I published I set of 247 billionaires and media moguls from last week’s Allen & Company Media Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. You can see the entire set here.
I just installed an ANKR in my camera bag. Over the past 10 years I’ve had this reoccurring dream about my camera gear and my backpack being stolen. I’ve actually had two cameras stolen over the years unfortunately.
When you use your camera every day like I do, it’s a hazard to have to deal with. My friend Trey Ratcliff was jacked of his camera bag earlier this year. So I was very pleased to learn about ANKR. ANKR is a new product that alerts you when you become separated from your gear. The ANKR itself is super small, not much thicker than a quarter. I hid mine in a hidden area of my backpack and now if my backpack and I become separated I’ll get an immediate alert. It boggles my mind why somebody did not come out with such a helpful and useful tool 5 years ago.
Although I’m sure an ANKR is not foolproof, it’s at least a first line of defense against your gear being taken or stolen. I frequently walk around with over $10,000 worth of gear in my backpack and I would just be crushed if I lost it. $25 seems like a very small price to pay for piece of mind.
Setting up ANKR was super easy. I turned the ANKR on, downloaded the ANKR app and it found it right away. It created a “safe zone” so that I will never get an alert if my camera bag is at home (you can set up more safe zones as well), but if I’m out and about and become separated from my bag I’ll get an alert. I can also see on a map exactly where my bag was when we were separated which might be helpful for me to recover it.
ANKR is a wonderful new tool to help combat theft. I have a feeling I’m going to be purchasing a few more of these. I think I’d like to attach one to my camera strap itself, in case my camera is out of the bag and stolen. I can see lots of other applications for this tech as well (kids, car keys, car, wallet, luggage, etc.). Hopefully the more tech like this is used, the less successful thieves will be with stealing stuff.
Are you on Ello yet? If not you are missing out on the best photography community on the web right now. It’s a wonderful ad-free social network where your photos are published *BIG* like they are meant to be seen. Some truly amazing photographers are publishing some truly amazing work there right now.
This is some Ello street art I photographed out on 7th street earlier today.
Come check it out and let’s be friends there too. You can find me at Ello here: http://ello.co/thomashawk
1. Because you are a leader not a follower. Because you pave the way. You are a trailblazer. You are like Lewis and Clark, like Henry Ford, like Jackie Robinson. Ride Sally Ride. You skate where the puck is going, not where it’s been. You do not stick around Europe for the Bubonic Plague. You hop on a boat and sail away. Far away. You’re like a pirate, or better yet, a pilgrim, albeit a very thirsty pilgrim who likes whiskey and is also much nicer to your American Indian friends.
Who cares that your mother and your aunt and that guy from 2nd grade or the mailroom guy at work are not on Ello. You are, and when they finally get there you will be able to brag about being there first.
2. Because ads suck. Are you tired of seeing those creepy ads that follow you around the internet? Yeah, you know the ones. You weren’t even going to buy the bikini you were just checking out the site for “artistic inspiration” and the next thing you know there it sticks for six months on your Facebook page, popping up each time you visit unless you uninstall and reinstall your browser. I don’t want to buy a BMW. I don’t want to go to Arby’s. I don’t want 40% off at Banana Republic. I don’t want to accidently click on a photo only to discover it’s a “sponsored post” from Dos Equis. Ads suck. Not only does Ello not have ads today, as a public benefit corporation they never will.
What was Paul Budnitz, co-founder of Ello talking about during Cannes Lions? How to be a good husband and father.
3. Because your life is not an algorithm. Are you tired of Facebook burying your posts and hiding them from your friends? You shouldn’t have to pay to sponsor your own posts to your own friends. Tired of missing important updates from the people that you care about or having to navigate complex settings just to try to see what you want to see?
You are not a machine or a robot so why should your social network treat you like one — even though robots are super cool and you might like them, or movies or dreams about them, it doesn’t mean you are one.
Take back control over Facebook’s secret algorithm and maintain your friends in two simple buckets, friends/noise. Oh and don’t be too noisy. 🙂
4. Because everyone is a photographer and our photos deserve to be seen large. Bottom line, photos look better, bigger. Photos look better when they are the size that you upload them as, not compressed and miniturized and mixed in with a bunch of ads and game invites and dumb memes and other clutter.
Your photos matter. Your art matters. Everyone is an artist and everyone should care about their art. You tell me, which site shows your photos better?
5. Because variety is the spice of life. Tired of seeing the same posts by the same people over and over and over again on the Facebook algorithm? Why not make some new friends? Some of the most creative people in the universe are publishing some truly epic art on Ello right now, while you are reading this post.
