We are excited to announce our newest feature—Public Stories!
Since we started ThisLife, our focus has been on finding better ways to help you enjoy and share all your great photos and videos. A little while back we launched Stories, which are beautiful living albums you can share. The feedback on Stories has been great and one of the things you asked for was a way to make Stories public.
We appreciate your feedback, and Public Stories is the next major development at ThisLife.
Now friends and family alike can view your beautiful Stories directly on your personal ThisLife URL without having to log in or create an account!
Gone are the days of sending multiple oversized email attachments to dozens of friends and family members. Public Stories allow you to show off your best Moments (photos, videos, text and audio notes) and share them seamlessly via Twitter, Facebook and email. Our automatic layout preserves the chronology and aspect ratio for you. You add the photos and we’ll make sure they look their best.
Our favorite things about Stories is that they are living albums that can add context to your Moments. Create a Story about your child’s life, share it and then add to it over time. Your family and friends will receive a notification that your Story has been updated and they will see your new photos in context. They can scroll through your Story to see the photos you took at Thanksgiving, over the holidays and on your recent ski trip. Make a Story about a trip and add to it as you travel. Create one about your weekend away or about your weekend at home. Your Story is yours to tell.
With Public Stories, we’ve made sharing easier while keeping you in control of all your precious Moments. You get to choose which Stories are public and which will remain private - you can even keep all your Stories private, if you like. When you share a Public Story, participants will only be able to view and download Moments, not add, delete or change them. And as you update your Stories from within your ThisLife account, those changes will automatically be reflected publicly on your URL.
We are excited to have you explore Public Stories and would love to hear about the creative ways you choose to use them. Enjoy, and please keep the feedback coming. You can reach us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Your ThisLife Team
We ♥ your photos
We’re excited to announce that ThisLife is now a part of the Shutterfly family.
Since we started ThisLife, one of our most frequent customer requests has been for the ability to create beautiful photo products with Moments and Stories. We heard you, and with Shutterfly—the market leader in personalized photo products and services—you’ll soon be able to explore your creative side as you turn your Moments into prints, photo books, and much more.
Shutterfly shares our passion for storytelling, and our move to Shutterfly allows us to bring more resources into the fold. This means faster delivery of the features our customers have requested most. Here are just a few of the features we’ll be introducing soon:
~ New iPhone and iPad apps—bring the full ThisLife experience with you wherever you go.
~ Public Stories—now your friends and family are just a click away from enjoying your best Moments and Stories.
~ Enhanced search functionality—finding the exact photo or video you’re looking for has never been easier.
You may notice a few changes on our site in the coming months. Please be assured that our top priority will always be to keep your photos & videos safe, secure, and beautifully organized. Your Moments are—and always will be—yours, not ours. We started ThisLife because we believe that your precious Moments need a permanent home, and that belief remains at the core of what we do every day.
To all of our longtime fans and customers, we remain incredibly grateful for your support. We look forward to the journey ahead with our Shutterfly family, and we hope you’ll enjoy this exciting new chapter.
The ThisLife Team
We ♥ your photos
By Andrea Johnson (Co-Founder & CEO, ThisLife)
We built Stories for the many customers who asked us for private ways to share albums. Thank you for making time to share your feedback. We appreciate it and we use it to prioritize our development queue.
So, without further ado…Stories.
Stories are living albums – they are a dynamic collection of photos, videos and notes. Create a short Story about your weekend camping trip. Create an ongoing Story to celebrate your child’s life. You can include a photo or video in multiple Stories, and you can create as many Stories as you like. Anything goes, so let your imagination soar.
For each Story you can invite friends and family to be Viewers and/or Contributors. Sharing is automated and effortless, and you can change/revoke sharing privileges at any time.
All your Stories will be collected into a summary called My Story. (My Story is the new name for Timeline; your existing Timeline has been preserved and is simply relabeled My Story.) You can now share My Story, or any single Story in your collection. And not to worry – we still offer all your favorite sharing tools like email and Facebook, too!
Thank you again for your enthusiastic support. We’re a small team, we appreciate your feedback and, as with Stories, your feedback drives our product development. Have other suggestions or requests? Let us know…we are listening.
