The 4th Generation AppleTV is a Flawed and Frustrating Device

*Disclaimer: Many of the problems of the 4th generation AppleTV are problems by the app creators for the device. Further, cable companies and content providers in many cases are likely disincentivized to make AppleTV a good or smooth experience. Cord cutting certainly hurts the profitability of cable companies and content providers are probably paid more by cable/satellite than AppleTV. I do understand that Comcast is directly responsible for much of what is broken on AppleTV. That said, I believe that Apple could do more to ensure that app creators fall into line. As the largest publicly traded company in the world, Apple has unique clout, an enormous amount of cash, and should bear more responsibility for a solid end user experience.

I purchased 4 new AppleTVs last year when Apple launched the new 4th generation AppleTV. I have also owned each previous generation of the device. With each release I’ve been hoping for something more and with each release I’ve been let down and disappointed by my experience with AppleTV. While AppleTV may offer the best solution available today, it’s a shame that it is still such a flawed and frustrating device.

AppleTV-5
AppleTV-3
AppleTV-2

1. My number one issue with AppleTV at present is that it feels like the content companies are at war with the device. Many of the content companies have created apps for the new AppleTV but these apps still require you to maintain a cable/satellite subscription. I am actually fine with this. I don’t mind paying the cable company to access content on my AppleTV. What annoys me though is what a miserable experience it is trying to actually consume your cable subscription content on AppleTV.

The basic way that content apps on the AppleTV allow you to access their content is by authenticating with your cable subscription. When you launch the app it asks you to go to a website with your phone or computer. Once you are there (each content app has it’s own unique approach) you are required to enter in your cable TV credentials and a code from your TV screen to “activate” that content. Having to do this multiple times for multiple apps on multiple AppleTVs is a drag. With my four AppleTVs it took me over an hour to authenticate all of the content on all of the devices. It should not be this difficult.

If consuming cable paid content on your AppleTV were as easy as spending an hour authenticating 50 times, even that might be ok. The problem with AppleTV though is that these content apps make you re-authenticate over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. When you are tired at the end of a day and just want to turn on HBO and watch Vinyl, it’s a drag to be jolted with the reauthentication screen yet again. It boggles my mind that my AppleTV and Comcast cannot find an easier way to verify that I indeed do pay and am entitled to consume the content. I’m sure Comcast makes it hard on purpose (it feels like you have to reauthenticate content every 48 hours or so), but Apple shouldn’t let them get away with that.

2. If the reauthentication were not bad enough, some of the content that I get through my cable provider that I want to watch the most is not even available. AMC is probably my favorite network for content right now (Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead) and there is no AMC app for the AppleTV.

Apple TV is a Flawed and Frustrating Experience

3. Watching live TV is difficult. While there are apps (like CNN and CNBC) that let you watch live TV, it’s a pain to get to this content. With my Comcast X1 remote I just press and button and say “CNN” into the remote and instantly CNN comes on. When I press the mic button for Siri on my AppleTV app and say “CNN” I get a message on my screen that says “I’m sorry, I can’t do that here.” Even if I say “CNN Go” and get to the app, it still won’t let me watch live TV with Siri. I have to manually go through the menu process to watch TV (and many times once I go through all of this I’m just prompted with yet another requirement to reauthenticate for the 75th time).

AppleTV-6

4. Streaming content on AppleTV is a crappy experience. The other night I decided to watch a Bruce Springsteen documentary on the River on HBO on my AppleTV. While watching the show locked up at least 10 times. Sometimes it would take five minutes or more for content to resume streaming. While it’s tempting to blame my ISP for this issue, it should be noted that HBO plays flawlessly on my cable TV box and I have the fastest available internet speed available at present in my neighborhood. Content streams just fine to my computers, it only has freezing issues with my AppleTV.

AppleTV-4

5. Photos are boring on AppleTV. I have hundreds of thousands of photos that I’d like to consume on my AppleTV, but seeing the same photos over and over again gets boring very quickly. When you point AppleTV to a folder on your hard drive (through iTunes) of photos to share to the device, it will allow you to create a slideshow or use the screensaver for those photos. Unfortunately AppleTV only chooses about 100-200 random photos from the folder selected and just plays those photos over and over and over again. I would love to watch photos on my AppleTV but it needs to truly send me all of the photos randomized in a folder, not just 100 of them.

6. I was hopeful that Flickr would work better on the new AppleTV. On my 3rd generation AppleTV Flickr photos suffered the same limitation. If I had Flickr as my screensaver and pointed it to my 100 faves or more album, it would just recirculate 100 or so of the photos from that album. On the new AppleTV Flickr slide shows have the same limitations and Flickr screensaver does not even work at all.

7. I hate watching commercials. I love the Americans on FX and watch it each week. When I watch it on my Comcast box I just fast forward through all of the commercials with my DVR. When I watch it on AppleTV I can’t fast forward through the commercials, that’s a big drag. Also when commercials play on AppleTV it’s the exact same commercial over and over and over and over again. At least on real TV they mix up the commercials. Having to watch the exact same commercial 5 times in a show is dumb. It makes you hate the product being advertised even more.

For a 4th generation device I expect something better than what AppleTV offers up today. It’s easy to pass the buck and blame Comcast and the content providers for such a miserable experience on AppleTV, but I think that AppleTV also bears some responsibility for ensuring a better experience for their customers who purchase the device.

10 Bitchin’ Accounts to Check Out on Ello

Without a doubt Ello is one of my most favorite places to hang out on the interwebs these days. No site looks better for photos and in addition to a well designed web experience they also have a first rate iPhone app as well. Structured as a public benefit corporation, Ello has no advertising and they don’t target you and track your usage to sell your activity to advertisers. I hardly ever use Facebook or Instagram anymore because because the advertising just seems so overwhelming to me. I also find that I feel much more positive after spending time on Ello instead of Facebook and Instagram.

In addition to such a clean, ad-free experience, Ello has some of the most creative photographers, curators and artists posting anywhere on the web today. It’s always such a delight to find new and interesting people to hang out with there.

