GreatAlbum

What is GreatAlbum? How it is Different?

Submitted by Erik on Sun, 07/12/2020 - 02:00

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:

  • Individual Album – Tell the story of a lifetime 
    When someone is reaching a major milestone, like a 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!

The 3-Part Mission of GreatAlbum

Submitted by Erik on Sun, 07/05/2020 - 03:37

When I started to entertain my dream of creating the GreatAlbum application, I always knew there were two parts of it that were important: 

 

Community customer service1. Community Content Development 

Great would be a different kind of platform from any other I have ever seen, incorporating what I felt were the most important parts of family tree content management and multimedia management, with a focus on creating rich stories about loved ones. It would leverage the power of community to collaboratively create content and celebrate to celebrate the lives of people that content highlights. This means:

  • Albums have members, like traditional photo albums
  • But Albums would contain more than just media( photos/videos). They could also contain Events, Stories, Individuals, Places and Discussions.
  • Those content types would be interlinked, so an Event could have lots of media linked to it as well as stories written by different people, a Place where it happened, Individuals tagged who were there, and related Discussion threads.
  • Each Event would essentially act like a sub-album, only much better, and you would have to share it for others to see it, because it's already part of the larger Album.
  • Similarly Stories can be linked to Events, Individuals, Places, Media, Discussions
  • And Media can be linked to Events, Stories, Individuals, Places, Media, Discussions

In this way, you get a much better feel for the true nature of the relationships that exist between these content types, allowing you to tell more robust stories and explore the content more thoroughly. To learn more about this, see What is GreatAlbum? How is it Different?

 

Community App Dev2. Community Application Development 

GreatAlbum would also leverage the power of community in how the app is built. This means:

  • Building it on an open source platform, so that 80% of the functionality comes from others who have already done that heavy lifting. The GreatAlbum team would create the 20% the no one else has ever done before, which makes GreatAlbum unique and special. 

  • Making GreatAlbum app available as an open source download, so that technical people using it can also tinker with it and offer technical suggestions on how to improve it (even technical patches to the code).

  • Where the GreatAlbum team makes improvements to existing modules, offer those as patches back to those module maintainers, so they can consider accepting the improvements.

  • Where the GreatAlbum team is able to create new modules that serve our purposes and can also be generalize to be useful to others on their websites, then we will offer those as new modules to the development community and become the maintainers of them.

To accomplish #2, we chose the Drupal content management system. For more on this, see Why we built GreatAlbum on Drupal?

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 customer service people providing all the support to end users. That didn’t feel right. As a result, we created the third part of our overall mission for GreatAlbum...

 

Community customer service3. Community Customer Support

GreatAlbum would provide a community support model, just like you get with open source communities like Drupal. The GreatAlbum team would provide the foundation of support, and more importantly, our users to be able to help each other. That approach would be much more scalable and it would 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. As a result, GreatSupport was born, which is a community support site for GreatAlbum and could become a model for other companies. 

To learn more about this, see How GreatSupport provides community support for GreatAlbum.

My 20 year old dream...now called GreatAlbum 

Submitted by Erik on Sun, 06/28/2020 - 02:40
Erik's personal albums
The albums I made in my 20s & 30s

For over thirty years, I have been obsessed with collecting “artifacts'' about my life experiences and those of my family members, especially my ancestors. Since at least high school, I’ve always felt someday I would create the platform to share all these photos, videos and documents with others, hopefully in the format of rich, multi-media stories. In my 20s, I made 20-30 albums from pictures, ribbons certificates and other things I had collected so far. About the time I turned 30, this interest intensified as it became connected to a new interest in genealogy. I discovered one of my dad’s cousins had built a family tree in Family Tree Maker software, and one of his brothers had done a bunch of research, collected lots of family artifacts and taken lots of detailed notes about them. I actually took a week of vacation in 1997 to fly from Boston to visit my “Aunt Mary Lynn” in Minnesota, to go over her family tree, and to visit my “Uncle Mike” in Sandusky, Ohio, and “borrow” a box full of these family heirlooms.  Since that time, I’ve continued to collect photos and documents, not just of my nuclear family, but of many other family members as well. With the help of digital photography and high speed scanner, I now have over 150,000 photos, videos and scanned documents. 

I remember when my Grandma Webb died. Her kids, my aunts and uncles, were sitting around the table, telling stories about her and their life growing up together. One of them turned to me and said, “Erik, don’t you have a lot of pictures and other stuff scanned in your digital archive?” I said in fact I did, and in no time we were going through hundreds of these items in my Dropbox folder structure. I told them someday I would have a platform that made it easy to share these precious moments and to capture the stories that really brought these to life!” 

Tony Robbins DWD 2019Since 2001, I’ve tried three different times to get a prototype off the ground, but always tried to do it myself and never had enough talent to make it fly. Finally, while attending Tony Robbins’ Date with Destiny event in December 2019, I realized this dream was too important to postpone any longer. I decided then and there I was going to build a team and turn this dream into a reality.

I decided to call the app GreatAlbum, because the idea is that all content will be organized into Albums, which can contain events, stories, media, places, individuals and discussions. Albums enable users to maintain privacy based on memberships, and events become like sub-albums with media, stories, places and individuals attached to them. And Great means this is a really great idea/application, but also because through it you will learn more about your Great Grandparents, your Great Great Grandparents, and many other loved ones in your life and family history. 

As I've dived into this project, I've discovered this dream has actually turned into a 3-part mission: (1) build the GreatAlbum App, as I've long dreamed, (2) harness the power of the Drupal community for its development and give back to that community as we create breakthroughs, and (3) create a new community support model that could be powerful for GreatAlbum and other companies/products/services. Read more about this at 3-Part Mission for GreatAlbum.

Now, it feels like every other day I encounter people who really wish they had something like this to celebrate the lives of loved ones. They almost never say it that way, because they don’t know that something like this exists, but I can tell how much they want to celebrate and appreciate someone, and when I tell them about GreatAlbum, they say, “That sounds amazing. How can I join?” Very soon, they will be able to. And you will be able to as well! 

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