Tag Archives: flickr

2,000,000 pageviews on Flickr…I think?

After about three and a half years since I registered for Flickr Pro, I’ve hit the 2,000,000 photo-views milestone.

I had expected to hit that mark tomorrow, because of two trending photos I submitted to Reddit’s r/nyc and r/CityPorn subreddits. However, it’s a little strange because I shot past the 2M mark because this photo of an informal Pride parade received more than 19,000 page views in a matter of seconds:

Flickr stats

Flickr stats

If you look at the stats pic above, you’ll see that nearly all of the photoviews come from “Unknown Source”…Nome of my photos have ever reached that many pageviews in so short a time, so I’m guessing someone’s Reddit/Tumblr scraper went bonkers.

I expected this photo of the New York skyline from NYU’s Kimmel Center to be the photo that racked up the thousands of pageviews, but I suppose it’s proper timing that a Pride-related photo would have the honors.

NYC's Washington Square Park, Fifth Avenue, and Empire State Building from NYU's Kimmel Center

NYC’s Washington Square Park, Fifth Avenue, and Empire State Building from NYU’s Kimmel Center

Flickr’s redesign makes it a photo service actually worth sharing

I’ve been a paying Flickr member since late 2009, but this year was going to be my last. I believed this even after I forgot to change my billing settings and Flickr auto-renewed me into 2015, because it seemed chances were good that Flickr, a long-neglected and resource intensive property, would get the ax soon and I’d get a refund anyway.

Flickr’s been a great place to organize and store photos, but its outdated, lackluster design – mostly unchanged for nearly a half decade – made it unappealing for actually viewing photos. In addition to paying the annual $24.95 fee for Flickr’s pro membership, I bought third-party iOS apps just to browse my own Flickr collection. So leaving Flickr would’ve been inconvenient, but only in the way that having to move my dusty box of photos from one attic to another would be inconvenient.

So, of course, I was one of the jaded naysayers who, after hearing Tumblr was bought by Yahoo for $1.1 billion, thought:

  1. Hello Tumblr, welcome to retirement
  2. Goodbye Flickr, that’s $1 billion that won’t be going to your modernization

But Yahoo’s (quite abrupt) launch of a “better, brighter” redesign will keep me a happy member for at least the next couple of years. For the first time in about 4 years of being a paid member, I’ll actually want to use Flickr to show my photos.

Before this week’s redesign, Flickr’s sparse, thumbnail-heavy design – which may have been sensible five years ago, when bandwidth was more expensive – made the service unappealing for easy browsing of images. Here’s what my profile page looked like in April (courtesy of web.archive.org, which apparently captured it in French) compared to post-redesign:

full sizes

Note: Flickr’s JavaScript hides the photos that are outside the browser’s current viewing area, which is why you see all those gray boxes at the bottom.

If you haven’t been actively using Flickr (and based on ongoing reports of Flickr’s demise, this is likely the case), Flickr’s redesign may seem like just catch-up to the photo-heavy designs long adopted by Google+ and, well, Tumblr. But it was an absolutely critical improvement for Flickr. Flickr has had more than enough features for managing and discussing photos (compared to non-photo-centric services), so the fact that the redesign is mostly a skin-deep overhaul is just fine (for now).

This seems almost too obvious to state, but the appeal of photography is rooted in the immediacy and attractiveness of its visual display. A wedding photographer told me that the key to his success was that he took the time to create a printed book of photos for his clients instead of just handing them a photo DVD. Because while photo DVDs hold many more photos, having to pop in the DVD and browse photo files with the computer’s default photo program was a terrible viewing experience. And so clients rarely browsed photo DVDs for leisure. And more importantly, to the photographer dependent on referrals, customers rarely showed the DVD photos to visiting friends and family.

The Flickr “photostream” now actually looks and navigates like a photostream. There’s a few JavaScript issues and performance kinks to work out, but I can’t overstate how much more nicer the redesign is, and I wonder how much Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer had to do with pushing it through. When she was a vice president at Google, Mayer was well-aware of how sensitive users are to speed – a half-second delay in retrieving search results resulted in a 20% drop in revenue and traffic from users. I imagine this sensitivity is even more acute when it comes to visual streams, in which we expect to experience images as fast as the light hits our retinas. In 2010, Mayer took some good-natured ribbing about how stingy Google’s (text) search results were. While she didn’t go into the justification behind Google’s only-10-links-per-page design, she spoke proudly of a new infinite scroll feature in Google Image Search, which allowed users to scroll thousands of images quickly.