Tired of Facebook just recycling content from the same 15 people over and over again in your feed? Come to Ello and discover something fresh, something new, something inspiring. Do you like to travel? Check out Ello Travel. Do you like photography? Check out Ello Photography. Do you like food? Check out Ello cooking. Truly fine community curated content.
Integrate yourself in some new verticals and open up your world a little bit.
6. Because life should not have to be SFW. Humans are amazing creatures and the human body is a beautiful thing. Breastfeeding is natural. There’s nothing wrong with boobs. Ello will never censor or remove fine art celebrating the human body. In fact, Ello itself curates a super interesting feed of NSFW content.
Facebook and Google won’t let you host or view the naked human body. Don’t worry though, if you are one of the more modest types there is a very easy setting on Ello to filter out any NSFW content from your Ello experience. The difference is that on Ello *you* choose what you want to see or not see.
7. Because Ello is a super positive community. Tired of seeing hate and abuse on Twitter? Tired of seeing pointless arguments about politics and name calling on Facebook? Ello is one of the friendliest places on the web right now. The community is empowered. You are not a cog in a machine or fuel for the advertising furnace, you are part of a bigger social movement where people are committed and care about making Ello a welcoming place for all.
People on Ello take this responsibility seriously and you will find some beautiful, generous people who want to build you up not tear you down. Abuse and hate has been non-existent on Ello. As Ello gets larger, undoubtedly some of this may creep in, but Ello has a strong blocking tool and a serious commitment to fighting internet harassment and abuse.
8. Because the people who run Ello day in and day out care. One of the things you will find at Ello is that the folks running the show are not just nameless, faceless individuals. The people behind Ello are some of the most passionate, committed, thoughtful people dedicated to personal expression and social empowerment on the web.
Who are the people behind Ello? They are publicly listed and I’d encourage you to check them out and learn a little bit more about who is running the most exciting and growing community on the web right now. The people who run Ello are accessible and care about what you think about your community. They themselves are as big a part of the community as any of us and contribute beautiful art and work every single day.
9. Because the iOS app is awesome! Have you tried the new Ello iPhone app? It rocks (don’t worry Android users, an Android app is in the works too). The new Ello iOS app is elegant and beautiful, just like the web version. More on the Ello iOS app here.
10. Because the web is a new virtual museum and Ello has the best art. You will find some of the best art being produced today on Ello. Not only will you find artists and photographers posting their own work, but you will find thoughtful curators also sharing and properly crediting amazing art all over the world.
You can find me on Ello here. Stop by and say hi and lets be friends. 🙂
A lot of you who follow my photography and blog know that I’ve been super excited about Ello, my favorite new social network on the web. Today Ello gets even a little bit better with the official launch of their iOS app. They just launched the iOS app about 10 minutes ago, but it may take a little bit of time to propagate in the app store before you will be able to download it.
I’ve been testing a beta version of the app for the past few weeks and absolutely love it.
If you are a photographer and are not using Ello, I’d encourage you to give it a spin. Put simply, your photos will look better on Ello than on any other social sharing site on the web today. Looking at my photos on a 5k iMac in extra large, full, high res glory just can’t be compared with any other photo network out there. Ello shows your photos huge, as they are meant to be seen.
I love that Ello was designed for the web first and foremost, but one is not always at one’s computer and so having a mobile app these days is really important. Ello’s initial release is for iOS and the iPhone, but they have plans to ship an Android version later on in the future.
Like the web version of Ello, what I love about the iOS app is the elegance of its design and its simplicity.
Basically the app does six things for you really well.
1. Ello’s iOS app allows you to browse content by the people you follow. You get two buckets for your contacts at Ello, friends and noise. You can browse either stream and easily love and comment on content that you find interesting and engaging directly from your iOS device.
2. Ello’s iOs app allows you to look at your own content stream. You can go to your own stream and expand comments as well as scroll through your entire stream of posts from most recent to oldest.
3. Ello’s iOs app allows you to look at your notifications page. Here you can see when someone adds you, or when someone specifically mentions you in a post by name, or when someone loves or comments on a photo of yours. This is a great tool to stay on top of the interaction on your content.
4. Ello’s iOS app allows you to discover new content on Ello’s discover page. I’m not sure how content is selected for Ello’s discover page, but there is some super cool stuff. If you run out of photos to look at by your friends, check out discover too.
5. Ello’s iOS app allows you to post your own content with or without a photo. Like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other sites, you can post messages, status updates, and photos directly from the app. Unlike Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and others, Ello does not mix advertisements or promoted posts in with your content or sell your data to advertisers.
