Twitter vs. Flickr a View Count Comparison

Twitter Rolls Out View Count on Tweets

Yesterday Twitter announced that they were adding view counts to tweets on Twitter. I thought I’d use this announcement to very unscientifically compare the number of views one of my photos received on Twitter vs. Flickr. While some might call this an “apples vs. oranges” comparison, and Flickr is admittedly more of a photography centric social network, I find that I engage with photographers on both platforms, even if I also engage with more non-photographers on Twitter.

A few notes on my unscientific test. Interestingly enough I have about the same number of followers on both platforms. As of today I have 50,211 followers on Twitter and 53,363 followers on Flickr. I’ve been active on both platforms for well over a decade. I joined Twitter in 2006 and Flickr in 2004. I use both networks daily, although I’d say I’ve been much more active on Flickr over the years.

After almost 24 hours of posting the two exact same photos at the same time (on a Thursday evening) on both networks the results are in.

Twitter views: 5,010

Flickr views: 2,496

Oddly, Twitter generated almost exactly 2x as many views as the exact same photo on Flickr.

Views on Twitter vs Flickr
Views on Flickr vs Twitter

There are other metrics to look at as well.

Likes on Twitter: 75

Favorites on Flickr: 176

Comments on Twitter: 9

Comments on Flickr 18

The Twitter photo also got six retweets (Flickr doesn’t have retweets).

I’m not sure exactly what any of this means other than while my photo got 2x the number of views on Twitter, it also got 2x the amount of engagement on Flickr (as measured by likes and comments).

I didn’t do anything special to promote either of the two photos myself other than engage in the comments on each as I normally would. Other than posting a link in my Flickr group American Photographer, I didn’t post anywhere else on either link. I also put the photo into the pool in American photographer and added it to other groups as invited on Flickr (I would normally do this anyways).

I should also add that I don’t know exactly what constitutes a “view” on either platform. I’m assuming that both platforms apply the term as liberally as possible and it’s meant to mean any time your photo was seen anywhere on either site on a computer, tablet, or phone screen.

Update: a day after I wrote this blog post, the photo in this blog post hit Flickr’s popular Explore page where Flickr each day prominently features 500 photographs from the site. This caused this photo’s view count to rocket higher on Flickr.

As of this morning the view count comparison now stands at:

Flickr: 14,860

Twitter: 5,995

I do regularly have photos featured in this popular area of Flickr. Since I’ve been using Flickr, in fact, 963 of my photos have been featured in Explore.

Top 10 Ways to Improve Flickr

The Top 10 Ways to Improve Flickr

Recently my friend Bill Storage asked a question in DeletemeUncensored titled “What’s Wrong With Flickr.” The thread wasn’t meant to complain about Flickr but to talk about how Flickr could be improved if one were starting from scratch. I wrote a couple of long responses out to Bill in the thread, but thought that some of the ideas really belonged in a longer-form blog post.

Alot of people give me crap for criticizing Flickr. They ask me why I use Flickr if “hate” it so much. The fact of the matter is that I don’t hate Flickr at all. In fact I love Flickr (even if they don’t love me anymore). I spend more time on Flickr than any other site on the web. I think Flickr represents the best place on the web for a photographer to share photos today and I think as a whole that Flickr is one of the cultural gems of our lifetime. What’s more, a lot of the stuff on Flickr works really, really well and is really really great.

That said, I’ve always viewed criticism as a positive thing. As something that helps us improve and grow. Hopefully we learn from our critics and hopefully one can view suggestions as opportunities for improvement rather than simple mindless negativity. I blog alot about Flickr because I care about Flickr. I care about photography on the web. I care about the greater Flickr community and I want to see it get better and better. So don’t see this list as a bitch list about Flickr, rather see it as some honest ways that Flickr can improve.

1. Improve the process on how account and group deletions are handled. Flickr is increasingly becoming known as a place that deletes accounts willy nilly without warning. Flickr’s “Community Guidelines” are notoriously vague (you can be deleted without warning on Flickr for being “that guy” or if Flickr feels that you are “creepy.”)

Many of my friends have had their entire accounts deleted for pretty minor offenses that are not specifically prohibited in more specific language in the TOS. In some cases photos with historical significance have been permanently lost. A while back Flickr nuked a group that I administered killing thousands of permanent threads. Thousands of threads by a group with thousands of members. Threads about cameras, workflows, photographic techniques, etc. Institutional knowledge stricken from the web forever.

Flickr really only should nuke accounts or groups as a matter of absolute last resort. They should try to work with their members (especially their long-term and paying members) if they find content that they object to. They should give members opportunities to take self-corrective action before just pulling the plug on their account. If they object to a single thread or a single image, they should just delete that image rather than nuking a user’s entire account.

When Flickr nukes a group or an account it says to a user, “I don’t respect you or your data.” It creates an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty is bad for community.

At Flickr when they nuke your account it is also permanent and irrevocable. There is no undo button. Even if Flickr staff mistakenly deletes an account or if a hacker maliciously deletes your account, there is no getting that data back. It’s gone forever.

Flickr could probably very easily create a system where deleted accounts are simply turned completely private and inaccessible from the web without actually removing all of the data. They could then give a user an opportunity to fix whatever they have a problem with in order to get their account turned back on. This would be a far better way of managing community than Flickr does at present.

2. Create a more robust blocking tool. Today at Flickr when you block someone, all it means is that they can’t fave or comment on your photos. This is a very weak blocking system. If someone really wants to harass you blocking them does nothing. They can still comment on photos after you do so that their comments show up in your recent activity. They can still follow you around in groups and post things that you’re forced to look at etc. Especially with cheap throw away troll accounts this creates unnecessary conflict on the site.

A few years back, over at FriendFeed, they developed a far more robust blocking system. When you block someone on FriendFeed they become entirely invisible to you. Not only can they not comment in your threads, anyplace else they post on the site is made invisible to you. They are wiped off the planet as far as you are concerned.

