Views from Phanfare CEO and Co-founder Andrew Erlichson

Link I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues

If you read the comments of this blog, one might conclude that we are completely insane. By removing open public albums and adding social networking (which requires registration) to the Phanfare system, it may seem like we have angered all our users. But those commenting on this blog do not represent everyone. My blog is read by a small minority of our users, albeit a sophisticated and internet savvy group of people to be sure.

Last week I emailed all our customers and got about 300 replies. I read and answered every one of them. And they were not overwhelmingly negative. In fact, many were quite positive, especially from the exact group we are trying to serve, the family shooter who cares about privacy on the net. I got permission from folks to quote them here.

A Dr. in NYC, who has been a Phanfare customer since 2005 wrote:

Just got upgraded and I am completely and totally overjoyed it looks FANTASTIC. You guys must have done an unbelievable amount of work putting this site up. I’m already connected to one person and can’t wait to connect to more. The site has features of connectivity with others that I’ve longed for for quite a while. GREAT job!

A user from Seattle:

My immediate family of 20 are scattered from Seattle to Grand Rapids, MI to Ft. Pierce, FL and Beaverdam, OH. We were long-time users of MSN’s family website (with paid storage), but none of us liked it very well; we just hadn’t found a better alternative for our primary goal of sharing photos of nieces, nephews and grandchildren.

None of us has a problem with the changes in 2.0, and we all see the advantages. In fact, the new functionality – particularly the free 1GB of storage – will allow some of the family who would not have been willing or able to pay for storage to now share some family photos.

A phanfare user of two years:

The changes in the way access permissions are given have been very good. After using Phanfare for 2 years, I felt a need to get more flexibility in sharing specific albums with specific people – and when I contacted the helpdesk, Shannon responded that I could be on Phanfare 2.0 in two weeks – offering me that option. And after having used it for a month, I can say that the new online access is experienced as very good. The family and friends I shared it with have reacted very positively and some started creating their own albums (which they hopefully for you will grow beyond 1 Gb). I have had some struggles with the desktop client, but your team has been very responsive.

A woman from NYC:

I want to give you my congratulations and encouragement.

I think that Phanfare is a wonderful site with helpful and friendly people. I have always been impressed by everyone’s responsiveness to every question I every had. At first when I saw the changes, I only thought about my silo and wasn’t used to the new dashboard yet, so I felt a little like my old Phanfare was going away. But in fact, I personally haven’t lost anything and I quickly realized it is much better for the company and for others who want to share photos and with whom I want to share.

Thanks very much and best of luck. I know this next phase will be a success.

A user from Firestone, CO:

At first I wasn’t sure I would like the new platform. However with some use I find that I do like the changes, a great deal. The Friends, Family and Group assignments work well for me.

The biggest complainer I had on the 2.0 change ended up being the person who has used the 1G account the most, so far anyway. She is now posting vacation pictures.

I won’t pretend that everyone feels well served by the changes we are making. At the edges, there are users who are disappointed by the changes and will leave. For those people we are doing everything we can to enable them to get their media back and land safely somewhere else. But for the quiet middle, Phanfare 2.0 is working out great. We are thrilled to be able to serve a greater number of people with the new version and to tighten the focus of the product on the family shooter.

  • A FORMER USER

    For all of you wandering what the fuss is all about, simply click on the “SAMPLE ALBUM” link at the top of this very same page to see how nice the former Phanfare site used to be. (if it has not been updated yet by the time you read this)

    Almost made me cry now that it is no longer available… RIP, my dear Phanfare.

  • Andrew Erlichson

    Ha, good catch. I will leave the link up for a while so your post makes sense to people.

    You know, Phanfare 2.0 albums look pretty much the same as Phanfare 1.0 albums, except for the nav ribbon at the top. ;-)

  • Liz

    I am one of the many unhappy customers who are sadly departing Phanfare to a more user-friendly service (hmmm, like Phanfare used to be…). You mention in your post that you are helping us to “land safely somewhere else.” Well, my “somewhere else” is http://www.smugmug.com, and as an FYI to other soon-to-be former phanfare users, they are offering a 50% off your first year coupon. The code is “phanfare.”

    I have already emailed their customer support to ask specific questions about their service and possible changes and “upgrades” similar to those undertaken by Phanfare. I received a personal response within about 20 minutes, and ample reassurance that their service would meet my needs for the long haul. Now, I am simply waiting to hear from Phanfare as to when (and in what form) I will receive all of my uploaded media.

    I too will miss the ease and service of the “old” Phanfare, but I feel confident that SmugMug will meet our family needs just fine.

  • Bo

    Besides all the rest… The invitaions are send in English and I, family and friends in Sweden.
    I have tried the new Phanfae and I have to say the old one was much better and easier! I will move to snugmug as well.
    I realy can’t understand why Phanfare are doing this changes. Other sites say “no registration needed”. Many of my friends don’t want so register on the net if it’s not necessary for securiy and personal reasons

  • http://hale.phanfare.com/ Chris

    Boy, I sure would love to see my account upgraded so that I can see what all the fuss is about! I’m enthusiastic and optimistic about the changes, but frankly I’m sort of tired of waiting to see them in my own account. I’ve got a lot of photos to upload, and I’m trying to decide whether to keep investing in Phanfare (as I have been for the last two years).