6. Ello’s iOs app allows you to easily search for other users on Ello. You can search for users and even better you can let Ello search through your contacts on your phone and show you which of your friends are already on Ello and let you invite any who are not.
Overall I’ve found the beta version of Ello’s iOs app to be super smooth. I love the animations that come with the app. When you first load the app up, you get this cool spinning Ello logo while it loads content for you. As content streams in you get a sort of pulsating gray ball letting you know that an individual post is loading. It’s obvious that a lot of thought went into how to make Ello’s app simple, elegant and intuitive.
I’ve been using the beta version of the Ello iOS app every single day since I’ve installed it and even though it’s beta it has not crashed or locked up on me once. The app is super stable.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ello, Ello is structured as a public benefit corporation. There will never be any advertisements on Ello and they will never sell your data. Ello takes your privacy very seriously and in my opinion is the most user centered social network on the web/iOS today.
The people that run Ello are very solid. They are community focused and driven. One of the big reasons why I’m so high on Ello is because I’ve spent some time familiarizing myself with the founders and I think they represent some of the most sincere integrity in the social networking space today. They can definitely be trusted with your content and my content and they deserve our support.
In addition to a great team running Ello, the community itself is one of the most creative communities on the web. I’m continuously blown away at the talent and artistic vision of the artists, designers, photographers and thinkers that are part of the early Ello community. Not only will you find some of the most awe inspiring visual work on the web today, you will find that behind that work is one of the most inclusive, friendly and welcoming communities to date. While you can block people on Ello, fortunately there has been very little abuse thus far and people seem to get along really well.
For those of my friends who are already there, I’m really digging your work. For those of my friends who are not there yet, I hope you take a few seconds out today to download Ello’s new iOS app and I’d love to know what you think about it and see more of your work there in the future. If you want to connect on Ello you can find me here.
If you want to learn a little bit more about Ello, check out this great video below by Lucian and Todd where they talk a little more about what Ello is all about.
Adobe Updates Photoshop and Lightroom with Creative Cloud 2015 and Launches Adobe Branded Stock Photography Library
I saw a demo last week of the new Creative Cloud enhancements. The enhancement that I liked the most was a new slider in Lightroom for haze and dehaze. With the haze slider you can now reduce unwanted haze in photos or add haze back in if you want more of an ethereal foggy type mood. I think that this tool will be especially dramatic when working with long exposure photography where you have clouds or low fog and want to get the mix of fog to subject just perfect.
Photoshop is also adding in an additive noise function where you can produce more camera like realistic bokeh and blur noise when desired, making the transition in blur more natural. The Photoshop healing brush also now heals in real time and is faster than previous versions.
These feature enhancements and updates will not be available to the current desktop versions of Lightroom and Photoshop, they will only be available for Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers. This is in line with Adobe’s previous stated goal of providing fast and rapid real time updates and upgrades to their subscription customers. I’m assuming that eventually these new enhancements will make their way to desktop upgrades/updates, but at present Adobe seems to be focused on providing the best and most current features available to their subscription customers.
There are also additional features being launched for the mobile versions of Adobe products including better tone and vignette adjustment for Lightroom mobile and an Android version of Photoshop Mix.
Adobe’s Creative Cloud photography package costs $9.99/month and you can subscribe to it here. They also offer a 30 day trial for you to try out Creative Cloud to see if it is right for you.
In addition to the improvements in Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC, Adobe is also announcing the launch of their new stock photography service simply called Adobe Stock.
Because Adobe is so widely used by creatives in general, leveraging their software products to sell an Adobe labeled stock photography library seems to make a lot of sense. Adobe’s stock photography service will be featured as a menu item in Photoshop and will allow stock buyers to use watermarked versions of stock photos to create mockups and test design/layout ideas. Once a stock buyer is ready to license an image they can license it directly from Photoshop and download the unwatermarked version of the image.
Images will cost $9.99 each to license or Creative Cloud subscribers can purchase one of two different subscription plans. The first plan costs $29.99/month and allows a subscriber to license up to 10 images a month and a second plan will cost $199.99 per month and will allow a subscriber up to 750 images per month.
Adobe will pay out 33% of their sales proceeds to photographers — photographers interested in applying can apply here.
Because so many stock photography buyers are connected into Adobe’s ecosystem, I think this stock photography offering will end up being very successful and represents formidable competition to the current stock photography giant Getty Images. Earlier this year Adobe purchased the stock photography agency Fotolia, but this new stock offering appears to be a different offering marketed directly under the Adobe brand and available through Adobe’s flagship Photoshop product.
