Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

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+.

Google I Love You So Much I’d +1 That

Google

Great news today from Google. They’ve opened up Google+ to everyone. It’s no longer invite only. Along with opening it up to the entire world they finished up eight other new features as well — including SEARCH! 🙂 Danny Sullivan has a great wrap up on the new search feature here.

They also added the ability to broadcast and record hangouts which is super cool as well. I’ve done a number of hangouts and they are a fun way to hang out at the end of the day online with a group of 9 of your friends. Because hangouts only accomodate 10, alot of people were left out and not able to watch them. Now that you can broadcast and record them people who can’t get in can at least still watch.

100 features since launching less than three months ago. AMAZING! Why can’t other sites do this?

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team innovate so quickly around a product. It’s refreshing and exciting to see something so innovating going on and it’s been so fun for me being a part of it all as well. I love being able to say that I signed up for Google+ on the first day that it was open as invite only to the public.

I’m especially proud of the vibrant photography community that has emerged out of Google+. So many amazing photographers coming together to share their work visually. I’ve also been so pleased seeing Google embrace and help nurture this new community on their site. Dell and Google+ cosponsored our photowalk this past weekend in Austin and both came through with great prizes for a photo contest. Congratulations btw to our grand prize winner Emma Hollingsworth who took the winning photo with an iPhone! More on that here.

Klout also announced today that they are integrating G+ into their product as well. I hooked mine up a few minutes ago.

I took the above photo of Dave Cohen, Lotus Carroll and Vincent Mo at the Austin City Limits Music Festival this past weekend. It was great to see Google+ out at the festival with a big presence (they even sponsored a stage!). The message was accidental, but I love it.

Are you a photographer not on Google+? What are you waiting for? Sign up today. You can add me to your circle here. 🙂

Top 10 Ways for Photographers to Get Attention on Google+

FFear of a New San Francisco -- San Francisco, CA

Another week, another Google+ post.

Last week I wrote about 5 reasons why Google+ is winning the war in photosharing. In the comments to that post were a few people who said that they did not feel like they were getting traction even though they were getting involved.

Today I thought I’d put out a post on the top 10 ways for people to get attention on Google+. Some of these will apply to non-photographers too. Keep in mind that developing a large audience on the internet can take years of work, there is no magic bullet to automatically getting attention. There are, however, some best practices that may help you find more followers and get more attention.

1. Post great photos. “Great” is totally subjective though right? Post what you feel are the strongest photos you have. They don’t have to have been taken yesterday. You should strive to reserve your very best work for Google+. If you want attention as a photographer, make working on your craft a priority.

My friend Sly Vegas has only been shooting 6 months, but he has poured himself into photography in a huge way. He’s shooting every day, he’s devouring tutorials for Canon and Adobe Lightroom. He’s trying to step up his game. If you post mediocre photos none of the rest of this will count. Make sure dust spots are cloned out. Post process your work to make it look it’s best. Find unique and interesting subject matter to shoot. All of this matters.

Even if you’re not a photographer, consider posting strong and interesting visual imagery with your post. Tom Anderson does this. His posts are all about his thoughts and words, but with almost every post he makes he posts something visual to go with it. Google+ is heavily optimized to show the visual. Posts with photos do better than posts without.

Well now that we’ve got that out of the way…

2. Reciprocation. The number one way for you to get attention on Google+ is to reciprocate. Reciprocate like crazy. This is no different than Flickr, or Facebook, or Twitter or whatever. The most basic formula for every social network has always been reciprocation. Believe it or not, +1’s are *FREE* for you to give out. They don’t cost you anything! They are unlimited. +1 like crazy.

If you like a post or photo or whatever, +1 that sexy thing.

Comments are even more valuable than +1s. Don’t be shy. Even if all you have time to say is “nice!” A comment in someone’s post puts your link there for others to discover you.

If you want to ramp up attention to your own work, spend some time giving it out first. Have a philosophy of giving out 2, 3, 4 times, hell 100 or 1000 times when you’re starting out, what you get. Give and you shall receive. Don’t be disingenuous — comment when you really feel it and of course everyone always loves those super thoughtful, funny, positive comments too.

Also don’t forget to +name someone when you respond to them in a comment. It’s hard to keep up on every single conversation on Google+. If someone asks you a question or you are directing something at someone specifically, make sure to +name them. This way they are better notified (don’t abuse this).

3. Add a bunch of interesting people to your circles. Nothing gets you a follower quite like following somebody else first (again, see reciprocation). This will take some work. You have to be willing to work. My favorite way to find new people to add? I look for people who are making interesting and engaging comments on mine and other’s streams and I add them. The lists are a place to start too, but there are tons of people who are crazy talented who aren’t on these lists yet. (btw, you can add yourself to a lot of these lists, have you done that yet?)

It’s ok to add strangers. Put them in your “I Don’t Know These People Yet But They Seem Hella Talented and I’d Like to Get to Know Them More” circle.

Don’t just blindly add people, but actively look for interesting people and add them liberally when you find them.

4. How you post matters. Are you posting photos? Post them *directly to Google+* in order to get the huge big thumbnail. You have no idea how important this thumbnail is. Don’t just post a link to a flickr photo of yours, or a photo on 500px, or a photo on your blog. Bigger is better!

If you are so tied to these other places where you post, still upload the photo to G+ but add a link (if you must) to the site that you want to link out to.

I’ve heard a lot of people say things like, well if I post my photo to Google+ then I won’t get the traffic to my blog. Fine. But this post isn’t about how to get more attention on your blog, it’s about how to get more attention on Google+. A text link to your blog or a small thumbnail to a flickr or 500px will get far less attention than a big, bright, bold thumbnail image directly on G+.

