My sister got married end of May, in France. That was an awesome party by the way. I did not do a really good job of preparing a website and other digital things for them before the wedding. But at least I had an epiphany the next day of the wedding, and I decided to go around asking people for their email addresses so I could contact them after I put the photos of the wedding online.
The problem at hand was how to provide access to everybody in a private way to the photos, let anyone upload content if they wanted, and also provide access to zip files containing all the photos or zip files of the albums. Also, the target users are not expected to be really proficient with online tools (some people did not have an email address! ;) )
Here’s how I finally went about it:
- I created a new Gmail account for my sister and her husband: I guess once they finally read the email where I put all the information, we’ll see if that’s a good thing to do or not. I guess it’s the social experiment part of the all thing: is a email account shared by both a good idea. Especially since I got the impression they did not want a bank account in common… Let’s see… Another reason to ‘offer’ them a Gmail account is to introduce them to a good online mail application. Gmail does not seem to be really popular among normal French people. Few people (maybe 1) had a Gmail email address out of 30 I collected.
- Another benefit of the Gmail account is that you can share photos on Picasa. I did not think for example that Flickr was a good option, I did not want everybody to have to create a Flickr account to view private photos. Picasa lets you create albums that are not public, but that anybody can access from a complicated URL. Picasa gives you 1GB of data, but you can pay to have more. So I created lots of albums for each part of the wedding (in front of cityhall, at the cityhall, after cityhall, in front of church, at the church, dinner, etc), including the days before and after.
- A lot of people had cameras and took lots of shots during the wedding. My hope and expectation was (is?) that people would be happy to have a way to share their photos and contribute to the documentation of the wedding. Someone well informed suggested me to check out drop.io, box.net, dropbox.net which are all online services or applications to share things, and provide some collaborative way to do so. I checked them all and my first choice would have been drop.io because the signing process is so easy. But it’s not available in French. Duh. So I opened a box.net account with the gmail created before. Box.net (which is kind of translated in French) lets you create folders that you can share with collaborators who then have either read or edit access to it. Basically my idea is that people would make a zip file of their own photos, upload it there. After that, I would process them (select, beautify, etc) and add them to the existing Picasa albums.
- Now, how to share all the information? I have about 15 links to different Picasa albums (you can’t create albums at different depths in Picasa, and just share the top one). I have instructions for how to upload photos or zip files into box.net (I actually created another account on box.net that people could use to upload photos, so that they would not have to create an account if they did not want to. Plus it avoids the loop of creating an account, being added as contributor to the shared folder). I created a web document on box.net, essentially a webpage, with the instructions at the top, and a thumbnail and link to each Picasa album. And I sent a short email to everybody, containing only the link to that web document on box.net.
So far, no one really uploaded photos. I wonder how long people take to get their photos out of their memory card… For all I know, my sister and her husband haven’t seen any of the photos yet :)
I am sure the new Google product Wave will provide a solution to all this.