I’ve been a big fan of the news aggregator Prismatic ever since it originally launched on the web. As far as I’m concerned, there is no better site on the internet today for aggregating all of the news stories that *I* care about than Prismatic. It’s the ultimate personalized news feed.
On Prismatic, I enter my interests (subjects, topics, companies, people, TV shows, etc.) and Prismatic offers me up a daily feed of pretty accurate stories that I will be interested in. Prismatic has completely replaced my old RSS reader for me and is my go to place each day to view my favorite stories, personally tailored to my interests. The design is fast and elegant and easy to use. Prismatic currently indexes 5 million new stories every day and contains over 10,000 interests you can follow.
On Prismatic I can like or dislike stories and Prismatic uses a machine learning algorithm to tailor my future posts even more to my interests.
With the new iOS version Prismatic gets even more social than it’s been in the past. I can follow people and things that my friends like are included in the algorithm for what I’m presented.
While I spend a lot of time working on my photos or spending time on social networks when I’m on my computer, Prismatic is the perfect companion to my iPhone, where I want to quickly find great articles that interest me while I’m on my commute or walking around mobile. You can easily share stories you find and like directly from Prismatic to Twitter or Facebook.
Congrats to Bradford Cross and his team at Prismatic on today’s launch. Go get the new Prismatic for iOS in the APP store and check it out. I think you’ll be impressed by how many great stories are personalized to you — especially great photography stories.
New Flickr format for blogged photos
I like the old format a lot better. The new format forces a title and Flickr logo watermark on your photo. I do love Flickr but I don’t want a Flickr watermark on every single photo I blog. I don’t want *ANY* watermark on the photos that I blog.
Also, look how bad the watermark looks on a white background. White text on a white photo becomes unreadable. Also, why is the r in Flickr cut off on the right on the flickr logo with the new iframe crap code?
As it stands right now, users on Flickr have an option to use the new embed feature or they can also still get the old html code. On the new Flickr beta photo page though users are only given the option of the new iframe code. I hope when the new beta photo page becomes default, we still have an option to choose between the old, clean and simple code instead of the new forced watermark code.
Update: More from TechCrunch here:
“But perhaps a logo with more transparency would be nice, or one that faded away with navigation controls, appearing on interaction or mouse-over. It’s a fairly minor complaint for me, though some photogs might have an issue with it.”
Yep, I’m one of those photogs that probably has an “issue” with a forced Flickr watermark on every single photo on blog on my paid Flickr Pro account that is supposed to exempt me from advertising on my photos.
Update: Thanks to tregoning at Flickr who gave me the conversion dimensions to make the new Flickr embed code fit my blog: height=”384″ width=”576″
Update: Flickr changed the new embed code to only show the title/Flickr logo for the first few seconds and then only on hover after that. MUCH better.
Earlier today Twitter reversed their decision to change how user blocks are handled after a backlash reaction on their network.
From the Twitter blog:
“Earlier today, we made a change to the way the “block” function of Twitter works. We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users – we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe. Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect.”
In a way, the current block at Twitter is sort of ineffective. If I block someone, the only thing it really does is prevent them from seeing my tweets when they are logged in (which also serves as notification to them that I’ve blocked them). They can still open up an unlogged-in version of Twitter (as easy as cmd-shift-N in Chrome, or cmd-shift-P in Firefox) and see everything I’ve tweeted publicly. Still, Twitter’s reversal shows that users really do care about blocking functionality and want more control and powerful blocking tools, not less.
I would argue that there are three key benefits that come from strong blocking tools on a social network.
1. Users feel empowered when they are more forcefully able to deal with harassment on a network. If someone is saying something offensive, why shouldn’t I personally be able to take control over that situation? If someone is making me uncomfortable, why shouldn’t I be empowered to deal with that for my own personal experience?
2. More effective blocking tools encourage more civil interaction. The thing that most trolls, haters, griefers, offensive jerks, etc. want on a social network is attention. By making it super easy to mute them or diminish them (especially by an intended target) it provides a disincentive for anti-social behavior in general.
3. Empowering users with blocking tools provides immediate relief for a user. Since oftentimes harassment is happening in real time, this can be more effective than waiting for customer service / community management reps at a social network to respond to reports of community violations. It is frustrating for a user to have to suffer even an additional 12 hours of harassment while a complaint works its way through to a community manager.
As far as best practices go, I’d hold up Google+ and Facebook as the networks that provide users the best blocking protection on the internet today.
Like Twitter, on Google+ and Facebook when you block someone they cannot see your public posts.
