Archive for the ‘Flickr’ Category

More Thoughts on Google Photos

More Thoughts on Google Photos

Last week when Google Photos launched, I quickly tested it out and then wrote a post with my immediate initial reaction to the service. Much of my early disappointment centered around the fact that Google chose to limit the size of photos in the service to 16 megapixels. As a DSLR shooter this meant that a large portion of my library would be downsized with Google Photos. Bummer.

Flickr by contrast offers every user 1TB of free storage for your photos (which is more than 99.999% of photographers need at present) at full original high resolution.

So in my mind this made Flickr’s free offering a vastly superior offering over Google Photo’s free offering. Flickr’s had that offer out for a while now which is why I hoped that Google would respond by offering us a similar 1TB (or more) of full high res original storage. Google Photos will let you have a terabyte of storage for your high res photos as well, it will just cost you $120 per year vs. Flickr’s free deal.

David Pogue (who works for Yahoo) wrote up a thoughtful review today comparing Google Photos and Flickr and made the same observation pointing to the negative of Google downsizing your original photos in Google Photos.

Despite my disappointment about Google’s decision to downsize our photos with the free version of their product, after having spent a week seriously digging into Google Photos, I’m much more optimistic about the service than I was a week ago. There’s a lot to love here.

1. Google Photos will back up your RAW files.

At present I have two Drobo 5D units with 15TB worth of storage in each of them. In addition, I’ve got an 8TB Western Digital MyBook thunderbolt duo.

I don’t actually have 38TB of storage because both the Drobo and the Western Digital (each in their own way) replicate my data. This protects me against hard drive failure. While it doesn’t necessarily protect me against fire or theft, this is a pretty good first line of defense. Most of the storage that I’m using right now is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands (million?) of RAW frames that I’ve fired off over the last 10 years. These are my RAW, unedited, original negative files.

Flickr does not support RAW yet — although Flickr’s former Chief Bernardo Hernandez mentioned in a tweet after he left that RAW was “coming at some point,” at Flickr.

Even though I am losing a lot of data when Google Photos converts my RAW files to JPG photos and also downsizes them, something (for free) is better than nothing.

While it is still my responsibility to come up with a better suitable offsite backup solution for my terabytes of RAW photos, until I do I’d rather have a converted, compressed 16 megapixel version of my photo backed up online than nothing. I’ve been planning for a year or so now to duplicate all of my original RAW files and then store them on drives in a safety deposit box in a bank vault, but until I get around to doing that it’s nice to know that I’ll have at least an inferior version of my original RAW backed up online.

2. Google’s free offering is unlimited.

Flickr currently gives everyone a free terabyte of storage for your high res originals. In his review Pogue said that Flickr told him that less than 50 users out of 100 million are actually using over 1 terabyte.

One terabyte certainly seems more than enough for Flickr’s present offering for most people. I am one of those few prolific photographers who will exceed the 1 terabyte limit though. At present I’ve uploaded about 950 gigabytes to Flickr (which is about 105,769 high res photos) and I should cross the one terabyte limit sometime within the next year.

Fortunately for me, I was one of the original early Flickr users who signed up for their old paid “Pro” service ($24.99 per year). This service has since been discontinued, but old “Pro” accounts have been grandfathered their original unlimited high res storage deal and so I won’t need to worry about exceeding one terabyte when I hit it later this year.

Although I’m an extreme edge case, if we assume that in the future camera makers will continue pushing technology with more and more megapixels (i.e. larger and larger files) and at the same time people begin taking more and more photos, I can see where a lot more people than 50 will end up exceeding their free terabyte at Flickr over the course of their life.

While Yahoo could always extend the offer to two terabytes or raise their limits as people’s storage use increases over their lives, there is no guarantee that they will. It would be a bummer if you spent 10 years uploading all of your photos to Flickr and then ran out of space, which sounds unlikely, but might actually be more likely than we realize, especially given that some of us may actually live to be 150 or more in the future!

Google Photos by contrast is offering unlimited storage if you downsize your photos.

More Thoughts on Google Photos 2

3. Google has interesting facial recognition software.

Google’s facial recognition software is pretty slick. It’s very clever how the software can actually track a face as it ages and include a baby photo in the same batch of photos of someone when they are older. It seems to work best where you have a lot of photos for them to analyze and I found photos of my family members were much more accurately grouped than photos of strangers in crowds or people who I only have one or two photos of.

Flickr doesn’t do facial recognition yet, but I bet it’s something that they are working on. One of the advantages that Google has over Flickr here though is that their service is 100% a private service. 100% of your photos on Google can only be seen by your account unless you manually choose to create a link and share it with others. Facial recognition software can be scary stuff and even though Google doesn’t attach names and faces together, it’s the sort of thing that people get easily freaked out over.