5. Don’t overpost. I post 5 photos a day. That feels about right to me. I spread them out during the day. The best way to get people to ignore you is to flood their stream with 50 photos of your recent vacation (unless you’re Trey Ratcliff and they are all from Burning Man and you are posting them to make a point about how the comment on photo spam needs to be fixed by Google). 🙂

Resist the urge to post about what your eating like you do on Twitter — unless what you’re eating is raw sushi off Lady Gaga’s naked body on a table at the Playboy Mansion — again joking, I so would NOT post about that if I were actually doing it, which I wouldn’t be, I mean which I probably wouldn’t be.

6. Don’t post a GIF... unless it’s a really, really, really, really good GIF that nobody’s seen before. Seeing someone’s face morph into 14 other faces was sort of cool the first time you saw it. The 20th time, not as much. Resist the urge. I love a good Caturday GIF as much as the next guy, but a lot of people see these as noise.

7. Be a great curator. Guy Kawasaki is great at this. So is Morgaine LeFaye. So is Robert Scoble. Look for the best, most unique content that you can find on the web. Use your space to showcase work by other talented people on G+. When a new person shows up who you know has talent, make a post introducing them to the rest of the community.

8. Participate in hangouts. Hangouts are a great intimate way to get to know people. Somehow when you spend a little time with someone face to face (albeit with computers between you) you get to know them a little better.

9. Cross promote your Google+ account. Is there a link to your Google+ account on your flickr profile? Why not? That’s soooo easy to do. Have you posted a kick ass photo to flickr, reminding the people that follow you there that you are now on Google+, maybe even with a link to your invites url? Why not?

Have you tweeted out your Google+ posts page? Have you posted it to Facebook? Is it on your blog? Your tumblr?

What about people in real life (IRL, don’t you just hate that? I mean the web is in fact IRL if you ask me)? I hear people say that their family are not on Google+ yet, that they are still on Facebook. Whose fault is that? Yours. Get them on there. My sister just recently joined by the way. What about your co-workers? Ask them if they’ve heard of it and offer them an invite. You’d be surprised how many people are interested in G+ right now but just need that little personal touch and push over.

Are you a celebrity? Mention your Google+ account the next time you’re on the David Letterman show (joking), but you get the idea.

10. Make sure you are posting *PUBLICLY*. Alot of people make this mistake when they first post to G+. They aren’t aware that you have to type “public” into the little box below your status update. If you only put “your circles” or “your extended circles” or you leave it to the last way you sent something as a default, or whatever, you’ll miss getting your image out to a TON of people.

Unless there is a specific reason why you need to keep a photo limited, if you want attention, you are going to want to make sure it says “PUBLIC” down at the bottom, every time you post a photo.

Bonus tip: Be nice and be *positive*. Nobody likes a hater. Nobody wants to hear that their photo sucks and that it looks like crap (unless someone is *specifically* asking for this sort of criticism). Nobody wants to see someone saying that their model looks fat. Resist the urge to bash Obama on unrelated photos of the Grand Canyon.

It’s so easy for someone to uncircle you, move you to the “Don’t pay attention to these people because they are negative haters” circle, block you, or even use the new ignore feature that Google rolled out last week (for when you really do want to block someone but it might feel socially awkward).

People are on Google+ for a lot of reasons, to find interesting content, to meet interesting people, to promote their work, to get inspiration, to social network, but most of all they are on here *TO HAVE FUN*.

You can find me on Google+ here. 🙂

Five Reasons Why Google is Winning the War in Photosharing

“What is more pleasant than the benevolent notice other people take of us, what is more agreeable than their compassionate empathy? What inspires us more than addressing ears flushed with excitement, what captivates us more than exercising our own power of fascination? What is more thrilling than an entire hall of expectant eyes, what more overwhelming than applause surging up to us? What, lastly, equals the enchantment sparked off by the delighted attention we receive from those who profoundly delight ourselves? – Attention by other people is the most irresistible of drugs. To receive it outshines receiving any other kind of income. This is why glory surpasses power and why wealth is overshadowed by prominence.”

Caterina Fake, 2005

Yesterday my good friend Trey Ratcliff did an experiment. Granted, this is *TOTALLY* and *COMPLETELY* unscientific. His experiment was he posted one of his photos on two sites — the identical photo at the identical time. The two sites were Google+ and Facebook. Trey was trying to measure the difference in engagement between the two. Below are his results:

Results
Google+: 1193 +1s, 66 shares, 367 comments.
Facebook: 89 likes, ? shares, 40 comments.

Trey has more to say and mentions some interesting variables, but suffice it to say that Google+ is the *hottest* thing in the photo sharing space right now. I’ve been thinking alot about that and wanted to articulate some of the things that Google is doing right and why I feel that this is the case.

Firedancer
Firedancer, Barcelona Spain, by Trey Ratcliff

1. Images look great. Right out of the gate Google+ has gotten image presentation down. We get gorgeous, luscious, huge, oversized thumbnails in our streams that when you click on them almost instantaneously burst into the best looking lightbox on the web right now. Facebook by contrast gives us these tiny, stingy, little etsy weenie, microscopic thumbnails that when you click through present you with a smaller cluttered lightbox complete with all kinds of distracting material including advertisements. Flickr’s lightbox is ok, but its clunky and slow and when I click off of it it doesn’t always return me back to the photo page.

On Facebook photographs seem tolerated. On Google+ photographs seem celebrated. Our world is so visual. Google gets this in a big way.

