Archive for the ‘Flickr’ Category

Thanks to Flickr for Featuring Me and My Photography on the Flickr Blog

Thanks so much to Yahoo and Flickr for featuring me and my photography today on the Flickr blog and the Weekly Flickr. I joined Flickr back the year that they started in 2004 and publish photos there every single day. It’s been a wonderful place to build my library and archive and publish my photography. I thought they did a really nice professional job with this video. Thanks!

Did Instagram Lose 25% of Their Users Over Their TOU Debacle?

The NY Post is out with a somewhat sensationalistic article this morning suggesting that based on data by AppData that Instagram MAY (emphasis on MAY) have lost 25% of their users based on last week’s TOU debacle. From the Post:

“[We are] pretty sure the decline in Instagram users was due to the terms of service announcement” on Dec. 17, AppData told The Post.

Instagram, which peaked at 16.4 million active daily users the week it rolled out its policy change, had fallen to 12.4 million as of yesterday, according to the data.”

The NY Post of course has a certain reputation when it comes to journalism (remember the photo of the guy about to be hit by the subway train?).

Staci Kramer, whose journalistic reputation is stellar, pointed me to another article on the subject written by Zach Seward suggesting that the Post story was “bogus.”

Seward does a bit of analysis on the Post’s piece and suggests that it’s flawed for a number of reasons. The first reason is that the data is based on a subset of the users not the entire user base. This is of course the first way to attack any sort of statistical data. It’s why we have the famous margin of error. I don’t know how big a subset of Instagram users this data represents, but in general if you have a large enough subset, you should get a reasonably representative view of things.

Is the Instagram data flawed for this reason? Who knows.

I find Seward’s second claim more questionable though. Seward seems to be suggesting that the reason for the decline in activity has less to do with the Instagram TOU debacle and more to do with something much more obvious, Christmas.

From Seward: “But more to the point, the drop in active daily users of Instagram’s application on Facebook occurred between Dec. 23 and Dec. 25, according to AppData. (Look for yourself!) Instagram released its new terms of use on Dec. 17, igniting controversy almost immediately, but AppData doesn’t show any significant decline in usage until Christmas.”

So this little bit got me thinking. Historically speaking the holidays are a very strong time for photo sharing sites. It makes sense. People take a ton of photos of family during these times and like to share these photos. Just last month, for example, Instagram was crowing about how great a Thanksgiving Holiday they had had. They had a blog post especially dedicated to the “record usage” on Thanksgiving.

Is Christmas really a time when people slow down on photo sharing, as Seward might suggest? Do we like to share photos of our turkeys and stuffing but not our Christmas trees and stockings? Do people share fewer photos on Christmas than Thanksgiving?

Flickr of course is seen by many as a natural beneficiary of Instagram’s TOU debacle. Anecdotally I’ve been seeing more and more and more of these sorts of posts. So I wonder when people posted more photos on Flickr — Thanksgiving or Christmas?

My analysis is fairly crude, and I’m not at all calling it scientific, but you can get a rough idea of the number or photos posted on Flickr during a time frame by looking at the unique number that Flickr affixes to every new photo uploaded.

I post pretty much every single morning on Flickr, so let’s look at my stream for an example.

The very first photo I posted on Thanksgiving morning this year was this one. I posted it at 6:12 a.m. This photo represents the 8,208,796,934th photo posted to Flickr. Almost 24 hours later when I posted my first photo the day after Thanksgiving at 5:43 a.m. it was given the number 8,210,250,875.

This means that in the (almost) 24 hour span between early Thanksgiving on the West Coast and the day after there were about 1,453,941 photos posted to Flickr.

Now, how many photos were posted to Flickr during the similar time frame on Christmas?

I published my very first photo to Flickr on Christmas morning at 5:55 a.m. It was given upload number 8,306,197,725. A little over 24 hours later on the day after Christmas at 6:02 a.m. I uploaded photo number 8,309,811,751 at 6:02 a.m.

So between these two time periods there were 3,614,026 photos uploaded to Flickr.

Roughly speaking there were over twice as many photos posted on Flickr over Christmas than over Thanksgiving. Even if you average out the exact number of minutes between the two days (my time between posts on Christmas had an extra 36 minutes between posts) the Flickr data would still seem to hold up.

While people may share photos differently on Instagram than they do on Flickr, both are basically photo sharing sites where you share photos of your friends, family, holidays, etc.

I find Seward’s suggestion that Christmas is possibly the real reason for Instagram’s usage decline to be dubious in light of this Flickr data.

Why would people upload 2x as many photos on Flickr at Christmas over Thanksgiving but not on Instagram? One answer of course could be Flickr’s awesome new mobile app. Of course this new mobile app would seem to be aimed most directly at Instagram users leading me to believe that Instagram probably has actually lost ground between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

How much of this is attributed to the TOU debacle and how much of this is attributed to the new Flickr app I don’t know, but I certainly don’t think “Christmas” is a very good reason for why the Post’s data is flawed, or worse, “bogus” as Seward would suggest.

Flickr also recently gave every user 3 months of free Pro service — they certainly seem to be taking advantage of Instagram’s misstep here.

So where did those 25% of Instagram users go who MAY have left the service POSSIBLY over the TOU issue? Well, MAYBE at least SOME of them went to Flickr.

Apparently Instagram denied the 25% number to Gizmodo but didn’t really clarify much beyond that.”

