All about my new venture, working title, ‘Family Share’

The Service

I’m launching a service to help parents easily and privately share media of their children with immediate family members (e.g. grandparents). The service will initially launch on iPad, iPhone and Web. It’ll come in two flavours — free and premium.

The Background

Around May 26th, my first child is due. And in the run up to this time, I’ve been looking around for a good media storage and sharing service to adopt. Very quickly I’m going to want a service that enables me and my wife to snap photos and video as normal and send the media ‘somewhere’ that then enables both sets of our parents (i.e. the child’s grandparents) to easily access it.

Although you might think this set of requirements is well served, it’s not. Not for the parents.

My parents are pretty good with computers. My mum enjoys e-commerce shopping on her MacBook Pro. My dad has a Skype account. They’re pretty progressive. However Facebook is an anathema to them. They don’t quite understand or enjoy it. Likewise, Flickr, or Picasa. My wife will routinely send a URL of holiday (“vacation”) pictures from Picasa to my mum — and all is good. Mum is able to click on the attached URL and browse the photos. However when the time comes to show her friends, she either can’t find the email, or the correct URL, or it asks her to login and she can’t remember the username and password — and so on and so on. This is hugely frustrating for both parties. We get very disappointed because we can’t show pictures. Mum and Dad think the technology is rubbish. And — no kidding — we end up taking the photos on a laptop to show them. It’s just quicker.

Before anyone points out that ‘my dad can do bookmarks’ or ‘my mum loves Facebook’, I know. I get it. Every parent is different. But what I want is a service that cuts through all this uncertainty. I just want it to work. I want to be able to upload photos and video and for them to be immediately available to my parents. Further, I want there to be ZERO friction for my parents to access the media.

I don’t want them to have to login, remember URLs, use bookmarks or anything like that.

Zero Friction

Zero friction is important. Because I’m about to turn on the ‘fire hose’. All the other parents I know hardly put down the camera when they’re out with their children. Friends of mine routinely capture 20-30 photos of their child playing at the swing park. On a normal unremarkable day. That’s not counting proper events — birthdays, parties, holidays and so on. One reader of the newsletter, Mike, has 15,000 photos of his children and he estimates that they capture perhaps 10-15 photos per day, not counting exceptions like holidays. I fully intend capturing this level of content.

Once I’ve captured the content, what do I do with it?

Well the first thing I DO NOT do is stick them all on Facebook. Or on Twitter via Twitpic. Because my followers and friends would go nuts. Absolutely nuts. Even my closest friends do not want to experience the ‘fire hose’ of media that my wife and I are about to generate.

But the grandparents do. Oh yes. They want it all! They want to derive joy and pleasure each day from consuming the content — and then they want to show off portions of the content with their friends.

And I want to enable this. Having seen the mounting excitement of both sets of parents, my wife and I both want to make sure that we give back. It’s an interesting feeling. I feel like I should. I want to give my parents this joy.

The Initial Concept

The initial concept of the service is based around enabling me as the parent to capture some content on my iPhone and have that uploaded to ‘the service’ — and then for the grandparents to get a notification of new content on their iPad — and use then use our iPad application to view the content. I like the concept of sending a push notification to the iPad. But I also like the idea of me prompting them to look — and the only thing they have to do is simply tap on the relevant app icon and boom, there are all the photos that I sent today. There is, of course, quite a lot of potential in terms of making the service available to as wide an audience as possible. But right now, I’m focusing on the iPad/iPhone experience (because it’s simply gorgeous) and because it’s what I want.

Get Involved

I haven’t got a name for the service yet although working title is ‘Family Share’. If you’d like to join me in the journey, I’m looking for 15 VIP founder members who will each pay £150 per month for their membership. In return, VIP founder members will get unrestricted lifetime access to the service and the opportunity to help shape it’s development. Plus each VIP founder member will get an equity share. (The exact structure of which I’m working out right now.) The VIP member revenue will help contribute toward the development costs, the majority of which I’m bearing.

I’m also looking for your suggestions on products and services that we should adopt. For instance I’m going to make sure we integrate mobile analytics into any of the applications we release.

I’ll be using Mobile Industry Review to chronicle the development of the service, so standby for updates.

If you’d like more information or to get involved, drop me an email.

  • http://www.andrewgrill.com/blog andrewgrill

    Ewan, don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm, but as the father of a very photogenic 3 year old girl, I know exactly what you mean.