Ferry
Ferry Building, San Francisco, by Chris Chabot

2. The Google Photos team, well hell, everyone at Google is really excited, enthused and involved in the Google+ product — all day long! I’ve never quite seen anything like this. Literally *hundreds* of Googlers interacting like an army with all of us users. I think I know two people total who work for facebook and I haven’t spoken with either of them in years. I’ve traded some fun barbs with Daniel Bogan over at Flickr on Twitter, but my contact with anyone at Flickr ended years ago. (did I mention I’m permanently banned from the forum where there staff hangs out?)

I don’t think that this is an accident. I think Google is experimenting with one of the boldest experiments in customer service and evangelism of all time. I think it’s a culture thing and I think it comes from the top. In fact I know it comes from the top. Google has empowered their employees to become their PR machine.

We’re doing a great photowalk next Thursday at UC Berkeley — SIGN UP HERE. Who’s organizing it with me? Chris Chabot who works for Google — a super guy who I’ve gotten to know and consider a friend. When was the last time you saw someone from Flickr or Facebook leading a photowalk? Googlers were everywhere at Trey’s photowalk at Stanford a few weeks back.

I have never seen any company empower its employees to be so free and open with PR and communication channels. I totally credit all the individual Googlers who are making this happen, but I also credit leadership at Google for allowing this sort of a culture to thrive and flourish. It’s the exact opposite of the top secret controlled environment message ala Steve Jobs and Apple.

If
If My Sky Should Fall, by Lotus Carroll

3. The engagement just can’t be beat. As Trey’s experiment shows, you just get so much more engagement on every post at Google+ over what you post on Facebook and Flickr. Not just a little bit more — ALOT more.

I’ve heard some people who claim that they still get more on Facebook and Flickr, but they haven’t really engaged on Google+ yet. Everybody I’ve known who has actively engaged on Google+ agrees that you just get so much more engagement.

Yesterday in Trey’s post, Byron DL wrote “Thomas Hawk pronounced the death of Flickr. Millions of people just share photos to share them and don’t measure the stats or use them to get more followers are friends and influence. These numbers are like comparing the drawer full of polaroids at my mom’s house to another’s moms house.”

Byron may have a point. Maybe alot of the people on Flickr don’t really care about engagement (faves, comments, views, etc.), maybe photos are just a drawer full of polaroids after all — but I think he’s wrong. Even if people don’t want to admit it, they all do.

Caterina’s quote at the top of this article was the foundation of what made Flickr the success that it was.

We all want attention. Sure we want a place to just share photos with our friends and family — but the attention is the real drug, even if we’re too proud to admit it.

Before Flickr people *already* had a site to share photos with friends and family. It was called Webshots. Hell, CNET paid twice for Webshots what Yahoo paid for Flickr. Webshots is still a fine place to share photos with friends and family — the greeting card people bought the company I think. Likewise Flickr will be an ok place to share photos with friends and family too, but all the real action in photo sharing will move over to Google.

Some
Some of My Favorites, by helen sotiriadis

4. The culture is positive. I’ve been super active in Flickr groups pretty much ever since Flickr started them. I’ve administered many. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve spent thousands of hours literally in Flickr Groups.

Yesterday I quit the last Flickr group I was active in administering. A group with about 6,000 members. Why? Mostly because of the negativity.

Flickr groups are overrun by anonymous trolls and griefers. The IRL personal harassment and stalking that has come out of Flickr groups has convinced me to stay away from them. Even the people who aren’t harassing other people are frequently petty, negative haters — so much back bitting, pessimism, jealously and stupid crap.

By contrast the culture the culture at Google+ is incredibly positive. People helping each other. Talking about photography and cameras and lenses again. It’s like night and day. In part I think this culture is framed by Googlers setting such a positive tone to the network as it’s been rolled out. But I think there are design elements too.

It seems harder for people to set up 20 troll accounts and attack. If someone misbehaves they are quickly removed from circles and marginalized. I don’t know how it’s happening exactly, but it’s a nice change.

Robert Scoble says that Google+ is working because Google has focused on the interest graph and has allowed strangers to meet around common interests. I definitely see that with photography. I’ve met so many amazing new friends in the past six weeks on Google+ around photography that I never knew from any other social network. There’s wayyyy too many to name, and I love you all, but here’s talking about you Kelli Seeger Kim. 😉

Wave
Wave Photos, by Eric Nelson

5. Photographers promoting other photographers. One of the most exciting things I see on Google+ is photographers promoting other photographers. I love it when this happens. I get to find somebody new and super cool to follow and it just makes me feel good inside.

I promote a lot of other people too. I love seeing great photographers get recognized. I can’t recognize everyone for sure, and hope I don’t offend people who I don’t recognize, but I love highlighting great work sometimes when I see it and it seems like alot of other people on Google+ do as well.

I’ve blogged a ton about Google+ over the past few weeks. Some people have said that they are tired of it — but this is what I do. I’m like a hungry seagull — when I’ve found the greatest dinner on the beach I have to squawk and squawk and squawk to get all the other seagulls to see what a great thing I’ve found. I evangelized Flickr just as hard back in the day (back when they seemed to care) and have been a big proponent of Twitter, Friendfeed, Google Buzz, and other interesting social media tech as it’s emerged.

I’ve never seen anything quite like Google+. Everyday it seems like another great Flickr/Facebook account is moving over and it makes me happy seeing more and more of my favorite friends hoping on board.

If you want to follow my work on Google+ you can circle me here. 🙂

Flickr is Dead

Screen shot 2011-08-12 at 1.39.46 AM

Poll:

Which one of these two albums looks better?

Flickr (the same view since 2004)

or

Google+ (with added infinite scrolling this week)

You know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s totally irrelevant. The Google one looks far better, but that’s so beside the point at this point.

Last night I realized for the first time that Flickr really was dead.

Where did this realization come from?