  • Tanya

    My sister’s Phanfare site has upgraded, and now no one in the family can see her photos, nor can any of her friends, unless they sign up. And no one wants to sign up. It sucks.

    I’m still looking for a new site for my needs now that Phanfare is all locked up (mine has not been upgraded yet, so family can still see my photos). I actually want to share my photos with my friends and family, not lock them away. Smugmug looks okay, but the display just isn’t as clean as Phanfare is (was), and uploading isn’t as easy. I may have to suck it up, though, just so I can share my photos with family and friends.

    This “upgrade” is horribly disappointing.

  • Curt

    Smugmug looks decent (though I agree w/ Tanya – not as clean as Phanfare) but they don’t seem to offer the audio slide show option which I was a huge fan of. Anyone have recommendations?

    It’s a bummer that everyone in this 2.0 era thinks they have to be a social network of some sort to make $. I would think simplicity of use (if marketed appropriately) would be as -if not more – advantageous from a business standpoint. But what do I know…

  • Andrew Erlichson

    The benefits come when you can see what is going on with all your friends and family at a glance, and control who can see what content. Phanfare makes signing up for the service very easy. You send them an invite, they click through. If you like Phanfare, just keep using it! I promise you it will continue to improve.

  • Techphobic Family/Friends

    Sending a link via email is all fine and well for many, but one of the awesome points about Phanfare for us was that we could verbally state our URL to family/friends, many of whom are very old, and they could write it down and type it in. We feel lucky that they can figure out how to input a website address. These are the type of people who have email but don’t use it often or at all, and for whom one more change becomes a major issue for the “tech support” photo takers/posters. I’m sure Phanfare is looking to the future and doesn’t care about my antiquated relatives who don’t fit their business model, but now we are potentially in a real bind, because we’re talking about people who don’t just “click through.”

  • Techphobic Family/Friends

    For those of you looking for something for simple for non-technical family/friends, I suggest dropshots.com over smugmug. Dropshots service is not as slick as smugmug, but it’s way easier to set up and use, and you still get a password-protected URL. The service was inspired by the experience of a guy who realized that his parents had a hard time with their digital camera. Smugmug is NOT the old phanfare. It’s doable, but it’s a pain. If you want an easy experience, and can live without different colored backgrounds, etc., and you want the EASIEST experience for your techphobic relatives or those with language barriers, then go for dropshots.com. Given that none of these services have mature business models and even smugmug could revise their service or be bought out, I figure the onus is on us the photo-taker to archive everything in our own external drives, etc. and just to use these sites for photo sharing over the short-term.

  • Techphobic Family/Friends

    For those who haven’t upgraded and who are wondering what the fuss is about (see post from Chris on 3/17) and if they need to do anything, or for those who are simply in denial and hope the new service will work out fine: you can test things out by creating a new account in Phanfare with an alternate email address, uploading a few photos, and trying to share them. If you don’t have several email accounts to pick from already, get a new one for this test. Create a new phanfare account and upload 2-3 photos. The backend is actually very nice, a big improvement. Now, try to SHARE you photos with a few guinea pig immediate family members or very tolerant friends — someone who can give you feedback ASAP. (Or, “share” with another of your lesser-used email accounts.) This experience will most likely be the make-it-or-break-it point for most users, I think.

  • Mart

    Don’t be fooled, the ONLY reason phanfare is going social in their 2.0 version is for MONEY…nothing else. So do like I will and 60 % of phanfare clients and go elsewhere. If you do some searching you will find something that suite you.

  • Andrea

    Although I find this upgrade user-friendly..I too am not happy about having my friend/family login with their e-mail and register with phanfare. main reason …most of them don’t speak English..this was the reason why I register with phanfare initially..the first version was VERY USER FRIENDLY..just type in the address and password. Now I had to spend hours of translating the steps into 3 languages…grrrr
    Reason #2
    the not-so-computer litterate English speaking family and friends (aka my dad, uncle, mom and husbands grandparents..ARE LOST!!!!!

  • J.P.

    I considered emailing Andrew with my comments on Phanfare 2.0, but realized that this decision has been made and that I wasn’t going to change his mind. Phanfare is a business and will respond to the market. If their new model works better for them, it would be foolish for them to return to their old model, no matter how much I prefer it. That said, I have a few thoughts about the new Phanfare:

    -The vast majority of my friends have Facebook accounts. I know one who has a Phanfare account. With all the many sites that require registration, I don’t think most people are going to rush out to join another. When I want to control who sees my pictures, Facebook does a great job of it. I’ll accept the less-than-aesthetic layout in order to save my friends the hassle.

    -When I want comments and critique on my work, Flickr has a much larger community of active photographers and groups that are directed at my specific photographic interests than I expect I’ll ever see on Phanfare. The groups feature, again, gets my work exposure beyond my friends and family but targets it to those who have a higher likelihood of being excited by my pictures.

    -To simply create a gallery and open it to anyone, Flickr, Facebook, and even Blogger offer simple solutions.

    -Previously, Phanfare filled a place that the other sites did not: they offered aesthetically-pleasing galleries with controlled access that wasn’t a hardship to my friends and family. Phanfare was _the best_ for that. What are they the best at now?

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