‘”This data is inaccurate,” an Instagram spokesperson told us. “We continue to see strong and steady growth in both registered and active users of Instagram.”‘

Joy to the World, Flickr Offers 3 Months of Pro for FREE!

Joy to the World, Flickr Offers 3 Months of Pro for FREE!

I saw an unusual notification on my Flickrstream this morning — you probably did too. It seems that Flickr just offered to extend to every account on Flickr (and new accounts too) three months of free Pro service. Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!

Thank you Flickr!

This is an absolutely brilliant move on Flickr’s part, for many reasons.

First, the timing of this offer could not be better. After last week’s Instagram fiasco, Flickr signed up a lot of new accounts. Now these new accounts get to have the cleanest advertising free Flickr experience possible during those formative first three months.

Folks will like the paid service more than the free version and after three months they’ll be more invested in the site than after two days, and potentially will be more likely to keep paying. Flickr is also signing up more new accounts due to their fantastic new mobile app.

Second, Flickr limits Pro accounts to 200 visible photos. More active users will post more than 200 photos there in the next three months. After their Pro term is up, they will want to see their photos that will then disappear (or the critic might say “held hostage”), the only way to do that will be to reup and pay for more Pro service.

If people are not paying attention to the 200 photo limit, they will be more likely to reup when they have 300 photos uploaded than if they have 200 uploaded and all of a sudden notice that photo number 201 is not showing up. Most people will just quickly accept the offer rather than carefully consider the differences between free and Pro accounts and Flickr will end up with more Pro accounts three months from now than they would have had without the offer. Some will stick.

Third, the Holidays are an especially important time to be out there recruiting new accounts. People share a lot of family photos during the Holidays and Flickr is striking while the iron is hot here at just the right time. BTW, those important family Christmas photos will be some of the first to disappear for new Flickr accounts three months from now. 😉

Fourth, activity begets activity. You will be more likely to use a Pro Flickr account than a free Flickr account. Already Flickr is seeing a big influx of new relationships because of their new find friend features with Twitter and Facebook.

If you haven’t logged into your Flickr account in a while, log in now and look at your recent activity. What you’ll notice is a lot more people have been adding you as a contact. You’ll also notice that a lot of the familiar names are people that are connected to you on Twitter and Facebook. That’s because your friends are using the new Flickr iOS mobile feature that allows you to add your Facebook and Twitter friends to Flickr. More people will be hoping on Flickr to claim their free Pro upgrade and notice all the new activity and be more likely to engage.

BTW PRO TIP: If you are an Android user, you don’t need the iOS app to add your Facebook friends. You can do that on the web here.

Now, the free gift doesn’t come without just a tiny bit of controversy though. Although Flickr in NO WAY changed their Terms of Use or their Community Guidelines (this is important and smart after the Instagram debacle), they DID, for the first time that I’m aware of, put users on warning that unlimited at Flickr really does not in fact truly mean unlimited. All of us seasoned and cynical internet geeks knew this anyways, but I’ve never seen Flickr say it before. Tacked on to today’s free gift is the following bit:

“Note: To avoid abuse of our unlimited storage, we do monitor accounts for excessive usage. Yahoo! limits the number and size of photos allowed from an account within a given timeframe. While our goal is to ensure that everyone benefits from unlimited storage, Flickr is not intended to be used as a content distribution network.”

Aha! Say what? Wait, a minute, what’s this all about?

Users have already raised this issue with Flickr in their help forum and so far there is no definitive answer as to what exactly constitutes this sort of abuse. I doubt you’ll see one either.

Flickr’s deal with us in the past has always been that Pro accounts get an unlimited number of photos to upload. For someone like me who is planning on publishing one million photos to the web during my lifetime, this has always been a huge benefit in using Flickr over other services. To publish the same amount of photos I’ve already published to Flickr at Google’s Picasa, it would cost me hundreds of dollars a year. I am clearly taking advantage of the whole unlimited storage thing at Flickr with over 77,000 high res photos up there currently. At $24.95/year for me, this is a HUGE bargain.

It’s fine that I’m doing this by the way, and all in, even though it probably costs Flickr more to store my photos than I pay in subscription fees, my photos make up for it in other ways (by driving more users to Flickr as a community member, through my participation in the program with Getty, etc.). I’m probably still actually a profitable account to Flickr all things considered.

Personally speaking, I feel 99.9% confident that even uploading a million photos to Flickr during my lifetime I will not run afoul of this new notice. That’s because I’m doing the sort of thing on the site that is good for Flickr. I’m a good community member. Although I’m very prolific and using Flickr in an extreme way, I’m basically using it for what it is meant for, to share my photos with my friends and the world.

If I was truly doing something abusive (like uploading a million private high res copies of the exact same black square 24 hours a day and just chewing up bandwidth and storage for no apparent reason) I’d probably be shut down.

So for the 99.9% of you out there who read that notice and worry a little bit, don’t. You are not who Flickr is concerned with here. Besides, you can always say, why is Thomas Hawk allowed to upload so many photos if I can’t. 😉 Unlimited really does mean practically unlimited for almost every conceivable authentic use case for Flickr.

By the way, even without this sort of “excessive use” disclaimer from Flickr today, Flickr always could have deleted your account for excessive use in the past anyways. Flickr’s Community Guidelines are wide enough to drive a Mack truck through. You can have your account deleted on Flickr simply for being “that guy.” So Flickr always has had the right to delete your account for essentially any reason that they feel like.

