Tag Archive: Flickr

Flickr’s Trojan Gift

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Huge changes at Flickr – some excellent, some not so good, and some downright deceitful. Right now I’m still processing how I feel about all this, but here are some of my initial thoughts…

Layout

At first glance I really like it. It looks clean and professional, and highlights the photography in a very flattering way. I especially like that it goes to a full screen view of the photo automatically, with comments, etc, down below.

New Flickr Layout

New Flickr Layout

There are a few drawbacks, though. Collections seem to be missing. This is one of the MAJOR ways that I organize my photos. I have multiple sets, usually one for each outing, and the number of sets can be unwieldy. If I can organize those into broader categories, that helps. The Collections link is tucked away on an obscure link to the right. I think it needs to be up there with Photostream, Sets, and Favorites. (more…)

Flickr Video Artifacts

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Flickr has its flaws, and has come in for some warranted criticism from photographers such as Thomas Hawk in San Francisco for its management practices and failure to keep up with Google+ and other photo-sharing communities. However, I find it a cost-effective service that still meets my needs for both blogging and photography. At last count I have nearly 19,000 images on Flickr.

There is one flaw in Flicker that has really jumped out recently, though. That’s with it’s video compression routines. Video uploaded to Flickr looks horrible. Period.

I’m more of a photographer than videographer. I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of video compression, etc., etc. I also get that Flickr is primarily a photo sharing site, and has limited functionality as far as video uploads are concerned. However, there are some times that it’s quicker and easier to upload to Flickr. I also like the control over privacy, which tends to be an all-or-nothing proposition with YouTube and other video hosting. (more…)

A Photo Trek with a Duck Hunter

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Newry-10

Saturday I met Marc50. Sunday I met another long-time Flickr friend – Ed Clem, the Duck Hunter.

Ed and I have been online friends for several years now.  We started commenting on each other’s photos first on Flickr, then started following and commenting on each other’s blogs, and have both been active on Facebook and Google+.  I feel like I know Ed fairly well, but there’s just one catch – we had never met in person.  That is, until Sunday.  Ed loves history and rambling about as much as I do.  So we decided to get together and see what we could find in the Pickens-Oconee areas.

I picked up Ed at his home, then we headed for our first stop, Cateechee.  This is an old mill village that has suffered the fate of so many in the upstate.  The mill has closed, and has now been torn down.  The little community has long been in decline.  There are still two churches with active congregations, but any form of commerce is long gone.

Cateechee is an isolated village where the mill is the only real employer, similar to Slater, Newry or Startex.  As one enters the main village loop, the old Cateechee School can be seen off to the right.

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Flickr to Panoramio – One More Attempt

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I really want to contribute to Panoramio.  Really, I do.  I would love to have my photos show up in a native layer on Google Earth without having to use a third-party KML/KMZ file.  So I’ve been looking for work-arounds for their security problems and inability to upload more than 10 images at a time.

I had been using the Saleen Flickr Bulk Downloader to download my images from Flickr to be uploaded to Panoramio.  I noticed that it had an option to download smaller images, and not just the originals.  I decided to give that a try.

I went through and tagged several of my Flickr images with the “panoramio” tag, then set the downloader to only download those tagged images in what Flickr considers “medium” sized, which is about 500 X 333, depending on actual aspect ratio.  This is large enough for the image to appear in Google Earth without compromising the security of the original image.

From there, my plan was to bulk upload to Picasa Web, where it should have been an easy process to send them on over to Panoramio.  I was going to use the desktop version of Picasa to clean up any problems with titles, tags, geotagging or incorrect locations.

Nice idea, but unfortunately it didn’t work.

When I tried to view the geotagged information for my test images, all of it was missing.  Apparently the only way to bring that information in from Flickr is to download the original image with the EXIF data intact.  Picasa has no way of doing a bulk resize (or any kind of resize, for that matter.)  I guess I could automate the process through Photoshop, but that adds yet another step, and this is already getting needlessly complicated.

Oh well, it was worth a shot.

