Image of the latest design of Meograph.

Meet Meograph, and online storytelling tool

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Innovation” and “startup” have become buzzwords in the journalism and publishing industries as companies try to find new ways to tell stories. But sometimes the best tools come from people in other industries — such as aerospace engineering at MIT.

Misha Leybovich, an international technology consultant, likes to tell stories the old-fashioned way: in person. But, as a technologist, he also wanted to tell stories using the Web. “There needs to be an easier way to tell [digital] stories,” said Leybovich, as he recounted the conception days of Meograph, a tool he created for sharing stories in space and time.

There have been more than 22,000 Meographs created.  Some have been created media companies to tell time- and location-based news stories or to document historical events.  Others have been created  by students and teachers to explain scientific concepts. And one was even created by a husband to celebrate his wife’s birthday.

The best way to understand a Meograph is to experience one.

A Meograph is a linear multimedia infographic that combines maps, timelines, audio narration, photos and video in an evolving, intuitive online interface.

Meograph’s user interface and feature set has taken a multi-stop journey to arrive at its current, intuitive state. Leybovich explains that the first version, which the company thought was easy and groundbreaking, was surpassingly difficult for users. “We watched the numbers and watched people use the tool and realized something had to change quickly.” So Leybovich and co-founder and developer Francis Escuadro released a vastly different interface, going from a WYSIWYG editor to a more common wizard user input model, and quickly saw a change in user behavior.

The latest upgrade to Meograph includes longer voice narration and “drag and drop” map integration. Also, the road map includes adding custom styling and security features for subscribing customers.

The platform is built on Ruby on Rails hosted on Heroku and Amazon S3 with Haml and SASS front end. It integrates media services such as Flickr and YouTube and uses the Google Maps API.

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