Photography Technology

Mountains out of Molehills

CEO of photosharing site Zooomr, Thomas Hawk is taking Flickr to task for the changes it announced yesterday.

In his post, he uses customer complaints from Flickr’s forums to make his point that Flickr has lost its way with these changes and that it must reconsider them. After reading through the post, it seems to me like just a bunch of noise and childishness. Let’s take a look at what is actually changing here:

1. In our ongoing efforts to Make Flickr BetterTM, we’re introducing two additional limits: the new maximum number of contacts is 3,000 contacts (good luck with that), and each photo on Flickr can have a maximum of 75 tags.

Okay. Well, I could see this complaint as somewhat half valid. There are people out there who use Flickr to promote their work professionally, and they want to reach as many people as possible. Putting a limit on the number of people they can have as contacts kinda does suck. But at the same time, Flickr’s contact system is a lot different then say MySpace’s friends list system. Just because someone makes me a contact, doesn’t mean they have to be mine. Me personally I only make people contacts under a very small set of circumstances:

  1. If I know them personally.
  2. If I read their blog regularly.
  3. If I LOVE their photo work.

I think it is a safe bet if you have upwards of 2,000 contacts that you aren’t looking at everyone’s photos in that much depth. I also doubt you know all of these people personally. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that if you have that many contacts, it’s an effort to get people to add you to their contact list as self-promotion.

While that is okay, it’s a little disingenuous. As really, I doubt you care about these ‘friends’ all that much. Isn’t there enough shameless self-promotion on the web already?

Where’s the line between it and spam really? Maybe I shouldn’t cast judgment, but with their ‘Good luck with that’ comment, it certainly seems like Flickr feels the same way.

There is also a positive benefit to this; it requires people to be more mindful of the people they add to their contact list. In the end, it strengthens the community, as it encourages users to consider things more carefully. Flickr also claims it will allow their systems to run better, and I can imagine that being so. Having more than 3000 of anything in a database will bog things down. Capping people’s contacts will almost certainly improve speed and take some load off the servers. Yes, it will save them money, but they are a business, it doesn’t make their service any less awesome.

Next up: The 75 tag limit. This is also about shameless self-promotion in my eyes.

If you’re tagging your photos that heavily, you’re tagging them for the purpose solely of other people finding you, not for accurate results, and almost definitely not for easy personal organization.

Limiting tags in my eyes is also a good move for the community as it once again will require more thought put into things. And really, 75 tags? I rarely put more than 5 on something. 75 is a very high number. I doubt few people at all will be limited by this.

Oh, but it seems—with the exception of Mr. Hawk—not many users are making a big deal over these changes, it’s more about the second change.

2. On March 15th, 2007 we’ll be discontinuing the old email-based Flickr sign in system. From that point on, everyone will have to use a Yahoo! ID to sign in to Flickr.

For many, this is a big change. And like it or not, those people are by far the minority. 

Flickr has seen such a dramatic growth in users over the last year that the ‘old skool’ users are dwarfed several times over by the newer users. There are more than a few users bitter about this move, but these are mostly the same users who were skeptical when Yahoo! bought Flickr. The fear as near as I can tell is irrational. All the complaints I’ve read seem to be based on fear of change. They sound to me like angsty elitist teenagers who stop liking a band when they signed to a major label or something. It’s stupid.

In reality, what is the significant difference? The only thing this affects at all is your login and password. It does not affect people’s site address or your Flickr screen name. The change is minimal, and these users will experience no difference except having to type something different at the login screen. For example, my Flickr account is linked to my Yahoo! ID of ‘reallocalcelebrity,’ but my Flickr page address does not reflect that name: At the moment I have my username as ‘reallocalcelebrity,’ which does match my Yahoo! ID, but I can change this at any point if I want, it does not have to match my Yahoo! ID.

I thoroughly enjoy that many of the self-proclaimed ‘old skool’ users of Flickr don’t realize this. Many of the complaints reposted on Hawk’s blog relay to the misperception that they will lose their user name or be forced to change their page address, neither of which is the case.

