Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

I’d Plus One That! Why I Think Google’s Shared Endorsements Are a Good Thing for Social Media, Influencers and Consumers

Are You On Google+ Yet?  If You're Not You Should Be

There’s been a lot of talk today online about the upcoming change in Google’s TOS that will allow them to begin selling ads with your endorsement of various products and services on the web. I’ve seen different reactions from some people who dislike this idea and others who are largely apathetic about it.

Because Google gives everyone an opportunity to opt out of shared endorsements, it’s easy to dismiss a lot of the criticism by simply pointing folks to how easy opting out is. Some people are very anti-advertising though and certainly this new advertising channel will naturally be met by some with healthy skepticism. It’s also worth noting that these ads are not going to appear on Google+. Google+ will remain ad free. The new ads simply will use Google+ data to advertise in places where Google is already advertising, like search.

Personally speaking, for myself, I embrace change. In general I’d rather see more change, than less. I think change represents innovation (usually) and I probably tend to look for the positive in change rather than the negative. I’m a glass half full sort of guy when it comes to change.

I think most of us see how today’s announced change in the TOS is good for businesses who advertise. Personal endorsements by our friends are incredibly powerful motivators. Ads which feature personal endorsements by people we know, trust and respect, will be far more effective than other ads that an advertiser might come up with.

I think we can also see where this new product would be good for Google. Google gets paid by the click. If they can run ads that produce way more clicks and are more effective, it would seem to stand that they can make more money selling ads. The more clickable an ad the more revenue per page view it represents.

The last part of this equation though is the user, and I think a lot of people are trying to figure out if this is a good, bad, or indifferent thing for the user.

My opinion is that this is a good thing for the user and here’s why.

1. I believe that this change will push brands, products, services, businesses, etc. to allocate more of their marketing budgets towards social media and social media influencers than in the past. It’s ridiculous to me how much money companies like Canon and Nikon and other old brands, that just don’t get it, spend on things like tired old photography magazines and traditional print media vs. social media.

Social media is the future. By increasing the value of our possible endorsements through advertising buys, companies will spend more time, effort and money to court social influencers.

My favorite lens is the Canon 135 f/2. I love that lens so much. By allowing Canon the opportunity to buy that love in the form of a Google ad and promote it, that gives Canon a more powerful incentive to work with me to be more public about my love for this lens. I love lots of other things too. I’m not shy about telling folks when I like something. I had dinner last night at A 16 in Oakland, and it rocked. I like to spread the good word.

I predict that individuals with large followings on G+ will increasingly be seen as potential partners for brands whose products they use. If you consider yourself a social media type, this will be one more important reason why you’ll want to devote time to building out your presence on G+.

There will be a risk of course that some influencers will be bought off by brands for positive endorsements, but I think most of the time this stuff is pretty easy to sniff out. It’s the true, authentic, natural posts (available for purchase after the fact as ads) that will be most valuable. I bet brands spend more time showing us their cool new tech and products as the value of these ads become apparent and more of their budgets are spent on promoting products to G+ users.

2. When a company buys an ad with your endorsement, this is one more place that your social media footprint is shared on the web. I’m not sure if the endorsements will actually link back to your profile or the actual product review itself, but as I’ve seen it, it will at least include your name and your avatar.

One of the reasons why I never change my avatar is that I believe having a strong avatar that is consistent over the years with your brand helps you build recognition. When I see Robert Scoble’s avatar, I immediately know that it is him — I’m biased of course because I took the photo Robert uses for his avatar. :)

Even faster than I can read Robert’s name, I know it’s him.

When Facebook first started showing brands that your friends liked, Robert jumped right on that bandwagon. For about 2 months every time I logged into Facebook, I was seeing another brand that Robert liked. Were the brands paying Facebook for that? Probably. But it also constantly reminded me of a good friend and also linked back to him in the like. I have to admit that I ended up liking a lot of the same brands Robert did, when it was something I really liked.

3. Knowing that one of my friend’s has endorsed a product helps *me* make buying decisions. Let’s say I’m in the market to buy a new filter for my camera. Wouldn’t it be a positive for me to know that another photographer I respect (like Joe Azure) seems to like his Lee Big Stop Filter? Isn’t that a lot better than just a generic ad? Especially if I see a lot of my friends endorsing one product, this may be a good signal to me that this product is worth checking out more than others.

