Archive for March 2007

Photowalking Tomorrow, Meeting at Sam’s Chowderhouse in Half Moon Bay, 7:00 am

Ok, so for tomorrow’s Photowalking with Robert Scoble we will be meeting at Sam’s Chowderhouse in Half Moon Bay at 7:00 a.m. for those of you who are brave enough to get up and going that early on a Sunday. If you get in a little late and we aren’t there feel free to either give Robert or me a call on our cell phones. Robert’s cell phone number is 425-205-1921 and mine is 415-205-3611.

I’ve talked to a bunch of photographers who are looking to make the trek. Dave Sifry from Technorati is coming down and Justin from said he might make it.

Looking forward to hanging out with everyone tomorrow and getting some great beach pics.

To catch previous episodes of Photowalking click through here.

Musings on the Death of the Newspaper Business

Trouble at the Chronicle (Scripting News) Dave Winer has some thoughts out on how to fix the newspaper business. Part of his remedy involves expanding the definition of who a journalist is. Dave suggests that in the future, “every educated person will be a journalist.”

He also argues that the newspaper business ought to embrace the best bloggers and actually have them publish under the paper’s authority. This would likely give additional legitimacy and credibility to key bloggers while driving more readership and advertising through some of the top bloggers out there.

Number two especially makes a lot of sense to me. Bloggers would like the additional exposure that a newspaper might give them and their reputation and increasingly bloggers know better how to drive traffic than the newspaper business.

I’ve got a background in journalism myself. Although I never went to journalism school, I worked as a writer, photographer, arts and entertainment editor, OP/ED editor and finally Editor-in-Chief of my college newspaper. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. It taught me about how to get public records, deal with the police and the courts system (we had a pretty grisly murder case by a school alum that we covered as well as a pretty high profile date rape case by a top international athlete at the school who ended up jumping bail).

It taught me the importance of objectivity when reporting news but also about how many very gray lines exist in the ethics of the gathering and publishing news business.

It was largely the fact that I missed journalism so much that attracted me to blogging. Blogging though is not journalism, at least not the way that I was taught journalism. Blogging is more like Gonzo journalism. It’s full of opinion and flamboyant writing that intertwines in and out of various news reports of fact. Fact checking is more lax overall with much of blog reporting correcting facts as readers respond.
Grammatical and spelling errors are much more tolerated in the blogosphere than in the traditional journalism that I was trained in.

Instead of having six or seven hours on a scoop now, blogging gives you six or seven minutes.

Where as a newspaper reporter might publish one or two well thought out articles a week, the most productive of bloggers can easily put out 6 to 7 shorter articles a day.

The newspaper business is definitely broken. I used to subscribe daily to The Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. I’d always pick up a Sunday New York Times and spend a long and leisurely breakfast enjoying it. I’d read Rolling Stone and Forbes and Barons.

And now I don’t subscribe to any of them.

And even when I walk past the special promotion outside the BART station where someone is trying to give away a morning Chronicle I don’t take it. I don’t like the newsprint on my fingers and I know that I can get a much more customized and interesting reading experience for the day online through a mixture of news sites, digg, techmeme, blogs, twitter, flickr, zooomr, and many other places that my MacBook Pro will take me on any given day.

Especially with EVDO access my online news sources are never unavailable. They are more current than what is in the newspaper. They are more targeted towards what interests me. And most importantly, in many cases it’s interactive allowing me to interact through my blog.

I think there is still a place in the world for certain art type magazines. There is something about the aestheic of print that online still can’t quite touch. I love seeing my photos printed double page across in San Francisco Magazine. They look so much better than they do online. And I think things like JPG, which is very focused on the print aesthetics of photgraphy, are wonderful.

I’m certainly not the first person to say that the newspaper business is dead. Mike Arrington took a lot of shit for suggesting that the newspaper business was in trouble to their face late last year. The worst part about it is that some of the most wonderful people in the world work in the newspaper business. Some of the most genuine, interesting, and creative people forgo the big money, salaries and stock options to instead focus on doing something interesting, amazing that matters with their professional life. I’m not sure exactly where all of these people will end up, but I suspect that many of the best and brightest will simply migrate online as people like Om Malik and Matt Marshall have done.