Google+ and Facebook take it one important step further though. Not only do they prevent someone you’ve blocked from seeing your public posts, they *also* filter the blocked user entirely out of your G+ or Facebook experience.
On G+ and Facebook when you block someone they become completely invisible to you everywhere on the network. It’s like they no longer exist in your social utopia.
That second block function is even more important than the first.
Flickr by contrast has some of the weakest blocking tools on the internet. When you block someone on Flickr, all it does is prevent them from private messaging you or commenting/faving your photos. Because of Flickr’s weak blocking tools, I’ve seen many of the most active, social accounts on Flickr leave due to harassment. This is bad design.
What makes harassment even worse on Flickr, is that (unlike G+ and Facebook) they allow anonymous troll accounts. So if a Troll1022 is harassing you anonymously on Flickr, and you report them, and three days later that account is deleted, all they need to do is set up Troll1023 and continue with the practice. Flickr’s weak blocking function allows virtually unlimited harassment on their network by anonymous trolls.
Protecting users and providing more control over your experience on a social network is important. It’s your most social and active users who will most likely sooner or latter run into friction. These are the users that any social network should be striving to empower.
I’m glad Twitter reversed their block policy after user reaction, and hope all networks realize how important the block feature is.
If you notice something different about photos on Flickr today, it might just be “black day.” Over the past week or so, hundreds (maybe thousands) of users who dislike an impending photo page change (and in many cases, redesign changes from earlier this year) have organized and are protesting by posting black protest images to their Flickr accounts today, December 8th.
Here is why I don’t support this protest.
Flickr users have protested quite literally *everything* that has ever been changed to the site. Every change over the past decade or so that Flickr has been around, has been meet by strong resistance. When Flickr added video, when Flickr required Yahoo accounts to sign in, and certainly design changes most of all, all of these and so many more have been met with various protest movements.
The “who moved my cheese” crowd is strong with Flickr.
At the same time, in order to improve and grow Flickr *MUST* change. Flickr must evolve. Flickr must improve.
Whether or not Flickr gets their design changes right or wrong, they simply must move forward and compete with other photo sharing sites today. Hopefully they get it more right than wrong, but I simply can’t support something that’s primary premise is based on not changing for the sake of, well, not changing. That is how things die. As good as Flickr is, it can always improve, and if the site is paralyzed by the “no change” crowd it cannot innovate and grow.
Competition in the photo sharing space is stronger than it ever has been. Flickr, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, SmugMug, Behance, 500px and more are all competing for our photos and our attention. If Flickr is going to survive as a contender in this space, they must produce a more compelling experience than they have in the past.
Many of those currently protesting design changes on Flickr are loud, very loud — and some are some of the rudest, vulgar and offensive people I’ve ever come across online. They way they trashed Marissa Mayer and other Flickr employees’ *personal* photostreams after the last redesign was way over the line.
Even as a large protest group, however, this group most certainly does NOT represent the majority opinion on Flickr. Most (the silent majority) Flickr users couldn’t be bothered to get worked up about anything and quite simply don’t care enough about whatever happens at some photo sharing site to have much of an opinion one way or the other.
For this silent majority, the best tool Flickr has is data. The best thing that they can do is watch how the majority use the site and react to changes based on their online usage patterns and actions. I suspect that recent design changes on Flickr have contributed to more users, more views, and more engagement — despite what a small, but vocal, minority might want you to believe.
Only Flickr has access to this data, but I suspect that they are quite happy with usage results (even just going by my own anecdotal increase in activity that I’ve seen on the site as changes have been rolled out this year).
Now, as far as the new photo page redesign goes, mostly I like it. I say mostly, because even as I’ve used the page (it’s in an optional opt in or out beta form right now), I usually end up turning it off and going back to the old page. It simply is missing too much functionality that I rely on and need to use Flickr at present.
For example, I need to be able to click on the faves button and see who has faved my photo. That is important (and pretty basic) social information that I want access to. At present you cannot do this with the new photo page (but it is planned per Flickr’s feedback page). Assuming Flickr gets all of the basic functionality right in the final product though, I like the design better in general.
I also like the redesign changes that Flickr implemented earlier this year. I think that the justified layout combined with infinite scroll is the fastest, most efficient, way to consume photos on the internet today. Both Google and Facebook use infinite scroll. While some people have claimed that Flickr is slower for them, it is not for me. Images load very quickly on a modern laptop with a broadband internet connection. I also don’t have bandwidth caps on my primary internet connections.
Flickr has never been faster and I’ve been able to see more images on Flickr this year than any year previous due to these efficiency improvements.
