Software Review: Storylava
11/25/2013
Price: Free basic account; $29.99/year upgrade to Pro
Manufacturer: Storylava
System requirements: Internet access and browser
Demo/trial version:  Request an invite storylava.com
Biggest draws: Easy to use question prompts act as a virtual interviewer to nudge you to record your memories, including topics you might never have thought of.
Drawbacks: Technical limitations, including lack of editing tools and export, and a narrow range of document formats for upload, make the current iteration of Storylava clunky for serious family history work.
 
Ease of use
If you’ve always wanted to record your memories but needed a “nudge” to get you going, the new Storylava site has about 1,000 nudges in the form of questions (“What is your first memory?” “What songs were popular in your college years?”). Each question you answer becomes a story, to which you can also add photos. It’s easy to get started: Either choose a question, organized by categories, or click “Ask a question” for a randomized prompt.

A button below your story controls privacy settings. The default is “Only Friends,” but you also can make stories public or choose “Only Me” mode to create a private online journal. To connect with a friend who’s also using Storylava, search by name in the top search box, then click the Plus button on the profile when it appears. Once you’ve added friends, you’ll be able to read stories they make accessible. (Referring friends to Storylava also earns you points toward an upgrade to Pro status.)

Input and export
You can type right into a new story window, or paste from a file on your computer or another web page. Once you’ve created a story, it appears as a colored “story card” on the Stories tab (if there’s any method to assigning the colors, it’s not evident). You can add and delete text, but there’s no copy and paste, text dragging or other editing tools, so you’re better off polishing up the story in your word processor before adding it to Storylava—making the service ill-suited for organizing a more formal memoir.

If you want to tap friends’ and family members’ memories, click the “Ask question” button to send a question to an email address. You can use the question that appears in the question box, or select the text and type a new one. The orange Randomizer button will pop up a different question; a drop-down menu lets you pick from the Question Library.

Photos and documents
Clicking the camera icon lets you upload a photo from your computer to illustrate a story. If you’ve already saved a story, you’ll first need to click the (tiny) pencil icon to edit it. You can add a date and a caption to your photo.
Pro members can upload documents, too, which must be either plain text or PDF, and fewer than 20MB. These appear under a separate Documents tab.

Advanced features
Besides uploading documents, the chief perk of Pro membership is the ability to see your stories, if you’ve assigned dates to them, in a timeline. (But life events entered in your profile, such as birth and marriage dates, don’t appear on the timeline.) You can click on each story in the timeline for a sequential memoir. This date order isn’t reflected in the Stories tab, though, in which new stories simply show up on the left and push earlier entries right and down.

The verdict
For people enthusiastic about recording their memories, Storylava is like having an interviewer on hand whenever you want one. Its current technical limitations make it not yet ideal for composing a family history or recording genealogical information, but the program is worth keeping an eye on for future updates.
 
From the December 2013 Family Tree Magazine 
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