Anyways, thanks to Flickr for three extra months of Pro — a good marketing effort at just the right time. Flickr has really been firing on all cylinders lately and this is great to see. Now just give me that new Android app for New Year’s Day and justified photos in sets and search as a token of love on Valentine’s Day. Oh and better blocking tools and the ability to mute threads would be cool for Lincoln and Washington’s birthday! 😉

Why the Instagram Debacle Just Taught Every Tech Company to Take Your Photos More Seriously

Why the Instagram Debacle Just Taught Every Tech Company to Take Your Photos More Seriously

“Whatever kind of victory all those protests achieved, it wasn’t one for consumer rights — if anything, Instagram is the real winner here. The company just managed to score a round of positive press for retracting an unpopular change and give itself the ability to actually use photos in ads.” — Nilay Patel, The Verge

Over at the Verge Nilay Patel makes a case that the backlash earlier this week against Instagram’s unpopular TOS update was actually a loss for consumers, not a gain. He argues that Instagram’s current TOS is broader than their more explicit proposed one and so consumers are worse off, not better off. This is because Instagram technically still holds the rights to sell your photos under their current TOS, and even more broadly — the consumer backlash was misguided and really did more harm than good.

I disagree with Nilay and actually feel that this week’s backlash was one of the more significant movements yet for photo sharing on the web.

It’s not that Facebook (whose TOS is equally broad) and Instagram couldn’t legally sell your photos on the web under their broad TOS in the past or in the future, it’s that *politically* it is now far more difficult for them to begin selling your photos out from under you on the web using their broader TOS.

Who cares what the TOS says — the message that Facebook got loud and clear this week is not to f*** with our photos. Our photos are important. We care about them. They are much more personal than Facebook may have previously considered. They have emotional importance and significance and collectively users will rise up and bash you in the face if you try to exercise terms of your TOS that your lawyers have written to allow you to screw around with our photos.

Whatever your future monetization strategies might be, they will not be based on a loss of control over OUR creative efforts — even our duckface creative efforts.

No, there is no question about it. Instagram lost this week, and they lost big. This is in no way a positive for Instagram. People trust them less now and they had to turn around and eat crow — they gained nothing.

Flickr won big at Instagram’s expense and Google+ won a little. Flickr won more, because like Instagram, their site is 100% about photography. They also just released a pretty awesome new iPhone app that is, in fact, even slickr than what Instagram currently offers.

Flickr also went out of their way last year to really drive home the ownership rights of your photos. This old forgotten post was revived with new life as a stark contrast to what it felt like Instagram was trying to pull. Kevin Systrom eventually even had to parrot back some of that “yes, we know your photos are your photos” stuff in his awkward non-apology apology.

Dan Lyons wrote a post that talked about Google+ winning some here too. Google+ smartly has a provision in their TOS that specifically limits their rights to your photos to basic operational use. Google+ is probably the most active community of photographers on the web today and are a natural beneficiary from what Lyons’ refers to as “Facebook Greedheads.”

The biggest winner of all though was you, the photographer. Whatever Instagram’s original intention was with the new language in their TOS, it backfired on them. The idea that they could/would profit off your emotionally significant photos without your consent, authorization or, most important, sharing the dough hit a nerve with photographers and likely won’t be tried again by anyone for a long time.

The thing is, this didn’t have to be such a painful learning experience for Instagram. There was/is, in fact, a HUGE opportunity for some smart social network to make a ton of money off of your photos. Instagram just went about it wrong.

As much as Flickr’s deal with Getty sucks (photographers get a miserly 20% payout) photographers on Flickr still went bonkers for it when Flickr released it. The idea that you could actually get PAID to post your photos on a social network, paid ANYTHING, had most users on Flickr clamoring to get into the program, not out of the site.

Even though Flickr/Getty’s call for artists group is now closed (due to overwhelming demand) almost 90,000 photographers joined this group hoping to get selected by Getty for the right to sell their photos for the paltry 20% payout.

The difference with Flickr’s deal though is that 1. you CHOOSE to opt in and 2. at least you get paid something.

What if, instead of Instagram saying, “hey, we might sell your photos without your consent and pay you NOTHING,” they said, “hey, do you want to sell your Instagram photos and, if we sell them for you, split the money 50/50”? Instead of losing accounts and becoming the scourge of the internet for three days, they would have had photographers rushing to sign up and begin marketing their images on Instagram.

Although there are sites out there like 500px and SmugMug that let you sell your photos now, Flickr is the only larger social network that has a selling program. Google+, Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter all have a major opportunity to become the first large social network to allow us to license our images through their service and share in the revenue with them. This is a multi-BILLION dollar industry dominated at present by Getty who is not paying creatives enough for their work. What the internet does best is get rid of middlemen when they are being unreasonable, and an 80/20 split with photographers is unreasonable.

Instead of stealing our work and paying us zero, how about using your significant reach in reputation, marketing and search to partner with us and empower us to sell our work together. I guarantee you that whoever comes up with the best program first will have some of the best photography on the web flooding their network. Even if 99% of us never sell a single photo, simply giving us the feeling that we have the *opportunity* to sell a photo would be a powerful incentive to get us active and humming on your network.

