Archive for the ‘Photo Sharing’ Category

Why Limiting Free Users to 1,000 Photos on Flickr is a Smart Move

Tim O'Reilly

Yesterday Flickr made their first big restructuring announcement since recently being purchased by SmugMug. Beginning next year on January 8th, Flickr will limit free accounts to 1,000 photos. The previously offered free 1 terabyte of storage goes away. At the same time Flickr is returning their paid pro account to unlimited storage which had been their original offer before capping new Pro accounts at 1 terabyte back in 2013. If you were Pro before 2013 you were considered “old school” Pro and kept your unlimited storage, but new accounts were limited. Now all Pro accounts are back to being unlimited.

In 1973 the artists Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman broadcast a short video titled “Television Delivers People”. In that video a simple assertion was made: the product of television. commercial television. is the audience. Television delivers people to an advertiser. Since then, various influential individuals from Tim O’Reilly to Steve Wozniak to Apple CEO Tim Cook have all repeated the mantra: “if you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer, you’re the product being sold.”

To put things more simply, there are two viable business models on the internet today to deliver service. There is a paid subscription model and there is a “free” model where business sell your data and make money on advertising everything from Butterfinger candy bars on Instagram to “brain force” pills via Alex Jones.

Personally I prefer to pay for an ad-free online experience which is one of the reasons why I’ve enjoyed Flickr so much where I’ve had an opportunity to pay annually since I joined the service back in 2003. Flickr delivers a clean user interface, full high res photos, a compelling app for my iPhone, unlimited storage, kick ass organizational tools, a social community to engage with, search tools, stats, and much more.

At $50/year (well technically $49.99 but I like to round up) I think Flickr delivers tremendous value. I have spent thousands of hours of my life on the site — thousands of ad-free hours not just for me, but for any of my friends or even strangers who happen to land on my photo page too. I am more than happy to pay this every year and will continue to do so until I die most likely. Hopefully I will figure out a way to even continue paying after I die as my personal life goal is to publish 1,000,000 photos before I die and then let that archive of work stand in all perpetuity after I am gone.

So obviously Flickr works for me, but what about all those people who don’t/haven’t paid and just want to use the service for “free.”

I believe that one of the reasons why Flickr was sold by Oath (who had purchased Yahoo’s content businesses) to Smugmug was because Oath realized that a hybrid subscription/free service doesn’t really work. It’s the same reason why Facebook is so resistant to offering a paid ad-free option to customers.

Oath is basically an advertising company and when you are advertising at people you need to be able to advertise to your most profitable customers to make the service work. When you give your most profitable customers (i.e. the ones with money) the option to pay to opt out of ads they do and will. What you are left with is a bunch of accounts by heavy users who are either poor Americans or more likely poor overseas accounts or very light users who can put up with ads but won’t see very many because they are only on your site 2 minutes a week. Whatever the case, you are basically providing a terabyte of enterprise storage, bandwidth, support, etc., to customers who cannot economically be supported by advertising.

In order for Flickr to survive it has to be a long-term profitable business. SmugMug knows a thing or two about how to do this as their primary model for over a decade has been entirely subscription based. As someone who wants to be able to host my photos on Flickr for the 50 remaining years I likely have left on this planet (and even after my death) in order to publish 1,000,000 photos, it’s important to me that Flickr has a long-term viable business model. This means that strongly encouraging free users (who are not currently paying their way) to migrate to paid Pro is important.

I do think it is important for Flickr to offer a free account in order to give people an opportunity to try out the service to see if it is for them. 1,000 photos gives you plenty of opportunity to do just that. It gives you hundreds, even thousands, of hours to explore and enjoy the service without paying — but if you are a heavy user of the site and are using over 1,000 photos of space, at some point you ought to pay.

By the way, Flickr’s original deal when I started with them was that they would only show your most recent 100 photos if you were a free account and the Pro account cost $60 (or $59.99) per year. So you might say the current account that gives you 10x that or 1,000 is 10x more generous than the original Flickr from way back.

Besides the obvious business model reasons why this is a smart decision for Flickr and their users, there are other important reasons this makes Flickr better as well. One of the things I noticed after Flickr began offering 1 terabyte for free to users was that many users simply began using Flickr as a backup site for all of their photos. Instead of sharing their best photos with a community, they simply dumped everything on their hard drive to Flickr and left and went away. These photos were then indexed for search and populated the service littering it with low quality content (screengrabs, 1,000 bad photos in a row of fireworks, 3,000 poorly composed photos in a row of somebody’s sister’s wedding, etc.). By focusing Flickr’s vision on photo sharing and community rather than simply another online photo backup dump this makes the visual experience better for those of us who are actually there to share photos and engage with each other.

Also, if people are willing to pay for something they tend to put more effort into it. If you are paying for something and perceive it’s value you’ll care more, contribute more and be a part of something. These are the accounts that I value on Flickr the most.

Yesterday morning I had an opportunity to talk to Don MacAskill (SmugMug/Flickr CEO) about this most recent decision that Flickr is making on the phone. Don is someone who cares deeply about Flickr and its community. How many CEOs do you know that spend an entire day interacting with users in an online forum about a big change like this?

I truly believe that yesterday’s decision not only paves the way to make Flickr viable for many years ahead, but that it paves the way for Don and his team to continue to spend money growing and building out the site for the community that is there and loves the service so much.

There are still so many great things that can be done with Flickr going forward. Groups need work. Search needs work. Community needs work. The app needs work. All of these things do cost money though and by getting rid of the massive storage/bandwidth demands of 1 terabyte free accounts and gaining more paid subscribers, this will allow Flickr to do this important work to continue making Flickr the best photo sharing site on the internet for all of us who are a part of the Flickr community and love the site so much.