Flickr is a hybrid public/private service. Even though by default you can upload your photos privately to Flickr, you can also upload them publicly by default as well. Sometimes even a simple thing like a public vs. private setting on a photo can be screwed up by your average user. It’s not that Flickr won’t offer facial recognition in the future (they probably will) it’s just that they probably need to think a little bit more about privacy and the implications of people accidently making things public that they might not want to.

4. Google Photos Assistant is fun.

Although we’ve all probably seen way too many gifs in our lifetime already, when your own photos are turned into gifs just for you it can still be delightful. Because my photos are personal to me, I find that I’m enjoying Google Photos gifs much more than I thought I would.

If someone else posted a gif of Jerry Seinfield moving his microphone stand around on stage I’d probably think it was boring, but when I was actually at the comedy show and watched him do it, and the gif was made from my photos, somehow it makes it more interesting to me. Most people could care less about my dog Bucky sitting in my friend Scott Jordan’s Pocketmobile, but it tickles me to see it — and Scott will probably like it too and I can share it with him and I bet he even posts it on Facebook. 😉

I find myself going back to my Google Photos assistant several times a day and hoping that they will have more treats for me.

5. Google Photos is an interesting digital diary.

Although Flickr has Camera Roll, Flickr doesn’t include all of my RAW photos so it is not as complete as Google Photos is turning out to be for me. I’m finding it more enjoyable to just randomly choose times in my life and scroll through my photos on Google Photos. There’s something about all the bad photos, unedited, raw material that feels like a more complete digital diary for me than the finished processed photos I’m posting on Flickr. I’d never want anyone else to see my raw material unedited and bad photos, but just for my eyes only I’m finding it a very interesting experience.

It will be interesting to me to see how I like Google Photos as my digital diary when I’ve finally got everything uploaded into the service. In my case, I have a feeling that this will take a few years. So far I’ve uploaded 39,312 to the site in a little over a week. I’ve had it running pretty much non-stop since Google Photos launched. Sometimes it feels like it’s hanging and I’ll force Google Photos to quit and relaunch it, but still, it’s going to take a long, long time to get all of my photos up there. By the way, Google Photos doesn’t provide you a photo count of your photos, but if you want to see how many you have uploaded you can get that number here (it’s in light gray in the upper right hand corner).

6. Google can give you back all of your photos at once.

One of the things that I like about Google Photos is that they give me an option to get all of my photos back at once. While Flickr will let you get all of your photos back as well, you have to manually drag and select your photos at Flickr (or use an album) to get them put into a zip file that they send you. With tens or even hundreds of thousands of photos online, I like the way that Google can deliver all of my photos back to me better. Although I don’t ever plan on having to get all of my photos back at once, I feel good knowing that Google will let me have them all back with just a few clicks vs. Flickr’s more difficult way.

7. No ads.

It’s nice that Google is giving you Google Photos completely ad-free. Although as a paid Pro Flickr user my Flickr experience is also ad-free, Flickr’s free service does/will have ads. When I’ve browsed Flickr outside of my Pro account I’ve noticed ads every so often. They don’t feel very disruptive, but still, no ads are always better than even just a little.

I did think it was interesting earlier this week when it felt like Apple CEO Tim Cook took a pretty direct swipe at Google’s new photo offering in a speech that he gave highlighting the importance of your digital privacy.

“We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is,” said Cook.

Cook’s comment does make you think just a little bit about how much data you may end up giving sites like Google Photos and Flickr with all of these photos. On the other hand, I’m sure a lot of people probably wonder why you’d want to pay for Apple’s iCloud storage when Google or Flickr will give you all you need for free. Google and Flickr are competitors to Apple’s paid storage service and so you have to wonder how much of Cook’s warning is dire vs. how much is just that he’d rather you pay Apple to store your photos for you than let Flickr or Google do it for free.

Anyways, those are my more detailed thoughts on Google Photos thus far. I’m sure I’ll blog more about Google Photos as I use it more, but after a week of use I have a much more optimistic view of it than I thought I would. I find myself using it much more and going back to it several times a day over and over again.

Disclaimer: yeah, yeah, yeah, nothing is forever (except diamonds right?), both Flickr and Google could always renege on whatever deal they currently are marketing out there. Google Photos was made for mobile users, not for more high megapixel storage people like me, etc. etc. etc. etc.

Thoughts on Google Photos

New Collections Page from Google Photos

Google launched Google Photos today.

For months now people have been talking about how Google was going to decouple photos from Google+ and create a standalone photo product and today at I/O they finally unveiled their latest effort to the world.

