Where is the Best Place to Share Your Photos on the Web? Survey Says… Google+

Where is the Best Place to Share Your Photos on the Web

Note! This is a very unscientific poll.

Let me repeat myself, this is a VERY UNSCIENTIFIC POLL. I understand statistics. I understand how flawed this poll is. Please do not rattle off in the comments about all the problems with this poll being unscientific.

I ALREADY KNOW!

Now that we’ve got *that* out of the way…

Earlier this morning I posted a poll at GoPollGo (it’s a cool polling site that my friend Robert Scoble turned me on to yesterday) asking people the following simple question.

“Where is the best place to share your photos on the web?”

I gave people five choices and put them in alphabetical order 500px, Facebook, Flickr, Google+ and Twitter. I really was only interested in social sharing sites so I didn’t include pay sites like SmugMug or Zenfolio, or sites that are primarily for photo hosting like Photobucket or mobile based apps like Instagram.

Next, I posted a link to the poll to each of my accounts on the five sites mentioned so that I could push the poll, at least to a degree into every site that was included. I have a large following on each of these sites.

2,514 individuals had voted in the poll as of 3:49 pm this afternoon (the poll is still open).

The answer by a wide margin?

You might be surprised, but I’m not.

Google+.

Google+ took a whopping 68% of the votes in this morning’s poll. Flickr came in 2nd with 16%. Facebook was 3rd with 11%. 500px was 4th with 4%. And Twitter came in dead last with 1%.

And by Google+ I also mean its back end storage site Picasa (which should totally be rebranded as Google Photos).

A few weeks ago I blogged that Flickr was Dead and announced that it wouldn’t be long before Google+ surpassed Flickr in pages views for photo sharing. While I think that it’s going to take a while to fully see this happen, I think we’ve already begun seeing this move by many of the top photographers on Flickr away from Flickr and Facebook and over to Google+. If you are a serious social photographer on the web, you simply cannot afford NOT to have a presence on Google+.

Now think about this. Google+ is only about 2 months old. It’s still invite only and in beta. See how fast momentum can change on the web.

So why is Google+ doing so well with photo sharing with web enthusiasts?

Here is what I think.

1. The photos look GREAT. Facebook’s already tried to revamp to try to keep up with Google here, but it’s nowhere near enough. On Google+ you get great big oversized thumbnails in your stream (did you hear that Facebook? GREAT BIG OVERSIZED THUMBNAILS IN YOUR STREAM).

When you click through to a photo it instantly bursts into the best looking lightbox view on the web.

2. Photos on Google+ get way more engagement and interaction, for the photographers that put the effort in. Almost every photographer who has put the effort in at G+ has gotten way more engagement than any other site. I’ve never seen anything like the engagement photos get on G+ — new photographers and popular photographers alike.

Some people have told me that they still get more on Flickr. But keep in mind, some of these people are not really putting hardcore effort into Google+ yet and also they’ve been on Flickr for years in some cases and haven’t even been on G+ 2 months yet. Give it time though — here are some handy tips to build a bigger audience for your work on G+.

3. The photographic community on Google+ has the best positive vibe and the photo community is coming together there in the most amazing ways.

I quit all of the flickr groups where I was active over the course of the last month or so because I got tired of all the negativity, tired of the harassing anonymous trolls, tired of the pessimism. On Google+ everybody seems super friendly and positive and the photographic community is coming together in the most beautiful ways all over the world.

I love how much better I’ve gotten to know Trey Ratcliff through Google+. I knew Trey before from Flickr, but Google+ has helped us to become even closer and better friends. He stayed at my house the last time he was in town and we did a super fun Google+ hangout that night online. I love seeing photographers all over the world that seem to be coming together on Google+ and organizing photowalks, and critique clubs and things like self portrait Sundays, and all these other fun community sort of things.