The other complaint is that these users will be required to have a Yahoo! ID, and many feel that this will open the floodgates to them for spam and marketing emails. I kind of think this is a tad bit irrational. I have a Yahoo! ID/ Mail account, and I pretty much don’t use it, except for Flickr. Having the account has not added any spam to any of my inboxes or had any effect on anything else in my life at all. As Flickr also points out, you don’t even have to use the account for your Flickr alerts email either; you can give them another account and have them notify you at that account when someone adds you as a contact of comments your photos.

So in actuality, Flickr is making you sign up for a Yahoo! ID, but they are not making you use it for anything other than a login and password.

If you’re getting worked up over this, you need to put your world into perspective. In reality, this whole thing will blow over with little to no impact on anything, maybe a few ‘Old Skool’ users will jump ship to different services, but that’s their loss more than anything. In truth, Flickr’s going to work better and continue at its tremendous rate of growth while strengthing its community while becoming more profitable and integrated into Yahoo! The end result is more choices and features for the users. I’ve yet to see how this could be a bad thing.

(via Robert Scoble)

General Pop culture

I’ve got the scars to remind me…

…I’ve watch the clocks go ’round.
Walked myself through some days
that have put me where I am.
In another time, In another place
all things might have been in place
But for now I’m finding myself up here standing on a rooftop screaming.

Hey world are you listening… listening to me?
I’m here and I’m hurting to begin again.

It’s another time, it’s another place.
We are making more old days.
But for now I’m finding myself out and standing on my doorstep screaming.

Hey world are you listening… listening to me?
I’m here and I’m hurting to begin again.
Hey world I’m ready to listen… and learn something new.
I’m here and I’m willing to get myself through.

Hot Water Music “Rooftops”

I wasn’t going to do this, but Zeldman’s post stirred up a lot in me.

Has it really been five years? I really don’t know what to do. It still seems so unbelievable. I feel like I have spent the last 5 years living in a bad dream, just waiting to wake up. I still sort of lie to myself about things. I let the media corrupt me and my memories of what happened that day. I feel cheap and used. Until recently, I had almost completely forgotten parts of it. As if they were blocked out of my memory.

The endless smoke. The smell of burning and ash. The jumpers. The smoldering holes that were once buildings. How they didn’t stop burning for weeks.

A few weeks back, I went upstate with my friend Christine and her family and found papers from 9/12. I looked through them, and every article was somehow related to the towers. It was like everything else in the world had froze. Like someone put the rest of history on pause for a moment. I had forgotten that baseball went on hiatus, or how long it was before planes were flying again. And how weird it was to hear fighter jets overhead, rather than the commercial planes, that you were so used to that you barely even noticed them anymore.

I was living in Brooklyn at the time, attending the Pratt Institute. I remember that morning like it was yesterday. My roommate Dan and I were on our way to class when the guy across the hall from us yelled, stopping us from getting on the elevator.

“Some idiot flew a plane into one of the Twin Towers.”

We ran into his room, where his roommate was videotaping it from his window. Although it disgusts me to admit now, honestly… at the time…. we laughed. We laughed recounting the famous story of the plane that hit the state building back in the ’40s — thinking this to be the same: a very public accident of small proportions.

What you have to realize is that we had no concept of scale. Despite being nearby, the towers were too massive to comprehend. We figured it was some private plane and honestly didn’t even think about size or injury. It seemed impossible that anything could even damage the towers, so we didn’t even think anything of it. The longer we stood there, the more smoke we saw, the more serious it felt. But we also figured we were late for class, so we had better get a move on.

When I got to class, most of my classmates hadn’t even heard about it. About 10 minutes in someone comes running into our room and yells:

“A plane just flew and hit both Trade Towers!”