Last August when rumors about this new service started circulating I wrote a blog post titled 10 things Google should consider in launching a standalone photo sharing service. Here I outlined ways that Google could come up with a very competitive product in the photo sharing space. Google could have given the world something really amazing today and instead we just got something lackluster.

The new offering is fine, but in a lot of ways it is a big disappointment to me.

The biggest part of today’s announcement was that Google was going to give every user unlimited photo storage.

That sounded pretty good until I understood the catch. The catch is that the unlimited photo storage offer only applies to photos 16 megapixel or smaller.

Although it may be tempting to write this off as a “Pro” problem as most modern DSLRs today shoot over 16 megapixel, there are also a lot of new non-pro consumer cameras that shoot over 16 megapixel today too. Heck, there’s even a mobile phone out now (admittedly an outlier) shooting at 41 megapixel. So what this means is that almost every DSLR out today, along with many smaller consumer cameras, will require your Google Photos images to be downsized.

It’s not just Canon and Nikon DSLRs that produce images over 16 megapixel today, but many models of popular mirrorless and consumer cameras by Panasonic Lumix, Sony, Olympus, etc. Here is a list of currently manufactured digital cameras 15 megapixels and above which shows some models and brands this might include.

While I do understand that storing photos is not cheap, I do not understand why Yahoo’s Flickr is able/willing to give every user a full terabyte of full high res original photo storage, and Google, a company almost 10x the size of Yahoo by market cap cannot or will not. Flickr raised the bar when they offered every user a free terabyte of high res photo storage and Google’s response is to offer us unlimited downsized and compressed photos? Come on Google, you can do better than that!

The other problem is that the camera manufacturers (for better or worse) are in a war of who can raise megapixels the most. Earlier this year Canon came out with a mindblowing 50.6 megapixel 5DS. 16 megapixels is going to feel smaller and smaller as new and better camera, and even mobile phone technology is released.

If this was the year 2003 and Canon had just released the 6.3 10D, this might make sense to me — but in 2015? No way.

While you can purchase Google Drive storage for your photos over 16 megapixel at Google, 1TB of high res storage at Google would cost you $120/year — the same thing that Flickr will give you for free.

In my case I have one of the old grandfathered Flickr Pro accounts where for $24.95/year I get even more than 1 terabyte of high res storage on Flickr, I actually get unlimited (I’m currently using about 940 GB of my unlimited storage on Flickr, which is a lot).

The other main thing missing from this new offering by Google is social. While Google has had a tough time with social and I get why they are wary of it, I was hoping that there would be a social element to their new photo service. Instead, every photo you upload to Google Photos is private only for you and you then share out your photos to other platforms. One of the most exciting things about Flickr is that there are a lot of social components to the site. While photos are uploaded as private to Flickr by default (like Google), you have the option of making these photos public and sharing them with other users on the site.

While you can use Google and Flickr both as private shoeboxes for all of your photos, I like that Flickr gives you the option to turn your photos public and share them with the world. 99.99% of the photos that I upload to the web are meant to be shared publicly and so I was disappointed that Google didn’t deliver us anything here today. Google does still have Google+, or course, where you can share your photos too and be social, but that’s an entirely different site that you leave Google Photos to go use. Flickr does a much better job at combining both private and social.

Google did showcase some other features with photos today. They released a sort of timeline camera roll view and some image recognition technology. What I saw today was very similar to what I saw two weeks ago when Yahoo rolled out Flickr 4.0. I’m not saying Google copied Flickr here, but it is odd how Flickr shipped these almost identical features two weeks before Google did. Whatever the case, I’m not terribly excited by camera rolls from Google or Flickr, although I do see where they would be helpful and nice features for the broader mass market audience.

I prefer to organize my photos myself rather than have an algorithm try to do it for me. I carefully keyword each of my photos in Lightroom and when I upload them to Flickr I’m able to create smart albums (like smart playlists in iTunes) where I can organize my photos into albums by keywords. That’s something that I still can’t do at Google Photos today, at least not in the automated way that I do it with SuprSetr.

I am glad that Google is still investing time and development into photos. For a while there when they first launched Google+ it really felt like they were going to do something spectacular with photos, today, unfortunately, not as much. To me, today’s offering feels more like a step back from Google+ to Picasa circa 2004.

More Thoughts on Flickr 4.0

More Thoughts on Flickr 4.0

Having had a few weeks now to spend significant time exploring Flickr 4.0, I thought I’d write up another more detailed post about my ongoing thoughts on the recent update by Flickr.

1. Autotagging. Autotagging has received a mixed reception by the Flickr community as well as the broader press. Initially a lot of the Flickr diehards have very vocally opposed it.