I love seeing the new leaders in photography that are popping up on Google+ — people like Lotus Carroll in Austin, or Leanne Staples and Vivienne Gucwa in New York. Lisa Bettany and Catherine Hall from TWiT Photo are super active. Colby Brown‘s been a huge leader. Robert Scoble is constantly sharing so many new photographers on the site. Robert must have shared 5 new awesome kick ass photographers in his stream just yesterday including Mihailo Radi?evi? (check him out, he’s crazy good).

I love seeing Elena Kalis and her great underwater work. I love seeing Adobe Pro Jan Kabili sharing great Lightroom and Photoshop tips with us.

Did I mention the Google+ photowalks have been awesome! (Come join us for a Dell/Google+ photowalk in Austin next week too!)

And I myself have been making so many great new local photography friends through G+, hanging out more with folks like Doug Kaye, who I knew before but hadn’t shot with, or Sly Vegas who just started out with photography six months ago and already is an up and coming superstar on G+. Or Karen Hutton or Samir Osman. I’m making so many great new local photography friends through G+

4. The Googlers. I cannot believe how different night/day Google staff is from Flickr’s staff. Google’s staff embraces you and your art as part of the community collaboratively. I’ve been so fortunate to have met so many great Googlers over the course of the past few months. Chris Chabot, Brian Rose, Vincent Mo, Dave Cohen, Natalie Villalobos, Timothy Jordan, and Ricardo Lagos. They hired my pal Louis Gray the other day. (I’ve met so many more cool Googlers and I wish there was room to name even more). And the guys running Google+, Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz are two of the most involved people in the community.

You want to hear a crazy story? The other night I was hanging out in my basement editing photos, and who invites me to a Google+ Hangout? Sergey Brin himself. The guy who co-founded Google. I felt like one of those guys who got a Steve Jobs email or something.

We chatted for a good half hour about Google+ and Google Photos and of course lots of talk about photography. We both have the same camera, the Canon 5D Mark 2 and we talked about lenses and making big prints and all sorts of great photography stuff.

Meanwhile, Carol Bartz who was fired over at Yahoo yesterday, never even had her own flickr account. I have no idea who’s even running flickr and I can’t remember the last time I actually spoke with someone who works there. It’s been years for sure.

5. Google is innovating with photos like CRAZY. It’s a wonderful perpetual beta. Sure my +1’s disappear sometimes. Who cares. Sure there are bumps. It’s beta software that’s only been out a couple of months. But every week Google is rolling out more and more improvements to the site with no sign of slowing down. Heck just a few hours ago they gave us a new improvement for locking our photo albums.

6. The Hangouts. I LOVE hangouts. They are such a better way to get to know other photographers. Last night about eight of us just got together for an hour or so and talked about all kinds of great photographic ideas.

We talked about taking a trip to go shoot Bodie at night. We talked about the economy where Helen Sotiriadis was there in Greece. We talked about how unfortunately Jonathan Goody had his 50mm 1.4 lens damaged at Burning Man when it got knocked out of his hand in a bar. We talked about light painting the inside of a submarine and the time that Jeremy Brooks and I lightpainted this great old phone booth. Hangouts are so cool that we even got my old Pal Marc Evans to actually hook up a webcam (although he did have to find the right Windows 98 drivers).

Hangouts are an awesome easy way to connect and become even better friends with your photography buddies. These blow the conversations I’ve had in flickr groups away, complete with audio and video.

A shout out too to Shirley Lo, the queen of the Google+ hangouts — and sorry I can’t name about 10,000 mind blowing insanely talented photographers on Google+. There are so, so many and it’s because of all of you why I think the numbers are trending so high for Google+ being the great new place on the web to share photos.

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. 🙂

Why Google+ is Better Than Facebook for Photographers

I’m proud to say that I got on Google+ the very first day it was available for public beta (thank you again +Brian Rose). Since that day I’ve been an active user and have used it daily to publish my photography out to the the world. My Google+ workflow is pretty simple. I publish about 5 photos a day spread out over the course of the hours in a day that I’m awake. I’ve got a large archive of about 80,000 finished photos at this point so I’m posting what I feel is my stronger work there. Much of what I’m publishing on Google+ are first time photographs that I’ve never shared anywhere else. I don’t want to overwhelm people with my work, but 5 photos a day spread out over the course of a day feels about right to me. The reception has been amazing and I’m lucky to have quickly built an audience for my work.

