Pinweel, a group photo sharing service, launched in February 2012. Lead back-end developer Michael De Lorenzo explains how Pinweel is different than other photo sharing services and how Linux and open source are built into the backend.
Linux.com: How did the Pinweel project start?
Michael De Lorenzo: The Pinweel project started almost two years ago when Pinweel co-founders James Tillinghast and Rich Bulman set out to develop a better way for groups of people to easily and instantly share photos with one another. I joined the team as the lead back-end developer, and Tony Amoyal took the lead on the front-end. Richard Paul Guy has also played a key role in mobile development.
Linux.com: What does the road map for the project look like right now?
Michael De Lorenzo: Our development focus continues to be on making it as easy and satisfying as possible for people to share photos among groups. The release that we launched with in the App Store does that really well, but we see lots of opportunities to continue to make photo sharing a better experience. Things like location, hashtagging, video, and search functions are all interesting to us as ways to enhance the sharing process on the Pinweel platform. We're also focused on making Pinweel available across as many mobile platforms and devices as possible.
Linux.com: How do you expect Pinweel to be used?
Michael De Lorenzo: Some of the most powerful features of Pinweel are the immediacy with which you can share photos with your social graph, the ease with which you can organize groups around a shared photo album, and the way you can define privacy levels for each shared album. So Pinweel is going to appeal to users who are attracted to those solutions. If you don't like having to wait to see your friends' photos, Pinweel lets you see them instantly, as they're taken. If you have different groups of friends with whom you want to share different types of photos, Pinweel makes it incredibly fast and easy to create and invite a group. And if you don't like having to always post your photos in a forum as public as a social network, Pinweel lets you pick just who gets to see your photos. This combination of solutions really isn't available in any other photo sharing service.
Linux.com: How is the project funded, and how will it make money?
Michael De Lorenzo: Our funding to date has come from the founders and one outside round of angel funding. Our business model is based on building a large photo-based community that can eventually offer brands an ideal platform for two-way communications with consumers using photos as a medium.
Linux.com: What about privacy? What information are you collecting on your users, and who will you be sharing it with?
Michael De Lorenzo: We're putting privacy front and center as a primary value proposition with our application. It's a fine line to walk — making sharing easy while at the same time maintaining user trust with how their photos are shared. We're also taking care to not cross any lines when it comes to the privacy of user data.
We all saw the backlash that Path – and others – endured over the uploading and storage of address book data without explicit user consent. Pinweel doesn't do that, and we won't do that. We're listening very closely to our early adopters with regard to things they like and don't like in terms of how information and content is shared and making updates to our application(s) as quickly as possible.
Linux.com: Can we peek under the hood and hear about all the open source and specific Linux technologies you are using and how they are being used?
Michael De Lorenzo: We made the decision really early on to use a lot of open source technologies, Linux, of course, being front and center. We chose to standardize our servers with Ubuntu; all our servers now run on Ubuntu. We've started with very bare installations of Ubuntu and only added the packages each server needed to perform its function(s).
Our Web application and APIs are built using Ruby, Rails, Twitter Bootstrap, and jQuery, are served with Passenger and Apache, and make heavy use of REST. We store our data in MongoDB and utilize Memcached for our caching layers.
Linux.com: Why did you choose Linux? And what code will Pinweel contribute back to the open source community?
Michael De Lorenzo: We selected Linux for a few very important reasons. First, we were more comfortable with managing our infrastructure on Ubuntu versus Windows. Second, our programming stack, in our opinion, just works better in the Linux environment. Third, and this one probably could be higher considering we're boostrapping Pinweel at the moment, is that it is more cost-effective with Amazon Web Services.
It's still early and we haven't yet needed to alter any of the open source technologies we use, but if we had to and it was something that had value to the open source community Pinweel would most certainly contribute back. In fact, we're looking forward to being successful enough that we could add some real value back to the projects that helped us build Pinweel.
Linux.com:Pinwheel also announced a new photo sharing service in February. How do you plan to differentiate your service and minimize confusion about the nearly identical names?
Michael De Lorenzo: The issue with Pinwheel is really a legal one that will be settled by the lawyers. Our public position has been made clear with respect to our clearly established trademark rights.
We're already seeing really exciting worldwide download and usage numbers for Pinweel. Users around the world are enthusiastically using Pinweel to communicate with photos, and we think that's the result of us having done good job of creating an easy-to-use solution for sharing photos more effectively.
Linux.com: Thanks for explaining Pinweel to us, and good luck on the new project!