Phountains: Photo Organization for People Who Want to Remain in Charge
A few weeks ago, I wrote about recommitting to being a “habitual creator,” i.e. someone who regularly adds something (hopefully) new and different to the world.
As I mentioned in that post, the first experiment I’m exploring is simple:
I will explore better, faster, more fluent workflows for organizing large photo collections.
I call my project Phountains, mostly because having a code name always makes a thing a bit more real, but also because it’s supposed to be a tool to organize mountains of photos. Get it? Photo-mountains. Phountains. (Groan.)
Like many of my ideas, this one is definitely about scratching my own itch. It’s borne out of frustration, or, I guess you could say, need.
The Scrum-ish user story goes something like this:
As a person who takes and collects tens of thousands of photos and screenshots each year, I’d like to be able to organize all my photos easily, in a way that isn’t dependent on a specific service or app, and in a format that I control.
I want the work involved in getting from chaos to organized-collection to be minimal. I’d like a “power tool.” With such a tool, it should be possible to organize 10,000 photos in an hour.
I am, frankly, surprised that as far as I know, no such tool exists.
Surely, I can’t be the only person out there that, for lack of a better option, ends up just dumping all of their photos in a folder and rarely look at them again?
Of course, I’m aware of the various, magical, smart cloud services—somebody-else’s-computer services—but surely, I can’t be the only person who wants to remain in complete control of my library?
Scrappy if I can help it
For the time being, and in the context of my trying my hand at being a more consistent creator in 2018, it’s worth noting that my current goal is not to ship this as a product to anybody. That’s too large of a goal for now, because I simply don’t know yet whether the idea is any good.
The fact that there isn’t anything like this out there is a data point. It could mean:
- Nobody’s ever had this idea before, or at least not somebody with the time and skills to execute it.
- Many folks have tried to do this, and it turned out making it happen in a way that wasn’t super-complicated from a user experience perspective was really hard.
- Folks wanted to do this, but weren't able to sell the benefits to a general audience, or make it work as a business.
And so, since I don’t know which one of these is closer to the truth, I’ll try my best to be scrappy and just explore instead.
(And believe me, my instinct is not to be scrappy. My instinct is to make grand plans about the perfect system and then, more often than not, never get anywhere close. :sadpanda:)
I’ll have more to say about the ideas I have for Phountains in the future, but you might be able to take a guess at what they might be from the philosophy I’m bringing to it:
- User is always the driver - The tool might provide smart suggestions, but the user gets to decide
- Visual, tactile interaction design - Get as close as possible to the feeling of working with magical (software) hands on a table full of magical (software) photos
- Malleable filters & groups - Grouping, filtering, view manipulation should be core workflow tools
- Storage agnostic (local, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.) - Don’t lock the user to any specific app
So yeah—that’s an outline of the idea I’ll be exploring:
Photo organization, for people who want to remain in charge.
I’m only just getting started, but you can follow my progress on GitHub if you like. If you want more updates from me, I have an RSS feed and a Twitter profile, and if you'd like to get in touch, you can reach me at email@example.com.