A fresh new approach to digital albums

Author Erik

Date 04 - 10 -20

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Boring Old Approach

Since photos started going digital around 2000 (I got my first digital camera in 1999), the approach to creating and sharing digital photo albums has remained largely unchanged:

  1. Organize your photos/videos into an album - these days, Apple Photos and Google Photos seem to be the dominant places for this, as they're tightly integrated with the two dominant smartphone operating systems - Apple iOS and Google Android. 
  2. Share your album with family/friends by specifying their email addresses, or by sending them a sharable link via text or email

If the collaborate option is turned on then anyone invited to the album could add photos to it. In Apple and Google, you can tag faces in photos based on contacts in YOUR address book, but can't share those contacts between users. In Facebook, you can tag people who are Facebook users, but you can't tag non-users (including long-deceased ancestors). 

The mechanics of sharing a photo album is such a hassle, many people don't even bother. They share a few pictures here and there, via email, text/WhatsApp or post (Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/etc.), and the majority of their photos never see the "light of day", buried in their photo storage.

A Fresh New Approach

There has to be a better way, and there is! If you think about it, most albums actually represent events that took place, where photos/videos were taken to capture the moment and to share with others. Further, most events occur within the same few circles of people - close family/friends, extended family, school communities, sports teams/clubs, work and community organizations. Wouldn't it be amazing if you could define these groups once and then share easily with them every time you have something new to share? 

Well, that's exactly how albums work in GreatAlbum. Unlike boring old albums that have only members and media, each album in GreatAlbum contains:

  1. Album info - Name, cover/profile media, description, URL
  2. Members - registered users of GreatAlbum
  3. Content
    1. Events 
    2. Individuals
    3. Places
    4. Stories
    5. Discussions
  4. Media
    1. Local Images
    2. Local Videos
    3. Local Audio
    4. Local Document
    5. Remote Photos (Apple, Google, Facebook, Instagram)
    6. Remote Videos (Youtube, Vimeo)
    7. Remote Documents (Google Docs, Dropbox)

The details of these content and media types is describe below, but in a nutshell, the most unique and special aspects of this approach are:

  • An Event acts like a supercharged version of a boring old album, and each time a new event is shared with related content and media, it's simply shared into one (or more) albums, and all members of that album(s) are notified and have immediate access; there is no need to specify members each and every time
  • They event is described not just by media, but also related individuals, stories, places and discussions
  • Media is not constrained to one platform, it can come from nearly any media service, a user has authorized GreatAlbum to access it
  • Content and Media can be shared in multiple albums, so for instance, everything from a wedding event can be shared in "John & Jane's Wedding" album for those who attended, and also in a family tree album as part of documenting family extended families and individuals

The Content items provide the "bones" of an album. They structure and organize all the media and related information.

Events tend to serve as the main organizing construct. Much like boring old albums, they can have media associated with them. But they can also identify the place(s) where the event occurred, the individuals who were there and stories that people have shared about that event. 

Individuals represent people who are linked to that event. For a recent event, those individuals might also be users of GreatAlbum, but for an event from your family history, such as the wedding of your great grandparents, the individuals might have been deceased for decades.

Places identify specific/important places in the context of this album. When you view one, you can see all events that occurred there and all media linked to that place.

Stories are more than just comments. They can be long, essay-style stories about important things that happened from someone's point of view, which they want to be captured along with media.

While users may post comments content and media, like you often see on boring old albums, GreatAlbum also enables full-blown Discussions as a part of its albums, and those discussions can be linked to any content or media items in the album. They are great way to have a threaded discussions aspects of multiple content/media items at once.

And of course, all of this is just a warm up for the meat of each album, which is the Media

Local Audio, Documents, Photos & Videos are those that have been uploaded directly to GreatAlbum and thus reside locally. 

Remote Audio, Documents, Photos & Videos still reside on other cloud services, and a GreatAlbum user has authorized the import of their metadata so that they can be organized and shared within albums in GreatAlbum.