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Collaborative Photography Idea

Collaborative Photography -- it's a phrase I've heard recently meant to inspire and inform me as I continue working on my own collaboration-based projects, like Sketch-a-bit and PhotoCity and beyond. I don't know what "collaborative photography" should really mean, though, (not even with Google's help) so I'm going to invent my own idea right here.

Perhaps you've heard of Sketch-a-bit, the android application that Adam and I made, where there's a pool of black and white sketches that people have drawn on their phones, and when you start up the app, you download one of these images. Then you just start sketching, starting not from a blank canvas, but from someone else's picture. So you can modify it, improve it, or totally erase it.

But that's just sketching. Drawing. Collaborative sketching, yes. But it probably wouldn't be that big of a jump to do the same thing with photography. (It might be a dangerous jump... lewd drawings aren't as bad as lewd photos...)

But imagine this: You're kind of a photo geek, but not it the mood to take Serious photos with your Serious, heavy-duty camera. But you've got your android camera, there's some cool stuff around, and you just don't know what to shoot. (Or maybe you hear about this not-yet-in-existence app from the internet and think it's neat!) Anyway, just like with Sketch-a-bit, you download a random photo by some random android user out there, and use that photo as a nugget of inspiration. Maybe you take a photo with similar shapes or colors or composition? Maybe a photo that has the same feeling? Or maybe you recognize the location and go there to take a photo? Then you just upload that photo back to the app. To be all nice and helpful and shareable, maybe we even give you a link where you can view your photo and the photo that inspired it AND all the photos that came before. Does that sound cool? I think it sounds cool. I'd give it a try and potentially get kind of into it. Adam said people maybe used sketch-a-bit while stuck on a bus or something, but I think hey, there might even be interesting things to photograph on a bus.

At this very moment, I want to make pizza (and have dinner and lunch tomorrow and not starve) way more than I want to write code. That's why I'm writing a blog post instead! Because I'm lazy. And I might never get back to this idea, so I might as well try writing about it while it's still just an idea. Here's a glimpse of how I think about *tackling* ideas.

Things I know how to do:
  1. make basic android apps
  2. deploy android apps
  3. make a web service and back end that would take photos and stuff that people uploaded with this app and store them somewhere in some organized fashion
  4. make a basic web page where you can see the photos that were uploaded

Things I got concerned about when thinking about this for more than 5 minutes:
  1. Where to store all this crap?? my friend-hosted website? (probably not) school? (no, i don't want more disk space drama) the cloud/AMAZON?? Google? Maybe I could use my google storage, yeah!
  2. Okay, I was going to add "to do: learn more about AWS" but if I store stuff on google and host a server somewhere else, maybe bandwidth won't be so bad as to make people mad and I can get away with it.

Things to learn better:
  1. maybe AWS for storage and servers (esp. the server stuff, EC2? I don't know about that yet.)
  2. how to do camera stuff with android (i think it's easy)
  3. how to make an uploading 'service' in android (like the facebook and youtube apps with the progress bar in the notifications)

Lessons from the past:
  • I know there are going to be naughty pictures. I never saw any in PhotoCity but 4% of sketches were penises or racist things. What's the coping mechanism? I don't mind rating the app NC-17 or whatever, but I want a way to get the naughty pictures out of the way as fast as possible. Maybe by letting people flag them, have them immediately get taken out of the pool, and have a moderator unflag pictures that people flagged for no reason. Also be able to 'bless' certain pictures and not let them get unflagged.
  • The browsing and stuff on Sketch-a-bit is basically non-existent. I think for photos, people will care a lot more about getting credit (maybe, might want this somewhat anonymous) and being able to track down their photos.
  • Anonymous or not? This isn't really a lesson, just something I'm curious about with Sketch-a-bit, if it would make a difference if you could know who made what and star certain sketches/lineages and stuff.

Okay, so if I were to start making this app, where would I start? Probably on the android side of things. (Things that I don't know yet.)
  1. Make a new blank android project on my computer!
  2. Get the app to launch the camera and take a picture
  3. Get the app to show a picture before launching the camera
  4. Get the app to download this picture form the interwebs (some specific url)
  5. Get the app to upload the picture in some fancy way with a progress bar
  6. Then I'd want to make the back end accept and show off new photos, but I'd first have to figure out what kind of information I wanted to store and how I wanted to organize things.
  7. Around here, I'd probably re-asses and make new lists of things to do since I can't predict how it will go. 
Okay ideas! Go and be free! Now it's pizza time. Maybe I'll get back to you in the future!


  1. Might be interesting to create some sort of collage out of a set of images. Could be different perspectives of the same object, or complementary stuff. Would be good to have appropriate level of licensing using creative commons.


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