I saw a report earlier today that said that by 2014 10-15% of online reviews will be fakes. With all the fake reviews and astroturfing out there, I’m more inclined to trust the word of a friend on a product or service, than a stranger.

This is why I don’t really use yelp anymore. Every time I go to yelp I wonder if the review I’m reading is legit or whether or not someone from India or China has been paid to write it up and give it a five star rating. When I was recently in New York City, rather than rely on a service like Yelp to figure out where to eat, I instead relied on my good friend Daniel Krieger, whose opinion I respect and know I can trust. Would a five star dinner recommendation for a new restaurant in the form of a Daniel Krieger advert get my attention? You bet it would. As a consumer, this is a win for me.

Certainly there may be things that go wrong with the implementation of all of this. What if I’m not really endorsing something but my endorsement is slapped on it? Some of this will likely have to be worked though. As far as the general idea of shared endorsement goes though, I think I like it.

Oh, and by the way, if you were wondering whether or not those sea salt and vinegar chips in the dark blue bag by Kettle Chips were the BEST CHIPS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD? Yep, they pretty much are — and if Kettle Chips wants to send a few bags of those over to our place, my daughters and I would totally be down with that. ;)

Why Aren’t Search Engines Making Better Use of Their Social Networks for Image Search?

One thing I’ve noticed more and more over the past few years is what a poor job traditional image search engines do vs. social networks.

By using social information around photos (likes, faves, comments, +1s, etc.), social networks typically produce much superior image search results than traditional image search.

Take this search of Coachella 2013 for example.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 10.45.53 AM
Yahoo Image Search: “Coachella 2013″

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Google Image Search: “Coachella 2013″

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 10.47.28 AM
Flickr Image Search: “Coachella 2013″

The first image comes from Yahoo (or is it Microsoft these days, I can’t keep it all straight). It’s not very good. It shows too many images of just the lineup vs. actual fun interesting photos of the event itself.

Google’s image search results are better, but still not as good as many of the images I find on social networks.

Now I may be biased (as I shot this particular event) but I think Flickr’s search results are *far* better than either Google or Yahoo Image search.

I’m working on a project right now to photograph the 100 largest American cities. When I’m researching things to photograph in these cities I almost always go first to Flickr (because it’s the largest database of highly organized quality photos on the web). I will also look at Google+ too, sometimes. Google+ doesn’t have as many high quality images in the total database as Flickr, yet, but I find some pretty good stuff there sometimes still. Most of Flickr’s advantage here over Google+ just has to do with the fact that they are older and have more images indexed.

Lately I’ve also played around with graph search on Facebook for images — I haven’t been very impressed there at all though.

The one place I hardly ever go is to the actual Google or Yahoo image search engines — because the results are so inferior.

Here’s what I don’t get: *why* are the results at Yahoo and Google Image search inferior? Google and Yahoo have access to proprietary internal social data around photos in their social networks, why isn’t that coming through better in the signal for high quality images.

On my example search using Coachella 2013, not a single Flickr photo appears on Yahoo’s first page image search and not a single Google+ image appears on Google’s first page image search.

Shouldn’t these search engines be better mining organically and socially ranked superior content? It’s not that these engines don’t index it, they do, it’s just not ranking well.

Beyond just better image search, Google and Yahoo *should* have another significant incentive to better include their social images into image search.

All things being equal, assuming you could improve image search results, wouldn’t you want to drive more traffic to your own internal social network, rather than to some unrelated destination — and wouldn’t you want to reward the best photographers on your social network with more traffic vs. some random SEO rigged site somewhere?

Why aren’t image search engines doing a better job with social?

Another added benefit to driving image search traffic to your social network, is that the presentation there is usually better, more uniform and consistent. When I’m tempted to go further on an image from Yahoo or Google, I may end up at some odd sized photo, in some odd format. With a G+ or Flickr result I get a strong consistent image experience that I’m familiar with.

As an unrelated topic dealing with image search on Flickr — the best social image search on the web today — Flickr needs to give us the ability to block certain users from our search results. Many popular photographers will pollute image search on Flickr by falsely tagging things that are not in their popular photos, just to try to garner traffic.

Take this search on Flickr for dog for example. So many of the first page results are not photos of dogs at all. Flickr should allow us to block certain users from our search results in order to better refine them. When we block people from our search results, this should also be a signal to Flickr that this user should rank much worse in search. If users get the message that they will be penalized for purposely mistagging their photos, they will be less likely to try and game the system this way, resulting in better image search on Flickr for all of us.

