Dec 12, 2003
Comments Off on we all ought to be in pictures

we all ought to be in pictures

As I use blogware more and more I have become convinced that there is an even larger opportunity in storage and management of digital images than I first imagined. When it comes to a better way to deal with digital images people need it, want it and, most importantly, are more than happy to pay for it.

Some data. An amazing 45% of US Internet households own a digital camera with that number rising to 74% by the end of 2004!

And the money quote (as in money for service providers):

'Michelle Slaughter, director of Digital Photography Trends at InfoTrends, discusses the problems associated with downloading picture images into home computers: “Digital camera users are accumulating large collections of digital photos, but few users are concerned about taking steps to archive their digital photos for the long term.”'

Currently,the primary means of sharing digital photography is overwhelmingly by email. This has numerous problems that I would break into two buckets. Poor use of network resources and difficulty in dealing with the images. Only 19% of U.S. Internet households have used an online photo service.

When digital images are sent using email each recipient has now received each and every full image that the sender has provided. This is a waste of bandwidth. Each and every recipient will now store the images on each and every one of their hard drives. The sender has also probably had to edit the number of pictures she sent in order to comply with mail server rules at either her or one of her recipients mail servers. Only some pictures, all full images, all stored on each recipients machine. Yuck.

Now each recipient is faced with some interesting choices. Do they view all the pictures right away and delete? Do they view all and put them in some folder? Do they skim and file? Most people do a horrible job of using filters and folders for their everyday email. They are now required to either use their email client as an archiving client for digital images or they lose much of the value of those images. This is not trivial. Most pictures I am sent tend to be of some interest to me at some point but almost never at the point that I receive them.

Think of pictures from family or friends. In the middle of the work day they are of little/no interest. Some time later, and that might be a day a week or a month, I am very interested in looking at those images. Perhaps my wife and I are sharing a story about the sender or the subject of the picture. Perhaps we saw someone that reminded us of the sender. When we want to see them we really want to see them and derive great pleasure from them. When we don't they provide none.

People use email to send images for two reasons. First is ease of use. They know how to send email. They know how to address it. They may have grouped addresses to make this even easier. They know how to send attachments. It is well within the skill level of most users.

There is an second important reason that has surprised me as I have talked to more people. They do not want every picture available on the open Internet. When sending by email there is an implicit control mechanism in that they determine who receives the images. If they are simply online, on a website, they can be accessed by anyone and in very random fashion. I am not yet ready to say whether this factor is more form than substance. Is it shyness or modesty or does it represent a fundamental misunderstanding of the Internet? At the end of the day it doesn't really matter (at least in the near-term) because either answer drives the same behavior.

When we built blogware we viewed there as being a couple key bits of unique functionality. For me, this was management of digital images and the ability to establish privileges around content of any kind. I did not fully think about the intersection of the two.

When my wife wanted to share digital images with her family, who live in a few different places around the world, I asked her if she would like me to hang a photo album off of my blog for her. She flatly refused. She did not want these images to be publicly available. When I asked her if she would like me to do it, but to restrict access only to her family (or whoever else she chose) she immediately embraced it. The difference was quite binary and quite powerful. A flat no to an enthusiastic yes.

I have groups for friends, groups for family and groups for work. They are easy to create and easy to manage.

Now there are certainly some free online services that allow for some of this. Ofoto and Text America come to mind. They have three clear downsides. They do not manage permissions, they require your users to deal with advertising and they are not connected in any way to the corpus of a website (if you have one). I think they are better than email, but nowhere near as useful as blogware.

So if you know someone who is receiving a digital camera for the holidays, or has received one but finds it painful to use (“I have all of these images on my hard drive and so what? what do I do now?”) then unlock the value for them. Get them a blogware account. A year, six months, three months, your choice. Better yet, start selling accounts and market them to your users in a January special to unlock the value of those x-mas digital cameras all of your users have received.

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I am elliot noss.

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