In a little over a month I have over 38,000 people who have put me in their various circles — thank you. By contrast I have about 3,300 people who are my friends on Facebook. Despite the fact that I’ve been active on Facebook for almost 5 years, I have an audience over 10x bigger on Google+ than Facebook in a little over a month.

I believe that much of the reason why I and other photographers are having so much success on Google+ is because it is fundamentally a *better* platform than Facebook for photographs and in this blog post I’ll detail some of the key differences.

1. Google+’s photo thumbnails are MUCH bigger than the stingy microscopic photo thumbnails that Facebook gives you. I can’t overemphasize this point enough. Bigger is better when it comes to photography on the web. It boggles my mind why Facebook has insisted on holding on to their minuscule microscopic thumbnails as long as they have. They are tiny. You can’t see anything at all. Photos on Facebook are easily skipped and ignored. In contrast, Google+ gives us nice large thumbnails that invite you to interact. The photo thumbnails look sooooo better and as such they get much more attention. Super smart Google!

2. Google+ has the *best* lightbox on the web right now — by comparison Facebook’s looks cheap and dated. With Google+ when you see a bold new thumbnail by a photographer, you *want* to click through to see the large sized version — and when you do this you are rewarded by the best lightbox on the web. The photo is huge. It takes up just about the entire page except for some comments over on the right side. It’s loaded instantly — so fast. It never locks up or hangs like flickr.

Facebook by contrast, even with their revamped lightbox, only gives you a medium sized photo. The focus is not the image. Instead you see a bunch of gibberish in white under the image and even worse an advert.

3. With Google+ I can easily circle the photographers whose work I want to follow vs. Facebook’s clunky lists. Once I tried to play with Facebook’s lists to try to filter in some of my favorite photographers. It was a huge failure. I couldn’t figure it out. It was clunky. So I’m stuck with my main Facebook feed being full of non-photography related stuff. Sometimes I just want to see big bold photos instead of having to read about Aunt Edna’s latest recipe for avocado souffl or 2nd cousin Gary’s passion for bashing the hell out of Sarah Palin 28 times a day, even after the election’s been over for 2 years now. With Google+ I can create great circles of people devoted to photography, with Facebook I can’t.

4. The Facebook/Flickr integration thing has been a huge disaster. When I first heard that you could import your Flickr photos into Facebook, I was sort of excited — but this has been one of the most poorly integrated features I’ve ever seen. Sometimes Facebook will import a thumbnail representing my Flickr photos *8* times in a row. Sometimes they won’t come in at all. When they do come in they use the worst photo for the thumbnail instead of the best (hint, last uploaded in a batch to Flickr, not first uploaded to Flickr in a batch).

And I’m not alone here: Just go to the Flickr Help forum and search “Facebook” and you’ll find post after post after post of people on Flickr complaining about how broken this process has been. Good God, there are over 1,700 posts in the Flickr Help Forum, almost all of them complaining about how broken the Facebook integration is. This has left a bad taste in my mouth re: photography on Facebook.

5. All the best photographers are showing up on Google+ and an exciting now community of photographers is blossoming. Photographers on Google+ are engaged. Every day people are sharing new lists of photographers and resharing content by their favorites. There are long discussions about techniques and methods. Photowalks are being set up. The photo community is alive and active on Google+ while it feels stale and non-existent on Facebook.

Photography is such an important part of any social network and Google+ has been optimized for photography and photographers right out of the gate. It feels central in how they’ve designed service. Google+ realizes how visual we all are and has built a far better platform for us to be visual with. Everybody loves photography right? It’s no surprise that photographers are doing so well on this exciting new platform.

If you’d like to follow my work on Google+ you can do that here.

If you haven’t signed up for Google+ yet and need an invitation you can get one from me here. (I’ve only got 129 left to hand out on this link).

