Views from Phanfare CEO and Co-founder Andrew Erlichson

Link Phanfare down for scheduled maintenance

This morning (Thursday, June 25th, 5am Eastern Daylight Savings Time) we are upgrading the Phanfare system. The major changes that you will see when we come back up are:

  • New corporate home page and marketing pages
  • Free accounts no longer offered to new people. New prospective Phanfare customers enter a 14-day free trial with no restrictions. If you have an old space-restricted free account, it will continue to work.
  • Site URLS at yourname.phanfare.com now available
  • Optional site passwords
  • New ‘Publish” button on web client, mac client, pc client that will publish any given album to your Phanfare site
  • New versions of Aperture, Lightroom, Picasa, and iPhoto plugins that use the new site publishing metaphor, understand what a Phanfare site is.
  • New versions of the Phanfare Mac and PC screensaver that take multiple Phanfare sites as inputs. (The old versions showed your content and friend/family content, optionally)

Be sure to upgrade your Phanfare tools. If you have setup someone with a Phanfare screensaver, you will want to download and install the new one for the person. If you don’t, they wont’ see new photos and videos unless you keep using our social networking tools.

My workflow, for example. I have about 40 some odd people who are connected to me within Phanfare. I have them broken into friends and family, but every single album I have ever created is available to both. I also have a few Phanfare groups, but only one has content that was published by others, the progress photos from a house renovation.

When Phanfare comes back up, I am going to login and go through our migration wizard. I am going to choose to publish every album that is published to my groups and to friends and family to my Phanfare site. Phanfare reserved my old “Phanfare 1.0″ username for me, so all my content will be at that URL.

Phanfare groups still works, but since I like the new Phanfare site stuff, I will likely download and re-upload the albums of our renovation progress that are in other people’s accounts. That will make my Phanfare site complete.

I will need to manually upgrade the screensavers on the home computers and my parents’ computers. I will manually configure them to show pictures from my Phanfare site, my brother and sister’s phanfare sites, and my co-founders Phanfare site.

I had gotten used to the automatic notifications that went out so I will need to now remember to notify people when I publish new albums. But I will probably go back to my old habit of only notifying close friends and family, except around major life events where I will notify a larger set of people.

I use facebook, although I have a bigger set of connections there, not all of whom are close friends. I will selectively publish albums to faceboook from time to time so my facebook friends know I am alive.

The biggest hassle for me will be dealing with Phanfare groups. Also, I used to maintain a Phanfare site for my old neighborhood (we moved to Princeton from Metuchen, NJ) and now that Phanfare sites are back, I will recreate that. In January 2008, I had made that neighrborhood site a Phanfare group in my account, but many of the neighbors never quite figured out how to signup to see the photos. Making it an independent Phanfare site will also allow me to hand off control to someone who still lives in the neighborhood to maintain it. Groups allowed that too, but it was a bit more cumbersome.

Let us know about your problems and bugs by emailing support@phanfare.com when we come up. We know there will be some.

  • fdumas

    I really like the new dashboard. It's much clearer than the old one.

    I assume those changes will be very much welcomed by ex-Phanfare 1.0 users
    because from reading comments on various forums, they seemed to miss
    those features (or simply abandonned Phanfare in the 2.0 conversion).

    As a Phanfare 2.0 Premium user (I joined in the 2.0 days), I am slightly… err… confused!? I explain myself:
    -It seems that “Publishing” an album is the same as setting its “Who can see this Album” flag to “Everyone”. However, the former makes it appear on “http://my_site.phanfare.com”, the latter on “http://albums.phanfare.com/my_site”. Hmmm… so that feature is now more exposed and we have changed the wording, but the end result is the same: anyone can view the album and doesn't need to log in. Correct?
    -Now all my albums in the Web and Windows clients show with a “Private” icon. “Excuse me??” says I. They are shared to friends an family and lots of them are even public (shared with “Everyone”)! I assume the new meaning of the red circle with a line through it is “Not Published”. Sorry, I really don't like that.
    -I really liked the “Visitors Report” feature… I suppose I can continue using it with my Friends and Family through sharing my albums with them the old way, but if I want to add new people… not possible unless they pay :(

