The story behind StoryTree.
My name is Daniel Wilson, and I’d like to share the story behind StoryTree. It grew from an idea born of an experience at a family reunion at a rural camp in Alabama a few years ago. The adults were sitting around the camp kitchen late at night after all the kids went to bed. I was resting in the room next door, but I could hear them as they played a simple get-to-know-you-better game. Everyone took turns sharing a story or fact that no one else knew about them. I couldn’t hear very well but my wife told me more details when she came in later -and I was intrigued. I started thinking about all the stories and experiences from my childhood and pre-marriage life I had never told anyone in my family, or anyone at all in some cases. Rarely had anyone ever asked. People are just too busy I thought. I also realized I had not asked enough about other people’s lives...assuming they might not want to share. There were many things in the lives of my own family that I didn’t know. My parents had both passed away -my mother when I was only 5 - and the truth is I knew very little about the details of their lives outside of our home. Even my own spouse, kids and grandkids probably had a thousand stories I knew nothing about in their lives apart. And those stories I did know that I had heard in the lives of these, and other family members and friends, were faded and fading from memory. And this is not even counting the stories and experiences we had together that were not recorded anywhere and would soon fade away.
Over the next few weeks, I started to combine these thoughts with something else that had been on my mind for a while. In our family we use a social media app familiar to many called WhatsApp. It’s a private message board where every day there is a stream of shared photos and little stories, experiences and thoughts from our children, grandkids, family, and friends, along with my wife and myself. I had been pondering over how awesome this tool was but at the same time how transient such postings tended to be—"here today, gone tomorrow" —like so many other social media apps. Long story short, after the reunion I discussed these things with my wife and got the green light to try to create an app to address these points. My goal was to create a simple program that would both gather and channel social-media-type memories, as well as prompt many others, and inherently organize them through a series of automated topical "interviews" ("i.e., the share one thing no one knows about you" game). I would also design it to enable optional printing of those collected memories, stories and shared photos in a book, any time you wished. And after probably 101 different iterations during months of sketches and prototypes, our app development team, including the lead developer and now partner Connor, came up with StoryTree. It was still going to cost a lot to build it and market it, but we decided it was worth the risk. Even if we didn’t get back the money we invested, we wanted this app to help us record OUR memories, our life stories, and that of the whole family. If nothing else, so that our kids, grandkids and beyond would not forget us. We also wanted them to know and understand us better in this life, and we them, as after we were gone. And we wanted to share this cool new app with anyone else who felt as we did about preserving life stories and memories. And—that is the story of StoryTree -in a nutshell.