On the one hand, every time Flickr makes any change whatsoever a certain segment of the community will vocally oppose it no matter what the change is. The “who moved my cheese” crowd is strong and vocal at Flickr, so it’s easy to dismiss at least some of the initial criticism from the community as typical and predictable. On the other hand, many people have spent hundreds of hours organizing their tags on their Flickr photos and have a certain sort of emotional connection around tagging as it relates to their photos, which are very personal.

Any time you try to use image recognition software to recognize things you will get false positives. This is no different at Flickr. The more sensational the press can spin a story, the more clicks they end up getting. This week you saw news outlets like the Daily Mail come out with stories highlighting that Flickr was tagging concentration camps jungle gyms and black people apes. CNN reported that “Flickr’s new auto-tags are racist and offensive.” This is bad because most of the general public make assumptions based on headlines without thinking deeper about the issues at hand and most are not intimately involved with the inner mechanics of Flickr.

We also saw Google called racist this week because the White House was associated with a search for a derogatory racial term.

Personally, I’m more optimistic about Flickr using image search technology going forward and hope that the bad PR doesn’t set their efforts back there. Flickr and Yahoo are not racist (either is Google). The people who work there are a very well meaning and forward thinking group. I’m sure they will work on their algorithm to get it more and more accurate, but part of that accuracy involves getting feedback from their community when inaccuracies arise. Longer-term I think we will all benefit from having more accurate and complete search available through Flickr.

There is also part of me that wonders if Flickr’s autotagging efforts are not part of a longer-term effort to better organize this content in order to eventually partner with their community in a more significant way with stock photography. Stock photography is a multi-billion dollar business. Flickr is probably the most potentially disruptive site out there to this industry. As Yahoo thinks about monetizing Flickr in a more meaningful way, the better organized their library the more successfully they might be able to do this.

I do think Flickr should offer a setting to opt out of autotagging and I’m guessing they probably will eventually. If autotagging is on by default 99.9% of Flick users will still be using it. By creating an setting to opt out this would be an immediate way to deflect the criticism from the vocal power users that dislike it.

2. Search. Unfortunately my initial enthusiasm for search has been fading fast the past two weeks. While search looks cleaner and I do like the new view of smaller thumbnails that allow me to browse search results quickly, I’ve lost one of the most important functions of search, which is to search by my contacts.

Over the past 10 years I’ve carefully and methodically built a very large number of contacts whose photography I like and want to see more of. When I’m interested in photos of a particular subject, location, event, etc., I always do searches filtered by my contacts. This allows me the highest quality search results and gets rid of all the noisy, watermarked, junky, inaccurate images that oftentimes come up a broader search of everybody’s photos.

With the new search functionality this filtering capability is completely broken for me. What bums me out even more is that this broken functionality for my search experience is most likely affecting only people with a large number of contacts (like me) and thus is not likely to be addressed or fixed by Flickr for a long, long time.

Search is one of the most significant ways I use Flickr and with the update it is now dramatically worse for me.

Also, although I do like the two smaller view options Flickr gives you for search (a small sized photo or a thumbnail option), I do find myself missing the old larger views at the same time. Sometimes you want to search Flickr with images small so you can go fast, but other times you want to search Flickr to more carefully examine photos and here at least a medium view option would be nice to have back.

Maybe Flickr could have three possible views, medium, small and thumbnail.

One of the new features with the new search is that you can now search by date taken in addition to date posted. While date taken and posted are somewhat similar, I do see how date taken will become more and more useful over time, especially when using Flickr to search for breaking news.

3. As far as the Camera Roll and the uploader, I’m finding that I’m not using either. This doesn’t mean they are not important though. For more casual users having a view like this makes sense as a way to try to organize their offline photos in the cloud. I think this is really important for most casual users and as a way for Flickr to appeal to a broader general audience.

Personally, I carefully keyword all of my photos in Adobe Lightroom before uploading them to Flickr and then I use Jeremy Brook’s brilliant program SuprSetr to build albums based on these keywords. The only negative with this approach is that Flickr limits my sets to 4,500 photos when using Jeremy’s SuprSetr. :(

Magic view was fun to look at once, but I probably will never use it or go back. I prefer the way that I’ve organized my photos more than Flickr’s auto-organization.

I don’t use the uploader because for me Flickr is not a personal shoebox for all of my photos. Rather, for me, Flickr is a place to present and share my photos to the world. I don’t want random photos from my hard drive cluttering up my Flickr photostream even if they are private. 99.99% of the photos I publish to Flickr are public and the current web page uploader does a good enough job getting two batches a day up for me (except not last weekend).

4. The Flickr mobile app. To me the new Flickr mobile app is slightly better than the old app but it’s still far from ideal.

