Cloud Drive can't share

Like many geeks, I have an Amazon Prime subscription. In addition to free shipping on many orders (which may well pay for the subscription by itself), Prime comes with a number of other features, such as streaming of selected Amazon Instant Video titles (which also paid for my subscription the last two years by having all of the Stargate series), and 5GB of free storage on Amazon Cloud Drive, which will be my topic for today.

Now, I actually kinda like some aspects of Could Drive. It's not terribly expensive - it's $0.50/GB per year and they offer six teirs from 20GB to 1TB. It integrates with my Kindle Fire HD and they have nice, unobtrusive apps for Windows, Mac, and Android that keep your files in sync. The Android app even has a nice little option to automatically sync any pictures you take to your cloud drive. So it works pretty well for me.

The one problem with Cloud Drive is sharing. Normally, that's not something I care a great deal about. However, there's that photo uploading feature of the Android app that I mentioned. And let's face it - if you have a smart phone, then it is your camera. And if your camera is automatically uploading pictures to your Cloud Drive, well then it makes perfect sense that you would share the pictures from your Cloud Drive when you want to send them to your friends and family.

Except you can't.

Well, to be fair, you actually can. You just won't want to because it sucks too much.

Maybe it would be easier to actually show you the problem. First, here's how you share a file in Cloud Drive:
One file selected, ready to share!
Nice and simple - you select a file and click the "share" item in the menu. Self explanatory, isn't it? That'll give you a dialog that looks like this:
The Cloud Drive share dialog
It's got a nice preview and the share URL and everything. Sweet!

Now, here's another picture. See if you can spot what's different.
Two files selected, sharing disbled!
Did you catch them both? One was that there were two files selected this time instead of one. The other one is that the SHARE ITEM IS FREAKING DISABLED!

So I can't share multiple files? Well, that's OK - I'll just move them both into a folder and share the entire folder. Except that I can't because sharing is FREAKING DISABLED ON FOLDERS!

So what's the upshot of this? Well, if I want to share all those nice photos that my phone has so helpfully auto-uploaded, I have to do it one at a friggin' time. That means my workflow looks like this:

  1. Select a photo in Cloud Drive.
  2. Click the "share" menu item.
  3. Copy the share URL from the dialog.
  4. Paste that URL into an e-mail or something.
  5. Dismiss the dialog.
  6. Return to step 1 and repeat for the next item.

Sure, for a handful of items, this isn't a big deal. But what happens when you have a couple dozen photos you want to share? Does Amazon seriously think I'm going to sit there and painstakingly share each individual file, noting down the share URLs? Not a chance in hell. I'm going to take advantage of the fact that Cloud Drive desktop app syncs them to my PC to bypass Amazon and just upload my pictures to another site with non-crappy sharing features. (I've been using Sta.sh, mainly because I'm familiar with it, what with having spent nearly two years helping to build it when I worked for deviantART.)
A public folder in Sta.sh.  We've had those for over two years now.
The thing that really bothers me is that this isn't a new problem. It's not like Amazon just rolled out the sharing feature and it's going to be improved very soon. If this were just a temporary stop-gap then I could forgive it. But it's been like this for a while. I don't remember when I first noticed this, but I think it's been a year or more.

And the worst part is that this is just such insultingly bad product design. Seriously, has nobody at Amazon even tried to use this freaking thing? Is the product manager just so oblivious that it never occurred to him that maybe people might want to share more than two pictures at a time? And did nobody above or below him bother to question it? Or is it just a case of trying to shut up some of their more vocal customers who demanded this by giving them a crappy, mostly-broken version of what they asked for in the hopes that they'll go away?

There are loads of other ways to do this that would solve the problem. And I get that there may be some non-obvious technical limitations to some of the possible solutions. I've seen such issues myself when I was working on Sta.sh. For instance, maybe there are back-end issues that make sharing folders actually much harder to implement than it would seem. That's fair.

But even so, is there really any excuse for this? After all, Cloud Drive is all AJAX-based, so is there any reason why they couldn't have done the UI in a way that would allow multi-sharing? I know I certainly can't think of one. It wouldn't even be hard. All you'd need to do is enable the "share" menu for multiple selections, have it fire off one AJAX request per item to get the share URLs, and then aggregate them in a text area so that you can copy and paste them en masse. I'm not saying that would be ideal, but it would be better than what they have now. Plus it would be easy. Heck, I even think I could implement that in a Greasemonkey script if I really wanted to - I looked at the AJAX requests and they're not complicated.

So seriously, Amazon, get your act together. I don't know who signed off on this half-assed feature, but they need a smack in the head. It's almost 2014 - this crap doesn't fly anymore.

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Comments #

    No

    If you are a smart device-user you have a camera knowing a phone is not a camera.

    You are repulsed by jpeg-rape.

    You don't use old sms texting. You pay for data. Valuing privacy and the z expectation of privacy you employ $0 open standards:

    Xmpp Texting

    SIP SIMPLE


    You don't browbeat contacts into using a proprietary service or a single app; you don't mirror your contact list to a proprietary service to harass contacts by proxy

    You buy a camera with a lossless storage format.


    You help others be less not-smart

    • Comment posted on Wednesday 11 Feb 2015 at 8:42am
    • By Ray n'ing

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