Photographers Upset By Instagram’s Change in Terms of Service

Update: Instagram just posted a blog post clarifying their intentions with their new TOS. More specifically it sounds as if they are going to be changing the wording on the controversial portion of their new TOS and strengthening your ownership rights over your photos. Seems like all the backlash was enough to make them back pedal on this one.

From Kevin Systrom:

“The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.

Ownership Rights Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.”

Earlier today Instagram announced that they are changing their Terms of Service effective January 13th 2013.

The most controversial part of the change is outlined below:

“To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Now I have no idea if Instagram actually plans on selling/licensing your photos or not — sometimes the lawyers get a hold of things like this and push the envelope too far with a TOS — but this change seems to go further to me than the typical giving up of rights to your photos for typical social media display purposes.

Facebook’s TOS by contrast reads:

“For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

While this appears functionally similar to Instagram’s, Facebook doesn’t actually mention so specifically the idea of selling your content and you getting zero compensation.

Google+’s TOS tends to provide photographers greater protection with a provision that your content there can be used for the “limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our services, and to develop new ones.” Nothing about selling off your photos to third parties there, folks.

“When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.”

Flickr takes it even one step further actually dedicating a specific blog post to this issue last year titled “At Flickr Your Photos are Always Yours.

This change today has upset a lot of photographers and content creators. The New York Times takes apart the new TOS here. Blogger Robert Wagner puts his view more succinctly in a blog post titled Goodbye Instagram and f*** you.

Personally speaking, I trust that Google will not sell my photos out from underneath me. I think their TOS is pretty clear about their limited scope of use. I applaud Flickr for taking it one step further with a blog post spelling out that you always own your photos on Flickr. Interestingly enough, even before this announcement I saw my first “I’m leaving you Instagram for Flickr” post this past weekend.

Wired has a post that shows you how to take your photos off of Instagram and delete your account.

Gizmodo seems to take a different view of this situation, calling folks concerned with today’s announcement whiny little babies.

What are your thoughts? Will you continue to use Instagram? Are photographers overreacting here?

My own view is that I think Instagram is pushing it a little too far with this one. I think I’d rather pay them a subscription fee like I pay Flickr than have them out there selling my photos.

Thinking of Starting a Photo Community on the Web? Should You Do It on Flickr or Google+?

Google+ Communities vs Flickr Groups

Google+ launched their new communities last week and I’ve spent a lot of time exploring how they work since launch. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time super active over the past eight years in Flickr groups. Google+ communities are a lot like Flickr groups, but there are key differences, advantages and disadvantages to both. I thought I’d write a post comparing the two. I’ve long held that Flickr groups represent Yahoo’s best chance for social going forward.

So here’s the smackdown.

1. Thread bumping. Flickr wins. Probably the most significant problem with G+ communities is that they do not bump threads. With Google+’s new communities discussion topics are only shown by most recent post. Unfortunately the most recent post is not always the most interesting/engaging post. What’s more, because threads are not bumped upon a new comment, almost every thread over 24 hours in an active community on Google+ dies. Good conversations should last more than 24 hours. Flickr solves this problem by simply bumping each thread back to the top of the discussion forum anytime someone makes a comment on it. This is a far better way to keep a discussion forum active and engaged.

2. Muting discussions. Google+ wins. One of the problem with Flickr is that there is no way to screen out discussions that you are not interested in. If I don’t care about football, why should I have to see a thread about football in my favorite photography forum. At Google+ the answer is simple. Just go to the thread and choose to “mute this post.”

3. Photo pools. Flickr wins. At G+ you are forced to try to use typical discussion threads to post photos. Flickr, by contrast has a group photo pool that is associated with each group. Although it’s tempting to see photo pools as more of a photography niche feature, I’d argue that every community potentially has photos to share. Even if the photos are not artistic oriented photography, every group of people will potentially want to share photos with each other. Ideally, a group/community should be allowed to have more than one photo pool/album with settings to allow how content can be shared in those pools.

4. Community activity. Google+ wins. Even less than two weeks old, communities on Google+ are far more active than Flickr. Individuals are far more engaged and the rate of velocity around community conversations is much higher at Google+.

I started a new community called Light Box on Google+. It’s based on a voting game similar to voting groups I’d created on Flickr in the past. On Google+ the group already has over 4,000 members in less than a week. At Flickr it would take me months to build a group up that large. The G+ community is already 20x more active than any voting group/game I’ve ever seen on Flickr. When it comes to community velocity there is simply no comparison. Google+ communities are some of the most active I’ve ever seen anywhere on the web.

5. Invite process. Google+ wins. Google allows you to invite participants in circles up to around 195 people max. Sending out one invitation to 195 people is a lot easier than the way that Flickr allows you to invite people. On Flickr you can only invite a single member one by one by one by typing their individual name — wayyyyy too much work.

6. Sticky threads. Flickr wins. One of the thing Flickr allows a group owner/moderator to do is to make certain threads sticky so that they always stay at the top of the discussion threads. This is helpful if you have a group/community FAQ or other material that is important to stay prominent to the membership. At present you cannot make sticky threads at Google+.

7. Adult oriented communities. Flickr wins. Although there are some deep underground private communities on G+ focusing on nudes, G+ by TOS doesn’t allow nudity and this content is subject to being removed. On Flickr, they do allow nudity as long as it is properly flagged as nudity. In Flickr’s case this has resulted in both communities discussing artistic fine art nudes, but also a pretty seedy amateur underground porn network as well. Flickr routinely deletes many of the most offensive adult oriented communities, but if fine art nudes are your thing, you’re probably more likely to find these communities on Flickr than G+.

