Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

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.

The Slow Steady Decline Towards the End of Flickr

Flickr

A few months after Google+ launched, I wrote a post called Flickr is Dead. “Anything is Dead” posts usually get alot of attention. Most products have their evangelists and their detractors and both tend to be polarized by such charged language. When I wrote that article, I wasn’t pronouncing the literal death that day of Flickr, but rather pointing to a shift that I was seeing take place in the online photo community.

The photo community was moving en masse from Flickr to Google Photos.

This trend has continued to accelerate over the past 6 months and I still stand by my initial pronouncement of flickr being dead.

Measuring online traffic is never easy (please don’t harp on how inaccurate or unscientific measuring online traffic is). The best we can do is guess — but sometimes some of the tools out there do tend to confirm what we’re feeling from the ground.

Google+ opened to the public for invite beta in June of 2011. The month before, according to compete.com, flickr racked up 22,794,460 unique visitors. Earlier this week compete released their November 2011 numbers and flickr has steadily declined down to 18,088,563 now. This represents a little over 20% decline in unique visitors and the lowest traffic number for flickr in over a year.

Anecdotally this feels about right to me as well. For most of the past few years, according to my own personal flickr stats, most days my flickr views fall between 11,000-16,000 views per day, with probably about 13,000 per day on average. The past few months I’ve been noticing that the number has decreased and is closer to the 10,000 mark. I’ve had two days in fact over the past month where my stream actually got less than 10,000 views. 9,968 on November 27 and and 9.978 on December 2. This is despite being added back into the popular Flickr explore area of the site (I was blacklisted by flickr staff from this part of the site for most of the past 2 years) and continuing to publish every day as usual there.

Last night in a Google+ hangout I was talking with another popular Flickr user +Billy Wilson. Billy said the drop off at Flickr felt even bigger to him. He said that photos of his that used to get thousands of views are now getting views in the hundreds instead. I’ve talked to other flickr friends who have noticed similar drop offs in their own traffic on the site.

Meanwhile, the photography traffic on Google+ could not be more explosive. It’s hard to track the individual views on Google+ for photos (you have to go to Picasa to see this) but as an example here is a photo that I posted to Google+ earlier this week. According to the Picasa views it’s racked up 12,919 views so far (the vast majority coming from Google+). The same photo on flickr (and one of my more popular flickr photos) only has racked up 1,033 views. Pretty much every photo that I’ve ever posted to Google+ vs. posting it to flickr has generated dramatically higher views on Google+.

Interestingly enough, the person in that photograph that I just cited, Shannon Jackson, is another former high profile flickr photographer who has moved her account to Google+. This was her post back in September — read through the comments to get more of an anecdotal sense of what is going on. There are posts about people leaving flickr and moving to Google+ all over Google+ just like that one. That’s just an example.

There are a lot of reasons why this shift is continuing to take place. Here are some of the main ones.

Google has invested heavily in the photography community. They have a talented community management team dedicated to Google+ and many engineers also do personal outreach. The entire company (and even part of employee compensation as has been widely reported) is dedicated to social. Googlers show up at community oriented events. They are part of the community itself — highly visible and engaged.

Google is innovating, rapidly. Just this week I got invited to the new On Air Hangouts feature. This is a beta feature rolled out to just a handful of accounts right now, but it’s the future. For the first time last night I hosted a hangout that we broadcasted publicly on Google+. We’ll be able to use this new feature to both broadcast and record our new photography video show Photo Talk Plus (check out this week’s episode with photographer and NASA Astronaut Ron Garan) that people will be able to watch live on Google+ and the Vidcast Network as well as watch recorded later on YouTube too.

Google Social Chief +Vic Gundotra just this week stepped the bar way up by adding his #seasonofshipping hashtag to a post announcing that to thank the community on Google+ that Google would be shipping a new feature each day for a week. Come on Blake Irving, instead of tweeting about Katie Couric and Dubstep how about offering us a #seasonofshipping for Flickr?