Now this would accomplish a few things at flickr. First it would give users far more control over eliminating anything that they found personally offensive or negative on the site. You don’t like my paintings of nudes from a museum and don’t like seeing them when you search for the de Young Museum? Fine. Then block me and you never see any of my content again. You don’t like someone who uses language that you find offensive in a group post? Fine, block them as well.

Second though, this sort of tool would encourage more civil interaction between users. If a user creates a troll account and starts behaving badly. They are quickly blocked and become irrelevant. This encourages them not to troll creating a more positive experience for the rest of us.

Many of the personality clashes that occur on Flickr could be avoided if Flickr simply empowered the user to block more robustly.

3. SmartSets. Having to manually construct sets is an incredibly inefficient way to build and maintain your sets. That’s why I use Jeremy Brooks’ SuprSetr. It’s probably the best third-party app ever built for Flickr. Flickr should hire Jeremy in fact as he’s doing groundbreaking work here, but that’s another topic.

Flickr should consider building SuprSetr technology directly into their Organize section. Let users build sets by keywords. It makes it much easier for users to build and maintain their sets. If I build a Las Vegas set for instance. In the future every single photo of mine keyworded Las Vegas, automatically gets added to this set when I run SuprSetr. Very slick.

4. Better Group thread management. At present Flickr has a very strong and robust Groups section. Here users can create groups (and there are probably literally millions of groups at this point) and talk about whatever they want and post photos into a pool. Games have been created around groups. Businesses have set up groups. Local communities have created their own groups. There are niche groups about anything and everything — from graffiti in South Florida to a specific neon sign in San Jose. Some groups have more robust discussion threads than others, but all offer this feature.

One of the problems with group threads on Flickr though is that you are constantly losing track of conversations that you are having because you have to manually go to each and every group to check the threads. If I post something in a group, but then don’t remember to go back to that specific group and that specific thread, I have no way of knowing if someone has answered my question or commented after my thoughts or whatever.

Flickr should create a page that aggregates all of the group threads that you are participating in or have chosen to follow. This page would encompass all threads from all group in a nice aggregated section. This way if you posted a really important question in a group three months ago that someone has finally got around to answering, you will actually see it, the moment it is bumped to the top of your aggregator.

Flickr should also allow you to hide group threads. Both in your aggregator as well as in the more general group view. If I don’t care about the latest Pentax camera (because I’m a Canon 5D M2 owner) I should be able to mute that thread in the group and never see it again. This would also help decrease negative trolling and bumping of threads on the site as offensive threads could just be hidden by a user if they didn’t want to see it.

5. Kill explore and replace it with a recommendation system based on your contact’s/friends photos. Flickr blacklisted me from Explore a while back after I wrote a negative blog post about actions that someone on their community management team had taken. They capped my photos in it at 666 (cute huh?). But this isn’t why I don’t like Explore. There’s a whole thread called “So I Accidentally Clicked on Explore” in DMU devoted to crappy photos that end up in Explore. The problem with Explore is that it largely shows you photos that you are less interested in. Broad general popular photos of cliches. Sunsets and kittens as the saying goes.

If I choose to follow people on Flickr, I’m probably much more interested in their style of photography or them personally than I am images in Explore. Maybe I’m a graffiti writer and am most interested in graffiti photos. Maybe my thing is mannequins. Maybe I want to see photos of classic cars. Whatever. Instead of presenting the community what Flickr feels is the best of the whole community, show each member the best of their contacts each, day, week, month. I would be far more interested in the photos of people that I actually follow, like, know, etc. Maybe Aunt Edna’s photo of her dog will never hit Flickr’s explore. But it just might hit my own personalized explore and because I know Aunt Edna and she is my contact, it might be a much more rewarding experience for me to see than say another random dog shot from a user that I don’t even know.

Flickr does have a page that shows your contacts most recent uploads, but this page is very limited and only shows the most recent 1 or 5 photos. There is also no way to filter it so that you see the photos that are faved/commented on the most and are likely to be the more interesting photos.

Get rid of Explore and replace it with something that is focused much more on your contacts than people you don’t even know. A personalized Explore would be a far more interesting page.

6. Improve Group Search. I have no idea why Group Search sucks so badly on Flickr but it does. Frequently you will search for terms that you’ve posted in group thread conversations and Flickr will not return the thread where the word exists. I would think that Yahoo! should know a few things about search and am surprised that searching for threads in groups has been so spotty for so many years. I have no idea why this is so bad, but it shouldn’t be.

7. Improve Data Portability. Flickr gives lipservice to data portability, but is not serious about it. As long as 99% of Flickr users can’t or won’t figure out how to move their photos easily to another site they are just fine with things. Functional lock in. The data that we put on Flickr is our data. It belongs to us. We are paying Flickr to hold it for us, but it belongs to us.

Recently my friend Adam wrote up a post on a help forum post about the language Flickr uses for encouraging people to buy Pro accounts. They said that they felt that Flickr is holding your photos hostage (beyond the 200 photo free limit) if you don’t upgrade to Pro. Only Pro accounts have access to original images on Flickr.

Flickr should let any member get their photos out of Flickr at any time. Further they should offer competitors API keys to allow them to build service to service direct transfer applications to move your photos to another service if you want. If I don’t want to renew my Pro account on Flickr and want to move my photos to Picasa, this should be as easy as me pressing a single button and having all of my photos transfer over.

Today it is very difficult and clunky to get your photos off of flickr. A few third party apps are available, but there are lots of problems with them. They fail if you have too many photos. They are only Windows based, etc. etc. Flickr has functional lock in and holds photos in a silo while talking about how they allow you to get your photos out of Flickr. Flickr should follow the lead of Google here and publicly both state and help make our data more portable. This ought to be part of being a good web citizen today.

8. Uncensor Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Germany and At present Flickr censors content to these places. It’s still mind boggling to me that a photo of a painting that I took in the Art Institute of Chicago can’t be seen by people in India. Trying to censor the world’s web is messy business. Flickr/Yahoo should take a stand for freedom and uncensor these locations. Google last year took a bold step of choosing to walk about from China rather than censor results there. Yahoo should stand for freedom and stop censoring in these places.