In some ways I miss the romance of print journalism. It has a certain romance for me much like the smell of fixer and stop bath in the old darkroom. But those days are long gone and whether the newspaper industry admits it entirely yet or not there business is not just broken, it’s dead. And look, I buried the lead.

Ferry Building at Sunrise

Ferry Building at SunriseFerry Building at Sunrise Hosted on Zooomr

Seth Godin’s Web 2.0 Traffic Watch List on

Seth Godin’s Web 2.0 Traffic Watch List on I hadn’t ever seen Seth Godin’s Web 2.0 Traffic Watchlist before. On his list he uses Alexa data (yes we all know about how inaccurate this is) to rank the traffic of 926 different companies that he classifies as Web 2.0. It’s pretty cool to see how these companies stack up via these Alexa ratings.

Top 5? Youtube, MySpace, Orkut, Wikipedia and eBay.

Just Got Off the Phone With

JustinTVJustinTV Hosted on Zooomr

Wired News: Real-Time Reality Feeds Well I’ve been seeing a lot on twitter today about, the latest experiment in 24/7 video by Justin Kan so I decided to check it out today. is a combination between liveblogging and reality TV where Justin Kan broadcasts his life 24/7 via cam (and yes, this includes even when he’s going to the bathroom).

If you click through the Wired article above you can read about a little mishap that happened last Tuesday night when the SFPD burst into his apartment guns drawn after a bogus 911 call sent them there for a chest stabbing. You can see that prank at the video linked above.

Justin has a live chat forum beneath the 24/7 live video he does (he considers this a television show) and puts his cell phone number on the site encouraging fans and others to call him.

Davis Freeberg and I called him this afternoon on the show and I invited him to come down for the photowalking shoot that I’m doing with Scoble on Sunday at 7am. Justin thinks he can make it. So if you want to see a live unedited photowalking show check out on Sunday morning at 7am.

So far, according to a counter on, he’s been live now for 4 days, 14 hours and 18 minutes. I’m not sure how long he is going to do this but it’s pretty insane. I can’t imagine doing this myself. It will be interesting to see what other kind of cool things Justin comes up with to keep everyone entertained.

I have to admit it’s kind of surreal to call someone on a cell phone and then listen to yourself talking on live television a minute later (there is about a minute delay in the broadcast of the show) but then again this is something that is pretty freaking cool and geeky beyond anything I could come up with.

I’ve followed the work that Gordon Bell at Microsoft Research is doing with his mylifebits project for a while now with great interest, maybe is only the beginning of the realization of Bell’s dream of an immense archive of visual, audio and other documentation for your life. Even if you were not broadcasting 24/7 like justin is, certainly having a video record of your life might be both interesting and helpful assuming it could easily be indexed for search.

Keep at it Justin. I love seeing things like this. I just emailed you mine and Scoble’s cell phone numbers and we hope we see you out for photowalking on Sunday morning!

Now This is Rich, Zoto Accuses Zooomr of “Copying” Them on Their Corporate Blog

[I’m CEO of Zooomr]

Ok, now this is rich and gave me a good laugh this morning. Over at the zoto blog (they are a photo sharing site out in Oklahoma that is accusing Zooomr of “copying” them) apparently someone who goes by kordless is pissed off because someone wrote a blog post about Google acquiring Zooomr.

Their evidence that we are copying them and “blatently ripping them off” seems to come down to three things best I can tell.

1. We are coming out with a thumbnail view of photos on Zooomr. Yes, zoto would seem to think that they now own the thumbnail view.

2. That we have a lightbox mode (and have had for quite some time now).

3. And that we are using heart icons for our faves (apparently they say they had used hearts to designate faves in some demo release or something that I assure you neither Kristopher or I have ever seen).

My reply to zoto (I’d reply in the comments section of their blog but they don’t have a comments section on their blog) is that this is the craziest pile of BS that I’ve ever heard of. Well, not quite the craziest, Yahoo/Flickr trying to actually patent the concept of rank and relevance for a photo sharing site ranks probably a tad higher, but in response to your WTF, I’ll reply back WTF?

