Jan 17

2014 – Week 2


  • Things learnt from 5 years on The Story by Matt Locke. A great set of things that he has learnt running his The Story Conference, from the need of side-projects, that you have to do things many times to get things right and that things are valued more when paid for with own money (rather than expensed on employer).
  • Is the sea floor littered with dead sea animals by Deep Sea News. A factual take on the scare stories of Fukishima radiation. It’s not hitting the US!
  • The Most In-demand job skills in 2013 was Social media on Red/Write. yay, that’s good to know. Here’s to it continuing in 2014. Although, reality check, it should social media AND business knowledge, how to actually use it strategically, not just how to use Twitter.


A pretty quiet week in the main.

  • My project to have a photo for every day in 2014 is progressing well. Here’s the Flickr Set
  • Visited Shoreham-by-Sea to meet up with Adam, chat, and have coffee. A slightly shorter visit than planned as I had to come back up to London at short notice, but it was great to be by the sea!
  • Went along to a friend’s birthday party for a few drinks, a good chat and a fun catchup. Was good to myself my ensuring plenty of water was had along with the wine, so I felt pretty good the following day…unlike some! And I avoided the shots.


A hard week, with a total mileage of 40 miles. Two small recovery runs, plus some hard sessions:

  • 9 miles with 5 at 10k pace
  • 10 miles steady
  • 16 miles with 10 at marathon place. This one I was dreading but it went better than expected.
Jun 19


On June 12, Flickr introduced localisation – that is local language and country versions – of their site in 7 different flavours. These were French, Germany, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Traditional Chinese. In what appears to be a consequence to this extension, they also ran up against local laws (or interpretation of laws) that meant users in Germany, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore were restricted to safe search only, resulting in a storm of comment (most vocally from Germany) accusing Flickr of censorship.

And now YouTube have announced their localisation, with an extension into 9 more domains. As more than half their users are outside the US, it’s probably about time.

Today at a Google press event in Paris, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen are announcing the launch of nine new domains in Brazil, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Ireland, and the UK.

All of the language has been translated (and the UK/IE versions are different to the US – they’ve corrected the spelling!) and all are on new URLs. They have not touched the countries/languages that have given so much trouble for Flickr and have some interesting gaps. There also seems to be less advertising (currently) on the local sites; however, local content distribution deals have been done in these markets to add to the ‘professional’ content on the site which will be a revenue stream and I’m sure advertising will catch up.

What I can’t seem to find out is whether uploading to one version makes your video available to the other versions. The home pages are localised as to content – they are the result of an editorial decision. The browsing and listing pages are also localised, there are different in different markets. Looking at the honour listings for some of the video it looks like the US version has been set to the global resource and then each market has it’s own honour listings. Which seems to mean that whilst I can tell how a video would be doing in somewhere like the UK, I can’t easily pull out the US figures. Does this mean all the video ranking sites are going to be changing their results over the next few weeks?

Jun 13

Flickr and Censorship

Flickr have been having a rough ride lately when it comes to claims of censorship. From the introduction of filters to the banning from China and today additional filters in 4 countries based on local Terms of Service. As a product, I love Flickr, I’ve never had any issues with it. But the reality of working on an international product across multiple countries with differing local laws and social expectations seems to be hitting hard and not everythign has been handled well.

The Filters

Flickr used to have 2 options – your photos were open to everyone or they were not included in the search due to content or type of images. Filters were introduced in March in order to give people more control over what they see. This is based on a user self-assessing their photos as safe, moderate or restricted and also choosing their level of comfort in the types of images they see. When launched there was confusion about these 2 types of choices and there still is – people regularly pop up in the bug forum asking why images cannot be seen, not having got the message that filters are in place. There are also real bugs still in the system, with images appearing at the wrong time, such as when not logged in but being visible if logged in.

The filtering method has been seen as censorship by some, with passionate discussions taking place about what constitutes ‘safe’ and whose morals and perspectives set the baseline. Because what is normal and OK in one country may be extremely restricted in another. For me, I find it weird that some people find nudity in classic statues upsetting; the UK moved on from that phase after the Victorians 😉 But some do take this POV, which can lead to what is seen as misuse of the Report Abuse flag, either through their own lens of what is ‘proper’ or deliberately to create hassle.

