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kottke.org posts about Flickr

A bunch of presentations on how to

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2007

A bunch of presentations on how to scale web apps, including Flickr, Twitter, LiveJournal, and last.fm.

Flickr’s national sport: Faceball. Re: that first

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2007

Flickr’s national sport: Faceball. Re: that first photo, see also the guy getting hit in the stomach with a cannonball.

Museumr lets you insert one of your

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2007

Museumr lets you insert one of your Flickr photos into a museum (sort of). I gave my beer bottle-shaped sausage photo the Museumr treatment. (thx, chuck)

Public and permanent

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 21, 2007

Marc Hedlund, founder of the intriguing Wesabe, recently made this interesting observation:

One of my favorite business model suggestions for entrepreneurs is, find an old UNIX command that hasn’t yet been implemented on the web, and fix that. talk and finger became ICQ, LISTSERV became Yahoo! Groups, ls became (the original) Yahoo!, find and grep became Google, rn became Bloglines, pine became Gmail, mount is becoming S3, and bash is becoming Yahoo! Pipes. I didn’t get until tonight that Twitter is wall for the web. I love that.

A slightly related way of thinking about how to choose web projects is to take something that everyone does with their friends and make it public and permanent. (Permanent as in permalinked.) Examples:

Not that this approach leads naturally to success. Several companies are exploring music sharing (and musical opinion sharing), but no one’s gotten it just right yet, due in no small measure to the rights issues around much recorded music.

Admin/massage note

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 16, 2007

kottke.org might be a little slow today with (hopefully short) periods of downtime. I’m doing some long-overdue maintenance on the server to pave the way for a bit of future development. In Flickr parlance, kottke.org is having a massage.

Update: Alright, we had two little blips of downtime and now it looks like the site is back up and running like a finely tuned watch, a watch with a web server running on it.

Update: Took care of one last little glitch last night…should be alright now. You may need to clear your cache to make sure everything works smoothly.

The Game Neverending Museum contains several screenshots

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 16, 2007

The Game Neverending Museum contains several screenshots and a paper transformation matrix. I got a little nostalgic for Web 1.0 looking at this.

Mark Pilgrim’s The Dogs of Flickr posters

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2007

Mark Pilgrim’s The Dogs of Flickr posters illustrate the problem of sourcing and giving credit in the remix age….the credits take up much more room than the work itself. Imagine if he had to get permission for all that and you’ve got some idea of how difficult it is to make documentary films these days. See also: the ending credits for The Return of the King (full story).

Update to the whole annoying Flickr/Yahoo

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 02, 2007

Update to the whole annoying Flickr/Yahoo login business: Heather Champ is personally giving refunds to people with pro accounts who don’t want to switch their login to Yahoo.

Update: Just so this is clear, Heather is refunding people out of her own personal PayPal account and funds. Anyone who takes her up on it gets a punch a nose from me.

Update: I didn’t read this carefully enough…it’s not Heather’s personal money. And no punch in the nose, although I might poke you in the ribs or something. (thx, rich)

Flickr is switching their earliest members from

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2007

Flickr is switching their earliest members from a Flickr login to a Yahoo login and many of those folks are none too happy about it. Flickr is handling this tough situation very well, even though I’m personally disappointed at having to use Yahoo’s login myself. Few sites do customer service and community management better than Flickr…it’s impressive and inspiring to watch in action. They just tell people the truth, with humor, patience, and not too much spin…it’s as simple as that. (via waxy)

Fotolog overtaking Flickr?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2007

Quick! Which photo sharing site community thingie is more popular: Fotolog or Flickr? You might be surprised at the answer…but first some history.

Fotolog launched in May 2002 and grew quite quickly at first. They’d clearly hit upon a good idea: sharing photos among groups of friends. As Fotolog grew, they ran into scaling problems…the site got slow and that siphoned off resources that could have been used to add new features to the site, etc. Problems securing funding for online businesses during the 3-4 years after the dot com bust didn’t help matters either.

Flickr launched in early 2004. By the end of their first year of operation, they had a cleaner design than Fotolog, more features for finding and organizing photos, and most of the people I knew on Fotolog had switched to Flickr more or less exclusively. They also had trouble with scaling issues and downtime. Flickr got the scaling issues under control and the site became one of the handful of companies to exemplify the so-called Web 2.0 revitalization of the web. The founders landed on tech magazine covers, news magazine covers, and best-of lists, the folks who built the site gave talks at technology conferences, and the company eventually sold to Yahoo! for a reported $30 million.