    Ok, so let's not just moan but actually provide constructive feedback. Suggestions:
    -To simplify things, all existing albums currently shared with “Everyone” (Public) could be automatically “Published” and the “Everyone” option should be removed since it does the same as publishing… and is just confusing. Also, if someone tries to access “http://albums.phanfare.com/my_site” without being logged in, it should ask them to either login or go to the new public site “http://my_site.phanfare.com”, providing a link. This would insure that people who have the link to my current album but are not in my friends or family groups are not blocked out.
    -The album overlay icon could be as follows (in web + PC/MAC clients):
    -Red circle with line through it: Album is Private (i.e. not shared, not published)
    -People icon: Album is shared with either Friends, Family or Groups (same “Friends & Family” icon as in the client's “Album Options”)
    -Planet Earth icon: Albums is published (same “Web” icon as in the client's “Album Options”)
    -When albums are Published and then Shared using the internal Emailing funtionality, maybe each contact could receive a unique URL so that the visitors reports still work (i.e. I know who has and who hasn't visited??) Ok… maybe I'm asking too much ;)

    BTW, my overall feeling with this change is still very positive because I feel that you are actually listening to what your users want. It makes me feel hopeful about the above suggestions ;)

    Keep up the good work!
    F

  • http://blog.phanfare.com erlichson

    There are actually two parallel universes, one at http://yourname.phanfare.com and the other at http://albums.phanfare.com/yourname. Setting an album to “everyone” in the social networking world publishes it to the social networking URL at http://albums.phanfare.com/yourname.

    We split the universe in two because it was just too hard to figure out what to hit people with in certain cases. Classic example: if you are a social networking user with nothing published then a viewer hitting your social networking URL gets presented with a page where they can signup and connect with you. What's more, the social networking view offered a fairly complex set of settings. You could mark an album as 'everyone' and it would show up both for friends and family and unlogged in users.

    We used and will again offer click tracking on invites. So, when you invite someone to your site, you will know who clicked. You still won't know who gets there by direct navigation.

    You are 100% correct that if you take a quick look down your album list, the privacy icon ONLY refers to the site-publishing universe. So, if you want to continue using our social networking tools and ignore the site publishing universe, then you will be annoyed by the little icon that conveys that the album is totally private, when in fact, it maybe published to friends and family or everyone at your social networking URL. Whether we address this will depend on how much use the social networking features get in Phanfare in the coming months.

    As for connecting to new people, you can do it. In fact, if you send a request to connect to a person without a Phanfare account, they will get a free account with a tight storage limit of 250MB. I can't promise you how long we will continue to allow this. We want to see how people use the system. It is a bit inconsistent that we allow someone to create an acct for a friend in this way, but we did not want to cripple the social networking overnight without giving our customers a chance to try the new stuff.

    There is a forum post that I created with some of the same detail that I just posted here.

    http://forum.phanfare.com/showthread.php?t=2587

    I encourage everyone to try our new site hosting model along with our facebook integration. Facebook is an incredibly large social network and there is a good chance that your friends and family already have accounts there. Rather than asking them to maintain logins at Phanfare, which they can't remember, just to view your stuff, transfer select albums to facebook and your facebook friends and family can view them there.

    Of course, invite your close friends and family directly to view your Phanfare albums because our presentation is better, our slideshows are better, they include music and the viewers can order merchandise from the original images, download images, etc.

  • tspack

    Cool! Kind of confusing about the parallel sites, but after reading your comment here and the threads in the forum, I think I get it now.

    I was a 1.0 user who was most displeased when you went the social networking route. I was ready to bail and was trying out other hosting sites, but didn't like their layouts quite as well as Phanfare. When you caved and made it possible to have public albums, I decided to stick around and just ignore the social networking aspect (sharing my photos in an aesthetically pleasing way is really all I care about). I'm glad I did stick around because there really have been some very nice improvements to site over the months. Kudos on creating a fabulous photo site.