Below are 10 Bitchin’ Accounts to Check Out on Ello. If you’re not on the site yet, these might be 10 good accounts to start with. If you already are there you may already follow most of these accounts. This post could have easily been titled 100 Bitchin’ Accounts to Check Out on Ello or even 1,000 Bitchin’ Accounts to Check Out on Ello. In that sense, this list is almost a bit random, and just represents 10 accounts that came to top of mind that you might want to check out as is by no means meant to be exhaustive.

Pro Tip: when on a page on Ello use the = key to toggle between large photos and thumbnails for any user.

David Seibold
1.
David Seibold. I’ve known David for a few years now. He hails from Bakersfield and is very active using various social media channels. One thing I like about David is that he interacts with others so well and really engages on the sites that he uses.


Ello Fashion
2. Ello Fashion. Ello Fashion is a curated page by Pj Smith. If you are interested in cutting edge new fashion beautifully photographed it’s a great page with new content daily.


fxzebra
3. fxzebra. Karen Gkiounasian is a photographer and filmmaker behind the faxzebra Ello account and posts wonderfully creative works in a style of his own.


girlmuse
4. girlmuse. A self described vintage lover, child of the 70s, new bohemian and soul sister, girlmuse and I both grew up in the 1970s which is probably why I enjoy the nostalgia on Ello page as much as I do. A wonderful showcase of the best of vintage culture.


karinkarst
5. karinkarst. karinkarst’s account is full of wonderful digital abstraction. Combining photography with abstract processing there is a lot to love here.


Katatonic
6. katatonic. katatonic is Sarah Katherine from Colorado who always seems to come up with the best random images of the day.


Lawn Party
7. lawnparty. Julie Fuller runs the LP account which focuses on fashion, styling and curating. Julie is also 1/2 of thecontinual account on Ello. It seems like so many of the great Ello accounts hail from Colorado. 😉


Matt Harvey
8. Matt Harvey. I’ve enjoyed Matt’s terrific photography on Flickr where he posts as 75Central for many years now. Full sized photos on Ello though look even better than Flickr and so it’s always nice to see his work on Ello as well.


Neon Ice Cream
9. neonicecream. Andrew Simoni is a Santa Cruz based photographer and musician. He does wonderful work with water and wave among many, many other things.


Bel Colozzi
10. belartandstyle. Each day I look forward to what Saatchi artist Bel Colozzi is going to come up with next. In addition to her own paintings and prints that she showcases, she does it with style and flair mixing in her photographs from her Arizona desert along with what seems like an endless need for coffee.


As mentioned before, these 10 accounts are but a tiny sample of the amazing talent you will find on Ello. If you want to see more beautiful work by the thousands of artists posting there daily, I’d encourage you to check out my loves page on Ello where you can find so many more interesting people worth following.

Are you on Ello yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

I post daily on Ello myself and you can check out my work on here.

20 Random Thoughts on Google Photos in a Rambling Stream of Consciousness Format

Google Photos Mosaic

Not exactly beat poetry, this list is a rambling mess of 20 things that I thought about today about my experience with Google Photos.

This list is very poorly written and absolutely lacks coherence. It’s a stream of consciousness jumble of unrelated thoughts about Google Photos.

I’ve been using (and uploading to) Google Photos non-stop since it launched. I think the service holds great promise but is also flawed in some ways at the same time.

Disclaimer: these are my experiences. My experiences are probably different than yours. I likely have more photos on Google Photos than 99.999% of users, so things that may be broken for me may work perfectly for you.

Album is Empty

1. My single biggest complaint about Google Photos is how long it takes to generate shareable links to content. Being able to share a photo or album or video by creating and copying a link is a nice feature, but in my case it typically will take several minutes to several hours in order for that link to actually work. When I create a link and copy and paste it I always get: “Album is empty use the plus to add items,” when I first try to share or access that album.

Link sharing should be instantaneous (like it is on Flickr), but even if it is not it would be better for the user to get some sort of messaging saying “your album will be ready in 27 minutes, come back later” or something like that. For the first six months or so I just thought sharing by link simply did not work, now I know it’s just a delay thing, although sometimes even after weeks a link will not be created.

2. Google face tagging is awesome! It’s wonderful to have my family and friends’ photos grouped by face and I love that I can go back and put their name on them. Unfortunately Google Photos would appear to limit you to 200 different people at which point the tagging functionality will no longer tag any new people. In my case Google Photos early on chose to facial tag a lot of musical acts that I photographed at Coachella leaving no space for other real friends that I wish were in there.

I’m not sure why there is such a low 200 face limit or why there should be any limit at all. At a minimum, Google Photos should let me manually tag people and then run facial recognition on these people instead of the random 200 that the software has selected.

3. I wish Google Photos had a public sharing option. Private by default is nice, but it would also be nice to be able to make some photos in the service public.

No Keywords in Google Photos
Your titles, descriptions and keywords do not get uploaded with Google Photos.

4. I wish Google Photos used all of the careful keywords and metadata that I embed in my photos. One of the nice things about Flickr is that when I add descriptive keywords to my photos in Lightroom and save them to the file Flickr automatically populates the tags along with the photo’s title and description. Google Photos ignores this data. I’m not sure why Google Photos does not care about this data as I would think it would be very useful for search and also very easy to include with uploaded photos. If Google Photos can bring in the iso and shutter speed setting with my photos, why not the keywords too?

5. Google Photos gives you a “card dismissed” message when you dismiss a card using Google Photos’ assistant. This message disappears after about 10 seconds. The problem is that if you are trying to go through a number of different Google automatic creations the page jumps as this message disappears. This makes you accidently click on the wrong place on the page all the time when trying to process more than one creation at a time. This message is not important enough to justify the instability it creates for use on the page.

6. On March 22, Google Photos announced smarter auto albums. It’s been several weeks now and I have not had a single automatic album suggested for me yet by Google Photos assistant. It would be nice to experience what these are like.

7. Since Google Photos launched I’ve found that it takes much longer to upload my photos to Google+, usually as long as 2 minutes or so to upload a photo. Not sure that this has anything to do with Google Photos.