Rethinking Panoramio

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Last post I was singing the praises of Panoramio for location-based photo sharing.  I’ve uploaded a bunch of photos, and had 250 approved for Google Earth.  I was quite flattered.  The selected photos included some of my best shots, and covered the entire US, from Florida to Maine, to Washington State.

…and as of this evening I’ve deleted every single one of them.

I found that when I uploaded my original sized images to Panoramio there was no way to resize the images or prevent someone from downloading the originals.  This is a problem.  I’ve had folks steal my photographs before (stories here and here.)  Flickr lets you restrict what is available for download, and to whom.  There are no such controls in Panoramio, so my photos were right out there for the taking, including all of the EXIF data which I would normally use to prove that the photo is mine.

The alternative is to post a reduced size image without EXIF, or with some watermark.  However, that’s yet another step in my workflow.  I might be willing to work with this for the occasional photo, but it’s not something I want to do on a regular basis.

This wasn’t what really ticked me off about Panoramio, though.  I couldn’t find anyone to answer questions about the service.  Their forums are an abusive joke.  For example, I was looking for information about batch uploading to Panoramio (they only let you upload 10 at a time).  Someone else had also inquired in the forums, and the responses were something like, “Why would you ever want to do that?”  That seemed to be the consistent reply for anything that might be slightly out of the norm for Panoramio, but is a common feature on Flickr and other photo sharing sites.

It got worse when I was looking for ways to restrict downloads.  This post by someone with the same question provoked absolutely unwarranted verbal attacks from the community…

I was very disappointed to figure out that anyone can download a full-sized original of any photo I upload to Panoramio. Your service should do what Flickr does and restrict the download to the “preview” version of the photo if said photo is marked “All Rights Reserved.”

Response:

Maybe it’s time for you to be realistic. If the full size version is on-screen, it’s downloaded already.

The only way to protect your images on the internet – the only way – is to not upload them. It doesn’t matter what site you use, your images can be stolen.

It got worse, with others berating the quality of the inquirer’s photographs, others ridiculing him for having uploaded originals in the first place, etc., etc.  Not once did anyone offer a reasonable answer.

For the record, there’s a very good reason to upload originals – to provide off-site back-up of valuable images.  I do it on Flickr with my favorite photos so that if anything happens to my computer I at least have some of them saved.

Then it came time to ask about bulk delete.  Here’s another exchange that was posted in the Suggestions forum

Proposal:

I’m suggesting this because I’m thinking of updating my Gallery. It’s too much of a hassle deleting them one at a time. I’m sure you’ll make a lot of people happy including yours truly if you’ll provide that option, thank you very much.

Response:

Why would you need to mass delete photos

Perhaps this would be used more widely by members that do not take time to sort through their photos before hand.

A bunch of people uploading garbage to Panoramio just to see if its what they really wanted to upload?

No thanks

The last thing anyone wants is a wonderful site like this to be slowed to a halt by unthoughtful and abusive users.

Sounds like a huge waist of bandwidth to me.

Wow!  Speaking of “unthoughtful and abusive users”, this one offered no constructive suggestions.

So, this evening, one by one, I deleted every photo I had in Panoramio.  I couldn’t just kill the account because it’s linked to my Google account, and I’ve got too much tied up there to delete that one.  There was simply no other way to do it short of nuking my entire Google life.  It was a pain.

Normally, I love Google products, and I still love browsing the photo layers in Google Earth.  However, I’m not going to be a contributor if they put up so many barriers to a smooth user experience.  Flickr has it’s own problems, but at least it has added features that actually help contribute to and use the site.

Speaking of Flickr, I had lamented the demise of Metal Toad’s KML layer that allows you to browse all geotagged Flickr photographs in Google Earth.  Fortunately, someone has created another service that does something similar.  It’s not quite as fast and smooth as Metal Toad’s service, but it will do nicely for now.

From Flickr to Panoramio

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Google Earth Panoramio

I finally caved in. I’ve been uploading some selected photographs to Panoramio so that they will appear in the Google Earth Photos layer.  As of this writing I have 121 photographs that have been selected to appear in Google Earth, and I’ve submitted more that are awaiting approval.