Speaking of hangouts. These are like social superglue. Flickr had something cool going on with groups, but hangouts blow groups away. There is something about interacting with someone with audio and video live, being able to share screens and photos, etc. that is just hard to describe. In our hangout last night we were watching +Ricardo Lagos edit a photo of his live. I couldn’t help myself and kept interjecting about how he might edit it. When you interact with people this way you become better friends then in a text based only way like on Flickr. Oh and who stopped by our hangout to say hi? The product manager for Google Hangouts himself +Chee Chew.

Flickr continues to fail at innovation. The most recent two innovations that flickr shipped were really poorly thought out.

Their Android app is really boring. It misses some key functionality. I can see my contact’s photos for example, but I can’t filter them by my friends, so it makes it less useful. When they show me my recent activity, they don’t show me how many faves my photo has received. And why in the world did flickr not include a reader for group threads in the mobile app?

Really Steve Douty, this is what Yahoo means when they say they are going to “Nail mobile?” Really? This is how you are going to take on Instagram, with this crappy new Android app?

The other innovation that they shipped is almost laughable — “Photo Sessions.” This feature allows you to share a flickr photo with a friend and text chat about it. Text chat? Really? As in old AOL text chat chatrooms? No audio, no video, just text chat, oh and you can doodle on photos like put a fake moustache with a MacPaint type pen tool on your friends photo that they are sharing — like photo etch a sketch. Nobody is using this “feature” of course.

Instead of improving the page that one of your former designers called the most important page on flickr (which has desperately needed an overhaul for years) you ship this crap?

The one area where flickr does have a chance to advance on social is with Flickr Groups. But these have been ignored by flickr. They have not improved groups in years. Because Flickr lacks effective blocking tools griefers, harrassers, trolls, etc. are allowed to pollute the flickr group infrastructure. I’ve watched so many accounts leave flickr recently over personal harassment. They’ve made no advancement towards giving groups mobile tools. There is no intelligent thread management for Group conversations (you should be able to mute or hide threads you are not interested in).

Yahoo is a miserable dead place to work and Google is an exciting interesting place to work. I think part of the reason also why Google+ is pulling folks away from Flickr is that they are able to get better people to work for Google. Google is winning. People want to be on a winning team. Not only that, social clearly is one of the most prestigious places to work at Google. Meanwhile flickr is laying off staffers. Yahoo is sort of sitting in no mans land right now. Will they be bought, won’t they be bought. Will they be chopped up, won’t they be chopped up. The press if full of negative stories about Yahoo every month while positive stories about Google abound.

Now, what some will point to is that Flickr still technically has a superior product to Google Photos in a lot of areas. This is absolutely the case. I’m sure +Dave Cohen and +Vincent Mo — who deserve big bonuses this year 🙂 — are tired as hell of me asking for SuprSetr on Google+ over and over and over again. Set/album management at Flickr *is* superior to Google Photos right now. There are other things Flickr does better too. I made $552 last month through the Flickr/Getty photos deal. That’s sort of a compelling reason to use a site, the fact that they pay you $500 a month to use it. Google has no stock photography offering (yet). I think archived Flickr photos get more search traffic than Google photos (but remember Google is king of search and this will change in the future as they grow).

It’s easy to point to these feature advantages as proof to the continued viability of flickr, but don’t get distracted by features. Flickr is where it is 98% because of *social* photo sharing. That is their foundation, their core — and Google is now doing social photo sharing better, much, much better. The rest of the feature stuff will come with time, but Google understands the key to winning photos on the web is to create not just a technically great photo sharing platform (which they are doing), but in making photo sharing as social as it possibly can be. Photos on Google+ don’t just get more views, they get more engagement.

There are still places on the web by the way for people to do social sharing in more niche ways. 500px has carved out a niche with super high quality photo viewing. SmugMug (who sponsors my photo video show) has carved out a niche with higher end photographers with a paid high quality customer service platform for photographers who want to sell prints (85% payouts on print markups at SmugMug btw blow away 20% payouts at flickr for stock photography).