    Now that Phanfare seems to be going back to the roots of allowing users to share their photos the easiest and most aesthetic way possible, I'm delighted. I'm willing to let go of my lingering hostility over your foolish venture into social networking ;-)

    One question: In all my time with Phanfare, I don't think there have been any new layouts at all. I'm desperate for more options. Will there ever be any new layouts, or else the ability to customize colors and backgrounds on our own?

  • http://blog.phanfare.com erlichson

    Yes, we are going to offer much more customization of look in the future. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Darryl

    Andrew:

    When you say you're going to set up a neighborhood site for Metuchen, NJ, does that mean you're going to start a new account that would (for non-Phanfare CEOs) have to be paid for?

    I used groups a little bit, mainly for family stuff, but almost all of my family members are now connected to each other, so there's not much point. I also had a Palm group for work photos, but nobody posted there but me, so again, no big loss.

    But for anyone who *did* take advantage of the feature, this could be an expensive transition. I suppose you have numbers on how many people are actively using groups though, adn it's not too high?

  • http://blog.phanfare.com erlichson

    In Metuchen I had a site with its own domain where we posted neighborhood photos. Then I made it a Phanfare group..which was a difficult transition because many people had trouble signing up or signing in. I am the only one who ever posted to the group. We moved to Princeton and this year when I went back to a neighborhood block party, people asked about the site. I offered to recreate it for them as a separate Phanfare site. Yes, a site such as this needs to be paid for.

    Our analysis of people'e use of groups is that about 5% of our customers are using groups as we intended, as a way for multiple people to collaborate and upload albums. Another 17% are using groups as a poor man's access control list, where there is a single contributor. More than 75% of our customers are not part of a group.

    We believe that for the groups where there is a single contributor, the Phanfare subsites feature should work well or better. You create a subsite with an password and throw in any albums the group can see. I am going to do this for my local little league.

    People who are using groups to actually collaborate might enjoy our new drop box that we are putting into pro. At yourname.phanfare.com/dropbox, a contributor can upload fullsize photos and videos to your account, which you can then dispatch any way you please.

    Groups are still around right now for those who want to use them. We will be watching the 5% using them for actual collaboration to undertand how they take to the new site hosting features.

  • Darryl

    Andrew:

    When you say you're going to set up a neighborhood site for Metuchen, NJ, does that mean you're going to start a new account that would (for non-Phanfare CEOs) have to be paid for?

    I used groups a little bit, mainly for family stuff, but almost all of my family members are now connected to each other, so there's not much point. I also had a Palm group for work photos, but nobody posted there but me, so again, no big loss.

    But for anyone who *did* take advantage of the feature, this could be an expensive transition. I suppose you have numbers on how many people are actively using groups though, adn it's not too high?

  • http://blog.phanfare.com erlichson

    In Metuchen I had a site with its own domain where we posted neighborhood photos. Then I made it a Phanfare group..which was a difficult transition because many people had trouble signing up or signing in. I am the only one who ever posted to the group. We moved to Princeton and this year when I went back to a neighborhood block party, people asked about the site. I offered to recreate it for them as a separate Phanfare site. Yes, a site such as this needs to be paid for.

    Our analysis of people'e use of groups is that about 5% of our customers are using groups as we intended, as a way for multiple people to collaborate and upload albums. Another 17% are using groups as a poor man's access control list, where there is a single contributor. More than 75% of our customers are not part of a group.

    We believe that for the groups where there is a single contributor, the Phanfare subsites feature should work well or better. You create a subsite with an password and throw in any albums the group can see. I am going to do this for my local little league.

    People who are using groups to actually collaborate might enjoy our new drop box that we are putting into pro. At yourname.phanfare.com/dropbox, a contributor can upload fullsize photos and videos to your account, which you can then dispatch any way you please.

    Groups are still around right now for those who want to use them. We will be watching the 5% using them for actual collaboration to undertand how they take to the new site hosting features.

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