Last week when Google Photos launched, I quickly tested it out and then wrote a post with my immediate initial reaction to the service. Much of my early disappointment centered around the fact that Google chose to limit the size of photos in the service to 16 megapixels. As a DSLR shooter this meant that a large portion of my library would be downsized with Google Photos. Bummer.
Flickr by contrast offers every user 1TB of free storage for your photos (which is more than 99.999% of photographers need at present) at full original high resolution.
So in my mind this made Flickr’s free offering a vastly superior offering over Google Photo’s free offering. Flickr’s had that offer out for a while now which is why I hoped that Google would respond by offering us a similar 1TB (or more) of full high res original storage. Google Photos will let you have a terabyte of storage for your high res photos as well, it will just cost you $120 per year vs. Flickr’s free deal.
David Pogue (who works for Yahoo) wrote up a thoughtful review today comparing Google Photos and Flickr and made the same observation pointing to the negative of Google downsizing your original photos in Google Photos.
Despite my disappointment about Google’s decision to downsize our photos with the free version of their product, after having spent a week seriously digging into Google Photos, I’m much more optimistic about the service than I was a week ago. There’s a lot to love here.
1. Google Photos will back up your RAW files.
At present I have two Drobo 5D units with 15TB worth of storage in each of them. In addition, I’ve got an 8TB Western Digital MyBook thunderbolt duo.
I don’t actually have 38TB of storage because both the Drobo and the Western Digital (each in their own way) replicate my data. This protects me against hard drive failure. While it doesn’t necessarily protect me against fire or theft, this is a pretty good first line of defense. Most of the storage that I’m using right now is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands (million?) of RAW frames that I’ve fired off over the last 10 years. These are my RAW, unedited, original negative files.
Flickr does not support RAW yet — although Flickr’s former Chief Bernardo Hernandez mentioned in a tweet after he left that RAW was “coming at some point,” at Flickr.
Even though I am losing a lot of data when Google Photos converts my RAW files to JPG photos and also downsizes them, something (for free) is better than nothing.
While it is still my responsibility to come up with a better suitable offsite backup solution for my terabytes of RAW photos, until I do I’d rather have a converted, compressed 16 megapixel version of my photo backed up online than nothing. I’ve been planning for a year or so now to duplicate all of my original RAW files and then store them on drives in a safety deposit box in a bank vault, but until I get around to doing that it’s nice to know that I’ll have at least an inferior version of my original RAW backed up online.
2. Google’s free offering is unlimited.
Flickr currently gives everyone a free terabyte of storage for your high res originals. In his review Pogue said that Flickr told him that less than 50 users out of 100 million are actually using over 1 terabyte.
One terabyte certainly seems more than enough for Flickr’s present offering for most people. I am one of those few prolific photographers who will exceed the 1 terabyte limit though. At present I’ve uploaded about 950 gigabytes to Flickr (which is about 105,769 high res photos) and I should cross the one terabyte limit sometime within the next year.
Fortunately for me, I was one of the original early Flickr users who signed up for their old paid “Pro” service ($24.99 per year). This service has since been discontinued, but old “Pro” accounts have been grandfathered their original unlimited high res storage deal and so I won’t need to worry about exceeding one terabyte when I hit it later this year.
Although I’m an extreme edge case, if we assume that in the future camera makers will continue pushing technology with more and more megapixels (i.e. larger and larger files) and at the same time people begin taking more and more photos, I can see where a lot more people than 50 will end up exceeding their free terabyte at Flickr over the course of their life.
While Yahoo could always extend the offer to two terabytes or raise their limits as people’s storage use increases over their lives, there is no guarantee that they will. It would be a bummer if you spent 10 years uploading all of your photos to Flickr and then ran out of space, which sounds unlikely, but might actually be more likely than we realize, especially given that some of us may actually live to be 150 or more in the future!
Google Photos by contrast is offering unlimited storage if you downsize your photos.
3. Google has interesting facial recognition software.
Google’s facial recognition software is pretty slick. It’s very clever how the software can actually track a face as it ages and include a baby photo in the same batch of photos of someone when they are older. It seems to work best where you have a lot of photos for them to analyze and I found photos of my family members were much more accurately grouped than photos of strangers in crowds or people who I only have one or two photos of.
Flickr doesn’t do facial recognition yet, but I bet it’s something that they are working on. One of the advantages that Google has over Flickr here though is that their service is 100% a private service. 100% of your photos on Google can only be seen by your account unless you manually choose to create a link and share it with others. Facial recognition software can be scary stuff and even though Google doesn’t attach names and faces together, it’s the sort of thing that people get easily freaked out over.