Ok Glass, Find Dogfood!

Ok Glass, Get Dogfood

Google Unveils Cutting Edge Photography Tools to Make Your Photos Look Better and the World A More Beautiful Looking Place

Through Glass

Google unveiled significant new innovation in the world of online photography this morning, continuing their rapid development pace on Google+. All in, Google+ pushed out 41 new features today.

Much of the new work is focused on post production photography to make people’s photographs look better than they can straight out of the camera.

Some have suggested that part of Instagram’s success has been their ability to enhance users’ photos with very simple, one touch filters. Instagram has focused on a faux film aesthetic which actually highlights the flaws in many photos to give them more of an artistic, old school feel. By contrast, Google’s easily and automatically applied post production tools, released today, work to make photos look more vivid, life like and realistic.

By using simple techniques like skin softening, clarity adjustment, smart vignetting, HDR and other enhancements, Google, by default, now offers an enhanced photo for every photo uploaded by users to Google+. Also, with this new tech, Google will give you the ability to view the before and after results and decide which you prefer to use. For photographers who do not want their photos altered in any way, these users can turn this default functionality off.

Google Releases New Tools for Photographers Using Google+

As a photographer, I have long been a believer of photo manipulation and post processing technology. Ansel Adams said “you don’t take a photograph, you make it,” as highlighted in Google Social Chief Vic Gundotra’s keynote this morning. Much of Ansel Adams’ genius has been attributed to the work that he did in the darkroom with his photos, his zone system, his post production technology of his time.

I post process all of my photos. The photo at the top of this post is the very first photo that I made with my new Google Glass that I bought yesterday. While I was able to get the composition to a point where I wanted in camera, much of the pop of that image is done with my own post production technique and style.

Many of my photographer friends also spend a great deal of time post processing their images — but the vast majority of the people out there really don’t post process at all. These people don’t own Lightroom and Photoshop or Nik Suite or Aperture or whatever else they might use to improve their photos. These are every day non-photographers who are still enamored with photography and imagery.

By applying some very basic algorithmic based enhancements, Google can make photos for the masses look much better than straight out of the camera. This is a very smart move on Google’s part. Where Instagram makes your bad photos look purposefully worse, Google now makes your bad photos look purposefully better! I stole that line from an unnamed source, btw. ;)

Where this new tech is especially powerful is in photos of people. By using basic skin softening post production tech, photos of people will look better on Google+ than on other social networks. By appealing to our vanity, this gives Google a big advantage. If people can post photos of themselves on Google+ that make them look BETTER than on other networks, many more people will choose to post their photos on G+. Just watch as people post photos of themselves on G+ for auto beautification and even download and post them to other networks I bet.

All of this sort of fancy post production *can* be done today by skilled post production photographers who spend hours and hours behind Photoshop. Now much of it will be automated and released to the masses.

There will undoubtedly be some naysayers about this tech. The same folks who moaned about the Instagramification of mobile photography will probably also complain about this new tech too. Google was smart here by giving users a very simple way to deal with this, by simply turning off this feature.

While the photo enhancements were the sizzle of Google’s announcements today, there were many other significant enhancements added to Google Photos.

Google will now begin to analyze your images and auto tag them. This is no trick where low paid overseas workers are manually reviewing your images; Googles’ algorithms now can look at the context of your photo and the actual subjects in your photos to identify possible tags for the images. If you post a photo of the Eiffel Tower, Google can detect the Eiffel Tower in your photo and add that tag for you. If Google gets the tag wrong, for whatever reason, it’s simple for you to just remove it.

What this means is that more of your photos will be seen in search by people using Google products. Many photographers are looking for more traffic and views on their photos. Who better to provide this traffic than Google Search, yes, using Google auto applied tags. This is the future of image search. If you are a photographer, especially one who depends on photography for your living, you cannot afford to ignore the significance of Google Search. Many of my own photo sales are made by people finding my photos while searching on Google. By uploading your photos to Google+, your photos will rank better in search and now even moreso with this new auto-keywording functionality.