As far as the core sort of free photo sharing on the web goes though, Google will dominate here. At least if things keep going as they’ve been going. It is in fact probably too late for Flickr to turn this around now. They probably had a chance about 6 months before Google+ launched. Being the leader in social photo sharing is a powerful advantage, but they’ve squandered their lead at this point and what you are going to see over the course of the next year is a continue decline in Flickr and that big sucking sound that you hear? That’s those photographers one by one moving on over to join the party on Google+.

If you want to follow my photography on Google+ you can do that here.

Update: A robust conversation about this article over on Google+ here.

First Observations on the New Samsung Nexus Galaxy, AKA “The Google Phone”

Flickr

Yesterday morning I waited an hour in line to purchase the new Samsung Nexus Galaxy at the San Francisco Verizon store ($299 with a 2 year contract) on its first day of official sale. For the past 24 hours or so I’ve been playing with this new highly anticipated first Ice Cream Sandwich phone and following are my observations:

1. This is the best phone I’ve ever used. Hands down this phone rocks. It’s hard to describe the feeling of using it. Overall it’s just a feel — it is very polished and the whole UI feels sleek, slick and fast. It boots up fast. The power management feels great. The screen goes off when it should. I’m not overwhelmed with messages that I have to click or warnings. I love how when you turn the screen on and off it feels like an old skool television set going on or off.

But let’s get more into specifics. The absolute number one thing about this phone for me:

2. 4G is FAST! Woah this phone is so frigging amazingly blistering fast at browsing the web. The number one reason why I decided to get this phone instead of the iPhone was 4G. I’ve used a Sprint 4G card in my laptop for about 6 months or so and was so pleased with the speed that I knew I had to have a 4G phone. If you live in a Metropolitan area that has 4G (and fortunately for me both San Francisco and Oakland have excellent 4G coverage) the internet browsing speed of this phone will blow you away. It’s pretty much just like browsing the computer at work or home. It just flies. It feels for me for the first time surfing the web on a phone has arrived. This alone is reason enough to buy this phone.

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3. Unfortunately my initial 24 hours with the phone have been full of software bugs. I’m willing to put up with this though and as an early adopter (on day one) I expected that I’d see these. I’m sure these will get ironed out in time.

My first problem specifically was that yesterday morning it took me over 3 hours to figure out how to do the simple task of getting a photo of mine from the phone to Google+, something that should be super easy for the Google Phone. Apparently the version of Google+ that shipped with the phone was not the latest release, the version that shipped just didn’t work. I could not designate the person to send something to, when I tried to post a photo it would just say “sending” for 20 minutes, after multiple tries I finally got a photo to post but it was a teensy tiny version, etc.

When I uninstalled Google+ on the phone and reinstalled it from the Android Market it worked much better. I was finally able to post my photo (the top photo above this post). I took that photo with the Vignette app which worked yesterday morning.

After applying a Google Update to the phone yesterday afternoon though Vignette completely stopped working. I’ve contacted the developer and someone in mobile at Google, but even after uninstalling and reinstalling Vignette, turning the phone on and off, etc. the app simply will not take a photo. When I try I get the error “VIE encountered an error. Runtime error:java.lang. UnsupportedOperationException.” 100% of the time.

So Vignette is dead to me right now which sucks because that’s the number one photo app I like to use on Android (Although did you hear that Instagram is coming to Android!!!?). I’ve been using FX Camera instead since then which is the app I used to make the other two photos in this post.

Anybody have any good photo app recommendations?

Also Google+ just crashed on me 5 times this morning for no reason (well, for a reason, but I’m not an engineer so I don’t know why). The GREAT news was that every time it crashed, when I restarted the app it brought me right back to the place where I’d been typing. So I did not lose any data or have to retype what I’d been typing. Typing on any mobile device is a pain, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that after spending 5 minutes typing something in, it was all still right there when I restarted from my crash.

Anyways, I’m confident that these app issues will be ironed out in future updates, patches and releases — speaking of which….