Flickr is a hybrid public/private service. Even though by default you can upload your photos privately to Flickr, you can also upload them publicly by default as well. Sometimes even a simple thing like a public vs. private setting on a photo can be screwed up by your average user. It’s not that Flickr won’t offer facial recognition in the future (they probably will) it’s just that they probably need to think a little bit more about privacy and the implications of people accidently making things public that they might not want to.
4. Google Photos Assistant is fun.
Although we’ve all probably seen way too many gifs in our lifetime already, when your own photos are turned into gifs just for you it can still be delightful. Because my photos are personal to me, I find that I’m enjoying Google Photos gifs much more than I thought I would.
If someone else posted a gif of Jerry Seinfield moving his microphone stand around on stage I’d probably think it was boring, but when I was actually at the comedy show and watched him do it, and the gif was made from my photos, somehow it makes it more interesting to me. Most people could care less about my dog Bucky sitting in my friend Scott Jordan’s Pocketmobile, but it tickles me to see it — and Scott will probably like it too and I can share it with him and I bet he even posts it on Facebook. 😉
I find myself going back to my Google Photos assistant several times a day and hoping that they will have more treats for me.
5. Google Photos is an interesting digital diary.
Although Flickr has Camera Roll, Flickr doesn’t include all of my RAW photos so it is not as complete as Google Photos is turning out to be for me. I’m finding it more enjoyable to just randomly choose times in my life and scroll through my photos on Google Photos. There’s something about all the bad photos, unedited, raw material that feels like a more complete digital diary for me than the finished processed photos I’m posting on Flickr. I’d never want anyone else to see my raw material unedited and bad photos, but just for my eyes only I’m finding it a very interesting experience.
It will be interesting to me to see how I like Google Photos as my digital diary when I’ve finally got everything uploaded into the service. In my case, I have a feeling that this will take a few years. So far I’ve uploaded 39,312 to the site in a little over a week. I’ve had it running pretty much non-stop since Google Photos launched. Sometimes it feels like it’s hanging and I’ll force Google Photos to quit and relaunch it, but still, it’s going to take a long, long time to get all of my photos up there. By the way, Google Photos doesn’t provide you a photo count of your photos, but if you want to see how many you have uploaded you can get that number here (it’s in light gray in the upper right hand corner).
6. Google can give you back all of your photos at once.
One of the things that I like about Google Photos is that they give me an option to get all of my photos back at once. While Flickr will let you get all of your photos back as well, you have to manually drag and select your photos at Flickr (or use an album) to get them put into a zip file that they send you. With tens or even hundreds of thousands of photos online, I like the way that Google can deliver all of my photos back to me better. Although I don’t ever plan on having to get all of my photos back at once, I feel good knowing that Google will let me have them all back with just a few clicks vs. Flickr’s more difficult way.
7. No ads.
It’s nice that Google is giving you Google Photos completely ad-free. Although as a paid Pro Flickr user my Flickr experience is also ad-free, Flickr’s free service does/will have ads. When I’ve browsed Flickr outside of my Pro account I’ve noticed ads every so often. They don’t feel very disruptive, but still, no ads are always better than even just a little.
I did think it was interesting earlier this week when it felt like Apple CEO Tim Cook took a pretty direct swipe at Google’s new photo offering in a speech that he gave highlighting the importance of your digital privacy.
“We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is,” said Cook.
Cook’s comment does make you think just a little bit about how much data you may end up giving sites like Google Photos and Flickr with all of these photos. On the other hand, I’m sure a lot of people probably wonder why you’d want to pay for Apple’s iCloud storage when Google or Flickr will give you all you need for free. Google and Flickr are competitors to Apple’s paid storage service and so you have to wonder how much of Cook’s warning is dire vs. how much is just that he’d rather you pay Apple to store your photos for you than let Flickr or Google do it for free.
Anyways, those are my more detailed thoughts on Google Photos thus far. I’m sure I’ll blog more about Google Photos as I use it more, but after a week of use I have a much more optimistic view of it than I thought I would. I find myself using it much more and going back to it several times a day over and over again.
Disclaimer: yeah, yeah, yeah, nothing is forever (except diamonds right?), both Flickr and Google could always renege on whatever deal they currently are marketing out there. Google Photos was made for mobile users, not for more high megapixel storage people like me, etc. etc. etc. etc.
Google launched Google Photos today.
For months now people have been talking about how Google was going to decouple photos from Google+ and create a standalone photo product and today at I/O they finally unveiled their latest effort to the world.
Last August when rumors about this new service started circulating I wrote a blog post titled 10 things Google should consider in launching a standalone photo sharing service. Here I outlined ways that Google could come up with a very competitive product in the photo sharing space. Google could have given the world something really amazing today and instead we just got something lackluster.