8. Google Photos seems to do a little better job uploading photos than it did in the early days. In the early days sometimes it would only upload 50 photos for me in a single day. Now it typically will upload several hundred a day, but it’s still going to be a long time before it finishes with the 489,052 remaining in the current batch — and then I will still have many more batches to upload. By contrast Amazon Photos does not resize my RAW files at all and goes about 10x as fast.

9. Sharing very large albums with people does not work. At present Google Photos will not allow you to share over 2,000 photos at once. I spent a long time trying to figure out how to share all of the photos I’ve taken with my friend Scott Jordan with him the other day. Finally I had to give up trying and just create a new Google Account that we could both share and reupload all of the photos to that account. That was a pain and there should be a better way for people to share larger albums of photos.

10. Auto facial recognition is good but if it can’t auto tag everyone, Google Photos should let you manually tag people. A combination of automatic AI facial recognition with manual user tagging would make more complete collection.

11. When scrolling through your main Google Photos Library Google Photos will let you fast forward many years into the past. For example, it will start by showing me photos I took yesterday but then I can pull the slider all the way down and easily jump to say photos from 2010. When you are scrolling through photos of people Google Photos has facial tagged though they will not let you jump forward this way. If you have a lot of photos of someone getting to the year 2010 can take a very long time if you have to scroll through everything to get to that time.

12. Sometimes thumbnail versions of photos load very slowly on Google Photos. Other times they render quickly. Not sure why the difference at times.

13. When I search for cats on Google Photos it brings up a lot of photos of my black labradors. If Google Photos uploaded my keywords they would probably have a better idea that it was a dog in the photo than a cat.

14. The share photos to Facebook functionality doesn’t work for me on Google Photos. Sharing Photos to Google+ seems to work just fine though.

15. Google Photos has only identified 143 “things in my photos.” I’ve collected over 2,000 albums on Flickr, many dedicated to specific things. My Flickr albums are much better organized than my Google Photos albums — Flickr allows me to build albums by my keywords though, Google Photos does not. After using the service as long as I have with as many photos as I have I feel like it should have identified more than 143 things.

16. I have to launch Google Photos and the Assistant to get it to add photos from my iPhone to Google Photos on wifi. I wish as soon as my phone connected to wifi photos from my phone just automatically uploaded to Google Photos, even without having to launch the Google Photos app on my phone.

17. When you can get album sharing to work it can be a very powerful way to share photos with people. Here’s an album of all of the photos that Google Photos recognizes of my friend Robert Scoble by face. This includes both my processed and unprocessed photos so the quality is very mixed. I bet Robert hasn’t seen some of these photos.

18. I love how much infinite scrolling Google Photos uses. Paging sucks. Flickr should take notice of how much better Google Photos does infinite scrolling.

19. I wish there was a way I could see how many photos I’ve uploaded to Google Photos. Actually there is a way. Thanks Thomas O’Brien. So far I’ve uploaded 748,892 photos to Google Photos.

20. I wish in the share menu for Google Photos there was embed code where you could embed the photo on your blog or somewhere else on the web.

21. Duplicates seem to be a problem in Google Photos. Duplicates are a problem for everyone these days with multiple copies of images as backups, etc. If a photo is the *exact* same photo (size, image, title, etc.), 100% identical in every way, Google Photos should be smart enough to recognize that and only present one copy of the image to the user. Of course similar images, or images with the same title but processed differently, should be retained, but it feels like 100% perfect copies should not.

Priime Styles for Mac

Priime Styles for Mac Batch Editing

Disclosure: I am a style author and advisor for Priime.

One of my favorite ways to edit photos on my iPhone the past year has been with the Priime app for iOS. In addition to being one of the style creators for Priime, I’ve enjoyed utilizing the custom styles created by so many other talented photographers for my mobile photography. I don’t always have as much time to work with an image when I’m editing it on mobile and it’s nice to have some super easy styles that I can easily apply to my photos and quickly publish on the go.

As great an app as Priime for iOS is, 98% of my photos that I work with are still processed the old fashioned way, using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop on my iMac. One of the things that I love about using Lightroom in my workflow is that more and more you are finding quality external editors that can be used as part of your editing process. Recently Google made headlines when they decided to give away their Nik software (which I have also used for several years now and love). So I was really pleased to hear that in addition to the iOS app, Priime was also releasing an external editor for Lightroom.

The way that I use Priime Styles for Mac is as part of my normal Lightroom editing process. Here I can easily take a special photo (or batch of photos) and quickly move them into the Priime editor to make changes and then have copies saved back to the Lightroom catalog I’m working in. I don’t process every photo with Priime, but if I find one that is special I will often import it in there and work with it.

Sometimes you want just one final version of a photo, but oftentimes I find myself making multiple versions of a photo. While some photos look great in color or black and white. Some photos look great in color AND black and white. I like creating different versions of photographs and then later deciding which I like better or maybe even publishing a few different versions. Priime allows me to try different things with a photo that I may not have thought about creating organically myself in Lightroom. With over 100 different editing styles from some of the top photographers out there today, there are a lot of new things to explore.

Priime Styles for Mac Lightroom External Editor

The nice thing about editing something in Priime with Lightroom is that I can still iterate on that version even after I bring it back into Lightroom, adding additional edits or touches to the photo, customizing it more as my own even as I borrow edits from others.

I think Priime Styles for Mac will be an excellent Lightroom add on tool that serious and professional photographers can have at their disposal to make their photos look as good as possible.

In addition to more serious and professional photographers using Priime Styles for Mac as a Lightroom plug in, I think it also is a great first step for the new or emerging photographer. Some people are not quite ready yet to pay $10/month to Adobe every month to use Lightroom. They just want something that can quickly make their photos look better that’s a bit more affordable.

Even if you are not a Lightroom user, in fact especially if you are not a Lightroom user, Priime may be something for you. In addition to the Lightroom plug in, Priime can also be used as a standalone editor as well. You simply launch the app and then drag and drop the photos that you want to work with. For a lot of people $24.99 (on sale for launch) as a one time cost is a better value proposition than paying $9.99 a month ongoing for Lightroom.

