I came across this cool and unique site called Cowbird.com. You may be imagining a bird’s head on a cow’s body, but the vision of this website is anything but absurd. Cowbird is a “tool for telling stories and a public library of human experience.” That sounds like a valiant task, but how does it work?

This world is filled with infinite stories, some are tragic, some are miracles some are crazy but all are intriguing to someone. In this digital age, people carry digital cameras and mobile phones with recorders which enable mass sharing across the internet. We are walking journalists that can capture the world around us and voice our opinion, effectively becoming story tellers.

There are different levels of storytelling on Cowbird. A ‘saga’, is a collection of stories grouped into a theme like Occupy demonstrations around the world. A ‘story’, is a person’s account of anything they want to say, like a poem about climbing an icy mountain. A ‘diary’ is a collection of stories from one person. It’s a little like a blog, but collating everyone’s blog in one place. Authors can add images, videos, interactive audio stories and character bio’s.

It seems the dominant theme is the saga of the 99% ‘Occupy’ demonstrations around the world. Let’s take for example Occupy Seattle on November 22nd, when 84-year old Dorli Rainey was pepper sprayed in the face. A lady named Zofia, posted the story in the hope of sending a message of heartbreak and hope. If other people have other stories from the same day, they can post it up and it will automatically be grouped together to form a sort of crowd-sourced-like diary, unified in one source.

Other stories that have shaped the world, that could have been told if Cowbird was around are the Asian Tsunami of 2006, September 9/11 World Trade Centre Terrorist Attack, Lehman Brothers collapse of 2008, the Japanese Tsunami of this year. Come to think about it, these stories are all depressing. The world needs to hear more positive stories of miracles, humanity and triumph. Perhaps the history of media has driven us into a pattern of only reporting the bad news and not the good. Maybe Cowbird can be that media channel to start telling the world what is good about it.

By collating all the stories and threading them together in a visual way, it forms a digital library of big events and the small people in them. Eventually after adding up everyone’s story, it forms a timeline of events told from the ground up. Cowbird also enables people to see a geographical map of where things are happening and what the trending world themes are.

One interesting challenge for Cowbird to expand around the globe is language. Of course not everyone reads English, so how will they translate everyone’s stories that everyone can read about? In fact, Chinese is the most spoken language in the world with over a billion speakers. However, given the kind of sagas that is big right now on Cowbird, it is doubtful whether it would be accepted here.

You might ask why you would want to open so much information to the public, people you don’t know. When Facebook came out, I also wondered why people would want to disclose so much personal information about themselves, but eventually people did. Perhaps, for the reason that life is short, the stories we have is all we can leave behind.

Jason Lim

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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