Believe it or not neither Kristopher Tate (our Founder and lead developer) or I have ever spent any time at all on your photo sharing site. We are not checking out your demos for things to steal. etc. etc. etc.

If you want to pick a fight, I’m all for it though.

Look, Zooomr gets attacked all the time. Usually though we get accused of copying Flickr not someone like zoto. My response to you is to grow up and build a better site. You don’t own the thumbnail view, you don’t own the lightbox view, and if you want to file a patent app for the concept of using a “heart” to denote a favorite go for it. The thumbnail view and lightbox view were around a long time before Zooomr, zoto or flickr were even invented. In fact light box has been a feature on Zooomr since day one and I think we actually implemented it before you did so maybe you are copying us.

I think people should worry more about innovating and creating the best photo sharing in the world than bitching about how people are copying them anyways. Look, is much of Zooomr inspired by other internet properties, absolutely. Just as Flickr was inspired by delicious to come up with tagging photos we are inspired by people all the time. But do you hear us bitching about the fact that we were doing geotagging of photos and then a few months later Flickr miraculously came up with geotagging? Or the fact that Zooomr is localized in multiple languages and now Flickr is planning on localizing in multiple languages? Of course not.

If Flickr or zoto or anyone wants to geotag or localize or include any of the features that you find on Zooomr I say more power to you. Instead of being proprietary, think about the fact that competition benefits us all and in the end drives us all to innovate more and more.

Competition is a GREAT thing. The users benefit in the end. When Zooomr doubled Flickr’s limits for bandwidth allocations for Pro accounts do you know what Flickr did? They one upped us and a month latter made their Pro accounts entirely unlimited in bandwidth (although they do still restrict your photos to 10MB which sucks if you happen to be shooting with a Canon 5D). So what did Zooomr do? We moved our account limits for Pro and FREE accounts to unlimited bandwidth one upping Flickr even more. We’re still waiting to see Flickr try to match our “no limits” photo sharing for both Pro AND free accounts but we’re doubtful that they can match this one.

Who wins when this happens? The user wins. Assuming we can all stay in business (and I believe at least Zooomr and Flickr can) the user wins in the end.

So rather than complain about the fact that something as inane as Zooomr using a heart for our faves (and by the way this isn’t something new at all, we’ve been using the heart for faves ever since we introduced faves on Zooomr) my suggestion is that you STFU and instead build something better than either Zooomr or Flickr.

If, on the other hand, attacking Zooomr (knowing its hot-headed argumentative CEO and all) is just some way to try to generate additional exposure in the blogosphere for zoto, well, then, congratulations, it probably just worked for you.

By the way your home page looks an awful lot like Flickr’s give the gift of Pro page.

Now, who wants to come after Zooomr next? Snapfish? Pikeo?

Update: This is good. I have figured out a way to comment on the Zoto corporate blog where they attack us but I have to pay them $29.99 to do it. At least these guys get blogging.

Good Morning

Good MorningGood Morning Hosted on Zooomr

Flickr Introduces Filtering

[I am CEO of Zooomr]

Yesterday Flickr introduced a new feature on their service called “Filtering.” Filtering is a tool whereby users can designate their desired level of browsing (i.e. show me everything on Flickr un-filtered, or screen out material that has been tagged inappropriate by the user community). It also allows users the ability to designate in advance if they feel that things that they are uploading might be considered objectionable and allowing them to mark their images accordingly.

Photos uploaded are categorized as “safe” “moderate” or “restricted” and images are also classified as “photos” “art/illustration” or “screenshot”.

The default that your account seems to be set at is with safe filtering turned on. So it is incumbent upon you to actually go to your settings and change them if you would like to not have images filtered out of your flickr search and other public areas. You can change your settings to your desired level of filtering here.