I think Flickr needs to change even more in fact — mostly around social. There is still so much that could be improved on Flickr from a social standpoint.
The primary role of a social network should be as a social lubricant. Flickr should be obsessed with social, much more than it feels that they are. How can Flickr create even more social interaction? How can Flickr turn online social interaction into offline social interaction? How can Flickr make it easier and easier to favorite and comment on photos? How can Flickr show me more photos that I like (and will interact with socially) and less photos that I do not like?
These are the questions Flickr should be asking as they innovate and improve, and, yes, change.
Why does Explore still exist as it does? It’s so broken. Why are power users blacklisted from Explore? Shouldn’t Flickr care about their power users?
Explore is boring to me because it is not customized to me. Flickr has so much data about me. Why aren’t they analyzing my data to provide me a better photo exploration tool? Flickr knows whose photos I favorite. Flickr knows what tags on photos I favorite (and with image recognition analysis in the future, even more).
Flickr knows the geolocational location of photos that I favorite. Why is Flickr wasting valuable Explore real estate by showing me photos with watermarks when I hate watermarks? Why is Flickr showing me images of overcooked HDR? Explore has so much potential to truly provide a compelling image discovery system and yet it still falls flat.
I hope more change is coming to Flickr, not less. 2013 was the most innovative year of Flickr since Yahoo purchased them. Hopefully 2014 will be every bit as good.
Yesterday my first book that I made with Flickr’s new book publishing service arrived. I was very impressed. My 200 page book was one of the best self publishing books that I’ve seen yet. I was most impressed with the paper that was used in the book. It was super premium high quality photo paper and as you turned each page it felt much weightier than most paper I’ve seen in other self publishing books.
The binding was not as nice as professionally printed books, but it was consistent with the binding that I’ve seen on other self published books from places like blurb.
It took my book exactly 7 days to arrive from the time of order to receipt. Once it was shipped, it was delivered next day.
As it stands right now you can just order books for yourself. You can’t sell them to others through Flickr. I had a few people that I showed the book to inquire about ordering a copy for themselves. As it stands right now this is a one of a kind book and I don’t plan on making additional copies of it.
Although I did not see a way to get text into the book, it seems like it might be possible looking at this example of another Flickr book by Flickr user Snoop Pac Doggy Dog. The book comes with a very nice printed removable slip cover and the book also has the same image on the cover itself.
I would definitely order more books from this service by Flickr. The quality of the product was first rate. It’s also nice that I did not need to upload high res photos to another site. Because Flickr already has my high res photos, it made it easier to just build my book through them.
It’s nice to finally be able to look at my own photo book and especially put it up on the shelf with my other photo books when I’m done — it sits right between photo books by Friedlander and Winogrand.
On Wednesday I spent the afternoon shooting the Oakland Museum of California with my sister April Joy Gutel (her photo of me above, thanks April). I always love shooting in museums and find myself inspired by the art even as I create new art in that sort of a space.
A lot of museums don’t allow photography, but the ones that do almost always disallow backpacks. Because I shoot mostly prime lenses, I need a lot of different lenses wherever I go.
On Wednesday I tried shooting in a museum in my new Scottevest for the first time. It worked great. I was able to pack an iPhone 5s, 4 different lenses (my 8-15 fisheye, 14mm, 24mm, 135mm), an extra battery and two CF cards easily into the vest. This was in addition to the Canon Mark 3 and 50mm lens on my camera. While I definitely felt the weight as I shot (those lenses are heavy), it felt much better than wearing a backpack. The lenses were also much more accessible to me as I didn’t have to take a backpack off to get to them. I simply unzipped the pocket and pulled out what I needed.
Even with this much gear, I still had lots of room to pack more stuff into the vest if I needed it.
The vest has sleeves that come on or off, in case you want to wear it as a jacket. It was very light weight and very comfortable to wear. It’s a great thing to have around for those times when you want more than just your camera, but don’t want to (or can’t) take your whole backpack set up with you.
I just published my very first book.
I’ve been meaning to do a book forever and today I finally did it. Flickr launched their new book publishing service today and I wanted to try it out, so I created a 200 page book called America in Progress.
The book is comprised of 200 photos I hand selected from the almost 88,000 I’ve got published to Flickr. It cost me $137.94.
The basic charge for the new Flickr book is $34.95 for a 20 page book. Additional pages are 50 cents each with a 240 page maximum. In my case shipping was another $12.99. ($34.95 for the basic book + $90 for an extra 180 pages + $12.99 for shipping).
The book should arrive in the next 5 to 7 business days.
