Home rmbr: Using Funware to Organize Photos

rmbr: Using Funware to Organize Photos

According to New York-based rmbr, which is currently operating in closed alpha, organizing photos is a pain. When you get back from vacation, tagging, sorting and organizing your 400 vacation photos is a lot of work — and no one wants to associate vacation with work! Instead, many people just dump their photos in chronological order into a photo sharing service like Flickr or Webshots. And most of your friends likely don’t want to click through your entire vacation slide show just to find the small handful of photos that might be of interest.

To make the process of tagging, organizing, rating, and sorting photos less work and more fun, rmbr has developed a series of games based around photosharing. This concept is called funware, and according to rmbr co-founder and CEO Gabe Zichermann, a veteran of the computer game industry, funware is already employed all over the web. Yahoo! Answers, he told me, is really just a research game, i’m in like with you is a flirting game, and so on.

Users can import photos from any popular photosharing service into rmbr. Once the photos are inside the application, users can discuss and vote on them using an interesting scale that ranges from ‘sucks’ to ‘cute’ to ‘funny’ to ‘cool.’ Users are also encouraged to play games around their photos and attempt to win points toward a site-wide competition — Zichermann told me that eventually rmbr would like to award cash prizes to top point getters as an incentive to use the service.

The point of the site is not just about having fun and competing for points, however. While discussing, rating, and playing games based around their photos, users are actually contributing valuable semantic data to each image. rmbr has developed a number of games already, including standard favorites like “Memory,” where you match photos, but one of the most intriguing games I was shown was one called “Super Photo Match.” In the game, the a user selects a photo and chooses a handful of words to describe it. Friends then attempt to guess which words were used to describe the photo and whoever gets the most matches wins.

Unbeknownst to players, while having fun playing a seemingly innocuous game, rmbr is gathering the information provided to learn about your photos. Those words used to describe the image are actually tags, and if multiple players use the same word to describe a photo, it more likely to be an accurate description. The idea behind all of rmbr’s games is to get users to do things like tag, organize, and rate photos without making it feel like that’s what they’re doing — in other words, remove the work from photosharing.

Though rmbr can be used as a full photo storage solution, Zichermann told me that the company is really more interested in addressing the tagging/fun layer than the storage layer. They fully intend to free the organizational data that they create for users and let people export their photo data back out to the third-party storage services they already use. The company is currently working on a two-way iPhoto connector, but with online services it is a bit harder to make that possible. Zichermann told me there are a lot of great APIs that allow you to take data out of photo services, but very few people want to put data back in, so adding new tagging data back into a photosharing site, for example, is not always easy.

rmbr is currently in private alpha, but you can sing up for a slot in the beta slated to begin later this month by entering your email address on their site. What do you think about the idea of using funware make the process of tagging and organizing photos less work? Is a rmbr a service you would use? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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