4. If you are going to buy an Android phone THIS *IS* the phone to buy. Don’t be a sucker like I was with my last phone. Do not buy any Android phone except the Nexus, the Google phone. If it doesn’t say Nexus, do not buy it. Don’t be confused by some trick like it having the same Galaxy name or same Samsung name, or whatever.

If you buy any other Android phone but the Nexus, you will regret it.

Why?

Because the phone carriers/manufacturers screw you over with non-Nexus Android phones. They load them up with crapware (my last TMobile Android phone had a super loud TMobile jingle that played every time you turned the phone on or off with NO way to disable it, that was sooooo annoying, especially when you were asleep at 3am and the battery would die waking you up in the middle of the night with a TMobile jingle nightmare as the phone died). They force you to have certain websites in your favorites, don’t let you delete apps or pages from your phone from their “marketing partners” etc. Crap, crap, crap.

But worst of all, they do NOT support updates to the phones after you buy them. Owners of the Samsung Galaxy Vibrant had to quite literally SUE TMobile and Samsung to finally get them to upgrade the phone from Eclair to Froyo. Even now that crappy Samsung Galaxy Vibrant is stuck on Froyo in an Ice Cream Sandwich world (with Gingerbread and Honeycomb releases inbetween) If you buy one of these phones do not complain when they won’t give you updates. You’ve been warned. They just want you to buy a new phone every time a new release is out which is totally sucky way for them to do business.

On the other hand, the Google Phone (AKA Nexus) is like a protected device. It’s cloaked in a special invisible force field by Google that allows it to get the first updates, avoid all the crapware, etc. It’s the most pure Android phone you can buy. It’s the main Android phone that people working for Google will use because they are all in on the little secret that it’s the best one. So having the Nexus is like being in a little insiders club of having the best Android phone. I bet Trey Ratcliff even already has one — he’s probably already even put a custom skin on it like his Mac.

Santa's

5. Let’s get into the camera. The big debate here? Megapixels. The iPhone has 8, the Nexus has 5. Personally I couldn’t care less. I’m not using this camera to make big 44 inch prints. I mean I’m sure 8 *is* better than 5, but I’m more concerned with the optics of a camera phone and the software to edit photos than I am the megapixels. I still think the iPhone probably wins here though, My friend Michel Ventri uses his iPhone to put out the most AMAZING photos. He’s also big on Instagram. I can’t play on Instagram yet, but did I mention it’s coming to the Android?

I take my DSLR with me everywhere I go so I can rely less on a camera phone, but personally I’m completely fine with the photos that I’ve posted above. If I want to print something out big or take something more thoughtful, I’ll use my DSLR over any camera phone anyways.

The default gallery viewer does come with some nice basic editing tools beyond just cropping. You can adjust specific types of lighting (highlights/fill light/shadows) in your shots, change the basic color temperature (warmer vs. cooler) and it has some simple and basic FX type effects.

6. The Nexus is light, thin, and big. 90% of me loves this 10% of me does not love it. The screen is phenomenal to look at. It’s not just big, the resolution is so perfect. I was reading an article from the New York Times on it on the way to work this morning and it was truly a pleasureful experience on that big screen. Video especially looks amazing on it (and fast with 4G) — speaking of which, if you haven’t seen our Photo Talk Plus video interview with NASA Astronaut/Photographer Ron Garan from Wednesday night, go watch it here now!

On the other hand, I’ve got big hands (that’s what she said), and even for me I find it a bit of a reach to hit all of the buttons one handed. If there were two versions, a bigger one and an iPhone sized little mini one, I’d still buy the big one, but in your hand you will definitely notice how big it feels. If you have smallish hands this may end up being a two handed phone for you.

7. Speaking of the screen, it feels sturdy. My wife cracked the glass screen on her iPhone. When I had an iPhone I always worried about that. I had other friends who have cracked their screens too. I can’t say for sure, but the Nexus feels like if I dropped it the screen wouldn’t crack. It’s like a hard plastic more than glass (it may not be, but that’s what it feels like to me). I’m not going to drop it and try to find out, but it feels sturdier to me than the iPhone.