The deletions and account statuses

There have been two high profile cases of images being filtered or removed. The first was of Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir. Her images were being sold against her copyright declaration, and the discussion that resulted on her Flickr pages was deleted. She received an apology, where Stewart Butterfield said:

The photo was deleted — again, mistakenly — because of the direction the comments had gone, which included posting the personal information of the infringing company’s owner and suggestions for how best to exact revenge. It is an emotional issue and most people were there to support Rebekka in a positive way, but some of the angry mob behavior crossed the line.

In Rebekkah’s case all was resolved and a wider discussion was held that helped modify some Flickr Policies. But then an over-enthusiastic application of policies happened again with Violet Blue whose whole account was switched to restricted by an admin before being reviewed and reverted back. (btw, if you are of a sensitive nature or at work, that link may trigger filters!) As Violet says:

This touches on a much larger issue that I think is the Achilles’ Heel of 2.0 (especially community and social networking) businesses. Trying to build a business about creating community while hoping to avoid making room for human nature. Sidestepping sexuality (Flickr), attempting to weed it out of community clusters (Tribe), or trying to pretend it doesn’t exist by blanket censorship (YouTube). Each of these responses punish users. And none of them work, and are a constant battle, and destroys relations between the businesses and the communities they’re attempting to serve (and make money off of). It also adds a lot of confusion to conversations about what businesses are legally liable for, what’s permissible and legal for individuals.

Flickr is not a closed group, it has to cope with multiple viewpoints – it’s trying hard and personally I think the filters are a great step, but errors are going to be made.

The Corporate Censorship

And now we move onto the bigger picture – actual censorship taking place due to country’s laws. First of all, Flickr was blocked by China
. There was and still is a large outcry in the forums, with people blaming Flickr on the one hand and on the other providing ways to work around the GFW so that people can still see images. All Flickr and Yahoo can do is try and find out why it is blocked and negotiate with the country.

Today, a new policy kicked into action:

If your Yahoo! ID is based in Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong or Korea you will only be able to view safe content based on your local Terms of Service so won’t be able to turn SafeSearch off.

By the timing of it, this appears to be related to the localisation of the service, as German, Chinese and Korean versions are all now available. Local versions mean you have to abide by local Terms of Service. From the German users in particular, there has been a large and volatile reaction, looking at the forum and images such as assbach’s. Unfortunately, the change co-incided with many of the community team travelling to promote their new localisation, to staff presence in the forum topics has been zero until very recently and there is still no formal response to what is happening, which just fuels the debate.

And as I get to the end of this, I find that Thomas Hawk, CEO of Zooomer, another photo service yet still a heavy Flickr user, has also done a summary of the situation and his feeling s about this. Thomas has been one of the more vocal critics of Flickr, but he does try and keep it more objective than some of the forum posters.

With all the changes recently and the general rise in the use of web based apps, Flickr have been gaining a lot more new users and will get more when Yahoo photos close. But the difficulties of scaling up, of adding filters, of localising, of coming into the corporate fold with a Yahoo login and the move to Yahoo wallet away from Paypal, all of these are slowly adding up to remove the feel good factor for many people who have been members for a longtime. Some of the special factors that made Flickr Flickr seem to be subsumed by the reality of running a real, global business and not a small friendly web2.0 website. I still love the service, but i think business reality is destroying a little gezellig corner of the web.

Apr 24

Flickr and Upcoming connection

I’ve never seen this before, a Flickr photo with an upcoming event tag. Sheila added these tags manually. But as they are both now on the same login, I guess it can be done automatically now…wonder if we will see this?

Flickr and Upcoming connection

Apr 23

24 Hours of Flickr

Flickr have announced a ‘day in the life of’ project. On 5th May, take your photos, send them to the group, map them, comment on them. Join in the fun and you may get your image published and featured in Flickr Events.