PExploring Styles with Priime Styles for Mac

Priime Styles for Mac has a great Explore function as well. This allows you to look at all of the styles as they’d be applied to a photo at once, which makes it easier to narrow down what might look best.

Another way I think Priime can be helpful is for the less serious photographer/blogger who just wants a consistent look for a batch of photos. A lot of bloggers I know are not exactly photographers but need to include images with their posts. Priime Styles for Mac allows bloggers an easy go to solution where very quickly they can edit a batch of photos and have a consistency to their photos that makes them work much better together as part of a total post.

Anyways, check it out.

Priime Styles for Mac supports JPG, RAW and TIFF files.

47 Random Thoughts on Flickr in a Rambling Stream of Consciousness Format

Not exactly beat poetry, this list is a rambling mess of 45 things that I thought about tonight about my favorite photo sharing site Flickr. This list is very poorly written and absolutely lacks coherence. It’s a stream of consciousness jumble of unrelated thoughts about Flickr.

There is no order or rhyme or reason behind any of these thoughts. These are just my thoughts as a heavy user who uses the site every day.

1. Flickr could be the most successful stock photography site in the world. They could be bigger than Getty Images and could become the leader of a multi billion dollar industry.

2. On the Flickr mobile app, comments specifically take too long to load.

3. Yahoo requiring phone numbers to create accounts (and by extension Flickr) greatly reduces the amount of harassment and trolling that takes place on Flickr. This is a positive thing.

4. On the Flickr mobile app you eventually run out of your contacts’ photos. There should be no reason to run out. When people run out and it defaults to a repetitive staple of Flickr promoted photos this encourages the user to close the app and go to another social network. Flickr should strive to keep users in their app for as long as possible.

5. While the “connect” splash page in the mobile app encouraging users to try to hook up their Facebook and Twitter friends in Flickr is likely a good thing, after you have seen this splash screen 500 times it’s just wasting real estate. Flickr should limit the number of times it shows this screen to users or allow users to dismiss it after say 60, 70, 300 times it’s shown and no action is taken.

If you actually click on the “Facebook” button on the connect screen and follow it through, it is the most convoluted mess I’ve ever seen in a mobile app and asks for Facebook verifications, SMS, and all kinds of other things that no user would actually go through.

6. On the Flickr mobile app you can double tap to favorite a photo. Frequently I will accidentally tap the photo once and an unwanted larger version of the photo appears. Instagram does not have this problem. Might there be another gesture to open larger photos or an option for advanced users to disable one click photo opening?

7. Groups were where the magic happened in the early days of Flickr and the conversations that took place in the discussion forums were powerful social lubricant. By diminishing the discussion functionality of Groups, Flickr hurt social on Flickr. Groups can and should be rebuilt and represent Flickr’s greatest possible potential in social. The rebuild should focus on social and conversations over pool photos.

8. Flickr allows you to view your contacts’ photos by contacts and friends and family. More customization here would be helpful. Google+ failed but their idea for circles was interesting. Allowing advanced users the ability to create more than two buckets would be a wonderful power user feature.

9. Sometimes users will change the “date uploaded” on their photos to make their photos appear more often in their followers photos from contacts page. This can be annoying as a consumer of photography, but I get it, they want more views on their photos.

10. Flickr still needs strong block functionality. Facebook has done a much better job here and should be studied. If I block someone or someone blocks me, Flickr should do everything in its power to make sure that we are entirely invisible to each other. This should include making comments invisible from someone you are blocking in all areas of the site, including the help forum and groups especially. When you block someone their photos should not appear in your search results on Flickr.

11. When you block someone their existing comments will be removed from your photos. This should happen faster than it happens at present.

12. My single personal biggest complaint with Flickr today has to do with the photos from my contacts page. As the page adds photos it jumps around. Very often exactly as I’m going to favorite a photo the entire page will jump and I will accidentally open a photo that I did not mean to open. This page should remain static and in place as new photos are loaded.

13. Collections and Profiles should both be included under the “You” menu at the top of the Flickr page.

14. Explore is interesting but it would be more interesting if there were two versions. One for general Flickr and one specifically for the people that you are following.

15. Flickr needs a better way for Flckrmail to work on mobile.

16. The non-app mobile site for flickr m.flickr.com is very slow. Chrome users frequently have to use “request desktop site” to use the web version of Flickr on mobile.

17. Publicly designating Flickr “Pro” accounts as well as prominently showing the date someone joined the site are very helpful tools. It allows users a good way to gauge authenticity of accounts.

18. I never use any of the camera or editing functionality of the flickr mobile app.

19. Flickr is currently the best site on the internet for photo sharing for more serious photographers.

20. On the Flickr photo page there is a “date taken” field. This field should link to the archive view of that date for the photographer in question.

21. I love using SuprSetr for managing my albums on Flickr. I don’t know why when using SuprSetr Flickr’s API limits me to 4,500 photos in an album.

22. Personal interestingness scores seem to have deteriorated over time on Flickr. There especially seems to be given preference for more recent photos, but overall it feels like it’s heavily discounting the value of favorites, comments and other social data. The result is that when using the Flickr API to sort a SuprSetr album by interestingness, it is not really in the best order.

23. Similarly with search on Flickr when you search and rank by interestingness. A photo with 1 favorite should not appear ahead of a photo with 100 favorites.

24. The “albums” page for Flickr users should not have any paging at all, it should infinite scroll forever.

25. Recent Activity is the most important page on Flickr. It is so well done and the ability to filter it by different types of activity is very powerful.

26. I wish Flickr had so much more infinite scroll than it does. While iterating on designs over the past few years there was a point when it had more than it has today. If I had it my way I’d never have to page on Flickr for anything ever.

27. Stats are awesome and worth the price of Pro alone.

28. When looking at your Flickr contacts’ photos if your mouse is over a photo and you press the F key on the keyboard it should favorite that photo.

