Last month a friend of mine pointed me to Intersect, a new web site for sharing stories. After I spent a little time surfing around the site, reading stories and FAQs and getting a feel for the general vibe, I posted my first story. And just like that, I was hooked.
The idea behind Intersect is straightforward: wouldn’t it be neat to share what happened at a specific time and/or location, without needing to know who else was there or make arrangements in advance? Stories posted are tagged with a date and time. The ones you post are added to your storyline; if you find someone else’s story about an event that you attended, like a concert or sporting event, you can borrow that story with a click of a button and incorporate it in your own timeline. The site makes it easy to search for stories from an intersection of place and time, as well as to create your own from text, photos, videos, or any combination of the above.
I love Intersect CEO Peter Rinearson’s description of how the concept came about:
The idea for Intersect came to me while watching my daughter play lacrosse. I was among several parents shooting photos on the sidelines, and it struck me that other parents were getting shots of my daughter that I’d never see and I was capturing images that other parents might want. Wouldn’t it be great if we could trade photos in some really easy way, even with strangers, and without prearrangement?
It was May 10, 2007 at 4 p.m. The location was Mercer Lid Park, built above Interstate 90 on Mercer Island, a suburb of Seattle. Shouldn’t that be enough information to let me share with other people who were at that same intersection of time and place?
Intersect was born that day.
Stories can be shared with the general public, restricted to circles of Intersect members that you define, or kept private. While they do require a place, you can be as specific or as vague as you are comfortable with sharing. As they are posted, they are added to your storyline in correct chronological order, so you don’t need to go back later and juggle dates to make them all line up correctly. Unlike Foursquare or Facebook Places, which tell people where you are right now, Intersect lets you say that you were somewhere last week, or last year; you don’t need to reveal your current location to people who might take advantage of the fact that you’re away from home. The Intersect staff offer some tips for walking the line between keeping personal information private and sharing stories with an interested public. On the other hand, if you don’t mind sharing events simultaneously as they unfold, there’s an app for that too.
With an abundance of websites where we can share media and personal news, why choose Intersect? There are a number of features that I find really appealing.
I like how it’s easy to upload photos to your photo pool and create a story from them. I also like the flexibility around how long a story can be. Sometimes you want to write a longer story to accompany a photo; sometimes a sentence or two will suffice. Facebook is pretty strong in the photo sharing department, but writing anything longer than a short caption feels clunky, and most of it ends up hidden. Intersect provides a cleaner-feeling combination of story and exposition. You can even assign different profile pictures to different points in time, and then see how you’ve changed over the years.
The way stories can connect across time and place is a neat concept to me, and Intersect makes this happen transparently. No need to hope your Twitter hashtag catches on, or to set up a shared folder and rely on word of mouth to get everyone invited to it.
Scanning back through a friend’s storyline is easy to do. One thing I enjoy doing when I start following a new blog or Twitter feed is skimming back over the past several dozen entries to get some background for what’s been going on in that person’s world. With Twitter it’s hard to get to a specific point in time. With Intersect, it’s trivial.
The Intersect community so far has a welcoming, friendly feel, which is also a big draw for me. People have commented on stories I’ve posted, sharing memories of their own about the event or place. This really helps to foster a feeling of connection, underlining the core idea behind Intersect: we are connected to many people in many ways.
Here’s a fun video by cartoonist David Horsey summarizing what Intersect is all about: