The New and Improved Flickr

Flickr Staff Pre Marissa Mayer

Flickr Staff Today

Look at the two screenshots above. I took the first one in April of 2012, a few months before Marissa Mayer became CEO of Yahoo. The second one I took earlier today.

Between pre-Mayer 2012 and today, Flickr’s staff has grown from 39 people working on Flickr to 109.

About half of the 39 working on Flickr in 2012 are no longer on the team, which means that over 80% of the new, much larger team has been built since Mayer took over at Yahoo.

After years of layoffs, CEO neglect, and lackluster product development, Flickr is back in a big way, firing on all cylinders.

Under solid new leadership by former Googler Bernardo Hernandez, Flickr is getting strong and competitive again in photo sharing.

All Flickr users have been given a terabyte of free high res photo storage.

Flickr is making new smart and interesting acquisitions around the photo sharing space.

Flickr recently relaunched a new and much better received photo page.

Flickr’s new mobile app is among the best of breed with a 4.5 star rating in Apple’s app store.

Flickr more recently has been ramping up photowalks and community again and recently hinted at future plans to help photographers monetize their photo collections.

Marissa Mayer is the first Yahoo CEO to publicly have a Flickr photo page herself.

I’ve had a few different opportunities to interact with staffers at the new and improved Flickr over the past few months and have come away each time super impressed at the new life that seems to flow through the team.

Unlike the old Flickr, where staffers were demoralized over layoffs and hostile with users, the new Flickr feels incredibly positive and optimistic about Flickr’s future. A bright team of really smart engineers, designers and product managers are as enthusiastic as I’ve ever seen. The energy and morale at Flickr feels very high right now.

I think the future really looks bright for Flickr and am happy to see the sort of rebirth and revitalization that is taking place there. While there still is a ton of work that can be done to make Flickr even better, I’m more confident than ever that Yahoo is going about it the right way and that Flickr, for the first time since being acquired by Yahoo, is in capable hands.

Former Yahoo Jeff Minich recently wrote a post defending many of the ways that Mayer has improved Yahoo since taking over there as CEO. In it, he makes an important point that in order to really improve a tech company, you need to grow it. You can’t just lay people off to save money.

Minich makes the point also that even as Yahoo has hired/acquired many new talented engineers, they’ve also managed the slackers out. I think the growth and change in employee composition at Flickr is a visible example of this — and I think the improvement in the product (especially in mobile) shows for it.

If you are a photographer and have been neglecting your Flickr account, I’d encourage you to check back in and see where things are headed going forward.

You can find me on Flickr here.

10 Things Google Should Consider in Launching a Standalone Photo Sharing Service

Google used to have a standalone photo sharing service. It was called Picasa. I never really liked it. It wasn’t a very social site. I thought Flickr was a lot better.

Today’s news out of Bloomberg is that Google is looking to spin off Google Photos from Google+. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. You never know. The timing of Friday afternoon stories and leaks always makes you wonder. Usually when companies want to push something they release it more like Tuesday mornings or make a big deal about it at I/O or something.

Whatever the case, photos has been one of the highlight use cases for G+. Many photographers have flocked to the site and I think it’s done a pretty good job with photos overall.

*If* Google is going to launch a standalone photo service though, they should really go all out. I worry that they’ll launch something less than fully baked — it will generate a bit of initial excitement and then lack stickiness.

With that in mind, here are 10 suggestions that I’d give Google in launching a standalone photo sharing service.

1. Flickr has raised the bar by giving everyone a full terabyte of high res photos. Flickr made one big mistake with this offering though. *Private* high res photos are of very little value to a photo social network. Public photos are *very* valuable to a photo social network. Public photos are worth more to a social network than the cost to store the photos. Flickr just gave everyone a terabyte without distinguishing the visibility of the photos. Google should offer at the launch either unlimited or 2TB of high res public photo storage with every account. This will get great press and attention.

Go big or go home I say. Nobody can maintain cheaper enterprise storage than Google, and it’s only going to get cheaper in the future. Don’t be blinded by the open-ended liability of high storage limits. Public photos on the web are only going to get more valuable in the future and storage is only going to get cheaper.

