flickr interestingness

flickr’s interestingness ranking has always been fickle and unpredictable, but I just took a look at a bunch of the photos in the current “7 days” interestingness section, and it’s just confusing how some of the photos get in there. I suppose networking and gaming has a lot to do with it, but they seem so formulaic. Step 1: get a cute girl (or, if you happen to be one, shoot yourself). 2: pose seductively. or oddly. whatever. as long as leg and/or cleavage is visible. 3: tag the hell out of the photo. 4: profit.

if interestingness somehow indicated the real “interesting-ness” of a photo, in terms of quality of composition, aesthetics, or anything other than “gollllly, that’s a purty pic-ture!” it would be, well, interesting… but it’s really not.

Testing Flickr Video

Sounds cool, but is the 90 second limit real?

Flickr’s official stance on the time limit is this:

Video on Flickr grew out of the idea of “long photos” and as such, we’ve implemented what might seem like an arbitrary limit of playing back the first 90 seconds of a video. 90 seconds?

We’re not trying to limit your artistic freedom, we’re trying something new. Everyone has endured that wedding video, where even the bride will fast-forward to the “good bit.” In fact, even Tara at FlickrHQ hasn’t made it past the first 90 seconds of her own wedding video.

Just try it! It’s fun once you get the hang of it.

If that’s the case, why not put some kind of filter on the size of photographs? The number of photos in a set? The number of photos uploaded by an individual? There are lots of people posting photos to Flickr that could easily fall into the same category of annoying and boring wedding videos. Why treat video differently?

Yup. Only plays the first 90 seconds of an 8:24 video. Stupid.

on Yahoo + Microsoft

So MSFT is trying to spend $45 BILLION dollars to buy Yahoo. Rumour has it that the borg want Yahoo’s search and advertising stuff, which would be a little odd – I can’t remember the last time I searched using Yahoo, or saw a Yahoo-powered ad. Whatever.


But, Yahoo does own two resources that I care a great deal about. and Flickr. It’s pretty safe to say that neither of those are worth $45 BILLION, so it’s likely that they aren’t the direct targets of the acquisition attempt.

The first reaction of a vocal group of Flickr users is “cheque please. outta here.” They’re saying that they’ll pull up and move if Redmond is able to sign on the dotted line.

Again, whatever.

Yes, I could very easily host my own photographs (using Gallery2, or even just a simple photoblog – I’ve done both) but the real value of Flickr (and also of isn’t in the software or the service provided. It’s in the community. Taking my ball and going home would be the wrong thing to do. It’s not about who owns the ball, it’s about playing the game. If I dump Flickr or just because some company bought the company that bought the company that built the playing field, it just isn’t a rational reaction. This isn’t a religious crusade, it’s a community.

Now the risk I see is that MSFT might scare all of the cool out of Flickr and That’s probably the biggest risk – engineers, designers, UI folks, etc… Will they bail because the borg is coming? If they stay, will they still be able to do cool stuff, or will they have to work on Windows Live Photo Publisher™ integration or somesuch nonsense? I’d hope not. Microsoft IS able to let effective business units keep doing their cool stuff. Bungie kept pumping out the Halo, and the MacBU keeps pumping out their version of Office, which consistently kicks the crap out of the Windows versions. I’m hoping that Balmer has the sense to run the Flickr and units at an arm’s length (or at least not to throw any chairs at them) so they can keep going.

My data is all safe – my photos all live happily in Aperture, and I don’t use Flickr as a repository – it’s strictly a sharing service and community for me. What concerns me most is all of the images I’ve got in the 134 posts on my blog that use Flickr for hosting – any switch will cause a LOT of grief in updating all of those.

I’m willing to wait and see. Microsoft would have to do something pretty stupid to make it worth leaving Flickr or

on the power of banality

I’ve been thinking about this for some time, but haven’t taken the time to put it into words. Most recently, a post by Jennifer Jones nicely sums up why Twitter is important, and I think it goes even further than that.

Twitter is important because it makes many of the intangible human connections more readily available to people who are separated by distance. I often feel more closely integrated with the people on my Twitter stream than I do with people who work in my department. Why is that? I see those people every day. But – the people on Twitter are constantly reinforcing my connection with them, and vice versa, through the unceasing flow of status updates.

But, why is this important? I think this brings the real, visceral connections that are an essential part of a vibrant community (whether online, offline, or blended) into the forefront. I can tap into my Twitter contacts and ask questions, float ideas, or just shoot the shit. Things that are largely outside the domain of a traditional “online community” resource. The always-on nature of Twitter, and the strong sense of vibrancy and vitality, are what make it so compelling to me. At almost any time of the day or night, my Twitter stream is active, with people posting tidbits on a stunningly broad range of topics.

Sure, many of these are purely banal things like “I’m bored” or “heading out to the pub” – but those are important if only because they help reinforce a connection. I may not care that someone is going to a pub (especially if they’re in another city/country/continent and I can’t tag along), but by seeing their status update, it makes me mindful of them. I think about that person, even if briefly, and the sense of community is strengthened.

So, Twitter is valuable for so much more than simple “nanoblogging” – which is how I initially perceived it. It is important to me because it makes the sense of community and connectedness more tangible. And Twitter isn’t the only tool to help on that front.

One of the reasons I’m a raving, rabid Flickr addict is that I can follow the photos from my contacts. If they do something and post a picture, I see it. I may not have bothered to go hunting to find the picture, but the fact that Flickr streams it to me helps me keep up to date on what dozens of people are doing. I am more mindful of these people, and feel more aware and connected.