Half of our class went running into the other room to go look out from their window. Once again: the issue of scale. You never really realized how big those things were until a plane flew into them. It seemed reasonable to many to believe that they were close enough together that one plane’s wingspan could hit both towers. As I looked from the window and watched the North and South towers billowing out black smoke, it hit me. I was the first one to say it aloud:

“The one tower was already smoking when I left my room this morning, the second one just happened. This is no accident, someone planned this.”

It just seemed inconceivable at the time to everyone in the room, and honestly, I forget sometimes how carefree we all were before that day. The teacher rushed us back to our respective room, where we continued class for a bit. Time passed, and he called for a break. I started walking across campus to the cafeteria and attempted to phone my parents at home — baffled that I couldn’t get a signal out.

“Turn off your phone asshole! Other people need to use the networks.”

Confused and completely caught off guard, I looked up at the upperclassmen had just yelled this at me, and I didn’t know what to make of it. The phone was useless anyhow, so I shut it off. When I got into the cafeteria, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. A massive amount of people were crowded around the TVs that were mounted on the ceiling. Someone had changed the channel from the usual corporate marketing bullshit CTN (college television network) and put on the news. I stood there, frozen in shock as we watched the first tower fall. When I managed to regain thought, I then rushed myself to my room and put on CNN. My roommate, Dan, had just arrived as well, and we sat and watched in astonishment as the second tower fell.

Neither of us knew what to do; we both agreed that we weren’t going back to class. Fuck class. We spent the rest of the day in a fog, dumbstruck from what happened. I remember trying to load up, and it was just crawling and going even to a white page with headlines briefly announcing countries that were wishing their sympathies. Horribly enough, Afghanistan was the first to issue a statement of sympathy. It wasn’t for a few days before we would realize the grim irony in that.

The first thing on everyone’s mind was war. And honestly, the first nation people thought of was Iraq. It was no secret even back in 2001 — BEFORE 9/11 — that Bush wanted to invade Iraq. They were still our “enemy.” The media had conditioned us to think that way, so it seemed to make sense that they might perpetrate such an evil. All I could scrounge up from the news, though was something about an unmanned US spy plane being shot down over Iraq that morning. Something I’ve never seen or heard mentioned since.

At some point, I made it to the rooftop of my building and snapped the photograph you see above. The door to the roof was normally locked at threat of expulsion, but somehow none of that mattered anymore.

My biggest regret, the one thing that gets me to this very day, is that I was so close, and yet, all I did was sit there and watch TV like everyone else. I should have taken off and gone into the city and found a way to help, but I sat there and did nothing like a zombie.

I can’t explain exactly why I’m writing this or what conclusion I am hoping to come to. The fact is, I don’t think I have one. I’m writing this just to write it, to put it out there. I can’t explain what this is better than Zeldman did so I won’t try:

“These mini-essays are not art. They are not reportage, either (but what is?), and may not even be accurate. We were all a bit dazed—although not so dulled as now. The shock and sorrow were fresh. The events of September 11th had not yet been branded, nor turned into tools of partisan rancor, nor made into a mini-series, nor used to justify atrocity.”

So much of our world changed on that day, and for once, people really came together. Now I look at where we are today, and I am concerned that we haven’t learned a thing. We’ve let ourselves and our feelings be used and manipulated in the name of this atrocity to commit others.

Have we learned the right lesson? Have we done the right thing? Is the world a better place today? I hope dearly we can say yes, but my gut seems to tell me otherwise.

General Pop culture Technology

Allegedly this is not a blog…

…unless I update it.

Fair enough, I guess I’ll work on that. I’ll try to make this brief. I’ve been busy for the past few months, but things seem to be settling down for the moment, which is good.  Work is good, back to school season is just ending so hopefully things might ease up, that’s about all I can say. I’m hoping for new products soon, but I have no clue in truth. I plan to pick up a MacBook Pro whenever they put out a new version. My 12″ Powerbook’s AppleCare has just expired. While it’s still running and treating me well, it’s time to move to something with a little more power, something that can run Aperture or actually interface with a video iPod. (12″ had USB 1.1)