I do understand that people don’t always want to pay for things, but I think that the right people will pay for Flickr because it provides them tremendous value. I pay for my Adobe Lightroom subscription. I pay for my Netflix account. I pay for these things because they provide me value. This is also why I pay for Flickr and will continue doing so many years into the future.

Unfortunately as we have seen with services like Friendfeed (purchased by Facebook) or even Google+ (in the process of being killed by Google) social networks oftentimes get shut down. It is very important to me that Flickr remains profitable for the long-term so that I can count on it being there many, many years from now. I think yesterday’s decision helps make Flickr more economically viable and sustainable many years into the future.

You can find me on Flickr here.

[disclosure, I know people and have friends that work at both Flickr and SmugMug]

Top 10 Ways to Improve Flickr for 2018

Having spent thousands of hours on Flickr over the past 15 years or so, on a personal level I’ve become fairly invested in the site. To date I’ve published over 140,000 of my photographs there. I publish 40 or so new photos there every single day. It’s my primary archive of my photography work on the internet. I’ve also been actively involved in groups over the years which have led to many personal friendships for me. I’ve favorited over 720,000 photos that I’ve browsed over the years. I blog about it. I search it for photos to map as I’m going about my project of documenting America. It’s my favorite site on the internet.

That said there are some significant ways that Flickr can improve and given the new recent ownership change I thought now would be a good time to write about some of the ways Flickr can improve from here. Jef Poskanzer another early Flickr user also made his own excellent to do list for Flickr here.

The power of Flickr in my opinion has always been the community. I think there are ways that Flickr can recapture some of the community spirit that it did have in years past and grow to become the primary community for photographers on the web going forward. This will take work but will be worth it in the end for the community, it’s users and now SmugMug.

Flicker Meetup, 7-7-2005, #3
Flickr Meet Up, Crossroads Cafe, 2005.

1. Community. In the earliest days of Flickr when a new user would join co-founder Caterina Fake would greet them personally on the site and welcome them — not a bot or a script, but Caterina herself. While this would not scale today, I think the original founders of Flickr realized how important community development was in the early success of the site. I remember shortly after I joined Flickr going to some of my first photo meetups in San Francisco at a local coffeehouse. Flickr’s other co-founder Stewart Butterfield would show up and so would Cal Henderson and many of the other early Flickr staff and engineers. They eventually brought Heather Champ on as Community Manager and her sole focus was in managing this new community that was growing at Flickr.

Stewart and the Skatepods
Flickr Co-Founder Stewart Butterfield introducing Flickr Photographers at a group show at the Apple Store, 2005.

Back in those early days Heather organized an event at the San Francisco Apple Store where some Flickr photographers shared their photos on the giant large screen upstairs in the old Apple Store off Market Street. There was a show where Flickr photographers from all over the world sent in a photo and Flickr printed them all for a group gallery show at 111 Minna. There were active meetups and drinkups and photowalks and even a giant party hosted by Flickr once a year. Flickr Fiesta, Flickr Turns 2, Flickr Turns 3

I think what Flickr realized early on was that getting users to connect personally offline after first meeting online could be a powerful thing. Friendships were created. A group I was in started doing phototrips together. We did a trip to Miami, a trip to Detroit, a trip to Las Vegas a trip to Toronto. These trips would originate and be planned out in groups on Flickr. When out of town Flickr friends came to town you’d meet up and go shooting together. Meeting Mr. Chalk for the first time in person was fantastic! Because Flickr was the online community bringing all of these people together, it became a very beloved site for so many early Flickr users.

The challenge now is to try and restore much of that sense of community that over the years has been lost in my opinion. I think SmugMug should invest in this aspect of Flickr more than any other. They should hire perhaps a few community managers. They should host events. They should engage directly with the most active users on the site and promote Flickr evangelists from their user base who work to build and maintain that photography community at Flickr. I think Don MacAskill (SmugMug’s CEO) is the type of guy who will be good at this. It was good to see him engaging publicly about the acquisition on Hacker News shortly after the purchase. Management most of all has a role in actively engaging with the users of the site following the early example of Caterina Fake.

2. Groups. Much of Flickr’s early success was built around groups. More than just places to post a photo about a certain topic the group threads were vibrant conversations. Conversations about photography and Flickr itself sure, but also conversations about politics, about popular movies and television, about really anything and everything. Through some redesign over the years group discussions lost ground to the photos themselves. Discussions became harder and harder to track and follow. Facebook showed up and many people moved conversations over there, etc.

There are some significant ways that Flickr could rebuild group conversations.

The single most significant thing Flickr could do to improve group discussions would be to allow users to subscribe to individual discussion threads and then give them a central page where those conversations are bumped as activity/conversations happens in those threads. These are the conversations that I care the most about.

Many Flickr users belong to many different groups. Having to go to each individual group discussion page one by one just does not work for monitoring all of the conversations you are a part of. I may really care about a conversation about William Eggleston’s photography, but if there is only one new update to that conversation a week, as much as I care about it, I may not be checking it as regularly as I should. What’s more, the best time to see a conversation is as quickly after it happens as possible because that’s when others in that conversation still might be online. If I reply to a conversation 10 minutes after it happens that generates much more activity than if I reply 1 day after it happens. Giving users the ability to track all of the conversations they are interested in across the site would be a powerful tool.

Conversation begets more conversation. Activity begets activity. Give users the tool to track all of the group conversations across Flickr that they care about. This thread subscription page should be easily accessed in the mobile app as well.

After building conversation subscriptions, Flickr should also allow users to hide conversations in groups. Groups can get very noisy at times. The most recent group discussion is bumped to the top of the discussion page. If I don’t care about Game of Thrones, but that is the conversation that is repeatedly being bumped to the top of the threads I should allowed to hide it and make it disappear for me.