Tools like Flickr and Twitter are powerful because they are informal. It’s much quicker and easier to post a simple status update for something that wouldn’t warrant a full blog post. It’s simple to shoot a photo and hurl it up to Flickr – even if it’s not a great photo, it’s an easy way to share what’s going on in a person’s life.

One thing that newcomers to these tools often mention is how simultaneously noisy and empty they seem. Viewing the public Twitter update stream is a confusing and uninteresting activity. It’s not until you find the people that you care about – in real life – that these tools really start to get interesting. It’s not about “contact whoring” or trying to collect the most “followers” – it’s about finding the people you care about and maintaining a state of mindfulness. Something that is surprisingly easy to do with these various banality broadcasting engines.

I’m still thinking through how these tools compare with Facebook. I do know that Facebook has a decidedly different “feel” to it – with the endless flow of zombie-bites, pokes, application requests, and the like. Facebook has become annoying enough that I might check in on it once per week. I usually have Twitter and Flickr open in tabs all the time.  Facebook is evolving into a monolithic environment – the “applications” are so tightly integrated that they might as well be compiled into the kernel of FB. Small Pieces Loosely Joined is basically thrown out the window. Although I can integrate other resources, they become awkwardly sucked into FB, often providing redundant information or functionality (do I post status updates to Twitter, or to Facebook? do I post photos to Flickr or Facebook? etc…). I should be able to do these activities in one place, and one place only, and have the information pulled seamlessly together. Facebook just ain’t it.

FlickrMeets and Community

I attended my second Calgary FlickrMeet last night. A bunch of Calgary Flickr members met downtown to hang out, shoot some photos and talk about stuff. Picture a bunch of photo geeks walking around taking a bunch of photos of everything, from every angle 🙂

calgary flickrverse

It was fun to see many of my Flickr contacts in person – much like Northern Voice is great because it’s a vivification of my blogroll, FlickrMeets are fun because they are Flickr in the flesh. The event itself was organized online through Flickr. It’s a little ironic, but the main reason to go to the FlickrMeet isn’t to take photographs, but to breathe life into the online Flickr community. While a fair amount of interaction occurs online, it is face-to-face events like this that make the community “real”.

I believe this applies to online learning as well. A fully online experience lacks the “realness” that is added by face-to-face interaction. As an example, I am working through David Wiley’s Intro to Open Education course at Utah State University. He’s offering the course readings and exercises for folks to follow along online without even enrolling in the course. But in this case, it’s a completely online and impersonal experience. I happen to know several of the participants, so I definitely feel some connection, but for someone who is enrolling in the course without bringing along their own network of friends and colleagues, it would be a very abstract and distant experience. I anticipate that the Open Education 2007 conference will act as a face-to-face contextualizing event for me – I’ll finally get to meet David Wiley in person (after communicating with him online for about 7 years now), as well as a few other “classmates.”

Back to the FlickrMeet – it was a great mixture of interests and skill levels. Every level of photographer, from professional (with high end gear), to amateur (with modest gear) to newcomer (learning to use their gear). It was great to learn from the pros, while helping out the newcomers with some of the tricky things like aperture settings (why does a higher aperture number mean LESS light gets in? etc…) The cool thing is that all egos were left at home, and it felt much like a social learning party. The way education should be.

I wound up shooting 240 photos, keeping only 37 of them. I shot with three lenses, starting with a 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, moving to a 17-35mm f/2.8 L, then to my 50mm f/1.8 prime as the light faded. Surprisingly, I had more fun with my nifty fifty, and liked the photos it took better than the much “better” and certainly more expensive lenses. Oh, and the new Canon 40D is NICE. Stupid progress. I still love my XT, though.

365 photos – halfway point

I just passed the halfway point for my 2007 “365 photos” challenge, where I try to take at least one photo every day for the entire year 2007. I’ve actually been successful in taking a photo per day. Most days, I take many, so the hardest part is picking the “best” photo to represent the day. Other days, I don’t feel like taking a photo, or nothing interesting happens. Those are the hard days. I’ve still managed to take photos on those days, but it’s definitely a challenge.

I’m now up to 183 photos (many of which are only visible online to “friends and family” on Flickr). I’m trying to vary the types of photos I take, both in content and style, to try to stretch a bit. Not sure I’m succeeding in that, but here’s the last few weeks worth of photos:

365photos july 2 2007

Why do this? It’s just a bunch of boring photos of daily banality. Well, yeah. And so what? The point is to force myself to shoot more photos, whether I feel like it or not. There are a few reasons to do this, mostly related to practicing the technical stuff involved with taking photographs, so that it just becomes automatic and unthinking. I can now select aperture, exposure, ISO, focal length, etc… without having to actually think about it. I’ve also come to realize that it doesn’t really matter what camera you use – the key is to have a camera ready at hand at all times. I’ve been biking to and from work, and don’t want to lug my big LowePro AW200 backback. I’ve been bringing my little Fujifilm point-and-shoot because it’s small, and I wouldn’t lose too much sleep if it got wrecked. And as a result, it’s always been with me on my bike, and I’ve gotten several great shots I’d have missed otherwise.

I still love the hell out of my XT, and make a point of lugging it around wherever possible. The more I shoot with it, the more I appreciate just how well it works. I occasionally lust after a newer/faster camera, but it would be much more effective to invest in some better lenses (I have about half a dozen on my wish list, ranging from überwide 10-22mm, to überlong 300mm IS, to standard plastic-fantastic…)

Anyway, I’m still having a total blast with the 365photos challenge. I may not be a better photographer, artisitically speaking, but at least I’m getting more proficient, and forcing myself to delve into a bit more creativity.