Would Dropbox please solve my photo problem?

After reading about how photo sharing/social app Color raised $41 million, launched a beta product that had users confused and is already in the process of pivoting, I was thinking about what really bugs me about managing my photos.

I have four kids, two digital cameras, two Flips, an old video recorder with tapes (yikes) and photos spread across Yahoo/Flickr, Facebook, two laptops and my wife’s desktop. If I wanted to pull together a mini-album of trips to New Hampshire or one of my children, it would take hours. And if we ever lost those photos & videos we would be crushed – they say the most common items retrieved from burning buildings are photo albums. So my problems aren’t social sharing (or whatever Color was doing), but simply ORGANIZATION and SECURITY.

In contrast, one of the best gifts I’ve ever received was the photo album my Mom gave me when I graduated from college. There, in one place (actually, two albums – hey, she loves her son) were the main pictures from my life, organized chronologically and with little tags describing people, places, dates and occasions. No red-eye reduction, no stitching photos together, no tone changes or special effects. Just a simple photo album that must have taken her hours to curate – the process of selecting which photos were truly noteworthy and then adding the metadata, or “tags.”

It would be great if the team at Dropbox (or an equally talented group with a passion for product simplicity and user efficiency) could create a simple tool that could give me what my Mom gave me. I just want to upload all my photos or link my various photo site accounts and have a product/service do the curating work for me. The ideal offering would consist of the following:

  • software (e.g. facial recognition, meta-data extraction, logic to group events together);
  • interactive tools to help the computer learn (e.g. teaching the software who’s face is whose, selecting the “best” photos from a bunch of the same event or pose); and,
  • crowdsourcing (e.g. resolving issues the software can’t, scanning my old analog photos, adding other information, archiving images that don’t fit). [Maybe the crowdsourcing element could provide meaningful employment to millions of retired baby-boomers, like my Mom.]

Then, when I want to create an album I would have metadata across all of my photos and could easily find what I want. It would automatically create a chronological timeline and mini-albums based on people, places and events. And it would have an optional back-up option that would guarantee never to lose the photos – this could be the premium service users would pay for.

I’m aware that some of these features exist on Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Ofoto, HP Photo Viewer and MSN Live Photo Gallery. But what doesn’t seem to exist is a simple, no-frills Dropbox-like experience that focuses on ORGANIZATION and SECURITY.

UPDATE: After writing this post I came across a potential new service called OpenPhoto. They seem to be more focused on the security part of the problem than organization, but I was sufficiently impressed with the founder (see his comment below) and his progress that I pledged a few bucks to the project on Kickstarter. Check out the video below:

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One comment

  1. The problems you outlined echo the manifesto for OpenPhoto.

    Software:
    1) Metadata extraction and logical groups are already planned (and partially implemented).
    2) Facial recognition will make its way in as well – it’ll be a de-facto feature of any photo service soon.

    Interactive tools:
    1) This falls under the “tools” category which include ways to narrow down the best photo from a set of 20 similar ones, syncing photos from the web to your local harddrive and more.

    Crowdsourcing:
    1) Interesting. Having the platform open sourced goes a long way. I’ve had countless people ask me what they can do to help. It may even be tools to make crowdsourcing possible. So many inbound emails that I’ve found little time to code!

    I don’t believe Dropbox will devote enough time and energy to photos for anything like this to happen.

    I believe OpenPhoto is the solution to your problems because your problems are the same as mine. I started down this path by co-founding a photo startup in 2004 and OpenPhoto leverages all the good and resolves all of the bad from that venture.

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