On Flickr and photo sharing in general

Flickr is a mess lately. They say they’re putting the emphasis on mobile, like everybody else nowadays, which makes that the beta version shows photos in a resolution optimized for mobile devices, but are too small for viewing on a wide screen. Using Flickr lately has been very frustrating, I can’t opt out of the beta version, and seeing how things are headed, most probably this new version will stay. Also the perm rolling feature of displaying the photos make it very cluttered a difficult to view and sort through older photos.

All this made me think – what’s the point of using Flickr now?

I started using Flickr about the time I re-started doing sketches and taking digital photographs. Nowadays it looks like we have been doing it forever, but 8 years ago digital cameras were starting to get more common and the whole concept of sharing with a bunch of strangers your photos was picking up.

At the time I was part of a group on visual thinking and got some feedback and inspiration to continue to do sketches. I spent a lot of time on Flickr because they had an online photo editor (that was later bought by Google, can’t remember its name right now) before I moved on to other photo editors.

So, basically, my main motivation to use Flickr has been its ability to store, group and share photos, together with the possibility of getting new ideas from other photo collections (mainly The Commons collections). But now visiting my own Flickr photostream is getting increasingly frustrating. Shall I stop posting my photos/sketches on Flickr? After, what is the use of “sharing” for the sake of sharing when you don’t get any feedback? I rarely get “faves” or comments and the views a photo gets don’t tell me much, other than they are directly proportional to the effort I put on “promoting” them, i.e. posting the link to Twitter.

Yet, there’s still the question, if I’m not interested in “promoting” the images I produce, what’s the point of uploading them to Flickr and leave them available to anyone to view them? I guess there’s always a part of ourselves that seeks a certain approval or recognition from the other. And being our “creations” (though too big a word for a simple snapshot or a quick sketch) expressions ourselves, we tend to identify ourselves to them. So if our creations find no liking among our audience, what can expect of our very selves? That is, of course, keeping all due proportions. Still, tiny bits of our “selves” being systematically ignored, can amount to a very demotivating force.

Lots to ponder. For sure I’ll continue doing sketches and butchering photos. I can always share photos with my mother (an unconditional fan for whatever I might produce) by email. And I know that there are a couple of internet friends that might be interested in seeing from time to time one of my drawings or even the odd photo. Just wondering if there’s more people out there that might be interested and I if should care at all. But then again, is not like I’ll get any feedback either from this post. Just thinking aloud. Is there anything like “drawing aloud”?

“Salvando neuronas / Rescuing brain cells” An old favorite sketch done as part of a visual thinking exercise.


Everything changes…

Last week my C:\ drive died so had to replace it. I’ve got a new c:\ with Windows 8, which means I need to adjust to a new operating system. And reinstall all the programs, applications, devices I use. And try to recover my iTunes library. ITunes has also changed lately so I have to relearn how to install everything again. Firefox has been reinstalled and I lost all my marklets, booklets, shortcuts, you name it.

And now Flickr has also changed. Yeah, my photos look better because I’ve uploaded in most cases high resolution versions, but everything is so crowded, or at it least it looks that way to me. I feel like I have to learn everything again, feeling so old suddenly, things changing so fast. It’s been almost 8 years I’ve been on Flickr, I’ve been through many changes since I’ve started. Before it was acquired by Yahoo. And now Tumblr has also been acquired by Yahoo. I loved posting quotes on Tumblr. Will that change too? Am I being left behind by the social media train? One that is biggr, fastr, bettr and ultimately irrelevant?

I’ve never been good at baking or knitting. My hobbies consist of butchering images and posting them on Flickr. And posting quotes on tumblr of articles I found via Twitter. That was so 2010…

But as the Red Queen said “…it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”




The problem with Instagram

Some time ago I opened an account on Instagram, I didn’t post a lot there mainly because I the camera on my iPod wasn’t that good and very few connections (followers and people or corporate accounts I would like to follow). Lately I got an iPhone with a better camera, which meant that I had the means and increased opportunities to post photos on the go.

As Instagram gather traction and my connections grew, so the interactions and incentive for me to post grew. One of the features I really liked of Instagram was the possibility to post images directly to Twitter and Flickr, as the main connections I wanted to “share” my content were in those networks.

But then Instagram was acquired by Facebook, which meant that Facebook “friction-less” sharing model will apply to it, but more important, that Instagram would need to justify its acquisition value.

After the infamous change of Terms of service, that was somehow modified subsequently, it was clear that Instagram intends to use its users and their content for commercial purposes. This issue deserves to be discussed separately but for me it meant that now I’d have to watermark images I’d like to upload to Instagram. Seeing this need to clearly identify the copyright of image authors, an app was developed. I use Marksta for this.