While this is an advantage for startups, it does not totally resolve the trust issue. Prospective customers still want to know the company’s track record. With whom have they done business before? In other words, who has previously trusted them to provide a solution to their problems?
Andrea Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of a startup in Palo Alto, Calif. called ThisLife, which stores and organizes photos in the cloud. While she feels that her business serves a real need, she believes that one of her biggest stumbling blocks toward growth is trust. “At the crux of many of the inquiries our customer service desk receives is the implied question, ‘Can I trust your service?’” Johnson says. “Customers are rarely that blunt, but they find polite ways to ask the question for many reasons.”
Here is how to gain the trust of customers to grow a business:
1. Show your passion. This is something that startups can do better than most companies. Raw enthusiasm always pours out of the founder and first employees. Show customers the mission. “We introduce ourselves and explain why we are so passionate about solving the problem of photo organization,” Johnson says. “We describe our features in plain English, no engineering degree required. We offer an intro video that gives a flavor for the product.”
2. Go private. If the company sells an online social sharing tool, Johnson suggests setting the defaults to “private.” She admits that “although this isn’t the fastest way to drive growth in an uber-social, ultra-viral world, we strongly believe that customers should have complete control over their own accounts.”
3. Offer a free trial. Almost any company without an established brand needs to let customers try its product for free before they buy it. Don’t collect credit card information until the end of the trial. This will get more consumers to try the company’s product (although the conversion rate will typically be lower).
4. Make contact simple. This is also where a startup can set themselves apart from established companies which make it traditionally hard to talk to them by phone. Johnson says, “We make ourselves available to them by phone, e-mail, Twitter and Facebook. Every customer who opens an account (free or paid) receives a personal email from a member of our customer service team with a direct e-mail address and phone number should they ever need to contact us.”
5. Get a reputation. Consumers believe earned media (what others say about your company) more than any advertising. Getting involved in social media communities by listening and helping is an inexpensive way to build credibility with new and prospective customers. Respond to every social media post. Encourage new customers to share their (positive and negative) experiences.
6. Value customer suggestions. Johnson believes that a company can build credibility when it shows customers it values their input and that “their requests have a major impact on our product development choices.” It shows that the company is open to change and new customers will become committed to making the product better.
7. Ask the experts. Johnson suggests getting the product tested by experts in the press. The company can then post these reviews on its website and use social media to spread the word.
8. Make for an easy exit. Many customers get concerned about how to stop using a tool once they start, worried that they will not be able to recover their information. ThisLife created a tool so customers can easily get their pictures and videos back if they want to stop using the company’s service. Telling customers that it is easy to stop using a company’s service will make them more likely to try and stick with it.
9. Be patient. This is a difficult skill to develop in a fast-paced world. However, never rush trust. This valuable commodity takes time to build. It may be a big barrier to entry for many customers, but once it is achieved, it is an even bigger barrier to exit for them.
Originally posted at American Express OPEN Forum
By Andrea Johnson (Co-Founder & CEO, ThisLife)
We all have stories to tell. Our stories remind us of the road we’ve traveled and help us make sense of the road ahead.
If we’re lucky, our stories can even provide insight to others who are interested in following a similar path.
I am an entrepreneur with a passion for beautiful consumer products that make our lives easier. If you’re thinking about starting a new business, then I hope my story will be useful to you.
I was running the eCommerce department for Pottery Barn when I decided to take time off work after after having my first baby.
Five years and three kids later, I was getting ready to re-enter the workforce but first I wanted to address a few items on my running to-do list.
At the top of this list loomed the daunting task ‘organize photos and videos’.
Like many other people, I had invested in an iPhone and a “real camera” to help capture the big and the small adventures in our lives. I snapped a ton of pics and shot lots of videos snippets.
I have many flaws, but I would give myself high marks for organizational skills. Yet somehow I couldn’t find a successful way to get all my photos and videos organized.
So, I did what many of us do: I reached out to my inner circle — my Brain Trust, as I like to call them — and asked for the answer.
Here are some of the response I received:
“Ugh, my son dropped (or maybe threw) my iPhone in a pool and I lost all Katie’s baby pics.”
“My photos and videos are a mess.”
