Building a private family photo and video blog

Leo's doodleIt shouldn’t be that hard in 2017 to create a website to host photos, videos and stories to share privately with those people close to me. Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr and others are lovely social sites yet none tick the boxes for me. Let me share with you my experience and explain why I find modern social media failing my middle aged needs.

Being a dad of two young kids (DB 4, DG 6 in case you wondered) means generating a ton of photos and videos (~5Gb a month on average) and all that fun wants sharing with friends and family. My cohort is a privacy conscious bunch and not all of them have embraced Apple’s walled garden nor trust Google fully (but happily use Android funnily enough). This is not a story about either of those. It’s a story about making the media available with no dependencies on personal platforms of choice nor social media logins.

The big three

Facebook is a privacy trap and although I am known to frequent it to stay in touch with friends, I very cautiously share a tiny amount of media. It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Tumblr and Flickr are ancient behemoths that somehow still survive despite Yahoo doing its level best to neglect and kill them. Neither are sites I feel comfortable hosting private memories and images of my kids on. Either Yahoo makes them disappear without a moments notice or half a billion users accounts are compromised.

Alternatives

There are other options, like WordPress, Ghost, Koken and DIY static efforts. The former is my Swiss army knife and go-to web tool of choice, so I have spent a bit of time faffing around with plugins and themes to create a prototype of sorts. Not a bad effort and totally free of course (plus hosting).

However, the experience is somewhat lacking sadly. Videos are a key ingredient in my stories alongside many, many photos. All of which gets uploaded to iCloud and duplicated for redundancy and basic sharing to Google Photos.

Adding them again to a WordPress site feels redundant and cumbersome, especially where videos are concerned. In fact adding videos is a major barrier for me because often they are quite big (>150Mb) and that means tweaking hosting settings and if they are MOV rather than MP4, you had better converted them before uploading. All in all a pretty frustrating experience when you are thinking of just quickly adding a day’s out worth of media to share with friends and family while still mobile.

A conclusion of sorts

WordPress and systems like it make private sharing easier and free for the most part, yet still cumbersome and technical.

Services like Facebook and Tumblr are less private yet way easier to use and entirely free.

I wish there was an easy way to embed videos and even photos from my cloud storage services like iCloud or Google Photos without going through lengthy exercises that duplicate effort.

And before you say it, yes – I did try embedding videos from Google in my WordPress site.

If you are interested, this is how it works:

Locate the video(s) in Google Drive (not photos!), set link sharing to public (several menus), open in a new tab and get the embed code, insert the embed (iframe – yak!) to your WordPress site (after picking a non-security violating plugin) and rejoice.

Not. Because the videos won’t play well on mobile! Darn it.

So Google Photos shared albums it is, only because iCloud’s shared streams are too limiting and for iUsers only. Shame there’s a bunch of friends and family who loathe Google and won’t login.

Over to you

What’s your experience? What tools do you use to share precious memories with your loved ones safely and easily?


Also published on Medium.

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