29. I miss notes in Flickr.

30. In most areas of Flickr they use an empty star for an unfavorited photo and a full white star for a favorited photo — except on the photos from your contacts page where a full white star means the photos is unfavorites and a pink star means the photos if favorited. Flickr should be more consistent. On the photos from your contacts’ page it should be changed to match the format with the rest of the site.

31. When you hover over a tag on Flickr it should tell you who added that tag. Flickr used to do this.

32. Flickr should show more than 6 albums on the main photo page without a user having to click on “show more albums.”

33. I love the fact that flickr uses AI to auto tag my photos with tags that I forgot.

34. Sometimes I feel like I’m interacting with photos from people on Flickr that are just autoposts from their instagram accounts and that these people do not really interact on Flickr. Instagram auto posts to flickr diminish the authenticity of the flickr experience and are much less valuable than organic posts to flickr.

35. Interestingly enough my own personal Instagram to Flickr functionality has been completely broken for about a year. Probably Instagram’s fault though.

36. Sometimes if I put 16 photos in the uploader form to upload some of the photos immediately generate a thumbnail while others might take several minutes to generate a thumbnail. I’m not sure why this is and feel like all photos should generate a thumbnail immediately.

37. It is a very cool thing that Flickr has figured out a way for both regular content and adult oriented content to exist on the same site.

38. I wish there were a way for flickr to identify photos that have signatures, watermarks or borders and then give me an option to eliminate those photos from my search results.

39. Flickr is an amazing tool to find things to photograph if you are going to be visiting some place new. It’s my number one “go to” place for researching things to photograph ahead of any trip that I embark on.

40. I’d love to see “suggested” facial tags for my flickr photo stream that would go into a holding bin for my approval and private photo facial recognition along the lines of what Google Photos offers today, grouping people into private albums.

41. Yahoo Image search should rely much more heavily on Flickr than it does. Flickr has the largest, high quality, highly organized collection of images on the internet today. Yahoo image search should strive to send traffic to Flickr photos over other photos on the web and should weight Flickr images and Flickr tagged images (and especially highly rated interestingness images) very high in their image and web search results.

42. It’s harder for me to blog flickr images on my blog than it used to be. The html doesn’t render right. Having the old code was cleaner.

43. I should be able to have an easy option to exclude certain flickr users from my search results when searching for images on Flickr. This is different than a block, I should just be able to easily exclude a list of users from my search results.

44. With regards to search results there are two different thumbnail views I can select. I wish I had a third that was just a bit bigger and more consistent with the size of photos on the “photos from my contacts’” page.

45. I always visit the Flickr page of anyone who adds me as a contact on Flickr. If I like what I see I add them back. If their photos have signatures, watermarks, or are largely commercial related images I never add them back.

46. You should be able to like or +1 individual comments on Flickr like you can on Facebook and Google+.

47. For some reason I can view the last 1 or 5 photos from my friends but I can only load the last 1 photo from all my contacts. The last 5 photos from my contacts causes the page to hang.

In Defense of Flickr

In Defense of Flickr

I’ve read two articles this week that appear critical of Flickr and thought I’d take a moment to address both, as well as share some of my own thoughts on Flickr. I have been a heavy Flickr photographer for over a decade and for most of this past decade have been active on the site on a daily basis. I’m also active on a number of other photo related and social networking sites as well.

The first article out comes from PhotoShelter’s Allen Murabayashi via Petapixel and is titled, “Flickr’d Out: The Rise and Fall of a Photo Sharing Service.” The second article comes from Wired by David Pierce and is titled, “Time to Give up on Flickr Everybody.

The primary objection in both articles seems to relate to Flickr’s recent decision to limit their desktop uploader to paid Pro accounts only.

Personally speaking I don’t use Flickr’s desktop uploader. I would rather carefully curate my library of images on Flickr than use Flickr as a dumb dumping ground or shoebox for every single photo I’ve ever taken in my life. However, I do understand Flickr’s decision to limit this tool to paid accounts. Storage is not free and replicated enterprise storage is even more costly than your standard 2TB Western Digital or Seagate Amazon special.

My guess (just a guess) as to why Flickr made this change has to do with the value proposition. If some Flickr users were simply using Flickr as a place to backup their desktop photos without really sharing photos or engaging in the site, this might have very limited value to Yahoo. Yahoo is giving users something of value by providing them with a free terabyte of storage for photos, but if free users are just dumping private photos to the site as a backup source and not engaging socially, this significantly diminishes the value to Yahoo. In my mind it makes sense to expect these users to pay for storage. Yahoo could just go on providing everyone this free storage for the goodwill it generates, but this would make it harder for Flickr to remain profitable longer term.

Even though I do not use the desktop uploader, I am a paid Flickr Pro user and have been for over 10 years and will continue to be for probably as long as Flickr continues to exist and honor the terms of my original agreement with them. Flickr remains the primary library for my archive of images for several important reasons.

1. Flickr is giving me an unlimited amount of photo storage as a paid-Pro member. Yes, that is right, as a legacy Pro account Flickr has given me *unlimited* photo sharing. Flickr now limits accounts to 1 terabyte, but for 99.9% of folks that still is effectively unlimited.

Even if you filed up a terabyte though you could always simply open up a second Flickr account if you wanted.

In my case I am actually one of those rare .1% that uses over 1 terabyte. Having uploaded almost 115,000 full sized DSLR high res photos to the site over the past decade my storage use currently stands at 1.07 terabytes of unlimited. If you are lucky enough to have one of the old skool Flickr Pro accounts I’d encourage you to never let it lapse.

2. Flickr allows full high res original JPG uploads. A lot of people point to Google Photos’ free desktop uploader as a reason not to pay for Flickr Pro. However, there is one very important difference between Flickr and Google Photos. Google Photos downsizes and resizes your photos to a high quality web version. While this may be fine for looking at your photos on the web, if you ever need a high res original you will have to pay Google for storage.