2. Partner with photographers to sell their photos. Flickr just leaked something like this earlier this week. Partnering with photographers to sell photos is not just about stock photos as revenue (although the stock photography market is in fact a multi-billion dollar market ripe for disruption). This is about attracting the sorts of high quality photographers to your network because they will be *paid* for participating through photo sales. By providing photographers an avenue to sell their stuff and make real money, you endear them to your network. Tie the visibility of their work, in part, to their level of activity on the network — not directly, but just float that out there so that photographers feel like the more active they are on the network, the more $$$ they may make.

3. Create a super light weight mobile client like Instagram. Make it so simple. Tap/tap to +1, like, fave, whatever. Really dumb it down. Just something to follow your friends’ stuff and favorite it without all the other clutter of G+/Facebook getting in the way.

4. Build an intelligent way to organize albums by keywords. Manual album management sucks big time. Let me build albums by keywords (this will also encourage more keywording which is valuable organizational metadata for Google to have). Study what Jeremy Brooks has done with SuprSetr and build something like that but even more intuitive and easy to understand and use.

5. Build intelligent groups for photographers to hang out in on the photo network. Unfortunately Google got one thing very wrong with communities in G+, which is why communities never took off. They refused to bump threads based on new comments. This ensures that all threads die quickly. It’s the longevity of conversations that fuel community interaction. Refusing to bump threads based on comments makes large groups completely chaotic and unusable. Why invest in a conversation that will be completely buried and dead in 24 hours and that I’ll never be able to find again? Let me mark conversations as favorites and feed all my favorite conversations to me in a feed ordered by recent comments/activity.

6. Go mosaic big time. On the web, give users a huge wall of photos with infinite scroll to just scroll through and +1. Code the site so that if you are hovering over any photo and press the “f” key it +1s it. Lubricate social activity on the web. Social activity begets social activity. The more you make it easy for people to like/fave/+1 stuff and the faster you make it, the more you get. The more people get, the better they feel about the network.

7. Spend some serious money the first year on community management / evangelism. Hire a whole bunch of photo community managers and partner with influencers all over the world. Require community managers to host at least 2 photowalks a month in their geographic region. Require them to spend 10 hours a week inside of social groups interacting with photographers on the new site. Bombard your users with interaction from Google Community Managers. Make sure Googlers are using the site to share their photos, especially visible senior management. Keep track of how many +1s, comments and other interactions Googlers have with photos on the network and make sure Googlers know that this matters.

8. Open some fine art physical galleries. These can be used to host meetups and gallery shows for G+ photographers. You can also sell physical prints and DVDs of photo series from these galleries. Social photographers love doing shows with their work. Digital displays make doing temporal shows easier than ever. The ego boost a photographer gets when they are showing their work in a group show is substantial. Capitalize on this to draw the finest photographers in the world to your network.

9. The Nik Software stuff from Google is really good. Snapseed is the best mobile photo editing software out there. Analog Efex Pro 2 really is some of the best photo processing software I’ve used in years. Google could create something as good as Lightroom, maybe even better. Build this into the site for processing but also give people the ability to download the software to their computers for when they don’t want to work in the cloud and want to work locally. Sell this software for $99 with a six week free trial. Users who upload at least 5 photos on different days to the new photo network for six weeks should be given a promotion code to get the software for free.

10. Prioritize Google Photos photographs in Google Image Search. Create a button that photo buyers can click in Google Image Search to show photos available for licensing. Leverage the power of Google Image Search to both drive traffic back to photos in the social network and sales through the social network.

That’s all for now.

Homestead Restaurant, Oakland, California

Homestead Restaurant
Address: 4029, Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
Phone:(510) 420-6962
Menu: homesteadoakland.com

Tried Homestead Restaurant on Piedmont Avenue last night with @mrsth. Highly recommended. :)

The restaurant has great light with an open air kitchen where you can watch the chefs work.

The menu changes daily. The squid, duck and horchata ice cream were my favorites. Here’s what we had:


date night.


Great open air kitchen where you can watch the chefs work.


First course, spicy pepperoni and meat plate.


First course, little gems, avocado, fried onions, buttermilk dressing


Second course, local squid, grilled summer beans, almond & sherry vinaigrette


Third course, grilled duck breast, fried farro, fava beans, apricots, wild arugula


Third course, poached egg, porcini mushrooms, sweet corn, thyme, watercress


Dessert, horchata ice cream, strawberries, churros


Dessert, brown sugar chocolate cake, toasted meringue


I’ve never had madeira on ice before. It was really nice and refreshing with a twist of lemon.