A replacement to Flickr’s unpopular NIPSA (Not in Public Search Areas) system which preceded filters had been long promised by Flickr staff. Previous to this feature, the community could mark potentially “offensive” material as such and have the images removed from Flickr search. In some cases how Flickr handled some of the potentially offensive images was absurd. For instance, recently I uploaded a screenshot of all of my twitter contacts to Flickr. The image was quickly marked offensive by users and pulled from Flickr’s public areas. When I replaced the screenshot with a crappier looking photo that I had taken with my camera of my computer screen of the exact same thing Flickr allowed it back into public search.

The old system was broken and so this new system is a step in the right direction. It is also likely that this new system was a necessary step for Flickr to have in place for their upcoming announced plans to introduce a version of Flickr for China. Flickr has had significant trouble over the course of the past few years with having their service universally blocked in the UAE. The concern by the censors in the UAE largely comes down to what they feel are inappropriate images on the flickr service.

With Flickr’s upcoming announced plans to enter China it is likely that they would need some significant censorship system in place to keep the Chinese government happy with providing this kind of service there. My suspicion would be that the locked level of access for all Chinese will be with Flickr’s “safe search” enabled.

Although this new filtering system by Flickr is a step in the right direction there are still some things that need work. To start with images are not the only thing that Flickr has censored with the NIPSA designation in the past. Groups or forums where potentially objectionable speech has taken place have also been marked NIPSA. There is still some confusion with regards to whether or not Flickr will continue censoring certain groups even if you choose to remove all filtering and designate that you are over 18.

For instance, as of the writing of this article, the group Del*te Me Uncensored remains hidden from public search on Flickr. I have Flickr’s safe filtering turned off but it still does not appear in a public group search term for the search term “uncensored.” There is an imposter version of Del*te Me Uncensored which comes up but not the actual group.

There is also some concern that images which do not cut the mustard from a “safe” perspective on Flickr are also excluded from Flickr’s popular “Explore” section of images. Recently many of the more popular users on Flickr have expressed frustration and dissatisfaction with the fact that many of their images that receive considerable social activity (faves, comments, etc.) are not being included in Flickr’s Explore section while other photos are.

All in all I think this move represents a positive step forward for Flickr. Despite the fact that there still seem to be some bugs to work out in the system, it gives users on Flickr more control over their viewing experience and addresses at least some of the concerns that more conservative groups have expressed in the past about adult type material showing up on Flickr.

Photowalking in Half Moon Bay This Sunday at 7 a.m.

Yikes, 7am. It may just be Scoble and I at that hour, but the early bird gets the worm, so they say, and of course as many photographers will attest, the best light to shoot in is at sunrise or sunset.

So anyways, we are going to meet down near Mavericks at 7am on Sunday morning and shoot some surfers with some big glass and other stuff. Robert will be filming for Photowalking 8.

I’ll post more later, but if you like to get up super early on Sunday mornings come on out and join us.

20 Random Songs From the Thomas Hawk 5 Star iTunes Playlist

1. I Guess I’m Floating, M83, Before the Dawn Heals Us
2. What a Wonderful World, Joey Ramone, Don’t Worry About Me
3. Roll On, Josh Ritter, Golden Age of Radio
4. Schizophrenia, Sonic Youth, Sister
5. Jane Fonda, Mickey Avalon, Mickey Avalon
6. New Star in the Sky, Air, Moon Safari
7. Cortez the Killer, Built to Spill, Virginia Reel Around the Fountain
8. Killing Moon, Nouvelle Vague, Bande A Part
9. Sister Beams, Slobberbone, Slippage
10. Neon Bible, Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
11. Emily Kane, Art Brut, Bang Bang Rock and Roll
12. Safe and Sound, Azure Ray, Azure Ray
13. Turn on the News, Husker Du, Zen Arcade
14. 405, Ben Gibbard, Live at the Knitting Factory
15. Holiday in Cambodia, Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegtables
16. Lover I Don’t Have to Love, Bright Eyes, Lifted Or the Story is in the Soil Keep Your Ear to the Ground
17. Way Too Good, Figurine, The Heartfelt
18. Catch My Disease, Ben Lee, Awake is the New Sleep
19. Lollipop, Ben Kweller, Stubbs the Zombie Soundtrack
20. Tom Sawyer, Rush, The Spirit of the Radio, Greatest Hits 1974-1987