Google would charge you $9.99/month for a terabyte of high res original storage which would equate to $119.88/year vs. Flickr Pro at $49.99/year. When announcing the change for their desktop uploader Flickr also offered users a 30% discount so you can get Flickr Pro right now for $34.99/year. $35 a year for a terabyte of full, perfect JPG originals is a pretty good deal in my opinion and less expensive than Google Photos.

I also use Google Photos in addition to my paid Flickr account and think it is a great service as well, but if you are using it as your primary cloud based backup, you should beware that your photos will be downsized unless you pay. In my case, I sell a lot of my photos and most image buyers need a high res original. It’s nice that I can just send them a link to the high res original on Flickr and they can easily download the photo directly from Flickr.

3. Flickr lets me organize my albums by keywords. Albums are very important to me. I have over 2,000 albums at this point. I have albums for my photos that have been favorited 100 times or more. I have albums for photos that have green as the primary color. I have albums of bands and musical acts that I’ve photographed. I have albums for each city of the 100 largest American cities that I’m currently photographing.

Flickr lets me create albums and collections both, but the key difference between Flickr and Google Photos here is that using Flickr’s API, Jeremy Brooks has built SuprSetr which will automatically scan all of my photos and group photos into the correct albums based on the keywords that I enter for my images as part of my workflow in Adobe Lightroom. This automation makes managing albums so much easier.

4. Flickr allows me to share all of my images both publicly and privately. In my case 99% of the images I post to Flickr are public. I like using Flickr as public place to share my archive with the rest of the world. Google Photos services is really designed for private photos only.

On Google Photos you have to share photos or albums manually and public photo sharing is much more difficult. I’ve also found that sharing photos can take up to an hour for a link to work on Google Photos and the whole sharing process is very buggy. I like the feedback that I get on my photos from the broader public on Flickr. I sort of look at Flickr as my own personal art gallery and love that people can browse my photos and favorite, tag and comment.

You can keep photos private on Flickr as well, but it has a much better public option for photos than Google Photos.

5. Flickr is social. Even though Facebook and Instagram are probably considered more social than Flickr, I still find Flickr to be a very social place. I have many old friends and many new friends that I’ve met on Flickr and interact with on a daily basis.

I think Flickr lost a bit of their social when they redesigned groups and shifted the emphasis away from forums and hope that at some point they bring groups back to what they can and should be, but even without strong groups I find the daily social interaction I get from other Flickr users to be a very fun part of using the service for me.

Every day I comment on photos and others comment on mine. I’ve met many people from Flickr personally as I’ve travelled around the country and have found it to be a wonderful engaging and social place for friendships.

6. Flickr Pro is ad-free. This is huge in my book. It seems like every 7th photo I view on Instagram these days is a “sponsored” post. I hate it when I accidently favorite a photo on Instagram only to quickly notice that I just favorited an advertisement for Citigroup or Toyota or Dom Perignon. Advertising on both Facebook and Instagram is getting worse and worse every day it seems. I also don’t like how the ads try to target me.

With a paid Flickr Pro account not only do I never see ads when using the site, but other people who are not Pro don’t have to see ads on my photo pages either. I like that Flickr doesn’t market to my friends as part of our Pro deal.

By the way another one of my favorite social networks, Ello, also is ad-free. Photos on Ello look better than probably anywhere else on the web right now.

7. Flickr has a good system for dealing with nudity and other more adult content. Nudity can be tricky. Google, Facebook and Instagram just ban it outright. Personally I think that the human body can be a beautiful thing and certainly a work of art. It’s not something that offends me.

Flickr allows each user to set the limits for what they want to see. If you only want to see safe for work stuff, you can set Flickr to that for you. If you want to also view NSFW fine art or personal photos you can allow restricted content. By default everyone at Flickr is set to safe only, but if you want to see more provocative photos you can change your settings.

8. Flickr has a very well designed web version and also a really strong mobile app as well. Even though I sometimes complain that Flickr’s mobile app limits the number of my contacts’ photos that I can see, in general it is very well done. It is fast and beautiful and very functional. They really did a terrific job with the app. Similarly the web based redesigns that Flickr has done over the last several years have been very positive in my opinion (even if I do wish there was *MUCH* more infinite scrolling).

Flickr and Google Photos are not the only two web based services to consider for your photos. SmugMug is another nice paid option, especially if you want an ecommerce engine to sell photos (although less social than Flickr). 500px is worth looking at.

Even though I hate the advertising and the massive downsizing of photos I still have accounts on Instagram and Facebook — although I try to spend as little time there as possible.

Ello as mentioned previously is probably the social network I’m most excited about right now (seriously, look how beautiful photos look on Ello).

I also think for pure cloud backup every photographer should be using Amazon’s unlimited photo storage. While Amazon’s download and search functionality could really use work, Amazon will actually store your RAW original files for free if you have a Prime membership.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think everything at Flickr is perfect. I’ve been yammering on for years that they should offer a credible stock photography offering to anyone who will listen. I doubt that they could get this done under a corporate parent like Yahoo, but Flickr probably has the largest highly organized database of high quality images in the world today. If they could turn that into a stock photography business by partnering with (and rewarding) their photographers, I honestly believe it could be bigger than Getty Images, the current king of the multi billion dollar stock photography business.

I also think that Groups on Flickr could be so much more powerful if only organized right and really focused on the discussion threads more than as dumping pools for images.

Explore and interestingness could also be overhauled in some very powerful ways.

Even as Flickr remains less than perfect it still remains in my mind the best place to host your primary archive of photos on the web for photo sharing and for that reason I take issue with the two posts I read this week suggesting the decline of Flickr. For me Flickr is alive and well and I’m looking forward to spending the next decade on the site much like the last.

You can find me on Flickr here. Stop by and say hi some time — let’s be friends. :)

Cable TV is So Broken, Can Apple and Google Save Us All?

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Allen & Company, 2015
Billionaire Comcast CEO Brian Roberts

Last night I spent a frustrating hour trying to cancel Showtime with Comcast, my current cable TV provider. I could not find (nor is there) any way to cancel any Comcast service online and their customer service department was closed.