    I use Flickr and set permissions so that just the grandparents can see the content, via a guest pass, linked to an easy to remember URL.

    All Grandma in Sydney does is click on a URL and the latest pics are up.

    Cost – $24.95/year for unlimited storage. I currently have 4,000+ pictures of our daughter up there.

    It works, and 3rd party upload and viewing software for Nokia and iPhone is freely available.

    Keep it simple! When you have a newborn you won’t have time to muck around – go with what works and don’t over-engineer what should be super simple.

    Andrew Grill
    http://www.londoncalling.mobi

  • http://www.allaboutiphone.net/ Matt Radford

    Sounds great. You're right that there really isn't anything that quite fits the bill, esp. in terms of using the iPhone platform to its full extent. Push notification of new photos/movies (or groups of such) would be incredibly useful. One thing I'd ask for is platform equivalency in terms of upload, editing, tagging, etc., as far as possible. I should be able to do as much from my Family Share iPhone app / iPad app or desktop PC as that device will allow.

    Shame I don't have £150/mo. to spare. But this is a service I'd love to see. Do you have any spots for VIP founder cheerleaders?

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    I really do like Flickr — and Picasa — but my problem is that both sets of parents simply haven't taken to it. They don't get the way it displays.

    I certainly not planning to reinvent the wheel, but I need something that will work for my mum and dad without any friction at all.

    I've been on Flickr for years and, unfortunately, despite sending URLs and putting bookmarks on laptops and so on, they've never taken to it at all :| I think it's fantastic that you can use the existing tools available.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    VIP founder cheerleaders, Matt? I'll consult with the Oracle (“wife”) on that and see what she says! I like the idea!

    How do you respond to Andrew's point illustrating how he uses Flickr perfectly fine?

  • http://www.andrewgrill.com/blog andrewgrill

    Sydney Grandma actually bought a brand new laptop she could do video skype etc because the old one could not. You will be surprised what lengths grandparents will go to be able to “see” their grandchildren no matter what the formatting looks like.

    Seems like a lot of effort just because the folks “don't like the way it displays”.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    I do agree Andrew — but on the other hand, I also bought an iPad. A Toshiba tablet is perfectly, perfectly workable and does the job. I just like how the iPad 'displays' and works. Same with the iPhone. I think there's an addressable market for the service — not least because the first 6 customers will be my family members. Perhaps the only 6. But 6 customers all the same!

  • Donal

    Ewan – know exactly what you mean. My mother (aged 74) recently started using a computer for the first time, motivated by a 6,000 mile gap to her only grandchildren. I bought her a Macbook (entry model) for the skype call quality which is better than on any other laptop. Now that she is comfortable with that and is also now browsing away, I am going to introduce her to Shutterfly which I find very user friendly. But it really is baby steps and repeatedly taking through the process and demystifying the whole computing experience. Shutterfly's iPhone app is excellent – not sure if an iPad one is available yet. So while I really see the benefit in what your trying to do, I'm not sure how much simpler you can make it. A single platform for video and photo's would be great though…

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    I'm with you Donal. I really want both video and photos in one. And I want it totally customised to remove all friction for the grandparents. The rest of us know how the things work — or are at least comfortable with them.

    I do like Shutterfly and no doubt they'll have an iPad app in the works.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    I'm with you Donal. I really want both video and photos in one. And I want it totally customised to remove all friction for the grandparents. The rest of us know how the things work — or are at least comfortable with them.

    I do like Shutterfly and no doubt they'll have an iPad app in the works.

  • http://www.allaboutiphone.net/ Matt Radford

    I too have a Flickr Pro account, use the Guest Pass feature, and have mapped a subfolder on my personal domain for easy access of grandparents. And if the grandparents care to look at it, it works well.

    But it just sits there in their bookmarks. I know that they never look at it – because there's no automatic prompting that there is new content. What I want to give them is a combination of an RSS-style feed with notifications pushed to them (either iPhone notifications or via email), without them having to know what any of that means.

    There's also no easy way for them to download all of the photos and movies that I post, for offline use/their own local storage. So I think what I want is a subset of Flickr + a certain amount of Dropbox + easy notifications + a whole lot of “it just works”.

    I used to be a heavy Flickr user, for general photo sharing + storage. But now my photos are backed up as part of an automatic backup set. I share hardly any photos publicly. Facebook allows me to share photos with mates. I need something to make it easy to share photos with family. Maybe Ewan can pull it off?