9. Let people sell their photos for stock photography. Flickr missed the boat by giving away stock photography to Getty Images. Stock photography is probably the single easiest way for Yahoo to dramatically increase the profitability of Flickr. Getty Images represents a tiny fraction of the images available on Flickr. The Flickr/Getty deal was probably done as a defensive move by Getty more than anything to keep Yahoo out of the multi billion dollar market that is stock photography today. What resulted is that users get a paltry 20% payout for a very small number of their images that can be sold.

Flickr could be a far more formidable competitor to Getty. Flickr has the size and market share to dramatically disrupt this market. The stock photography marketplace is *far* more complicated than this. But oversimplifying things, Flickr should offer two collections for sale (if a user chooses to offer their photos for sale). Cleared photos and uncleared photos. Uncleared photos should pay more to the photographer than cleared photos. Cleared photos would be reviewed by a team of stock photography experts (Yahoo could even buy one of the smaller stock agencies that already has experience clearing images) and result in a lower payout to the photographer. By turning Flickr into the world’s largest stock photography agency Yahoo could receive significant revenue from Flickr and Flickr photographers personally could benefit much more from posting their work there.

10. Build a better mobile app. The Yahoo built mobile app for Flickr sucks ass (sorry). As I understand it, it wasn’t even developed by the Flickr team. Over at Quora former Flickr Engineer Kellan Elliott-McCrea answers the question, “Why did Flickr miss the mobile photo opportunity that Instagram and picplz are pursuing?” There is no compelling mobile Flickr experience today.

Recently, one of my favorite Flickr photographers, Michael Wilbur, deleted his entire Flickr account and is now one of the most popular photographers on Instagram. Flickr needs to develop a more compelling mobile experience. Part of this should be a very easy way to view group threads via mobile.

There you go. Food for thought. And keep on flickering.

An Open Letter to Carol Bartz, CEO Yahoo Inc.

Google, Er, Yahoo Car Needs a Bath

Dear Ms. Bartz,

I just finished reading your demoralizing letter regarding recent layoffs at Yahoo over at All Things Digital. Although I’m only a Yahoo user, not an employee, I am a heavy user of your Flickr product — a product that I’ve enjoyed and loved for many years now. As such, I watch how Yahoo is run with keen interest, mostly because I’m worried about how your corporate leadership will affect that site which I love so much.

For your first year of your reign at Yahoo you gave yourself a grade of B-, this past year you seemed a little more defensive and gave yourself a grade of simply “pass.” You’ve had the you know what kicked out of you, of course, by most of the tech and financial press over the past few years and have come back swinging yourself in odd ways. Telling Mike Arrington to “f*** off” for instance.

The market, we know, is frequently one of the most efficient graders of all. There is no grade inflation there.

On the day that you were announced as the new incoming CEO of Yahoo, January 14, 2009, Yahoo’s stock price closed at $12.41 per share. Now on the one hand that price vs. today’s price of $16.46 looks pretty good. In fact that’s over a 32% return since you’ve been at the helm. But the thing is that you took charge coming off the worst year in the stock market in recent history so we can’t really credit all of that to you.

In fact while Yahoo has been up +32% since you took over. Your competitors have been up quite a bit more. Google is up almost +100% in the same time period. Apple is up +275%, even the old slowpoke Microsoft is up +51%. The Nasdaq Composite is up +79% and the S&P 500 is up +53%. In short, Yahoo’s stock performance under your tenure thus far has been a laggard — but you already know this.

I suppose I wouldn’t really care about the stock price of Yahoo except for the fact that I think you’re just letting one of the best products at Yahoo, Flickr, languish. In your letter to your employees you say, it’s “no secret that weíre cutting investment in underperforming and non-core products so we can focus on our strengths (like email, the homepage, search, mobile, advertising, content and more)”

Email? The homepage? search ? mobile? advertising? Yawn.

You know what I don’t see in there? Flickr. Photos. I’m assuming that you consider Flickr one of those “underperforming and non-core products.”

Do you even realize what you have with Flickr? It’s the largest well organized library of images in the world. Not only that, it has a very strong social networking component. In fact, Flickr may represent (if managed correctly) your single biggest opportunity to launch a much larger and more lucrative social network (and stock photography agency as well). Have you spent any time in any Flickr groups? They are addicting. People live in them. They play games in them. All kinds of activity goes on in them every day. And if you took the time to really explore the social side of Flickr, you’d learn this, and figure out a way to grow it.

But you know what? You haven’t taken the time to really explore the social side of Flickr. Hell, you don’t even have an account yourself on Flickr. One of the most highly visible and trafficked Yahoo properties and you don’t even have an account there. Would it be so hard to have your assistant set up an account for you and post some photos of some mountains from a family vacation two years ago?

I listened in on your first analysts conference call. On the call you mentioned that your daughter was using Facebook to share photos. There was an opportunity right there for you to plug your own photo sharing site. Flickr needs you. They need you to be a cheerleader for the site. It would be good for morale to hear you mention the site once in a while. It also seems like a no brainer from a PR perspective. I know if I were CEO at Yahoo I sure as hell would have a Flickr account. In fact I’d set up accounts really on all of the services that I was commander and chief of and I’d actually use them from time to time to build a familiarity with what works and what doesn’t.

Now here’s what really galls me. Despite the overall dismal performance of your stock price. Despite the fact that your competitors are building traction when you are not. Despite the fact that much of your best talent is leaving in droves (I know Stewart Butterfield left before you got there but you really should read his resignation letter). Despite the fact that you won’t come down out of your ivory tower to actually get down in the trenches and work with us (your users) to figure out how we can make your products better. Despite all of this. You, yes you, were the highest paid CEO in the Standard & Poors 500 last year.

That’s right. At least according to this report you made $47.2 *million*. Now in addition to paying you all that dough, you also wasted $100 million on a stupid ad campaign saying that the “internet was under new management, yours.” Carol, if the internet was under new management “mine,” I sure as hell wouldn’t be deleting my own Flickr group with over 3,000 members now would I?