Finally I was able to get chatty with one of those chatbots online who confirmed to me that there is simply no way to cancel Showtime on Comcast without speaking with a human representative. Even though the chatbot convinced me they were a human, they were not allowed to cancel it for me and I would need to try again tomorrow on the phone only. Interestingly enough I had no problem signing up for Showtime online originally, it’s just when you want to cancel that Comcast gives you such a hard time.

This morning after navigating the Comcast phone voice response menu I was finally able to talk to a human being, who tried to talk me out of cancelling my Showtime. I was committed though and I did finally get it cancelled.

I actually love Showtime and don’t mind paying for it. Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan are two of my favorite shows on right now. I also like the series Homeland. I had several reasons for cancelling it with *Comcast* though.

1. Why am I paying Comcast $19.99/month for Showtime when I can just buy it direct from Showtime on my AppleTV for a free 30 day trial and then $10.99/month after that?

2. Watching Showtime using the AppleTV app through Comcast is a royal pain in the ass. I’ve had to re-authenticate and prove I’m a paying cable customer at least 20 times with the app.

I go to watch one of my shows and am interrupted with a message and code on the AppleTV telling me that I have to go to Showtime online on my phone or computer and authenticate. Next I have to log into my Comcast account enter in the code from my television set and then after that I finally get my access.

I wouldn’t mind it if I did this one time, the first time I signed up for the app, but having to re-authenticate over and over and over again, especially late at night when I’m in bed and just want to watch my favorite show is a drag.

3. Last night I wanted to watch episode 2 of the current season of Master’s of Sex on the app but it wasn’t available. I could only watch episode 3. I have no idea why Comcast customers were not allowed to watch episode 1 or 2, but I didn’t want to watch episode 3, before episode 2, so I just gave up and didn’t get to watch a show that I’m paying $20/month for. No wonder so many people just say screw it and go to bitTorrent.

4. I hate the way Comcast abuses the AppleTV ecosystem. If I pay for CNN with Comcast, why do they not allow me to watch it on my AppleTV. Comcast’s decisions here feel entirely arbitrary. They will let me watch CNBC if I subscribe, but not CNN. I can watch HBO (although I have the same re-authentication problem there over and over again) but when my wife wants to watch Lifetime she has to figure out some weird hack to try to authenticate the app through some hard to find link in a forum on the internet.

It is clear to me that Comcast is purposely trying to make your AppleTV experience an ugly and difficult one and so any chance I can get to bypass Comcast and purchase premium content elsewhere, I’d rather do that — by contrast Netflix has always been an absolute breeze to use with my AppleTV.

According to Buzzfeed today, Apple is rolling out a new version of AppleTV in September which will be setting AppleTV up to offer their own subscription service in 2016. This is such welcome news. I love my AppleTVs and if I could get my content directly through Apple I’d love to cancel my Comcast cable TV subscription entirely.

I’m much more optimistic about an AppleTV service working on my AppleTV than Comcast’s current service. Also with AppleTV I can just buy a device one time and don’t need to have a cable box for every single TV in my house at a price of $10/month each. Will Apple finally be the one that saves us from Comcast?

My other beef with Comcast is their highspeed internet service. At present I’m paying for the maximum speeds I’m allowed which give me 120MBps down and 10MBps up. Frankly, in today’s world these just feel too slow to me — especially the 10MBps upload speeds. I use the internet a lot for uploading high res photos and I wish I could get faster upload speeds.

I was excited about Comcast’s new residential gigabit service announcement the other day until I saw the pricing for it: $1,000 to set it up and $320/month with a two year commitment. PC World lists the service at $300/month, but when I called to ask about it they told me that there would also be a $20/month equipment rental fee on top of that fee. That’s just too expensive for high speed internet.

By contrast Google sells their gigabit internet service for $70/month with no installation fee — which is even less than I’m paying Comcast today for my crappy 10MB/second upload speeds — for less money Google Fiber users can upload 100x faster than I can.

I was reluctantly willing to pay Comcast’s highway robbery fees for gigabit internet and was hopeful when a Comcast rep told me I could get it. They told me though that they would need to do a survey of my house in person to confirm and would call me for an appointment. I never heard back from them on this appointment so after a week I called them back only to be told that they did in fact do the survey and that I did not qualify at present.

Unfortunately AppleTV’s subscription television is not here…. yet. Unfortunately Google Fiber is not here… yet. Hopefully both of these services will eventually get to my neighborhood though. It would be so nice to just be able to cut Comcast out of my life entirely.

While I realize I could just go ahead and cut the cord right now, with a family of six, the rest of my household is just not ready to cut the cord yet and I’d have a mutiny on my hands if I cancelled our Comcast — so for now I continue to pay my $233/month. However, I’m looking optimistically towards the future, to a day when Apple and Google will let me cut Comcast out of my life for good.

Flickr Brings Back Pro

Thomas Hawk, Pure Pro

“It’s about time we started to take photography seriously and treat it as a hobby.” Elliott Erwitt

“Hell hath no fury like that of a ‘professional’ photographer scorned.” Thomas Hawk

A few years ago, shortly after Marissa Mayer joined Yahoo, Flickr did away with their paid pro account. Existing pros could keep this distinction (and pay for it) and were grandfathered, but new pro accounts could not be opened.

Announcing that decision Mayer took a bunch of heat for suggesting that there really wasn’t much of a distinction between professional and amatuer photographers anymore — a statement which she later clarified. As Bart Simpson might say, aye caramba senora Mayer!

Nothing pisses off so called professional photographers more than to minimize their self-important “pro” moniker and lump them in with every Tom, Dick, and Harry, or these days Jane, Jill and Mary as just another shutterbug with an iPhone 6+ or a Canon 5D Mark 3. The truth of the matter is though that the economics of photography have been changing for years now and much to the chagrin of the “professional,” the economics of photography have never been more disbursed. Between microstock, macrostock, laughingstock, micro four thirds and Getty Images, about 10 million more people are in the game than were a few decades ago — and yes even those iPhone shooters on EyeEm.

All of which has nothing to do with Flickr and their pro accounts, which was just a title given for paid vs. free accounts.