8. Moderating community membership. Flickr wins. It’s much easier to moderate community members in Flickr groups than in Google+ communities. On G+ you must scroll through an entire list of community members in order to find the person you wish upgrade to moderator or ban from your community — page after page after page after page. With any large community on G+ this is a very cumbersome process. Flickr by contrast has a powerful search tool which allows you to search for a member my name to upgrade or ban them. [UPDATE: yesterday, 12-17-2012, Google released a new feature that allows you to upgrade someone to moderator or ban them from a specific post that they make in the community, this goes a long way towards addressing the previous problem with moderating community membership before.]

9. Blocking members. Google+ wins. It cannot be overstated how important a good blocking tool is to community management. Inevitably some community members will not get along. Especially since Flickr allows obvious anonymous troll accounts to inhabit communities, users need some way to immediately protect themselves against bullying and harassment. Flickr’s community blocking tools are weak and non-existent. By contrast Google+ provides users a powerful blocking tool which turns anyone invisible that you choose to block.

Even more important than this user option is the tone that is set in communities because of it. When you know that you can be blocked by other people you are nicer and more polite. I wrote a post a while back about how Google+ is the nicer community for photographers on the web. Flickr groups are routinely full of trolls, jerks and assholes. Even the ones who are tolerable oftentime pride themselves on abusing other community members with their snide, disparaging comments. They think it’s cool to be “snarky.” On Google+ these people are routinely dismissed and blocked and the overall tone is far more positive.

10. Mobile tools. Google+ wins Earlier this week Flickr rolled out a new version of their iPhone app that has a simple thread reader for Flickr groups. The app is AWESOME by the way. When Google+ rolled out communities last week they did not have support for mobile, but today they added it for both iPhone AND Android. I would suspect that a group thread reader will be coming to a future Android app for Flickr.

11. Group/Community recommendation. Google+ wins. On Flickr I am recommended groups that are years old, super dead and with zero activity in them. These are old groups that some Flickr employee chose to highlight years ago. By contrast on G+ I’m recommended communities that really are personally directed and targeted towards me. These are communities that are thriving and active. I’m guessing that there may be some Google curation of these recommendations, but what I’m seeing feels much more algorithmically based and the algorithm recommending communities on G+ feels super smart and personalized to me.

12. Hangouts. Google+ wins. From time to time you will want to get more involved with the members of your community than just discussion threads. With Google+ you can hold a hangout and do live video/voice interaction with other members through Google’s hangout feature. Flickr doesn’t have anything like this.

13. SEO. Google+ wins. While both Google+ and Flickr offer you private communities with an option to not index the community for the web, both also allow public communities that can be indexed for the web. With any public community you will want to have your community index well in search on the web. Google promotes Google+ posts by the people that you follow — if you are searching for a group on the web, there is a much better chance that you will find groups by your friends on Google+. Already my new Light Box group indexes for the first page search results for Light Box when I search regular Google and am logged in. Personalized search gives your group an advantage for being found on Google by your contacts and friends.

The final verdict? Google+ communities win. In my opinion Google+ communities are far more engaging, active, positive places to hang out than Flickr groups. As much as I enjoyed Flickr groups in the past, I think all of my community time going forward will be happening on Google+ instead. While I’m optimistic that team Flickr can/should create a better group experience for users, it may be too little too late at this point.

While Flickr does have Google+ beat on some important features like thread bumping and photo pools, these features are not enough to make up for the current velocity and dynamic advantage that Google+ communities have. Social photographers have been leaving Flickr groups over the past few years as they’ve been setting up camp at G+. Now G+ gives them the one thing that they missed from Flickr, a solid community experience. I suspect that communities on G+ will only get better and better in the weeks ahead. Google+ tends to release things in beta form, bugs and all, and then iterate very rapidly. I’m confident that some of their limitations today will be improved in the future. Hopefully they even give us thread bumping and photo pools like Flickr. 🙂

The New Flickr iPhone App is Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Mind Blowingly Fantastic

My Photos and the New Splash Screen for the New Flickr iPhone App
My photostream and the new Flickr splash screen for their new iPhone app.

Hot damn. Well Christmas is coming early this year for Flickr iPhone users. This morning Flickr is rolling out a brand spanking new Flickr iPhone app and it is that good — really, really, really, really mind blowingly fantastic good. It not only smokes every other previous mobile version of Flickr it smokes every other mobile photo sharing app on the market today.

I had some time to play around with the app yesterday and it is pretty much does 100% exactly what you’d want a Flickr mobile app to do. It’s nice to finally see a decent Instagram competitor out there.

First the basics. The app takes photos. It has some pretty good simple editing tools powered by Aviary. You can crop photos, straighten photos, increase contrast, stuff like this. You can select different points for focus and exposure when you snap your photo. You can then apply one of about 15 different Instagrammy sort of filters that are all named after animals in the app. This stuff is probably super important to the average minor league user, but is actually pretty boring to me. It’s a solid decent camera app.

Where the app starts to get exciting for me though is the browsing of photos. Here Flickr delivers and delivers big. The best basic view is of your contacts’ most recent photos. As you vertical scroll down the screen it shows the last photos uploaded by all your favorite people that you follow. You can just keep scrolling down the page (infinitely) to see new photos by all your contacts or at any individual contact you can stop and start scrolling horizontally (infinitely) to go through their entire photostream, very, very fast.

