It came to me on a sunny afternoon last spring as I was looking through an old family photo album with my daughter. Half of the photos were vaguely familiar and most other folks were completely unknown. I called my mom to ask her who the people were in a few of the photos. She said 'send me the pictures' and I did. When I called her back, she lite up and said, 'let me tell you what I know of their story. These were my grandparents at my age'. And, I said, ok. Tell me about it! But, hey, let me record you for Arianne.

The concept for Plotto then became the obvious solution to the problem I wanted solved--to make video stories of the photos. But I wanted to make this photo to video storytelling easy for my daughter and for her to get interested with me and my mom as a family project to start learning who who we are and where we came from--and why it mattered. The rest, as they say, is family history...

Plotto refers to the stories of our 'life plots'

The name itself derives from a book written in 1928 by William Wallace Cook,"Plotto: The Master of All Plots", Ellis Publishing Company, 1928; Tin House Books, 2011.

Here's William Wallace Cook himself on "Why the name Plotto?":

Plotto suggests the situations for the plot, explains what is to be done through 'purpose and obstacle' and even offers suggestions as to the way in which it should be done.

Now the brand name derived from Cook's book, but the Plotto and SaaS concept approach in broad strokes, came from one of our co-founders, Liviu Vanau, who had a knack for finding unique and quirky references that resonated and made people ever curious to want to discover the deeper story. Therefore the cartoonish logo is also quirky and fun and represents two people sharing ideas and connecting together over their experience.

Ok, let's have Cook continue:

Plot, or evolution, is life responding to environment; and not only is this response always in terms of conflict, but the really great struggle, the epic struggle of creation, is the inner fight of the individual whereby the soul builds up character.

Taking Cook's approach, we've been inspired to built Plotto to help us all to better explore and discover our own 'life plots'. And now, digital storytelling allows us to capture our own stories in our own voice--for today and everyday for what could be used for tomorrow. It became very clear that our family photos had stories that needed to be told--because they were part of who we are. If we could actually hear those voices and experiences of our ancestors, maybe their past lessons could help give us a way of navigating life today, like so many whispers.

Just think... a video story library of our triumphs, hardships, backward steps and bold steps, the faith imbuing our family's legacy as character forged through our defining moments of our 'life plots'... of settlements, migrations, wars, traditions, joys, tragedies, commitments, affiliations and professions, that invariably brought us to live to this very day, here and now.

What it does

Plotto is an interactive video-based research and storytelling platform. You can record directly in your browser, so you need no extra software, and any video requests you send, and responses your receive from others, are sent conveniently back and forth between your personal email and the contacts you send it to.

Plotto is uniquely suited to help family historians create, collect or verify their ongoing research by allowing you to add a video or voiceover story to a picture. Often annotations on letters, or side-bar explanations and descriptions, are not always clear when interpreting historical family photos, documents and other keepsake images. Isn't it time to have a real voice describing those documents that took so long to uncover and learn about? It's quite likely that only the family historian knows the real story, so why not record those details in a real voice for posterity and further discovery?

Plotto can be used DIY (do-it-yourself) and/or collaboratively with family and friends to gather and explore stories from the same time period or event such as an anniversary or wedding. Or you might want to talk about an important biographical influence, situation, anecdote or event. For this reason, it's organized by themes and topics: people, places, recipes, travels, sports, heirlooms, health, etc. Each video you receive from others could well provide something new, exciting or surprising to explore that you didn't know before. It might even allow you to make a mini-family documentary out of it, eventually, with some further detective work.

Alternately you may wish to relay important information such as family medical history. Arguably this should be documented in video story format as an enhanced memory support tool--both for you or other family members--as reference for any doctor's office diagnostics or early intervention strategies. It is often said that family history provides the first genetic test long before DNA testing was practiced.

With regards to advanced searching and filtering your video album, you can search by tags, within notes you typed about the video, by ratings, or by attributes that the people who respond to you assign. By using attributes, imagine searching your video library for stories using various user generated filters: by emotion experienced, types of achievement, valued lesson learned, formative moments, or the vividness of the memory being described?

These are just some of the features and benefits Plotto helps to enable.

How it got built

Grace under pressure using lean and agile product development

Challenges I ran into

Learning how to ask the right questions to determine both problem-solution and product-market fit for customer validation.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Growing together as a virtual team

What's next for Plotto

B2B customer discovery and development with media producers, video-biographers, personal historians, digital storytellers...

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