Social networking is, by and large, constructed of snippets of information- things you find, tiny quotes, links, and the like. The fractural nature of Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ has prompted concerns that our attention spans are dwindling before our very eyes. Of course, these networks are not the only culprits- social networks on the web abound, and virtually all of them revolve around sharing these micro-thoughts. Another social network, surely, is that last thing we need... right?
Cowbird would like to present you with a different approach to social networking- a deeper, more intimate playground on the web to share not snippets, but stories; not thoughts about the goings-on in the world, but the stuff our very lives are made of.
Cowbird’s philosophy is simple. In their own words:
As an alternative to the shorter, faster, more mindset that increasingly dominates our (digital) lives today, Cowbird is a place to slow down and go deeper — less about sharing what you link to and like, and more about sharing what life’s really like.
Cowbird revolves around personal moments, and gives us a simple template with which to share these moments. The entire platform revolves around striking photos: tell a story by uploading a photo, then tell the story surrounding it. A simple premise, but the result is powerful.
Once you sign up, you can begin browsing stories to get acquainted with the site. The toolbar floating at the top of the page allows you to browse stories by certain attributes, like the featured and recommended stories (which can be narrowed further by most loved, most viewed, with audio, with dedications, etc.), people:
...or you can browse by a timeline, by topic, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can click “serendipity” to be taken to a random story.
You can also search for a specific element using the toolbar, which which will scan the story itself for instances of the word you search for. One caveat: the search function could be improved. For example, when searching for “pain,” Cowbird will return all stories containing “paint.”
When you find a story that speaks to you, you can share it via Facebook or Twitter, “love” the story on Cowbird, join the storyteller’s audience, or even respond with a story of your own (called “sprouting” the story).
Cowbird is a well-designed, visually striking and engaging experience, perhaps best exemplified by its profile pages, like that of CEO and founder Jonathan Harris:
and the app feels like a much-needed evolution in the web itself. We are, at our core, all storytellers, and releasing the stories held within feels infinitely more satisfying than posting a link to the latest New Yorker article on Twitter. Reading others’ stories is, perhaps, even more enjoyable, giving an intimate glimpse into the lives, the hearts- the stories- of others. Cowbird adds depth and dimension to the traditionally shallow world of the social web. In their own words:
Live your life. Take your time. See, and feel deeply. Later, with the clarity of hindsight, tell stories to make sense of your experience.
Here are a few of my favorite stories to get you started (click on the pics to go to the stories):
... and here’s my first story: