Festival Curator Presentation: Brenda Laurel
Brenda Laurel opened her talk by giving some heartfelt stories from the demise of her last company, Purple Moon (the software-for-girls company that spun out of Interval Research and ended in a fire sale to Mattel). She told about the investors wanting to go Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code (total company closedown) and how they managed to get Mattel to buy it for the debt after putting it through Chapter 11 (so pieces live on after reorganization) and how everybody got paid.

She told of how they held an Irish wake for their main character, Rocket, and how Bob Stein of Voyager (the early CDROM company) gave her consolation. (I can identify, too, with my experiences with Software Arts and Slate Corporation -- see my personal web site in the History section. Luckily, we always found a buyer before bankruptcy.) She told the story, with tears in her eyes (and in many of ours), of a child that came up to her to thank her for Rocket, seeing yet again that not all little girls would choose Barbie over Rocket and that she and Purple Moon did make a difference.

She contrasted herself with yesterday's curator, Justin Hall, saying that she was designing video games when Justin was 3 years old... (She worked at Atari and Activision.)

Brenda Laurel
Brenda Laurel
Brenda's job as curator was to survey storytelling web sites. She wanted to show stories in commerce, but that didn't get her enough good ones.

The commerce sites she did mention were Kodak which told inspiring stories on their web site about the Venice Dream Team among their stories of people using Kodak products. She also found stories people tell about the dangers of people driving while talking on cell phones on the semi-commercial CarTalk web site.

Exhausting commercial stuff, she turned to web sites that help people. She showed lots of web sites with stories. There were sites for people to get out their frustrations, like www.bitterwaitress.com ($2 tip on a $250 tab), and www.ny-taxi.com with a cab-cam and a book with stories, and www.hellmouth.org where kids abused by their peers or school can vent:

Junior Year: I got suspended so many times I can't even count them all.  Mainly for getting into fights with ignorant bible thumpers with ghetto mentalities who were convinced that I was going to hell because I listened to Marilyn Manson.

Senior Year: I almost didn't graduate because I got arrested for fighting. This was my first real fight in school, where I actually kicked some one's ... We went to the school board and her decision was appealed mainly because I had a 3.95 average.  I went back to school and most people stayed away from me because they thought I was crazy. Fine with me.  I graduated 4th in my class.


- Amanda York

Other sites included www.about-face.org that deals with the impact of the mass media's fixation on physical appearance and how it affects women and girls with its gallery of offenders and essays, www.teencentral.net where teens tell their stories, the Family Caregiver Alliance, and more. Here are the bookmarks as she went along:

Here bookmarks
Bookmarks of what she showed
Lots of helping. Lots of stories of hardship and overcoming it.

The Virtual Wall lets you view the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, DC, and read/leave remembrances about individuals who died in Vietnam. Click on a name and read what people have said as well as born/died information, or just go to the Reflections section and search. It send tingles down your spine. People upload old recordings of sons no longer with them.

Brenda said that one way to always get a story from someone is to ask if they have a scar and what's the story behind it. Almost everybody has a scar, and it surely has a story. She gave the example of asking Dana, our Festival director, about a scar he has and showed us a video from years ago when he still had a ponytail:

Dana Atchley
Dana describing how he got a scar
Finally, she talked about how she "...got in trouble with the Brown Shoe Feminists" at a conference in Banff where they were presenting sacred sites stories (not web sites, sacred sites, I think).

Deena Larson
Curator presentations over. Next speaker is Deena Larson, a hypertext author. She told us how she's a carry-over from last year's speaker, Mark Bernstein of Eastgate Systems, whose company publishes hypertext fiction and other works and makes a hypertext authoring product. She's a user of his stuff and an author that he publishes. There is a nice writeup about her on Eastgate's web site.

Deena Larson by the plants on the right of the stage
Deena Larson
Deena gave her definition of hypertext: Literature that depends on connection for structure. Her thing is "Structure is content".

To illustrate, she showed one of the "micro-hypertexts" she has created. It has only 7 nodes. She views it as "hypertext haiku". It was entitled "Father Figures". She went over each node:

One node from Father Figures
One node of "Father Figures"
By traversing the nodes, you, hopefully, learn what's going on. She used font to distinguish viewpoints. The image, which is actually a map of the nodes, is in the shape of the Japanese symbol for "father" made up of crossed swords.

After this she showed us one of her most famous works, "Marble Springs" inspired by her life in Colorado. Much more complex and written in HyperCard. To help understand it, she has a map of the characters' relationships on a page called "Connections". She let us know some of the symbolism of her lines between people (who had an affair with whom, etc.).

Connections page
Connections page
I liked this: In order to explain what's going on in a complex linked structure, you have to resort to a 2-D illustration. (As you might have guessed from the map at the top of the page, I like 2-D illustrations to help you understand structure. I like it even more when you have a software tool that helps you create them, like Trellix Web does.)

Not everybody got into the hypertext thing. Deena' writing is much less concrete than many of the stories we had looked at (hey, it's fiction and trying to be near poetry). She did entreat us to create something in the hypertext area, since it is so unexplored, almost anything you do will be groundbreaking and you can own a whole area of the field yourself. (This statement reminded me of my old days playing Tiddlywinks at MIT. My roommate played it for a while, saying that just by joining he'd become one of the 200 best players in the world. He could play basketball 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and he'd never be in the top 1,000 in the world. To be the best at anything would be cool.)