Google Releases New Tools for Photographers Using Google+

Google also introduced a new smart algorithm that can analyze your photos and show you which ones Google thinks are the best of the batch, offering you highlights. Oftentimes we will “spray and pray,” taking 20 images of one person or subject. Google will analyze all of the images and suggest the best one for you. Google uses not just technical information about a photo (is it blurry or underexposed?) but they are using human tested aesthetics to look for what is most appealing.

But there’s more! In addition to the tech released above, Google has also added some very easy tools which will auto generate gifs for you of your photos, auto HDR bracketed shots, and suggest other compelling ways for you to present your photography to the world. Almost miraculously, Google can even look at photos of multiple people and merge the photos into a single photo that takes the best expression of each individual from *different* photos.

All of this also comes with an awesome new look and layout of Google+ which better highlights photography on the network. Popular photos will now be featured in jumbo new oversized form across a three column layout. For non highlighted photos, Google also made portrait oriented photos, especially, look better and bigger. In the past, the portrait format was the worst looking photo format on Google+, now it’s the best — that’s worth noting. ;) For folks who don’t like the three column layout, they can switch back to a single column if they’d like.

A couple of other notes: all of this work that Google does with your photos is done behind the scenes for your eyes only. You can use the tech or not use the tech. If you use the tech and like it, *you* then choose to share the image to Google+. Nothing is shared until you choose to share it.

The new technology will only work with the JPG format (hopefully Google comes out with RAW support down the road). Google increased everyone’s storage to 15GB of online storage, but note that any photo sized 2048 px or smaller does not count towards your 15GB storage limit (you can also buy more storage if you want to). Google allows unlimited uploading of photos that you either manually resize or allow Google to resize to 2048 px. There is an option on Google where you can set whether or not you want to upload full high res photos or resized 2048 sized images.

I upload some of my photos full res, and many of them I resize manually myself to 2048 px.

Google also introduced a free, stand alone hangout app that you can now use with your mobile phone or desktop device bridging text, photos and real time group video into a single app that preserves conversations (at your choice) over long periods of time. Hangouts have been one of the most popular Google+ feature and several photography related shows have been built around them.

More detail on these changes at Google here. More from Matthew Hanley here. Trey Ratcliff wrote insightful commentary here. More from TechCrunch.

Change is Good

Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin Sports the New Google Glasses at Dinner in the Dark, a Benefit for the Foundation Fighting Blindness -- San Francisco, CA

If you want to make enemies, try to change something.

– Woodrow Wilson

I’ve been watching with great interest over the past few weeks as the naysayers seem to have gone CRAZY overboard trying to bash Google Glass every chance they can. I’ve seen articles in Wired and on CNN and on blogs, etc., all stating how terrible Google Glass is. Oh NO, geeky white dudes are wearing Google Glass! This will never work! Oh no, someone wore a pair into the shower! Oh no, I will punch someone in the face if they try talk to me with them on — all sorts of gibberish.

There’s nothing like change to bring out the absolute haters.

It seems like every time something comes out that represents change, people freak the fcuk out.

It’s not enough to say, “oh no, this thing is not for me.” People have to go absolutely overboard, talking about how horrible some new thing is for everybody ELSE.

I remember when I waited in line overnight (with my pal Robert Scoble, probably today’s biggest Google Glass cheerleader) for the very first iPhone. Robert’s son Patrick was the very first person to buy an iPhone at the Palo Alto store.

I’m not sure I’d ever been mocked by people so much. “You waited in line overnight to pay HOW MUCH?” for a stupid phone??? People thought the iPhone was the dumbest thing ever. “Why would you ever need a phone to surf the web?” “Why would you pay so much for a phone?” They laughed at me for camping out overnight to get the first generation phone — even though camping out overnight in front of an Apple store has been one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. Getting to hear Apple luminaries like Andy Hertzfeld and Bill Atkinson talk about Apple’s early days was a blast! It’s where I first met the awesome guys from SmugMug. Was it dorky and geeky? Sure, but whatever.

Read some of these early quotes about the iPhone when it first came out. Even though some of us loved it early, so many more were so “doom and gloom” on it. Now, of course, everybody loves the iPhone and the whole generation of Android and other smartphones that followed.

I remember when Twitter first came out. People hated that too. “Twitter is still a fad, and according to a study out today, it looks like it’s popularity may soon fade,” wrote BusinessWeek. People constantly mocked Twitter — “who wants to read a dumb post about what someone had for breakfast,” they’d say. I hopped on Twitter right away while so many of my friends refused to join. Those same friends now complain about how everybody else has more followers than they do.

