March 6, 2004

Weblog as Corporate Web Site

I’ve decided to build my Photo Album Pro web site as a weblog because I wanted to, as they say, “eat my own dog food".

I was emailing a good friend in San Francisco the other day, Steve Hagler, who runs an experiential education program at Galileo High School (it used to be called GOAPE, but has been recently changed to Get Out And Learn, or GOAL for short). I host the GOAPE web site on my servers, and Steve wanted a new web site for Get Out And Learn. I’ve been telling Steve about weblogs for a couple of years now, but I hadn’t been able to convince him that it was right for him. I believed it would be less work for him than building and maintaining a “real web site", and at the end of the school year not only would he have a better site, but he would have a record of the program that would be unmatched anywhere in the San Francisco Unified School District.

The other day Steve emailed me, “Hey, can you set up the Get Out And Learn web site?” It’s been on my list for, I hate to say it, many weeks now, but I’ve been working so hard on this Photo Album software that I kept putting it off. That and the fact that it isn’t just setting up a web site, it’s setting the DNS servers at Network Solutions, adding DNS entries to my DNS servers, creating email accounts, adding an ftp site, and only then after all that, setting up the web site.

Well, it was midnight, and Rachel was still in the States on her speaking tour, so I fired up Safari and Remote Desktop and started making the changes needed to get Steve up and running. When, two hours later, I finally got to the last item, setting up the web site, I said to myself “Ok, I’m going to see if I can’t get Steve on the weblog band wagon this year.” And so I copied the format and css of my A Year In Cornwall web log, and created the new Get Out And Learn web site as a weblog.

But what does that have to do with “eating your own dog food” you’re probably wondering? Well, as I thought about what kind of web site I wanted for my new products Photo Album and Photo Album Server, I realized that if I truly believed that Steve’s outdoor education program would be better served by a weblog, then why wouldn’t my product be better served by a weblog as well?

And there you have it, I’m going to build this web site as a weblog. I’ll write entries discussing the product features, show screen shots, write documentation, even answer user questions. And I’m hoping that if I do it right, I’ll have something that will serve my users better than the typical corporate web site. Check back and see if I’m right.

p.s. Steve emailed me this morning and told me he’d written his first entry. It’s a great first entry, and already I feel like I know more about his program than I did from his old web site. if he keeps it up, he’s going to have a dynamite web site by the end of the school year.

Posted by: Frank @ 3:14 pm — Filed under: Comments (0)

March 5, 2004

Searchable Photos: Part III

Last October I wrote a piece entitled How To Make Photos More Searchable. I wrote it because I wanted to, well, make my photos more searchable, both locally, and from search engines such as Google.

But I also wrote it because I was frustrated by how hard it was to get photos up on my weblog. First I’d download from my camera to iPhoto. Next I’d copy the images I wanted to use to a temporary folder, and then open them in Photoshop where I’d resize and make thumbnails. After that I’d upload the various files via FTP, and finally I’d add some <img> tags to the weblog entry. All this could easily take 30 minutes minutes or more, and it made me quite grumpy (and still does).

In November I wrote a followup piece entitled Searchable Photos: Part II, where I described my camera, computer and weblog setups, and a wish list of things I’d like to have to make my photo to weblog life easier. The wishes included reducing the number of steps it takes to get a photo from camera to web, creating thumbnails automatically, displaying photos on my weblog entries as well as in album format, setting and displaying GeoURL and EXIF information, and of course making them more searchable.

Since early January I’ve been working hard on a product that I think will satisfy most of those wishes in the first version, and all of those wishes in followup versions. And I’m happy to say that the product is just about ready for release.

It’s a two part product. The first part is a photo album program called “Photo Album” (until such time as I can think of a better name) that runs on both Mac and PC. With it you can build photo albums, view the photos, add information to each photo such as Title, Description, Date, Location, Keywords and GeoURL. And you can even see, and add to, the EXIF information stored in the photo’s JPEG header (well, you’ll be able to as soon as I finish the EXIF parsing code).

The second part of the product is PHP-based software, called “Photo Album Server", that displays your photo albums as dynamically generated web pages. In addition to being able to display your albums and photos in customizable templates (and in various thumbnail and full image sizes), it has search capability, can display EXIF data, and lets you create public or private photo albums (the private albums are password protected). And don’t worry, if you don’t have a server that runs PHP, “Photo Album” (the Mac/PC program) can create great looking photo album web pages that can be displayed on any web server.

But that’s enough tease for now, I’ve got to get back to the coding grind.

I’ll be adding more information about the products and the release schedule over the next couple of days, so come back and visit us soon.

And if you want to be a beta tester, drop me a line.

p.s. I have a new weblog devoted to the product over at http://photoalbum.backtalk.com/

Posted by: Frank @ 4:19 pm — Filed under: Comments (0)