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How to use Cowbird.
The story editor

Stories

To tell a story, just click the Tell a story button in the top-right corner of the page (when you’re signed in). That will open up the story editor, which is where the magic happens.

In the story editor, you can add pages of text, photos, and sound (in the left-hand column). Stories can have one page of text, one photo, and sound. If you’re a Citizen, your stories can have multiple photos and multiple pages of text, and you can add color to your pages.

You can also add Data (in the right-hand column). Data connect your story to the rest of the ecosystem, so that other people can find it. You can add the Who (characters), What (tags, sagas, and projects), When (date and time), and Where (location) of your story, and you can also dedicate it to someone you love — like sending them a little gift.

You can choose a copyright license for your story, using our Creative Commons license chooser.

You can choose a typeface for your story — Arial, Georgia, or, if you’re a Citizen, you can also use your own handwriting.

When you’re done, you can save your story as a Draft, or you can publish it to Cowbird.

Collections Citizens only

Collections are handpicked groups of stories, usually organized around a theme. When you add a story to a collection, you can also add your commentary. Once you’ve started a collection, you can add an introduction, and you can drag and drop the stories in the collection to organize them any way you like. To add a story to a collection, click the button inside that story's "More" menu.

Slideshows Citizens only

Slideshows are stories with more than two pages (like this). They’re great for photo essays, radio documentaries, and other experiments. Slideshows can have a single audio track playing over the entire story, as viewers navigate through it.

Colors Citizens only

Colored stories come with custom-colored fonts that match their background colors beautifully. They make pages of text look totally stunning — especially when combined with your handwriting.

Nicknames Citizens only

Nicknames are custom URLs that make it easy for people to find you. Citizens can choose a nickname on their Settings page.

Handwriting Citizens only

As part of our quest to make the Web feel more human, we’ve created an easy way for you to turn your handwriting into a font and use it in your stories. Handwriting works just like normal browser text — it’s searchable, copyable, and pasteable, except that it’s totally unique to you! You can read more about Handwriting here.

Filters

Filters provide an easy way to find stories matching specific constraints. To use Filters, start by searching for a keyword, and then use the buttons in the sidebar to filter the results. You can filter stories by audio, date, location, age, role, or gender. For instance, check out stories that mention love, set in California, involving women in their 30s.

P.S. You can also use Filters to search your own stories. Just click the little icon of a person (when you’re signed in), and voilà!

Serendipity

Serendipity is a great way to find really wonderful stories. Just click the button in the top-left corner of the page, and we’ll take you to a great story.

Loving

When you find a great story, you can love it by clicking the button next to its title. This is a good way to express your appreciation to its author. It’s also one of the ways we calculate story popularity, so spread your love wisely!

Retelling

When you find a really excellent story, you can choose to retell it, which will share the story with your audience. To retell a story, click the button inside that story's "More" menu.

Audiences

When you find an author you admire, you can join their audience by clicking the button on their author page. When you join someone’s audience, you’ll get all their new stories directly by email (you can adjust your email alerts on your Settings page), and the stories they love and retell will help to shape your Feed.

Sprouting Citizens only

Citizens can sprout stories from other stories. Sprouting is a great way to forge narrative threads — like the flow of conversation around a campfire. To sprout a story, click the button inside that story's "More" menu. Please make sure that sprouted stories are actually stories, and not comments or personal messages.

Comments

To leave a comment on a story, click the button inside that story's "More" menu. If you want to leave a private comment, you can send a personal message instead.

Messages

To send a personal message to another author, click the button on that author's page, or on any of their stories. You can track your messages using your inbox.

Feed

Your Feed is an aggregate view of stories we think you'll enjoy, based on audiences you've joined. By joining the audiences of people you admire, you can shape what's in your Feed.

Characters

Characters are people, pets, and other living entities you choose to include in your stories. To create a character, click the “Who” button in the story editor, then type the new character’s name, and choose “Create a new character” from the menu.

Roles

Roles are what we do in life — not just our jobs, but the many other things we do that make us who we are. Roles are things like artist, banker, mother, brother, and friend.

Licenses

You can use our Creative Commons license chooser to select your story’s copyright license — anything from All Rights Reserved to No Rights Reserved, or anything in between.

How to format your email

Posting by email

If you’re on the go, and want to post stories from your phone, you can email them to a secret address (check out your Settings page to find your secret postcode).

The subject of the email will be your story’s title. The text of the email will be your story’s text. The attached photo will be your story’s photo (Citizens can attach multiple photos). If you attach an MP3 file, it will be your story’s sound.

You can also specify tags for your story by prepending “#” to certain words in the email, with underscores for spaces (e.g. #happiness  #love_story  #best_night_ever).

We’ll send you a link to your story the moment we post it.

Projects

Projects are collective storytelling initiatives on a particular topic, usually produced with a partner.

Projects can be open, closed, or managed. Open projects are like sagas — anyone can participate. Closed projects are by invitation only. Managed projects require people to apply to participate.

To join or apply to a project, click the button on that project’s page.

If you’re an organization interested in doing a project with us, email and tell us what you have in mind.

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