Flickr 24 hours

One of the things that Flickr is great at, one of its defining characteristics, is the community surrounding the application. And here’s yet a further example of how it embraces the people who enjoy the site and gets them to join in an event. Look at the responses to what else happens on 5 May, although no-one yet has mentioned that last year it was International No Pants day, (luckily in the US sense of the word meaning trousers). This year, it’s 4 May, pity as I think we could have done with some photos of that 😉

Mar 22

Flickr and Photo classifications

Flickr have finally released their photo classification and categorisation system, along with some improvements into how it communicates the status of help calls. Given the wide range of photos available on the site, there have long been issues with differences of opinions about what was considered ‘decent’ or art, about what could be shared with the world and what should be kept between friends. The new changes allow users to categorise their photos and then to select what type of images they wish to see. Open to all, no problem it’s as easy as only seeing the safe ones.

* Uploading: The new system enables you to categorize everything you upload by Safety Level (safe, moderate, restricted) and Content Type (photo, art/illustration/cgi, screenshot). So as an example, you can set a default preference to tell Flickr you generally upload safe screenshots.
* Searching and Viewing: The reason you need to place your content into the categories above is so that content filters can be applied later on, both in search and in your general browsing around. There is a new search preference available to you, where you can choose what content you’d normally like to have show up in searches (e.g. photos and screenshots), and a safety level you’re comfortable with.
* Your Account: You can now set up default categories for your uploads and set your SafeSearch preference. As a bonus, you can also hide your photostream from public searches on Flickr (and from any 3rd party sites that access Flickr via our open API)
* “Flag This Photo”: The “This may be offensive” link has expanded to a widget where you can change the categories associated with individual images, and we’ve updated the Organizr so you can edit stuff there too (both individual photos and in batches)
* We’ve heard your feedback: The status of your account is now noted on Your Account page.

Great news to help you manage your experience on the site.

Mar 14

Flickr Collections

Flickr have finally (after what appears to be a couple of years of asking in the forums) released their sets of sets feature, calling it Collections. It enables you to pull together sets, nesting them up to 5 deeps, arranging as you may organise your photos into nested directories on you hard drive. So for those so inclined, there are going to be hours of fun ahead re-arranging the photos, moving them around until they are just how you want them. So far, after having created only one collection, it looks fun and useful. In summary, here’s how you organise:

  • a photo can be added to a set
  • a photos can be added to more than one set, say if you have a set for a specific holiday and then a set for images of flowers, one image can be in both
  • sets can now be grouped into collections. I’ve created a SXSW collection for photos from this and last year.
  • collections can be grouped into further collections. One shortcoming appears to be that a collection can contain sets or collections, but not both. Only the lowest levels of any branch can be sets. Now, you can get round this by creating a collection with only one set, but this is a hack.

I thought I’d try and do a diagram about how to arrange collections (pink) and sets (Purple) together, demonstrating that you need to a single set to a collection in order to group things together in. This is just one way I may end up organising my images.

Flickr Collections

What may be of more interest to some people is the way you can now change the layout on your home page, moving between two columns of small pictures to one column of medium pictures and being able to display either will sets or collections. A nice set of features being released a couple of days before Flickr/Yahoo account merge is mandatory.

Feb 01

Another Yahoo issue with Flickr

As if upsetting a whole bunch of customers by forcing Flickr users to sign up with Yahoo to logon to the service, Yahoo now shoots itself in the foot by breaking their own terms of service.

Yahoo’s new vertical brand sites, such as their Wii page, are pulling content from the rest of the Yahoo world, including Flickr. Unfortunately they are pulling content that has been set as All Rights Reserved or non-commercial, which means it should be going nowhere except Flickr.

When loading content up to the site, the ToS are clear that you own the photos and always will; they allow you to choose from a wide range of Creative Commons licenses to define how you assert rights over the photo. Flickr maintain a licence to display the images on their site and their site only. Flickr also has an API which allows people to pull thumbnails of images into their websites and link back to the photo. This API has an explicit clause preventing it’s use on commercial sites.

So by building the Flickr widget on the wii page, showing all photos that are tagged with wii they are breaking the API rules and stealing content from people who have asserted their IP rights.

Now, not everyone obeys all these rules, but normally big businesses with big lawyers should now better. We don’t know the thought processes behind these decisions, if whoever made the design choice is aware of the rights behind the images and just thought they were Yahoo and they could do what they want with Yahoo images. (read the comment from one of the developers though, which implies a mistake)

In protest, a whole bunch of images have been tagged with wii, including ones that call out their copyright violations and these have been appearing in the photo stream.