8. When I plugged the thing into my Mac it wasn’t recognized as a device. I’m not technical but I understand this has something to do with MTP or PTP or some other such jargon, but basically there wasn’t an easy way to get stuff (like photos and music) between your phone and Mac. Fortunately for me though the super knowledgeable Geng Gao was able to point me to this great little free app for your Mac that works perfectly for transferring files back and forth between this new phone and the Mac.

9. Music rocks on this thing. I love that I can use the Google Music player to access both the music that I put on the phone (about 1,100 songs) as well as my music in the cloud on Google Music (about 12,000 songs). There’s a little setting that you can tell the phone to only play offline songs when you don’t have a connection (or don’t want to use your connection), or you can go to the cloud and play any of your music from Google Music that you want. Are you using Google Music yet? If not you totally should be, it’s free.

10. Google Integration. Another big reason I went with this phone over the iPhone is Google integration. Google is becoming a bigger and bigger part of my online life. Google Maps, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google+, etc. I love that I can easily add my own personal custom created Google Maps from my computer as a layer on the phone’s mapping software. Whenever I go shoot a city I create a map ahead of time of things I want to shoot there. To be able to easily load those pin points into my mobile phone is huge for me. Likewise Gmail works really well on the new phone. I especially like how well and fast it can search my entire mailbox to help me find messages that I need to use when I’m out and about.

11. It’s Verizon. I think I’ve sort of developed this bias against most of the cell phone providers. My experience with AT&T was that their 3G coverage on the iPhone was simply awful. I used to bitch about that on Twitter mercilessly. When I switched to TMobile I was mad because after promising us unlimited internet they started throttling me (i.e. bait and switch). Being throttled was even worse than AT&T’s crappy coverage, the phone just crawled to an unusable pace.

I do like my Sprint 4G service, so I’ve got nothing bad to say about Sprint… yet. I have heard rumors that they are going to end my unlimited service on 4G card though which will probably make me mad if/when they do that.

I’m not quite sure what to expect with Verizon yet, but people that I’ve informally talked to sort of tell me that Verizon is the best of the carriers. I heard alot of people say that their iPhones did better when they switched from AT&T to Verizon. I suppose if I had to pick a carrier based on all of this anecdotal evidence I’d pick Verizon. My plan comes with 4 GB of data. If I use more though I get charged $10/GB. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it under that limit.

Maybe someday Google will buy a carrier and free us all from all the bad carrier service/policy.

12. Battery life. So far so good, but I haven’t really tested this enough yet. I bought a second usb charger cable when I bought the phone. I keep the AC power one at work and keep it plugged in there when I’m at work and I use the 2nd one with one of the USB slots on the back of my Apple 27 inch cinema display monitor (which I love) at home.

When I was really taxing the phone (i.e. listening to Google Music from the cloud on 4G, while surfing the web and using the camera at full screen brightness — the screen is big) it did sort of feel like the battery was going down kind of fast. I did drain the battery when I first bought it, but I’m sure they don’t come with a full charge and it seemed to recharge back up to full battery pretty quickly.

I’ve heard this battery is alot better than previous Android devices and that ICS does a better job at managing the power of this phone. I’ve seen some early initial reports from others that seem to suggest the battery life on this device will do well. We’ll see I suppose, if it doesn’t I’m sure you’ll probably hear me bitching about it.

13. The headphones that came with this thing feel great to me. I’m no audiophile but I’ve been using just the standard white Apple headphones with my last phone and I like these headphones alot better.

Anyways, those are my initial thoughts and reactions on the phone. I’m super happy with it as a Christmas present to myself. 🙂

Update: Leif Sikorski suggested that my problem with Vignette would be related to the fact that I had “Force Rendering GPU” on in the developers options. I checked that (I don’t remember ever turning that on and have no idea how it got checked) and he was absolutely right. That option was checked. I unchecked it and now Vignette is working just fine for me. A good thread on the new Nexus phone on Google+ here.