“People are able to scan lots of visual information, really fast,” Mayer said. “[But] reading a search result may take longer.”

The redesign improves Flickr’s viability as a social network, too. Even though Flickr had one of the earliest photo communities and discussion groups, the homepage did very little to surface those interactions. Instead, the default user homepage put priority on showing users their own most recently uploaded photos, which, if you hadn’t uploaded photos in weeks or months, was not a good use of the homepage. There were subsections for the photos uploaded by your groups and friends, but again, the thumbnail-focused design made this unusable. I almost never clicked through the thumbnails of other people’s photos because it was impossible to know from 75×75 pixels if the photo was worth looking at.

Here’s what the Flickr homepage looked like for nearly five years after the 2008 redesign, (courtesy of CNET):

Via a CNET review

Here’s what logged-in users see on the Flickr homepage today:

The Flickr homepage today, for a logged in user

Right now, it seems that Flickr is just showing the most recent photos from my network, without curating them with data metrics (such as number of views, favorites, comments) to ensure that the photo is also interesting. But I’m already more interested in my network than I’ve ever been.

When Flickr introduced its new mobile app late last year, that actually bolstered my opinion that the service was in its final year, because the new app seemed like the very epitome of a hasty ohmygod-lets-just-do-something plan: “maybe if we add filters, users will come back to us.” But this week’s changes give some assurance that someone in charge really cares about making Flickr relevant again. The photo-centric design and the (practically) limitless storage space are absolutely critical to the way people use photo services. Flickr’s previous limit of 200 photos for non-pro users was made Flickr completely useless in a technological era where the average smartphone user produces 200 (relatively) likeable photos in a couple of weeks.

And the redesign makes Flickr a real home for photos, not just a storage box. For awhile, I’ve half-assedly maintained a set of my “favorite” photos, about 500 of the 8,500 I’ve dumped on Flickr so far. My favorites set wasn’t a place to show off (the album design was as plain as the old photostream design), but merely triage for my photo archive before I finally got around to quitting Flickr to move to an attractive portfolio site. But with the new design, my photoset pages are just about good enough to be portfolio pages:

Part of my "favorites" set

Part of my “favorites” set

To give you an idea of how little I navigated my own Flickr collections – i.e how important the interface is to the photo browsing experience – my first thought when looking through my set of favorites after the redesign wasn’t, “These photos look nice,” but: “Wow, I don’t even remember taking some of these photos.”

Even though the Tumblr acquisition is the big news this week, kudos to the Flickr team for their own big changes and their big ambitions.

Marina Abramović’s Top 50 Time Hogs; (Women sit around a lot)

OK, now it’s time to arrange the participants in the MOMA’s “Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present” Flickr set by number of minutes each person stared at Abramovic. The Paco dude who went about a dozen times is the only person, apparently, to have stayed the whole day. It’s interesting to read the comments on the portraits of the long-suffering sitters; some people are understandably pissed to have been behind them.

Surprisingly, women made up the vast majority of the top 50 sitters; 37 by my quick visual count. Just a statistical fluke? Does the MOMA have a higher base of female visitors? Did females identify more with the female artist?

(One of Marina’s photos is mistakenly labeled, which is why my script placed her in this list…too lazy to fix right now)

See my list of the top 200 most popular portraits from Marina’s exhibit.

Photos by Marco Anelli. © 2010 Marina Abramović

Flickr Snowball Fight post-mortem: A lesson in being first

IMG_The photo that briefly led the Flickr blog
The photo that briefly led the Flickr blog

I’ve had a basic Flickr account for about a year now and before this past weekend, I don’t think I had more than 2,000 hits across the 150 random photos in my stream. After Flickr spotlighted my photos of the Times Square snowball fight at the top of its blog, I received about 71,000 hits and hundreds of comments in three days:

Flickr Stats

The funniest part of it is, is that I had uploaded pretty much the exact same set of photos more than 30 hours before. After work, while at the office, I noticed that CNN had spotlighted freelancer Doug Kim’s excellent B&W photos of the incident on his blog; I didn’t realize until I saw the reaction he got how amazing this event was to anyone who hadn’t been there that night, possibly even more interesting than for even those of us lucky to be there. I re-uploaded those same photos at a slightly larger size so I could post them “Big Picture” style to my blog. I’m pretty sure the important tags (“snow”, “snowball”) were in both versions (in fact, the picked-up version lacks “snowball fight” as a tag, which is the term that the Flickr blog post links to.