The same naysayers took umbrage with Google+. Despite being named earlier this week as the second largest social network, the “change is bad” crowd hated Google+ when it came out. How many articles out there were written about Google+ being a ghost town? My good friend Trey Ratcliff passed 5 million followers on Google+ earlier this morning. That sure is an awful lot of ghosts if you ask me.

I’m having the best time on Google+. I’ve met some of the most talented and interesting photographers in the world, I’ve been on tons of great live hangouts and photowalks, and it’s been the best designed social network I’ve ever been a part of. I’m glad I joined it the first day it was available to the public.

When one of my heros, William Eggleston, had the first color photography show at MOMA in New York, a lot of people hated that too. Many people called it the most hated fine art photography show ever. Ansel Adams, the most famous photographer in the world at the time, even wrote a letter to MOMA curator, John Szarkowski, trashing the change that Eggleston represented. Now everybody loves Eggleston and color photography is firmly established as a photographic fine art aesthetic. Just last month the Independent called him the world’s greatest living photographer.

I remember when I first started posting my photos online at Flickr back in 2004, their first year in existence. So many photographers gave me a hard time. They kept going on and on about how my photos would be “stolen.” “Who the hell cares,” I’d answer back. Now everybody posts their photos online, everywhere — well, almost everybody.

So what is it about Google Glass, the iPhone, Twitter, Google+, color photography, photo sharing that scare people so much? What is it that brings out the naysayers and haters?

It’s simple: most people hate change. Most people fear change. Most people hope the world around them never changes and turns into something else. They are afraid that change will take their job, or their income, or somehow hurt them. A lot of these people are also lazy. They groan about having to learn a new thing or technology. They worry they will be left behind. So it’s easier for these people to bash whatever is new and interesting and jump on the anti-change bandwagon.

As far as Google Glass goes, I have no idea if it’s going to be a hit or not. I do think it represents an interesting new tool to use for street photography and I’m excited about trying them out myself at some point. I think it’s dumb though to see article after article by scared people trying to talk the rest of the world out of them — articles that try to paint them as dorky or geeky or creepy. These are just more of the same old complainers/haters who hate on every new thing that comes along.

Change is good. Don’t let the naysayers tell you otherwise. The next time somebody brings up some new idea, check yourself. Instead of immediately starting to bash it, resist that urge and keep an open mind. Every so often you just might be surprised.

Oh, and personally speaking, I think journalists that like to bash change are far, far, dorkier than bloggers who like to take showers with their Google Glass on. ;)

This article also appears on PetaPixel here.

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. :)

Google Buys Nik Software

Google Buys Nik Software

Vic Gundotra announced this morning that Google has purchased Nik Software. Nik makes the popular iPhone app Snapseed and also makes some serious editing tools for Lightroom and Photoshop. I’ve been a big fan of Nik’s Silver Efex Pro and find that it is one of the best software packages for doing black and white conversion work.

It seems like photo processing is increasingly becoming a desired tool for photo sharing networks. Previously Google had purchased Picnik and has since integrated some of Picnik’s mad skills into the Google Photos experience. After the Google acquisition of Picnik, Yahoo’s Flickr switched from Picnik to Aviary earlier this year for online photo editing. Some of Flickr’s users have complained that Aviary is not as good as Picnik was.

With the Nik purchase, I’d imagine that even more photo processing tools will be coming to both Google Photos on the web and especially Google Photos on mobile.

It’s great to see Google continue pushing forward innovation and investment in the photography space. I don’t really use online photo editing tools as I prefer the more powerful and professional editing through Lightroom on my MacBook Pro, but obviously the masses out there do (as Instragram can attest to).

Facebook owns Instagram (and could theoretically include Instagrammy filters into the broader Facebook photos experience). Google now owns Picnik and Nik. Flickr feels like they are being left out in the cold in terms of online photo editing talent. People don’t seem to like Aviary.

So what should Flickr do? If I were them I’d seriously look at MacPhun’s FX Photo Studio Pro Software. This is the best super simple drag and drop photo processing application on the market today. MacPhun also has snapheal, which is a pretty interesting content aware photo processing tool that can remove objects from photos as well. Flickr could buy MacPhun and integrate these application based processing tools into an online photo editor and would have a pretty powerful online editor. Rumor is that Marissa Mayer just got a boat load of cash. Of course Google or Facebook could also buy MacPhun and integrate their drag/drop functionality as well.