You can read comments on this post over at Google+ here: https://plus.google.com/104987932455782713675/posts/8czBNGPWqEk

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

So What Can You Do When a Company Steals Your Photograph and Uses It For An Advertisement on Facebook? Apparently Not Much

I do love technology

A few weeks ago Veronica Belmont alerted me to a photograph that I’d taken of her that was being used as an advertisement on Facebook (see above). Veronica wasn’t very happy with her likeness being used to promote the company Wireless Emporium and also pointed out that my photograph (which is not licensed for commercial use) was also being used without authorization.

At first I wondered if this was just part of some sort of Facebook rights grab. I’d heard that Facebook can use your photos in advertisements unless you specifically opt out of this — but the thing about this photo was that neither Veronica or I had actually ever uploaded the photo to Facebook. (By the way, if you want to opt out of Facebook using your photos for advertisements you can do that here like I did.)

So I concluded that the only way for this photo to get into a Facebook advert would be for someone to steal the photo and make the advert and upload it and buy space to promote it on Facebook.

Of course the first suspect that I thought of was the company that was actually being promoted in the advert, “Wireless Emporium.” After a few tweets about the advert, one of the company’s representatives Greg Daurio, who seems like a very nice guy, got in touch with both Veronica and I. We traded a lot of back and forth emails and he ultimately provided me the following statement below on their position on this unauthorized photo use:

“About two weeks ago we here at Wireless Emporium noticed a bit of chatter on Twitter regarding a Facebook ad that was promoting our company. Unfortunately, the chatter was of the negative variety, as the model whose photo was used in the ad (Veronica) and the photographer who took the picture (Thomas) hadnt given permission for that image to be used.

In terms of people power, Wireless Emporium is a relatively small company with less than 30 employees. In order to stay competitive, we outsource a portion of our SEO efforts to professional firms. While we do our due diligence to make sure we only do business with reputable firms, unfortunately, one of the firms we contracted wasnt living up to their end of the bargain.

After doing some investigating, we concluded that this firm tried to leverage the popularity of Veronica in the tech community to grow our brand awareness without her permission and without consulting us before moving forward with the ad. Unfortunately we have no concrete evidence that this firm indeed was the one responsible for the rogue Facebook ad. Nonetheless, within 4 days of finding out about the ad, we terminated all business relationships with this SEO firm based on our internal investigation.

We are extremely apologetic to both Thomas and Veronica and appreciate their patience and understanding while we investigated the matter internally. We are also thankful that this was brought to our attention. It is extremely important to everyone here at Wireless Emporium that we grow our business in a moral and ethical way. And when we discover that one of our partners isnt following those same guidelines, it is important that we act swiftly and accordingly.

Lastly, we here at Wireless Emporium would like to thank Thomas and Veronica for allowing our voice to be heard on this matter. They certainly didnt have to do that. We wish both the best of luck moving forward.”

I don’t know very many people at Facebook, but I did put a Facebook message into a fairly senior person there to see if he might be able to help but never heard back.

As far as I’m aware there is no real mechanism for a photographer to use to get Facebook to tell you who paid for an advert illegally using your image. I don’t know the name of the alleged SEO company that stole the photo and I’m not sure that there is ever any way that I will know. Such is life on the web for photographers.

Anyone have any thoughts or advice on a situation like this?

20MB File Size Limits on Photo Sharing Sites are Stupid

20MB File Size Limits on Photo Sharing Sites are Stupid

I noticed today for the first time that Flickr has been resizing all of my photos that I upload to the site over 20MB. I’ve known that Flickr has had a 20MB size limit for a while and in the back of my mind always sort of wondered why my photos over 20MB were still uploading to Flickr. I never really investigated it until today though.

Earlier this morning I uploaded this photo to Flickr. My original image is 5415×3610 pixels and is 23.5 MB. In Flickr’s bulk uploader (that I use to upload all of my photos to flickr) I’ve selected the option “don’t resize my photos.” Out of my 25 uploads this morning, flickr did in fact upload the actual originals of 24 of the 25 photos. The one that was over 20MB though was automatically resized to 2048 x 1365 pixels and now is a miserly 627KB.

