many pics
Credit: By jared on Flickr. Some Rights reserved.
Brickflow, a visual storytelling tool that uses social media content, launched into public beta on Saturday.

The platform lets users curate content from Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr or specific URLs  and displays the content in an stream that plays automatically.

"We realised how hard it was to do something meaningful with social media content," Mihaly Borbely, co-founder of Brickflow, told Journalism.co.uk of the company's genesis. "You have all these curation tools but they don't let you build a visual narrative, you just get a linear feed."

Brickflow holds similarities with Storify in that it acts acts as a social media curation tool, but with a more visual, cinematic format. Users can connect their relevant social media accounts and create 'flows' interspersed with text written on individual "bricks" in the platform itself. Users can also search social media platforms for a hashtag or add a piece of media from a specific URL before collecting the various pieces together in a sequence that can be played and embedded.

"Every piece of social media content is represented by a 'brick' on a zoomable white board," continued Borbely. "You can move them around freely, but once you place them next to each other they become part of the same story. You build your story by putting the building blocks one after the other next to each other."

While in private beta, people have been using the platform to embed mixed media content into blog posts, Borbely said, and journalists have been using it to cover events by utilising the hashtag feature. Below is an example Borbely made around the Egyptian protests of June 30, intended as "one-minute report" on the situation.



"It's very easy to summarise a social media topic or a discussion or event," he said, "and as content gets more visual on the web it becomes more relevant to summarise content in such a way."

Brickflow is based on a freemium model with certain features, such as customisation of colours, fonts and templates and a real-time hashtag feed, available in paid-for premium accounts, although Borbely insisted the "priority is to keep it totally usable for free users as well".

Borbely sees Brickflow as channeling key themes in the digital landscape, most notably microvideo and hashtags, which he describes as the "glue" of social media. The short video elements of platforms like Vine or Instagram, however, can be seen as building blocks for something bigger, said Borbely, which is where "crowdsourcing something visual becomes really easy".

"Content is becoming shorter and more and more visual," Borbely said, giving Instagram, Vine and Twitter as examples of how he sees forms of media progressing over the last few years and into the future.

"Everything is short, everything is minimal, everything is square-shaped and everything is becoming hashtagged. So this is where we come in, building hashtagged based stories with square shaped elements. I think it's a great fit for today's trends."

Borbely and the Brickflow team, who have backgrounds in web development, business management and sociology, started building the platform a year ago and raised $10,000 through an Indiegogo campaign. From there they built a prototype and received further funding from accelerator programs in Estonia and Chile, where they are currently based.

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