Although for us photo geeks the big news story today is the Nik purchase, within his announcement post Vic Gundotra probably buried the real lead, which is that Google+ now has over 400 million members. Wow! 400 million! Amazing growth and congratulations to the Google+ team!

As a Person, Publisher, News Organization and Twitter User, I Think Google’s New Personalized Search Results are AWESOME!

Personalized Google Search Results
Personalized Google Search Results

Unpersonalized Google Search Results
Unpersonalized Google Search Results

The top story on Techmeme right now is Steven Levy’s “Is Too Much Plus a Minus for Google?”. Alot of people are talking about how including personalized Google+ search results is somehow bad or wrong. Earlier this week Twitter put out a statement saying that they thought this new search integration was “bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.”

I disagree.

Sure, it may be be bad for *Twitter*, but to say it’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users is wrong. I have been hoping for the integration of social search into image search for years now. Back in 2006 I wrote a blog post when Yahoo first started showcasing Flickr images into their image search results. I was a fan. I’m not sure why everybody didn’t get all wound up when Yahoo started adding Flickr photos to their search but they now seem to be wound up that Google is essentially doing the same thing.

As a person, publisher, personal news organization (aka blogger) and Twitter user I *absolutely* want Google+ integrated into my search results.

Why?

Well look at the two images above. Both are searches for New York. The top one represents the results when I’m logged into Google. The bottom one represents when I’m logged out. Why is the top one so much better for me? Well, as a photographer, if I’m going to New York there’s a big chance that I’m going to want to be photographing in New York.

The unpersonalized results are pretty photos of New York but they provide me no additional information about the locations. The first result goes to a wikipedia page, lots go to travel oriented pages — they are nice postcardly type photos of New York but really do me no good.

Now the personalized results are *far* more useful. Google+ knows that I like shooting urban exploration photography. They also know that my friend Amy Heiden has a kick ass photo of urbex photography from New York. Now *that* image jumps to page one. This is great because I *know* Amy. We’re friends. So now I can check in with Amy and say, “wow! love that shot, would you mind telling me more about it and how you got in, etc.). This is far, far, far, more helpful and useful to me than the bland postcardly photos without Google+.

Two of the images on the page are like some of the postcardly overhead New York sky images on the generic unpersonalized page — only there is a huge KEY difference for me. They were taken by my friends Tom Harrison and Ingo Meckmann. There’s also a kick ass shot of the Apple Store taken by my friend Trey Ratcliff. These are not just people that I sort of know. These are people that I know well and have known for years. These are friends that I can check in with and say, “whoa! where did you get that awesome photo from, which skyscraper were you in.”

Personalized results on Google+ are wayyyyyy more helpful to me than unpersonal results. And this is exactly what Google should be doing. Helping me find the information that is most helpful and most useful to me. As a photographer, this means that I *want* them to give preference to photos by people that I know. People who I can talk to. People who will share information about these photos with me. I don’t want to see some bland photo by some Associated Press photographer who I don’t know, can’t talk to, and is too busy to share information with me personally.

It pains me that Twitter and Facebook want to take this away from me. That they want to take this really useful thing and somehow rob me of it. All because they are afraid that Google+ is going to be a bigger, better social network.

So as a user this is super helpful to me. What about as a blogger or publisher? YES! It’s also super helpful to me. Now my photos will be shown to all sorts of people who have chosen to follow me and my work. I get bigger distribution. It’s the dream of long tail content. I suppose if you’re not on Google+ as a blogger/publisher this gives you a pretty powerful incentive to get your ass on there ASAP, but what’s so bad about that? Google+ is a vastly better social network than Twitter (photos look awful as little links of text) or Facebook anyways.

It seems like Twitter and Facebook don’t want Google competing in the social network space. They want to keep it all for themselves. At the same time they seem to want to force Google to pay through the nose even to have access to their realtime data and firehose. If Facebook and Twitter don’t like this integration, let them give away this data for free to Google, or better yet, they can go build their own search engines. But they shouldn’t try to pull this integration away from me. Why should users get caught as casualties in their war against Google? As a person, as a publisher and yes… even as a Twitter user. (BTW Twitter, just because something might be bad for *YOU* doesn’t mean it’s bad for your users, like *ME*).