  • http://www.allaboutiphone.net/ Matt Radford

    I too have a Flickr Pro account, use the Guest Pass feature, and have mapped a subfolder on my personal domain for easy access of grandparents. And if the grandparents care to look at it, it works well.

    But it just sits there in their bookmarks. I know that they never look at it – because there's no automatic prompting that there is new content. What I want to give them is a combination of an RSS-style feed with notifications pushed to them (either iPhone notifications or via email), without them having to know what any of that means.

    There's also no easy way for them to download all of the photos and movies that I post, for offline use/their own local storage. So I think what I want is a subset of Flickr + a certain amount of Dropbox + easy notifications + a whole lot of “it just works”.

    I used to be a heavy Flickr user, for general photo sharing + storage. But now my photos are backed up as part of an automatic backup set. I share hardly any photos publicly. Facebook allows me to share photos with mates. I need something to make it easy to share photos with family. Maybe Ewan can pull it off?

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    I'm hesitant to create a service that downloads to a physical hard disk just because of the complexity that this creates. I don't know if my mother would ever care about whether the photo was 'local' or not. She'd just want to be able to get to it easily with just a few taps and then either show it off — or, perhaps print it or send it by Touchnote.

    I'm writing the spec at the moment…

  • http://twitter.com/elliottucker Elliot Tucker

    Hey Ewan, great idea. One of the fellas on This Week in Photography, Alex Lindsay I think, did something similar where he bought a wireless photo frame that can import from an RSS feed. He configured it to read from a Flickr set's RSS feed. He then sent the frame to his granny. Now all he needs to do to add pics to the frame is to add them to his “kids” flickr set.

    Of course it relies on a WiFi connection at grannies house, but I think the WiFi iPad is going to be the bigger seller anyway over the 3G.

  • matthewgrowney1

    Hi Ewan. We applaud your new venture as it is something somewhat related to what we have built with Vizit (http://www.VizitMe.com). We understand the challenge of mobilizing one's photo collection and moving them wherever, whenever, with the least amount of friction. Best of luck!

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Matthew, tell us about Vizit?

  • matthewgrowney1

    Vizit is one of the world's first two-way digital photo frames. It uses the cellular network (2G/2.5G), full touchscreen, and our secure content management system (VizitMe.com) to allow for photos to be sent from mobile phones, pc's, 3rd party photo sites, etc to Vizit. You can also send 3rd party Internet content as well- Life/Getty images, etc. The device runs embedded Linux and Flash Lite so the presentation of photos, new content, etc.is really simple. We just launched via AT&T two weeks ago and have had a lot of great stories from grandparents or as we say “Parents w/ Parents”. We've been considering an iPad app that would turn one into a Vizit (same UI, etc).

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Matthew, how much do units cost?

  • http://ourdoings.com/ Anonymous

    Ewan, for managing the large quantity of photos generated, take a look at what I’ve done with http://ourdoings.com/ doing automatic organization by date and splitting a day’s photos into two sections: “featured” and “more”. You don’t have to think at all to make an uncluttered story, simply by uploading everything. When you’re ready to put a bit of thought in, you bring up a slide show on your computer, navigate with the arrow buttons, and use “f” to toggle featured. And since I know the Vizit guy is going to ask this, yes, you can get the featured photos via Media RSS: most recent 180 high-resolution or 360 medium-resolution.

  • http://ourdoings.com/ Anonymous

    Ewan, for managing the large quantity of photos generated, take a look at what I’ve done with http://ourdoings.com/ doing automatic organization by date and splitting a day’s photos into two sections: “featured” and “more”. You don’t have to think at all to make an uncluttered story, simply by uploading everything. When you’re ready to put a bit of thought in, you bring up a slide show on your computer, navigate with the arrow buttons, and use “f” to toggle featured. And since I know the Vizit guy is going to ask this, yes, you can get the featured photos via Media RSS: most recent 180 high-resolution or 360 medium-resolution.

  • matthewgrowney1

    MSRP is $279 US.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Verrry interesting Matthew, I like it!

  • richardspetersen

    Have you looked at SmugMug? They might be a fit – unlimited storage online for photos (and videos, which you will soon realize are even more important) at a flat annual rate. I'm not a customer, but they have a good reputation. One issue for all these services is how metadata are managed. Beyond timestamps, if captions, tags or face-recognition data are associated with a photo, you need to be sure the service supports it.

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