10 Reasons Why Google+ Is Better for Social Photography Than Flickr

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A few months back I wrote a post “Flickr is Dead.” When I wrote that post I didn’t mean dead literally, I just meant that the soul of social photo sharing was migrating away from Flickr over to Google+.

Over the past few months the tide has begun shifting even more. Photographers are moving in mass from Flickr to Google+ as their primary photo sharing network.

Just like the social crowd moved from Webshots and Fotolog to Flickr a number of years ago, the social photography crowd is now moving from Flickr to Google+.

There are a number of reasons why this is happening and in this post I’ll outline some of the key ones.

1. Google+ has momentum, energy, excitement and has captured the imagination of photographers all over the world. Social photographers want to be a part of something big, something that is growing. People feel that energy and want to be a part of it. It’s hard to actually understand this social magic, but Google+ clearly has it right now for photographers.

2. Google employees are actively engaged with the photographic community. A ton of Google employees are working both online and offline to engage the community. They post their own photos and they interact with other photographers. They use their streams to promote the work of newcomers in the community. They attend photowalks. We just did a Death Valley trip and I think 8 or so Googlers showed up for the trip. They are visible engaged evangelists promoting social photography at Google both online and in person. When was the last time you actually saw someone from Flickr show up for a photowalk?

By the way, you are coming on our Google+ San Jose photowalk on December 8th, right? 74 people have already signed up for it. 🙂

3. Google has better tools to manage your social experience. The biggest problem at flickr right now is that the tools to manage your social experience are weak. At Google when you block somebody, they are really and truly blocked. You don’t see them ANYWHERE on the site. Trolls, griefers, stalkers, harassers, etc, can be instantly zapped out of existence on the site with a touch of a button. They can’t see you (unless they log out) and you don’t see them *anywhere* on the site. They become totally invisible. It’s so perfect.

Flickr doesn’t realize it yet but they have a BIG problem with harassment. Blocking people at flickr is weak and ineffective. They still can post on your friends’ photos so that you’ll see them. They still can post in groups that you’re a member of. This is a poison that I’ve personally watched drive many of the best accounts away from Flickr.

4. You get far, far more engagement on your photos on Google+ than on Flickr. It might take a little bit of work and interaction, but once you engage on Google+ you’ll find that every possible metric to measure (number of followers, number of views, number of comments, number of +1s, quality of interaction) is far superior.

I think part of why this is so is because that in addition to photographers being on Google+ there are also a ton of non-photographers. These non-photographers never would have come to flickr in the past because, well, they’re not photographers. On Google+ they are on the site for different reasons but still end up exposed to your photography. Because of this, you reach a much larger audience in the end.

The day before yesterday +Maria Bartiromo reshared one of +Trey Ratcliff’s photos. I doubt Maria Bartoroma would ever have an account on Flickr, but she’s a top account on Google+ and as such is being exposed to great photography every single day.

5. Hangouts are like social superglue. Flickr recently launched this sort of lame feature where you can share your flickr photos with other users and text chat about them — super, super, super, super lame. Nobody wants to do this. Nobody is using this. Text chatting only is so “you’ve got mail” AOLish — it belongs to the last decade, not the next decade.

Google+ photographers are interacting in real time, live with video and audio. I hosted a hangout the other day and over 60 people showed up during it to socialize. +Trey Ratcliff is doing fun and interesting broadcasted hangouts (I’ll be on Trey’s show tomorrow night at 7pm PST btw). A bunch of the female photographers on Google+ just launched a new hangout show called “Life Through the Lens” photography from a woman’s perspective.

On Google+ I can watch +Scott Jarvie edit his photos live in real time. Jarvie generously shares with the rest of us his tips and techniques. I can learn about +Paul Roustan’s body painting photography and how he prints his work and gets it in galleries. Last night I got to hear +Michael Bonocore explain to me how he made this shot with fire and spinning wool.

Hangouts can be planned or spontaneous. When you connect with other photographers it’s connecting with them on a whole different level when it’s face to face and with audio and video. Flickr’s groups helped flickr create small intimate experiences, hangouts are like that x 1,000.