Group Discussions and Faving a Contacts' Photo in the New Flickr iPhone App
Browsing group discussions and faving a contacts’ photo in the new Flickr iPhone app.

For newer users who don’t have a lot of contacts yet that might browse through their entire contacts list, new recommended photographers are added so that a user never runs out of contacts’ photos to see. Who and how these individuals are selected and included is Flickr secret sauce, but it should make sure that you never have a shortage of photos to see even if you’re new.

EVEN BETTER. Tap tap = fave. Yep, Instagram gave us the first big fave inflation tool by allowing us to tap tap fave our way through life and Flickr now has adopted that protocol allowing you to tap tap fave photos by all your favorite photographers.

What does this mean? It means that all of a sudden you are going to start noticing a ton more faves on your Flickr photos. Every time your friends have 10 minutes in line at the bakery they are going to be all up in your Flickrstream faving things like crazy. It’s so easy now. Flickr is also now going to begin counting mobile views of your photos as views for your photo stats (previously mobile views were not counted) so expect both the views and faves on your photos to sky rocket.

In addition to viewing your contacts’ most recent photos and going fave bombastic Billy Wilson style you’re also now able to view all kinds of other areas of Flickr in a beautiful mosaic photo layout — your own photostream and sets, group photo pools, other people’s sets, Explore, all have a justified photo layout that just invite you to go tap tap crazy.

Speaking of Flickr groups, with this new app Flickr introduces a really nice basic thread reader that will allow you to stay on top of all of your favorite threads while you’re mobile. The reader is super simple and does exactly what it’s supposed to do, it lets you easily read your threads and respond if you want from mobile. The previous version of Flickr’s mobile app lacked this important feature. Some of Flickr’s biggest power users live in these threads and this is an important improvement because it will help keep people plugged into their Flickr groups more often.

Another nice feature of the new app is that if you want to see any photo you are looking at full screen size you just tilt your iphone sideways and the photo immediately fills up the entire screen. You can then swipe from photo to photo as you scroll your way through whatever stream, set, group, etc. you are in. Flickr also uses a larger higher res version of your photo for this view so you get to see the photo with amazing clarity even if you pinch in to see a section in detail.

Flickr also includes lots of other detail on a photo page that you can access if you want to see it — EXIF data, location data, people tags, etc. Flickr also partnered with Foursquare to give you a list of venues to easily geotag your own photos as you upload them.

Flickr Photos Now Show Larger on Facebook, Before and After
Flickr photos are now full-sized when you share them to Facebook and Twitter — before vs. after.

What about sharing your photos beyond Flickr? Yes! What about sharing your photos beyond Flickr? With the new Flickr app you can now share your Flickr photos to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or by email. Where it gets exciting though is how your photos are shared on these other sites. Beginning today, photos shared from Flickr to Facebook will now be shared full sized just like your Facebook photos are. In the past Flickr photos were given the downsized thumbnail treatment. Now your Flickr photos shared to Facebook will look as gloriously large as your photos shared directly on Facebook. This not only applies for your photos shared from the new app by the way, but from your photos shared via the web as well.

Likewise Flickr has now adopted Twitter’s envelope and your Flickr photos posted to Twitter will be seen full sized as well. What Twitter/Instagram taketh away Twitter/Flickr giveth back.

Sets and Editing Photos With the New Flickr iPhone App
A Flickr set and editing a photo in the new Flickr iPhone app.

The only downside to today’s announcement is that as is usually the case, iPhone users get all the love while us Android fan boys get left out in the cold yet again. Flickr Product Head Markus Spiering did confirm that Flickr is working on future versions of their app for both Android and iPad though and said that Flickr hoped to have feature parity with today’s new iPhone app, but couldn’t confirm what the time frame might be on these future apps. He did emphasize that Flickr and Yahoo both are very committed to mobile going forward.

Flickr is also rolling out a few new enhancements to the web version of Flickr today as well. They’ve redesigned the global navigation and menus so that they are more intuitive and added their new justified photo view that they’ve been rolling out to various areas earlier this year to Explore. Explore is much easier to browse now as one big infinite scroll mosaic to go through each day. Hopefully Flickr’s awesome justified photo mosaic layout will be coming to sets and search next. 🙂

The new Flickr for iPhone app is available to download in Apple App Store this morning. Run, don’t walk and get it NOW! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Stephen Shankland’s review over at CNET here. Review at the Next Web here. A blog post from the Flickr blog here.

Update: Pro Tip. Anil Dash points out that with the new “Find Friends” feature on the app you can find Facebook and Twitter friends’ flickr accounts that you may not know about. Try this feature and you many find a whole bunch of new Flickr contacts to add.

Video on the new Flickr app.

Could On Air Hangouts Be Coming to Flickr?

An interesting article over on TechCrunch about Yahoo buying a company called OnTheAir. The company makes a hangout app similar to Google+’s hangouts that lets people interact via video voice and chat. The OntheAir team is coming to work on mobile at Yahoo under Adam Cahan — the same Adam Cahan who is also the Yahoo exec in charge of Flickr (and who just went public with his own personal Flickr account this weekend — welcome to Flickr Adam!).

