History is important; it provides the context for everything else we experience. Timeline are great tools for communicating that history. A timeline can help you explain the history of your adopted country or your mission's work there. It's a great way to give your supporters an overview of your work over the long-haul. And it would provide a short-term missions team an overview of where they fit in the scheme of things.
Up until now it's been difficult to create timelines that could be easily embedded in a blog, powerpoint or website. The first I found was the Timeline at SIMILE. It has the advantage of being flexible and embedable. It provides some neat formatting options and looks really sharp.
The downside was that it all had to be coded in XML (a sort of language) and run through an embedded player on your website. I got this working, and embedded the result on my web site but every time I fiddled with and event I messed the whole thing up. It was too delicate for an amateur like me.
A few days ago I discovered XTimeline, a timeline creator for the rest of us. It's still in beta but is already very, very powerful. It's easy to create a great looking timeline in a short period of time. I've embeded an example below, but to really view it as it's designed click here.
These timeline are very easy to produce. Go to XTimeline and create an account. Click on "Create" and you'll be taken to a dialogue box like this one:
Give your timeline a title, category, image and so forth and you're on your way. Next, add some events. Click 'add event' and fill in the dialogue box.
Add enough events and you're beginning to tell your story. XTimelines is also a "social" application. That is, depending on your settings others can comments on your timeline and/or events. Others can even edit your timeline if you'd like.
When you're done, embed your timeline in your web page or blog to help people understand your story. Whenever you edit your timeline the new information will be reflected on your web site.
Note that this product is still in beta and that there are some ease-of-use tweaks to be made. I hope these guys stay around a while. As a history buff I love tools like these.