A couple of hours after all this kicked off on the forums the staff came back to say they had tracked down the developer team and they are changing the code to only pull photos licensed with the appropriate CC. From start to finish, from the ‘error’ being identified and to it being fixed took 2-3 hours which in normal circumstances would be treated as a perfect example of how building a community around your product and having places where you can converse with customers and get their feedback and communicate back to them directly helps you react to crises. Unfortunately for Flickr it comes on the back of the login issue, so more bad karma.

The last word is for Stewart Butterfield, Flickr founder:

And the more important point is: whether or not this use was legal (and I’m personally sure that it is), we’d like to operate at a slightly higher level than mere compliance with the law. You can count on this being the center of many interesting internal conversations!

Let’s hope they can continue to operate at a slightly higher level!

Jan 31

Flickr and Yahoo accounts – relationships are hard to break up

It’s finally arrived, the time when you have to merge your Flickr and Yahoo accounts. It was obvious it was coming and now they want to move the final 5% of users across to the Yahoo! login system to simplify things.

95% of your fellow Flickrites already use this system and their experience is just the same as yours is now, except they sign in on a different page. It’s easy to switch: it takes about a minute if you already have a Yahoo! ID and about five minutes if you don’t.

Now, the last time I tried this, I got demerged very, very quickly. The incessant need to Yahoo to be reassured that you were you and could remember your password drove me insane. Flickr is cookied and that’s the way I like it – if I go to the page, then it remembers me and I never. This lets me have the system set up on my parents PC as well and they can see the stuff without having to create an account.

But it looks like there is no longer a choice. Read the >700 message thread about the changes over on the Flickr site or take a look at the BBC report. There is so much passion about this service and so much dislike and distrust of Yahoo! that tempers are running high. Many of the last stalwarts are threatening or have left.

The main issues as I can see are:

  • the inability to stay logged in or to use other Yahoo accounts at the same time. Supposedly fixed, as attested to by Flickr staff in the forums. I know i can deliberately sign out of Yahoo and still be in Flickr, but it depends now if it ever asks me for my password. My general Yahoo account seems to ask me about once a month to sign in, which is about on par with gmail, so not too much worries.

    Flickr Staff: mroth says:

    loupiote: can i use some yahoo services (e.g. Instant Messenger) with a yahoo-ID while at the same time i am logged on flickr using another yahoo-ID?

    Yes, I do this nearly every day, since I have a separate account for work and personal stuff. My Flickr account always “just stays” logged in on my computer, and isn’t affected when I log in and out of IM with different accounts.

  • Why do I have to give them all this info to sign up with a service I don’t want. They are after gender, birthdate and postcode at the moment, which is not as much as some I’ve seen. However, I can’t seem to delete other personal information that I’ve given them inthe past such as job, which was collected for a completely different reason/service and associated with the account. They do ask too much that is mandatory overall, but not for straight signup.
  • I have to get a Yahoo email address and if I don’t use it, it gets deleted and my Flickr account will go. On the sign up page it does imply that your user name becomes an email address, so this does appear to be compulsory but again the Flickr staff have answered that they have set it up so that you don’t have to use the email. I’m not actually sure what to make of this one as there are many different stories in the comments. My Yahoo id is associated with my gmail account, but, according to my YIM, I have a Yahoo email account as it occasionally tells me I have messages (about 1 per year) but if I go into my account on Yahoo it says I don’t have one and I should sign up. I’m not sure what is the real situation but everything works so far with this
  • I’m going to get spammed by Yahoo. Again, there is history of yahoo not been the best at all with personal data. But I have a yahoo account tied into gmail and as far as I can tell I’ve never received marketing messages from them (I opted out) and I’m blind to online ads these days. So I know that I’m not getting spammed.

So there’s a list of facts and experiences about Yahoo and the challenges that have been raised. It does not appear to be that bad.