“My stuff is scattered on hard drives, stuck on the cameras that captured them, or sprinkled on a selection of photo/social websites.”
One friend even wrote, “Good luck with this one”, and I could smell the kind-hearted sarcasm wafting from her email.
The Brain Trust is made up of very close friends from college and graduate school, as well as a few more recent friends I’ve been fortunate to adopt or be adopted by.
They are very different people but they have some things in common. They are all bright, competent and funny. Plus, they all give great advice.
Until that point in my life, they always had the answers to all my burning questions. Or, at the very least, they knew of someone who would have the answer to the question at hand.
Several members of the Brain Trust sent follow up emails saying things like, “P.S. When you find the solution to this one, be sure to let me know.”
The fact that the Brain Trust did not have an answer was discouraging, but it led me to extensive research and an even deeper commitment to solve our collective problem.
It took two years, serious dedication, enough late nights to almost convert me to a coffee drinker, and a (scary) chunk of our savings, but my husband and I (along with a terrific team of developers) successfully built and launched a gorgeous product called ThisLife.
ThisLife protects and organizes all of your photos and videos in the cloud.
And it displays everything back to you in chronological order so your photos and videos tell a story. Your story.
ThisLife has a ton of great features and the Brain Trust is proud. They also had a lot of input along the way.
They gave feedback on relatively straightforward things like logo and on complex issues like product pricing.
Beyond that, though, their ongoing interest fueled my motivation and deepened our friendships.
I offer all this as background because we all look for solutions to daily challenges. When you find one that doesn’t have a solution, take a moment and think about it. It might represent a meaningful opportunity for you.
If you already have an idea you are working on, don’t give up on it. It might take a year (or several) to develop your idea.
You’re likely to encounter plenty of people along the way who discourage or distract you, but if it’s something you care about, stick with it.
And, by all means, leverage your personal Brain Trust. Find the people around you whose opinions you value and discuss your ideas with them.
Try to keep them updated as your project evolves and as you hit crossroads where major decisions are needed.
The entrepreneurial path is exciting but it can also be lonely. Surrounding yourself with the right group of friends can make all the difference.
Originally posted on MariaShriver.com
After a few weeks now and oer twenty thousand, yes thousand, uploaded photos and videos, I’m rally enjoying this new photo cloud service called ThisLife!
I’ve been searching for an EASY, fast, reliable photo storage solution for years. While travelling, I’m always worried about my photos - getting acidentally erased, my camera stolen or lost. With ThisLife I can upload them form anywhere in the world (that has an internet connection) and know that they are safe and sound in the cloud - I can even upload my 1080p HD videos!
I’ve really been putting it to the test. Uploading thousands of photos form my computer, old forgotten photos from Shutterfly and Flickr and (in my opinion) the coolest thing that ThisLife does - It finds and uploads all my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, SmugMug, Picasa, and even Instagram pics. So now they are all in one place. Plus the software weeds out any duplicates and automatically tagged all my photos that had already been tagged in other services.
Frankly I was trying to break it! I had to make sure it could handle my workload and perform well on all the platforms I use while traveling e.g. mobile app, iPhone, iPad and computer. I have to say, I’m extremely impressed and excited that I can now upload and access any and all of my photos and videos from anywhere in the world.
Now when I’m on an adventure and I mention my trips to Iceland, Spain or Antarctica, I can access and share those photos and videos right then and there….I love that!
You might be saying, “JD, big deal, there are cheaper or even free versions of cloud storage out there.” and you’re right but there is nothing (that I’ve found) that puts all your photos in a searchable, visually stunning, smooth page scrolling timeline.
I can view all my photos by date, place, activity or even by people – it has the best face recognition I’ve ever seen!
And where would I be without my social media? I can share all my photos and videos to Facebook, Twiiter and Flickr!
Another cool feature - You can invite others to share, upload and use your account, which is perfect for businesses and families.
Since I couldn’t break it I decided to contact ThisLife and let them know how much I liked it. After many conversations I decided to work with them and help get the word out about my new favorite photo service.
ThisLife was created by two loving parents that wanted an easier way to share the “special moments” of their children’s lives.
Let me introduce you to one of the creators, Andrea.
