OurDoings closing to new users, continuing for existing users

(Bruce Lewis) Building OurDoings was a lot of work, but in 2012 it paid off. Not in the way I imagined, by growing to the point where it would take over my day job. Instead, it gave me the knowledge and experience I needed to get a much better day job. I am now a software engineer at Google working on image search for tablet computers. When interviewing, the skills I used were about half general Computer Science and half things I learned building OurDoings.

Had I succeeded at growing OurDoings the way I wanted to, I doubt I could have created a company environment anywhere near as great as what I'm now part of at Google. Building and maintaining a great corporate culture is not easy. The prospect of that work is now off my plate.

The only wrinkle in all this good news is that I can't run a business that competes with my employer. OurDoings competes with Picasaweb and with Blogger. What would normally happen in this situation is that OurDoings would be shut down. But Google is not a normal company.

I've worked out an arrangement that avoids hurting those of you who've come to rely on OurDoings. All existing users can keep going at the same level of service. By closing to new users, OurDoings no longer competes with Google, since the public can no longer choose one over the other.

There will still occasionally be improvements to OurDoings, but not as big as the ones I implemented when running it as a side business. I will continue to run it as a hobby, which is a great relief, personally. I'm already finding myself able to spend more time with my family...we recently all watched a movie together...the first time we've done this since my youngest, six years old, was born.

I'm fully expecting to experience a happy new year, and hope you do too.

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(Bruce Lewis) I switched OurDoings to a new SSL provider, StartSSL, from godaddy. Let me know if you encounter any issues.

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OurDoings Open Source

(Bruce Lewis) Earlier this year, I made OurDoings faster by using compression better with our CDN, Amazon Cloudfront. The enhancements I made to the s3fs filesystem are available on github: https://github.com/brlewis/s3fs

After that, I enhanced the slideshow to make the featured/unfeatured interface more user-friendly. I also dug deep into the open-source PhotoSwipe slideshow code to enable it to show photos as they're loading, for now just for Google Chrome. If other browsers start making height/width information available as a photo is starting to load, the same feature will work on those browsers automatically.

This early-loading feature, together with a few bugfixes, is available on github as well: https://github.com/brlewis/PhotoSwipe

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Picasa and Dropbox, together

(Bruce Lewis) Many of you use Picasa to choose which photos to upload, but the limit on how much you can upload at once can cramp your style.

Another option is to use Picasa's built-in export feature in conjunction with a Dropbox folder you've shared with OurDoings. Until recently, this didn't work well because Picasa insists on creating a subfolder. I just made OurDoings smart enough to stop using that subfolder as the headline for your photos, so give it a try if you're not completely satisfied with the Picasa OurDoings button.

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(Bruce Lewis) I upped OurDoings' use of Cloudfront and compression. Let me know if you notice anything other than more speed.

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Why OurDoings Is Getting a Redesign

(Bruce Lewis) OurDoings wants more early-adopter users like you. Your feedback has helped enhance and refine OurDoings in countless ways. It's been great seeing you still here as years go by.

Today, though, OurDoings isn't bringing in as many early adopters as it used to. There are so many new services coming out all the time that early adopters have to cut corners in how they evaluate them. As the saying goes, "Don't judge a book by its cover." But when there are lots of books, how do you choose which covers to open?

OurDoings has visual cues that tell early adopters there's nothing new here. Of course, you know we're still ahead of the pack in functionality. But when an early adopter looks at OurDoings and sees the tree list archive (plus signs that expand years), the tall masthead (Google, Twitter and Facebook all have narrow top bars), and the low-resolution calendar icons (very visible on new iPads), they aren't going to take the time to find out about Dropbox uploads, automatic organization into skeleton blogs, and one-click export to Facebook and Picasaweb.

In consultation with some of you (FriendFeed OurDoings Users) I've been working on a redesign based on Twitter Bootstrap, a popular starting point for modern web sites. There is still some work needed, but it's good enough now to put in production. If you have a custom style, it won't work at first; later it will.

Tomorrow morning I'll put it in production. If you want to see it now change "ourdoings.com" to "alpha.ourdoings.com" in your site URL. I hope you like it as much as I do.