It had nothing to do with the fact that Google Photos is rolling out new innovation on a weekly basis while Flickr is still stuck in 2004. I realized it when I went to Trey Ratcliff’s photowalk at Stanford. There were over 200 people there. *200 people*! It was the largest photowalk I’ve ever been on and I’ve done dozens over the years. And what was everybody talking about at the photowalk?

Flickr?

No.

Google+?

Yes.

Not only was *everyone* talking about Google, there were tons of people from Google who were there at the walk.

Google Photos Community Manager Brian Rose was there (along with his sexy moustache). The Photo Team guy who built their lightbox Vincent Mo was there. Google+ Community Manager Natalie Villalobos was there (she used to work at Yahoo). Chris Chabot was there (and he was at Wednesday night’s photowalk in SF too). Mike Wiacek was there.

And these are just some of the people at Google that I know better than others.

There were so many more Googlers there as well. Lisa Bettany and Catherine Hall from TWIT Photos were there too.

I remember back when Flickr used to feel like this. Back when Stewart Butterfield used to show up at the SF Flickr Social meetups. Even though those were smaller meetups, they were full of the same high energy and spirit. Now the SF Flickr Group is basically dead. The meetups that used to happen every month don’t happen anymore. There are only three posts to the group in the past year and one of them is about reviving the group. I haven’t seen a Flickr employee in years. I’m still banned from their help forum for two years now — thanks alot guys.

Meanwhile I visited the Google Campus last week and got to spend an entire afternoon with an excited and engaged team who are full of energy and charged up about building the next great thing in photos.

Earlier this week, the Yahoo exec who is in charge of Flickr, Blake Irving, sent out an interesting tweet. He linked to an article that talked about the tipping point. The gist of the article was that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.

While it would be easy to point to the fact that there are more photographers and photographs still on Flickr than the fledgling Google+, the fact of the matter is that the most resolved 10% have now moved on from Flickr to Google+. It will take time, maybe even a few years for the rest of them to follow, but follow they will. I’ve seen this movie before. I blogged the tipping point back in 2005 before Flickr overtook Webshots for the first time.

Webshots is still around of course, but they are entirely irrelevant at this point. Remember how excited we all were about flickr back then? Sort of like how we are about Google Photos now.

And like Flickr killed Webshots, Google+ will kill flickr.

When we look back 5 years from now at the downfall of Flickr there will probably be plenty of people to blame.

Was it simply ineffective Yahoo management? Were the execs too demoralized about underwater stock options?

Carol Bartz still doesn’t have a Flickr account. Meanwhile Sergey Brin posted shots earlier this week of some kick ass underwater photography from a trip of his to Egypt.

Was it all of the turnover, including the layoffs themselves in the flickr group and lack of any meaningful Yahoo investment?

Was it the rotating team leadership after Stewart the problem? Was it the attitude coming out of Community Management that photographers were more of a nuisance to put up with and talked down to than a community worth engaging?

Who knows.

But Flickr is very much dead in the water. It will take time to really see it happen, but they’ve lost the soul of photosharing. They’ve lost the spirit of photosharing — the zest and passion and love — and while they got away with that for a long time due to lack of competition, things have now changed with Google Photos arriving on the scene, and to a degree 500px as well.

I’m sure I’ll get a bunch of haters responding to this post. Flickr is still beloved by so many of us. Myself included. I still upload photos up there every single day. Don’t hate me for sharing this opinion. And don’t bash Google Photos for whatever features you think they lack compared to flickr — but, but, but, Google+ doesn’t have groups, blah, blah, blah.

All that’s coming.

As I mentioned before, it’s not about the features, it’s about the spirit. And with weekly innovation on their invite only beta product, Google+ is far more likely to get the final product right than Flickr is to innovate at this point.

Please keep in mind that this is just my personal observation after watching the photo sharing space very closely over a long period of years. I very well could be wrong.

Mark Twain’s famous quote “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” in fact comes to mind.

Update: This post was on hacker news this morning and as such is getting a lot of traffic.

If any of you don’t have Google+ invites and want one, I’ve got 38 of my 150 left and you can get one here. First come, first serve.

The comments on this post on Google+ itself are also worth reading.

Update #2: Peter Adams got a great group photo from last night. He was shooting with a Phase One system which is pretty awesome. Check out his group photo here — be sure to actually click on the photo to see it huge in the lightbox view.

Update #3: My Google+ invite link ran out of invites above, but Mike Wiacek sent me his invite link which should be reloaded with another 143 or so if people still need them, just click here.

Update #4: Looks like Mike and I are both out of invites now. David Miller just emailed me his invite link. You should be able to get one here if you still need one until they run out.

Update #5: TechCrunch picks up on the Flickr story here. Looks like we’re out of invites again. Instead of me posting more links in the body of this post, if you have an invite link and want to share it, post it in the comments and people can use them there if they still need an invite to sign up.

Top 10 Tips on Google+ for Photographers

Top 10 Tips on Google+ for Photographers

As some of you know I received an early invite to test out and participate in Google’s latest entry into the social networking world Google+. I did an early comparison piece between Google+, Facebook, Flickr, 500px and Twitter the week before last. I wanted to write and update my thoughts on Google+ for photo sharing now that I’ve gotten a few weeks under my belt, as well as share with you all my own strategy for sharing photographs going forward.

Google+ completely changes the photo sharing game. Not just a little bit — alot. This may be the most significant shift in photo sharing that we’ve seen since the introduction of Flickr. There is more engagement going on with photographs on G+, more ways to share photographs on G+, and it is growing at a rate that blows my mind away. Photos are elegantly presented as large oversized thumbnails in stream views (in contrast to Facebook’s stingy microscopic photo thumbnails that I’ve never quite understood). When you click through the photo you get the most elegant lightbox view (on black) of any photo sharing site out there today.