My biggest criticism is that sometimes it is so slow, laggy and clunky. Again, some of these issues may affect me more adversely than others because of the way I power use Flickr, but I find that going to my notifications can take 20-60 seconds sometimes on an LTE or wifi connection and that is just too long to have to wait. Sometimes it does go faster, but typically after not using it for a period of hours it frequently is just painful to use. It comes and goes, but I don’t have a consistent, fast experience with the mobile app. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and most of all Instagram are so much responsive for me when I use them than the Flickr app.

Another problem I have with the app is that frequently I’ll want to favorite a photo and so I double tap on it to do this, but Flickr misreads my attempted double tap and thinks I want to open the photo up and see it large instead. I’m not really sure that there is a solution to that problem, but it’s one that frustrates me that I don’t have with Instagram.

I also find that if I look at my contact’s photos for more than about 10 minutes or so I run out of photos to look at and Flickr defaults “suggested” photos that I’ve already seen and favorited months ago. Sometimes I’ll be sitting on the train for more than 10 minutes, or working out, or doing something where I want to spend more than 10 minutes browsing my contact’s photos and wish that Flickr could expand the number of photos I’m allowed to see from my contacts on the mobile app.

I don’t use the camera or the camera roll on the Flickr app at all. I use my iPhone’s camera and then edit with Snapseed or Priime which offer far more robust editing capabilities.

5. The new album view. The new album view is more of a postscript to the new Flickr 4.0 than a part of the initial release. Earlier this week Flickr changed the primary album view on Flickr incorporating supersized huge photos into the album view layout. I really like this change. I think photos look sooooooo much better full-sized and large (which is one of the reasons why I enjoy Ello so much). Predictably many in the help forum hate this new view as they hate all change.

I do think the header in the new album view is too large. I also think that Flickr should only choose photos to enlarge that are high res originals and that fit the crop format of their large view. Small sized photos or mobile photos don’t look as good as DSLR photos when blown up huge. Also having a bad crop on a large view, really makes that view look bad.

In other news around Flickr’s new release, Bernardo Hernandez, who was managing Flickr resigned shortly after the new launch. I like Bernardo a lot and think that he was a very good leader for Flickr. After so many years in the wilderness with really ineffective management, I think Bernardo (and Markus Spiering before him) did a really good job promoting positive change at Flickr. I hope that whoever ends up replacing him is as strong and committed to the potential for what Flickr can become. After leaving Flickr, Bernardo did tweet that Flickr would be offering up support for RAW photos, this was the first time I’d seen this mentioned anywhere online and think that RAW support would be a huge positive for Flickr — especially given that Google is supposedly coming out with something new in the photo sharing space potentially as soon as the end of this month.

It’s been refreshing watching how serious a contender Flickr has become in the photo sharing world since Marissa Mayer took the helm at Yahoo. Along with Bernardo and Markus, she and everyone working on the Flickr team deserve a ton of credit for orchestrating such a remarkable turnaround over the course of the last several years. Flickr continues to get better and better and really is turning into something much better than I ever would have thought 4 years ago. I still can’t believe that I’ve been on Flickr over 10 years now and am definitely looking forward to the next 10.

Consistency in Design

I’m a big fan of the new Flickr. Despite a few bumps along the way, like last weekend’s uploading fiasco, it feels like a new fresher Flickr and I think the fact that people can download their photos now in bulk will be a wonderful way to attract new talent to the site.

There are two little things that bug me about Flickr right now though. They are unimportant in the big picture of things, but the compulsive side of me tends to focus on the little things sometimes.

Artifacts

The first is the artifacting that takes place around icon that tells you if a photo is favorited or not or commented on not when you hover. Something just doesn’t seem right to me about this. It’s not a big deal for sure, but I wonder if Steve Jobs would let something like this fly? There appears to be two little dots around the star and the comment bubble seems cut off for me. I wonder if there is a way that this can be fixed?

Flickr Favorite
On most of Flickr a full white star means a photo has been favorited.

Flickr Non Favorite
On most of Flickr an empty white star means a photo has *not* been favorited.

Flickr Favorite 2
On the “photos from your contacts” page a colored pink star means a photo has been favorited.

Flickr Non Favorite 2
On the “photos from your contacts” page a full white star means your photo has *not* been favorited.

The second problem is a more serious one and something I’m sure will be addressed when Flickr rolls out their new page build to the “photos from your contacts” page — here the problem has to do with consistency in design.

On most places when you favorite a photo on Flickr it turns an empty star into a full white filled star — but on the photos from your contacts page, it’s confusing. On the photos from your contacts page a full white star actually means the opposite, that a photo is *not* favorited, here the signal for a favorited photo is a colored pink star.

As your eyes learn Flickr you become accustomed to seeing an empty or full white star to signal to you if it’s favorited or not, but when you go to this one page on Flickr and see a full white star it means the opposite.

