If your family is like mine, it stretches from one end of this country to the other. And seldom are any of us sitting still for long. As a result, we use email and Facebook to keep up with the latest news and events in the family. This works well to keep everyone updated, but the family historian in me is concerned that these options are difficult or impossible to archive and we could lose the personal history we are documenting.
There are a lot of platforms and apps popping up offering quick ways to post photos, comments and even videos online from just about anywhere. It seems like one of them would make a good option for a family journal. My requirements are:
- Limited access. I want the family to be able to share photos and stories without worrying about strangers getting access to personal information. User login requirements has its issues – we all have at least one relative who is incapable of remembering a password – but, even so, there has to be an easy way to limit access.
- Easy to use. If it requires a manual, no one’s going to take the time to learn it. And, if it takes a lot of time or effort to prepare and post, it will also be ignored.
- Mobile blogging. Being able to send photos, notes and even video directly from a mobile phone is an absolute necessity. Viewing that content from anywhere would be a plus.
- Data export. There has to be a way to backup or archive the content. The ability to re-purpose that content into publications or presentations would be even better.
Posterous couldn’t make it any easier to post content. If you can email, you can post to Posterous – from your desktop, tablet or phone. Any camera phone that supports email can post those photos to Posterous. The subject line of your message becomes the title of the post and the body of the message becomes the post content. If you have an iPhone or Android phone, you can install a free Posterous app that makes it even easier to post photos, audio and video clips along with any text you want to include.
In a private Posterous site, members are identified by their email address. You can only post to the family site if the address you are posting from is registered at the site. The biggest effort is dealing with those few members who have multiple email addresses.
For those family members who are password-challenged, Posterous has a great solution. Just set them up to receive email updates (the default setting) and each new posting will be emailed to them. By updating their settings, members can choose to receive email updates immediately, daily, weekly or never. There is also an RSS feed for those who prefer a news reader. And, for the Facebook crowd, Posterous can autopost to a large number of social networks and blog platforms – including Facebook.
Commenting on a post is as easy as replying to the email sent to you by Posterous. If you’re receiving your updates via RSS, Facebook or another social network, you can visit the site to comment there.
It’s also easy to organize content using tags. Wedding coming up? Expecting a baby? Create a unique tag for the event and have each person include that tag when they submit a related post. When posting by email, include the tags in the subject line beginning with “tag:” and surrounded by double parentheses like the example shown here.
The one area that Posterous comes up lacking is backup. There is no built-in facility to backup or export your Posterous content. If you have a Mac user in the family, there is a very nice Posterous Backup app [$3.99] in the Mac App Store. It will backup all the content and attachments – including photos, videos, etc. – into the folder of your choice. If you manage multiple Posterous blogs, it will backup all of them. Other backup options require a bit more effort. WordPress.com can import Posterous blogs which can then be exported in the more commonly-accepted WordPress format.
Posterous offers a lot of functionality at a great price – free. It’s easy to use and there are a number of design themes to create a site the whole family will enjoy. Take advantage of Posterous’ family-friendly features to build a journal that keeps everyone informed while it builds a record of your current family history. Future generations will love you for it.