While I can understand where Flickr might not want to notify me that my image was over the 20MB limit, reducing it down to a sub 1M file seems like overkill. I’ve always assumed that my photos on flickr could be perfect backup copies for me in the event that I lost my original photos (which are already backed up on multiple drobos and elsewhere in the cloud). It’s disappointing to know that even though I told the bulk uploader not to resize my photos that Flickr has been resizing some of my photos anyways. I suggest that if they are going to keep doing this that they put a disclaimer on the bulk uploader that photos over 20MB will be resized.

But lets talk about the stupid 20MB requirement in the first place. You can fit about 100,000 20MB files on a 2TB hard drive. You can buy a 2TB hard drive
retail now at Amazon.com for $80. (I guarantee you Yahoo pays less than retail).

99.99999% of Pro accounts on Flickr probably have less than 100,000 photos (and the same for 2TB). So Yahoo gets reoccurring fee revenue of $29 per year for each Pro account, but they have this stupid 20MB cap on photos that probably really costs them next to nothing.

Now maybe the 20MB cap limit made more sense a few years ago when storage was more expensive and DSLRs didn’t really produce 20MB+ sized images. But today’s Canon 5D Mark 2 (one of the most popular DSLRs with Flickr photographers) regularly produces a small number of files over 20MB. It seems stupid to me that to save pennies at best, Flickr would resize users’ photos (without really disclosing it to them). I think the time has come that Flickr at least consider raising this limit to 50MB. This would cover the bulk of the DSLR market out there today while likely costing Flickr very little.

Given that most people never view the original sized photos on Flickr I can’t imagine that bandwidth is a significant issue. And of course storage is only likely to get cheaper and cheaper in the months/years ahead.

So which innovative company is going to drop the stupid 20MB limit and let photographers actually upload their photos up to a more reasonable size without resizing (like say 50MB)?

By the way, Google’s Picasaweb Albums also has the stupid 20MB file size limit, which makes even less sense on Picasa because there you actually pay there by how much storage you use. What should they care if you upload 100 40MB files or 200 80MB files? You’re paying for the storage, why limit the file size?

Both of these of course are better than the Facebookery’s default of 2048 pixels.

Update: Rev Dan Catt, a former Flickr engineer offers a more detailed explanation about some of the reasons behind the 20MB file size limit in the comments below.

Flickr Launches Suggested Users Page and Facebook Friend Finder

Flickr Suggested Users

Flickr today released a new suggested users list. You can go here and Flickr will show you some people it feels like randomly that have common contacts with you. They show you 8 names and then you can click to “refresh your recommendations,” to get some more.

I tried the page myself and clicked on refresh your recommendations several times but didn’t find anyone especially relevant that I felt I needed to add. Most of the suggested user pages that I’ve tried on other pages usually don’t feel very accurate either — with the exception of Twitter, which I find regularly suggests very relevant tweeters to me.

The above screenshot shows what the new feature looks like.

Flickr Suggested Users2

As part of this new suggested users feature, Flickr also launched the ability to check which of your Facebook friends are on Flickr that you currently are not following. I tried this feature out several times as well but it seems to be borked (see above). I’ll try it again later.

Some have suggested that there may be privacy concerns with opening up your Flickr accounts to all of your facebook friends without authorization by default. If you are concerned about this privacy issue there is a method to opt out of this service and hide your flickr account from facebook here.

I think a suggested users feature is a good thing for Flickr. I do worry Flickr could be blacklisting certain members from being recommended (like they do with their Explore). The randomness of the presentation makes it difficult at this point to determine just how or why they might/could be blacklisting certain members for suggestion.

There is a feedback post in the Flickr Help Forum (where I’m still permanently banned) here — Flickr blog post on the new feature here.

Yahoo, How Does Censorship Make Yahoo and the Web More Open and Social

Yahoo, How Does Censorship Make Yahoo and Web More Open and Social?

