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Boston-based Woven wants to bring order to the chaos of digital photo collections

Posted by Scott Kirsner  November 28, 2012 08:00 AM

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All of us are snapping more digital photos than ever before, and stashing them in more places: Facebook, Shutterfly, Instagram, or simply on our computers or mobile phones. Woven, an app from a Boston company called Litl, wants to bring order to that photographic chaos. Today, the company is releasing a version of its app that makes it easy to display your photos on a Samsung Smart TV, and I got an early look at it.

"People are taking more and more photos, but enjoying them less and less," says James Gardner, Litl's VP of marketing. "You might have 10,000 photos from the last few years, but it's not easy to surface the most relevant and exciting ones."

What the Woven app does especially well is give you access to your pictures no matter where they're stored. (It's available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and several other platforms.) It took me just a few minutes to sign in to services like Flickr, Shutterfly, and Facebook, and then start viewing thumbnails of my pictures on my iPhone. The new Samsung integration lets you link your phone or tablet to your TV by punching in a code it displays on the screen. Then, you can tap any picture and have it displayed on the big screen. It takes about three seconds for a photo to show up. (And it works even if your phone isn't connected to the same WiFi network as your TV.) Any captions you wrote appear on the screen.

The interface is elegant and streamlined. But I spent most of my visit to Litl HQ yesterday chatting with Garner and Kirsten Lewis, pictured above, about what else the app might do. There's no way now, for instance, to set up a slide show. It'd be nice to review all the pictures you'd shot on Christmas morning over the last few years, no matter where you'd put them, or all your photos taken on several trips to the Vineyard. It'd be nice to add voice annotations to pictures. If friends sitting on your couch all had the Woven app, perhaps they could give each photo a star rating as it appeared on the screen, creating a "top ten" list of favorite pics from the bachelorette party you'd all been to the prior weekend. But Woven doesn't do any of that — yet.

Looking at photos on a TV is a much better group experience than crowding around a laptop or tablet, but the Woven app doesn't have enough functionality to truly dazzle, beyond the nifty trick of letting you select a photo on your phone and then see it on the big screen.

Some of you may remember Litl as the company that, in 2009, started selling a $700 computer called the Webbook. It was an unsuccessful forerunner of devices like today's Google Chromebook, and Litl stopped selling it in mid-2011 to focus on developing software...like Woven. Litl itself is a division of Aquent, a global agency that helps place tech and creative talent.

Below is a company-produced video about the new Samsung integration.

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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