and aesthetics. Timeline is now available for iPhone, although they are still working on improving the compatibility between the software and the screen’s size.

Its creator is Zach Wise, an awarded and acclaimed Associate Professor at Medill Northwestern University (Illinois). After working for several years in The New York Times’ multimedia team, Wise realised the need for a “faster, better, stronger” software to tell stories online. We must mention here that the Medill Northwestern University is a factory of elite journalists, Pulitzer prizes included. Timeline is the result of a research project carried out by Zach Wise and his students in the university’s multimedia lab. Since it is open source code, Timeline offers the users the chance to improve the software: as if the creator handed us his creation to optimize it as we are using it.

The best thing about this tool is its multiple uses (education, business, entertainment, etc.). Life is easier with Timeline, because we can now tell and organize stories in an entertaining and didactic way. Even an article on computing interfaces looks appealing on Timeline.

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