If you want to see if Yahoo is censoring any of your photos go to the Flickr organizer here. Once you are there, click on “more options” at the bottom of the page. Where it says no privacy/safe search filter, change that to show restricted or moderate content. This will show you what photos of yours that Flickr is currently censoring.

Yahoo today announced that as part of their 2008 “Yahoo! Open Strategy (Y!OS) initiative” they are integrating with Facebook. Every time I hear about this so called Y!OS “open” strategy I’m puzzled.

So Yahoo will integrate with Facebook. But will they do it with the full version of Yahoo content? Or will they do it with the censored version of Yahoo content? At present Yahoo censors Flickr photos on the web institutionally. From the Flickr FAQ:

Note: If your Yahoo! ID is based in Singapore, Hong Kong, India or Korea you will only be able to view safe content based on your local Terms of Service (this means you wont be able to turn SafeSearch off). If your Yahoo! ID is based in Germany you are not able to view restricted content due to your local Terms of Service.

So this means that photos of mine (like this 1874 painting from the Art Institute of Chicago) are effectively filtered out of view as indicated by Yahoo above.

Further, these photos are also completely stripped out of all RSS feeds even for all *USA* based accounts. So if I want to feed my Flickrstream into FriendFeed or Google Buzz these photos will be censored from that feed.

My Pal Merkley does some amazing work with fine art nudes. These are not pornography, these are elegantly structured intensely detailed productions. Right now there is only one way to see these photos of Merkley’s. You have to go to Flickr itself, change your default settings from “safe search” to allow moderate and restricted content and then I can see them on Flickr. But what if I don’t want to see them on Flickr? What if, you know, with a more “open and social Yahoo/web” I want to see these photos in my RSS reader or on Google Buzz or on FriendFeed or (apparently soon) on Facebook? Will I be able to see them? No, I will not. Because Flickr feels that RSS feeds must be sanitized of most of Merkley’s art, even for adults in the U.S. Even though I’ve designated on Flickr that I want to view this content. Even though I’ve certified that I’m over 18. Still, the only place that Yahoo will let me see these photos is in the official Flickr silo itself. (And not even then if I unfortunately happen to be from India).

Unfortunately Yahoo seems to be unwilling to have an open and transparent conversation about this problem. I’ve been permanently banned from the Flickr Help Forum for asking pesky questions like this. I posted a very respectful question about this subject to the Yahoo Corporate Blog (see screen shot above) and it’s presently be censored (er. moderated). The Yahoo Corporate blog has no problem posting comments that kiss up to them. But dare criticize them and your comment is “moderated.” How is this more open and transparent?

If Yahoo truly wants to make Yahoo and the web a more open and social place, then they should stop censoring places like India and Germany and Korea. They should also stop filtering RSS feeds in the U.S. Believe it or not, some people actually don’t find paintings from 1874 at the Art Institute of Chicago offensive, even if the nanny’s at the Flickr Censorship Bureau do. By the way, I tried to appeal Flickr’s censorship decision on the painting from the Art Institute of Chicago and they refused to uncensor it.

Apparently full frontal male nudity on Michelangelo’s statue of David is ok, but a tasteful painting by Lefebvre showing the backside of a woman is not ok. How’s that for a double standard.

Facebook Buys FriendFeed

Facebook Aquires FriendFeed

A few hours ago I learned that Facebook had acquired one of my favorite current little playgrounds on the internet FriendFeed. There’s been no talk on the price they paid, but if I just threw a total guess out of left field I’d say it was somewhere around $100 million. That’s just a guess. I’m sure the real number will come out soon enough. While I’m sure that this deal is a fantastic one for the founders of Friendfeed (who were probably already multi-millionaires from their earlier roles at Google and now just became that much richer) I’m not feeling so positive about it for the actual users of FriendFeed.

In the blog post announcing the acquisition, Bret Taylor wrote: “FriendFeed.com will continue to operate normally for the time being. We’re still figuring out our longer-term plans for the product with the Facebook team.” To me that sentence right there is the kiss of death for FriendFeed as a stand alone service. In actuality, the FriendFeed team probably has a very good idea what things are going to look like in the longer-term and I’m guessing that it doesn’t include FriendFeed operating as a stand-alone little playpen outside of the great gates of mother Facebook.

