Dave Winer on Social Cameras

New idea: Social Cameras! (Scripting News)

Dave Winer suggests that “Social Cameras” may just be the thing of the future. And he just may be right. What Dave suggests is that future cameras be built with an option that allows you to both broadcast and share your photos live on your camera.

“Here’s an idea that came to me while waiting for a train to Genova. I was standing on a platform, across a pair of tracks a man was taking a picture of something in my direction. I was in the picture, the camera seemed to be pointed at me. Permalink to this paragraph

I thought to yell my email address across the tracks asking him to send me a copy of the picture. (Assuming he spoke English and I could be heard over the din of the station.)

Then I thought my cell phone or camera could do that for me. It could be beaming my contact info. Then I had a better idea. What if his camera, as it was taking the picture, also broadcast the bits to every other camera in range. My camera, sitting in my napsack would detect a picture being broadcast, and would capture it. (Or my cell phone, or iPod.) Permalink to this paragraph

Wouldn’t this change tourism in a nice way? Now the pictures we bring home would include pictures of ourselves. Instead of bringing home just pictures that radiate from me, I’d bring home all pictures taken around me while I was traveling. Permalink to this paragraph”

I would say though that Dave’s idea could be taken one step further and that the web in fact could be used here as well. I’m CEO of a social photo sharing site and so we’ve already in fact been thinking a lot about the social nature of photography especially as it relates to time and geolocational data.

What Dave gets at in his post is the natural desire for people to see photos that are relevant to them. So why not modify Dave’s social camera one step further (and there is actually technology being worked on in this area today). Why not allow individuals to not only broadcast photos to each other, but allow them to simultaneously broadcast them to a photo sharing site. Not just any photo sharing site, but a super smart photo sharing site that could take both the geolocational data (from wi-fi, just keep an eye on what Eye-Fi is working on here, auto geotagging via wi-fi enabled chips is not so far away) as well as the time stamp on photos to create a sort of personal relevancy stream for you.

One of the things that we’ve built at Zooomr is something called “nearby photos.” We are currently tweaking this feature so we’ve taken it offline temporarily, but will have it back up soon.

With nearby photos you can essentially look at the 30 or so photos that are closest to the photo you took. The closest photos based on geotags. Now today most people have to manually geotag, but there are phones being built that will auto geotag, and it’s only a matter of time until the top camera makers begin embedding GPS into every camera on the market.

Now, to get back at what Dave was talking about, what if you could create a website where you tracked not only the geolocational data but combined it with the time stamp. Want to see other photos of the U2 concert you were just at? Bingo. Want to see what was happening at 2pm at the train station that you were at, you could do that too. Right now how we share photos online is very one dimensional. It’s based on tagging. How many events are you at that people say “what’s the tag.” This is to help us find these photos later.

But what if a smarter way were developed that allowed you not to have to tag photos. A way where geolocational/time stamp activity were automatic and clustered and presented to you this way smartly. And what if *your* phone didn’t have a GPS unit but your friend’s did and a photo sharing site were smart enough to suggest geotags to you based on multiple physical tag matches?

The technology to do this is pretty close. The first step with this technology will be event driven. Event photos is a huge area of interest. But there is no reason that the same technology cannot also be used to create a sort of personal lifestream that allows you to track the photos being taken around you on a time space continuium. A timeline of your photos, with the photos closest to yours on the timeline also being presented.

The biggest limitation to making something like this happen though will be getting user adoption and over coming privacy and photo security concerns. I think that if you are going to turn on geolocational and time tracking on cameras that you absolutely will have to build a tool to turn it off and enough people will need to be comfortable with turning it on to make it a compelling enough and rich enough experience for users to find meaningful photos around them.

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  1. striatic says:



    “a distinct point that i also wanted to add is that one of the most important things that flickr does is blur the line between photographer and viewer.

    when we’re on flickr, most of us both post and explore, often times in equal measure.

    i think there may be a point in the not so distant future where this mentality extends to the photo-making itself.

    so say i walk out on to the street ten or twenty years from now with my new gps/wifi enabled camera.

    i’m walking down the street, my camera is sending off my GPS coords to a broad based photo collection database {flickr? google?} and that database is sending back to my camera’s LCD all of the most recent photographs taken in a twenty meter radius.

    how will this influence the photographs we take?

    what if, while snapping photos of the statue of liberty, up on my LCD pops up an image taken by the guy beside me with a much longer lens? do i really need to take my own shot, or why not just download his shot to my camera right then and there? {let’s assume he’s got his camera set up to automatically add a CC license to his photos}”

  2. stockwerk23 says:

    A while ago i found this:

    Goes pretty much in this direction, although it’s just a concept.

  3. I think there will be an annoying flip side to this situation. Currently the situation where you usually have to wait to get to a computer and then decide what to upload is a nice filter to control what gets uploaded. Can you imagine what happens with a GPS WiFi enabled camera (phone?) is set to always upload every picture taken and put in the hands of lots of people who don’t have artistic restrained the amount of noise this could introduce, imagine 20 pictures of the same statue from the same spot. There will have to be some way to filter out the dregs maybe based on what flickr calls “The Interestingness” or some thing like that.

  4. Microsoft has some software that determines your location based on area wifi hotspots. Put that technology on enough cameras with wifi (as all cameras/cameraphones should have in the future), and allow it to determine location based on all available data (GPS, IP address, cellular tower), and a camera could communicate with all local wifi devices, determine location based on information from all of them, and send small messages to all portables with turned-on sharing features: “A Photo Has Been Taken Near You”, with a link to find the photo.

    You go out for a walk, come home and find out four photos were taken in your area. You go online, see the photos, and it adds a new dimension to your day and to photo sharing. Already, there is a phenomenon on Facebook that people go to an event, then look for photos of the event on Facebook for tags to their profile, freeing them from having to take their own camera and leaving it to those who are more hobbyists. That means you merely have to be present near a camera at an event, and not have to take pictures yourself, just have your cell phone in your pocket.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Did he really say “permalink to this paragraph” three times? Clean up your code!

  6. […] a post by Dave Winer about a similar experience in Social Cameras, Thomas Hawk of Zoomr talks about combining location information with timestamps to find near photos. Mor Naaman mentions this form of browsing in an October 2006 article in […]