Up next in my short series is Zoto. I first heard of these folks at BlogOn 2005, when I met Kord (their CEO). He gave me a quick demo of what they’re up to, and I got a coupon good for a free 5GB upgraded account. Cool!
Here’s the now-dormant site I set up.
For those without a cool free-account coupon, here’s the deal. Free accounts have 2GB of space, unlimited storage, and they don’t say there’s a limit on bandwidth. Premium accounts ($44.95/yr) have 5GB of space, and special areas for private photos. Seems a touch expensive, but hey – I wasn’t too worried about it, I had a free upgrade coupon. :-)
The site looks really nice when you first get in there, and there are some nice tools to help you. I like the uploader application, which helps you batch-upload pics to the site.
So the first problem…the site seemed slooooooow. Hopefully it’s growing pains – but I noticed over the span of a week that quite often I’d be looking at a page of photos, and a few of them wouldn’t load. Or it would take a _really_ long time for some to load. And it wasn’t just me – some friends who I sent my zoto URL to said the same thing.
Zoto has a cool gallery feature, where you can even choose the URL for your gallery. You can add photos to it, and you can invite other folks to contribute to the gallery. You can choose different templates for your gallery. But there’s a problem.
The gallery templates all show thumbnails, which is good. But the thumbnails are resized to 106 pixels on the SHORT side, and then cropped to 106×106. Every thumbnail is square, and they are cropped. I can’t live with that…I want uncropped thumbnails that retain the same aspect ratio as my originals. I don’t care how small you have to make them – but don’t crop them. And they’re showing the correctly-shaped thumbnails elsewhere – just not in the galleries.
But hey, I thought, this isn’t Flickr/Yahoo. ;-) This is a small company, and I bet if I post on their forums, maybe someone would respond and there would be a magic fix loaded in a few days. Or at least letting me know it was on the list. Or telling me to go to hell. Anything…but I was sure I’d get a response, so I posted on the forum, with some example thumbnails showing what I was talking about. The example I posted was a picture of the Washington Monument – and the way it was cropped, you really couldn’t even tell what it was.
So I waited. Checked every hour or so for a while, nothing. Ok, I’ll keep working with the site, and surely they’ll get back to me. Waited a few days, nothing. It’s now been 9 days since I posted that, and I’ve given up. Hmm.
The private photos and galleries thing was, well, to be honest, I never figured it out. Maybe my account wasn’t really an upgraded account (it kept telling me I had a 5GB account, but also asked me to upgrade now and then). So I’ll refrain from commenting…other than to say it’s not a good thing that I wasn’t sure if I even had the account level that would let me protect photos and galleries from the public. It could be I’m just a bonehead and didn’t find it.
I’m also a little worried about the main screen GUI that visitors see. When I send a friend or family member here, and I say “check out my new animal pictures”, it’s unclear exactly where they should go. You need to click on the “Galleries” link – but that’s not obvious, and I can imagine people might never notice that link. Especially when it says “His Views” – not clear at all that’s somewhere I should go. And I don’t really want other ads on my page (Google ads below the “His Views”) – if anyone’s going to have ads, it ought to be me. Unless, of course, I really am on a free account, in which case zoto can have the ads…but I’d rather pay and get rid of them.
There were a lot of things I liked – in the photo view, you can download lots of different sizes of images (including user-specified sizes), and they surface the tags you’re using and a feature called “similar photos”. They expose EXIF information in a nice way (although one example shutter speed was 3125/1000000 sec – couldn’t you maybe reduce that to 1/320 for me?). And I liked that they linked to Slide – this is a pretty cool site I didn’t know about before playing with Zoto.
In summary, I really wanted this site to work for me. But the combination of the generally slow performance, the critical (to me) thumbnail problem, the fact that no one seemed to care about my thumbnail problem, and the general GUI issues, led me to move on.