Flickr should identify 50 or so of the most active groups and have their community managers personally be involved in those groups and conversations. People should know that they can interact with management there. Flickr’s help forum is a bit like this, but the help forum is really only about Flickr help which can be boring at times. Flickr should promote these groups across the site and do everything that they can to make them as active as possible. If the discussions are not active in a group people stop coming. If the discussions are active it becomes a wonderful watering hole where people will spend hours online engaging with each other.

In the early days of Flickr Stewart Butterfield was active in Flickr Central threads. He’d frequently chime in and interact with the community there. This was a great thing.

I should also be able to mute certain users in a group. Inevitably trolls can/will invade groups and while some trolls can be charming and funny, others can be destructive. Allowing me to mute certain people gives me a bit of control over these conversations.

Groups should have photo pools, but these should really be secondary to the discussion threads and the groups pages should be designed to reflect this.

Flickr Explore
Some sample photos from yesterday’s Flickr Explore page.

3. Explore is so broken. There are so many bad photos regularly in Explore. The algorithm screens out more active users (like myself and many others). I looked at Explore for the first time in months yesterday and what do I see? Exactly the type of photos I don’t want to see on Flickr. Macro photos of insects. Lots of photos with signatures and watermarks. Three photos in a row of a LEGO airplane. Some screengrab of some user mocking Explore. Photos of big trucks and other transport. I don’t mind great train shots actually, but shots of boring city busses and big trucks that some Flickr transport fans collect are less interesting to me.

As much as I dislike Instagram and their world of ads, of all things, Instagram is doing a great job with their version of Explore. When I click on the search bar on Instagram it populates their version. What do I see there? Lots of photos of neon signs. Interesting analog photography. Great architecture.

The problem is that everyone sees the exact same version of Explore. In today’s world of AI Flickr should be smart enough to look at the photos I’m favoriting and serve me up my own customized version of Explore. Photos that I might be interested in based on what it knows about me.

Do I never favorite the classic bee on a flower shot? Then don’t show more to me. Someone who favorites 10,000 Second Life screengrabs might like to see more of them that they don’t know about on the site. I don’t. I love neon signs. Show me the most kickass photos of neon signs that I haven’t seen yet on the site from the past 24 hours. If I hate watermarked photos and never favorite them, don’t show them to me. If someone else watermarks their own photos and only favorites watermarked photos, show lots of them to them.

4. Maps. Although Stig’s excellent Flickr Fixr already fixes this, put a link to the Google Maps location under the map of a geotagged photo on Flickr. Google’s maps are the best in the world — and while it may be too expensive to actually license the maps to embed themselves, put a link there so users can go actually find the place. As it is now the Flickr maps are worthless. They won’t show you where something is. They will provide you the general vicinity of where something is, but they won’t show you exactly where it is. [Update: another link to Stig’s Flickr extension.]

If I am going on a trip and want to research a new city on Flickr, I want to know EXACTLY where things are so I can build a Google Map to go see and photograph those things myself.

5. Fix the Yahoo Log In. This is probably easy to do and from what I’ve read Don MacAskill is already on this one as a first priority. The Yahoo Login system (and especially for those using old legacy AT&T, PacBell, etc, versions of the login) is much too difficult to use. Pre-yahoo Flickr had a very simple user name / password log in that you set yourself. Users should be given an easy option to have that again and to get back into their Yahoo accounts that so many seem to be locked out of.

6. Fix the jumpy problem in photos from your contacts. Jef Poskanzer mentioned this one in his post as well. For years now whenever you browse photos by your contacts, right before you are about to favorite a photo on that page Flickr will inexplicably jolt and jump to some other random area on the page making you lose your place. Worse, right when you press the favorite button, because the page has suddenly jolted somewhere else you will accidently click on a photo which will take you away from that page and you have to press the browser back bar to get back and reload your contact’s photos page from the beginning. It’s a frustrating user experience and something that has been broken for YEARS now. It is time to fix it. Photos from your contacts is a very popular page and it is a problem that your most active users are having.

Flickr No Connection Issue

7. Flickr app connection issues. The Flickr photo app has a connection problem that other apps don’t. Just about every single day at some point you get a red “no internet connection” message at the bottom of the app. Even if you are connected to the internet and even if all your other apps work just fine. Flickr will not work. The only way to make the Flickr app work again is to quit the app and relaunch it. I think what may be happening is that at some point the Flickr app loses internet connection and isn’t smart enough to try and re-establish connection. So the app is dead and the only way to re-establish the connection is to quit it and relaunch it.

Searching Pennsylvania by Interestingness

8. Fix search. I’ve got a trip to Pennsylvania planned in a few months. Why when I search “Pennsylvania” (over 3.5 million photos on Flickr by the way) and sort by interestingness is the 2nd most interesting photo on all of Flickr a dumb aerial map screengrab with a squiggly blue line with a “whacking fatties” watermark? The photo has zero faves, zero comments and only 11 views. In fact there are four “whacking fatties” screengrabs in the top 20 most interesting of the millions of photos of Pennsylvania. This is dumb. If Flickr’s interestingness algorithm is so broken that it puts this photo as the 2nd most interesting photo in all of Pennsylvania at least give me the option to sort the photos by favorites. If I sort the photos by favorites chances are that some of the most favorited photos might be better and more interesting photos. While favorites alone might not be the best indicator of what photos are most interesting, at least give me that option. Alternatively, stop showing photos with low faves, comments, views on the first page of search results by interestingness.

9. Fix recent activity. The recent activity page is the most important page on Flickr. I load it more than any other page. For me (and many others) recently it stopped loading. It times out the majority of the time and returns a server error. I can get around this error by changing my recent activity settings from “since the beginning” to “in the last month” but I shouldn’t have to. I should be able to get it to load reliably 100% of the time since the beginning. Your most active users are users are your most valuable users. This should be fixed.