So I’m back playing Halo 2 again, that game will not die for me I still enjoy it every bit as much as I did when I bought it. Oh, that reminds me, I officially, after what… 4 months, have decided that my X-Box 360 was a completely worthwhile purchase. 3 reasons:

  1. I finally used it as a DVD player and a messaging center at the same time. I have my old wired Apple Keyboard plugged into it. Being able to voice chat as VoIP or text message while watching a movie is incredible.
  2. X-Box Live Arcade is finally actually worthwhile. I downloaded Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting and have been getting my butt whupped by strangers on the internet while listening to music streaming from my PowerMac. (Thank you Connect 360)
  3. Dead Rising. Nuff Said.

Other stuff….

So I’ve been keeping busy, not working on any major design projects at the moment, mostly studying new programs and trying to (re?)teach myself how to draw. That said, I have been working at getting back up and running. I’m not sure what we’re going to use it for, but I moved all the content over to WordPress, and as of yesterday two days ago I installed the Beta of phpBB 3 on the site which seems to be running REALLY smoothly, it’s leaps and bounds better than any other free message board system I’ve used.

I’m also now hosting/administrating the official message board for The Epoxies. In case you haven’t checked them out, they are a new wave/punk band from Portland, Oregon that totally rocks, I highly recommend checking them out.

Canon put out a new version of the Rebel… I want it.

Photography Technology

Digital Rebel + Aperture + Flickr = Ridiculously Simple.

Seriously, it’s getting ridiculous how easy the process for photography is getting.

Back in February, my friend Lindsay and I did a photoshoot in the mall parking garage. She’s a photographer herself, but she’s also an aspiring model. This works out well because I consider myself a designer who is an aspiring photographer. So anyway she’s looking to build a modeling portfolio, and I’m looking to build a photo one of my own. I also recently acquired a copy of Apple’s Aperture professional photography software and was itching to try it out.

Overall while we had a great time, but when I looked at the shots, I was disappointed. We were limited by cold weather,  the lighting was awkward, and many of the poses left a lot to be desired. (due both to the weather and Lindsay and I’s comfort levels I’m sure). I ended up letting the photos sit for months after the initial shoot.

It was shortly after that time that I discovered my Flickr addiction. And the other day, I decided to take another crack at the photos because I wanted to put something up, just for the sake of it. (I paid for a Pro account, I should use it no?) When I dove in, I was blown away. I can’t say enough how impressed I am, both by the ease of use of the program and the results I achieved. Aperture made it easy to color correct and retouch a lot of what I viewed were unusable photos.

The more I think about it though, the more it’s unbelievable to me. Anyone who has even worked with real professional color photography can tell you how much of a pain in the ass the whole process can be. While it’s a lot of fun, you can spend weeks on single images at times. Not only that, but it’s expensive. Retouching can be a nightmare, and color correction can have you walking back and forth, turning nobs trying to get something just right. Don’t even get me started on the cost/hassle of promoting and sharing your work.

Nowadays, you can get a Digital SLR for under a grand that take images at resolutions higher than film grain and print to a high-end printer that outputs higher than film grain as well. Using a program like Aperture or Photoshop, you can have a whole ‘roll’ edited and corrected in a matter of minutes. From there, it’s easy to share share it on the web for everyone to see or subscribe to, so you know people are checking it out.

As a side note; I remember during my senior year at Pratt, I did some of my work digitally for my color photo class. I would print my work on my Epson 2200 and hang it next to my other work. The really amazing part is that my peers in class were unable to tell the difference. That to me sealed the deal, my 35mm camera sits and collects dust these days. Stuff like iPhoto and Flickr’s are the icing on the cake. I can hardly remember what life was like before digital.

Anyway, I present to you without further ado: Lindsay O’Connor.


Out of fairness to my lovely modeling friend, I will not post the before and after comparisons. I’d like to assure you, though, that the quality was not nearly this nice until I took them into Aperture. That’s not a criticism on her, but on my skills as a photographer. Luckily, I’m still a designer.

Check out the rest of the shots here.