20 Pro Tips For Photographers on Google+

20 Pro Tips For Photographers on Google+

Google+ continued to grow last month. Although slowing a touch after June’s big run, it’s clear that Google+ is expanding as a major and important social network. Like most networks, those connecting earliest benefit the most in the end. It pays to be an early adopter as far as social networks are concerned.

Many different and independent communities are emerging on Google+. More than any other community, photographers have thrived on Google+. Every day millions of new photos are added to Google+ and photographers have flocked to the site to interact in many ways around their work.

Every now and again I hear from photographers saying that they just don’t get Google+, that despite seeing so many others succeed here, they just can’t seem to gain any traction. At the end of the day a basic tenant of any social network is that you get out of it what you put into it. None of us can expect to simply post our photos and have the abyss that is the world wide web immediately recognize our artistic brilliance and talent and propel us to new heights of exposure.

Social networks take work. They take tending to. They take activity and participation. With this in mind, I thought I’d share 20 Pro tips that might help you do better at Google+.

1. Consider not watermarking your work. Many photographers and viewers dislike having to consume watermarks and signatures. A person who posts unwatermarked photographs never alienates anyone. Someone who posts watermarked photos will likely alienate at least some. I know all the arguments about your work being stolen and all that — this post is not about how to avoid having your photos stolen though, it’s about how to gain exposure on Google+.

Lots of folks, like me, generally dislike consuming watermarks and so we don’t follow a lot of photographers who use them. For what it’s worth, it’s super liberating to stop caring about whether your photos are stolen on the web or not.

This is not a hard and fast rule, but if you’re not gaining traction on Google+ you may want to ask yourself is it me, or is it my watermark?

2. Respond to every question someone asks you on your photo. As you develop a following over time, inevitably you will be asked questions on your photos. What settings did you use? Where did you take this? Did you use a filter on this? Look for opportunities to interact with others on your photos. It’s your job to stay on top of the comments on your photos most of all. If someone asks you a question on your photo and you don’t respond to them, they probably won’t ask another one.

3. Use the +username feature on Google+ and ask lots of questions of others. Show an authentic curiosity and interest in the work of others. Google+ is not just a place for you to share your work. It’s a place for you to learn and grow as a photographer. If you have a question about a photo, ask it — and when you ask it, always +username the person you’re asking. If someone is super popular and busy, they might not always be able to get back to you, but a lot of people will get back to you.

By +username mentioning someone it creates a hyperlink to their name and it also sends them a notification in their G+ notifications and possibly into their email. I routinely go through my mentions (sorry I can’t keep up with all of them) and answer lots of questions that people have for me about my own work. If you comment on my photo without a +username mention there’s a bigger chance I might not see it. If you use the +username I’ll be more likely to see it. Don’t abuse this, but if you do have a question, don’t be shy. Ask it and +mention the person you are asking.

4. Participate in some of the photography related shows on Google+. Lotus Carroll and I broadcast Photo Talk Plus every Wednesday night. Trey Ratcliff’s Variety Hour is on Mondays. Life Through the Lens, The Photoshop Show, The Billy Wilson and Tibby Show. You can find some great G+ hangout shows on Keith Barrett’s Vidcast Network.

Many of these shows have chat rooms that go on when they broadcast live. Watch the show and chat with other photographers during the show. You’ll meet some of the most active photographers on Google+ and make new friends.

5. Sharing is caring. If you see something you really like, share it. The other day I saw this kick ass photo that my sister took of my wife and I shared it. You have to be careful about balancing your stream with your own work and shared work, but people love it when you share their work. When you share something, don’t just share it, add a note about why you like it and what caught your eye particularly.

Most importantly, +mention the person whose work you are sharing in your note about why you like their work so that they are notified that you’ve shared something of theirs.

Also be sure to +1 and comment as much as you can too. If you like something don’t be shy. +1 every single thing you like. If something stands out in particular comment too.

Don’t forget about mobile here either for +1s. One of things I like to do to work out is to spend an hour walking laps in the park near my home. It’s got lots of hills and I do 7 laps in an hour while listening to music on my phone. It helps to make the time go by faster for me to use G+’s mobile app and +1 some great photos by my contacts while I’m walking the laps.