Fotolog eventually got their scaling and funding issues under control as well, but relative to Flickr, the site has changed little in the past couple of years. Fotolog has groups and message boards, but they’re not done as well as Flickr’s and there’s no tags, no APIs, no JavaScript widgets, no “embed this photo on your blog/MySpace”, and no helpful Ajax design elements, all supposedly required elements for a successful site in the Web 2.0 era. Even now, Fotolog’s feature set and design remains planted firmly in Web 1.0 territory.

So. Then. Here’s where it gets puzzling. According to Alexa1, Fotolog is now the 26th most popular site on the web and recently became more popular than Flickr (currently #39). Here’s the comparison between the two over the last 3 years:

Alexa - Fotolog vs. Flickr

This is a somewhat stunning result because by all of the metrics held in high esteem by the technology media, Web 2.0 pundits, and those selling technology and design products & services, Flickr should be kicking Fotolog’s ass. Flickr has more features, a better design, better implementation of most of Fotolog’s features, more free features, critical praise, a passionate community, and access to the formidable resources & marketing power of Yahoo! And yet, Fotolog is right there with them. Perhaps this is a sign that those folks trapped in the Web 2.0 bubble are not being critical enough about what is responsible for success on the Web circa-2007. (As an aside, MySpace didn’t really fit the Web 2.0 mold either, nobody really talked about it until after it got huge, and yet here it is. And then there’s Craigslist, which is more Web 0.5 than 2.0, and is one of the most popular sites on the web. Google too.)

What’s going on here then? I can think of three possibilities (there are probably more):

1. Fotolog is very popular with Portugese and Spanish speakers, especially in Brazil. According to Wikipedia, almost 1/3rd of all Fotolog users are from Brazil and Chile. In comparing the two sites, what could account for this difference? Fotolog has a Spanish language option while Flickr does not (although I’m not sure when the Spanish version of Fotolog launched). Flickr is more verbose and text-intensive than Fotolog and much of Flickr’s personality & utility comes from the text while Fotolog is almost text-free; as a non-Spanish speaker, I could navigate the Spanish-language version quite easily. Gene Smith noted that a presentation made by a Brazilian internet company said that “Flickr is unappealing to Brazilians because they want to the customize the interface to express their individual identities”.

Cameron Marlow noticed that Orkut is set to pass MySpace as the world’s most popular social networking site (Orkut is also very popular in Brazil), saying that “Orkut’s growth reinforces the fact that the value of social networking services, and social software in general, comes from the base of active users, not the set of features they offer”. Marlow also notes that Alexa’s non-US reporting has improved over the past year, which might be the reason for Fotolog’s big jump in early 2006. If Alexa’s global reporting had been robust from the beginning, Fotolog may have been neck and neck with Flickr the whole time.

2. Flickr is more editorially controlled than Fotolog. The folks who run Flickr subtly and indirectly discourage poor quality photo contributions. Yes, upload your photos, but make them good. And the community reinforces that constraint to the point where it might seem restricting to some. Fotolog doesn’t celebrate excellence like that…it’s more about the social aspect than the photos.

3. Maybe tags, APIs, and Ajax aren’t the silver bullets we’ve been led to believe they are. Fotolog, MySpace, Orkut, YouTube, and Digg have all proven that you can build compelling experiences and huge audiences without heavy reliance on so-called Web 2.0 technologies. Whatever Web 2.0 is, I don’t think its success hinges on Ajax, tags, or APIs.

Update: You can see how much Fotolog depends on international usage for its traffic from this graph from Compete. They only use US statistics to compile their data. I don’t have access to the Comscore ratings, but they only count US usage and, like Alexa, undercount Firefox and Safari users. (thx, walter)

[1] Usual disclaimers about Alexa’s correctness apply. The point is that among some large amount of users, Fotolog is as popular (or even more) than Flickr. Whether those users are representative of the web as a whole, I dunno.

The folks in the Christmas Tree Carcasses

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 10, 2007

The folks in the Christmas Tree Carcasses group on Flickr are keeping track of discarded Christmas trees. (thx, richard)

Nice little interview with Stewart and Caterina

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 08, 2006

Nice little interview with Stewart and Caterina about how Flickr came about. “George Oates [a Flickr employee] and I would spend 24 hours, seven days a week, greeting every single person who came to the site. We introduced them to people, we chatted with them. This is a social product.”

Wordie is “like Flickr, but without the

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 05, 2006

Wordie is “like Flickr, but without the photos”. “Wordie lets you make lists of words — practical lists, words you love, words you hate, whatever. You can then see who else has listed the same words, and talk about it.” Lots of people love schadenfreude. (via clusterflock)

Hosting a party

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 28, 2006

In this interview with .net magazine, Flickr founder Caterina Fake likens building an online community to throwing a party:

According to Caterina: “The most difficult part is not the technology but actually getting the people to behave well.” When first starting the community the Flickr team were spending nearly 24 hours online greeting each individual user, introducing them to each other and cultivating the community. “After a certain point you can let go and the community will start to maintain itself, explains Caterina. “People will greet each other and introduce their own practices into the social software. It’s always underestimated, but early on you need someone in there everyday who is kind of like the host of the party, who introduces everybody and takes their coat.

