Community customer serviceAs mentioned in The 3-Part Mission of GreatAlbum, while we were in the process of building GreatAlbum, we had to think about how we would support the users of the app. We looked at a lot of traditional customer service applications, like Jira Service Desk, Zendesk, Zoho, etc. The problem was that with all of them, the model was to have a small number of people providing customer service to end users. That didn’t feel right.

As a result, we created GreatSupport (https://help.greatalbum.net), a stand-alone app (website for now) that enables a community support model, just like you get with open source communities like Drupal, WordPress and GitHub. The GreatAlbum team will provide the foundation of support, and more importantly, our users will help each other. That approach will be much more scalable, and it will reinforce the sense of community, not only in sharing content with members of your Albums, but also in helping other users with how they do the same with their own albums, even when you aren’t a member of their albums and can’t see their content. We think this could become a model for other companies. 

The way it works is that there are Guide Books on the site that assist with five major things overall: 

  1. How to use the GreatAlbum App
  2. How to use the GreatAlbum Help (ironically, help for how to use help)
  3. Personal stories about user/life experiences as a result of using GreatAlbum
  4. How to write stories and biographies
  5. How to research family history

Each Guide Book is comprised of four kinds of content:

  1. Topics - Kind of like chapters, describe major parts of functionality in the apps, or major topics in researching and writing
  2. Articles - Explain how to perform functions related to each topic
  3. Issues - Describe problems, bugs, suggestions, requested features related to the Topics and Articles
  4. Discussions - Conduct discussions related to Topics, Articles and Issues
  5. Releases - Coming soon...this describes new releases for GreatAlbum, GreatSupport and GreatHome.

There are three kinds of users who interact on the GreatSupport site:

  1. Anonymous - can view everything; can't create/comment on anything
  2. Authenticated Users - can create Articles, Issues and Discussions; can edit Articles/Issues; can comment on Discussions
  3. Support Managers - can create/edit/delete anything on the site

The reason that Authenticated Users can edit any Article or Issue, is because they are empowered to support other users, which means they can create or edit any Articles to make them better, and they can edit any Issue to help resolve it. 

Genealogy treeTwo of the most popular, revenue-generating hobbies for individuals and families - on and off the internet - are genealogy and family photography/social media. 

Genealogy is primarily focused on finding new family members, and documenting/proving key life events, like birth, death, marriage, & divorce, with citations to prove those "facts". Lately, the big push has been on DNA testing to help you find even more family members and learn more about "where you come from." The problem with this is it's focused on "data," with limited support for social media or stories about the individuals/families in your family tree.

Social media mobile iconsPhotography for decades was shared by creating photo albums with physical prints, and when mixed with non-photo media like invitations and certificates, was the art called scrapbooking. With the advent of camera phones,  Facebook and other social media services, the focus has shifted to sharing digital photos in personal streams, or perhaps in groups. The problem with this is people amass a ton of photos and posts when sharing them with friends, but practically no means of organizing them, other than albums or user tagging. How do you go back and find pictures of your child's birthday ten years ago in an ocean of thousands of digital photos?

Photo Services like Flickr, Apple iCloud Photos and Google Photos do provide improved organization with albums, facial, geo & other meta tagging, but each album generally corresponds to an event, which means lots of albums and lots of repeated sharing with the same people that you have to specify over and over again. Albums contain only photos/videos - not other kinds of media. And the facial tagging is tied to each person's private set of contacts. This still results in many isolated albums with limited organization.

Huge gaps still remain with all of these solutions. None of them provide the ability (or encouragement) to tell thoughtful stories about the major events in our lives, nor the intuitive connections between Events, Stories, Media, Places and Individuals. 

This is where GreatAlbum comes in. This is the realization of a dream that I've had since at least 2000. The vision is that GreatAlbum will become the preeminent site/app for people to tell rich stories about the events in their lives and the lives of their loves ones. Millions of members will use it not only to commemorate the lives of their ancestors, but to  archive their social media content and organize it intuitively for future reference.

For the sake of security, and sanity, all content is organized into Albums. Here are four good examples of the kinds of albums that will exist:

  • Celebration Album – Tell the story of a lifetime 
    When someone is reaching a major milestone, like a wedding or big birthday or death, bring family & friends together to tells stories about how that person has touched their lives.
     
  • Core Family Album – Capture the moments in real-time
    Import and create "smart organization" around digital pictures you're taking with your Smartphones and backing up to Google or iCloud; share seamlessly with close family & friends.
     
  • Family Tree Album – It’s like LinkedIn for families
    Import/build your family tree with all the usual genealogy information, but go beyond that to capture & share the events in the lives of family members and the stories about why those events were so meaningful, with social media linked in. 
     
  • Alumni Album – Remember good times & catch up 
    For high school, college, work & other groups that want to reminisce about the gold old times, and also want to keep up with each other’s lives over the years.

 

GreatAlbum Content Structure

With GreatAlbum, organizing and sharing features are separated. Events are the main way to organize. An Event can have Media, Stories, Individuals and Places tagged to it. And the event can belong to one or more Albums, which is how content is shared.

An Album has Members, just like a Google Photo Album or a Facebook Group. Each time a new event and related content is added to the album, the members are notified and can enjoy it immediately. The "owner" of the event content doesn't have to decide who to share it with, since that's already determined at the Album level. And members of the album can share their own content/media as well for each event, fostering collaborative storytelling around shared life experiences.

Overlapping albums

 

Eventually, you will be able to share content/media in multiple albums, so you could have one album to collect stories from friends to celebrate a major birthday, and then share that same content in one or more a Family Album, to enrich those albums, which contain different collections of content for different memberships. 

 

One final note - GreatAlbum actually doesn't compete with Flickr, Apple iCloud Photos or Google Photos. We realize that you will still want to keep your photos safe and secure in those locations, since you likely trust their long-term survival more than GreatAlbum. Instead, most of the time you will simply "import" them from those photo services, which means creating media instances in GreatAlbum for each photo/video, with meta data linking them to Albums, Events, Stories, Individuals & Places, while the actual media files still remain in those services. TadaThen when you see the media displayed in GreatAlbum, it will be coming from your favorite photo service, where it is safe and sound! 

All of this is technically possible today. The trick is to figure out how to do it while minimizing the complexity of the user experience. This is part of the dream that GreatAlbum aims to make a reality!