6. Post regularly. If you really want to be active on Google+ I think you need to post at least once a day if you can. It’s easy. It only takes a few seconds to send a photo to G+. Build a folder up of work that you want to share so that it’s easily accesible on your computer even when you don’t have time and just pop a photo up regularly.

Nothing is a turn off like looking at someone’s G+ stream and seeing that they haven’t posted in 6 weeks. There are even scripts which people use to uncircle inactive people on G+. I try to post 5 photos a day spread out throughout the day on G+. This feels about right to me for what I do. You may not have the output I do or the inclination to post that often, but post regularly so that people know you are serious about using G+.

7. Fill out your profile as completely as possible. Have a creative avatar. Give yourself a description. Add in the other social networks where you have accounts. Take advantage of your photostrip on your profile page. Don’t just use the generic circle pattern that Google puts there if you don’t upload something. Here’s my profile. Your profile says a lot about who you are.

8. Don’t be a jerk, offer unsolicited criticism, troll, etc. Try to avoid negativity as much as possible. Don’t bitch about how something on G+ sucks, or how you can’t believe how unfair something is.

In fact, be super nice to everyone you meet. Be authentically positive. I’ve been on the web for over a decade and it took me a while to learn this one myself. Nobody wants to hang out with someone who is bitching all the time. If you feel you need to criticize something, do it respectfully, genuinely and make sure that a person that might feel criticized by your remarks knows that it’s not personal.

I don’t mind people who want to respectfully debate something, but yeah, haters gonna hate. Haters also gonna get blocked though. It’s so easy to block someone on G+. I block people all the time. Then you’re completely invisible to me.

Also, unless you know someone really well and know that they actually *want* your unsolicited criticism on their photo, don’t offer it up. Keep it to yourself. Yes, someone may actually want that, but a lot of people won’t — and if you don’t know them well enough to know what kind of person they are it’s best not to tell them that their HDR is garish or that they should go back to photography school and start over. Art is subjective, always remember that.

9. Don’t post gifs, crazy memes, stuff that’s being passed around Facebook and other stupid crap. People hate this stuff. They will uncircle you. If it’s *your* cat and *you* took the photo and *you* came up with the witty caption, *and* it’s caturday, maybe, just maybe, but otherwise avoid this stuff like the plague. The rare exception to this is if the meme is ABOUT someone in the community. Feel free to participate in these.

10. It’s YOUR job to get your friends here from other networks, not Google’s. Don’t be lazy. Don’t blame G+ for not getting all your Facebook friends over here. These people are your base. Don’t let them say no. Keep bugging them over and over again and get them on Google+. Post often on your other networks linking to your Google+ page and talking about how cool a place it is and how all your friends should come join you.

Many of my favorite people on G+ came here because I posted non-stop on Flickr about how much fun I was having on Google+. Make sure your profile pages on your other networks include a link to your Google+ page. Go on Twitter and Facebook and tell other photographers especially that they should be on G+. Write blog posts (like this one) about how great G+ is. There is only one person to blame for your copout that all your friends are on Facebook instead of Google+: YOU! Make it your personal goal to bring these people over!

11. Try to post your best work. Especially on weekday mornings. Nothing gets you followers like really well done work.

12. Keep an eye out for popular circles that are shared on Google+. If someone shares popular circles on G+, they are someone you might want to try and get to know. Don’t just ask them as a stranger to put you in their photographers circle — instead make it a point to try and get to know them, to try and interact with them. Hopefully this can happen authentically and organically. If you *do* get to know someone and know them well and they’ve just overlooked your work in their circle, maybe you can ask them then. Popular circles are one of the biggest ways to gain new followers on G+. Make some circles and share them yourself too. Don’t go crazy or overboard with this, but try it out.

13. Participate in active conversations. Look for active conversations on other people’s photos and participate on them. There is constantly a debate or conversation going on somewhere on Google+. Find it and participate.

14. Be funny. Everybody loves humor. Because of this everybody loves Michael Seneschal.

15. Participate in social games and activities. There are so many daily themes on G+ now. Some of them are really well curated and followed. #selfysunday, Macro Monday, Christa Rae’s Photography Scavenger Hunt, etc. Here’s a whole bunch of G+ photo themes for you to explore.

16. Developing friends on any social network takes time. Just like in real life. People need to get to know you a little bit first.

