On the 28th September, the company Narrative AB filed for voluntary dissolution. They produce the Narrative Clip line of wearable cameras which take regular photos throughout the day, or take video with a tap of the device. Luckily for its many users, a group of its employees banded together and on the 31st October saved the company! They’re on the lookout for ideas on where to take the platform from here. As a Narrative Clip user, here are my thoughts.

Narrative: A New Hope

Hope, excitement, relief… I’m just glad there’s a new chance for this to keep going!

The wonderful announcement made on the 31st October 2016 read like so:

“Hi everyone. Big news! The Narrative Service will NOT shut down tomorrow. Please read this entire post.

After a lot of work and negotiations, all assets in Narrative, digital and physical, have been acquired by a group of people from the team of the former company. We have put years of our lives into Narrative and we’re committed to not seeing all the value we have created go away. We want to continue running the service, investigate if it’s possible to restart the production of Narrative Clip 2, and look for funding to achieve all of this.

All the apps and software will function as they always have, however in order to achieve this we will need to start charging a small monthly subscription fee for storage. We need to have a sustainable solution that is not depending on external financing to keep running. More information to come on this asap.

Your photos and videos will NOT be deleted on October 31st, but there will be 1 to 2 days of downtime while it’s being transferred to the new company. There’s a risk of further disruptions in the coming weeks while necessary adjustments are made.

We’re financing the transition out of our own pockets and we’re doing this because we’re enthusiastic about Narrative. Unfortunately, it’s not possible for us to assume all obligations of the former company. There is a small number of customers to the former company that have seen problems with their Clips. We can’t resolve any of those cases today, but we’ll try to find ways to offer repairs or other kinds of help, and hope to be able to provide information about this down the line.

We want to hear from YOU about how you think Narrative should go forward. It’s an open road from here, and we’d like you to journey with us.

Thank you,
The New Narrative Team.”

How should they move forward? Here is what I’d love to see:

Keep up and promote API access for developers

One of the things that really pushed Twitter to grow like it did was the emergence of third-party apps that developers built on top of the platform. Things went a bit haywire when they started to cut those capabilities short. Since posting this article, I discovered thanks to an enlightening comment below, that there is an API available which I had totally forgotten existed! So I’ve updated this point to reflect that. I would really like to see the Narrative Clip’s API further promoted to developers as a lot of people (like myself) weren’t sure it was available. The API is an exciting prospect as it’ll mean other developers can help grow the ecosystem in entirely new ways. Those possibilities could include:

  • Parsing Narrative Clip images into image recognition and machine learning to categorise them based on what is in the image. It could even choose highlights.
  • Creating third-party applications that can display the images from a Narrative Clip in new ways. Imagine a TweetDeck or Hootsuite style interface showing a range of streams from your friends or certain tags… etc.
  • Adding the ability to add filters to Narrative Clip images to improve their quality, add effects… etc.
  • Creating more integrations with other connected hardware, e.g.
    • Internet-enabled picture frames that update with your favourite Narrative photos
    • Connecting up your Clip to an Amazon Echo so that it notifies you when your Narrative clip has uploaded new photos from your day
    • Automatically setting a Pebble smartwatch watchface background to your latest featured Clip photo (or randomly rotating it?)
    • So much more… the sky would be the limit!

Open-source Narrative’s software

Just like providing API access to developers, open-sourcing the software will give developers out there a chance to be involved in the Narrative Clip’s future. Features could be requested and added over time by the community. Bugs could be reported and fixed at a whole new level with more contributors eagerly helping out.

Some concerns I’ve seen from comments questioning how the data is stored would be resolved with an open-source solution too. Security these days (especially with connected hardware in the realm of the IoT) is a big concern for many. Open-sourcing as much as possible can help people independently verify what’s going on and help strengthen the software at the same time.

Integration into existing cloud services

This is a pretty common suggestion from a lot of Narrative Clip users at the moment. Often, it is used as a suggestion for how they can avoid paying the subscription fee that the new company is considering. I think a subscription should be independent of this, if necessary for the service to continue running. However, it could be a great way to minimise costs, especially if users would prefer their pictures stored elsewhere. It could add some complexity in terms of how photos are synced and retrieved if they’re coming from different services. In the long run, it could really help people use the Clip with cloud services they use every day. It’d make it easier to sync with our PCs and Macs too.

Local syncing

I’ve read that this was possible… but never looked into it. If it isn’t possible already, it would be fantastic if we could sync the Clip to our PC/Mac without needing the cloud at all initially. It’d speed things up dramatically when looking to access photos and videos taken throughout the day — especially when without an internet connection. Some of the work involved here could be handled by providing API access to developers to build this out?

But… how to fund it?

A subscription could be the way. However, I’d actually love to see something more like paid add-ons or micropayments.

Paid Add-ons

The basic app and storing of photos could be free to a certain storage limit. Users could mark their favourites which stay stored, but the rest would automatically be deleted over time. However, to increase the storage limit, it could be an additional charge or subscription.

Other additional services that could be add-ons include:

  • Connecting your service to Dropbox
  • Enabling syncing with Windows and Mac apps

Micropayments

We could have very small amounts charged to an account for daily usage. They could relate to how many MBs of storage we transfer each day? This could take into account integrating it into third-party services.

In the end

I’m just glad that the service has found a new life thanks to those who’ve put so much into the effort to save it. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed — it was an incredible feat to rescue the Narrative Clip and I can’t wait to see where the new team takes things. Thank you for everything you’ve done so far!

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Comments

The API has been available for sooooo long. Facepalm.

Oh neat! Thanks for pointing that out *double facepalm* 🙂 I’d asked about it a few times and got no response, clearly I didn’t look hard enough! I’m excited to see what the API can do now! 😀

You know what… now I think about it, I do remember seeing the API before my Narrative Clip 2 was shipped to me! Somehow since then my mind clearly decided to hide that knowledge from me. I’ve updated the article to reflect this new and rather important bit of info.

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