I for one welcome these new search results and am super excited about personalized search and how it is going to help me find the things I need to find more easily in the future.

An Open Letter to Scott Thompson, CEO Yahoo Inc.

An Open Letter to Scott Thompson

Hi Scott,

I will try to be brief (it’s not easy for me), I’ve got a lot of work to do over at Google+ today (which is where I’m spending more and more of my time) — we have a photo hangout show there tonight that I should be working on right now.

First, congratulations on your new appointment as CEO. As a long-term critic of Yahoo I wish you the best and believe every new CEO deserves a fresh chance. I hope you succeed beyond your wildest dreams. The Street does not like the news of your appointment, but Yahoo’s stock would have probably gone down with *ANY* CEO appointment. The Street wants Yahoo to be sold off and your appointment makes that likelihood a little more murky (why hire a CEO to come get a boatload of severance cash if you’re just going to sell the company in 2 weeks anyways — unless the CEO is being hired to actually sell the company).

I’m going to give you some advice about Yahoo. It probably won’t make a bit of difference (it didn’t for Carol).

1. Flickr represents your *BEST* possible chance for social at Yahoo, but it’s probably too late. Social is key. Social is winning. Facebook is social. Google is social. Twitter is social. Every great web company *must* incorporate social going forward. It’s imperative. You can start from scratch or you can try to leverage your best shot at social which is Flickr. I know Flickr is not the most profitable thing Yahoo does — and I know that profits are very important to CEO types like yourself, but trust me, forget about the immediate profitability, social IS important for your longer-term sustainability.

Google has spent hundreds of millions of dollars so far for social on Google+ — with *NO* advertising or paid accounts. Why? Well for many reasons that have nothing to do with short-term profitability, but just assume that they can siphon off even 1% of the supposed $100 billion value of Facebook, that’s a billion dollars for spending a few hundred mil. Not a bad return. Of course they have plans to siphon off *FAR* more than just 1% and far better ways to monetize things in the longer run beyond even just the network itself.

2. It will be challenging to turn flickr into a full fledged social network. Too many people think of it as a photo sharing site. This is one of your challenges — but fix social for photographers and you’ll pull in other accounts… maybe. But the competition for social is fierce. The competition wants what little photo social Flickr has left by the way. They are siphoning it off right now as we speak. There’s a reason that Flickr’s uniques are down 20% since June (according to Compete.com). Look at this last flickr post by Ingo Meckmann. Ingo’s a great photographer by the way. This is what is happening to Flickr right now. Photographers are leaving. Google+ is siphoning off your flickr accounts and you’re losing your best social asset at Yahoo. Ingo’s move away from Flickr is just one of many, many, many such moves.

3. Flickr lacks vision and a leader. Maybe this is because most people at Yahoo don’t care about Flickr (again, it’s not the most profitable thing in the world). Maybe this is because Yahoo cannot recruit a strong leader. I don’t know. Again, this is your challenge. I’ve been on Flickr since 2004. Remember when Bradley Horowitz bought Flickr for Yahoo back in the day? Back when Stewart Butterfield ran the show there. Stewart was a bold visible leader. It helped that he was cofounder of the site and it was his baby, but he was a big personality who was out there banging the drum, interacting with the community, selling flickr to the world. Even if you didn’t always agree with his management decisions, he was at least visible.

Who is selling flickr to the world now? Nobody, that’s who. Do we even know who the General Manager of Flickr is anymore? Who is out there drumming up Flickr photo walks like Google+ is doing? Nobody. Who is out there talking about weekly Flickr innovation? Nobody.

Look at the big bold leadership of Google+. Look at Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz — the very top guys. These guys are constantly promoting their baby. They live and breath it. It’s in their blood. I had a little censorship hiccup over on Google+ the other day and within about 10 minutes of posting about it at 1am in the morning Vic Gundotra himself responded to the issue and it got fixed. Go to their Google+ accounts and look at what they are posting. Now look what your Flickr Chief is posting (sorry Markus, nothing personal). Who is rallying the troops at Flickr? Who is leading the charge?