Google Hangouts have been one of the killer features for community as far as photographers go on Google+. Many photographers have produced hangout based shows — but more than anything they are a place where photographers who kinda/sorta get to know each other on the web and through commenting on each other’s photos, can get to know each other much better live. Earlier this week I wrote an article about photographers Brian Matiash and Nicole S. Young who actually met on a Google+ Hangout and ended up married.

Google+ Hangouts are powerful tools for community building most of all. There’s something about spending time with someone in video/voice that strengthens the resulting online bonds around a website after the fact. While community has been growing at Google+, community has been slipping at Flickr. The real hardcore community on Flickr mostly takes place in Flickr groups which feel like they are dying. Most groups on Flickr are far less active than they were two years ago.

Flickr would seem to me like an ideal place for Yahoo to build out hangouts. They tried a horrible feature called Photo Session where two people could go into a chat room and doodle on photos while they chatted together last year that they subsequently cancelled, but that feature was nowhere near the experience that a Google Hangout is. It makes me wonder if Yahoo couldn’t seed some of the initial push towards a hangout product through some of the key remaining groups on Flickr to see if they couldn’t get some traction with this product there.

Getting people more connected around a website is a powerful tool to making them stickier more impassioned users. The other thing that video chat does is it causes people to be nicer to each other. One of Flickr’s current problems with their groups is that there are a lot of jerks in them. People in Flickr groups seem to pride themselves on being mean, or snide or snarky. This drives people away. Allowing people in groups to block each other would help a ton with this problem, but getting people to see each other as real human beings through video chat sessions is also helpful. I’m always amazed at how much nicer people are to each other on Flickr once they’ve actually met in real life.

Google+, The Nicer Social Network for Photographers

Are You on Google+ Yet?  If So Please Post a Link to Your Google+ URL Here

For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about online conversations. It feels like I’m constantly in one somewhere on some site.

More and more for me these are happening on Google+. I used to spend almost all of my social time online in Flickr group discussion threads. I stopped visiting Flickr groups for a while due to personal harassment — but you know what, it wasn’t just me who left, the velocity of quality conversations in Flickr groups have gone wayyyy down more broadly speaking in the past year.

This is not just a subjective thing — it’s easily measured ojbectively as well. Flickr Central is one of the oldest/largest/most active groups on Flickr. Over there years (as counted by threads) 11,503 conversations that have gone on there. Some are very successful, some are not.

If you look at Flickr Central today you’ll see that the time stamp for discussions on the first page goes back two weeks. This was not always the case. It used to be that the entire first page of discussions in Flickr Central were from the past 48 hours. Clearly the velocity of conversations in this Flickr group has gone way down. I suspect the same goes for other groups as well. Many of the groups recommended to me as “groups that Flickr has noticed” on the groups page haven’t had conversations in months, in some cases even years.

Meanwhile, over at Google+, in the past year I’ve been involved in some of the best conversations that I ever remember happening anywhere on the web. Interesting conversations about photography and art and meetups and hangouts and all kinds of fun things. it seems like there is always some great conversation somewhere on Google+ to jump into.

Over the course of the past few weeks I’ve jumped back into a few Flickr conversations to see what it feels like. What I’ve noticed is that the tone of conversations on Google+ feels so much more positive than it does at Flickr. There’s so much less snark and bitterness and negativity overall. I hadn’t seen the difference so dramatically before, but after having been gone awhile it felt more evident.

This made me think about what Google+ was doing right for community that Flickr is not.

When I first joined Google+ one of the things that I noticed is that some of the more hostile individuals from many of the old Flickr groups showed up. Some personal attacks took place, they aired their gripes about different things, typical BS hater stuff — but you know what? These people were quickly marginalized and moved out of the way to create a more positive environment. I blocked many of these people and so did so many other photographers on G+.

A few weeks went by and these people were just as hostile and negative but they were basically shouting to an empty room. The majority of positive forward thinking photographers on G+ had tuned them out with the tools that we were given. What we were left with was a more positive filtered G+ experience. I went back a few days ago to look at a few of the accounts of people that I blocked and you know what — they are gone. They quit G+. By empowering a mostly positive oriented community these people found no audience to bitch at and they left. Meanwhile, more constructive social photographers on G+ carry on.

Now, one worry with filtering out criticism is that it hurts meaningful conversation because all conversation is not always puppy dogs and roses, but that also hasn’t happened on Google+. Lots of criticism has gone on in tons of threads. The difference is though that the criticism feels much more respectful than some of what I’ve experienced in Flickr groups. People disagree on Google+ they just do it respectfully.

By giving users more powerful blocking tools on G+ Google has built a nicer community. A nicer community feels so much more enjoyable.

Every so often I’ll find someone new who comes along and leaves some sort of assholish comment in a thread on Google+. It’s almost delightful at how easy it is to block them and make them invisible.

In poking around Flickr Groups over the past week I did find what felt like some high quality conversations to me, I read them, I lurked — but I didn’t participate. The reason why I didn’t participate was that I noticed some of the toxic types that I’d run into previously on Flickr or G+. I’m sure I would have jumped into these conversations if I hadn’t seen them there, but what’s the point of jumping into a conversation about fine art photography when you know someone is just going to be a jerk?

Where Does a Former National Geographic Photographer and Current Yahoo Exec in Charge of Flickr Share His Photos? Yep, You Guessed it Google+

Update 12-01-2012, I think Yahoo Exec Adam Cahan just went public with a Flickr account.

