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Timelines - From Dipity to Timetoast

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Contributor:
David Silversmith
David Silversmith

From school projects, to news reports to genealogy studies - a timeline is one of the best ways to display information.  But gone are the days when you needed rulers, graph paper and a good eraser - you can create multimedia timelines to showcase anything from the Russian Revolution to when YouTube videos that mentioned New Zealand were posted. 

The uses of timelines are really unlimited. Research the life story of a famous figure in an easy to read timeline instead of a dry encyclopedic article.  You could show how your business has evolved and place it on your company's website.  You could use a timeline to show your career and add it to your blog or maybe an online resume.  Perhaps you could create a timeline of your own life and use it to promote your work - wrirting, painting, music or some other media.

If you have ever done genealogy research you know how hard it is to find information on your ancestors.  Imagine if years from now your descendants have your timelines - family history could be much easier in the digital age.  The examples on the Internet are wide ranging and with tools like the following timleine are both free and easy to build.

Dipity
Dipity.com allows you to create prettiy sand visually functional timeline. Timelines are created either by entering items manually, or by adding a feed. The feed is one of the things that makes Dipity unique, where the lifestreaming aspect of building a timeline comes into play. To build a personal, and detailed timeline, you can have data imported from sites like Picasa, Twitter, Pandora, Wordpress.com, Yelp, Blogger and more.  You could also take news feeds and build timelines for news events or for something like your favorite sports team.

Along with the timelines they also offer list view for a more traditional chronological view, Flipbook view and Map View offers a map view if youre timeline items have geographic tags.  A key feature is that Dipity allows you to have private timelines - private timelines that just you can see; all your friends can see or anyone can see.  Dipity is lacking the ability to easily print the timeline - but they say that is coming soon.

Lifeblob
Lifeblob adds a social aspect to the timeline concept.  You can use Lifeblog to get your life on a timeline and then see how it intersects with your friends and family at various points in time.  The core feature is a timeline that shows events on a time scale. In Lifeblob's vocabulary, each of these events is known as a blob and can be composed of media (photos, videos, text) and relations (people, place, interests). 

The relations are where Lifeblob gets unique. Say you come back from a trip with your friends and you and one of your friends each make postes to Lifeblob including tags for your friends as participants. This causes the post to show up not only on your timeline but also on the timelines of your friends.  Much like Facebook or other social media sites - these connections can grow and grow as more people join.

Timetoast
Timetoast sports a clear interface for creating interactive timelines.  Also the timeline and especially the photos look fantastic. Like Dipity, there are plenty of options for sharing links and the ability to track updates to a timeline via an RSS feed.

On the downside, Timetoast is by far the buggiest of the tools - though they appear to be making excellent progress.  However, if you use Internet Explorer this is not the tool for you.  My biggest gripe is that your timelines are either unpublished and private or published and open to the world. 

Xtimeline
Dating back to 2007, Xtimeline is the veteran in this crowd.  Xtimeline is the least flashy of the bunch - even their color selections are drab - so if you like gee-whiz sites skip this one.  That said, what Xtimeline does it does very well.  You get the option to include photos, videos, text, and web links within each entry of the timeline. After creating a timeline you can invite people to comment on and discuss the timeline. Timelines can be easily embedded into another website like a blog or a wiki for example. Xtimeline has been discovered by teachers and has a large library of timelines you can use and a growing audience in the educational commmunity. 

Give it a whirl
In terms of traffic - Dipity is currently leading the pack - but all these services are relatively new so their popularity could change quickly. Go ahead, try one or more of these out, and share your timelines with us in the comments. 

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