10. Let users favorite multi photo batches from the Flickr homepage. At present if I go to the main flickr homepage at flickr.com and I hover over a single photo there I’m given an option to favorite that photo by pressing a little star. This is great. But if I hover over a batch of photos that a user has uploaded I am not given this option. The only way there I can favorite a photo is to click through on the photo and leave a favorite. Flickr should treat all photos whether individual or batch on that page the same giving me a hover over star to favorite the photos.

Bonus: The “taken on” date on a photo’s photo page, really should be a hyperlink that you can click that will take you to that date in your camera roll.

That’s all for now. Much more later. See you on Flickr.

You can find me on Flickr here. 🙂

My Thoughts on the SmugMug Flickr Acquisition

Disclosure: I know people and am friends with people who work at both SmugMug and Flickr.

Earlier today we learned that the photo sharing site Flickr has been acquired by the photo sharing site SmugMug. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Flickr was purchased by Yahoo back in the early days of the internet in 2005 for probably somewhere around $40 million (give or take $10 million). Yahoo managed Flickr for many years, but more recently Yahoo’s core holdings were sold off last year to Verizon. Verizon folded Flickr into a new division called Oath which was made up of various Yahoo and AOL assets (another Verizon acquisition) run by ex-Google executive Tim Armstrong. Now Verizon/Oath has sold Flickr to SmugMug.

As They Pulled You Out Of The Oxygen Tent You Asked For The Latest Party
Flickr Fiesta party celebrating Yahoo acquisition in 2005 at Yahoo Campus.

Flickr Turns 2 (12)
Flickr Turns 2 Party, San Francisco, 2006.

As someone who joined Flickr back in 2003 pre-Yahoo and has been on the site pretty much daily since then, I thought I’d share my own thoughts on what this acquisition might mean for Flickr users and the larger Flickr community.

First off, I have to say that I think that today’s news is *very* good for Flickr users and the Flickr community. While time will tell how this acquisition goes, I have much more faith in SmugMug running Flickr than I do Verizon.

Before getting into the particulars about why I think this is a good fit, I think you have to take a general look at the types of companies Yahoo/Verizon/Oath were/are and the type of company SmugMug is. Yahoo/Verizon/Oath like Google and Facebook are largely advertising companies. These companies offer you free content and use your personal data to advertise at you. One of the things that I always liked about Flickr was that advertising was largely secondary to paid subscription accounts. Sure, Flickr had a free account, but at least as it was initially designed, the free account (which limited you to only seeing your last 200 photos) was really more of a trial for the real thing, Flickr Pro, for which you paid a subscription.

SmugMug has always been a profitable paid photo sharing service. They’ve never had a free option. This has served them well and has kept them profitable. At the same time it is hard to get people to pay for things on the internet so this in some ways limited their user growth compared to Flickr and other services offering a free option.

My own view is that I think people are waking up to the fact that “free” on the internet doesn’t really mean exactly free. The age old adage of if you are not paying for the product, you are the product is becoming clearer and clearer, even to the point of Mark Zuckerberg having to head on up to Capitol Hill and try to explain how all this social media stuff works to Senators and Congress.

Now, does this mean that SmugMug is going to kill the free Flickr account? Absolutely not. But I do think that they might try to nudge people in the direction of paid Pro — which I also think is smart and ultimately more sustainable than simply giving everyone a free terabyte. I LOVE that I have a complete ad free experience for my own use of Flickr AND also for the users who browse my pages of photos. I will happily continue paying for it indefinitely (assuming Flickr continues grandfathering my unlimited storage Pro account). I also think that SmugMug will likely be much better for Flickr from a privacy standpoint as well without having to worry about how to sell off our private information because we pay.

Ivan Makarov, SmugMug HQ
Ivan Makarov, one of my early Flickr contacts (now SmugMug’s VP of Finance) posing in front of a giant wall print at SmugMug’s Mountain View office.

In buying Flickr SmugMug more than anything is buying a community. I think that they are going to be very careful not to disrupt this community and look for ways to grow it thoughtfully. Having known the MacAskills (the family that owns SmugMug) for many years, one thing I can say for certain is that they LOVE photography and photographers. If you ever get a chance to visit their offices in Mountain View do it. What you will find is wall after wall covered with the biggest prints you have ever seen in your life. These are people who are passionate about photography, not advertising.

Baldy Behind the Camera
Chris “Baldy” MacAskill on a SmugMug photowalk in 2013

Flickr Over San Francisco
Flickr Photowalk, Bernal Hill, 2013

For SmugMug I think what is probably most exciting is that they are getting a very large community of photographers by purchasing Flickr. I think that this will allow them to do even more with community, photowalks, meetups, etc. They will need to make sure Flickr is profitable (and it will be) but they will have a much larger group to build a bigger and stronger community with. While Google+ sort of became a place for the photographic community for a bit, before Google largely abandoned it, there really is not a good place for a larger community of photographers today and I think with the acquisition of Flickr, SmugMug hopes that it can build this and I think they have a pretty good chance at doing it.

I think the other thing that SmugMug owning Flickr will do is that it will allow them to be much more nimble in terms of hacking on and developing the site. Big organizations (like Yahoo and Verizon) have layers of bureaucracy that sometimes make things difficult to get done. Small organizations, by contrast, can move much more quickly. While I don’t expect any immediate changes to Flickr, I think that going forward it will improve more rapidly. I also think it’s great that from what I can tell the entire team at Flickr is being retained.

Mostly what I’ve seen online since the acquisition was announced earlier today has been a positive response. Flickr co-Founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake have posted positive tweets on the acquisition as well.

As far as I can tell from looking at the new SmugMug/Flickr TOS everything looks pretty much for things to be business as usual at Flickr for the immediate future.

