Ever go to your parents' house and see them take out a photo album? That just might go away completely. Today, photos are lost on hard drives and phones and memory cards. Sure, there's scrapbooking, and there's Facebook. But how can we prevent this from being the lost generation of meaningful images?
When I posed this challenge to Inc. readers online, the response blew me away. In all, 77 of you submitted ideas. My favorite ideas were those that went beyond the obvious (many suggested an app that would suck in photos from Facebook and other sites), had a simple elegance, and seemed likely to be shared among friends.
As I read the entries, it occurred to me that even the most promising ideas could be better if you somehow Frankensteined the best parts of them together. That supports my theory that every idea gets better with thoughtful collaboration. (My own ideas at Wexley School for Girls continue to take a village.) Here are the three ideas that impressed me most.
Fivemost, Stephen Panico, Austin
"My solution is called Fivemost. It would be a desktop and mobile application that detects when you are batch-uploading photos to a social network or other photo-sharing service and asks you to choose the five most important images from your upload. These images are then stored in a database. At predetermined times, Fivemost will offer the option to create a digital and physical photo album featuring the collection of important images up to that date. The album will be professionally designed, made with archive-quality materials."
CAL: What I like about Mr. Panico's Fivemost idea is its simplicity. It's easy to use, and because users have to pick five favorites every time they upload photos, most of the work for creating the final product is already done before they start. Really smart and simple.
ElephantMemories, Jennifer Jackson, New York City
We're all so busy trying to make memories that we don't have time to save them. Enter ElephantMemories. Once you've opted in via smartphone app or downloaded the desktop version, it would automatically back up your photos. Once a month, once a quarter, or semiannually,
ElephantMemories would snail-mail you 4x6 or 5x7 glossy photos of your best moments. We'll remind you of the deadline before mailing. If you are too busy, a real person will look at your master roll and select the best of the bunch for you. For special days, members can create GroupMemories, crowdsourced photo albums. You provide your loved ones with a link, which will take them to a page where they can upload their snapshots of your wedding or birthday party.
CAL: I got tons and tons of app ideas that were pretty similar. What I liked about Ms. Jackson's was the idea of curating photos at regular intervals. Nothing replaces the muscle memory of having a regular time commitment, however small.
Automatic Media Updates, Tara Cajacob, founder of The Historium, St. Paul
As technology changes, file extensions become incompatible, and data is lost. Wouldn't it be incredible to have software that runs like a Windows update just for certain files on your computer? Once every so often, it would update all of your files to the latest specs automatically while creating a checkpoint to go back to in case something goes wrong. Perhaps it could even utilize technology like Facebook's Graph Search to easily "tag" photos with descriptive information.
CAL: This is the sort of service that could create ambassadors of its proud users. I can picture users bragging to friends, "My photos are safe and archived forever."