As Flickr rolls out their new page design to other areas of this site I’m sure that this inconsistency will be fixed.

I’ve got a more serious problem with the “photos from your contacts page” that only affects some accounts at Flickr, and that is that the page is jumpy and unstable when I browse it. This is not a universal problem though and one that is only affecting some accounts (unfortunately mine is one) at the present time.

These are first world problems for sure. With each new build Flickr gets better and better, and the team should be commended for doing such a great job these days.

Flickr Users Unable to Upload Photos All Weekend Long While Flickr Staffers Take the Weekend Off

Flickr Weekend Upload Problems

Usually I publish photographs to Flickr twice a day, in the morning and in the evening — random batch of 16 photos in the a.m. and in the p.m. This morning I cannot upload a single photo. For the entire weekend I have not been able to batch upload to Flickr at all and have resorted to uploading photos one by one by one with consistent upload failure with each new attempt.

If this were happening at Facebook, it would be the top story on Techmeme — but because it’s just Yahoo and Flickr, it doesn’t get that sort of attention.

It’s not just me that this is happening to. The Flickr Help Forum has been littered with threads all weekend long where users are angry about not being able to upload photos to the site.

Failed to Upload

Cannot Upload Any Photos!
Video upload problems
Consistent upload failures and disconnect errors
Very slow upload speed
Uploadr gives error when attempting to Sign in
UPLOAD Servers speed DOWN to 3 %(max)
Can’t Upload Photos with Mac Yosemite
Upload Problems
Uploading not possible at 2/3 it stops
[BUG] Upload speed
Can’t upload

These are all Flickr discussions in their help forum active over the course of the last 3 hours. If you go back further, you will find that for the entire weekend a large chunk of Flickr users have been able to upload images reliably to Flickr.

Files Not Uploading

While being unable to upload photos to a photo sharing site is a problem, to me the bigger problem is that at a company with Yahoo’s resources not a single Flickr staffer seems to be assigned to review their active and public help forum.

While I get that Flickr staffers deserve a weekend off like everyone else, someone at Flickr should be assigned to the company’s very public help forum 24/7. An acknowledgement from staff that they are aware of the problem and working on it goes a long way — but to leave frustrated users twisting in the wind all weekend long just makes a bad situation that much worse.

This uploading problem is a bad technical problem to deal with I’m sure, but basic customer service should be something that Flickr is capable of given the deep resources of Yahoo behind them. Flickr/Yahoo can and should do better.

The only thing that in any way resembles any source of staff involvement comes from one of the help forum threads where a Flickr staffer who goes by the name “Alex” reportedly claims in response to a service inquiry that everything is fine on his end and that he’s able to upload 100 photos in under 5 seconds.

Even when Flickr was at it’s peak, you cannot upload 100 photos in under 5 seconds. No service on the internet would do such a feat, not Google, not Facebook, nor any other site. The fact that this is allowed to stand as the closest thing to staff response is unfortunate.

Flickr just rolled out a wonderful new version of Flickr this past week. Especially the weekend after a major new effort such as this, Flickr/Yahoo should be watching things closer and be much more responsive to their users. Hopefully Flickr doesn’t now let an entire Monday go by without acknowledging such a disruption to their service.

Update #1: Shortly after 8am this morning, Flickr staffer Wilson Lam acknowledged the problems at Flickr with uploading.

Update #2: Flickr Community Manager Matthew Almon Roth opened up a new thread apologizing for the upload issues over the weekend. According to Roth, “the sources of the issues are varied, but they have to do with a massive increase in uploads with the new Mac and Windows Uploadrs and Auto-upload in the mobile apps.

“We’ve seen consecutive days of new upload records for Flickr, smashing previous maximum upload days, and we’ve been working around the clock to make sure our infrastructure keeps up with demand. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused many of you and we hope to have all issues resolved as soon as possible,” wrote Roth.

Update #3: I was just able to upload a batch of 16 photos without any issue. It looks like progress is being made with regards to this frustrating problem.

Today’s New Version of Flickr Implements Bulk Downloading of Your Photos — Your Photos Really Do Belong to You

Flickr Rolls Out New Search, Camera Roll and Batch Download Improvements

Today Flickr is launching a number of new improvements to their service. I’ll review what they are in this post, but in my mind the most significant change coming today is that Flickr is introducing the ability for you to bulk download your photos from their site.

I’ve been critical of Flickr in the past over the inability to easily get your photos back out of the service. While not a silo, Flickr’s never made it exactly easy to get your photos back after you upload them.

