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I attended my fifth year college reunion this weekend and had many conversations with people I hadn’t seen in several years. Despite the time that had elapsed, we had all stayed in contact through the passive sharing of photos on Facebook. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, much more than 140 characters.

During the revelry of the weekend, I took hundreds of photos with various groups of people. Now I need to share them. But I haven’t yet found the right photo sharing service. In fact, polling a few people casually, it seems no one has found the ideal service, despite being familiar with the various offerings out there: Picasa , Facebook, SnapFish , SmugMug , etc.

What’s the solution? We need an event centric photo sharing system

Photos are intrinsically social. We take pictures of ourselves with our friends or of vacations or beautiful things. And we want to share them – that’s where all the fun is.

Today’s photo sharing systems provide a user centric way of sharing photos – the photos I upload are associated with my account. An event centric paradigm is better for one main reason: it pools together all the photos from one event, instead of having them distributed among several users, so everyone can use them.

It enables collaboration by enabling each person to create a personalized album from a subset of the shared photo library.

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The vision

Four friends go to a baseball game with three cameras and a mobile phone. All of them take photos and upload them to a service. The photos are aggregated into a shared library. One user creates a book of his favorite photos, another users posts a subset of them as an album to Facebook and a third uses a photo from the collection as a profile image.

Taking it one step further, two users could collaborate on a shared photo album using the service.

Thinking about photos in the COPS framework

When I was working at Google , I met a user experience designer who shared with me a framework for thinking about how humans interact with objects: Collect, organize, present, share

Thinking about baseball cards, art museums, collectible cars, Christmas ornaments, there’s obviously some truth in this model.

To validate my idea, I came up with this analysis of an ideal photo sharing solution for my needs:

Collect

(1) Aggregate all my photos across services, my camera, email, phone and hard drives in one place

(2) Enable others to upload photos that are shared across user accounts from common events

(3) Provide long term back up for my photos

Organize

(1) Let me create rich albums from my photos and others photos

(2) Help me wade through the duplicate photos I take by enabling me to designate the best one and ignore, but keep the others

Present

(1) Enable easy editing and modification of the photos

(2) Create beautiful web pages to share with friends

Share

(1) Share the albums I create with the right people

(2) Allow my friends to download all my photos in high quality

(3) Make it easy to create books, get prints, make t-shirts, etc.

To make this happen, you would need to mix several different things together

In summary, I need

  • the social sharing, face recognition and permission engine of Facebook
  • the high resolution and album download capacities of SmugMug
  • the ease of use and design aesthetic of MobileMe
  • the book and photo printing capabilities of SnapFish
  • the storage capacity and OS integration of DropBox
  • (and the most important) the collaboration of a Google Docs

Because photos are inherently social, because all of our images are being stored in user centric silos while the Internet is enabliing sharing, it’s time for photos to become event based and collaborative.

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