Imagine what an insult it is to your Yahoos when you send them out a memo saying that their unit is an under-performing and non-core product. That they get to watch their co-workers laid off just before Christmas while you reap in amazing piles of dough personally. This is not leadership. Leadership would be you coming out and saying you feel their pain and that you will be working for a $1 salary next year and will continue to work for $1 per year until you can get the company turned around. Do you really need more and more millions of dollars anyways? I guarantee you it’s not going to be a thin Christmas at the Bartz household this year.

And your complaint about the fact that your layoffs were leaked ahead of your actually axing people? Get over that. Your acrimony towards bloggers, your iron clad commitment to containment and secrecy within the Yahoo ranks isn’t working. People want honesty and transparency these days. So be transparent. Be human.

I’m sorry to be so blunt and so harsh on you in this letter. I dispute both your grades of B- and “pass.” I’d give you a fail for your first two years. A failure to grow the stock price. A failure to inspire the troops. A failure to innovate. I wouldn’t care so much except for the fact that you currently own what is one of the most important and significant cultural treasures of our lifetime. Flickr. And Flickr holds so much promise and so much could be done to innovate there and it just doesn’t feel like you give a damn.

Flickr will be here long after you are and its cultural significance to our world will outlast your quarter to quarter financial results. While not being your most profitable unit by any measure, understand what it is that you have. Use its strengths. Be its cheerleader. Figure out how you can harness the social networking potential there. I’d be happy to talk with you about ways that you could improve it if you had an interest.

Best Regards,

Thomas Hawk

Update: This letter to Carol Bartz is also now syndicated over at Business Insider here.

Alleged Con Man Graham Hnedak Uses Flickr to Source Victims and Then Victims Get Accounts Deleted by Flickr Staff for Documenting Fraud

James Kimball first met Graham Hnedak, a convicted con man who had served almost four years in prison in Tennessee, in January of 2009. Their initial introduction had been simple enough — Hnedak made a comment on one of Kimball’s Flickr photos. More interaction on Flickr quickly followed and soon Kimball and Hnedak had become fast online friends.

One thing led to another, Hnedak needed a place to live, and Kimball and his partner Rich Bailey agreed to allow Hnedak to live with them for two weeks in exchange for room and board (with a contract) according to Kimball. Kimball claims that this arrangement ended up in a personal nightmare when it ended up taking five months to get Hnedak out, during which time Hnedak defrauded them telling lie after lie and story after story as to the money that he owed them. Kimball documents what he calls his “five months of hell” month by month in detail on the photo descriptions in this set of his here.

Since that time Graham Hnedak has been charged by Seattle prosecutors with 8 counts of felony forgery for allegedly charging thousands of dollars on another former roommate’s credit cards. You can watch the most recent news report on Hnedak from KOMO News above.

On this news report there are dozens of other comments by people also claiming to be victimized by Hnedak in the past.

According to Kimball, Hnedak is a charming con man who uses his still active Flickr account here to source victims. Kimball said that he has complained to Flickr about Hnedak’s activity and even provided documentation of the fraud charges against him to no avail. Angry at having been victimized by Hnedak, Kimball then turned to his own Flickrstream to tell his story and inform the Flickr community about Hnedak. Kimball estimates that there are over 30 victims of Hnedak’s in the Seattle area and at least one victim from as far away as New Zealand.

Unfortunately, Kimball says, his own accounts have now been deleted three times by Flickr staff as he’s tried to warn others in the Flickr Community. All three times he said these accounts were deleted without warning or explanation. It was only after Kimball insisted on an explantition after his third account deletion that he was provided with a formal response from Flickr. According to Kimball they told him that his account had been deleted because he was “harassing” Hnedak.

In a post on his 4th new account on Flickr entitled “I Will Not Be Silenced” Kimball expresses his frustration at Flickr over deleting his accounts:

“Am I angry? No, frustrated is a better word to use. I donít understand why so many other social sites have removed his accounts when evidence was provided but Flickr doesnít seem to care. Is it a matter that they donít care about their community? Thatís a very good question.

In all honesty I donít get it. Why leave Grahamís account up when from the evidence and testimonials others have offered to Flickr? He has used Flickr to gain victims, solicit money, advertise fake business, he posts photos that are not his, he slanders people and so on. What does it take to get Flickr to take notice? It would seem pretty easy since this was my 3rd account to get deleted. Oddly enough every complaint I have sent to Flickr has come back from the same person and they donít seem to care.”

I tried to contact Hnedak via flickrmail but did not receive a response. I was able to find a William Graham Hendak listed in the Tennessee Felony Offender database as being released from prison in Tennessee in August of 2007. I also contacted PR contacts at Yahoo and received no response from them either — although at least one page from a former account of Kimballs would appear to be online in a version of Google’s cache. If I hear back from either Flickr/Yahoo or Hnedak directly, I will post their response as an update to this post.

Thanks to Invisible Cirkus for the heads up on this story.

Update: It would appear that Graham Hendak’s Flickr account has now been deleted.

Software Engineer Kellan Elliott-McCrea Leaving Flickr

Over at TechCrunch, MG Siegler has a post out that “Flickr Architect” Kellan Elliott-McCrea is leaving Flickr. Apparently Elliott-McCrea tweeted his news over at his Twitter account here.

Personally I’m not all that familiar with what Elliott-McCrea did at Flickr. MG writes that “from what we hear, he was ‘vital’ to the service, and was one of the last people remaning who knows how the service scales.” Perhaps so. I’d always heard Cal as being the genius credited with scaling Flickr, but perhaps Elliot-McCrea carried the torch after Cal left to go start up that new computer game business mining tin with Stewart.

Ironically, I did just try to post a comment to Elliott-McCrea’s blog about two weeks ago when he wrote a post that was gushing about how virtuous Flickr is in “doing the right thing,” for their users around the concept of data portability.

