Archive for the ‘Flickr’ Category

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. :)

Why Blocking is Important for a Social Network

Why Blocking is Important for a Social Network

Earlier today Twitter reversed their decision to change how user blocks are handled after a backlash reaction on their network.

From the Twitter blog:

“Earlier today, we made a change to the way the “block” function of Twitter works. We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users – we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe. Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect.”

In a way, the current block at Twitter is sort of ineffective. If I block someone, the only thing it really does is prevent them from seeing my tweets when they are logged in (which also serves as notification to them that I’ve blocked them). They can still open up an unlogged-in version of Twitter (as easy as cmd-shift-N in Chrome, or cmd-shift-P in Firefox) and see everything I’ve tweeted publicly. Still, Twitter’s reversal shows that users really do care about blocking functionality and want more control and powerful blocking tools, not less.

I would argue that there are three key benefits that come from strong blocking tools on a social network.

1. Users feel empowered when they are more forcefully able to deal with harassment on a network. If someone is saying something offensive, why shouldn’t I personally be able to take control over that situation? If someone is making me uncomfortable, why shouldn’t I be empowered to deal with that for my own personal experience?

2. More effective blocking tools encourage more civil interaction. The thing that most trolls, haters, griefers, offensive jerks, etc. want on a social network is attention. By making it super easy to mute them or diminish them (especially by an intended target) it provides a disincentive for anti-social behavior in general.

3. Empowering users with blocking tools provides immediate relief for a user. Since oftentimes harassment is happening in real time, this can be more effective than waiting for customer service / community management reps at a social network to respond to reports of community violations. It is frustrating for a user to have to suffer even an additional 12 hours of harassment while a complaint works its way through to a community manager.

As far as best practices go, I’d hold up Google+ and Facebook as the networks that provide users the best blocking protection on the internet today.

Like Twitter, on Google+ and Facebook when you block someone they cannot see your public posts.

Google+ and Facebook take it one important step further though. Not only do they prevent someone you’ve blocked from seeing your public posts, they *also* filter the blocked user entirely out of your G+ or Facebook experience.

On G+ and Facebook when you block someone they become completely invisible to you everywhere on the network. It’s like they no longer exist in your social utopia.

That second block function is even more important than the first.

Flickr by contrast has some of the weakest blocking tools on the internet. When you block someone on Flickr, all it does is prevent them from private messaging you or commenting/faving your photos. Because of Flickr’s weak blocking tools, I’ve seen many of the most active, social accounts on Flickr leave due to harassment. This is bad design.

What makes harassment even worse on Flickr, is that (unlike G+ and Facebook) they allow anonymous troll accounts. So if a Troll1022 is harassing you anonymously on Flickr, and you report them, and three days later that account is deleted, all they need to do is set up Troll1023 and continue with the practice. Flickr’s weak blocking function allows virtually unlimited harassment on their network by anonymous trolls.

Protecting users and providing more control over your experience on a social network is important. It’s your most social and active users who will most likely sooner or latter run into friction. These are the users that any social network should be striving to empower.

I’m glad Twitter reversed their block policy after user reaction, and hope all networks realize how important the block feature is.

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

Why I Don't Support Flickr Black Day

If you notice something different about photos on Flickr today, it might just be “black day.” Over the past week or so, hundreds (maybe thousands) of users who dislike an impending photo page change (and in many cases, redesign changes from earlier this year) have organized and are protesting by posting black protest images to their Flickr accounts today, December 8th.

Here is why I don’t support this protest.

Flickr users have protested quite literally *everything* that has ever been changed to the site. Every change over the past decade or so that Flickr has been around, has been meet by strong resistance. When Flickr added video, when Flickr required Yahoo accounts to sign in, and certainly design changes most of all, all of these and so many more have been met with various protest movements.

The “who moved my cheese” crowd is strong with Flickr.

At the same time, in order to improve and grow Flickr *MUST* change. Flickr must evolve. Flickr must improve.