Here are some tips for those of you who would like to maximize your photo sharing potential on Google+

1. Post your photos directly to Google+. This is probably the number one most important thing to do to promote your work there. If you post a link to Flickr, a link to your blog, a link to some other site, you get a small little thumbnail at best. If you upload your photo *directly* to Google+ you get a massive oversized thumbnail (is that like saying jumbo shrimp?). The larger your work is presented, the more likely it is to be engaged with. Even better, photos posted to G+ don’t count towards your Picasa storage limits so Google is effectively giving you unlimited photo sharing on G+ for free. What a deal.

2. Get the balance right. You don’t want to post too little or too much to G+. Your photos posted to G+ have a limited life. In the first hour that you post your photo it will receive 50% of the attention. In the next 3 hours 25% more, in the next 6 hours 10% more. In the next 24 hours 12% more. After a day and a half your photo will likely be buried. So it’s important to regularly be adding photos to your stream. On the other hand, if you inundate people with too many photos (like 10 in a row within 10 minutes) people will drop you faster than a hot potato and you will lose visibility — there’s a fine line between sharing photos and whoring photos. Find a rate for uploads that feels right. At present I’m uploading about 5 photos a day to G+ spread out throughout the day and night. This feels about right to me.

3. Share your best work. Don’t upload *everything* you take to G+. If you want to archive all your work use Flickr or Picasa. Save G+ to showcase some of what you feel is your strongest work. This will encourage other people to share your work and promote it more.

4. Don’t use watermarks and signatures on your work. Don’t hate me for this one. I’m so tired of haters. If you want to watermark the crap out of your work, go for it. It’s your work, do WHATEVER you want with it. YOU own it. It’s YOURS. Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just saying that watermarks, sigs, logos, etc. look *especially* bad when people pull up your photos in the large lightbox view. I’ve noticed that photos that are mared up by watermarks tend to not do as well on G+.

5. Make sure you understand sharing and make your posts *public*. Alot of people make the mistake early on of only sharing their photos with their circles without even realizing that they are limiting themselves. This means that your photo goes out to *alot* less people. This would be the same as marking a photo as private on flickr so that only your friends and family could see it. These photos will get alot less attention because most people *can’t* see it due to Google’s privacy settings. When people first start using G+ if they are browsing in a circle of their contacts and they share a photo from that screen, it limits the photo to only that circle. If you want your photo to be seen, make sure when you post it that it says “public” when you are sharing it.

6. Invite people from your other social networks. Post on your Facebook Wall about your Google+ stream. Offer to send invitations to your contacts there. Tweet links out to your G+ stream. Post it on your blog or tumblr account. Most importantly, post to FLICKR your Google+ stream so that your photo sharing contacts on Flickr can add you on G+. There is no easy way to transfer flickr contacts to G+ other than by word of mouth. It’s up to you to get the word out to your other photo sharing channels and get them to follow you on your new G+ account.

7. Engage with people who engage with you. Pay attention to the +1’s (fave/like) your photos receive. Pay attention to the comments. Go check out the people that are faving and commenting on your stuff. Social networks are largely about reciprocation. If they are a talented photographer consider adding them to a circle. If you like some of their work fave and comment on it too. Don’t just post your own stuff. Engage with the community there.

8. Try some hangouts with other photographers. I’ve hosted a few hangouts so far. It was great hanging out with Scott Jarvie who is one of the top wedding photographers out there. Trey Ratcliff seems to always be hosting them. Popular ones will fill up quickly (hangouts are video chats limited to 10 people) — but keep trying to get in those or maybe even set up one of your own. Don’t be shy on a hangout. Talk about photography. This is a great opportunity for you to virtually network with some other great photographers. It’s easy. Drop in, drop out. Make sure you’ve got your clothes on though, this is not Chatroulette.

9. Write good titles and descriptions for your photos. If you enter a description in for a photo in Lightroom or whatever other photo processing tool you use and write it as the photo’s caption, it will automatically populate into Google+ when you upload it. You’ll still need to manually add a title or headline. Make your titles interesting and engaging. Don’t upload something as DSC10989. Give it a good strong title. Don’t overkill on the caption, but a nice one or two sentence caption can be nice.

10. Be early. Don’t wait to get involved with G+. Get yourself an invite and signup NOW. Photo Sharing on G+ feels alot like the earliest days of Flickr. It’s the early frontier. Many of Flickr’s most popular users are popular because they got on the site EARLY and built a following before there was as much competition. Right now there is a huge brand new audience, HUNGRY for great photography on G+. It is early still and people are figuring out who to follow. Get involved and super active early to help build your own audience there. If you wait six months, or six weeks, or heck, six days as fast as Google+ is growing, you’ll miss out on some of the strongest, fastest early growth.

Bonus Tip: check out who your other photographer friends have added to *their* circles. You will likely find alot of people you know to add by doing this.

One final note. I’ve been asked by TONS of people about what the Google TOS means for photographers. There is a lot of FUD flying around out there about that now. As a policy I no longer comment about anything copyright related, so please don’t ask about that here or on G+. I won’t answer any questions about it. I will point you to an insightful post on the topic though written last night by Vincent Mo (who works for Google) on the matter.

If you don’t have an invite to Google+ yet and want one, either email me tom(at)thomashawk.com or flickrmail me your email address and I will try and invite you. I’m doing the best I can to keep up with the invite requests, so bear with me if it takes some time to get it out to you.

Also if you are already on Google+ and want to follow my work there you can do that here.

Google+ vs. Flickr vs. Facebook vs. 500px vs. Twitter

The Hatch

Yesterday I posted a photograph of mine on 5 different sites at about the same time. The photo above, The Hatch, was posted to Google+ (Google’s much hyped new social network), Flickr, Facebook, 500px (an exciting up and coming new photo sharing service) and Twitter.