I threw up a little bit in my mouth when I read the post because functionally speaking I believe that by denying competing photo sharing sites commercial API keys, Flickr is actually doing very little for user data portability. As 99.5% of Flickr users likely have no understanding of the Flickr API to pull their data off the site and as independent third party tools are clunky solutions requiring multiple arduous steps (sometimes only on single platforms), Flickr makes it difficult enough that the vast majority of the users can never quite find their way out of the silo, let alone off the reservation entirely. Hence Flickr gets to crow about how their API allows data portability, paying lip service to the idea, while functionally never having to really deal with, you know, helping users move their data and going to other sites.

Unfortunately, Elliott-McCrea censors/moderates the comments on his blog and so my comment never quite made it on board the post.

Anyways, best of luck to Elliott-McCrea on whatever he does next. Certainly scaling Flickr can’t be easy, so I’m sure he’s got some chops.

Top 10 Ways to Get Attention on Flickr, All New, Fresh and Updated for 2010

Top 10 Ways to Get Attention on Flickr, All New, Fresh and Updated for 2010

“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, Co-founder of Flickr, 2005.

Over the course of the past 4 years, about every 2 years or so I’ve written a blog post that has been one of my most popular entitled “Top 10 Ways to Get Attention on Flickr.” It’s been a few years, Flickr’s changed a bit, and so I thought I’d take a bit of time today to outline some of the techniques that active power users use on Flickr to get more attention for themselves and their photos.

Fundamentally it comes down to a pretty simple equation:

quality photos + reciprocation≤ = attention.

But there are lots of other little tricks and tips, so let’s get right into them.

1. The order that you publish your photos in matters — a lot. A lot of people will take 50 snapshots of that killer sunset on their vacation and then upload them at random to flickr. Some are better, some are worse. At Flickr, those that call you contact predominantly only see your last photo uploaded or your last 5 photos uploaded (depending on their settings) from the popular “your contact’s most recent uploads” page. The other 45 are effectively buried. Always upload what you feel are your best, strongest, etc. photographs as the last five and save the very last spot for the photo you want to promote the most.

2. Explore. Explore is a section of Flickr where Flickr highlights what they feel are 500 interesting photos every day.

Flickr claims to have a “magic donkey” formula which picks the photos for Explore. This “magic donkey” is really just an excuse though to avoid transparency/accountability about Explore. In general, the more activity a photo has (activity = faves, comments, notes, blogged, etc.) the more likely it is to show up in Explore. By putting your best foot forward (see item 1) and by focusing on promoting a popular photo of yours on a given day, (see below) it just might get there.

3. Promote your photos outside of Flickr. What are you doing to promote your photos outside of Flickr? Some things are super, super easy and involve no active participation on your part other than setting something up. Popular content aggregators on the web allow you to publish your Flickr photos out of Flickr, with valuable links back to your photos on Flickr.

Have you configured Flickr Tab on your Facebookery page yet? Why not? It’s free and easy.

Have you signed up for Google Buzz yet? Google Buzz does a great job presenting your Flickr uploads and has a killer lightbox feature that allows people to see your photo BIG (if you allow it) on Google Buzz. I’m faving more Flickr photos that I’m finding on Google Buzz these days than from any other source. I fave more photos from Google Buzz than even Flickr itself.

Have you linked your stream to a FriendFeed account yet?

How about a photoblog? Anyone can set one of these up. They are so easy. And they have cool widgets that can do a lot of automated things for you. Check out the widget I’m using for my Flickr photos (to the right over there). It’s called Fidgetr. It automatically pulls in the six most recent photos from my “10 faves or more set” on Flickr, making sure fresh new photos are constantly being published to Don’t those large thumbnails rock!

4. Avoid watermarking, small-sized low-res photos, frames and other gimmicky crap. People don’t want to see this stuff. It’s a turn off. It pushes them away. Yes, yes, I know, you cry, but the thieves, the photo thieves, they all want to steal from me. GASP!

Get over it. You know what happens when people steal your stuff? Recently a friend of mine had an image of hers taken by a commercial entity. Do you know what we did? We contacted them, and after a little arm-twisting they paid her $700 for her photo. You know why? Because they had to. Because she could have sued them if not and probably gotten a lot more than $700 if she was inclined to put the time in it. Courts award statutory damages (not actual damages) for copyright theft. Trust me. If you like getting paid $700 for your photos, you WANT people to steal them. Put a big sign on the photo. “Steal Me, I Dare You.”

With tools like Tineye, it’s getting easier and easier and easier for you to find unauthorized commercial use of your photos on the web.

Sure, some dude is going to print up your big bouquet of sunflowers shot and hang it in his living room to impress his friends while they drink beer and watch football and you’ll never find out about that use. Trust me, that dude wouldn’t have paid for your photograph in the first place anyways.

As a byproduct, uploading full, glorious, high res, original photos to Flickr gives you one more backup of your precious photos in the cloud.

5. Moooooooooooo. Do you know about moo cards? Get some. They’re cheap — well, at least the little ones are cheap. Give them to everyone you can. When you are out and about and people talk to you about your photography say (in your best Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad voice possible) “Hey Yo, I’m slinging this camera, check me out here Yo,” and hand them a moo card. Trust me, it works.

6. Groups. Most groups on Flickr are a waste of time. Dead groups where photo whores dump billions of photos in dead pools that nobody cares about and nobody sees. Your photos are quickly buried deep, deep, in the pool, never to be seen or heard from again. Avoid these groups. They typically have names like “Baskets! Show us all your photos of baskets!” or “You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato, show us all your photos of tomatoes!” Don’t just dump your photo into 30 random groups.

Instead pick a few meaningful groups and actually hang out there and interact with people. You might consider a local group for where you live. Or a photo critique group. Or whatever. But find a few active groups (meaning several new threads are engaged in a day) and participate. I belong to a number of groups on Flickr, but 95% of my Flickr group time is spent in the critique group DMU. (Note, DMU is uncensored and not for everyone. Remember above where I told you that Flickr nuked one of our groups? yep.)