Whether or not Flickr gets their design changes right or wrong, they simply must move forward and compete with other photo sharing sites today. Hopefully they get it more right than wrong, but I simply can’t support something that’s primary premise is based on not changing for the sake of, well, not changing. That is how things die. As good as Flickr is, it can always improve, and if the site is paralyzed by the “no change” crowd it cannot innovate and grow.

Competition in the photo sharing space is stronger than it ever has been. Flickr, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, SmugMug, Behance, 500px and more are all competing for our photos and our attention. If Flickr is going to survive as a contender in this space, they must produce a more compelling experience than they have in the past.

Many of those currently protesting design changes on Flickr are loud, very loud — and some are some of the rudest, vulgar and offensive people I’ve ever come across online. They way they trashed Marissa Mayer and other Flickr employees’ *personal* photostreams after the last redesign was way over the line.

Even as a large protest group, however, this group most certainly does NOT represent the majority opinion on Flickr. Most (the silent majority) Flickr users couldn’t be bothered to get worked up about anything and quite simply don’t care enough about whatever happens at some photo sharing site to have much of an opinion one way or the other.

For this silent majority, the best tool Flickr has is data. The best thing that they can do is watch how the majority use the site and react to changes based on their online usage patterns and actions. I suspect that recent design changes on Flickr have contributed to more users, more views, and more engagement — despite what a small, but vocal, minority might want you to believe.

Only Flickr has access to this data, but I suspect that they are quite happy with usage results (even just going by my own anecdotal increase in activity that I’ve seen on the site as changes have been rolled out this year).

Now, as far as the new photo page redesign goes, mostly I like it. I say mostly, because even as I’ve used the page (it’s in an optional opt in or out beta form right now), I usually end up turning it off and going back to the old page. It simply is missing too much functionality that I rely on and need to use Flickr at present.

For example, I need to be able to click on the faves button and see who has faved my photo. That is important (and pretty basic) social information that I want access to. At present you cannot do this with the new photo page (but it is planned per Flickr’s feedback page). Assuming Flickr gets all of the basic functionality right in the final product though, I like the design better in general.

I also like the redesign changes that Flickr implemented earlier this year. I think that the justified layout combined with infinite scroll is the fastest, most efficient, way to consume photos on the internet today. Both Google and Facebook use infinite scroll. While some people have claimed that Flickr is slower for them, it is not for me. Images load very quickly on a modern laptop with a broadband internet connection. I also don’t have bandwidth caps on my primary internet connections.

Flickr has never been faster and I’ve been able to see more images on Flickr this year than any year previous due to these efficiency improvements.

I think Flickr needs to change even more in fact — mostly around social. There is still so much that could be improved on Flickr from a social standpoint.

The primary role of a social network should be as a social lubricant. Flickr should be obsessed with social, much more than it feels that they are. How can Flickr create even more social interaction? How can Flickr turn online social interaction into offline social interaction? How can Flickr make it easier and easier to favorite and comment on photos? How can Flickr show me more photos that I like (and will interact with socially) and less photos that I do not like?

These are the questions Flickr should be asking as they innovate and improve, and, yes, change.

Why does Explore still exist as it does? It’s so broken. Why are power users blacklisted from Explore? Shouldn’t Flickr care about their power users?

Explore is boring to me because it is not customized to me. Flickr has so much data about me. Why aren’t they analyzing my data to provide me a better photo exploration tool? Flickr knows whose photos I favorite. Flickr knows what tags on photos I favorite (and with image recognition analysis in the future, even more).

Flickr knows the geolocational location of photos that I favorite. Why is Flickr wasting valuable Explore real estate by showing me photos with watermarks when I hate watermarks? Why is Flickr showing me images of overcooked HDR? Explore has so much potential to truly provide a compelling image discovery system and yet it still falls flat.

I hope more change is coming to Flickr, not less. 2013 was the most innovative year of Flickr since Yahoo purchased them. Hopefully 2014 will be every bit as good.

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