You’ve always been able to download your photos on a photo by photo basis, but for someone with a ton of photos, downloading each and every one individually isn’t very practical or user friendly. For a while Flickr had partnered up with a company called Qoop (now out of business) that would bulk load your photos to CDs or DVDs and sell them back to you, but that never sat right with me either — why should you have to pay to get your own photos back? Also for someone like me with over 100,000 photos on the site, how many CDs would that take and how much would *that* cost?

Several third party developers had developed apps that claimed to be able to use the Flickr API to bulk download your photos for you. I tried many of these apps with names like bulkr and migratr and flickrsync over the years and never found any of them very reliable or easy to use.

All that changes today though as Flickr rolls out official support for batch downloading your photos from Flickr.

Now you can fill up that free 1 terabyte (or unlimited terabytes if you’ve got a grandfathered Pro account) with confidence knowing that if you ever want/need those photos back from Flickr you’ll be able to get them back much more easily. As I understand it, there still may be photo limits for how many individual photos you can select in camera roll for a single download for performance reasons, but you can select large batches of photos from the new camera roll and Flickr will convert those photos into a zip file for you and send them right back to you on your computer. The number of photos you can download is unlimited. You can download multiple zip files effectively accessing 100% of your photostream.

Today’s new support for downloading is a very consumer friendly thing for Flickr to do. It is already very generous for Flickr to give people 1 terabyte of free cloud storage for your high res original photos, but now allowing you to get them back as easily as you upload them there makes this even more generous. Kudos to Flickr.

This new download support is part of a new section on Flickr called “Camera Roll.” Camera Roll has been in beta testing for several months now, but this downloading feature is newly available today.

In addition to download support, Flickr also now allows you to easily grab a batch of photos from your camera roll and share them as sort of an album on the fly via url. This can be helpful if you have a batch of recent or specific photos that you want to email to one person, or share on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere — with this new feature you just select them in camera roll and create a shareable url. Even if you have photos marked private you can share them with others with these special url links — sort of like a shareable guest pass but much easier to generate on the go.

Flickr is also going deeper now with deep machine learning with Camera Roll. In addition to viewing your photos by date taken or posted, Flickr is now adding in a New Magic View, where Flickr will auto tag many of your photos and build them into commonly grouped albums. You can see all of your sunset photos in one place, or all of your group photo shots in one place, or all of your photos of automobiles, etc.

Some of you who go wayyy back with Flickr, might remember the old Tag Cow company which would do similar tagging for you of your photos. In Tag Cow’s case though they were actually using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and hiring people in places like India and China to manually review and tag your photos for pennies.

Magic View is no Tag Cow though. Instead Flickr is actually using image recognition technology (remember this acquisition?) and algorithms to determine what your photos are of and then auto-tagging them based on this technology. If Flickr gets a tag wrong you will always be able to manually remove the automated tag. The tags that you add will be in a different shade than the auto-tags making it easy to see which ones you added and which ones Flickr added based on this technology.

One of the benefits of having more/better tagged photos on Flickr is that it will allow more public photos to be findable and searchable. This public/private distinction is important because private photos on Flickr are never searchable, except to you.

Which brings me to search.

I am a HUGE fan of the new Flickr search experience. I’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of hours using the search functionality of Flickr. I routinely use Flickr search to scout photo locations, find people shooting in a particular area, stay on top of events happening around the San Francisco Bay Area, and tons of other ways. The new search page is clean and fast. In addition to date posted, interestingness and relevancy you can also now search Flickr photos by date taken.

Flickr’s done an entire rebuild of the back end of the search page to make it super fast and responsive — they will also be porting this new rebuilt page technology to other pages in the weeks and months ahead to improve performance on many other popular Flickr pages.

Although I consider myself a fairly advanced search technician when it comes to Flickr, for many who are not as sophisticated, basic text searches will be smarter. In the past if you wanted to search for the London Eye you’d have to search for “London Eye” with quotes, or merge the two words together as londoneye. With the new search if you type London Eye just as plain text, Flickr is smarter and will realize that you want to see photos of the London Eye not random photos of London mixed in with random photos of eyeballs.

Flickr has also introduced some slick filters which will allow you to filter by colors (or black and white), photo styles such as depth of field photos or minimalistic photos or heavily patterned photos. Unfortunately there still is no filter to only show me photos without those pesky and ugly signatures and watermarks though. 😉

In addition to Camera Roll and improved search, Flickr is also updating their mobile apps for iOS and Android, to provide a more consistent experience. My iOS experience on Flickr has not been good the past few months. Recent activity for me has become completely jumbled and unusable, which is more of a power user problem I think than anything. I’m hoping that the refresh fixes this bug for me — maybe not though. I do like to use the mobile version when I have a few minutes for looking at and favoriting photos of my contacts and it will be interesting to see what this is like once I upgrade.