Q1: Andrea, you know I love ThisLife and I could tell people all the reasons it’s perfect for me while traveling but what would you say to someone that is uneasy about storing their memories in the cloud?
A1: JD, I think it’s awesome that you tried to break ThisLife and found that we stood up to your real life ‘stress test’! We built an uber-durable system to keep users’ photos & videos protected and organized so they can enjoy them without having to worry. The cloud is a big part of that system.
The cloud protects your photos & videos. If your phone, camera, computer, or hard drive are lost or damaged. That’s a lot of security- without all the hassle of having to back everything up on an external drive.
The cloud offers accessibility, so you can enjoy your Moments (photos or videos) wherever you are. Our iPhone and iPad apps put your entire organized collection in your pocket or bag.
ThisLife is totally private- you decide what to share and whom to share it with. But, if you do want to share, the cloud lets you do some pretty cool stuff like share your account, which allows multiple people to contribute Moments to one account.
Finally, our cloud is specifically designed for photos & videos. (Generic clouds store photos, documents, or music and treat them the same way.) Because our cloud is custom designed for photos & videos, it performs relevant tasks such as duplicate identification, non-destructive photo enhancement, intelligent facial recognition, and visual search.
So for those of you wary of the cloud, hopefully these benefits will help you change your mind!
Try us free, and let us know how we can help. You can reach us any time at email@example.com.
Q2: What makes ThisLife different than other services?
A2: As I just mentioned, one of the biggest advantages to ThisLife is that our cloud was specifically designed for photos & videos.
We write unique algorithms for de-duplication. (This is a big deal!) When you import your photos to ThisLife from your hard drive and social services you end up with tons of duplicates - but the file sizes, names, and dates have been altered. Traditional de-duplication engines can’t handle this problem because they don’t recognize a photo as being a duplicate if any info has been altered. We solved this problem using a proprietary approach to eliminating duplicates that is based on the actual image instead of the file name. And it gets better - ThisLife only saves the highest resolution image (regardless of the order in which they were imported to ThisLife), the accurate date, and the Facebook “likes” and comments. We do that automatically and rapidly for every single photo you import.
I’m glad you like our advanced facial recognition, JD. We put a ton of work into it, and we believe it’s the best in the market. This is a big issue and we built a serious solution - including an innovative way to quickly tag lots of faces.
Because we’ve made tagging so easy, you can search your entire collection of 20,000+ images to instantly find just the image you’re looking for. Personally, this is my favorite feature. ‘Search’ is an integral part of our lives today: You can search your mail. You can search the web. You can even search Zappos for the perfect pair of size 9, green running shoes. You should be able to search your photos to find “Katie and Tom hiking in Montana” or “Jane on the beach in South of France.”
We also have non-destructive image enhancement that uses a set of self-adjusting formulae to automatically correct your photos for you. Since it’s non-destructive, your original is preserved and is always just a click away. And it’s no problem if you don’t want your photos to be automatically enhanced. Either turn it off for a single image or for your entire collection. So far, the customer feedback on image enhancement has been fantastic.
Other exciting things about us: We store RAW files and most original formats. We don’t own or control your photos - you do! We are private by default. You decide what to share and whom to share it with. And, most importantly, we are totally committed to great customer service.
We offer free trials to everyone, so hopefully people will check us out to see all this great stuff for themselves.
Q3: Are there other photo and social media services that you will be working with in the future?
A3: Yes we have more partnerships in the works. Most of our product development is driven by customer feedback, so if you want us to partner with your favorite site or service, let us know. We listen to everything you say, and we are always looking to explore new ideas.
Q4: Many photo services let you print photos, photo books, cards, etc., will ThisLife be providing similar services?
A4: Yes. Many of our customers have asked that same question, and that is currently in the works.
Q5: Tell me how and why it’s good to share your photos on Facebook through ThisLife.
A5: That’s an interesting and important question. ThisLife never owns or controls your photos. If you share to Facebook from ThisLife, you retain control of your images. Just delete your original post from Facebook, and Facebook will no longer have access to it.
Q6: How many photos can be stored to one account, I’m pushing twenty three thousand.
A6: Right now our largest account is 50,000 images, but our customers have asked us to go even bigger. We’re working on that now, and will be offering larger accounts soon.
