Some ideas around Flickr sets




Rion totally nails something that has been sticking in my craw for the last six months or so. Ever since the rollouts of features that vastly improved the Flickr experience, the old design of the pages for holding sets of photos is really underwhelming. Here’s what an epic set of photos taken by Jon Armstrong looks like as a set:

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Kind of boring right? It doesn’t reveal too much about the incredible photography contained within when you click through one of the shots:

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I think they can do a lot more with the page for showing off a set, they could obviously go for larger photos, they could change the layout to be more like the “photos from contacts” page where images automatically expand to fill the available width and get to dominate the screen. Perhaps they could also change the sizing so that amazing small sets like Jon’s above could be much larger, where a set of maybe 100 images are still larger, but not quite as large as a small set.

If I know anything about Flickr, it’s that I would bet $1,000 someone has not only redesigned the set page eons ago, but it has been through testing and is being tweaked behind the scenes and will see the light of day someday soon. I also have another idea.

Flickr should start supporting blogging

How much  more impressive would Jon’s photos from Utah be if his photo set looked more like the following mockup? (click for a larger version)

Write a title, a few short summary sentences, and then fill out the story between each photo. Yes, I know it looks a little like Medium, that’s obviously a similar kind of layout. Yahoo, post-Marrisa Mayer has been doing some interesting things and Flickr seems newly rejuvenated. I love the service to death and wish it had uptake among my friends like it once did. I really think it’s time to try some new wacky ideas on Flickr and perhaps doing something closer to something that looks like blogging, that lets people showcase their work and their prose is a way this could go.

Since Flickr doesn’t currently support this, I tend to post these sorts of things on my own blog. Last summer I took an amazing family trip across Italy and came back with loads of great photos, but here’s how they look as a Flickr set:

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And here’s how some of those photos ended up on this very site:

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I would have no qualms about publishing that same story of taking trains across Italy on Flickr instead of my own site, and in the context of the whole set’s images, it might make better sense there.

Anyway, I’d love to see more courageous moves coming out of Flickr, and one small place to start could be the sets pages.

Bigger Better Flickr

For over six years, you’ve made Flickr the place to be for photos. Billions of photos of the places you’ve been, the things you’ve seen, and the people in your lives. It’s an amazing photographic record that continues to amaze us. So as part of our Ongoing Quest to Make Flickr More WonderfulTM, we’d like to introduce… a new photo page!


I've been beta testing the new Flickr for the past couple weeks and I'm delighted that they have finally unveiled it to the public (I've been counting the days to when I could say something about it). It's a truly wonderful redo of the photo pages, adding a nice simpler layout with larger photos, easy mapping, and a cool quick zooming lightbox option.

What really makes it shine is that keystrokes (the arrow keys) work both on the photo page and within the lightbox. On my home fiber connection, this makes going through large photo sets pretty close to browsing iPhoto at full screen (in both cases, each new photo takes about a second to load). And while I used to curse having to muck through 70 or 80 photos someone took of an event, now I can just fly through them in large resolution using my keyboard.

The slightly larger photo size is great too, as are the easier to find sharing, favoriting, and other previously hidden controls.

Another thought I had after using it a week or so was that with the larger photos, lightbox, comments, and favorites, the whole photo page comes off feeling a bit more "bloggy" in a way that made me wonder if I should continue to keep a blog of my favorite photos around somewhere else, and instead just keep it as a set at Flickr itself.

How to enjoy bigger photos on Flickr

As a longtime flickr user and photographer with ever increasing megapixels at bay, I’ve slowly become dissatisfied with the small 500px wide default photo layouts at Flickr. I edit my photos full screen on a huge monitor and I’m often cropping and adjusting based on that view, so when I upload to Flickr I realize the detail and what I was trying to frame is often lost. For the past several years, I’ve always defaulted my Ten Years photos to 1024px wide for these reasons.

I’ve wondered about Flickr someday doing larger “HD” layouts and I’ve tried a few greasemonkey scripts in the past, but nothing quite worked for simply browsing larger shot versions. Then I realized they’ve always had what I wanted, I just didn’t realize it.