The changes Flickr is rolling out today continue to make Flickr better and better — a trend that’s continued over the past several years as Flickr has ramped up staff and built a better and stronger team.

No other company today will give you a free terabyte of photo storage for your high res photos.

It always boggles my mind that people actually pay for storage of their photos on things like iCloud, when they could just send everything to Flickr for free. Especially now that you can get your photos back so easily, there really is no reason why everyone in the world should not use Flickr as a free cloud backup storage for all of their photos. Even if you don’t want to mix up every photo on your hard drive or phone with your current carefully curated Flickr presentation, you can just set up a second account and call it backup to Flickr and have a free backup site for your photos.

Are you one of those people who are constantly running out of space on your phone because of all of your photos? Then why aren’t you using Flickr?

More from The Verge, Wired, TechCrunch.

‘Tis the Season for Flickr Wall Art

Tis the Season for Flickr Wall Art

Look what showed up in the mail yesterday: a beautiful 16 x 20 premium photo mounted from Flickr’s new Wall Art service.

The photo is mounted on a one inch board and looks beautiful both on the wall as well as being held my daughter Kate, whose photo I printed.

The process of ordering the print was super easy and I was able to order it directly from the Flickr photo page.

In addition to ordering your own photos as wall art, there is also a huge library of wall art photos that you can purchase from other photographers on Flickr. Flickr recently revised this fine art program and now shares sales proceeds with all photographers involved in their wall art project.

What a wonderful way for Flickr to partner with their photographers who make the site a more beautiful place.

The Controversy Around Flickr Selling Creative Commons Licensed Photos

Douglas MacMillan has an article out in the Wall Street Journal today about the controversy surrounding Flickr selling prints of Creative Commons photos and not paying contributors for these images. It should be stressed that Flickr is only doing this on Creative Commons licensed photos where free commercial use is permitted by the license. If you license your photos Creative Commons Non-Commercial, this does not include you.

In the article he quotes Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield: “Yahoo’s plan to sell the images appears “a little shortsighted,” said Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, who left the company in 2008. “It’s hard to imagine the revenue from selling the prints will cover the cost of lost goodwill.”

In addition to the Creative Commons photos that Flickr is selling and not paying photographers for use (legally), they are also handpicking other photos for this sales effort and here they are offering photographers 51% of the revenue on sales of these images who have agreed to participate.

My two cents:

I think it’s important that each photographer fully understand how the license that they are using with their photos online works. It is first and foremost the photographer’s responsibility to understand licensing. Creative Commons is a wonderful and liberal way to share your photos. It’s not for everyone though. You choose how your photos are licensed on Flickr though. By default Flickr licenses images “all rights reserved,” the most restrictive license available. So only photographers who have gone in and changed their license to a more liberal license would be affected by this.

I license my images Creative Commons Non-Commercial. This is one of several variations of the Creative Commons license. This means that people can use my images for personal use or non-profit organizations can use them, but folks like Yahoo/Flickr and others can’t sell them commercially without my permission.

If you are going to license your photos Creative Commons with no restriction, then you ought to be prepared for this type of use. If it’s not Flickr selling them, anyone else can, legally. If you are uncomfortable with this idea, then you should not use Creative Commons without any sort of restriction. If you like the idea of Creative Commons but are uncomfortable with commercial use without being compensated, then consider changing your license to Creative Commons Non-Commercial like I license mine.

I think a lot of people though don’t consider the full implications of the license that they choose and like Stewart I wonder if the revenue is worth potential lost goodwill in this case. Some people will inevitably be put off when they see that the community (and Flickr is as much a community as a company) that is hosting their photos for them is now selling them without sharing the profit or asking for permission. Reminding people to read the fine print of their photo license that they chose without really considering it thoughtfully might not be the best answer to that complaint. People on Flickr LOVE to complain about anything and everything.

I think Flickr does have to figure out how to pay for a free terabyte of storage for every user and maybe this is one way to do that.

I haven’t been asked to participate in the online print marketplace, but if I was and was offered a 51% payout, I’d probably say yes. Anything 50% or better feels pretty fair to me. I create the image, but Flickr is driving the traffic to it for sale and handling fulfillment, etc. If I were to have a physical gallery sell my works, I’d probably be looking for a similar cut.

The idea of selling Creative Commons images and getting to keep all of the money is interesting to Yahoo I’m sure, but maybe Flickr would be better off instead focusing on more of a total revenue share model for the entire effort and treating CC images like they treat CCNC and all rights reserved images. I bet people who license their work CC would be pleased if their images too were handpicked for inclusion and they got paid for use. Even if it were a small amount, it would be a positive affirmation to them about their photography and that would feel good.

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.

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. :)