Dan Bricklin
It was finally my turn to speak. Dana asked me to show how I was writing my story of this Festival, and to introduce the tools I used to do it.

Dana from the side
My view of Dana introducing me
Once on stage, I handed my camera to someone in the front row to take my picture:

Dan Bricklin
Dan Bricklin
Here you see me standing in front of Trellix Web's Web Gem feature for adding things to your web site like a "weather magnet" that shows the current weather. (I have such a "weather magnet" on the "Crested Butte" page here.) To my right (your left) is a picture from my LCS35th web photo journal. I'm showing the trick I used of taking pictures with people's badges showing so I could zoom in later and read their name when assembling them for presentation (I'm not good at remembering names). (The person taking this picture then made me turn my own badge over so I could read it in case I don't recognize myself...)

I showed this web site as it stood at that time. The first night and full day of the conference were in, as well as my trip to Crested Butte and the sub-story about the Big Dig. I also had an Intro Slideshow created using RealSlideshow to give an overview of what I was doing, that I made the night before I left. There was a lot of material, most of it made in the few hours before sleep at night or on the plane.

I then showed how to use Trellix Web, a software program that lets regular people create great looking web sites without knowing HTML, FTP, or anything like that. (You can learn about it from the Trellix web site.)

I let people know how Trellix Web is great for regular people to use to tell stories or to connect sub-stories into a coherent whole for two reasons: It's easy to use, and it's Free. We get paid by the people who host the web sites, not the authors. You can download it for free, and even put up a free site (we recently announced an agreement with Tripod, a free web hosting community that is part of Lycos).

I then took lots of questions. I mentioned some links, including www.gooddocuments.com, a web site I created in the days when Trellix Corporation was concentrating on making tools for business Intranet use. Good Documents teaches about making web sites that are skimmable to let people get information quickly. It is different than storytelling where you want people to follow a narrative in a smooth flow. I try to use some of the Good Documents techniques on this web site, such as the use of a map, bold in some paragraphs to aid skimming, and non-teasing links, headlines and subheads (distinquishing between informative links: "The King died"; teasing: "Will it snow tonight? News at 11"; and cute: "Sox socked"). Another link is to www.webphotojournals.com (the home of this event web site), and my personal web site, www.bricklin.com (home to some of my personal computer stories).

TechTalk: Joe Lambert & Nina Mullen
Joe and Nina came back to tell us how they run the bootcamp. This session, entitled "BootCamp Stories: Behind the Scenes", was really about what they cover when they do digital storytelling training.

Joe and Nina
Joe and Nina
They run a web site, www.storycenter.org, where they have information about their classes. It includes their Storytelling Cookbook, with their "7 Elements" of Storytelling:

   Point of View
   A Dramatic Question
   Emotional Content
   The Gift of Your Voice
   The Power of the Soundtrack

Go read it yourself -- it's easy to read and you'll learn a lot about their type of storytelling: A 2-3 minute movie told by an individual about something dear to them. Many of their ideas can be applied in other storytelling situations.

They use Adobe Premier as their main authoring tool. They like teaching this mid-range professional tool to novices because it has depth and people can push it when necessary. (Covering topics like compressing video, scanning, and filter effects, they cover material most people wouldn't pick up without help.) Adobe describes Premier as "A powerful tool for professional digital video editing." Joe and Nina love teaching the timeline method of assembling a story:

Adobe Premier with timeline
Adobe Premier with timeline showing
They cautioned against using the special effects filters too much. They find that people can use them as a "displacement activity" -- wasting time on too many effects/filters rather than crafting their story.

They are strong believers in using your own voice. From the samples we saw throughout the Festival, having a person connected to the subject narrating (or even writing it, as I am) helps to establish an emotional link to the viewer.

To see pictures of the bootcamp, take a look at Derrick Story's Quicktime digital story of the bootcamp (and his entire trip) in his webreview.com article.

Digital Clubhouse Network
The next presentation was about the Digital Clubhouse Network. According to their web site, it is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to "using the power of networked multimedia to build better communities". Joe is involved, and Warren Hegg, the founder, spoke to us:

Warren Hegg
Warren Hegg
The main stuff he talked about were projects where people told stories digitally. They use volunteers to help do the technological part. They do "Digital Healing" through stories of surviving illness and stories of World War II that are at risk of being lost as people get older. The participants are from all economic levels. "This is not just for have nots," he said.

He showed us material from the WWII Memories Project. Cross-generational, veterans tell their stories with the help of kids. He told the story of a man who had problems telling his stories. Looking at a picture of crosses in a row in a cemetery, he said, "We're not heros like them." It is hard letting people know that their stories are important and can be an inspiration to others and a memorial to those that can't tell their stories.

Kids and veteran War scene
Kids working with veteran and scene from a story
Then he showed material from a surviving illness story, telling us how it inspires others:

Drawing of operating room
How it felt during an operation
This was definitely back to hankies. Not only were the stories very moving, the stories about making the stories were moving and Warren's zeal for his group's mission was moving.

This drove home, once again, that we are talking about using computers to help people express themselves in a very meaningful and emotional way, and let them share their stories with many more people than they ever could by themselves. It was great to see ways that our products can make people cry with emotion, and not just from seeing a bottom line with too negative a numeric value.

(For another person's view of this afternoon, watch Shelley McIntyre's slideshow. RealPlayer G2 required.)

Next: Friday night >