OurStory launches, first impressions (it’s Beta, and it breaks)

(updated) OurStory, a web app for sharing personal and family stories, just launched. I’m trying to check it out and got stuck at the new user registration page. The Terms of Service is two words shy of 3600 words–oof! (It’s displayed in an impossibly small box, 9 lines high. It took me over 40 clicks on the scroll bar to scroll through it all.) And that doesn’t count the privacy policy, which I think is more important– if I’m going to put stuff from my own life–words, photos, media files, onto their servers, I want to know what sort of safeguards they have about that data, and whether it’s still “mine” or does it become “theirs.”

My thoughts and expectations, before even seeing what’s inside: I expect that the site will provide a way for me to organize things. It will ask questions to spark stories. I assume that it will allow for uploading of pictures. Movie files? Audio files? Don’t know yet, but would assume so.

One concern I have at the outset is that I must register before the link called Q&A works (it leads to a register screen). Since the site has hinted about asking life questions, I don’t know whether Q&A refers is a differently-named FAQ  about the site or not. Also, the site doesn’t have a set of screenshots displaying what it’s like once you’ve signed up. The site is in beta, and no doubt the proprietors will eventually get to that.

But then there’s a deeper concern: The service offers something to help me in telling my life story, and sharing it. But what about lock-in? (is my data “locked” into their service? Can I get it out again?)  What can I do with the things I create there or the things I upload to it once I decide to leave? How easily can things be exported?

Well, it turns out that the TOS does address this [emphasis mine].

If your access to the Service is terminated for any reason, including your cancellation of the Service, then for a period of up to thirty (30) days you will be entitled to order a copy of your Content for a fee that will be equivalent to the actual costs we incur to create this copy for you. This copy may be in a form that we determine is the lowest cost option for us, such as raw data output onto DVD, for example. We may also in our sole discretion and at any time discontinue providing the Service, or any part thereof, with a minimum of thirty (30) days notice to you through the Service. Subject to our rights to terminate the Service according to these Terms, we intend to store your Content for at least twelve (12) months after your last use of the Service, and if you are, or have been at any point in time, a Premium User, namely any user who pays or has paid for access to the Service, we intend to store your Content indefinitely.

I’ve sent a question to the service asking if current members can order “backup copies” without terminating the agreement, and what the costs for such a thing would be. I’ll report back here.

UPDATE: My questions and answers from Stephanie, Customer Support staffmember, at Ourstory:

Question: I notice from the terms of service that you allow for an archive-storage-burn-to-CD or DVD service. Can one take advantage of that without terminating the service, i.e., as a personal backup copy?

Answer: Yes…in the near future. In the Terms of Service, the archive-burn-to-CD or DVD is based on if we terminated your service. For this we would charge a fee. In regards to what you are referring to, this is something we will be offering in the near future. I’m not exactly sure when…my estimate within the next month.

Question: What is that fee?

Answer: Currently, I’m not sure what we would charge…or if we would even charge for this. It may be something we offer our Premium users. I will make note and send you an update once I determine the correct answer.

I did complete registration. I was presented with this screen (click image to enlarge):

So I answered the question, with a story about my high school graduation. Here you can see the story as I created it and what I saw once I clicked the preview button.


Once I was satisfied with my story, I clicked the publish button. At that point, I was asked if I wanted to select images from the yahoo image search (some of which might be naughty—hm?). No. I just want to publish and see my story—just publish it as text. I think at that point I clicked cancel or no or something.

And that’s where things went downhill.

I thought I had posted my story, so I went on a hunt for it.

image First place: Click the stories link at the top of the page (1). That resulted in displaying a timeline box (as the whole top part of the screenshot shows).

At the bottom of the box (2) there was a small box labeled 1970, I clicked that, and another box appeared inside the timeline area. It had a box labeled with my story title, “High School Graduation” (3)

I clicked that, and the timeline screen went away, to be replaced by the bottom half of this image (4). Which had no story. All it had was a text box where I could (presumably?) comment on the story.

I went back and forth looking for my story. Was it in drafts? No. Where was it? I finally stumbled upon the little triangle (5) that expands to show the story. Ah! There it is. No, not quite. It’s the beginning of the story, but not the whole thing.

I tried other ways of searching for it. I used the word “cannon” since I knew it appeared in the story. Here is the search result screen:


When I click the link to see the story, here are the results:


Nothing. No story.

The other thing I noticed during The Hunt For My Missing Story is that the site is meant to be shared. Invite your friends and family. Ask them questions. When you post answers, notify them. (it’s very much like Flickr in that way. In fact, I took a side trip into the Media section and saw that I could authorize Flickr to grab pictures that I could post to OurStory. I didn’t go so far as to do that, yet. The Hunt For My Missing Story took priority.)

So my story on OurStory is that it’s beta, and still broken. I’ll check back with the site later on to see how they’ve fixed things.

UPDATE: Stephanie at OurStory customer support also commented on my query about the lost story. What I experienced is a known bug that happens when clicking the browser’s “Back” button while editing and previewing the story. I can’t rule out back button pushing, especially since I was creating screen shots. She was very gracious (and alarmed on my behalf): “Oh no…I’m so sorry you experienced this. This definitely isn’t a good way to get started. […] My deepest apology for this. Please know we are working diligently on fixing this.”

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 17, 2006 in • DigitalityFamily History SoftwareLongevityPersonal History
1 CommentsPermalink

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I’m Andy Halliday, Founder/CEO of OurStory, and I want to apologize for your running into a bug we were in the process of fixing today…we have that fixed now, and your post is in its proper place. I have added a comment to your public post about HS Graduation in OurStory, with a Yahoo! Images picture of a high school that came up…When you put up your own photo of your High School graduation, it will become the photo that shows in the Timeline display.

Thanks for your patience and generous spirit despite our glitch!


Andy Halliday  on 05/17  at  07:33 PM

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