Q7: What was the hardest part of creating a photo service from scratch?
A7: The hardest part was keeping it simple. It’s easy to make things complicated, but surprisingly difficult to keep things simple. Many services in our category (and in other categories) disappoint customers by being overly complex and counterintuitive.
We are focused on offering broad and sophisticated functionality with a beautifully simple interface.
Q8:. What’s next for ThisLife?
A8: I won’t tell! You’ll have to stay tuned… ;-)
LOL, I will…thanks so much Andrea!
I had my photos spread out all over the web, now they are all in one place and having the ability to download ALL my pics from Facebook and Instagram made this an easy decision.
And if you need help, want to suggest features or just say hi, there is somone there actually listenng and responding, what other photo service does that?
Try ThisLife out - in my opinion, it’s the best cloud photo service out there and great for travelers. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Countless tweaks and revisions improved the flow of the story and finally, after weeks of agonizing over every word, our pitch came together.
By Andrea Johnson (Co-Founder & CEO, ThisLife)
This great quote perfectly sums up a critical challenge for entrepreneurs. At some point early in the process of developing our “big idea”, we inevitably need to explain it to other people: friends, family, potential team members or advisors. That explanation is the pre-curser, the early ancestor, of what will later become our “pitch”.
Pitch sometimes seems like a bad word, like a 5-letter version of a 4-letter word. It can suggest disposability and insincerity, and it’s often delivered as a monologue. I don’t mean it that way at all, however. I mean it as our best description of the product we’ve built and loved. As the discussion that engages new people and energizes them about the opportunity we are pursuing. The way an idea comes to life and excites those hearing about it for the first time.
It sounds simple, and yet it isn’t. Early on, articulating our ideas is tough because they are still in an amorphous stage. But even as the ideas coalesce it is still difficult. Sometime we are just too close to see clearly. Sometimes the ideas are just complicated. In my case, our product is multi-faceted and that, I think, was the crux of the challenge.
I have developed pitches before. I have done it for internal projects at large companies, for my own business ideas, and for friends seeking a second opinion. I actually thought I was pretty good it. But when it came time to do it for ThisLife, I flailed. I kept describing the product in different and incomplete ways that did it no justice. The snap shot, that short, sweet bit of text that “just grabs you” eluded me. We had parts of the story but we hadn’t pulled them together. We were miles from polished. And it was time to raise our initial round of external capital.
Our team met to brainstorm our pitch together. We started simple: We described the problem we were solving and our approach to the solution. We compared our product to the best of what was in our category and explained why we were different (and better). We drew analogies to similar products in other industries to give people an outside frame of reference. We laid out the value proposition for consumers and the financial model for the business. We illustrated our brand, our marketing plans and our customer acquisition strategy.
We provided background bios for key team members. Each of these elements included the relevant facts and also reflected our goal of engaging and thrilling customers as well as our passion for the product and its potential. And we developed a slide deck with great graphics that told the story of our product and of our beta customers. Countless tweaks and revisions improved the flow of
the story and finally, after weeks of agonizing over every word, our pitch came together. We went out with it to raise capital, and were fortunate to secure an investment from a terrific group of investors.
Developing the pitch is difficult but important for entrepreneurs — not only for the fund raising process but also because it forces us to self-assess: What problem am I solving and why is my solution different and/or better?
And the key to a successful venture, I think, is to keep asking ourselves those questions and to keep wrestling with the answers.
Originally posted at Women 2.0.
By Margo Navage Padala, Contributing Editor
The other day my 9-year-old son was rummaging through my jewelry box when he discovered a gold and diamond shooting star charm I used to wear as a teenager. I hadn’t seen the trinket in years, but I could still picture it: dated, adolescent, cringeworthy. Grinning enormously, my son gazed at the charm as though he’d just unearthed the Holy Grail. “AWE-SOME!” he exclaimed breathlessly. “Diamond bananas!”
What the…?! I looked at the charm again from his angle. Sure enough, when I held the charm upside down…diamond bananas. Suddenly my charm seemed new and fresh and fun, if not exactly cool.