When I first met Gino Barasa I thought he was a stalker, hell, I still think he’s a stalker but a really cool stalker now.

Especially if you are male and the person you are interacting with is female there will be some natural tension there. Females get a lot of crap thrown at them online. There’s a lot of crazy people out there in internetland. Some people are creepy. Don’t expect everyone just to immediately recognize you for what a great guy you are. Don’t overdo it. Just be natural and be yourself. If someone doesn’t like you for some reason, don’t let it bother you. Lots of people don’t like me.

17. Make sure that there are photos of you on your photos of you page. This makes you seem like a real person. If nobody else has posted any, do a few self portraits yourself or put some family photos up that show you. This makes you feel more approachable and human. Don’t worry if you’re not a total hunk like Michael Bonocore, just get those photos of you up and you’ll be that much more inviting.

18. Participate in hanoguts and follow up. There are always hangouts going on G+. Don’t be shy. Jump into one. Introduce yourself. Say hello. Spend an hour or so just chatting with folks. Get to know them.

If there is someone who you find interesting, be sure to follow them after the hangout. Maybe even set up a special circle for “people I’ve done hangouts with” and make sure to go back and interact with their posts. Also look for G+ photowalks in your area. These are GREAT ways to interact in a highly personable way with people in the community.

19. Let people know more about you than just your photography. I’m a photographer, but I’m also a husband and father, a blogger, a caretaker of two awesome labradors. I love San Francisco and Oakland and great restaurants and food and wine and especially music. Share not just what you make but who you are.

20. *MOST IMPORTANT* Keep at it. Don’t give up. Charles Bukowski once said that endurance is more important than truth. I don’t know if it really is, but I’ve always liked the way that sounded. DO NOT GIVE UP. It will take you a while to build up friends/traction/an audience etc. This does not just happen overnight. Keep at it and I guarantee you if you plug into the community like I’ve described above and you are a genuinely nice and authentic person, you’ll end up getting a ton out of Google+ both for you and your photography.

Bonus tip for newbies. When you post your photos post them publicly. I see so many new people posting their photos to limited circles. Unless there is a specific reason why you *don’t* want everyone to see your photo, it will get more traction if you post it publicly. If your goal is to get as broad as distribution as possible for your photos, you are limiting friend’s ability to reshare them publicly or most of the world to even see them if you do not set the photo to public when you share it.

By the way, if you want to find some active photographers on G+ to get to know, be sure and check out my 2,000 Kick Ass Photographers on Google+ circle.

You can follow me on Google+ here.

Do you have more tips on using Google+? Be sure to add them here!

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  1. Rick says:

    #5: I don’t share nearly enough, nor include that kind of information when I do.

    #6: There are stretches when I’ll go a few days – sometimes a week – without posting. I need to save some quality images in LR to post for days when that happens.

    Good stuff, and thanks for posting this.

  2. As a consumer of images more than a producer I’d offer this tip.

    Think about the types of images you produce and post them to an *album* rather than the stream. i.e. Landscape images to a “Lanscapes” album, Portraits to “Portraits” etc.

    Then each time you add images you “build” your collection of related work. When you add three new images to the landscape album people (new to you) can easily scroll through all your images from the past you’ve classified that way.

    It’s more work than just posting to your stream, but it helps expose more of the same type of your work.

    It might help some people get traction (along with the 20 tips up there^^), especially photographers new to the network.

  3. Wick Sakit says:

    It seems that hashtagging is still a common occurrence as well on G+. Thanks for the tip on games. I haven’t explored that yet!

  4. Thanks a lot for the tips! I’m with you on the watermarks. I really don’t care who takes my photos and what they do with them. Of course If I were to see one in print or for sale I would probably have something to say, but it gives me a huge pride and incentive to keep trying harder when I see that people are enjoying my photos. I want to be more active on Google+, hopefully these tips can help!

  5. Ratul Maiti says:

    Great article . Always wanted to know, what do I need to do to get moving on Google+.Sometimes I feel I have a good shot, but just don’t get the attention. Thanks.

  6. Bill Sanders says:

    Thanks Thomas – great meeting you at the DrinkAndClickSF photo walk last week.

    Question: Seeing a lot of hashtagging in many of the folks I follow on G+. Sometimes 8 or 10 different hashtags in a single post. Can you shed any light on how to best take advantage of hashtags on G+?