It took me about 2.5 hours to make the book. It’s a photo only book and the only text I was able to add was the title of the book — which is on the cover and on the spine. I didn’t see any way to change the font of the title so I went with what they offered by default.
There were a lot of glitches when I built my book — which is to be expected when you try out a new service within the first hour of launch. The first book I tried to create sent me to a non-existent page when I tried to check out. The publishing page was also running very slowly for me at one point. It would take me about 45 seconds to add a new page to my book. My session crashed and when I refreshed the page it went faster. Fortunately Flickr auto-saves the progress on your book as you go, so I didn’t lose any work when this happened.
I was also warned when I tried to check out that there were print quality alerts on some pages of my books, but I carefully checked every single page and didn’t see any alerts anywhere. It would be nice if you could click a link which would tell you what pages specifically Flickr was concerned with.
As far as book publishing goes, it was really easy to create the book. I could either pull from my Flickr photostream or from any of my sets. You just drag and drop the photos into a book publishing sort of layout and you can move pages around so that things go where you want them.
Because I have so many photos in my Flickrstream and so many sets in my Flickrstream, I found it difficult to find all of the photos that I wanted to use in the book. Most users won’t have 88,000 Flickr photos though, so it should be easier for them. It would be nice if Flickr also offered a third way to find photos to publish, search.
The book will be 11” x 8.5 and will be a hardcover. Flickr says it will be printed on “premium white proPhoto paper with a Lustre finish,” and will come with a dust jacket.
If you change your mind on buying the book after you create it and check out, you have an hour to cancel your order.
I will report back more when I actually get the book as to the quality of it compared to other self publishing group books I’ve been involved with. Books can only be delivered to the Continental U.S.
I think it’s smart for Flickr to get into the book publishing business (and their timing is pretty good with the Holiday season approaching). It’s a natural way for them to grow and make money. I suspect that today’s offering is only the beginning. I could see Flickr also offering a way for book publishers to sell their books as well in the future, like blurb offers.
For more feedback on this new book service from Flickr you can check out this thread in the Flickr Help Forum.
Update: here is the pdf file of my book that Flickr sent me if you want to check it out. Feel free to download a free pdf copy if you’d like.
I’ve been using smartphones for a long time. I was an original owner of what I believe was the very first smart phone, the Kyocera PDQ 800 back in 2000. I had a couple of Microsoft Windows based phones after that. I waited in line down in Palo Alto with my pal Robert Scoble to get the very first iPhone when it was launched back in 2007. I then upgraded to an iPhone 3G, then an iPhone 3Gs. I skipped the iPhone 4 opting instead to give Android a run for the money. I switched to a Samsung Vibrant in 2010 and then in 2011 to a Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
On Friday my new iPhone 5s arrived.
I returned to the dark side of Apple for a lot of different reasons. I hated the poor battery life on both of my previous Android phones. I hated that it felt like the only way to get updates on Android phones was to buy a new Android phone. I thought it sucked how difficult it was getting updated software and I thought Google didn’t do enough to pressure the hardware manufacturers and carriers to better support Android updates in the aftermarket.
A lot of things felt broken on my Android phones all the time. Things crashed, didn’t work, etc. People kept suggesting that I “root” my phone to fix things — but I didn’t want to root my phone. I’m not a phone geek. I just want something really good that consistently works with little effort.
On my recent trip to New York City last month, I felt like I spent the whole trip apologizing to people who couldn’t get a hold of me on my Nexus because it was constantly dead. I didn’t dare listen to music on it or it would die even faster.
It’s totally unfair to compare my new iPhone with a 2 year old Galaxy Nexus, but I’m going to do it anyways. Maybe Android’s come a long way since my Nexus, but I’m not interested in shelling out $500 to see if in fact this is the case — not after feeling like I’ve been burned twice with my last two Android phones.
I’ve only been using my new iPhone for a few days, but here are my initial observations.
1. The iPhone battery is wayyy better than my old phone. Last night I went to bed with my iPhone fully charged, but unplugged. This morning it had 98% of it’s battery life still. That was amazing to me. My Nexus would have been dead. It’s so nice having a phone that actually has a battery life.
2. The internet reception is better on this phone than my Nexus. For the last two years I’ve thought that Verizon just had really crappy internet service in the Ferry Building here in San Francisco. It turns out it was my phone! All the places in the Ferry Building where I couldn’t get Verizon LTE service on my Android, now work perfectly with Verizon LTE on my iPhone. I was so frustrated all the time when my LTE connection wouldn’t work on my old phone. I was constantly blaming Verizon when the real culprit was MY PHONE! Verizon LTE works GREAT. I just needed the right phone.
