I've been so busy with travel and transitioning to my new laptop that I finally now have a chance to catch my breath.
I saw this great article by Nathan Willis on how to [Spring Clean your Photo Collection]. Since I took over 1100 pictures on my last vacation down the Great River Road, this seemed like a good weekend project. For more about my vacation, see my posts [Eight States in Eight Days], and [More Like Seven States in Nine Days].
- Kodak Gallery
Formerly, this was Ofoto, but was acquired by Kodak. I started using this service back in 2002, and had over 12,000 photos uploaded over the past 8 years. I was able to share all my photos with my friends and family, and they could simply order whichever prints they want and have them shipped directly to them. They have incredibly high-professional photo-based products, like calendars and coffee table books, that you can produce from your own photos.
Sadly, the fine folks at Kodak Gallery decided they did not want my business anymore, and purged my 36GB of files from their system. To be fair, they did hint that they were having financial problems with an "Archive CD" offering, which would have allowed me to get a set of CDs or DVDs holding the high-resolution graphics of all my uploaded photos. This would have cost $150 or so, and if you uploaded more photos, there was no option to get the "delta" of photos uploaded since your last archive, so it would have cost me $150 every year or so to get an updated "backup" of my files. It seemed expensive and unnecessary at the time, given that I was sure that Kodak was not going out of business anytime soon, and that I was sure they took their own backups of all the photos that people put in their charge.
The problem is that Kodak Gallery was a free service, subsidized by people ordering physical prints and other products. As such, I got lots of email from Kodak every month, offering me free shipping, special promotions, and seasonal discounts. It was so much that I had all email from them automatically routed to a different sub-folder, that I would never look at, unless I was about to make a purchase and needed to find the best coupon code or free shipping option currently offered. This also had the unintended consequence that I missed the following series of notes:
- Important: From the Gallery's General Manager (April 17)
- Second notice: Our storage policy has changed (April 24)
- Final notice: Your stored photos may be deleted (May 8)
- We don't want to delete your photos (May 22)
All the notes mentioned the new "Storage Policy", here is a quick excerpt:
"The fact is, we store billions of photos for our 75 million members. The quality storage service the Gallery provides is significant in terms of our business costs.
So that we can provide the highest level of service, we're now asking all Gallery customers to make an annual nominal purchase in exchange for photo storage. We've modified our Terms of Service policy accordingly: if your Gallery photo storage equals 2 gigabytes or less, we're asking you to spend $4.99 annually; if more than 2 gigabytes, $19.99 annually.*
One last thought: We value and appreciate your business, and we want to continue our relationship with you in a spirit of mutual support and benefit. That's always been the Kodak way."
Since they had no response from me, nor saw any purchase activity, my 36GB of files were deleted on June 17. I discovered all of this when I contacted Kodak to find out where my files were last weekend during my "Spring Cleaning". I asked if I could at least get the final set of "Archive CDs", but they told me they were purged completely.
I understand the economy is in a recession, and many free cloud-based services are losing money and going under. I can understand they were faced with tough choices, Kodak opted to switch from a free service to fee-based service.
Albert Einstein defined Insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." In general, if I am trying to get a hold of someone, and email isn't working, then I try something different, try them by phone, try them by snail mail, and so on. With the deluge of emails, people sometimes declare "email bankruptcy" by deleting everything in their inbox after coming back from vacation, or implement filters to automatically route mail to separate folders. I think it is unrealistic to expect that everybody reads every piece of email that you send them.
I would have liked for Kodak to have done at least one or more of the following, given that I had been such a long time customer, and they had earned hundreds of dollars in revenues from all the purchases, over the years, not just directly from me, but from my friends and family, of photos I uploaded to their website:
- Send me a letter after not receiving any response from the first three notices. They sent me promotional materials and offers for 20 percent discounts, so they had my active snail mail address on file correctly. With 75 million users, it would have cost $33 million USD to send out snail mail letters to everyone, but for the subset of power-users who have more than 2GB of files, a snail mail letter might have gotten more $19.99 purchases they needed to stay in business.
- Called me on the phone. Yes, they also had my phone number in their database.
- Go ahead and charged my credit card on file $19.99 without a purchase, and given me a credit towards a future purchase. Something like: "You have not purchased anything in the last 12 months, so we charged your credit card, per our Terms of Service, but you can use this as a credit towards something in the next 60 days."
On the plus side, my "Spring Cleaning" project was done. You can't organize what you don't have anymore.
- Flickr from Yahoo
I started using Flickr back in 2008 to hold photos and graphics for this blog. Flickr holds various sizes of photos that I can use directly with HTML tags. Clicking on the photo in the blog will take you to Flickr's service and allow you to see the large size resolution. The "Lotus Connections" that I have on IBM DeveloperWorks only offers 24MB of photo space, so Flickr was a nice alternative.
Unfortunately, Flickr had adopted a new policy that only the most recent 200 pictures would be visible, and I had already reached 170 photos. Rather than start deleting photos from my older blog posts, I opted to upgrade to the "Flickr Pro" account, with a fee of only $24.99 per year.
Hopefully, by paying an annual fee and choosing a successful and profitable Cloud-Computing company, I won't experience another traumatic loss. However, it does remind me that it is my responsibility to keep my own copies of these photos, just in case.
Fortunately, many "photo product" providers are connected to Flickr. For example, my publisher [<a href="http://www.lulu.com/">Lulu.com</a>] can access my Flickr photos to make photo-based coffee table books. As for my last eight years of memories that were lost, I will just have to treat it as if my house burned down. Rebuild and move on.