  7. John Schwamm says:

    Thank You, Sir – You have enlightened and motivated me to get more involved with my photography and with Google+. The tips you provide are “Spot On” and I will begin to remove my watermark. Photography is more than a hobby for me – it is a way for me to feel my soul and heart – In time I hope to get my skill set improved. Thanks again.

  8. Thanks for the help to us unnoticed masses on Google+. I might mention that I tend to uncircle people that post five times a day. They burn me out. I’m interested in quality, not quantity.

  9. jpsmith says:

    Just one simple question. Is there any concern at all for human privacy? I know Google+ has good setting to prevent fraud, but I have read that every image posted on Google+ becomes property of Google and even beyond that, like Facebook, bio-metric and GIS data contained within the image files become there property as well for their commercial use. Recently a man was denied employment as his Facebook profile was linked to a porn video via bio-metric data (e.g. distance between eye pupils, and tip of nose) among other evidence.

  10. Drew Wyeth says:

    Great article. Simple and makes sen of course. C ya around!

  11. Walter Gawronski says:

    Great advice Thomas Hawk.
    Just one more – don’t flood the stream with dozens of consecutive posts, it’s really annoying. People are busy and want to look at a variety of photographers posts.

    I also do what Robert Wallis does, post to an album, it helps people interested in a particular genre of photography to find your work easily.

  12. Ian says:

    I agree with Thomas Chamberlin that too many posts put people off. I’ve been blogging for years and the most common reason for followers abandoning my blog is “too many posts”. I average 2.5 posts a day. As soon as I creep up to 5 or 6, somebody deserts. I post London (UK) art news items, so some days there is little news, other days too much. If there is too much, I decide what to put off posting for a day or so.
    You might think about adding politics and religion to your list of do’s and don’t’s. Both subjects are guaranteed to create more enemies than friends, whatever you say. (I must admit I stray into these areas occasionally.)
    I also post petitions on subjects I feel strongly about, usually by Avaaz. Folks can take them or leave them.

  13. Steven Reider says:

    #9 and #10: If my Facebook friends were on Google+, they would probably start posting GIFs, crazy memes and other Facebook stuff.

  14. Excellent post Thomas :)) I’m still loving it too !

  15. Nice list, and definitely applies beyond photographs. From a “consumer” perspective I disagree with #1. I like when a photograph is watermarked so that I can trace down the source. Although it is getting easier to track down the source with Google Image Search, a little watermark that lists a web site or similar is very welcome.

  16. Photo2c says:

    Thomas I also disagree with #1 do you know Google has a bad track record with Copyrighting? As do most sites on the internet! I have been taking photos since 1980 back then it was my 35mm work up to October 2007 when I went digital. I’m not a rich man but I’m a proud man who has gone after some big people who have posted my Copyrighted work. Have I caught them all No and I’m sure I have been Focked over several times!

  17. Mike Dooley says:

    Great article! As someone that has been struggling with Google+ I had given up and stopped using it altogether. Recently a friend talked me into giving it another try, and this article has a lot of really great tips that are sure to help. Thanks again!


  18. Mihanel Pabon says:

    I just got to g+ I put my Childs laughter on, its been on six days its just there I don’t know if if anybody likes it hates it or even read it its just there what’s going on what am I doing or not doing….help please

  19. This is by far the best article I have seen for new people on G+ like me. I admit I have been discouraged as I know I am in circles but most of my post have zero +’s and comments. I am wondering if I am in their circle that they never stream. I know that does not make sense but I have asked a simple question in a post with no one responding out of 142 following me. It could be my type of posts? Open to advice from any commenters on here.

  20. Sherif Salama says:

    I’ve been on google plus since it first became generally accessible, but after ignoring it since then, I only began posting photography lately. Im still experiencing many of the same issues others are reporting here. Fortunately, upon my return I came across a lot of good advice posted by folks in my various photography-related circles, most of it reflecting the advice Thomas offers in this post. So after several weeks of More or less regular posts offering sincere appreciative responses to others’ photos, I’m far from breaking the invisibility barrier, but I am juuuuuust beginning to get a little attention.