SmugMug and Flickr will be run as two different sites/properties.

Since Flickr is one of the few sites on the web that allows moderated adult content, I did wonder how SmugMug would treat that — at least per the current TOS it looks like that is going to be handled as it always has been at Flickr. Make sure you moderate your adult content, keeping it away from the kids, and it’s allowed.

If you want to read more in depth at what this might mean for Flickr users going forward I’d point you to a thread in the Flickr Help Forum where more details are provided and where the community is currently reacting to today’s news.

A big congrats to both the Flickr and SmugMug teams. I’m looking forward to being an active user on Flickr for many years ahead and am looking forward to all the ways you will continue to improve both sites.

You can find me on Flickr here.

Flickr’s Redesigned Profile Page

Following on the successful redesign of the Flickr homepage last Fall, today Flickr is announcing the redesign of the photographer profile page. As far back as I can remember the Flickr profile page has remained the same — probably at least over the past decade or so — complete with the odd request for your airport code, even though that information never seemed to actually appear anywhere on your profile.

The new redesign is much more photocentric and offers a beautiful showcase of your most popular photos published to Flickr. Tiny little square thumbnails on the profile page have been replaced by much bigger, bolder versions of your own most popular images in an attractive mosaic format.

The new profile page will start rolling out to users over the next few days so if you don’t already have it, don’t fret, it’s on the way.

The redesign makes several changes in terms of what and how the information on your profile page is presented. Some information has been added, some removed and some streamlined.

Your Most Favorited, Interesting, Commented, and Viewed Photos on the New Flickr Profile Page
Flickr’s new profile page shows your most favorited photos on Flickr.

1. Most dramatically, by default the new Flickr profile page has a beautiful mosaic of large sized photos showcasing your 25 most favorited photos on Flickr. Additionally your profile visitors can use a pull down menu to look at your 25 most interesting (as rated by Flickr’s algorithm) photos, along with your most viewed and commented photos. This is a super helpful way to get a quick impression of the type of photographer you are looking at when you find someone new that you might want to follow on Flickr. Personally this is my favorite feature of the new profile page.

Your Custom Photo Showcase on the New Flickr Profile Page
Flickr’s new profile page lets you customize 25 photos on your page.

2. Because some people would rather show off other photos than their most favorited, popular, commented or viewed, Flickr now also allows you to add a custom collection of 25 photos as chosen by you manually from your stream. So you can showcase up to 50 total photos now on the profile page between your own chosen photos and Flickr’s selections. The organizer used to build your custom mosaic is super intuitive and allows you to review your albums or search for specific photos you want to add. You can change what photos appear here whenever you want. I’m looking forward to the creative ways that users come up with using this mosaic.

Links to Your Other Social Networks on the New Flickr Profile Page
Flickr now makes user view counts public.

3. With the new profile page Flickr now shows you how many views a user has racked up on Flickr. If there is anything even mildly controversial about the new page design it would probably be this. In the past your total view count was available to you and you only through the stats page if you were a paid Pro account. Now your view count is posted publicly on your profile page for the entire world to see. So for the first time we can see that the Obama White House page has racked up an impressive 303 million views on Flickr, while alas, the current Trump White House has only racked up only a mere 2.1 million views on Flickr thus far.

Not that anyone’s keeping track or cares about these type of things though, am I right? 😉

4. On the old profile page Flickr allowed you a single website link. On the new profile you can include a link to your website and also additional links to your pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr.

Testimonials Make the Cut in the New Flickr Profile Page
Testimonials make the cut for the new Flickr profile page.

5. Testimonials are still included in the new Flickr profile page. I think it’s been several years since I’ve actually written someone a testimonial, but they were a lot of fun to get and give back in the old school days of Flickr. I’m glad they made the cut on the new page.

6. The old profile page prominently featured a link to everyone you were following on Flickr and featured the avatars of the last 16 people you had followed. This section has now been reduced to a small link at the top of the page linking to everyone you follow listed alphabetically.

7. The old profile page had a link to your favorites from other Flickr members including thumbnails of the last 12 photos that you’d favorited. The new page has a smaller link that just takes people directly to your favorites page.

8. Hometown and current location information has been retained and is still shown on the new profile page, but gender and relationship status has been removed.

9. Additional links on the new profile page include links to a photographer’s tags (listed alphabetically), geotagged photos (shown on a cool interactive map), links to your favorites and your groups.

Large Photos You are Tagged in on the New Flickr Profile Page
Photos you are tagged in are larger.

10. Photos of a user are featured in much larger format with a link to all of the photos you are tagged in on Flickr.

Overall I think the new Flickr profile page is a terrific refresh to the site. It is good to see that Flickr continues to innovate finding fresh new ways to share photos. Although not the largest photo sharing site on the web today, Flickr is still my personal favorite and where I keep my primary archive of images. As a paid pro account (old skool) I am provided an unlimited amount storage for full high res photos at $49.99/year — a huge bargain. New Pro users get 1TB instead of unlimited storage so if you are old skool Pro *don’t* let that subscription expire. I also get detailed stats and an ad free browsing experience both for myself and for people who view my photo pages. If you are not Pro on Flickr already you should definitely consider it. It’s a wonderful community of photographers on the web where I personally interact on a daily basis.

Anyways, nice job to team Flickr on another big improvement to the site. Keep up the good work! More details in the help forum on the new page here.

You can follow my own photography on Flickr here. 🙂

Thoughts on Google Photos

New Collections Page from Google Photos

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.

More Thoughts on Flickr 4.0

More Thoughts on Flickr 4.0

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.

I don’t use the camera or the camera roll on the Flickr app at all. I use my iPhone’s camera and then edit with Snapseed or Priime which offer far more robust editing capabilities.