Apparently, I had good timing. Maybe ten minutes after I uploaded the larger-sized photos, I started noticing a stream of comments…and when I finally noticed that the thumbnail of my photo was not just showing on my Flickr page, but on everyone else’s…I hastily did a quick edit of the hundreds of other snowball fight photos I took that night and uploaded them. My two favorite of the secondary bunch…actually, of the whole bunch period, and I only bothered to look at them again because I figured Flickr users were OK with slightly more quantity than quality.

Snowstorm and snowball fight in Times Square, Manhattan, New York (larger size)

Times Square during the snow storm

According to the NYT’s City Room Blog, one of the earliest popular mentions of the event was on BoingBoing, which linked to a Tweeted mobile phone photo. It wasn’t the clearest, but making something known is more important. I’m kicking myself a little for editing my photos when I got home but then only posting them to a private online album for friends. I’m glad Kim’s excellent photos got huge play when CNN’s iReport gave it a spot on CNN.com’s homepage.

Two days after the snowball fight, I didn’t have much to add to from what Kim’s photos had shown, so I figured the least I could do was license my photos under Creative Commons so that everyone could freely share them. I’m lucky enough to have a steady job now, so I’m just happy to show as many people as possible the cheery, smiling side of New Yorkers (or, at least its tourists’).

Some of my favorite comments, on Flickr and this Reddit post, which made it to the top of r/photography. I forget that not everyone knows what Times Square has been like since the pedestrian-calming measures took effect (and now I realize that this snowball fight probably wouldn’t have taken place any other year beforehand), or even what a snowstorm is.

This made me feel a little bit better about the world, so thanks! When I think of NYC, the last thing I expect to see is people laughing and having fun! 😛

Gets way too much crap for being an unfriendly city. Glad these photos show how untrue that reaction can be sometimes.

kevinbhookun Pro User says:
Reminds me of a Scene from Gangs of New York, except this is much cleaner :)

judo_dad1953 Pro User says:
I’m listening to Franz Schuberts Unfinished Symphony No.8 in B minor; as I’m wandering through your photostream. Its a perfect combination; it draws me to the image, making me wish I could pass into it and experience the moment wholly. Still, doing so vicariously is no small thing. Its an enviable record of an enviable moment. A tip of the hat to you for posting such a beautiful photo!

Kyle_Butler Pro User says:

I was so excited when I saw this picture I did a back flip. However, I was in a sleeping bag…so it got really weird. My cat looked at me as though he no longer accepted me as his owner. Then I realized I had no cat, and wondered why this creature was in my home!
See, your photo has set off a chain of events that not even Ashton Kutcher could fix!

Eric Austria Pro User says:
i was just there last nov. what a difference a day of snow is. if i’m gonna be stranded from a snowstorm this would be the ideal place.

Ta_nya says:
hah) “snowstorm”…for us it’s really fun to hear such a word. I know that you are not used to the weather like this and it’s really a storm for you, but here in Moscow we would have called it like “huh, snowy again”)) anyway, amazing pics)

Well, if spotlighting my photo was Flickr’s roundabout way to get me to sign up for a Pro account…well, it worked. I had a vague sense of the Flickr ecosystem work…but when no one stops by your photostream, you don’t see it in practice. Having interacted with dozens of other photogs and spending some time seeing the other great work out there…I’m seeing a lot more utility for a Flickr account than just providing people a repository for the random CC-images I have. And I’m going to try it out as the hosting service for my images. Dreamhost’s recent spottiness as of late didn’t give me confidence that it could handle serving up pages with multiple large images to thousands of visitors.

So lesson learned: when you have a nice camera, don’t keep the good memories to yourself. Happy Holidays.