But unfortunately, passion for a brand is not fact based. I feel the same way now as I did when I started this post – angry and annoyed. I like my Flickr, I like the way it feels to me. My mental picture of it is nowhere near the same as it is of Yahoo, I have far more of a relationship with the photo brand than I do with the parent one. Flickr lived through it’s brand advocates; this is going to lose some of them. It has a place in peoples hearts that many brands would give their eye-teeth for. I’ve merged by accounts but my subscription is up on 13th Mar, 2 days before it becomes compulsory to have a yahoo signin and I’ve not decided to carry on with it yet. This is not a fact based decision, this is emotional-based. And sometimes, however much good customer service you have, however many times you respond in the forums and pay attention to the people who are angry at this, nothing will break through the emotional hurt.

Update: if you want to read a summary of the feelings instead of wade through the rapidly approaching 800 messages, see Thomas Hawk’s blog post. Yes, he is the CEO of Zooomr but he is also a passionate user of Flickr who has over 5000 friends and belongs to a couple of pages of groups.

1/2: A final update..from Heather going above and beyond.

Despite current thinking, we’re not evil and we don’t want this to dominate the conversation, so I’ll just pay the refund myself so it doesn’t have to be giant process. The money will just come from my personal PayPal account and no receipts sent or anything.

Dec 17

Flickr Presents

Flickr have a wonderful easter egg this Christmas – adding notes to the photo gives you Xmas hats and Santa beards. See here for an example. Furthermore they have extended the upload limits for everyone.

And it’s even better to give the gift of Flickr since now your recipients will get unlimited uploads — the two gigabyte monthly limit is no more (yep, pro users have no limits on how many photos they can upload)! At the same time, we’ve upped the limit for free account members as well, from 20MB per month up to 100MB (yep, five times more)!

Feb 08

Future of Web Apps: Flickr

Cal Henderson – Flickr

10 reasons to love web2.0

Flickr – Awsome
Web2.0 – kinda awesome
Birthday – in SanFran on Friday. they’re 2

Passionate users are important…they care about building Flickr – gets people to like it. They need to get people to care about it by caring themselves.

Difference btw what users want and what they need. Watch the doing not jus the saying. Undersntad the bahaviour

Collaboration: the first incarnation was an online game…Flickr was built on the same tech, with social network idea was there There’s incentive to get your friends to sign up to share. Collaborative tagging means that you can add your tags to friends photos. Let’s the organsied people in your network gives you value (with less effort)

Aggregation: shows the latest; combines things; latst photos from your contacts. You can slice by tags, by geotag, interestingness etc. Create different views

Open APIS: we always mean web services APIs. Created APIs for them selves and then let other people to use it. Otehr people can build your interfaces…allows people to build great aps around FLickr etc. Increases creativity. Allows cool aps. Allows the edge cases. If you don’t provide the API, people are going to do it anyway – but in a way that hurts you more

Clean URLS: expose the logical structure? USe Mod_Rewrite in apache. Does not have to point to anythng on a server…the server can translate from URL to a file name – keep things simple. Make them guessable. Design in from the beginning. You may need to scale – how do you do it if URLS designed badly

AJAX: worst name for a technology ever. It could really just be called A. Not really about XML, or JS, it’s about A in any format. Need a strong API to leverage this in the best way. USed to streamline the interactions they had on Flickr – reducing page reloads. Keeps context etc.

Unicode: (features a picture of the Rosetta stone). Internationlisation comes first, localisation comes later. Think glbal from the beginning.

Desktop Integration: RSS etc. Different desktop apps work with Flickr, eg to upload photos. Use APIs, get round things that suck on web Browser and otehr platform integrations can also help, improve the user experience. Integrate with email – commonest app for people to use. Easy mechanism for people to use. On mobile as well. (‘Flickr private machnaism is stupid and they should not have had it’) Use the esixitng structures

Mobile: there are some standards and sometimes people use them. The browsing experience will always be poor – too small a screen. It;s not just a case of re-presenting the content -it’s thinking about how to present the content in a different way.

Open data: Import and export.let people leave – give access for people to control their data and get it out. Not just the photos they’ve uploaded, but all the metadata that has been added to the photo on the web. ANd people have built on this as well to improve the service.

Open Content: some companies ‘own’ the data you upload. Flickr states that it still belongs to the user. They can control the usage. (well, try to) CC Licence being pushed.