Update 12-12-2012. Marissa Mayer just went public with her Flickr account today as well here.

Late last week over at All Things Digital, Kara Swisher reported on the appointment of the latest high profile Yahoo exec, Adam Cahan. In addition to reporting directly into Marissa Mayer and overseeing mobile for Yahoo (super important!) it was also announced that Cahan would be put in charge of Flickr, the photo sharing site that so many of us love.

On the surface this is great news. The fact that the guy who is now overseeing Flickr reports directly into Mayer may mean that Flickr’s profile is moving up internally at Yahoo. After a few years of Flickr layoffs and shrinking, it looks like Yahoo once again is staffing up in photo sharing!

In addition to staffing up, over the past year Yahoo has probably improved Flickr more than any other year in its existence. They’ve added a really nice new justified page layout for your contact’s photos and favorites (hopefully coming to search, photostreams and sets soon!), they added a new meet up page where they are getting active with photowalks again (check out this shot from their Austin photowalk this past weekend), they created a new liquid photo format that expands photos to the size of your monitor (slick!), they also increased the maximum size for photos for paid accounts to 50MB! (Facebook and Google+ downsize your photos).

So my question is, why with so much excitement going on around Flickr, why don’t Yahoo employees use or care more about the service?

A lesser known thing about Adam Cahan, the new Yahoo exec in charge of Flickr, is that according to the San Jose business Journal he’s a former National Geographic wildlife photographer. So here’s the guy who is in charge of Flickr, definitely talented with a camera, and where is he choosing to share *his* photographs? Yep, you guessed it Google+! Here’s a photo he posted earlier this year there for the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Of course, Cahan is just following by example really here, his boss Marissa Mayer chooses to post her own photos over at Instagram instead of Flickr.

Why is Flickr such a pariah that Yahoo’s own executives (even the one directly in charge of Flickr) won’t dare to use it personally?

Certainly Google and Facebook employees share their photos on Google+ and Facebook. So why aren’t Yahoo executives doing the same thing?

I believe that leadership is done by example. I also believe that every company should encourage dogfooding and should encourage their employees to use their own products. I think this sends a better message to users when you feel like people who work for the company use it too.

The message that Mayer and Cahen send when they shun Flickr and instead post their photos on competing photo sharing sites is that those sites are better than Flickr. The exact message that they should be trying to change if they really care about Flickr.

Now I’m all for Yahoo executives testing out the competition. Actually I think that’s smart. They *should* have accounts on Instagram and Google+ and Facebook and all that — but they should *also* have accounts at Flickr and they should be acting as Flickr’s biggest cheerleaders in the same way that Vic Gundotra does for Google+ over there.

There is a current conversation going on over at Flickr in their highest profile discussion group that Flickr is dying. Yahoo should care about discussions like this. Yahoo employees should actually be involved in them and trying to convince people that Flickr is not dying, that a comeback is just around the corner — but in order to be involved in conversations like this Yahoo employees need to actually, you know, have an actual Flickr account.

It’s not hard, really, you can even use your Facebook or Google+ account to sign into Flickr these days. Directly from the Flickr sign up page: “It takes less than a minute to create your free account & start sharing! Have a Google or Facebook account? You can use them to sign in!”

Flickr’s tagline is “almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.” That’s been it’s tagline for years now. So if this is true, why don’t Yahoo execs want to use it to manage and share their photos? If that tagline isn’t true anymore maybe Yahoo execs should think about changing it to “almost certainly *was* the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.”

I was thinking yesterday back to all the excitement that was around Flickr back in the olden days. Natural disasters tend to be things that galvanize social sharing, and especially photos. Back in 2005 when Katrina hit, Flickr was the go to place for people to post photos online about the disaster. Not only were the best user generated photos flowing into Flickr, they were flowing in fast and furious. Flickr was recognized for the Katrina photos in the national press. A group was started on Flickr to do a print auction to raise funds for Katrina survivors. The very next year Time Magazine named Flickr co-Founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake as two of the 100 most influential people in the world! Butterfield and Fake both had Flickr accounts by the way.

More recently hurricane Sandy hit New York. Was Flickr the go to place this time for photos? No. Everywhere you went in the national press it was 24/7 Instagram. It’s telling that Time Magazine — the very same Time Magazine that recognized Flickr and their founders/managers after Hurricane Katrina — recruited five professional photographers this time around to cover hurricane Sandy for them on… Instagram, the same photo sharing site where Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer shares her photos.

By the way, photos taken after Oct 15th tagged Sandy on Flickr? 36,000. Photos tagged Sandy on Instagram? Over 800,000. Now just today Instagram announced photos on the web.

On a personal level, my photos at Facebook and Google+ get far more views and engagement than they do on Flickr — not just a little more, a lot more — as in hundreds of times more. I’m still rooting for Flickr though. They were the photo sharing service that I started out with back in 2004. They still have the best photo organizational tools on the web and at $25 for over 70,000 full high res photos of mine they are a bargain. Competition in the photo sharing space is good for all of us. It benefits the user. I just wish I felt like Yahoo actually wanted to win more with Flickr. Maybe this will change though and some day soon I’ll be able to add Mayer and Cahan as contacts of mine on Flickr. I bet as a former National Geographic pro Cahan has got some great shots. 🙂

PetaPixel / Gizmodo

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