Here’s how you enjoy large photos on Flickr:

1. From whatever page you access contact photos, a user’s photostream, and/or a photoset, click on the slideshow link

Screen shot 2010-01-21 at 10.33.15 AM

2. As soon as the slideshow loads, hit the pause button on the lower left

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3. Use your keyboard’s left/right keys to navigate through the set of photos at full screen. If your mouse pointer isn’t in the very top or very bottom of the browser, all slideshow chrome will fade in a couple seconds leaving you with giant photos on a clean crisp full browser display

Screen shot 2010-01-21 at 10.36.19 AM

Holy shitballs

Back in college, my favorite undergraduate class of my major was Limnology, or the study of lakes and rivers. I loved it so much that I went to grad school and eventually helped teach it as a TA while doing soil and water chemistry of a lake ecosystem.

In the world of limnology, there are three big lakes everyone talks about. It shouldn’t be a surprise that certain lakes always get talked about in a study of the subject since I suspect every English major has to know Chaucer, Math majors gotta know Erdös, and Physicists hear about Newton, Feynman, and Hawking all the time.

So among the limnologists I rolled with, the big three were Lake Tahoe in California (a good demonstration of a glacial lake), Lake Baikal in Siberia (deepest, largest lake by volume on earth), and Crater Lake in Oregon (perfect demonstration of a volcanic lake). I’d grown up in California so I’d been to Tahoe many times, I’d seen/read tons about Baikal but never thought I’d see it in person (though I know someone who has), but I’d always wanted to see Crater Lake in Oregon.

I’ve lived in Oregon for over six years now and I’ve gradually started exploring quite a bit of it, going up and down the entire coast, all over the northwest side, some of the central area around Bend, and much of the far eastern and northern segments, but until today, I’ve never actually gotten to see Crater Lake.

We drove up and stayed the night before about 7 miles outside of Crater Lake in the quaintest little motorlodge straight out of the 1950s. We awoke this morning and headed up, still not knowing exactly which peaks that surrounded the lower valleys contained America’s deepest lake. After a half hour of driving, parking, and walking, I finally crested a path to take in this view and the first thought that came to my mind was this:

“Holy shitballs.”

The morning light was great, the surface was still and there were great reflections and the deep blue water was a deep blue unlike anything I’d seen before. I was in awe. I still am. Sometimes nature is so incredible you left with nothing to say but “Holy shitballs”.

Flickr’s skinner box

Flickr's most addictive page in their giant game that is photo sharing is easily the Recent Activity page. It used to be a slight drag to have to check comments you left on other photos as well as your own, and soon after they redesigned their iPhone version of flickr, I realized the combined activity page was a much better solution to the problem of how to keep up on what has changed on flickr for you.

I'm happy to see upon checking my activity tonight, the same info on the iPhone recent activity page is now showing up in their website proper. Very cool change.

iStockphoto ends up on a license plate!

.flickr-photo { border: solid 2px #666; } .flickr-frame { text-align: left; padding: 3px; } .flickr-caption { font-size: 10px; margin-top: 0px;color:#999; }

My new license plate, originally uploaded by mathowie.

I love my new Share the Road license plate that is now offered here in Oregon. It's only $10 as a one-time fee and half goes to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and half goes to Cycle Oregon, both bike-friendly organizations I support.

I noticed it looked familiar when it showed up. I've been a casual user of iStockphoto for some time and I recently designed a site for a race series a friend was throwing (first race is this Saturday and I'll be there in the beginner class!) and I used iStockphoto to get that cool outline of Oregon and the cyclist profile (I used a slightly different illustration). When I opened the DMV envelope I instantly recognized the cyclist, because it's this file, just reversed, and with the water bottle removed from the outline.

I'm not faulting the designer, iStockphoto is a great place to get super cheap illustrations and I use them all the time, rather, I'm more stoked that an illustration there ended up working all the way up to an optional state license plate.