Views from Phanfare CEO and Co-founder Andrew Erlichson

Link Phanfare for the Mac available

We’ve blaired this news from every other communications outlet, so why not here as well? Mac owners rejoice: Phanfare is now available right on your very own desktop.

Of course, this is a beta release, which is software parlance for “still a little pink in the middle.” Not to fear: Phanfare for the Mac will not eat your mousepad, or rename your children, or draw mustaches on your photos. It may occasionally crash, though, and we’re still working to get some missing features into the software for the final release.

All of that is covered in detail elsewhere. So let me finish by giving a warm hello to our friends from Europe. Our press release has generated a lot of interest, and web stats make it easy to track the impact across timezones. Europeans have a six-hour jump on the east coast of America, and they’ve been busily kicking the tires since early this morning. Welcome to Phanfare!

Link Where is the iPod of digital cameras?

David Pogue gushes over a new JVC camcorder that uses a built-in 30GB hard drive to store video. No more videotapes to swap around – once you fill the drive, you have to either delete footage or download it to your computer to make room.

My only question is – why has this taken so long? The iPod has offered living proof for years of the consumer benefits of micro-hard drives. And iPods have capacities that far exceed what anyone needs in a digital camera. Yet I know of no camera that comes with a built-in drive.

I suspect the main reason is that manufacturers don’t want to add to the base price of their cameras, so they continue to ship with those useless 16 or 32MB cards. As memory prices fall – and particularly as high-capacity flash drives become cheaper – I hope that we’ll start to see some real innovation in camera design.

I have a long list of other features that I’ve been waiting to see in my dreamed-for consumer-friendly camera. Some of these – such as automatic detection of whether a picture was taken horizontally or vertically – are starting to appear. Others will have to wait until either component prices come down further or until manufacturers get bored creating cameras with ever-higher resolutions.

More generally, the iPod has demonstrated that consumer electronics don’t have to compete solely on price if they can differentiate themselves with style. Sadly, I suspect that most camera companies lack the design chops to take advantage of this potential opportunity.

Link Delete your ex from your old photos

Reporting from the Ministry of Truth, Cnet takes an appropriately tongue-in-cheek look at some new photo editing technology from Microsoft.

Forget about correcting red-eye or adjusting color levels. Now sophisticated home photographers can delete unwanted people from their images. The technology to remove foreground items appears to work pretty well, judging from the sample images.

Also on display was technology to digitally weather items in images by, for example, adding moss to them. Although potentially amusing, the “Add moss” button will probably not be part of Phanfare anytime soon.

As computers become ever more powerful and digital images ever more ubiquitous, we can expect to see all sorts of sophisticated image manipulation tools in the hands of ordinary users.

Link Improvements to Phanfare video

We have another release coming out imminently, and it includes a major change in the way we deliver the video content in your albums.

The change doesn’t affect the Phanfare Photo application that you use to organize your pictures and videos, so it may go unnoticed by many or most of our users. But it will result in an improved experience for people who are viewing your online albums, which we’re very excited about.

In a nutshell, we’re going to convert your videos to Flash when we play them back in the web browser. Flash is simply an alternative way of encoding video files. Just as you have .avis and .mpegs, Flash is another flavor of moving picture.

Of course, we will in no way alter your original video files, which you will still be able to access and download via a “Download original” link in your online albums. But when you actually play the videos back in the web browser, you will be watching a Flash version instead of the original.

The conversion brings several benefits.

The first benefit is shortened download time. Flash files are often smaller than the original video files, with no appreciable loss in quality. Flash video also streams better than some other video file types, which means you don’t have to wait as long before the movie begins.

The second major benefit is better browser compatibility. Digital video is a mash of competing codecs and playback software. Flash, on the other hand, is a relatively solid cross-browser and cross-platform technology that most Web users already have installed on their machines (whether they know it or not).

Finally, Flash opens up a lot of interesting future feature enhancements, because the Flash player is much more than a video playback device. Expect to be seeing more Flash on the site as time goes on.

The change is going to be rolled out slowly over the coming days. Fortunately, it doesn’t require any action from you. Phanfare will continue to work the way you’re accustomed to, but hopefully a little bit faster and more smoothly.

Link Get your Phanfare swag

We’ve hung a shingle over at CafePress, so head on over and load up on Phanfare goodies. We’ve got trucker hats, T-shirts, thongs, bike bags, coffee mugs, bibs, dog clothing, and much, much more.

So if you know any slacker bike messengers who drink coffee, drool a lot, and own chihuahuas, you’re pretty much all set for Christmas.

Link So long, Ben

Just a short post to wish a fond farewell to our summer intern, Ben. Ben is headed back to school to do some more book-learnin’, but he will continue to stay involved with Phanfare when he’s not busy listening to rap music, or drinking highballs, or whatever it is the youngsters do these days.