7. Fave it Forward! Have you heard of Billy Wilson? Because if you haven’t, you will soon. Not to be confused with his second cousin and other Flickr legend Billy Warhol, Billy Wilson is the original Flickr fave machine! Billy has favorited more photos than anyone else on Flickr and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Want to know what happens when you fave almost 200,000 photos on Flickr? Just check out Billy’s stream. How’s that for getting some attention? Fave Billy Fave!

Now, you don’t actually have to copy the Billy Wilson favoriting machine. He’s an original and that’s his gig. But. Don’t be stingy with your faves either. If you like something fave the hell out of it. You can start here at my “10 faves or more set” if you’d like. You have an unlimited amount of faves to give out on Flickr. People love getting faves. People reciprocate.

Be like Billy, fave it forward.

Same goes for comments too. If you like something say so. Maybe you can be the next “nice photo” guy. Or maybe you can be known as that super hot chick who writes deep, meaty, insightful, witty, quirky comments on people’s photos — especially then, you’ll be loved.

8. Tag for discovery. You know how people find many of your photos? Search. Don’t be “that guy” who tags the 300 most commonly used keywords to your photos no matter what they are. I don’t want to see that photo of your bikini clad girlfriend when I’m searching for puppy. Good boy.

But. Be descriptive. Be sure to tag the place the photo was taken. The subject matter. Anything relevant that people might use to search for your photo. Consider geotagging as well. The more discoverable your photos are, the more likely they’ll be seen on Flickr.

Oh, also keyword at the file level, not on Flickr itself. It’s much faster to keyword and geotag that way and also when Flickr ends up nuking your account (KABOOM!) you won’t lose all of those tags and geotags that you worked so hard on adding to your photos. When you tag/geotag at the file level, these tags/geotags are automatically populated at Flickr when you upload your photos. Read about my workflow here for more on that.

9. Are you allowing the search engines to index your photos? If you aren’t, you should be. You can check your settings on that here. I’d estimate that about 20% of the traffic to my own Flickr photos comes from search engines. Oh, and while you are in your settings, you might want to take a second and turn safe search off, we’re all 18+ adults here right, even if Flickr does treat you as a child by default? Filtered Flickr sucks.

10. Certain subjects just seem to garner more attention. In general I’ve found that certain subjects tend to do better on Flickr than others. Your (and my) Egglestonian masterpiece of the sidewalk curb? Not so much.

But. Subjects that seem to garner a lot of attention. Attractive women (number one attention getter on Flickr, especially self portraits), motion or blur, silhouettes, images with stories in the description, some HDR, bokeh, abstract architectural photography, bridges, cityscapes, artwork by famed graffiti artist Banksy, you get the idea.

Also sometimes an interesting looking thumbnail will pull people in as well.

Well there you have it. 10 tips to get you more attention on Flickr. Use them in good health and with good company.

Disclaimer: remember my equation above? “quality photos + reciprocation≤ = attention” It doesn’t matter how much work you do optimizing the promotion of your photos if they suck. Find your voice. Make your style. Create your art. But put time, energy and pride in the work that you share. Make the world a more beautiful place with the amazing work that you are capable of creating. The best photos in the world have yet to be taken.

Oh, and one final way to get a lot of attention on Flickr? Write long blog posts about getting attention on Flickr. It works every time. ūüėČ

You can find me on Flickr here.

Does Google’s Acquisition of Picnik Suggest That Google’s Picasa is Getting Ready to Seriously Challenge Yahoo’s Flickr Photo Sharing Site?

Does Google's Acquisition of Picnik Suggest That Google's Picasa is Getting Ready to Seriously Challenge Yahoo's Flickr Photo Sharing Site

Google acquired image editing site Picnik today. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but you can read the announcements by Picnik and Google on their respective blogs.

This is interesting to me for a few reasons.

First, Picnik is the default image editing software built into Yahoo’s photosharing site Flickr. While nobody has yet suggested that Picnik will be getting the boot from Flickr, it would seem to me an awkward relationship at best for a Yahoo property to be using a Google owned service for part of their offering. I suspect that Picnik gets dropped by Flickr and replaced with some sort of new offering.

But second, you have to ask yourself why Google would buy Picnik and why now.

The most logical application for Picnik at Google, would be for Google to integrate the software into their photo sharing property Picasa which competes with Flickr. The fact that Google would allocate $$$ towards Picasa right now may signal that they are getting serious about finally mounting some reasonable effort at trying to displace Flickr as the photo social sharing King of the internet.

What else makes me think this? Google Buzz. While I consider Flickr superior in a lot of ways to Picasa today, the biggest advantage that Flickr has always held over their competitors is how strong a grip they’ve had on the social aspect of photo sharing. But now that Buzz has arrived on the scene (and your Buzz photos go into Picasa albums by default by the way), it would appear that Google finally has a viable social network to compete with Flickr’s own internal social network inside of Flickr. By combining the social power of buzz, with an enhanced version of Picasa, Google could mount a formidable competing offering to Yahoo’s Flickr.

Personally I hope this is the case. Why? Because Flickr needs competition. Not only have they grown lazy in terms of innovation (because they can), they treat their users and their users’ data disrespectfully (because they can) censoring users and nuking whole communities on their site. With a stronger competitor out there it may force Yahoo to finally begin beefing up Flickr as well as treating their users better than they have been.

I’ve been actively using Picasa for the past few weeks after not really using them for years, mostly because of their integration with Buzz. They are still a long ways away from Flickr. Flickr today is a much more elegant offering with far better organizational capabilities and a huge body of work already on the site which carries weight. But with the right engineers hacking on Picasa and the right $$$ being allocated from Google, I’m pretty sure Picasa could in fact build a better Flickr. Combining the social sharing aspects of Buzz with a beefed up Picasa from Google, would be a formidable offering on the social photo sharing space.

Certainly integrating Picnik into Picasa (weird how their names are so similar) will enhance Picasa a bit. But here are the things I think Picasa should also be working on if they want to offer viable competition to Flickr.