    Unfortunately, this period of something like probationary, freshman status, where you havent got much of a voice or influence, and no following of any kind at all seems built into the G+ model, as opposed to FB, where ones friend network is pretty much there as soon as you open your account. So it’s a lot of work, with little return on investment up front, but I have to think of it as paying my dues. In the meantime, I’m getting exposed to photography so impressive, so accomplished that it not only serves as a model for me to aspire to, but I’m frankly getting really good at expressing, in technical and artistic terms, what I like about others’ photos… Of course, it also occurs to me that the lack of attention may be because my photography kind of sucks, even for an amateur. But at least I’m learning to improve by example at the same time :^).

    All I’m saying is, like Hawk and others are constantly advising, stick with it, put in the effort even when it feels like youre posting into the void, and eventually it comes to you. …Theoretically. Not as easy as FB, but after spending some time in the community, I think the payoff will be far greater. At least, this is my plan :^).

  21. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Thomas Hawk! I am a bit curious on issue 11 here. That’s where you talk about sharing your best work, especially in the morning. I was thinking that G+ is an international service with morning all the time. Although I am Norwegian, I have a lot of friends I USA and some in Asia/Australia. Could you be more specific on what you mean? Maybe I just didn’t get it 🙂

  22. Thomas Hawk says:

    Anonymous, Google is an international service and so this my vary depending on where people who follow you are from.

    I’ve noticed though that I have a lot of Americans following me and these people are more likely to be on G+ when they are at work on their computers than when they are at home on the weekend or spending time with their families or friends, out at night, watching TV etc. There are definitely people on G+ at all hours. I’ve just noticed that I tend to get the best responses from 7am-10am M-F PST. This is far from conclusive though and just a feeling I’ve picked up over the past year. I’m guessing that more people see my work during those hours than others.

  23. Thomas Hawk says:

    Robin, those people following you might not see that post with your question. If it’s a specific question consider +mentioning some people in the post who you’d like to see it. Also (don’t abuse this) you can specifically add a circle when you are sharing something. If it’s less than 100 people in the circle (I think) they will be notified of your post in your notifications. This can be annoying to people though so be careful with this. I generally don’t do this unless the post I’m writing is specifically for this group. For example, if I’m writing a wrap up blog post about our Death Valley photo trip I might share that publicly AND specifically to my Death Valley circle, where those in this circle will then get a notification that I shared it. This makes sense though, if they were on the trip and my post is about the trip they might want to see it. For just a generic photo of mine I wouldn’t do this.

  24. Thomas Hawk says:

    Bill Sanders, hashtags are used by folks for search. A lot of people find photos on G+ by searching for hashtags, especially daily themes and the such. If you’re posting a macro and it happens to be Monday, if you add the #macromonday hashtag, others that participate in that day will be more likely to see that photo.

    Others might just be searching for generic stuff like photos in Chicago, or photos of an event like #drinkandclick. I went to the Outside Lands music festival last weekend. There’s a good chance that people who went to this event might be looking for photos of it afterwards. By adding a hashtag #outsidelands and #outsidelands2012 people might use that term to find it.

    Think of hashtags like tags on flickr or other services. They give you a way to index your photo for search in G+. It’s a good habit to get into if you have the time. I need to add more of these myself.

  25. Thomas Hawk says:

    jpsmith, that FUD was debunked a long time ago. You really think Google has any interest in stealing copyright on our photos? http://goo.gl/kntv8

  26. Thomas Hawk says:

    Thomas Chamberlain, Walter Gawronski, Ian. I think the posting frequency on G+ is ok at 5 a day if you spread them out. G+ is not like a blog that people are going to and will specifically see all five things every day. There are *a lot* of posts flying on G+. Especially if someone has followed a lot of people it’s very unlikely that they will see all 5 of the photos you post. If you spread them out during the day instead of posting them all 5 at once you’ll likely get your photos more broadly seen. The life of a post on G+ is shorter than on a blog.

    I do agree that everything you post should be quality. Personally speaking I’d never post anything that I didn’t feel was quality work I did, but if you post at different times of the day you’ll hit different audiences as well.

  27. Robin Michelini says:

    Thanks for your responses and I just had a quick question about sharing. I might have been adding too many circles plus public. So when you share as just public alone, will all your circles will see it fine without specifically naming them? They just won’t get that possibly unwanted notification?

  28. Thomas Hawk says:

    Yes, exactly. Public will go to everyone. Sharing it to circles with over 100 people in them does nothing that public doesn’t do. Sharing them to circles with less than 100 gives them a notification. This can be either useful or annoying depending on how you use it.