Ben has been an absolute force of nature working on the much-anticipated Mac client, achieving more in the last three months than many men achieve in a lifetime. It’s fair to say that Ben lived in the office — in fact, he literally lived in the office. Our cozy workplace is a converted apartment, and Ben inhabited the loft upstairs.

In case you think this sort of indentured servitude comes cheap, you can’t imagine what we’ve had to pay in bribes to keep OSHA off our backs. But we’re actually pretty soft-hearted and indulgent with our employees here at Phanfare. For example, when Ben complained that the leg irons were chafing, we replaced them with a comfortable fabric neck leash, and only charged him cost for it.

So thanks, again, Ben, for the great effort. We’ll drink a toast to you when the Mac client ships, and you’re welcome to crash at our place anytime.

Link Phanfare Mac client on the way

The Phanfare Photo mac client has now entered what we’re calling “double secret pre-alpha” testing. The monkeys are going to need to bang on it for several weeks more, but in the meantime, we’re happy to share pre-release screens shots that highlight some of the cool new features of the Mac client.

  • Notice the film-strip photo picker running across the top of the “edit photo” screen.
  • The Mac client uses lovely transparent overlays to indicate that a photo is still uploading.
  • Photos can now be edited via handy context menus.
  • It’s a little hard to see in this screenshot, but drag-and-drop uses iPhoto style transparencies.
  • Photo captions can be longer now, and the Mac client includes a spell check feature.

Please note that the interface will change between now and the final release. For example, a lot of the button icons are missing in the screenshots. But this should give you a taste of what’s to come.

Link Choosing a digital camera

The New York Times recently published a digital camera buying guide. Though it contained no earth-shattering revelations, it did provide a useful rundown of some of the often overlooked aspects of buying a camera. And it was the most emailed article of the day, so clearly it struck a chord.

Here, then, is our summary of the main points in helpful blog format:

  • Pay attention to shutter lag and start-up time. The Achilles’ heel of many digital cameras is the lengthy delay between when you turn the camera on and when you can take a picture.
  • 3 to 5 megapixels is plenty (3 for party snaps, 5 for 16 x 20 prints). More resolution does not automatically mean better pictures, just bigger pictures.
  • Look for at least 3x optical zoom. Ignore digital zoom — it’s irrelevant. More optical zoom is always handy, but it will mean a bigger camera.
  • Consider getting more than one camera. One camera will never do it all, and you should consider getting a pocket-sized for snapshots and something more powerful for the African safari. At the very least, you can save some money by sharing accessories such as memory cards between the two cameras.
  • Use camera review sites for research. Some of the more popular ones are listed on the right side of this page. The Phanfare forum might be a useful place to ask for advice as well.

Link Introducing the Phanfare forums

Those of you who have written in to support @ phanfare . com know what kind helpful and speedy customer service you can expect from us. But we’re feeling a little verklempt right now, so we we’re hoping you could just talk amongst yourselves for a moment.

Linda Richman.  Let's talk

Introducing the Phanfare forum, a place where members of the community can get together, have some coffee and, you know, talk. Of course, the forum is also a great place to get hold of Phanfare employees, so we’re hoping that over time it becomes your first resource for any support needs, product feature requests, water cooler gossip, photography tips and tricks, product recommendations, etc.

We can’t spell forum without ‘U’ (get it? get it? I’ll be here all night, folks), so head over there and let us know what’s on your mind. I’ve optimistically seeded the forum with a bunch of categories, but we need your help. A new forum is an uncomfortably silent place, sort of like one of those couples you see in restaurants eating their food and not talking to one another.

Please note: You need to register in order to post messages to the forum. Your Phanfare login will not work as a login to the forum. We hope to fix this someday, but for now, it’s just one of those things.

So let’s get started. I’ll kick things off: digital photography is neither digital nor photography. Discuss.

Linda Richman

Link Hello, said the blog

Greetings, fair Phanfare fans.

I present to you: Phanfare, the blog.

For your delectation, this space will serve up the latest news and announcements; tips and tricks on how to get the most from your digital photos and videos; items of general interest to the community; and whatever else strikes us as amusing when we’re taking a break during line shift changes down at the Phanfare factory.

Comments are open, and we welcome all comers. Over the next few posts, I and the other members of the team will be introducing ourselves and filling you in on some of the nifty features that are coming down the pike.

A solemn pledge: this is a PR-free zone. We’ve actually hidden our PR guy’s keyboard, so that he can’t do any damage here. (Although Steve happens to be an excellent amateur photographer, and he’s promised to let me publicize his Phanfare album once he gets it just the way he likes it.)

And before I forget, please subscribe to our RSS feed and then never come back to this web site again. Here’s the feed address:


P.S. If you’re at all confused by the terms “blog,” “RSS feed,” etc., have no fear. It’s all pretty simple, really, and we’ve put together a little tutorial here.

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