I will try to compare, the best I can, the attention that the same photograph received from each of these sites over the course of 24 hours. If as a photographer you are looking at photo sharing sites, in part, as a way to promote your work to a wider audience, the engagement your photographs receive online may be of interest. This case is very specific and of course everyone’s circumstances will differ, but this is my experience.

Before examining the attention the above photograph received in various places, I think it is worthwhile to look at some of the numbers (for me) behind each of these sites. Following are the number of “followers” roughly that I have on each of the sites mentioned, the approximate time I joined the sites, and how active I engage on them.

Google+: Google+ is a brand new social network It was opened to limited beta users last week. I’ve been on it now less than a week, but I enjoy shiny new things and so I’ve been somewhat active. At present I have 1,861 followers there.

Flickr: Flickr is the largest well organized library of images in the world. It’s the grandaddy big gorilla of photosharing. I joined Flickr in August of 2004 and have been active almost every day that I’ve been on the site. I generally upload 50 photos every day to flickr, have favorited or commented on over 100,000 photos of other users, and am active as an admin in a large and popular group. 21,125 people call me a contact on Flickr.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network. I have 3,161 friends following me on Facebook. I joined Facebook in September of 2006, pretty shortly after they allowed non-college students to join. I’ve never been impressed with Facebook and spend the least amount of time on the site of the five mentioned. I do however post daily to Facebook and occasionally engage with other people on the site.

500px is an exciting new up and coming photosharing site being built by a small innovative team out of Tornoto. 500px currently has some of the best photography being shared on the web being published there. I joined 500px a few months ago in April. 1,558 people are subscribed to my photos there.

Twitter is the world’s most popular micro blogging service — I joined shortly after it was launched in December of 2006. Twitter just started photo sharing last month with a partnership with Photobucket. I currently have 19,285 followers on Twitter.

So not all of the sites above measure views. But here are the breakdowns on the photo published.

Google+
Views: Unknown
+1’s (i.e. likes/favorites): 45
Reshares: 2
Comments: 14

Flickr
Views: 102
Faves: 7
Comments: 2

Facebook
Views: Unknown
Likes: 10
Comments: 3

500px
Views: 52
Favorites: 4
Comments: 5

Twitter:
Views: Unknown
Faves: 0

Conclusion: My photos posted to Google+ receive far more attention than posting them to any other social network. Part of this might be due to the fact that Google+ is still a brand spanking new super shiny social network with lots of activity as people are checking it out. Part of it also may be the fact that every time someone comments on my photo there it “bumps” the photo back to the top of my followers’ activity stream.

Google+ doesn’t seem to report views on your photo, but based on the engagement on the photo I’d guess that it was viewed far more on Google+ yesterday than any of the other sites. Whether or not this sort of high activity will continue is anybody’s guess — but at least for now, if you are a photographer who wants to promote their work on the web, Google+ seems like a place that you definitely want to be sharing.

As an aside, I think how each of these sites shows your photo is important to the attention that they receive. There are two ways that people see your photo, in more limited stream view and then in better detail/lightbox view. In my opinion Google+ and 500px do the best job sharing your photos most beautifully. Both provide big oversized thumbnails that are elegantly shown to your contacts and both have really nice detail pages when you click through to a photograph.

Google+’s lightbox view, however, is over the top. It really is the best detail photo page on the web today, big giant oversized photos that load super fast and are on a black lightbox background. It is a very fast one click away from a photo in a stream and one click back, encouraging people to click through. Flickr has a lightbox view but it’s 2 steps away from your contacts looking at your photo (not one like Flickr and Facebook). Also Flickr and Facebook’s lightbox views are not as elegant as Google+.

It should also be noted that photos on various social networks generally do not get as many views on a weekend day as they do a weekday when everybody is working. It also seems that because this weekend is 4th of July weekend that there are less people around and online than usual.

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Google Plus

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Flickr

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Facebook

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on 500px

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Twitter

Google+, A Bold Step Forward in the World of Social Photo Sharing

Note: If you are a photographer and on Google+, leave a link to your Google+ url in the comments.

I’ve spent the past two days playing around in Google’s new social network Google+. Thanks to Brian Rose who works in Google photos for the invite!

A lot of people have asked me if I have invites to send out. I don’t right now, but I suspect that I will in the near future. They turned invites on last night (when I wasn’t paying attention) but then turned them back off because the demand was so high.

Most of my initial observations about Google+ will have to do with how it impacts photo sharing, and here I think Google has pushed the envelope to create a compelling photo sharing experience to accompany this new social network. Photo sharing in Google+ is very slick and very polished and works very well.

Adding People to Circles on Google+
Circles on Google+ are very easy to create and drag people into.

Observation #1, Circles.

Everybody and their brother/mother/sister is talking about Circles in the new Google+. Today on Flickr you can only categorize and filter your contacts in two ways, contacts or friends/family. This blows. It feels so 2004.

Unlike Yahoo/Flickr who seemingly hates innovation, Google+ allows you to categorize and filter your contacts in as many ways as you want. I have a friends circle, a family circle, an acquaintances circle — but I also have a photographers circle, a San Francisco photographers circle… you get the idea.

The ideas on ways to categorize your contacts are limitless. You can have a bucket for graffiti photographers, and neon photographers, wedding photographers, nature photographers, professional photographers, bloggers, you name it.

Once you have these circles made you can filter recent activity by that circle. When you add somebody to a circle they don’t know what circle you are adding them to (by design), they just know that you’ve added them. So when I add someone to my “Haters Gonna Hate” circle, they only know that I’ve added them as a contact generically.