4. You have an excellent opportunity to turn Flickr into a stock photography powerhouse and you should. Why? Well for two reasons. First off there are only two companies in the world today who can compete with Getty Images. Google and Yahoo (with Flickr). It’s a multi-billion dollar industry ripe for disruption. But secondly, if you really reformed the stock photography market you’d attract all of the best photographers in the world today to Flickr. If you came out with something fairer than a 20% Getty payout and you really put the muscle behind promoting Flickr as a stock powerhouse, you’d retain many of your top photographers who are leaving and you’d attract many more. It’s a hook, and a big hook, what social person doesn’t like being *paid* to be social? Best of all, you get a cut. How many bored housewives with cameras are sitting out there who wouldn’t want to earn a few extra hundred bucks a month? Make this dream come true not just for some of the accounts on Flickr, but open it up to literally everyone.

5. Innovate, innovate, innovate. Apparently you are a tech guy. Flickr needs circles (like Google+). You need to spend about 3 weeks studying Flickr Groups and why they are one of the stickiest social things on the web over the past 10 years. Alot about Flickr Groups need to be changed (you need more robust blocking tools, you need better ways to track threads across groups, you need to integrate group threads into your mobile experience, etc.), but at core, they are highly social little mini social systems buried deep inside of Yahoo. Figure them out. Free them. Promote them. Use them to their full potential instead of letting them languish in obscurity buried in the basement of flickr.

6. Get a flickr account yourself. I gave Carol this advice too and she never took it. Really. You are CEO of Yahoo. You *should* at least have a flickr account. It would be best if you really used it of course, but even if all it is is a puppet account that your assistant posts vacation photos to for you, do it. If you don’t support your own product, why should we? More importantly, what kind of message does it send to your employees working on Flickr if you can’t even be bothered to set up an account.

7. Overhaul community management at flickr. It’s gotten better now that Heather’s out (I finally got off the Explore blacklist that Heather always denied ever even existed), but barely. Follow Google’s lead and beef up the community management team (I think Google has like 20 community managers or something like that). Get folks in there who will interact with the community, who will promote the community, who will celebrate the community.

Look at Vic Gundotra’s last post over at Google+. What is it? It’s a post celebrating an interesting article by Trey Ratcliff, one of the photo community leaders who has emerged on Google+. How do you think it makes Trey feel when Vic Gundotra himself comes out and brings up one of his posts? How do you think it made Mike Elgan feel last night? Look at how popular a flickr account Trey has. Who at flickr is reaching out to him and making him feel as special as Vic is making him feel? Who is community management?

Vic is leading by example here. And his community managers are doing the same thing. That’s so smart. This is one of the many reasons why Google is winning at social. I hope Brian Rose and Chris Chabot and Natalie Villalobos and Michael Hermeston and Ricardo Lagos and tag team of Dave Cohen and Vincent Mo, and Tony Payne and Chew Chee and Sparky and soooooo many more Googlers got big fat year-end bonuses at Google, because they deserve it (and wayyy more Googlers that I know I left out, sorry).

Where is the community manangement at Flickr? Where is the outreach? Where is the social?

Finally, try this. Hop on the Verge’s (don’t you love cutting edge new tech sites?) article about your new appointment today, or wherever and ask the question, “what is the best internet property that Yahoo has today?” Watch how many people say Flickr. Flickr represents your best chance to funnel positive technology out of Yahoo in a highly visible way. People care more about Flickr than any other Yahoo property. It’s highly, highly visible, despite profitability issues. Let your other sleepy little businesses provide the profitability why you hold Flickr up as your beacon and proof that Yahoo can innovate. Do something bold. Get rid of the paid account. Facebook and Google+ don’t charge for accounts. I know there’s probably a big gasp there as paid accounts are probably the number one thing contributing to Flickr’s profitability at present, but do it anyways. People will love it. It will get great press. It will be a big bold move and a signal that Yahoo has much bigger plans for profitability going forward than paid Pro accounts.

That is all Scott. Best of luck. If you ever want to talk about Flickr, I have many, many more ideas on how you can turn that failing ship around. Show us you’ve got what it takes.

My Talk on My Photography from the @Google Series

I had a great time a few weeks ago giving a talk about my photography as part of the @Google talk series down at the Mountain View Campus. During the hour long conversation I talked about my own approach to photography, how I’ve integrated it into my life, how I’m able to produce the volume of photographs I do while having a day job and family, my project to publish 1,000,000 photos before I die and my project to photograph the 100 largest American cities.

I also comment on the photo sharing space, Flickr, Google+, etc. and answer questions at the end.

Thanks so much to +Brian Rose for having me down to Google.