In the early days, Flickr offered two levels of service, pro or free. Free accounts were limited to sharing only their last 200 images, while pro accounts got unlimited photos on the site. It was a way for people to try Flickr before committing to paying for it, or as Michael Arrington put it back in 2011, a way for Flickr to hold your photos hostage. Most people didn’t pay, but the most serious users did and were recognized with a special little badge labeling them as a cut above the rest. They also didn’t have to look at ads or have ads appear on their photos for others.

Mayer did away with the pro account at Flickr in 2013 and granted every free user a full terabyte of storage on the site with no 200 photo limitation. Flickr opened up and become free and unlimited for 99.999% of potential users (1 terabyte is a lot). This was a *huge* move on Flickr’s part. Replicated enterprise storage is not cheap and I suspect today has become one of the most significant costs for Yahoo in running Flickr.

Well all that changes today with the return of the pro account at Flickr. The new pro is a little different than the old pro, but I think it’s great that Flickr is bringing back pro and think it still represents terrific value for the serious pro or amateur photographer.

Before we get into the new pro, it’s important to point out that for those of us lucky birds who have been grandfathered into the old pro account nothing changes. We still keep our unlimited photo storage, ad free status for both our photos and our browsing, and heck, what a deal, $24.99/year! We will also even get a brand new pro account badge back on our accounts like the new pros.

So what about this new pro account, how does the new pro account work?

Well for starters it’s more expensive than the old pro. The new Flickr pro account will cost you $49.99/year. If you want to you can choose more of a pay as you go model at $5.99/month, but if you do the math that will be considerably more expensive than committing for a year.

For that money you get a few things.

First you get the distinction of a pro icon on your Flickr account. This may sound dumb but really it’s not. Especially on a social network where anonymous trolls can easily create throwaway accounts and blocking tools are really bad, when you see a pro icon on Flickr you will be taken more seriously. You are invested.

More significantly, in my opinion, you get the same ad free status for your own photos and for your own browsing. If you are pro you can rest assured that Aunt Millie will not have to see ads when she looks at your photos of this year’s 4th of July barbecue. Likewise, as you browse Flickr yourself you’ll be completely exempt from having to view any advertising. This alone is worth the price of pro. Any path out of having to view ads is worth it in my opinion. If only Facebook could see the light.

Another interesting deal is that by signing up for pro you can get a 20% discount off of Adobe’s Creative Cloud offer (for the annual subscription only). That’s actually a pretty good bargain. Most serious photographers use Lightroom and Photoshop. At $120/year for Adobe’s Creative Cloud software this pays for about half of your pro account if you use Lightroom and Photoshop.

And then there are stats. I love my pro stats on Flickr. I look at them every day. Maybe it’s just pure vanity or maybe it’s just curiosity about where my Creative Common Non-Commercial licensed Flickr photos are appearing elsewhere online, but I love stats. Not only do pros get access to a sophisticated stats panel, it’s now been improved to give you even more information about your photos.

Finally, you get free shipping on any Flickr merchandise ordered domestically or 50% off shipping for international orders — and just in time for that special Labor Day photo book you were going to make up for your sister-in-law this year — just kidding, but, you know, Yom Kippur will be here before you know it.

Of course the biggest missing feature of the new pro over the old grandfathered pro (lucky me), is the promise of unlimited photo storage. New pro accounts are still limited to the 1 terabyte (which in fairness is more than 99.999% of photographers will ever need, but as someone who has used up 970GB of my 1,000GB by only age 47, I’m glad I still get unlimited). I’m planning on publishing 1,000,000 high res photos to Flickr before I die.

By the way, if you really, really, really want pro but don’t want to pay for it, I suggest you strike up a friendship with Pacdog. I swear that guy has probably bought and given out like 50 pro accounts for his friends over the years. He’s the most humble Donald Trump type character on Flickr pro and very generous with his paid upgrades for his best friends on Flickr.

If you want more info on how to upgrade to pro on Flickr you can find that here.

Thomas Hawk = PURE PRO! You can find me on Flickr here.

Allen & Company Media Conference, 2015 — Sun Valley, ID

Tesla and SpaceX CEO, and Solar City Chairman, Elon Musk, Sun Valley Idaho, Allen & Company Conference, July 2015

I published I set of 247 billionaires and media moguls from last week’s Allen & Company Media Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. You can see the entire set here.

ANKR $25 for Piece of Mind

ANKR

I just installed an ANKR in my camera bag. Over the past 10 years I’ve had this reoccurring dream about my camera gear and my backpack being stolen. I’ve actually had two cameras stolen over the years unfortunately.

When you use your camera every day like I do, it’s a hazard to have to deal with. My friend Trey Ratcliff was jacked of his camera bag earlier this year. So I was very pleased to learn about ANKR. ANKR is a new product that alerts you when you become separated from your gear. The ANKR itself is super small, not much thicker than a quarter. I hid mine in a hidden area of my backpack and now if my backpack and I become separated I’ll get an immediate alert. It boggles my mind why somebody did not come out with such a helpful and useful tool 5 years ago.

Although I’m sure an ANKR is not foolproof, it’s at least a first line of defense against your gear being taken or stolen. I frequently walk around with over $10,000 worth of gear in my backpack and I would just be crushed if I lost it. $25 seems like a very small price to pay for piece of mind.

Setting up ANKR was super easy. I turned the ANKR on, downloaded the ANKR app and it found it right away. It created a “safe zone” so that I will never get an alert if my camera bag is at home (you can set up more safe zones as well), but if I’m out and about and become separated from my bag I’ll get an alert. I can also see on a map exactly where my bag was when we were separated which might be helpful for me to recover it.

ANKR is a wonderful new tool to help combat theft. I have a feeling I’m going to be purchasing a few more of these. I think I’d like to attach one to my camera strap itself, in case my camera is out of the bag and stolen. I can see lots of other applications for this tech as well (kids, car keys, car, wallet, luggage, etc.). Hopefully the more tech like this is used, the less successful thieves will be with stealing stuff.


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