  29. +dizzy blond says:

    Thank you for writing this. I joined G+ a few months ago. I already knew a few of the things you wrote about. What I didn’t know is the dislike of people’s photographs that are watermarked. I watermark mine so it doesn’t bother me that I see others watermark theirs (obviously). To me a watermark is not only about trying to protect an artist’s work (i know there are ways to remove it) but it’s more of a pride thing. Is that being a little conceited about one’s work? I’m not sure. IMHO one who doesn’t follow a photographer for that lone reason is missing out on a lot of wonderful photography. Don’t get me wrong, I do respect your reasoning. I will continue to follow you and +1 your photo’s and not be disheartened if you and othets that share your opinion don’t follow me back. This post explainswhy I’m not in your circles and I’m OK with that. Everything else you wrote about here, I already do. My followers are slowly growing and I see new faces comment and/or +1 a lot of my photos. Newbies would be very wise to follow your advice 🙂

  30. Knut (former anonymus) says:

    Thomas, thank you for your answer on issue no. 11. I didn’t mean to be anonymous, I probably just slipped when filing the form.

    Anyway, I understand now and I will analyse my followers and figure out the best time for posting. Probably in the morning, but bot “my mornings” and west coast of US mornings. The latter is when I come home from work.

    Thank you for the great advices.

  31. Darlene says:

    Thomas you said; “None of us can expect to simply post our photos and have the abyss that is the world wide web immediately recognize our artistic brilliance and talent and propel us to new heights of exposure.” – ah but many DO expect that! LOL

    #1 – I do watermark my images but it’s small and in the corner and I do NOT do it because I’m worried about image theft. I honestly don’t care about that too much. I just have a thing about putting my name on my images. What it my “watermark” was actually my signature not a business logo? Would that make it okay? Painters sign their works, why shouldn’t we? And it’s not even about branding, it’s simply me being proud of something I’ve made and I like to put my name on it. That’s all.

    #4 funny you should mention that, I’m a guest on the Billy and Tibby show this coming Friday! I’d love to sit in on the panel for Photo Talk+ any time! Just waiting for your invitation Thomas!

    #8 at the VERY least ask them if they are open to a suggestion first. If they say no don’t give it. Anytime I do that though I always, always compliment first. I find something nice to say about it and then ask something like “are you open to a suggestion to make it even better?”

    #10 I did do an article on 5 reasons every photographer needs to be on G+


  32. Ron Jordan says:

    I find it a bit hard to know just how I am posting to and to whom these post matter too and feel they are or will get over posted to some, I really want to share a lot of knowledge to what seems to be great findings in taking pictures, good suggestions here within your blog post and will look for more answer from advanced +G users like yourself. Thank you +Thomas Hawk

  33. thanks a lot for the nice tips……..<

    greetings you with tea in the cup

  34. Good advice Hawk. I had stopped using it for awhile because I felt like everyones stream I saw had news items or silly gifs/memes but I’m trying to get back into it now.

    I actually booked a wedding in San Francisco from a couple who saw my work on Google+ so I’m excited about that.. and it made me want to start using it even more.


  35. Just a quick tip comment about your article: perhaps you should bold the key points (typically the first few words after each number). This would make the post easier to skim for those looking for quick tips.

  36. Sangeeth VS says:

    Great tips, Thomas. One tip you might need to add is participation in various daily themes that’s going around. It’s great way to get more exposure.

  37. meligrosa says:

    slowly dipping toes into this after a 1.5yr hiatus everything had seemed overwhelming but glad to have mi closest friends on g+, we share tons of articles (ok tons for me is a cple a week,,, so far)
    thx for liking some of my silly mobile random shots on flickr :))) that was surprising but it made me smile.

    and how am i just learning about this click+drink, and this hunky good looking guy you are talking about..?!? jk 😉 we’ll maybe make it to one of these gatherings, sounds like a ton of fun


  38. Jenn says:

    A great post on google+, and these tips apply to more than just photographers, they apply to anyone who wants to enjoy G+ – especially also bloggers with photo-centric topics such as food & cooking. And I love point #10, I would echo that one a thousand times…

  39. Mike says:

    Thanks Thomas, great write up!