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.

Why the Instagram Debacle Just Taught Every Tech Company to Take Your Photos More Seriously

Why the Instagram Debacle Just Taught Every Tech Company to Take Your Photos More Seriously

“Whatever kind of victory all those protests achieved, it wasn’t one for consumer rights — if anything, Instagram is the real winner here. The company just managed to score a round of positive press for retracting an unpopular change and give itself the ability to actually use photos in ads.” — Nilay Patel, The Verge

Over at the Verge Nilay Patel makes a case that the backlash earlier this week against Instagram’s unpopular TOS update was actually a loss for consumers, not a gain. He argues that Instagram’s current TOS is broader than their more explicit proposed one and so consumers are worse off, not better off. This is because Instagram technically still holds the rights to sell your photos under their current TOS, and even more broadly — the consumer backlash was misguided and really did more harm than good.

I disagree with Nilay and actually feel that this week’s backlash was one of the more significant movements yet for photo sharing on the web.

It’s not that Facebook (whose TOS is equally broad) and Instagram couldn’t legally sell your photos on the web under their broad TOS in the past or in the future, it’s that *politically* it is now far more difficult for them to begin selling your photos out from under you on the web using their broader TOS.

Who cares what the TOS says — the message that Facebook got loud and clear this week is not to f*** with our photos. Our photos are important. We care about them. They are much more personal than Facebook may have previously considered. They have emotional importance and significance and collectively users will rise up and bash you in the face if you try to exercise terms of your TOS that your lawyers have written to allow you to screw around with our photos.

Whatever your future monetization strategies might be, they will not be based on a loss of control over OUR creative efforts — even our duckface creative efforts.

No, there is no question about it. Instagram lost this week, and they lost big. This is in no way a positive for Instagram. People trust them less now and they had to turn around and eat crow — they gained nothing.

Flickr won big at Instagram’s expense and Google+ won a little. Flickr won more, because like Instagram, their site is 100% about photography. They also just released a pretty awesome new iPhone app that is, in fact, even slickr than what Instagram currently offers.

Flickr also went out of their way last year to really drive home the ownership rights of your photos. This old forgotten post was revived with new life as a stark contrast to what it felt like Instagram was trying to pull. Kevin Systrom eventually even had to parrot back some of that “yes, we know your photos are your photos” stuff in his awkward non-apology apology.

Dan Lyons wrote a post that talked about Google+ winning some here too. Google+ smartly has a provision in their TOS that specifically limits their rights to your photos to basic operational use. Google+ is probably the most active community of photographers on the web today and are a natural beneficiary from what Lyons’ refers to as “Facebook Greedheads.”

The biggest winner of all though was you, the photographer. Whatever Instagram’s original intention was with the new language in their TOS, it backfired on them. The idea that they could/would profit off your emotionally significant photos without your consent, authorization or, most important, sharing the dough hit a nerve with photographers and likely won’t be tried again by anyone for a long time.

The thing is, this didn’t have to be such a painful learning experience for Instagram. There was/is, in fact, a HUGE opportunity for some smart social network to make a ton of money off of your photos. Instagram just went about it wrong.

As much as Flickr’s deal with Getty sucks (photographers get a miserly 20% payout) photographers on Flickr still went bonkers for it when Flickr released it. The idea that you could actually get PAID to post your photos on a social network, paid ANYTHING, had most users on Flickr clamoring to get into the program, not out of the site.

Even though Flickr/Getty’s call for artists group is now closed (due to overwhelming demand) almost 90,000 photographers joined this group hoping to get selected by Getty for the right to sell their photos for the paltry 20% payout.

The difference with Flickr’s deal though is that 1. you CHOOSE to opt in and 2. at least you get paid something.

What if, instead of Instagram saying, “hey, we might sell your photos without your consent and pay you NOTHING,” they said, “hey, do you want to sell your Instagram photos and, if we sell them for you, split the money 50/50”? Instead of losing accounts and becoming the scourge of the internet for three days, they would have had photographers rushing to sign up and begin marketing their images on Instagram.

Although there are sites out there like 500px and SmugMug that let you sell your photos now, Flickr is the only larger social network that has a selling program. Google+, Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter all have a major opportunity to become the first large social network to allow us to license our images through their service and share in the revenue with them. This is a multi-BILLION dollar industry dominated at present by Getty who is not paying creatives enough for their work. What the internet does best is get rid of middlemen when they are being unreasonable, and an 80/20 split with photographers is unreasonable.

Instead of stealing our work and paying us zero, how about using your significant reach in reputation, marketing and search to partner with us and empower us to sell our work together. I guarantee you that whoever comes up with the best program first will have some of the best photography on the web flooding their network. Even if 99% of us never sell a single photo, simply giving us the feeling that we have the *opportunity* to sell a photo would be a powerful incentive to get us active and humming on your network.

Flickr Disables Snapjoy’s Flickraft API Key

Flickr Disables Snapjoy's Flickraft API Key

Yesterday photo hosting site Snapjoy launched what they called a “tongue-in-check” promotional page called Flickraft. The promo page provided a tool that would allow users to transfer their photos from Flickr to Snapjoy directly via the Flickr API. According to Snapjoy, in two hours their users imported over 250,000 photos and then they had their API key disabled by Flickr.

In Snapjoy’s case they likely ran afoul of some of Flick’s basic API Guidelines and Terms of Use. Here it spells out what you can and can’t do with an API key. A few of the things that you *can’t* do according to the API Guidelines and TOU:

“Don’t abuse or overtax the API. This means that if you build an app that excessively strains the Flickr servers, we will expire your key per the API. Don’t Use Flickr APIs for any application that replicates or attempts to replace the essential user experience of Flickr.com. Don’t Display more than 30 Flickr user photos per page in your application or use an unreasonable amount of bandwidth.”