If you’ve got a Google account, then you can use that to sign into Panoramio and create an account.  Photos are uploaded just like they are to any other photo sharing site.  Just make sure that your photos are geotagged.  Even if they haven’t been geotagged previously, there is a drag-n-drop map so you can locate your photos once they have been uploaded.

Panoramio has some specific guidelines for approval for Google Earth.  There are the usual conditions – no pornography, discriminative, or abusive photos.  However, there are some other guidelines.  They are looking for photos that illustrate a place, so images of people, events, or detailed images of flowers or other items may not be approved.  Likewise, interior shots probably won’t be selected for Google Earth.

For Google Earth and Google Maps we select only photos about exterior places: landscapes, monuments, streets, buildings, parks, and so on. All photos must comply with the Panoramio Photo Acceptance Policy.

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The Perils of Cloud Computing

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Lenticular Clouds

Yahoo is in trouble. That’s not news as it’s been going on for several years now, but it seems to be spiraling out of control even more. This week they announced a 4% reduction in their global workforce. Along with that they have announced the elimination of several popular services, including the social bookmarking site, Del.icio.us.

I have a Del.icio.us account, and have been using it for several years. The Firefox plugin made it easy to bookmark and tag websites, so I had a couple hundred bookmarks in my account. This morning I exported all of those so I could import them into either Google Bookmarks or Diigo.

Of course, this makes me very nervous about another Yahoo company – Flickr. I’ve got nearly 12,000 images on Flickr. If the service should close I won’t lose those images. I keep the originals at home, and I also order an annual backup to DVD. However, it would be a tremendous loss. Every place where I’ve linked to one of my photos would be broken, including the thousands of blog posts on this website. Even if I did transfer to a different hosting service, the amount of time and effort required to fix all of those broken links would make the job nearly impossible. More than that, though, I would also lose all of the organization and comments I’ve gotten on my photos over the years, and the rich social environment that I’ve built up.

Fortunately, it doesn’t look like Flickr’s going anywhere anytime soon. It’s one of Yahoo’s most popular (and probably most profitable) properties. Yet these problems with Yahoo do point out problems with relying on computing in the cloud too much. Services upon which one relies could be discontinued at almost any time. A back-up plan is a must. That’s one of the reasons I always get backup DVDs of my Flickr photos.

Google is in better shape than Yahoo, but they are not immune. Right now they have a pilot program in the works where participants receive a laptop with Chrome OS, and do all of their computing on cloud applications. This is all well and good, but you have to be constantly connected in order for it to work. Would this mean that you couldn’t get to your work if you were someplace where Wifi or a 3G signal weren’t available, say, in an airplane? Also, what if Google just up and decided it could not longer support these services. Does this mean that the laptop would become a brick?

Yeah, but Google wouldn’t do that, would they? Actually, they already have on at least one occasion. I used to rely on Google Notebook to do research both for this website and for other projects I had underway. It was a fantastic tool, especially with the Firefox plugin. I could clip bits from web pages and save to my notebooks, and could even publish those notebooks. Google phased this out in favor of SearchWiki, which itself was replaced by Google Stars. None of these subsequent services really replaced the functionality of Notebook, and its loss was a blow.

It doesn’t have to be the elimination of a service to cause grief. It could also be changes in terms of service, or even just an update to the service that changes it substantially in a way that makes it less usable. Several services (such as Ning) have gone from free to paid services when advertising revenue hasn’t done the trick. Unless you’re willing to shell out, then you may be left out.

This probably makes me sound like I think cloud computing is a bad idea. Not at all! I use my little netbook all the time to access Google Documents and lots of other online applications. I think they are great! You don’t have to maintain/upgrade software all the time, and your documents are available on any computer just about anywhere, including mobile devices. You just have to be aware of the drawbacks, and willing make plans for when/if these services should ever become unavailable.

Falls Park and Downtown Photo Walk

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Old South Main

Thursday evening I met up with several of my Flickr photographer friends for a photo walk. Tracy (Wilhemina Lump Lump), Eric (RestedTraveler), and James (James Wellman) and I gathered at the entrance to Falls Park for a downtown expedition. It turned out to be a great gathering, and we really learned quite a bit from each other about various photographic techniques.