1. Picasa should redesign the service around the concept of the photostream. By default Picasa only has album views. But people think in terms of streams much of the time. Flickr has a stream AND albums (sets). Picasa just has albums (and sort of clunky albums at that). By retooling the site with a photostream as a primary view, Picasa would feel more comfortable for people who wanted to migrate away from Flickr and towards Picasa. Picasa could still have albums (just like Flickr has sets), but a photostream should be the primary main view.

2. Picasa needs better organizational tools. Flickr’s organizer is *amazing*. In fact, it’s probably what I’m impressed with more than anything that they’ve ever done. The ability to batch organize photos is powerful. Picasa’s not as much. One very easy thing Picasa could do right away to improve their organizational capabilities would be to introduce SmartSets. SmartSets allow you to build albums/sets around the concept of tags. I can say, for instance, put all of my photos that are tagged/keyworded “neon” into my neon album/set. There could be better support this way for overlapping albums as well. I might have a Golden Gate Bridge album (for instance) that had all my Golden Gate Bridge photos. But those photos could also be in a SmartSet for my San Francisco photos too.

3. Picasa should make blogging photos easier. Flickr has super easy html code that you can easily cut and paste and then use to blog. Picasa allows this too but with more complicated tables that are difficult to custom size and are harder work to use. Picasa could easily copy flickr’s approach and get more traction from bloggers wanting to use Picasa to host their photos.

4. Picasa needs a better “Recent Activity” view. “Recent Activity” may be the most viewed page on Flickr for active users. Picasa needs a better way for you to easily and quickly view what’s going on with your photos. Likes/comments/tags/etc. in a central page view on Picasa.

5. Picasa needs a super easy to use Flickr-Picasa importer. Our photos belong to us. Not Flickr. So does the metadata (tags, geotags, etc.) associated with our photos. Much of this data today is trapped in the silo that is Flickr. Picasa should build an application that makes it super simple to (with the press of a button) transfer all of your Flickr photos (and metadata) easily over to Picasa. If Flickr won’t grant Picasa a commercial API key for this, then Google/Picasa should make a point of publicizing that Yahoo/Flickr is not serious about user data portability and a more open and relevant web.

There is a ton more that Picasa could do to compete with Flickr. Hopefully today’s announcement of Picnik is but a first step in a serious attempt by Google to build a viable competitor to Flickr.

Congratulations, by the way, to the Picnik team on today’s exciting announcement.

Flickr Pushes Photo Printing With Snapfish, Blocks Competitors From the Flickr API?

Flickr Pushes Snapfish Printing Locks Out Competitors?

Over at the Photobox blog they are complaining today after Flickr has apparently cut off their commercial API access. Photobox is a commercial photo printer in the UK who had previously been able to use the Flickr API to help Flickr users print photos with them.

From the Photobox blog:

“At PhotoBox we passionately believe in the values of the open web and consumer choice; if you do as well then please join us in our mini effort to encourage the mighty Ďcommunity drivení flickr to play fair. So put your hands in the air by signing this petition and who knows, just maybe, the very smart folks at flickr HQ in sunny CA will stop, take note and reconsider their decision to cut off our full API access. We believe itís entirely their choice to have a preferential online prints partner in the UK and Europe all over (y)our photostreams (or not!) but to exclusively cut us off Ďdue to these contractual obligationsí is a harsh step too far and flies in the face of what we all want Ė an open and social web driven by consumer choice. “

At the same time Flickr has been busy pushing hard their printing relationship with Snapfish. In addition to adding a shopping cart at the top of 100% of the pages on flickr linking to printing by Snapfish, Flickr has also now added a colorized yellow “print photos” button that is above your photos on your photo page. The previous button was there but not colorized to stand out. They have also changed the former “organize” feature to now read “organize & create” pushing printing services with Snapfish in the Flickr photo organizer with a new “print & create tab.”

Personally I’m not crazy about the new promotion. When I signed up for a Flickr Pro account I was promised “ad-free” browsing and sharing. Although adding a shopping cart to the top of every single one of my pages may not be the biggest deal, it does make flickr feel a little bit less like a paid photo sharing community and a little bit more like But whatever the case, it is in fact advertising and personally I have no interest in printing up my photos with Snapfish. At a minimum, Flickr should give paid Pro accounts an opportunity to dismiss the advert shopping cart and other printing marketing like they give you the opportunity to mute the McDonald’s/Ford/Kodak/Starbucks etc. adverts that now show up on the groups page. The deal for paid accounts was no adverts and Flickr should keep their end of that bargain.

Like recently adding the Yahoo! logo bug to the top of every flickr page, it looks as though Flickr is increasingly taking steps to move towards commercializing Flickr to their Pro account users. While Flickr/Yahoo are a business and I don’t begrudge them making money any way they can, I think that paid Pro accounts should in fact remain advert free — and that if Flickr is going to continue marketing this way to Pro accounts that they probably ought to stop with the false advertising claim of an “ad-free” browsing experience for paid Pro accounts.

Yahoo! Totally You = Totally Screwed

Yahoo!  Totally You = Totally Screwed

While Yahoo! professes to care about "you" in their new multi million dollar marketing campaign, in actuality Yahoo!’s Flickr destroys user data.

Your sites, your mail, your friends, your whatever, yes totally.

…unless your site is on Yahoo’s flickr and then they can nuke it whenever they feel like it.

More information here.

An Open Letter to Elisa Steele EVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Yahoo Inc. on the New “The Internet is You,” Yahoo Marketing Campaign

An Open Letter to Elisa Steele EVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Yahoo Inc. on the New "The Internet is You," Yahoo Marketing Campaign

Dear Elisa:

Last month when you announced Yahoo! Inc’s new multi-million dollar ad campaign including the tagline, “the internet’s under new management yours,” I wrote you an open letter. While admittedly the letter was critical and even a bit sarcastic at times regarding censorship on Yahoo’s photo sharing site Flickr, I nonetheless was hopeful that perhaps Yahoo was sincere in your latest marketing message. I thought the statement was much better than the last big Yahoo marketing campaign about everybody needing to wear purple clothes or whatever, and as someone who values customer service oriented companies, I thought it was a positive statement for Yahoo to make.