Snapjoy also borrowed from the Flickr branding/logo (which is also prohibited) in crafting a clever marketing message making Flickr look like the Titanic.

I suspect that the API disable wasn’t done manually by anyone at Flickr, but that rather when they transferred over 250,000 photos that they probably tripped some sort of API limits put in place to more generically protect against abuse.

I reached out to Jaisen Mathai who used to work at Yahoo and now is working on a new initiative called Open Photo which would allow users better control over their photos and here is what he had to say:

“API rate limits are a double edged sword. From the provider (Flickr) side it’s required to curb abuse (which Yahoo! gets a crap load of, I was involved in these efforts during my employment). The other side is that things which aren’t exactly abuse often find a nice home under the “abuse” umbrella. This includes “export all of my photos to another site so I can stop using Flickr.”

Still, in the great big world of Yahoo bandwidth, should there really be a limit that prevents another site from transferring more than 250,000 or more photos from Flickr to their site. If this is the case, then many other more successful ventures in the future (like Google Photos or Mathai’s Open Photo) would effectively also end up locked out of the Flickr API.

Personally one of my concerns with regards to Flickr over the years has been functional lockin. While Flickr has given lip service over the years to data portability, in actuality, for the vast majority of flickr users, getting your photos out of the site is anything but easy.

One way to get your photos out of flickr is to use the service Backupify. But in order to use this option you can’t have more than 50GB of photos on Flickr (I have way more than this) and you have to pay them $19.99/month. You can also try some of the free apps that are out there like Bulkr or Downloadr. But these have serious flaws as well. Downloadr is PC only (I’m a Mac guy) and Bulkr limits you to 500 photos at a time (not ideal for someone with almost 68,000 photos on the site like me). I tried Bulkr a while back and found it buggy and not very easy to use. Relying on free apps designed by third party developers in their spare time hardly seems like an ideal solution.

Using the API to directly transfer photos from Flickr to other services is by far the fastest easiest way for users to get their data out of Flickr. A few weeks ago when I decided that I wanted to start selling prints of my photos I transferred about 5,000 of my 67,000 flickr photos from Flickr to SmugMug. I was *blown away* at the speed with which these photos moved over. Getting these photos transferred over to SmugMug was super easy. I used an app called SmuggLr that works as a Firefox extension. [Disclosure, SmugMug is a sponsor of our Photo Talk Plus show, tune in tonight at 8PM PST!]. It was fast, flawless and efficient. The way data portability ought to be.

SmugMug of course is a paid premium site geared more towards higher end photographers who want to sell their prints rather than simply a free photo hosting site like Snapjoy, so Flickr likely considers them less of a direct competitor and so they probably don’t consider them as “replicating or attempting to replace the essential user experience of Flickr.com.”

As a free hosting service, sites like Snapjoy might likely be considered much more direct competitors to Flickr… but then again, so might things like Google Photos or Open Photo.

The still unanswered question is, shouldn’t we as users have the right to move our data around smoothly and freely? After all, these are OUR photos right? Personally I’ve always been a big fan of Google with regards to data portability. Not only have they come out very publicly in supporting data portability with their Data Liberation Front, they actually show you how and have built a tool to make it super easy to export your photos out of Picasa.

As far as Snapjoy the site goes, I set up an account there a few years ago. It’s interesting. They seem to be going after more of timeline sort of thing (like Facebook’s timeline) than a direct community based photo sharing thing. There really is no community or photo sharing there at all. I can’t send you a link to one of my photos as far as I know — it’s more just a personal place for me to look at my photos in archive view. I didn’t really get much out of it so I haven’t used it at all since checking it out initially. I can already look at my photos in archive view on Flickr so I didn’t really see the point.

It is probably worth noting that Snapjoy also does not appear to have an API, Mathai thought that this was their biggest mistake in terms of trying to enable a Flickr to Snapjoy exporter.

“I applaud the SnapJoy team’s effort and am always on the side of startups. Their biggest mistake was not having an API themselves,” said Mathai.

“It might not have any impact on getting their API key whitelisted or reenabled, but it would give them a leg to stand on. The marketing of “get off a sinking ship” conflicts with the fact that they don’t have an API and “coming soon” doesn’t cut it. So in reality, your photos are safer on Flickr than SnapJoy because Flickr at least provides tools (though they may cripple it by rate limiting) to get your photos out. Moving from Flickr to SnapJoy is moving from one silo to another.”

More from TechCrunch, The Next Web.

Update: Michael Dwan, co-founder of Snapjoy, just emailed me back and said that as of this morning, they have not heard back from Flickr.

As far as an explanation from his side of things he offered the following:

“We imported just over 359K photos in 3 hours by making 9,459 api calls — an average of 3,153 per hour. Unfortunately, a glitch in our system caused a spike during one of the hours which pushed it over the 3,600 per hour limit. By the time we realized the issue, they had already killed our key. We momentarily exceeded the api limit and Flickr made the decision to kill the key rather than temporarily suspend it or throttle requests.

We’re happy many people got a chance to use the importer and many more are still asking for the functionality to return. We’re also thrilled by the response from people who made it into the beta. We’re working to bring the functionality back and have rewritten the offending code so this isn’t a recurring problem (for Flickr or any other site we integrate with).”

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 Radičević (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.

How to Build a Better Photo Recommendation Engine

The other day I tweeted out the number one photo on Flickr’s Explore. It was a popular tweet. Out of the millions of photos that get uploaded to Flickr every single day, this photo was the one that Flickr felt was the absolute most awesomest photo on all of Flickr.

Nothing against the photo linked above, or the photographer who captured both a puppy and a full moon at *exactly* the same time, but it wasn’t what I would have picked as the number one most interesting photo on Flickr.

