Phil Gyford


Wednesday 25 August 2004

PreviousIndexNext Seeing the light flicker

When Ludicorp launched Flickr at EtCon earlier this year it looked quite fun. It looked like it might be a Friendster with a point — share photos with your friends.

After registering however, I realised I didn’t have a burning desire to send photos to people, and I didn’t really take many photos anyway. And so, while I’ve noticed more and more friends using Flickr’s swelling number of photo-related services, I’ve rarely been back. But, after months of sporadic struggling I finally persuaded my mobile phone to send an email, so I thought I’d try emailing an image to Flickr.

Seconds later I saw the point of the site. I’ve watched friends post photos regularly, and although it seemed quite cool to create a “stream” of snaps it didn’t grab me until I’d posted something myself. Now I realise what an easy but rich way it is to share fleeting moments. So, I’m experimenting with putting recent photos from my phone’s crappy camera on my front page (there are RSS and Atom feeds too). Of course, I may get bored quickly, but it could also be the kind of thing that becomes more addictive the longer it continues (for me, anyway).

Having not paid much attention to Flickr over past months, it’s fascinating to see all the new features, and how much it’s changed. Unfortunately the site suffers rather from this glut, and could do with some rationalisation. Every time I want to find how to make a “badge” (the recent photos on my front page) it takes several minutes of hunting. Similarly, it took a while to find the page for creating my “Daily Zeitgeist” — photos recently posted by me and my friends, as shown below — eventually tracking it down via the help page. I’ve no idea how else one would get there, or even discover its existence.

There’s also a bewildering number of ways to view photos: I can just see recent ones, I can see a “photostream” of my photos, or a calendar, and I’m not sure which of those anyone else will see (eg, I can see Matt’s calendar but an analogous address for me doesn’t work). There’s an “Organizr” and a “Shoebox” and a “Flickr web address”. And while all the page looks clear and pretty, they also look completely different from each other: links move around the page, font sizes and colours and boxes slink around as if trying to hide, resulting in a permanent sense of feeling lost. The only static navigation on the site — at the top and bottom of pages — appear to contain little of any use. But it’s well worth persevering and having a play, even though I’m wary about storing photos on a third party server (is it possible to back them all up easily…?).

Of course, while Flickr is fun to tinker with on its own, the way it can interact with other things, and the way it lets you interact with other people, is what’s exciting. Seeing the stream of photos friends have posted; marvelling at the many ways I could integrate it with my current site; seeing how people are combining their weblogs and Flickr photos and links into single feeds; watching as the ever-increasing number of small pieces are joined in ever-increasing numbers of ways. Even when I have no idea how a new development is useful, it’s wonderful to see people doing this stuff, ripping apart, splicing together, making something new.


I'll be the first to admit that things are a bit of a mess. We've been going as fast as we possibly can on the development side and changing priorities and focus with a lot of fluidity (meaning 'daily'). That's good because we got a lot done, but now there is a definite and obvious need to clean up.

Once we do though, you'll have to admit, a fresher chimney is hard to find, photos-wise.

(Also, that same URL doesn't work for you because you haven't chosen a permanent alias (it can be different that the 'screen name' you use, and unlike it, cannot be changed) - you can do it at the bottom of this page: - in the meantime, you are at )

Posted by Stewart Butterfield on 26 August 2004, 9:56 am | Link

Ahh, thanks Stewart. My calendar's here now:

I don't want to put down the huge amount of work you guys have put in -- it's amazing how much the site's changed, and every time it's in an exciting way. I was just rather lost, having not kept tabs on each incremental change along the way.

I'm looking forward to future changes and playing some more!

Posted by Phil Gyford on 26 August 2004, 6:52 pm | Link

As we say in Canada, "jolly good".


Posted by Stewart Butterfield on 27 August 2004, 9:25 am | Link

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Flickr is not just YAPSS (Yet Another Photo Sharing Service)
It seems to be the Internet geek's best choice for flexible photo sharing. Read more on and email me if you are interested in signing up (so I can get a pro account!)
At '' on Monday 30 August 2004, 12:09 AM