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For iPhone/iPad users: full-screen browsing and Instagram

(Bruce Lewis) The next time you're looking at OurDoings photos on your iPad or iPhone, try this: Bring up Mobile Safari's menu and choose "Add to Home Screen". You'll get an icon on your home screen that lets you put that retina display to good use, showing your latest photos in high resolution. If you're in a place with low bandwidth, the old "Mobile Version" link is still there.

Instagram is a popular, free photo-sharing app on the iPhone. If you shoot with it, I suggest uploading the photos from your photo roll via Dropbox for the best resolution and most accurate dates. If you're an OurDoings veteran and just want to try out the real-time integration described here, create a separate site just for the instant medium-resolution photos, as I did with InstaBruce. That way if you later decide to put the full-resolution photos on your main OurDoings site you won't end up with a bunch of duplicates that OurDoings can't detect. The cool thing about this integration is that the photo gets posted immediately when you tap Done in Instagram.

If you aren't using OurDoings yet, but you're an Instagram user looking to try something new, follow these steps:

1. Start sending photos to OurDoings

  1. The easiest way to start from your iPhone is email-based registration, though other options are available on that same page.
  2. Wait for a "Welcome to OurDoings" email message. If it doesn't arrive in 2 minutes, check your spam folder.

2. Integrate with Instagram

  1. In the "Welcome to OurDoings" email click the "choose a password" link. Type a password twice.
  2. There is a series of links ("breadcrumbs") near the top of that page toward the left. Click the Edit link. On that page, click Site Integration (near the bottom, next to a puzzle-piece icon).
  3. On the Site Integration page, scroll down and check the Instagram box, and authorize OurDoings.

3. Watch your Instagram feed come in

Go back to the home page of your OurDoings site. Refresh every so often. Photos will come in, about 20 a minute. Click the "Get Updates" tab to see different available options like media/geoRSS, embedding in another web page, etc.  Pasting your m.xml RSS URL into Google Maps search can be fun.  In addition to geoRSS, photo metadata gets latitude, longitude and caption.  Give it a try!

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new video introducing OurDoings

(Bruce Lewis) I've previously used the written word when explaining what makes OurDoings better than other photo sharing options, but I just posted a video that I think does the job better: http://ourdoings.com/

Those of you who like iPad/iPhone interfaces will appreciate the new ability to swipe through photos.  It's shown but not talked about in the video.

If anyone has the time and inclination to make another version of this video dubbed in a non-English language, I would love to see it.

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Real-time Photoblogging with OurDoings and Dropbox

(Bruce Lewis) Sometimes it's fun to share a photo of where you are right now. Of course, out of consideration for the people you're sending the photo to, you want to explain what's going on. You start typing on your phone. Now you're showing a little less consideration for the people you're with. It's OK, but not ideal.

The ideal is achievable, though. One approach is to compose an email to OurDoings before the event you plan on live-photoblogging, and save the message as a draft. Later, when you're at the event, you open the draft, attach the picture, and send.

But there's an even faster way. If you've already created a Dropbox shared folder and shared it with box@ourdoings.com, create a subfolder for the event with the title you want people to see, e.g. "Lunch with Robert Scoble". On your phone, navigate your Dropbox app to that folder. Later, when you're having lunch, you'll be ready to upload a photo in seconds, hardly interrupting the conversation at all. You'll be live-photoblogging like a professional.

If you've set up FriendFeed on your Site Integration page, your doings can zip off to FriendFeed, Twitter and Facebook while you're still talking. It's fun. Try it!

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OurDoings stays available

(Bruce Lewis) Right now a lot of modern web sites are temporarily unavailable: Quora, Reddit, Foursquare, Hootsuite and FriendFeed are among the notable ones. They all rely on a service called Amazon EC2 to host their services.

OurDoings does not make use of EC2 and remains available. We do make use of another Amazon service, S3, for backups. S3 remains available, and OurDoings' continuous backup system is running normally. In the event S3 does become unavailable, OurDoings will catch up after S3 recovers, backing up all photos that couldn't be backed up during the outage. Similarly, if you queue photos to go to Facebook and Facebook is unavailable, OurDoings will later catch up and post them for you.

In the event OurDoings itself becomes unavailable, you can email photos or put them in your Dropbox, and they will be posted after the service is back. But we strive to be there whenever you are. Generally, posting your photos to OurDoings serves as a single instant backup, and redundant backups within minutes. Keep those memories safe!

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