Also because people are nicer to each other when they interact face to face than via text, the whole tone of photographer interaction is enhanced by this tool on Google+.

6. Shared circles lets the community promote great photographers. I’ve shared my photography circles a few times now. People are sharing circles every day. When we share circles it massively promotes other photographers on the site — they get new followers (hence more momentum). An audience for your work can be built so much faster as people end up frequently sharing great circles of talented photographers. Here are two of my posts where I’ve shared my own circles for you to find some great photographers that I’m following too.

7. Circles are smarter contact management. At flickr you just get two buckets. Your friends/family and your contacts. And yet sometimes you need to categorize your friends differently than just those two buckets.

For example: the weekend before last 55 or so of us spent that amazing weekend shooting in Death Valley. With Google+ I was able to create a Death Valley circle and use that to broadcast updates just to that group of people. You can create circles of San Francisco Photographers, Best Friend Photographers, Neon Shooters, Night Photographers, Detroit Photographers (for when I visit Detroit in Jan), etc. The ways to organize your contacts are limitless.

8. Strong Curation and Resharing. Explore is a joke. Even though I’ve been unblacklisted from it now (thanks +Zack Shepard!), I still never go there. The photo quality is poor. You get lots of watermarked photos and sort of less interesting artistic stuff. Rather than have to look at photos supposedly selected by some hokey donkey on flickr, at Google+ if something is particularly good it gets reshared and I get to see it from the people that I follow. These people have much better taste than Flickr’s dumb algorithm.

And then there are other people like +Jarek Klimek who are curating huge sized versions of some of the best Google+ photos offsite at PhotoExtract. PhotoExtract kicks Explore’s ass so hard.

Also when something is featured on Photo Extract or reshared by your friends you don’t get all those dumb sparkly gif awards all over your photo or people begging you to add it to a bunch of dumb groups.

9. Google owns the future of search. No doubt about it. Yahoo is on the way out for search. They tried to partner up with the Bingers but everybody still uses Google. Already Google+ entries are starting to index very highly on Google. If you care about search, if you care about SEO — if you are a professional photographer especially and want to be easily found on Google.com, Google+ is your best way to try and promote your work.

10. Innovation, Innovation, Innovation. You just can’t beat it. People started using hashtags on G+ and Google stepped up and linked them. People were having a problem with trolls in some hangouts and we got a tool to block them right there from the hangout. When +Vincent Mo first built the lightbox view he forgot to give us a button to +1 photos from there. BAMM it gets fixed, as smooth as apples and steak.

(Remember +Vic Gundotra, +Vincent Mo, +Dave Cohen and +Brian Rose should all get hefty bonuses this year, plus +Ricardo Lagos even though he isn’t even on the photos team, oh wait and +Chris Chabot too, and lots of other good Googlers).

Google is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Google+ and the entire company is focused on it. Contrast this with Yahoo who spent last Christmas laying off flickr employees at twice the rate of the general company layoffs. Flickr has stagnated and is not innovating. Google is aggressively expanding and growing Google+.

Google+’s Awesome New Photography Contest for College Students

The New Digital Darkroom

Wow!

Google is giving away 100 of the new Ice Cream Sandwich Nexus phones, an opportunity for 10 people to be shown at the Satchi Gallery in London and a once of a lifetime opportunity to shoot anywhere in the world at your destination of choice!

They are doing this as part of a photography contest that they are running. You have to be a university student in order to qualify for the contest, but this looks like a GREAT contest. My kids are a little young to apply yet, but I always like showing this great photo of mine (above) of my son William and daughter Holly. 🙂

Check out more of the details on the Google Blog or here.

Google’s Brilliant Shared Circle “Friend of a Friend” Strategy

Google's Brilliant Shared Circle "Friend of a Friend" Strategy

If you’re on Google+ there’s a good chance that over the past few days you’ve noticed a huge bump up in your number of followers. For some it’s just double or triple would you’d normally get on a given day. For others it’s like someone tied a rocket ship to their G+ account and sent it soaring into the atmosphere.

