Tips + Tricks

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.

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.

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. Ponga members and their free guests are given an opportunity to explore this picture once they've created their accounts.
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 A-B-Cs:

A. 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.

B. Be the Boss

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.

C. Context in Content

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.

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.

When your taps the "View on Ponga" button in the invitation (at left) they'll be taken to the signup page to create their account. This authenticates your guest with an email address and password so they can add comments and return to the picture at their convenience.

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 “” (making it easy to search for.)
  3. When they click the link, they’ll be asked to create an account in Ponga. This authenticates them with an email and password much as you would to gain access to a wedding site, 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.

In this example the names “,,” 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 already have an account at this point, they 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 the free guest account.

2. Peak their curiosity. “Remember band camp? I’ve got pictures.”

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?”

Remember that when sharing a picture you can share a single picture or a whole album. Whether sharing a picture or album, the interface is exactly the same.

  1. Add the email address
  2. Type an optional note
  3. Send invite (and optionally modify view/edit settings)

Invitations for albums do not include previews of the pictures shared, but are otherwise identical. When an album is shared all pictures added to the album are also shared and if pictures are removed, they will no longer be accessible to the people they're shared with. To learn more about sharing see How to Share Pictures and Albums.

3. Get the right email address

Anyone over the age of about 10 probably has multiple email addresses. Sometimes people use different email addresses for different purposes (personal vs. business, for example.) Having the right address gets them in the right frame of mind. As a general rule, for family history projects, you'll want to use the same address you might use to send out "save the date" notices for weddings, or other family events.

If you don't have their email address — such as to open your project to others on a shared Facebook group, you can create a sign-up form so that your guests can “Ask for an invite.”

There are many form-building tools out on the market today. Most web-builders like Squarespace, WIX, or WordPress have built-in forms. A dedicated form-builder tool like Typeform, Jotform, or Google Forms are useful options as well.

These tools all basically create a way for you to engage with them before you have their address. Once you have their email address, you can reply to set expectations and encourage them to create their free guest account and await your invitation. Just include a link to Once your guests create their account, we'll take care of welcoming your guests and giving them a quick tour so they know what to expect.

Once you've invited a guest, we hold their address in abeyance awaiting their acceptance of the invitation. If they attempt to create a new account using that before accepting the emailed invitation, they'll be required confirm their email address. This is for your privacy and prevents imposters inserting themselves between you and your guests.


Invitations to explore and contribute to Ponga pictures and any part of family history or genealogy projects are as much about the social engineering as software engineering. We've learned that to be most successful in engaging others in your project you have to intrigue them first. Draw them in with curiosity, empathy, and social connection. Once you've done that, you just need to set expectations, your hook to draw them in, and get the right email address.

Since the invitation email will arrive from, many email systems might filter it or relegate it to an "Updates" folder. This is why our best practice is to set expectations first. The best approach is to tell them the invitation is coming and ask them to first create their account, OR you can let them find the invitation in their email and tap the "View on Ponga" button.

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