The new offering is fine, but in a lot of ways it is a big disappointment to me.
The biggest part of today’s announcement was that Google was going to give every user unlimited photo storage.
That sounded pretty good until I understood the catch. The catch is that the unlimited photo storage offer only applies to photos 16 megapixel or smaller.
Although it may be tempting to write this off as a “Pro” problem as most modern DSLRs today shoot over 16 megapixel, there are also a lot of new non-pro consumer cameras that shoot over 16 megapixel today too. Heck, there’s even a mobile phone out now (admittedly an outlier) shooting at 41 megapixel. So what this means is that almost every DSLR out today, along with many smaller consumer cameras, will require your Google Photos images to be downsized.
It’s not just Canon and Nikon DSLRs that produce images over 16 megapixel today, but many models of popular mirrorless and consumer cameras by Panasonic Lumix, Sony, Olympus, etc. Here is a list of currently manufactured digital cameras 15 megapixels and above which shows some models and brands this might include.
While I do understand that storing photos is not cheap, I do not understand why Yahoo’s Flickr is able/willing to give every user a full terabyte of full high res original photo storage, and Google, a company almost 10x the size of Yahoo by market cap cannot or will not. Flickr raised the bar when they offered every user a free terabyte of high res photo storage and Google’s response is to offer us unlimited downsized and compressed photos? Come on Google, you can do better than that!
The other problem is that the camera manufacturers (for better or worse) are in a war of who can raise megapixels the most. Earlier this year Canon came out with a mindblowing 50.6 megapixel 5DS. 16 megapixels is going to feel smaller and smaller as new and better camera, and even mobile phone technology is released.
If this was the year 2003 and Canon had just released the 6.3 10D, this might make sense to me — but in 2015? No way.
While you can purchase Google Drive storage for your photos over 16 megapixel at Google, 1TB of high res storage at Google would cost you $120/year — the same thing that Flickr will give you for free.
In my case I have one of the old grandfathered Flickr Pro accounts where for $24.95/year I get even more than 1 terabyte of high res storage on Flickr, I actually get unlimited (I’m currently using about 940 GB of my unlimited storage on Flickr, which is a lot).
The other main thing missing from this new offering by Google is social. While Google has had a tough time with social and I get why they are wary of it, I was hoping that there would be a social element to their new photo service. Instead, every photo you upload to Google Photos is private only for you and you then share out your photos to other platforms. One of the most exciting things about Flickr is that there are a lot of social components to the site. While photos are uploaded as private to Flickr by default (like Google), you have the option of making these photos public and sharing them with other users on the site.
While you can use Google and Flickr both as private shoeboxes for all of your photos, I like that Flickr gives you the option to turn your photos public and share them with the world. 99.99% of the photos that I upload to the web are meant to be shared publicly and so I was disappointed that Google didn’t deliver us anything here today. Google does still have Google+, or course, where you can share your photos too and be social, but that’s an entirely different site that you leave Google Photos to go use. Flickr does a much better job at combining both private and social.
Google did showcase some other features with photos today. They released a sort of timeline camera roll view and some image recognition technology. What I saw today was very similar to what I saw two weeks ago when Yahoo rolled out Flickr 4.0. I’m not saying Google copied Flickr here, but it is odd how Flickr shipped these almost identical features two weeks before Google did. Whatever the case, I’m not terribly excited by camera rolls from Google or Flickr, although I do see where they would be helpful and nice features for the broader mass market audience.
I prefer to organize my photos myself rather than have an algorithm try to do it for me. I carefully keyword each of my photos in Lightroom and when I upload them to Flickr I’m able to create smart albums (like smart playlists in iTunes) where I can organize my photos into albums by keywords. That’s something that I still can’t do at Google Photos today, at least not in the automated way that I do it with SuprSetr.
I am glad that Google is still investing time and development into photos. For a while there when they first launched Google+ it really felt like they were going to do something spectacular with photos, today, unfortunately, not as much. To me, today’s offering feels more like a step back from Google+ to Picasa circa 2004.
Having had a few weeks now to spend significant time exploring Flickr 4.0, I thought I’d write up another more detailed post about my ongoing thoughts on the recent update by Flickr.
1. Autotagging. Autotagging has received a mixed reception by the Flickr community as well as the broader press. Initially a lot of the Flickr diehards have very vocally opposed it.
On the one hand, every time Flickr makes any change whatsoever a certain segment of the community will vocally oppose it no matter what the change is. The “who moved my cheese” crowd is strong and vocal at Flickr, so it’s easy to dismiss at least some of the initial criticism from the community as typical and predictable. On the other hand, many people have spent hundreds of hours organizing their tags on their Flickr photos and have a certain sort of emotional connection around tagging as it relates to their photos, which are very personal.
