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Best Practices for Privately Sharing Pictures Using Ponga

Ponga creates a compelling way to crowdsource stories using pictures but inviting family involves introducing them to a new platform. Let us help you with that.

The stories in your Ponga pictures should be shared, so we designed Ponga so that our members can invite as many free guests as they like. Plus, since you always own your own pictures, you are also always in control.

The challenge with sharing anything new though is that it bundles social dynamics with technology competence. Our Ponga members’ experiences sharing pictures have helped us put together a resource and develop a set of best practices that might help you ensure your guests have the best experience possible.

We’ll start with the basics. If this is all review for you, just skip ahead to Resources and Best Practices.

How Sharing Works with Ponga

Since Ponga pictures about family history can easily include personal, private information and documentation, we ensure privacy in sharing with three core elements:

1. Authentication

As our member, when you invite others to explore your picture or album, your invitation includes the authentication to ensure that the people you invite are the same people who actually explore your stories.

In Ponga, you are never sharing your original file. Instead, we make a working copy of your original file to create the link of the Ponga picture. We archive the original — complete with its metadata. That’s important. When you share it, what you’re doing is sharing access to the link. Only the guests with specific, validated email addresses can see it. That protects your files as well as your privacy and that of your guests.

A picture from one of the Ponga founders’ personal collections.
A picture from one of the Ponga founders’ personal collections that illustrates 12-kinds of content that can be included in a Ponga picture to share context. To request an invitation to THIS picture, please see ponga.com/inviteme, or complete the form below.

2. Control over context

When you share a picture in Ponga, you’re including context. It might be as simple as a title and description. It might also be carefully curated with detailed selections including voice recordings, embedded video, documents and named individuals. The content that you add to a picture stays in context even as it is shared.

Connecting images with context is a challenge in today’s social media. Pictures shared in a group or on a social feed can easily be downloaded and re-shared without the context. Often, even file names are lost. With Ponga, your stories and context travel with your invitation. Your original file stays safe in our archives.

Sharing panel in a Ponga picture
Sharing panel in a Ponga picture showing the owner, a contributing guest, and a list of the albums that the picture is included in.

3. They're your pictures, you're in charge

As our Ponga member, you’re the boss. You own the pictures you upload and what you add or delete from a picture, remains that way. If you decide to invite someone to contribute stories and other content to your picture, they’re just that — your guest.

You can choose to delete anything they add, you can remove them from your picture or album with a click. When you remove them as guests, the contents they added will remain, and you can choose to keep them or delete them. It’s up to you.

When you share pictures from the privacy of the Ponga platform, you’re asking your guests to enter the platform to participate in the storytelling. Though it is completely free to them, it’s completely reasonable for them to want to learn more before creating their own authenticated account.

To make it easier for your guests to learn about Ponga before creating their guest account, feel free to direct them to ponga.com/learn-more.

Best Practices

As most of us learned on the playground, sharing involves at least three elements to work right:

  • curiosity, …
  • empathy, and …
  • social connection.

Curiosity gets your prospective guest excited so they’re motivated to do something to learn more. Empathy lets you walk in your guest’s shoes so you can answer their questions before they ask them. The connection gets them eager to help you because they’re as interested as you are in the crowdsourcing of stories.

These three concepts have led us to these best practices for inviting new guests into Ponga to help crowdsource stories.

1. Set expectations for your guests in your own email

You probably learned the basics about sharing with sandbox toys. Say “please and thank you,” or tell the other kid if there’s something to be careful with. That extends to sharing your physical photo albums too: “You can scan it, but don’t mark up the pages, please” seems perfectly reasonable and polite.

In that context, sharing your Ponga pictures isn’t all that different except that almost everything about Ponga will be new to your guests.

Telling your guests what to expect will go a long way toward making them feel comfortable — and encourage them to contribute to your stories if that’s what you’re looking for.

Before inviting them directly to Ponga, send them an email to tell them what to expect. This email will probably bypass any filtering and arrive in their primary email box. If you’re sharing from a web page or blog post, you can also set expectations there too, but email tends to be better.

🎩 Here’s a Tip (Especially useful if you’re sending an email to a large list of people who may not know each other):

  • Tell your guests in this email WHO ELSE will be invited and how you’re related. Victoria of Victoria’s Press has a genius tip: Include the relationship at the top of the email. “Dear sisters, cousins, aunts, nieces, nephews…& all,” her email begins. With that, your problem is solved whether email addresses are visible or not.

Whatever approach you use to set expectations, be sure to include three bits of information:

  1. Watch for the email directly from Ponga with the activation link.
  2. The invitation email that comes from Ponga will include your name but be from “invitations@ponga.com” (making it easy to search for.)
  3. When they click the link, they’ll be asked to authenticate with an email and password. (Similar to the security on wedding sites, for example.)

After you’ve set expectations, you can follow with the actual invitation from within Ponga. Including a note in the Ponga invitation will reinforce the expectations-setting email you sent first.

Screenshot of the panel when sharing a Ponga picture to crowdsource stories in pictures.
In this example the names “bette@ponga.com, louie@ponga.com, malia@ponga.com” are each separated with a comma and a space.

Notice that if you’ve set expectations, you can also send invites to a number of people at the same time. In the share panel on the left, you can see how you just separate each email address with a comma. Adding a space, as we did here makes the list a bit easier to read.

If your guests went through the Explore program, they’ll already have an account at this point and will recognize the invitation. Your picture will also appear instantly in their account regardless of whether they’ve opened your invitation.

If your guests don’t yet have a Ponga account when they receive your invitation, they’ll be prompted to create the guest account and add a password. This is a free guest account.

2. Curiosity is first.

“Remember that time at Band Camp? I’ve got some pictures. Wanna see ‘em?”

That “Band Camp” idea might be a bit of a cliché, but it triggers the notion of something from a shared past that has a story to it. As you find these moments, the larger narrative will get your prospective guests excited to learn more. This isn’t a technical problem, it’s human behavior.

Hit them with all the senses: We’ve discovered that the most compelling elements of a picture are often the ironic context or physical elements that are invisible. As you’re looking to encourage people to tell stories, you want to keep this in mind and dig deep to trigger memories. Ask about what was happening, and why it mattered. Ask about senses, like the sizzle in that steak, the feel of the velvet, the smell of gardenias.

Ask a question: These elements will work to your advantage to pique the curiosity of your own friends and family in exploring your pictures. In your invitation emails, don’t be shy about asking these questions too, “Did Aunt Mary actually have a ‘special friend’ that summer? Who was that guy?”

3. Don’t have their email address?

Have them “Ask for an invite,” you can even do this at scale. Sometimes you want to invite people whose email addresses you don’t know. It could be the gathering at a family reunion or a group of people in a shared Facebook group. All you need is a sign-up form so that your prospective guests can “Ask for an invite.”

Screenshot from https://lisalisson.com where Lisa uses a website form to invite readers to ask for an invitation to her picture.
In her blog post about crowdsourcing in pictures, Lisa Lisson of Are You My Cousin? uses a website form to invite readers to ask for an invitation to her picture.

There are many form-building tools out on the market today. Most web-builder tools like Squarespace, WIX, or WordPress have built-in form builders. These tools basically just:

  1. Create a form with defined fields like name and email address,
  2. Specify where you want the information collected to go.

If you want to just include a form with someone else’s newsletter, or even on a printed flyer, you can use a dedicated form-builder tool like Typeform, Jotform, or Google Forms instead. These form-builder tools do exactly the same thing, but they’re standalone forms that don’t need to be nested into some other web page.

Reach out if you have any questions or we can be helpful in any way.

Last updated:
October 24, 2022
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