воскресенье, 22 мая 2016 г.

A guide for making your awesome online photo service unusable

I finished my story about the autumn journey to Portugal five weeks ago but there's still one related memory to share.

Each time I travel abroad, I make tons of photos. Around two-thirds of them usually don't survive my own review (either due to their low quality or because they're too similar to the other ones) but the remaining one-third still consists of several hundreds of photos. I need some place to store them and to be able to show my friends where I've been. Of course, I prefer online options to hard drives. This way, it's easier to share your collection of photos. Furthermore, you don't have to worry that your photos are stored on the PC which can get broken / be left at the old place during the relocation.

I tried many online services before but each of them had some disadvantages. A couple of months before the autumn journey I stumbled across a new candidate. ThisLife claiming that it doesn't compress the files you uploaded and that it provides free unlimited storage for photos (even though storing videos is a paid option) seemed to be a perfect fit for me. I gave it a try after coming back from Lisbon. It was a disappointing experience. The funny fact is that if I tried it after one of my previous journeys, I'd claim that it is awesome.

The thing is that this time I had a mixture of photos from two cameras and these cameras were desynchronized. Would you expect that the difference between the time zones your friend and you live in may affect your travel photos album? I think, you wouldn't. Neither did I. Before uploading the selected photos, I changed their names to three-digit numbers to make them go in the order I want. That approach had always worked on the other services. When you view your album on ThisLife, you can sort the files either by date or by name. But when you share your album with the others, the only alternative is a timeline view, i.e. ordering by the time when the photo was taken. Filenames are ignored. Just imagine the chaos caused by that keeping in mind that for each day there was around a hundred of photos taken with the cameras which had two-hour difference (let alone the fact that sometimes I took the pictures in the same place on two different days). Thus I had to change the dates to fictious ones to make the ordering by time match the desired one. I was so angry that instead of googling how to do that programmatically I made all the renaming stuff manually in the Windows Explorer...

The story would be incomplete without mentioning that ThisLife has a lot of cool features. For example, you can order calendars, metal wallarts, puzzles, iPhone cases, pillows and many other things auto-designed by the service using your photos (you don't even need to pick the photos for that, ThisLife does it on its own). Facial recognition feature is also cool. Instead of simply detecting faces on your photos, it finds similar faces and asks "Who is this person?" about a bunch of pictures at a time. This feature would be cooler if it managed to recognize me :), but at least it detected my friend's face on 24 photos and found the similarity. 50% success rate is not that bad for such a challenging task.

You see, overall ThisLife is great. However, one awkward solution (like having timeline as the only sharing option) is always enough to make your users turn from you. I hope someday they will fix that. Until then I'd better search for alternatives. What online services do you use to store your photos? 

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