No. In time it is likely that little by little at first (but completely and entirely eventually) FriendFeed as we know it gets migrated and merged into Facebook. Techcrunch put it more directly in a quote attribute to FriendFeed Co-Founder Bret Taylor and Facebook VP Chris Cox: “Taylor and Cox say that the Friendfeed product will live on independently, and eventually Friendfeed will be merged into Facebook.”

While the million or so estimated monthly uniques that FriendFeed gets are a drop in the bucket to Facebook, in that number are still a lot of super active users and Facebook will certainly do what it can to keep them. But Facebook didn’t buy FriendFeed for the users. Facebook, frankly, could care less about FriendFeed’s users. They bought FriendFeed for two reasons. 1. The superior technology and ideas that it represents for life-streaming (many of them already blatantly copied by Facebook). and 2. Even more significantly, the talented small group of employees that built FriendFeed. A talented group of ex-Google employees.

I spent a few hours this afternoon on Facebook after the announcement playing around on it. I hadn’t checked in with my Facebook account for a while and so mostly I just had a lot of clean up to do. 34 friend requests to approve. 270 or so group invitations to ignore. 90 or so Facebook fan page requests to deny. A bunch of facebook email spam to delete and other legitimate messages to answer. And worst of all, what felt like thousands of little Facebook app requests to have to deal with. The stupidest little app requests you’ve ever seen. Most of which felt confusing, broken, and hard to block or ignore.

FB: You have a pokemon request. Me: Block This Application FB: Something went wrong. We’re working on getting this fixed as soon as we can. You may be able to try again. Sigh.

FB: You have a pokeman adventure request (as opposed to just the regular old pokeman request I tried to block earlier).
Me: click on the “Please Block My Friends’ Pokemon Adventure Invitations :.(FB: “Allowing Pokemon Adventure access will let it pull your profile information, photos, your friends’ info, and other content that it requires to work. Allow or Cancel?” Me: I have no idea what i’m supposed to do to make the Pokemon people go away.FB: “By proceeding, you are allowing Pokemon Adventure to access your information and you are agreeing to the Facebook Terms of Use in your use of Pokemon Adventure. By using Pokemon Adventure, you also agree to the Pokemon Adventure Terms of Service.” Sigh.

Now hopefully the FriendFeed team will be able to have a positive impact on the whole Facebook experience. I can’t imagine that it can get much worse. But… Facebook is a huge, huge, monster at this point. Getting things done there or changed for the better will be super hard to do. There will be new pressures of having to deal with the influence of advertisers in page design as well as having to try and keep all of those app developers who develop those insipid little apps happy. I suspect that even with the positive influence of the FriendFeed team that it will be far too little to have enough of a positive impact on Facebook to make it really usable.

There are of course lots of other problems with this deal for FriendFeed’s users. Some users use Facebook for their real life friends and family and FriendFeed as something totally different. They purposely want two places to play. And they like having one where their mom and brother sister and cousin and high school girlfriend aren’t hanging out watching everything they do. Facebook is also blocked at a lot more jobs than FriendFeed is. So some people will likely end up losing their daily does of screwing around on the company nickle in the end.

Then there is the whole pesky issue of censorship. One of the things that I really liked about FriendFeed was that it seemed totally and absolutely free of censorship. On the other hand we have Facebook who thinks that breastfeeding moms are evil and must be purged from their system.

A lot of people, including my friend Robert Scoble, seem positive on the deal. But others are negative. Blogger Dave Winer put it very simply: “FB buying FF is bad news for FF users.” I suppose we’ll have to see how it all shakes out in the end, but I do feel sort of sad today, like we did in fact lose something that had so much amazing potential to be something so much bigger than even Facebook. That may be pie in the sky thinking, but that’s how it felt sometimes.

You can add me as a contact on FriendFeed here.

You can add me as a contact on Facebook here.