This function is very useful for filtering down photography and photo oriented people on Google+ that you want to follow. I haven’t seen a directory of photographers on Google+ yet, but if you are a photographer and on Google+, leave a link to your Google Profile Page in the comments and I and others can add you and follow your stuff.

Thumbnail View on Google+ in Your Stream Looks Awesome!
What a photo shared on Google+ looks like in an activity stream.

Lightbox View on Google+ Looks Awesome!
What a photo in lightbox view looks like in Google+

Peopletagging on Google+
“Tagging” = Peopletagging in Google+

Observation #2, Photos shared on Google+ look *awesome*.

When you upload a photo to Google+ it looks stunning. Your contacts see a nice big oversized thumbnail. It’s not too big and not too small. People can comment or +1 (Google’s version of a “like” or “fave”) the photo from the thumbnail post.

But the magic happens when you click on the big oversized thumbnail. A huge giant version of the photo comes up and it comes up fast, instantly, no delay at all. This looks better than Facebook’s lightbox view, better than Flickr’s lightbox view, it fills the whole page and is the biggest lightbox view I’ve seen online yet. It’s on a black background and looks *very* elegant. All of the comments are on the right side of the photo and you can click on details to get basic camera EXIF data.

There is also a button to “tag” the photo, but I think this needs a little more work. Right now when you tag a photo in Google+ it’s more like peopletagging in Flickr or tagging in Facebook. It’s a tool to say who is in the photo. There is no way to add more generic text descriptor tags though or keywords. Also keyword metadata does not seem to be imported anywhere with the photo when you publish it to Google+.

When you post a photo to Google+ it also puts a copy of the photo into a Google+ album for you in your Picasa account. From what I’ve heard there is no limit (at least yet) to the number of photos you can share on Google+. I’m not sure what Google does if the number of photos posted to Google+ go over your storage limits at Picasa. I haven’t run into that problem yet and I’m pretty close to my cap on a free Picasa account. I suspect that for now at least, Google will let people go over their Picasa storage limits with photos posted to Google+.

Album Thumbnail View on Google+
Under the photos tab you can see Picasa Albums on Google+

Album Detail View on Google+
When you click on an a Picasa album you get a nice mosiac layout on Google+

Observation #3, Picasa sets shared on Google+ look awesome.

I love the way Google+ shows your Picasa albums under the “your albums” tab in the photos section. Albums are given bright big thumbnails and if you click through the photos are all resized and sort of fit together on one page in a mosaic like display. This is a very nice, quick way to show an album. If you click through on any of the photos in the album, it takes you back to that big huge lightbox view on black.

What a Picasa Album Looks Like When Shared on Google+
What a shared Picasa album looks like in your activity stream in Google+

What a Flickr Set Looks Like When Shared on Google+
What a shared Flickr set looks like in your activity stream in Google+

Observation #4, A total lack of Flickr integration.

I suspect that this is by design, but there seems to be no way to automatically pipe your flickrstream or account into Google+ — not just Flickr, but Twitter, or Facebook, or really any other site. In this way Google+ is very different than from aggregator’s like Friendfeed and Google Buzz. The most you can do to share Flickr data is to manually enter a url. When you manually enter a Flickr url there is no real integration with that set or photo like there is with Twitter. When you share a Flickr set url on Twitter (for example) you get a bunch of thumbnails and even a slideshow of that set, right on Twitter. Not with Google+ though.

By contrast the Picasa albums shared look very nice, are more interactive with more thumbnails, and also then get shared in your photos section on Google+ as well.

This seems to me to be a very concerted effort by Google to incent you to host your photos at Picasa instead of Flickr, at least to the extent that you want to promote them on Google+.

Directly Sharing a Photo from My Android Phone on Google+
A photo shared from my Android phone to Google+

Observation #5. A compelling mobile experience.

I haven’t tried the iPhone app yet, but the Android Google+ app is *slick*.

Under the photos tab it has photos from your circles, photos of you, your albums, and from your phone.

It also has an “instant upload” option where all photos taken on your phone are instantly uploaded to Google+ when you take them. Don’t worry Anthony Weiner, the photos are put into a “private” album where you can later select which ones you want to share and with whom. So if you want to, later you can send some of them just to the “hot chicks who dig me” circle and not to the whole entire world or your “conservative bloggers who hate me” circle.

Overall I’ve found Google+ to be a compelling way to share photos in an exciting new social network. Google+ is like Google Buzz, Friendfeed and Facebook, except all grown up. The offering is slick and the design is elegant.

If you want to follow me on Google+ you can do that here. I suspect that I’ll be spending more and more time playing around with photos on Google+ and that it will take away some of my Flickr time going forward.

Google Adds Reverse Image Search

For photographers familiar with TinEye’s reverse image search engine, Google’s announcement today of a new reverse image search engine should be welcome news. For the past few years TinEye has allowed photographers to upload images to their site, which will then search for where else those images have been published to the web. Several photographers that I know have used TinEye to find copyright infringement cases and have been able to generate compensation or settlements out of the infringing use.

TinEye is pretty good, but does miss a lot of the images on the web. With search behemoth Google putting it’s weight behind this sort of tech, I’m interested to see how much better it might be than TinEye.

Apparently the new feature will be rolled out to Google Chrome users this week. You’ll know you have it when you see a camera icon on the Google Image Search page.

Using the new feature looks pretty easy. You can just drag a photo from your desktop to your search bar and go look for it. You can also use an upload or a url from another image already on the web.

Personally I think it’s exciting to see Google get into this type of innovation. But really this is just the beginning of what could theoretically be possible with a service like this.