AWE-SOME diamond bananas
So, what does this have to do with photography? Perspective- just not in the typical sense. Simply put, perspective typically refers to the spatial relationship between objects in a photo, and how they appear to the eye. It’s the element of photography that creates the illusion of three-dimensional depth, scale, and distance on a two-dimensional surface. Perspective is also a powerful tool for conveying a message with your photos because the angle you shoot from affects how a viewer will feel about your photo. Want to take photos of your kids that exude their youth and energy? Get down on their eye level and shoot from their vantage point. Want to take dramatic photos of flowers? Lie on the ground and shoot upward, using the sky as your backdrop.
For me, though, the most important definition of perspective is the one that is least covered in photography books or forums. Perspective is also our point of view in terms of how we subjectively evaluate things. It refers to our individual attitudes towards the things we encounter and, in this sense, it is deeply personal. We each have a unique way of seeing and interpreting the world, and our photos naturally reflect this. But what if we were to try to see things differently? To answer this, I’ll borrow a quote that says it best: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” If you look at something from a different perspective- either by viewing it from a new angle OR by changing the way you think about it- you can add freshness to your photography
Learning to look at things from a new perspective isn’t as daunting as it seems. The world is filled with wonders that aren’t immediately apparent to the eye, so start by simply looking around you: up, down, in, to the side. Don’t judge something until you have had a chance to examine it closely, look at it from all angles, and give it some thought. Everyday sights can morph in front of your eyes if you simply alter the way you perceive them.
A great way to see things from a new point of view is to hand your camera to your kids and let them snap away. Kids take very few unnaturally posed shots, and they are masters at capturing action and chaos. I find that they have an inherently fresh and curious eye because so much of what they see on a daily basis is new to them. A recent look through my son’s camera roll revealed the following photos: a shot of the inside of his mouth (he wanted to know what it looked like), a shot of a half-eaten piece of toast (he claimed it looked just like Florida), and a shot of hot pink slime (he thought the color and texture were “radical”). Observe what your kids come up with: What do they choose to shoot and what angles do they choose to shoot it from? Ask them what they see when they look at a certain subject, what they think, or how a particular photo makes them feel. In the process, you’ll likely get the chance to view something familiar in a completely new way- something you’ve seen a thousand times before, but have never really taken the time to think about. Like diamond bananas, perhaps.
AWS’s recent outage made me think about the many unexpected things that hit you when you run a startup.
By Andrea Johnson (Co-Founder & CEO, ThisLife)
The thing no one tells you about running a startup is that it is tantamount to boarding a roller coaster. Everyone knows you need a great idea, a great team, and the right capital. But no one talks about the safety harness you’ll need to keep you tethered to the ground as you sink and soar.
Two weeks ago, I woke up to terrific press (thank you to the go-to blog about all things Apple, TUAW!); our product received a fabulous write up just as MobileMe’s sun was setting. That was great news and the timing couldn’t have been better since we’re a fantastic private cloud for photos and videos and a natural alternative for MobileMe users looking for a new home. What a perfect way to start the day! It felt as though the sky was the limit.
And yet, within hours, Amazon Web Services (AWS) crashed and took us with them. AWS provides much of the backend infrastructure, including servers and data storage, on which sites including ThisLife, Instagram, Pinterest and Netflix are built. To loosely quote Chicken Little, it felt is if the technical sky was falling. Major kudos to our development team who worked through the night (these things only happen at night and generally on weekends to boot).
Of course, there was a silver lining: we learned a ton from the outage. Planning for a technical disaster is one thing; surviving a technical disaster is another. Because of this experience we have made significant improvements to our backend architecture.
My point is, these kinds of things happen all the time. The roller coaster is real and it’s best to be ready for it. Some people will love your product and others will hate it. Some people will be thrilled to join your team and others won’t give you the time of day.
As the entrepreneur, you care so much about the product and its success that it is tough to avoid feeling personally wounded on a regular basis. But no matter what is happening around you, no matter the stress or the uncertainty or the rejection, you need to always show a brave and steady face for the team. It is exciting but it is not easy.
Once you have the brilliant idea, the perfect team and the right capital, take a moment to prepare yourself for the personal ride you are about to take. Then take a deep breath, buy your ticket and hold on tight!