Any time you try to use image recognition software to recognize things you will get false positives. This is no different at Flickr. The more sensational the press can spin a story, the more clicks they end up getting. This week you saw news outlets like the Daily Mail come out with stories highlighting that Flickr was tagging concentration camps jungle gyms and black people apes. CNN reported that “Flickr’s new auto-tags are racist and offensive.” This is bad because most of the general public make assumptions based on headlines without thinking deeper about the issues at hand and most are not intimately involved with the inner mechanics of Flickr.
We also saw Google called racist this week because the White House was associated with a search for a derogatory racial term.
Personally, I’m more optimistic about Flickr using image search technology going forward and hope that the bad PR doesn’t set their efforts back there. Flickr and Yahoo are not racist (either is Google). The people who work there are a very well meaning and forward thinking group. I’m sure they will work on their algorithm to get it more and more accurate, but part of that accuracy involves getting feedback from their community when inaccuracies arise. Longer-term I think we will all benefit from having more accurate and complete search available through Flickr.
There is also part of me that wonders if Flickr’s autotagging efforts are not part of a longer-term effort to better organize this content in order to eventually partner with their community in a more significant way with stock photography. Stock photography is a multi-billion dollar business. Flickr is probably the most potentially disruptive site out there to this industry. As Yahoo thinks about monetizing Flickr in a more meaningful way, the better organized their library the more successfully they might be able to do this.
I do think Flickr should offer a setting to opt out of autotagging and I’m guessing they probably will eventually. If autotagging is on by default 99.9% of Flick users will still be using it. By creating an setting to opt out this would be an immediate way to deflect the criticism from the vocal power users that dislike it.
2. Search. Unfortunately my initial enthusiasm for search has been fading fast the past two weeks. While search looks cleaner and I do like the new view of smaller thumbnails that allow me to browse search results quickly, I’ve lost one of the most important functions of search, which is to search by my contacts.
Over the past 10 years I’ve carefully and methodically built a very large number of contacts whose photography I like and want to see more of. When I’m interested in photos of a particular subject, location, event, etc., I always do searches filtered by my contacts. This allows me the highest quality search results and gets rid of all the noisy, watermarked, junky, inaccurate images that oftentimes come up a broader search of everybody’s photos.
With the new search functionality this filtering capability is completely broken for me. What bums me out even more is that this broken functionality for my search experience is most likely affecting only people with a large number of contacts (like me) and thus is not likely to be addressed or fixed by Flickr for a long, long time.
Search is one of the most significant ways I use Flickr and with the update it is now dramatically worse for me.
Also, although I do like the two smaller view options Flickr gives you for search (a small sized photo or a thumbnail option), I do find myself missing the old larger views at the same time. Sometimes you want to search Flickr with images small so you can go fast, but other times you want to search Flickr to more carefully examine photos and here at least a medium view option would be nice to have back.
Maybe Flickr could have three possible views, medium, small and thumbnail.
One of the new features with the new search is that you can now search by date taken in addition to date posted. While date taken and posted are somewhat similar, I do see how date taken will become more and more useful over time, especially when using Flickr to search for breaking news.
3. As far as the Camera Roll and the uploader, I’m finding that I’m not using either. This doesn’t mean they are not important though. For more casual users having a view like this makes sense as a way to try to organize their offline photos in the cloud. I think this is really important for most casual users and as a way for Flickr to appeal to a broader general audience.
Personally, I carefully keyword all of my photos in Adobe Lightroom before uploading them to Flickr and then I use Jeremy Brook’s brilliant program SuprSetr to build albums based on these keywords. The only negative with this approach is that Flickr limits my sets to 4,500 photos when using Jeremy’s SuprSetr. 🙁
Magic view was fun to look at once, but I probably will never use it or go back. I prefer the way that I’ve organized my photos more than Flickr’s auto-organization.
I don’t use the uploader because for me Flickr is not a personal shoebox for all of my photos. Rather, for me, Flickr is a place to present and share my photos to the world. I don’t want random photos from my hard drive cluttering up my Flickr photostream even if they are private. 99.99% of the photos I publish to Flickr are public and the current web page uploader does a good enough job getting two batches a day up for me (except not last weekend).
4. The Flickr mobile app. To me the new Flickr mobile app is slightly better than the old app but it’s still far from ideal.