Different strokes for different folks though as the saying goes.

Along with others, I’ve abandoned flickr’s Explore section as a sort of cheesy photo watermark ghetto, but it remains a popular place across the network. If Flickr cared about innovating, there are lots of ways that they could improve this area, but that’s another conversation.

What I want to talk about today is how other companies that *are* innovating like Google Photos and 500px might build a better photo recommendation engine.

I do believe that all photo sharing sites need a photo recommendation area. We all love to look at engaging photography and it’s a useful tool to find new and interesting photographers to follow as well as to see better work uploaded by people on the site.

The number one problem with most photo recommendation engines is that they are the exact same recommendations for every individual. If you go to flickr’s Explore page, it is the exact same 100 photos for everybody, everyday. It doesn’t matter what sort of photography *you* like. It doesn’t matter where you live. It doesn’t matter what you fave.

Dumb algorithms that don’t take into consideration available data for personalization are not as good as smart algorithms that do.

So what should a smarter photo recommendation search engine do?

1. Don’t show me blocked content. Any accounts that I block should not appear in the recommendation engine for me. If I’m blocking an account it’s for a reason — maybe the person is a stalker/harasser, maybe the person puts 24 point Helvetica copyright watermarks over every single picture that make me want to vomit, maybe the individual focuses on a niche that I’m not interested in — whatever. I don’t want to see it and I shouldn’t have to see it if I’ve gone through enough trouble to block somebody. Google’s new Ignore setting should also be a strong signal.

2. Analyze my fave/+1 vs. view ratio by photographer. Do I +1 100% of a certain photographer’s work? Do I see 100 photos form another photographer and not +1 a single photo? Get to know my faving/+1ing activity and show me more stuff by these photographers that I fave/+1 most. Existing percentage fave/view ratio is a good one to take into consideration.

3. Analyze the tags/keywords on what I’m faving/+1ing. Do I seem to fave/+1 tons of photos of trains? Maybe I’m really into trains. Is graffiti my thing? Do I like abandoned photography? Show me more of this stuff and less puppies and moons.

4. Are there geographical clues that can provide information? What is my fave/view ratio by geographical location? Do I live in San Francisco and fave a higher number of photos in SF? — or maybe I live in SF and I’m sick of it and fave a lower number of photos.

Maybe I dream about laying on my stomach on a glacier in Antartica and fave a much higher rate of photos taken there. Everybody’s different.

5. What can my google/flickr search activity tell you about me? Do I search for neon signs a lot? Do I search especially for “San Francisco” AND “neon”? Maybe a neon sign in San Francisco with only 5 faves should be shown to me before showing me a photo of a puppy and a photoshopped moon with 100 faves.

6. New users should be able to provide input to a recommendation engine. You’d be surprised the sort of things people will personally voluntarily tell you. Does someone like Creative Commons photos more than all rights reserved? Do they care about watermarks? Do they LOVE them? Do the HATE them? Do they prefer local photos? Or do they want more travel abroad photos? How might they rate subject matter on a slider from one to ten? If some users *want* to provide this, use this data as a jumping off point for the recommendation engine.

Do they want to see artistic nudes? (This one is big as it represents a big genre in social photo sharing). Google+ also needs to get this figured out.

7. Don’t use the engine to blacklist. Currently Flickr blacklists certain members. This is bad for community. Blacklisting certain members creates enormous ill will.

Once a smarter recommendation engine is built around photographs customized to me it should be presented to me in a prominent place.

On Google+ specifically I’d recommend adding it as a link under the section to the left of the photo’s displayed on the photos tab in G+. Right now they have “photos from your circles” “photos from your phone” “photos of you” and “your albums” there.

I think they should add a menu item and call it Awesomeness (or whatever). Obviously they can’t call it “Explore,” but they can come up with something better.

From that menu item you should be able to expand it with a little triange and then filter the recommendation engine by circle.

Overall comments and faves/+1s should still factor heavily into any algorithm — but every user should get a unique set of photos tailored to their taste and input into the system.

Google could also play around with ranking incentives.

When Flickr first launched geotagging, I suggested to Stewart Butterfield that Flickr should tell users that geotagged photos would be rated higher in Explore if that was activity that flickr wanted to encourage (and they *should*) and flickr actually did end up doing this.

Similarly Google+ may want to consider what sort of activity they want to promote with photo ranking. Certainly social activity itself should rank high. If a user is uber social maybe their photos should rank higher — they are of more value to your network perhaps than someone that just pumps in flickr photos and never engages.

Likewise, metadata should be rewarded — both keywords and geotags. This is valuable information for Google to use in other ways and for search in the future.

A side note about negative voting systems in social networks. 500px currently employs a negative voting system with their photographs. You can essentially anonymously vote down a photo. They have some tools put in place to prevent mass downvoting and other abuses of the system and seem to feel that having access to this data is helpful for serving up great photographs (and they do a good job at that).

My own advice though is to to kill it. The problem is not that negative voting systems don’t provide valuable information. The problem is not that they are being abused. The problem is not in negative votes themselves, but rather their perception and people’s reactions to them.

It’s the same thing that hurt digg in my opinion. At digg a user would submit a story, they would watch it rise up the charts, and then just before it would hit the front page it would be killed. Boom. Buried. Gone.

Because burying on digg is anonymous (like 500px) it leaves people to suspect the worst. Was there a coordinated effort by people who hate me to bury my story? Was there a coordinated effort by those that wanted to see their own content have a better chance that killed it? This speculation is a negative input for a user. It’s probably the number one complaint I’ve heard about 500px and I know it’s kept some users away. I’m not sure the value of the data and information outweighs the negative feelings it provides to some in the community.

If you *absolutely* must have a negative voting system. Take away the anonymity. Of course this would also take away 98% of the down votes as well though.