James Eric and Tracy

When we first planned this outing we had scheduled it for a couple of weeks ago, right as the snow storm hit. The intent was to go out and try to do some long exposure photography. When we reschedule, we failed to take into account the time change, so we still had more daylight than we had planned. Oops.

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The Commons

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The number of libraries, museums, and other organizations that are putting their historic photos on Flickr is growing. Add to that number the New York Public Library. As it turns out, these organizations are part of a larger Flickr endeavor called The Commons. This includes the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, Brooklyn Museum, and Eastman House, among others.

But back to the New York Public Library…

The collection is quite diverse. There are some Civil War photographs, photos from Ellis Island, and photos of the dustbowl from the Farm Service Administration. This one collection alone is worth hours of browsing. I hope that NYPL begins geotagging their images, because it would be fascinating to see these placed on a map.

The purpose of The Commons is not only make a public treasure readily available online, but to solicit commentary from the public. The hope is that a wikipedia-like effect will take place and that beneficial comments will outweigh the dreck.

The Commons is the brainchild of George Oates. Unfortunately, Oates was just fired from Yahoo as part of their downsizing. In his blog, Oates discusses the firing, and wonders about the future of the Commons project. I hope that Yahoo does see fit to continue this project.

The happy news is that other groups are seeing the benefit of the Commons concept. Google is making steps in the right direction with its agreement to host the photos in the Life collection. The biggest difference is that Google doesn’t solicit commentary on the photos. I guess one of the reasons is that the photos in the Google collection are much more well-known. These photos also tend to have more restrictions on their use.

Still, I’m glad to see companies like Flickr and Google making these wonderful resources available.

[tags]Flickr, Yahoo, Google, Life Images, Google Images, The Commons, New York Public Library[/tags]

Blurring the Lines of Webdom

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I’ve been tweaking my online presence over the past several weeks. As I’ve gotten more involved with Facebook, I’ve started pulling in RSS feeds from Twitter, Friendfeed, Flickr, and most recently RandomConnections so that all of these automatically update on my Facebook profile. For me it’s a simple matter of laziness. I’d prefer to type something once, rather than put entries here, re-type them on Facebook, etc., etc.

With all of this automatic cross-posting, the boundaries between traditional websites have really become blurred. All of the posts that I publish here automatically show up as notes on my Facebook profile. I’ve gotten several comments on those Facebook notes – more, even than I’ve gotten here lately. I wonder how many of those commentors are even aware that there is an analogous website, or if Facebook is their only way to view this content.

And this isn’t limited to Facebook. A long time ago I set up a Tumblr site, and pulled in the feeds from RandomConnections. I’ve neglected it, but it’s still an exact duplicate of RandomConnections, including the latest content. The same goes for my account on Virb.com, which also automatically pulls in both the RandomConnections content and my Flickr photos.

I think about my own reading habits. I use Bloglines to keep track of multiple websites and RSS feeds. Many of those sites I rarely visit unless I want to leave a comment. I just read the content on the feed reader. I’m absolutely sure there are others that do the same for RandomConnections.

This almost almost begs the question of why we need websites at all anymore. If you’ve got some way to create posts and feed them up through RSS, you’re pretty much set for a multitude of social networks. Yet there is still some panache to having a cool, easy to remember domain name. Getting a good one anymore is like buying waterfront property. I feel fortunate to have gotten the RandomConnections.com domain, and plan to hang onto it as long as I can.

However, more important than having a good domain name is the concept of web branding. My friends Lauren Cobb, Patrick Greer, Geno Church, and my nephew Chip could tell you more about that. I personally try to keep a consistent presence across all of the social networking sites I use, with the same icon and RandomConnections username. The result has been fairly good search engine optimization. If you do a Google search for a topic with which I’m involved, one of my social network sites will be fairly high in the results. (I know I could improve this by trying to keep my blog focused, but that’s for a different discussion.)

So, the upshot of this is that I do have a website. It’s found at www.randomconnections.com (which is blindingly obvious if you happen to be on the site right now), but you don’t necessarily have to go there to read it. Perhaps Lee Lefever puts it best…

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