I recall those early days of Flickr…Stewart and Caterina were everywhere, commenting on everything. A core group of people followed their example and began to do the same, including Heather Champ, who now manages Flickr’s community in an official capacity. Matt did a similar thing with MetaFilter too…he spent a lot of time interacting with people on there, taking their coats, and before long others were pitching in.

Matt Haughey’s got a few photos of

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 26, 2006

Matt Haughey’s got a few photos of Flickr HQ from back when they had only 4 or 5 employees and were still in Vancouver. Includes a screenshot of Flickr at the time, when it was still “all chat and shoeboxes”.

A couple of days ago, I pointed

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2006

A couple of days ago, I pointed to a patent filed by the Flickr folks for the concept of interestingness. I should have poked around a bit more because there’s a related patent filed by the Flickr and Josh Schachter of del.icio.us concerning “media object metadata association and ranking”. I’m not a big fan of software patents, but even so, I can’t see the new, useful, nonobvious invention here. I also find it odd that these patents reference exactly zero prior inventions on which they are based…compare with Larry Page’s patent for PageRank.

Watch democracy in action: the “ivoted” tag on Flickr.

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 07, 2006

Watch democracy in action: the “ivoted” tag on Flickr.

This is, um, interesting: a patent application

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 06, 2006

This is, um, interesting: a patent application filed by the Flickr folks for the concept of interestingness.

Space tourist Anousheh Ansari is Flickring photos

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 26, 2006

Space tourist Anousheh Ansari is Flickring photos from the International Space Station. NASA reportedly spent 250,000 man-hours building a module to upload snapshots from space via the Flickr API.

Update: That NASA man-hours stat is a joke, sorry. NASA is not that absurdly wasteful. I have no idea how she’s getting the photos on Flickr. Do they have web access on the ISS?

Update: Ansari called Larry Page today and reported that there’s no internet access on the ISS. Email is delivered in batches…so she’s either emailing them to Flickr or someone’s uploading them for her. BTW, the first kottke.org reader in space…could you give me a call when you get there? (thx, terrell)

Update: According to Ansari’s blog (from space!), email is sent from the ISS three times per day.

Flickr just launched an interface to geotag

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2006

Flickr just launched an interface to geotag your photos. Geotag = situate your photos on a map.

Friends and Family 2.0, a poem

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2006

I’m so glad I’m friends with you
I can see your Flickr pix
and your Vox posts too

Related to yesterday’s link about famous photography

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 28, 2006

Related to yesterday’s link about famous photography in online forums, here’s a classic Henri Cartier-Bresson getting rubbished on Flickr. “hard to tell at this size but is everything meant to be moving in this shot, all seems blurred”.

This news isn’t new, but it’s still

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 06, 2006

This news isn’t new, but it’s still irritating. Companies that do photo prints (Target, in this case) refuse to print certain photographs because they look too professional. Digital cameras are so good and cheap these days that everyone’s taking professional-looking photos…Flickr is full of pro-looking stuff shot by complete amateurs. This stupid policy needs to change or these places aren’t going to have any business left.

Michael has discovered a neat Flickr feature…

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2006

Michael has discovered a neat Flickr feature…it automatically converts entire sentences of all caps writing to lowercase. NO SHOUTING ON FLICKR!

Flickr photos tagged with “last day of

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2006

Flickr photos tagged with “last day of high school”. You’ve never seen so many smiles.

Flickr redesigns slightly; they’ve moved out of “

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2006

Flickr redesigns slightly; they’ve moved out of “beta” and into “gamma”. More on the redesign from Flickr HQ. (thx, joshua)

Browsing recent interestingness on Flickr, I ran

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2006

Browsing recent interestingness on Flickr, I ran across these photos of women photoshopped to include glass eyes, prostheses, eyepatches, and to look like amputees. This is a practice of devotees of amputee fetishism called Electronic Surgery. More examples here, here, and here. Probably a bit NSFW.

Update: Flickr has removed the users who posted those photos. Sorry.

Five suggested Flickr tags. Merlin brings the

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2006

Five suggested Flickr tags. Merlin brings the funny. “Rows Of Seated White Men Typing At Conferences”.

Tiltomo groups similar Flickr photos together by

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 28, 2006

Tiltomo groups similar Flickr photos together by theme, color, or texture.

Holy crap, Stewart and Caterina are on

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 28, 2006

Holy crap, Stewart and Caterina are on the cover of Newsweek this week!