(Text Copyright (c) 2013 Cynthia Shenette)
Saving Memories Forever ( www.savingmemoriesforever.com )
Free Membership: Free!
Premium Subscription: $3.99 monthly / $40.00 annually
A while back the folks at Saving Memories Forever asked me to write a review of their product system for recording, saving, and sharing stories. The system consists of two parts--an app and a website. According to the the website "...the app provides great mobility for interviewing and easy uploading to a secure and private storage on the website." There are two levels of membership--a Free Membership and a Premium Subscription. I am evaluating the Premium Subscription for my review.
About the product: The free app is available through the Apple App Store and the Google Play store. Before I downloaded the app to my iPhone I decided to check out their website to learn a little more about the product. The Saving Memories Forever website is neat and easy to navigate. On the left-hand side of the screen there are three sections: Start Here; Helpful Tips; and Free vs Fee. All three sections are helpful. The Start Here section has easy step-by-step instructions. I like their suggestion that I interview myself to get the basic feel for the interviewing process. Being a newbie to interviewing I also like the practical suggestions offered in the Helpful Tips section. Finally, the Free vs Fee section clearly outlines the benefits of each type of membership.
The product is essentially an audio scrapbook for saving family memories. To get started you need to downloaded the app. A User's Manual is available, but the app is pretty simple and self-intuitive for those who prefer to jump right in. You can create and manage multiple "storytellers" and have the option of uploading photos to each storyteller's profile. The "Helpful Tips" section on the app is short but helpful. I like their idea for keeping stories short, five to ten minutes.
Stories are organized by storyteller. A series of prompts are provided and the prompts are organized into broad categories: Childhood (0-12); Teenage Years (13-19); Adult (20-25); Adult (26-40); Adult (41-55); Adult (56+); Jokes; Philosophy; Religion; Other Stories and Songs. You can create multiple stories for the same prompt. The ten or 11 prompts in each age category are pretty basic, such as "Describe you mother and father" and "Describe your childhood home" in the Childhood (0-12) category, and "Describe your family" and "What did you like to do?" in the Adult (41-55) category. You can tag stories to make them searchable.
Saving Memories Forever allows you to share your stories with others, but anyone you share a story with must create an account before they are able to access the stories you've uploaded. Sharing stories is a key feature of the product, but the user manual points out that you will share ALL your stories with everyone. You can also put story notifications on Facebook to let the rest of your family know that a new story is available for listening. At the end of a story you press a button on your phone, and your story uploads to the website. You can use Saving Memories Forever in conjunction with Skype for interviewing family long distance and can download stories to your computer using a zip file.
Finally, a bonus included with the product is a copy of Thomas MacEntee's Preserving Your Family's Oral History and Stories which is available with the Premium Subscription in .pdf form or as a webinar.
What do I think? Saving Memories Forever is a nice product. The phone app aspect of the product is particularly handy. No special equipment is required, just your phone and your computer. Most people have their phones on them all the time, so there isn't special equipment to remember. You put your phone down on the table, press record, and forget about it! It's that simple!
I do have a couple of suggestions though. Before I reviewed the product I read Jennifer Wood's review of Saving Memories Forever on her Climbing My Family Tree blog. I agree with her suggestion that it would be nice to be able to add/change/customize the interview prompt questions/titles. I also hope this will be available in a product update down the line. Some of the prompts are pretty basic and a bit limited in scope, like having the question "Who did you date/marry?" in the Adult 20-25 category and not again in any of the other adult categories.
While you can add and search tags, it would be nice to have a tag list/cloud to select from. I know from experience with my blog that sometimes it's hard to remember all of the tags that I have assigned my various posts over the years, and the tag list is an incredibly helpful reminder when I am looking for something specific.
What's the bottom line? Saving Memories Forever would make a great gift for the genealogist in the family, but you don't need to limit your purchase to just gift giving or genealogists. It would also make a great purchase for anyone with an interest in saving stories or family history. Imagine being able to listen your adult children telling stories recorded when they were young or to your grandparents' voices and stories long after they have gone. Saving Memories Forever truly has the potential to be a gift that lasts a lifetime.
[Disclosure: I was not paid for my review of Saving Memories Forever but was contacted by the company and offered free access for a year to the Premium Subscription in exchange for my honest evaluation of the product.]
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