Digitapes Overview

Digitapes Overview

I want digitapes to be an open, robust, not-for-profit and long lasting solution for cherished memories and montages in the modern age.

Taking photos and videos with our mobile devices has become the standard way that we capture moments that bring us joy. These should be able to be collected and shared without ultierior or a profit motive.

Background and user story

During covid, I was stuck at home with my wife’s family and idle time. Her father suggested watching some old video tapes that he took of the girls when they were little. Watching the history of a little girl run around on screen knowing that she’s now part of my family filled me with a wholesome burden of preserving this footage. It was only by luck that we managed to watch it at all; half of the tapes were in a super8 format that has been long deprecated, and it was by chance that we found a VHS player that could watch the other half.

Looking through photos and videos on the phone has a similar experience but in the wrong way - there’s a threat of incompatibility with updates, a mixture of duplicates, video segments are much shorter, and they’re mixed with photos and videos I took around the same time. I could be taking photos while fixing the car, and it all falls into the same bucket as my children’s photos unless I go back and reorganise it into albums.

This is the genesis of the idea: what if there was a service where we can upload photos and videos and have them preserved over time. They are “intentional” places, so only the photos and videos that we want are put there, and they are spun into a montage format that is purely video. No vendor lock-in, no accounts are needed, easily watchable and downloadable. We could even allow friends and family to contribute photos to the same place, and have a live, automatic montage system.

Use case: Friends together for a shared experience

Imagine a group of friends together for a special moment together; perhaps a group beach holiday, or a reunion together to celebrate. They all have a mobile device that takes photos and videos, which they want to share with one another. Without digitapes, this is what happens:

  • Someone starts up a group chat in messenger or whatsapp (Which means more users for vendor-lock-in), which not everyone has; and uploads photos and videos
  • Photos and videos are downscaled and indespersed with messages of people asking for directions to the event, or the toilet, and perhaps screenshots or pictures that are more for the purposes of helping each other get around rather than keeping memories.
  • It only works with internet, so not in crowded places; or out remote on their beach / camping / hiking holiday.
  • If they want to share it with a wider friend group, someone has got to make a montage of it, or some slide show, or just add it to another platform like google photos, which uses it for advertising.

Use case: Following the life of a thread

A child growing up, has their first crawl, walk, bike ride, and lost tooth. Their first day of school. Their day of graduation. These are all memories that are captured on different devices. Shared on different social media, First myspace, then facebook; mainly for for family, but ultimately for advertisers; Myspace is out, facebook is in, until the next thing comes along. The memories live on, and get replayed at an 18th, 21st, at a wedding, and at a funeral. A gentle reminder to cherish life, that is not sold for profit.

Digitapes aims to capture these moments and protect them in a secure, open, way. Special memories are not for profit.

How digitapes solves the problem

This lays out the reasoning and framework of what I want to do with digitapes. At the core of it, digitapes is open source, authentic and open platform, to create, store, and share these montage moments. The digitapes software has the primary role of facilitating the transmission of media into a montage which can then be transmitted to aother service (ie: youtube) or stored as part of digitapes itself. The 10,000 foot overview in picture form is below:

digitapes overview

In the centre of the image we have a “digitape” which could be thought of as an image album. What makes this different is that each digitape is made for a specific purpose (imagine: writing the title on a VHS casette), and then media is shared to that digitape. When ready, the tape’s media is sent to a generator to be turned into a montage, which can be stored on the digitapes platform or offloaded onto youtube or other places.

The core strategy of this, in line with being open and long-lasting; is the modularity of the platform: Someone might want to create a digitape that is stored through a google-photos service, and then fed to a special AI montage generator service (if the user shall please) - this allows freedom for the user to change their services as they see fit.

For the self-motivated, the system should be totally self-hostable so that someone can run their own auth server, digitape service, and generator (naturally, accepting service risk by running their own system.)

Digitapes service

In addition to the software system, there needs to be (atleast, initially) a “Digitapes service” or business unit, which can offer the initial setup and “general usecase” for users. The service provides:

  • a backend to auth against, proving ownership and permissions of tapes.
  • A storage system to store tapes. This should be a once-off payment as a lifetime service (say, $15 AUD for lifetime storage).
  • Basic montage generation; HQ montage generation accessible as a fee for users who don’t want to run their own infrastructure.
  • Admin of digitapes service: Domain names, SSL, App store uploading.

Care should be taken that the digitapes system is not at mercy of the digitapes service; but instead the service supports the aims, approachability, and survivability fo the system.

Issues with strategy

There are issues with this strategy that I will work to document shortly. Namely, how to make a decentralised service that is still easy to use.