Unfortunately, at this point, however, I am going to have to call bullshit on your new campaign. I assume it’s ok with you that I’m using such strong language to describe your campaign. Your boss Carol Bartz has built a big reputation as a tough talker with salty language so I’m hoping you’ll understand.

You see Elisa, despite the fact that seemingly everywhere I turn in San Francisco I see another one of your new ads on a bus shelter somewhere, the message rings hollow. It’s doublespeak. It’s inauthentic.

Yesterday, your Flickr Community Manager Heather Champ destroyed a community on Flickr that was home to over 3,000 hard-core Yahoo users. It was a community of photographers, many of whom have spent years on Yahoo in a group that was rich and vibrant. The group had over 5,000 ongoing conversations in it. It’s where many of us lived on Yahoo. The group was in part dedicated to free speech, but it was so much more than that. The group was a place where we talked about music. Where we shared tips on photography. Where we debated about film vs. digital. Where we went to ask each other for advice on what lens we ought to purchase next. It was a place where many of us went to meet each day. It was a place where offline photography meetups were organized. We actually published a magazine together. Many of us became good friends in real life.

But yesterday, while we were conversing there, and without any warning or opportunity to take any sort of self-corrective action, your Community Manager went nuclear and destroyed all of that user data. All of it. Every last thread. With a push of a button. Threads that were meaningful and important to us.

This was data that did not belong to Yahoo! Elisa. You destroyed something that did not belong to you. You destroyed hours and hours of peoples hard work maliciously and callously. You destroyed a group dedicated to free speech, but more significantly you destroyed a group that thousands of people had put significant emotional energy into.

And do you know what your Community Manager was tweeting mere seconds before she nuked this very popular group Elisa? She was tweeting “I hate your freedom.”

That’s right Elisa I, hate, your, freedom. That’s the image that I chose to go with this letter to you. A screenshot of her freedom hating tweet.

While I’m sure your representative got a good laugh out of that tweet, personally I found it as offensive as the fact that so much user data was destroyed so callously in the first place. You see Elisa, Yahoo already has a problem with people thinking that you hate freedom. Remember when Jerry Yang got called before the U.S. Congress and was brow beaten after you all released private emails to the Chinese Govt which resulted in a Chinese journalist’s imprisonment to this day? Remember just last week when rumors (very unfounded rumors I might add) were flying that Yahoo! had released private information on thousands of freedom seeking dissidents to the Iranian Govt?

“I hate your freedom?” Really Elisa? This is the marketing message that you as Yahoo’s Chief Marketing Officer want to send out to the world as you rip apart an online community dedicated to free speech. It’s distasteful and it’s offensive.

You see Elisa, all the money spent in the world on bus stop billboards cannot make your marketing message ring true when the real voices, real human authentic voices online, ring out that the internet (at least at Yahoo!) is in fact very much not under our management at all. In fact our feelings are not taken into consideration one iota. We, thousands of us, are tossed aside, thrown out like garbage. Our hard work destroyed by you. Not only do actions like this invalidate your message, they create enormous ill will against Yahoo that will stand for many years going forward.

A number of help forum threads (now all conveniently locked down by your staff) were created over the destruction of this group. I will quote you the official Yahoo! statement, again from Ms. Champ stated in one of those locked threads:

“Flickr is a community with fences. If you want the open range, then unfortunately, what you want to do is beyond what we allow.”

You see how that reads Elisa? It does not read that Yahoo is all about “you” at all. It’s a patronizing statement that says Yahoo is not about what “you” want. It’s about what “we” want. I hope you can see how this statement directly contradicts your current marketing slogan that the internet is under new management, you.

I’m sure you are familiar with John Gilmore, Elisa, a well respected thinker who co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a quite respected organization that fights for freedom online. John Gilmore once said, “the Internet perceives censorship as damage and routes around it.” And that’s what many of us have now done. Many of us in the community that was destroyed have now decided that we will no longer use Yahoo for our community experience. Yahoo simply cannot be trusted to not destroy thousands of hours of our work in the future. Instead we will be using community space hosted by one of your competitors, FriendFeed, a site owned by Facebook.

You see, despite not having a large glitzy “the internet’s about you,” campaign, to my knowledge FriendFeed has never censored anyone. They have this really cool feature allowing users to block somebody if you don’t like what they have to say instead. It’s great. When you do that they just disappear entirely on the site for you. Poof. Magic. Rather than pay for salaries and benefits for a team of censors, they just let their users block content that they don’t like and let me tell you, it works *alot* better that way.

Interestingly enough Elisa, FriendFeed was founded in part by the very guy who came up with the Google (another one of your competitors) slogan, “don’t be evil,” — as a marketing exec I’m sure you realize how powerful of a corporate message that has turned out to be, much more powerful than everybody needs to wear purple.

I’d hope that you could see how nuking an entire group over what was a skirmish between maybe two members in the group might not make sense. You used a shotgun to kill a gnat.

Many things could have been done to more responsibly address the Yahoo concern in question. Admins of the group could have been warned and given an opportunity to take corrective action on their own, the single offending post could have been deleted rather than destroying thousands of posts 99.9% of which were entirely unoffensive, you could have simply removed what you found offensive and locked the group down, leaving a rich collection of user data to at least exist in an archive format for future reference for those who had created it.

It did not need to be nuked.

I do hope you take a moment out of your busy day to address this situation personally Elisa because it is damaging to both Yahoo’s brand and your own campaign that you are spending significant shareholder money on.

And as long as these are the types of actions that you and your management stand behind then your current campaign is very much meaningless indeed. I do also hope that you do not allow your staff to personally retaliate against me by nuking my own flickr photostream for writing to you what is in fact a very respectful letter.

Thomas Hawk