3. I didn’t care about the fingerprint technology on the new iPhone. I never locked my Nexus and didn’t think I’d lock this one — I’m one of those optimists who never thinks they will lose their phone. It turns out that the fingerprint tech is so easy that I do now lock my iPhone. I totally get that the NSA likely now has my fingerprint, but I don’t care about stuff like that.
4. It’s nice to be able to hear my music again. One of the things that I disliked about my old Nexus was the music volume. It was too low at max volume. Sometimes when you are on a train or something you want the music louder. The iPhone music can go louder and that’s nice.
5. It’s nice having my iPhone sync with my iTunes. I transferred about 7,000 of my favorite songs on it. I tried downloading doubleTwist to somehow port my iTunes to my old Nexus, but I could never get it working. I think my music library was too large for doubleTwist or something. Letting iTunes manage my music flawlessly with my iPhone is great.
6. My new iPhone just feels better. I don’t know how to describe it. It feels more responsive, more accurate, faster. It feels smoother. The Flickr and Google+ apps flow easier on it.
7. The first shocker for me was how much smaller the phone and the screen felt to me. I got over this quickly and barely notice at this point.
8. I don’t really feel like I’m missing the best Google stuff from my Nexus. I can get Google Maps on my iPhone. I can get Gmail on my iPhone. I can get Google Chrome on my iPhone. All of the best things that sort of set Google apart initially for me as an incentive to go Android feel like they are now on iPhone.
9. Setting up my new iPhone took me a lot longer than I thought it would. Some of this was my fault and some was the phone’s I think. I couldn’t activate it at first. My phone couldn’t connect to the activation server. I finally got it activated and it wouldn’t connect with my wifi at home initially (now it works fine). I had to download all of my favorite apps. It seemed to take longer to download my apps than I would have liked. I had to reset some passwords because I’m always forgetting my passwords (on Flickr now your password must include upper and lowercase letters, a number, a special character AND be at least 8 digits!) I spent about an hour trying to figure out how to get my Google Calendar into my iPhone calendar. It turns out what was screwing me up was two step authentication. Once I turned that off at Google it worked.
Thanks to everyone online on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc. who gave me input on what phone I should buy next. Rosa Golijan was especially helpful.
Earlier tonight mrsth and I enjoyed a night out on the town in Oakland at A Taste of Oakland’s Uptown Block Party. The food/cocktail event included 24 participating Uptown Oakland restaurants and bars.
A Taste of Oakland was founded by two Oakland natives, Helen Wyman (of Oakland Events) and Lamont Dawson. Their mission is to promote local businesses, highlight Oakland’s assets, change perceptions of Oakland, build a sense of community between the residents and the business community and showcase the culinary revolution that has become prominent in the food industry, establishing Oakland as a culinary destination.
I’d say based on tonight’s successful event, they did just that.
Participating restaurants/bars included: Kitchener, Sweet Bar Bakery, Hawker Fare, Pican, Ozumo, Luka’s Taproom & Lounge, Plum Bar, Donut Savant, Era Art Bar & Lounge, Torpedo Sushi, Farley’s East, Anfilo Coffee, Vo’s Restaurant, Telegraph, The Legionnaire Saloon, Kingston 11 Cuisine (although they weren’t open yet), Hutch Bar & Kitchen, Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, Make Westing, Somar Bar, Camber, Bench & Bar, Dogwood and Mockingbird.
The evening gave Oakland food and restaurant aficionados a great opportunity to sample a ton of different restaurants and bars over the course of the three hour event in stylish Uptown. It was a great opportunity to check out new places and plan for further dinners and reservations down the road.
My favorite restaurant of the event was the newcomer Mockingbird. They served a duck pate that was delicious! I’ve been wanting to try Mockingbird and that will probably be the next dinner I have out.
I also really enjoyed the North Carolina pull pork that Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe served, the pull pork sandwich served by Telegraph, the Thai food at Camber and the Four Roses Bourbon cocktail served by Hutch. The pork meatball at Ozumo was pretty tasty too. The restaurants were all within walking distance and it was priced at a very affordable $20 per ticket.
With 24 venues, the event had a lot of local community support, it felt like most of the restaurants in Uptown participated — although the woman at Catered to You was outside offering samples of her decadent buffalo french fries complaining that this was the second time she’d asked to be included and wasn’t. Hopefully she gets in on the next one.
Thanks for a great night out A Taste of Oakland. Looking forward to more of your great events in the future! #taseteuptown #tasteofoakland
To see more photos from tonight’s event, check out this set on Flickr here.