Alot of people are wondering what’s going on. Why has everyone’s follower account just skyrocketed — BLOWN UP. The answer is simple. Shared Circles.

Two days ago Google launched their latest feature for Google+, the ability to share your circles with others on the site and even publicly. When someone shares a circle you can add the entire circle at once to the contacts that you follow on the site, or you can pick and choose from different people in the circle.

All kinds of circles are being shared. Louis Gray shared this circle of people who work for Google. Paul Allen has this shared circle of VCs. Jeff Jarvis shared his circle of journalists on G+. Michelle Marie has this Cool Chicks on G+ circle. Robert Scoble has this circle of tech execs and entrepreneurs.

And then of course there are the photographers. Here’s Leo Laporte’s Photography Circle he talked about today on TWIT Photos. There are way too many photography shared circles bouncing around Google+ right now to even try and keep up.

Circles are limited to 250 people so I had to break my Kick Ass Photographers on G+ into two circles. You can find A-K here and L-Z here (by first name) — and totally sorry to people I may have left off my photographers circle list. I’m super unorganized and *know* that I’ve left off some amazing photographers. I’m already kicking myself hard in the shins for forgetting about some of my very best photography friends on this list.

I think my favorite circle shared so far is this one by Micah Wittman. Something about the Breakfast Club coming out when I was in 10th grade gives it a special place in my heart.

Anyways, circle sharing is exploding on G+ right now — and what is this doing? This is BLOWING up everyone’s follower account. People are discovering hundreds of new and interesting contacts and they can add them all in one fell swoop.

This is so, so, so, smart on Google’s part — for a number of reasons.

First, it just generates a ton of buzz for the site. People are happy and excited to see their follower counts grow. Many people are commenting that for the first time their follower counts on G+ are more than flickr or Twitter or Facebook or wherever else they hang out. If they weren’t invested in Google+ two days ago, they sure are now. The past two days have also been pure *fun* on Google+. Everybody’s in the best mood and loving seeing this happen.

Second, the way that followers are being added is ensuring that the *right* followers are being added. There is nothing like the recommendation of a friend when it comes to a high quality follower. Lots of sites have friend of a friend feature, but I’ve yet to see any site turn it on with turbo like Google+ has done here.

Who better to turn to for recommendations on entrepreneurs and tech execs than Robert Scoble? Who better to turn to find journalists than Jeff Jarvis? You know these people and trust their recommendations and by giving you access to their circles it *blows* up whomever they list. But even if you are not on these high profile lists, *everybody* is sharing circles — so the long tail kicks in — even someone with only 20 followers may end up on sister Sue’s my family members that I love the most shared circle.

Third, it builds community. People are thrilled when they are added to a circle. I’ve gotten so many thank yous today, bonds are strengthened — more of that feel good super positive pixie dust that gets sprinkled all over Google+.

Finally, I think this once and for all puts those lame “Google+ is a ghost town” articles by clueless disconnected journalists to rest. The activity over the past few days on G+ has been nothing short of explosive. If you’re missing it at this point, you really do have your head buried in the sand. It’s also a strong signal to anyone who is not on Google+ yet that this product is a winner and a big part of the future of your online life on the internet — you can keep waiting if you want to, but if you do you’re missing out on the best party on the web right now.

The end result is that we all get more interesting accounts to follow (in one fell swoop). People are excited. This feature was a home run by Google. People are far more invested in the network than they were 2 days ago and pretty much everybody in their own way is blowing up their numbers on the site.

Google+ continues to roll out innovation after innovation. Shared circles is a hit. Want to know why your follower count blew up the past 2 days, thank Google+’s shared circles.

By the way, I’m approaching 150,000 followers now on G+ myself after only a little over 3 months. G+ is the best place for social interaction on the web today (especially for photographers). That’s almost 8x the number of followers I have on Flickr after 7 years. Woah!

If you’re a photographer and want an audience for your work, you simply have to be on Google+.