My biggest criticism is that sometimes it is so slow, laggy and clunky. Again, some of these issues may affect me more adversely than others because of the way I power use Flickr, but I find that going to my notifications can take 20-60 seconds sometimes on an LTE or wifi connection and that is just too long to have to wait. Sometimes it does go faster, but typically after not using it for a period of hours it frequently is just painful to use. It comes and goes, but I don’t have a consistent, fast experience with the mobile app. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and most of all Instagram are so much responsive for me when I use them than the Flickr app.
Another problem I have with the app is that frequently I’ll want to favorite a photo and so I double tap on it to do this, but Flickr misreads my attempted double tap and thinks I want to open the photo up and see it large instead. I’m not really sure that there is a solution to that problem, but it’s one that frustrates me that I don’t have with Instagram.
I also find that if I look at my contact’s photos for more than about 10 minutes or so I run out of photos to look at and Flickr defaults “suggested” photos that I’ve already seen and favorited months ago. Sometimes I’ll be sitting on the train for more than 10 minutes, or working out, or doing something where I want to spend more than 10 minutes browsing my contact’s photos and wish that Flickr could expand the number of photos I’m allowed to see from my contacts on the mobile app.
5. The new album view. The new album view is more of a postscript to the new Flickr 4.0 than a part of the initial release. Earlier this week Flickr changed the primary album view on Flickr incorporating supersized huge photos into the album view layout. I really like this change. I think photos look sooooooo much better full-sized and large (which is one of the reasons why I enjoy Ello so much). Predictably many in the help forum hate this new view as they hate all change.
I do think the header in the new album view is too large. I also think that Flickr should only choose photos to enlarge that are high res originals and that fit the crop format of their large view. Small sized photos or mobile photos don’t look as good as DSLR photos when blown up huge. Also having a bad crop on a large view, really makes that view look bad.
In other news around Flickr’s new release, Bernardo Hernandez, who was managing Flickr resigned shortly after the new launch. I like Bernardo a lot and think that he was a very good leader for Flickr. After so many years in the wilderness with really ineffective management, I think Bernardo (and Markus Spiering before him) did a really good job promoting positive change at Flickr. I hope that whoever ends up replacing him is as strong and committed to the potential for what Flickr can become. After leaving Flickr, Bernardo did tweet that Flickr would be offering up support for RAW photos, this was the first time I’d seen this mentioned anywhere online and think that RAW support would be a huge positive for Flickr — especially given that Google is supposedly coming out with something new in the photo sharing space potentially as soon as the end of this month.
It’s been refreshing watching how serious a contender Flickr has become in the photo sharing world since Marissa Mayer took the helm at Yahoo. Along with Bernardo and Markus, she and everyone working on the Flickr team deserve a ton of credit for orchestrating such a remarkable turnaround over the course of the last several years. Flickr continues to get better and better and really is turning into something much better than I ever would have thought 4 years ago. I still can’t believe that I’ve been on Flickr over 10 years now and am definitely looking forward to the next 10.
I’m a big fan of the new Flickr. Despite a few bumps along the way, like last weekend’s uploading fiasco, it feels like a new fresher Flickr and I think the fact that people can download their photos now in bulk will be a wonderful way to attract new talent to the site.
There are two little things that bug me about Flickr right now though. They are unimportant in the big picture of things, but the compulsive side of me tends to focus on the little things sometimes.
The first is the artifacting that takes place around icon that tells you if a photo is favorited or not or commented on not when you hover. Something just doesn’t seem right to me about this. It’s not a big deal for sure, but I wonder if Steve Jobs would let something like this fly? There appears to be two little dots around the star and the comment bubble seems cut off for me. I wonder if there is a way that this can be fixed?
The second problem is a more serious one and something I’m sure will be addressed when Flickr rolls out their new page build to the “photos from your contacts” page — here the problem has to do with consistency in design.
On most places when you favorite a photo on Flickr it turns an empty star into a full white filled star — but on the photos from your contacts page, it’s confusing. On the photos from your contacts page a full white star actually means the opposite, that a photo is *not* favorited, here the signal for a favorited photo is a colored pink star.
As your eyes learn Flickr you become accustomed to seeing an empty or full white star to signal to you if it’s favorited or not, but when you go to this one page on Flickr and see a full white star it means the opposite.
As Flickr rolls out their new page design to other areas of this site I’m sure that this inconsistency will be fixed.
I’ve got a more serious problem with the “photos from your contacts page” that only affects some accounts at Flickr, and that is that the page is jumpy and unstable when I browse it. This is not a universal problem though and one that is only affecting some accounts (unfortunately mine is one) at the present time.
These are first world problems for sure. With each new build Flickr gets better and better, and the team should be commended for doing such a great job these days.