I’d love to see Google/Flickr/Yahoo/TinEye take this tech even further. It would be great if you could, for instance, use the Flickr API to attach your Flickrstream to this search engine and have it analyze your entire stream and look for infringing use automatically. It would also be nice if there was a way that you could then filter these search results by certain criteria (say U.S. websites) in order to better identify copyright infringement and potential targets worthwhile to potentially pursue.

It would also be cool to see an RSS sort of option to monitor all of your images that could report back to you when new appearances on the web show up for the first time in image search engines.

Why I’ll Probably Switch Back to an iPhone From Android When the New iPhones Come Out

Rumor has it that iPhone 5 will be coming out this Summer/Fall and there’s a good chance that I’ll make the switch then from Android back to the iPhone. I’d owned every new iPhone up until iPhone 4 when I decided to make a switch to the Android operating system last Fall. I mostly made the change I think because I hated AT&T so much, but I’d also heard a lot of good things about Android and wanted to give it a try. After 9 months of Android now I think I’m ready to make the switch back. Here are the reasons why.

1. The iPhone 4 is now on Verizon and maybe iPhone5 will be on other carriers besides AT&T (whose network always sucked when I used it).

2. Updating the operating system on your Android phone is a huge pain in the ass. In order to update my Samsung Galaxy Vibrant from the Eclair operating system to the Froyo operating system (keep in mind that Google’s working on honeycomb now apparently, which is two operating updates ahead of what I just updated to), I had to go through hell to get it done. No OTA for Samsung. No iTunes for Samsung. No, I had to manually find the file somewhere on the web on a confusing website, download it to a Windows machine (yes Windows only), and update my phone through a long confusing process. And this was only *after* Samsung/TMobile were sued!

By contrast, I can trust Apple that any updates available for my iPhone will be easily available to me, making my phone better and better in the future.

3. The stupid little things matter. Apple is really, really, really good about making sure that their devices just work right. They just do what their supposed to do. They’re not wonky or contain little stupid glitches.

For example. Let’s say I’m walking to my office and I have a little battery life left. Presently my Android device automatically dims my display to an unreadable level. This is fine and I can certainly appreciate them wanting to look out for me in preserving what battery life I have left. But… since I’m 5 minutes from my office, where I know I can plug my device in again, I’d just as soon go ahead and use what little battery life I have left for a display that I can actually see. So I manually go into the settings and change the brightness slider to full strength. Then I go back to my phone and start using it again. It stays bright until I hit a web page and then it goes back to the super dim screen. That’s just dumb. My manual setting should stick. But it doesn’t.

Another example. I will plug my Android phone in to it’s charger and the screen comes on. I don’t know why. The screen doesn’t need to come on — but it does. So I hit the button to turn it off — only it won’t turn off, the screen is locked — so I have to unlock the screen, *then* push the screen off button and it goes off. Of course inexplicably the next morning the screen is back on again when I go to get my phone. Did I mention that I have screen burn on my Android phone now?

4. The battery life on this thing sucks ass. With my old iPhone I’d keep it plugged in all day at work. I’d then leave work, use it on the way home, use it at home and when I got up in the morning I always had enough charge to last me until I got to work again where I could plug it in and recharge. Not so with Android.

If I don’t plug my phone in to charge both at work *and* home, I will not have a charge enough for my morning commute the next morning. I don’t think that it’s the phone or the battery that are inferior. I think it’s that the stupid operating system uses power when it shouldn’t be. When I have the phone display off in the middle of the night, there is no reason at all why the screen should come back on (but it does, like to remind me that I have low battery, doh!). The phone should hibernate similarly to how Apple’s does so that when I want to use it again the next morning I can.

5. The fact that I can’t turn off the blaring tmobile dingle sound that goes off really loudly when I turn my phone on or off is terrible. Let’s say I’m at the movie theater. And I now want to turn off my phone. Why can’t I just turn it off without that loud sound? Why won’t Android/Tmobile allow me to disable that sound altogether? Why isn’t there an app for that?

6. Speaking of apps, Android still lags here. I miss using Hipstamtic. Yeah Android has Vignette and some other photo apps, but they aren’t as good. And I’m totally missing out on the whole Instagram thing, which is iPhone only.

7. TMobile started throttling me. When I first bought the Samsung/TMobile phone TMobile wasn’t throttling me. Now they are. It’s simply unbearable. The internet is so slow, I get bitchy and go after them on Twitter constantly and it’s no good for anyone all the way around. I’m not sure if Verizon is any better, but it can’t be any worse I’m guessing.

8. The music player on Android is terrible. I want my iTunes playlists back. It’s so much easier getting my playlists on an iPhone. It wouldn’t be so bad if that’s all it was, but it’s not. The music player on the Android phone is just downright awful. The only way I can make a playlist is to do it on the phone, one by one by one.

9. Contacts are borked. Supposedly people that I put in my Google contacts will autopopulate into my Android phone contact list. Like I said… “supposedly.”

10. The whole ease of use thing sucks. I’m not a phone genius. I shouldn’t have to be. The settings on my Android phone never seem to be where they are supposed to be. Finding things is hard. Navigating the interface takes work. I’m constantly having to set some thing called USB debugging on (which so counterintuitively is under the applications menu, under development, under USB debugging) just to transfer files between my hard drive and my phone’s memory card. It’s stuff like that that I learn to do, but are just a pain. Apple seems to care more about the non-phone developer getting around the iPhone. I shouldn’t have to be an Android developer to know how the settings work or where everything is at.

Two things I’ll probably miss with my Android phone. The GMail app is really good. Also the maps are really good, the way that they interact with Google Maps. Hopefully the new iPhone has a way that I can import my custom Google Maps into the iPhone maps interface. But maybe not. If it doesn’t, this may just have to be something that I have to live with. But a plus for the iPhone is also that I can use it as a remote control for my AppleTV.