Homestead seasonal spritzer


Fresh garden vegetables used by the chef.


Wood fire grill in the open kitchen.


Welcome to Homestead.


We brought our own bottle of wine, a wonderful 1997 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino. Corkage was $20.


Loved the colors of the kitchen.

20 Cool Things You Can Do With Nik Software’s New Analog Efex Pro 2

I’ve been playing around with Nik Software’s new Analog Efex Pro 2 photo processing software (brought to you by the good folks at Google) all weekend long and I’m super impressed. The purist film photographers out there are probably going to hate this new software, but for you digital photographers who dig an analog look and feel, you are going to love this.

I shot film exclusively for about 15 years before switching to digital in the early 2000s. While there is an absolute undeniable romance with rolling your own film, hanging out in a darkroom with your college girlfriend, and licking the fixer off your own prints you made yourself, it’s not something I think I’ll ever go back to — unless and maybe when my hipster buddy Daniel Krieger finally convinces me to buy a film Hasselblad.

I used to joke around with anyone who asked me what camera I shot and tell them a Holga. Now it’s like I really am shooting a Holga, just with my Canon 5D Mark III. ;)

Anyways, check out 20 different looks you can create with Analog Efex Pro 2. I’m a fan. You can buy it here if you want.


Motion Blur. It’s like owning a lensbaby without having to actually use one of those horrible awkward things. Just kidding, lensbabys are great!


How did I ever get a double exposure of this classic neon sign? I’ll never tell.


Hey It’s Amanda Morgan shot with my cool Toy Camera #9.


Wet plate photography, without all the sticky wet plates.


Jenna Jamieson shot with Toy Camera #1.


Every respectable concert photographer brings their Toy Camera #2 to the photo pit these days. Chvrches rock!


Instant triptychs.


Classic Camera #7 has such a nice warm film feel, doesn’t it?


Hey tilt shift and I didn’t even have to buy the $2,500 Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift Lens! Which is a totally awesome lens by the way that I actually will buy someday. Canon L lenses are the best. I cannot say enough positive things about all my Canon glass. I’m not being sarcastic there, I’m being serious.


One of my neon signs that I took back in 1972 while on a photography junket across America with Stephen Shore.


Motion blur with Jeremiah Owyang. It’s just like Star Wars only better because it’s got Jeremiah in it.


Colorcast #2 makes butterflies look so pretty.


Colorcast #2 makes models look so pretty too, but this one was already pretty to begin with. :)


I think this painting from the Met in New York City looks better this way, don’t you? I could totally print this up and hang this in my house. So can you too, because I licensed it Creative Commons non-commercial. Friends share right? ;)


Oopsie, a little light leak thing happened in my Holga again.


Doing wet plate photography in Holbrook, Arizona.


Love the authentic real life colors from Classic Camera #2 on this San Francisco victorian in the Mission District. A couple million in stock options and this too can be yours.


Smoothdude let me borrow his Hasselblad to make this photo on our Route 66 trip last year.


I took a photo of my Kodak Instamatic with my Kodak Instamatic. Get it?


More Seattle fun with Toy Camera #2.

Live Google+ Hangout at 10AM PST This Morning About How to Maximize Your Photos Through Social Media

Daniel Krieger
The Smoothest Dude Alive, Daniel Krieger.

My good friend Daniel Krieger (aka smoothdude), along with MacPhun’s Laurie Rubin, and I will host a live G+ hangout this morning talking about ways to promote your photography through social media. We’ll record the episode to my youtube account as well in case you can’t make it live and want to watch later.

Come join the show here if you can make it.

Alley Cat

Prismatic Launches iOS Version 2.0

Prismatic for iOS
Prismatic 2.0 for iOS released this morning.

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.

Prismatic for iOS

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. :)

More from Matthew Ingram at GigaOm here.

Testing New Flickr Web Embeds Feature


New Flickr format for blogged photos

http://blog.flickr.net/2013/12/18/flickr-web-embeds

To The Open Arms of the Sea
Old 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.

More conversation on today’s change in the Flickr help forum here.

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. :)

Why Blocking is Important for a Social Network

Why Blocking is Important for a Social Network

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.

Why I Don’t Support “Black Day” at Flickr

Why I Don't Support Flickr Black Day

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.

More comments on this at the original Flickr photo here and on Facebook here.


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