Making Cyber Friends a Reality
Online print service creates posters of Facebook friends.
Graduate student Benjamin Lotan developed the idea to print a poster comprising images of all his Facebook friends purely out of self interest – he wanted his cyber collection of friends to be tangibly depicted in a life-size image.
Once he had the first poster in his hands, however, “I knew that other people would want it. It’s simply amazing to have the photos in the real world. Totally different than online,” says Lotan, who attends the University of California, San Diego.
He decided to launch his Facebook-centric online print service, Printing Facebook, in October of last year, deliberately piggy-backing off the buzz surrounding the premiere of the movie, The Social Network. The strategic release date coupled with the huge media wave for the film resulted in a surge in his project’s business, selling more than 100 prints in the first week alone. Not surprisingly, however, Facebook quickly forced Lotan to rebrand – and, by November, the re-branded Social Printshop (socialprintshop.com) was born.
Here’s how the Social Printshop process works: On the company’s home page, customers indicate a margin size and background color for the print, then connect with Facebook (via an application interface from Facebook) and provide a Facebook e-mail address so that photo downloads from the customer’s “friend list” can take place (permissions are revoked once the print work is completed). After confirming order details and paying via Paypal, the customer’s work is done.
Friend images in hand, Lotan uses PHP GD library, an open-source code library for the dynamic creation of images, to create the multiple-image graphics. Printing is then outsourced to online print provider Ookiimage, which utilizes a ZBE Chromira photo printer, outputting the 20 x 40-inch posters onto Fuji Crystal Archive photo paper. The final poster is shipped to the customer directly from Ookiimage.
The Social Printshop project has been so successful that Lotan is now offering a similar print service for Tumblr users, and he’s also working on a project with Mashable to boost its Facebook following.