Then come the problem of the square Instagram format, which might have been appealing at the beginning of the Polaroid nostalgia trend but can only go to far. And though at the beginning of photography most images were shoot in cameras using square format (film or plates), once developed photos were usually cropped in more aesthetic landscape or portrait formats. Instagram forced you to go the other way around, first you shoot your photo most of the time you compose your image with a device that has a screen/viewer with a landscape format that can be shifted to portrait. Then, if you want to upload to Instagram, you have to crop your image into square format which distorts the composition you were trying to achieve. Granted most of the images uploaded to Instagram don’t have that much of a deliberate composition, but still.

But when there’s a need, there’s an app. There’s an app called NoCrop that will add enough white space around your photo, whatever the ratio, to make it square. So there, you only have to use three apps so far – The photo one to take, do a very basic retouching of your photo and crop it according to the composition you want to enhance. Then you add some white space to make it square. then you add your watermark, then you open it on Instagram, where you might decide to add a filter for good form. And then you can finally publish the damn photo! Talk about convenience!

I wouldn’t mind the cumbersome process as long as it was about getting the images I wanted, in the format I wanted, posted to and shared with the networks I wanted. Until Instagram decided to tell all my Facebook friends were to find me and to start following me which really annoys me because if I have wanted to “share” any images posted on Instagram with my Facebook contacts, I would have posted them to Facebook directly.

At the end of the day is a matter of cost/benefit. People might argue that the benefit derived from sharing images on Instagram comes at no cost for the user, when as matter of fact, I’m providing Instagram, and Facebook, with content and connections. Ultimately Instagram and Facebook will have the right to push advertising to me (the user) and my “friends” (connections) using my information to companies to target advertising and even using my photos to sell to other content providers or to be used for advertising. And as for benefit, the only benefit I would personally gather would be the odd like here and there.

I prefer to save me the trouble and continue posting my images on Flickr. I pay them a fee, I upload what I want in the format I want, I share it with whoever I want and from time to time I get the odd fave. Everybody wins, isn’t it? 😉

Quick review after 7 years on Flickr and a year and a half on Instagram

It’s been more than 7 years that I’ve been on Flickr. Over these 7+ years I have posted 4,632 items (photos, drawings and the odd video) and had 10,806 views of them. So roughly two views per item on average.

I’ve been on Instagram for over a year and posted 155 photos. I don’t have statistics for the views on my Instagram items but I think my ratios must be about the same or even less encouraging. I’ve been posting more lately on Instagram, but feeding back into my Flickr stream as Instagram gives you the possibility to post directly to other media.

Views on my images on Flickr were close to non-existent as I’ve chosen to hide them from public searches, don’t use tags and don’t post images to groups frequently. So if you want to increase the views on your Flickr items, do exactly the opposite. I have, however, increased the views of my photos by posting links to Twitter. I’m very grateful to the positive feedback I get from followers on Twitter about images on Flickr.

It’s a bit frustrating that only other Flickr members are able to “fave” a photo. And the same goes for images on Instagram. So you’re kind of forced to publish material on several platforms to reach the users of any of them – Flickr, 500px, +G, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, your blog, and whichever newest thing comes next week. Though some of these allow you to post the same material in several platforms, there’s no way to have a single location to store your material and different venues to access. Each service would keep a copy of your material in their servers, with different degrees of privacy and usage terms. Copyright control and license issues aside, there’s still the problem of views statistics. How to keep tab of views, comments, links to your images, etc.? It’s almost like a job in itself. But what for?

I sometimes look with envy at the numbers of other users (followers, faves/likes, comments, thumbs up). I imagine that they’re not only the result of the quality or nature of the image, but also of the promotion efforts and connections gathered by the poster. In a way, you can argue that a big part of the success of a work of art has always been a matter of how known is the artist. Promotion is good for the artist, the more your work is known, the more you’ll be requested, the more work you’ll produce, the more you’ll get known, a (theoretically) virtuous circle.

But then again, not every Flickr (or other photo-sharing service) user is an artist. At least I know I’m not.

When I look back at some of the things I posted 6 years ago I realized I’ve come a long way. Equipment and graphic tools have improved and advanced so much in these years. I’ve learned a couple of things while butchering photos. I’ve met friends that have inspired me more than once to draw and create something new. Maybe after 7 years I’ll be able to produce good images and increase my average of views per photo. Maybe get some more “faves”. Oh the possibilities! 🙂

What I’ve learned from Flickr

It has been over a year that I’ve been a Flickr member. I’ve discovered Flickr thanks to my guru, Merlin. But I would talk about that in another post.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my Flickr behavior has changed over this year. At first I signed in just to be able to post comments. Then I decided to upload a photo to have a buddy icon. I love buddy icons. I like them so much that I change mine every so often. Sometimes I tell myself I should stick to the same image for my buddy icon, make it my “visual signature”. Alas, I find it more interesting to see how a particular image would fit the 48 x 48 pixel limit than in building a particular persona of myself as expressed by my buddy icon.

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