Something Different

There's no denying that I made a pretty severe mistake this past holiday when I succumbed to the itch and checked the work email. By not protecting my downtime like a grizzly bear protects her cubs, I spent the vast majority of the Christmas fortnight thinking about all the things that I would need to do in the first few months of 2020. This culminated this past Sunday when the oh-so-familiar physical manifestations associated with anxiety returned with a vengeance. Rather than using my time for the people around me, it was foolishly spent analysing, structuring, prioritising, and planning. This has resulted in logging over 42 hours of work so far this week1 and having very little motivation to tackle the challenges laid before me.

It's time to think about something different. Something that is both interesting and an opportunity to learn. Something that might just allow me to solve a bit of a problem I have with family members who are not in the Apple ecosystem.

Reiko and I take a lot of pictures of the boy. Many of these go into a shared photo library with a number of family members across the globe, but this is only good for people who have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Most people in my family, however, have a Samsung or Motorola device running Android. As a result, sharing memories with them can be a bit of a challenge. To get around this, I set up a NextCloud installation and created some password-protected, Internet-accessible shared albums for people to use. The idea was that we could put family photos in these albums, leave comments, and the like. This worked for a little while, but never really caught on. I'll admit that this is most likely my fault for not wanting to deal with the friction involved in having to maintain two shared photo libraries. Perhaps if the NextCloud photo utility were designed a little differently, I would ensure everyone used that system. This would be the most cost-effective way to go, after all. Apple wants a regular subscription for the 2TB of storage I've had to take out. Having all of the photos on a self-hosted solution -- even if the photos are in an Amazon S3 bucket -- would be noticeably cheaper. That said, I'm not a fan of the photo library in NextCloud and the alternatives leave much to be desired.

So, since I'm quite adept at starting things that never get finished, what would a decent photo sharing site that I built look like? There would need to be a timeline of sorts, but implemented with more intelligence than is found in Nice.Social. People would be able to leave comments and (potentially) share the pictures on other social networks via integrations that could be enabled by the person who uploaded the photos2. There would be the ability to write "stories" about one or multiple pictures, providing further context to what is happening in the images. People could add tags and maybe see additional details like a map of where the photos were taken, dates, and even camera information. A lot of this metadata is pretty easy to extract from the photo itself. Of course, privacy would be on by default. People could choose to share an album or collection of images with the whole world, just specific people, or nobody at all.

Twice before I've put time and effort into making a photo site. The first time was about a decade ago, and the second time was just a few years ago. The first site was used for a little while until I moved everything over to iCloud. The second site was my attempt to create a Flickr alternative. Neither were polished enough for other people to use. Could a third time be the charm?

For the moment the idea will get a little bit of thought and consideration. I like the concept, and some of the preliminary design elements I've envisioned would certainly make it possible to have an interesting approach to sharing photos with friends and family. The key would be implementing a publishing interface that is simple, intuitive, and completely responsive. The less friction there is, the better.

  1. My working days are Monday to Friday. 42 hours by Thursday means I can expect this to be a 52~55-hour working week. This is just a little bit over the 10-hour per day limit I aimed for last year.

  2. I see this as a basic mechanism to add a little friction in sharing pictures that might be private. However, when something's online, it's almost impossible to prevent undesired distribution.