The Brewery: Universal @s

September 29th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Scenario: I upload an image to Flickr and want to link a friend to it.
Problem: She exists on Facebook, not Flickr. There’s a chance she’ll see the image on FB and click through and see what I’ve said, but short of me dropping her a link directly, there’s no way for me to ensure that.

In my utopian web world, I could be on any site and tag anyone who exists on a completely unrelated service. Those who have tweets feeding into Buzz and Facebook will know that tagging someone on Twitter means @username will be linked on Buzz, but not Facebook.

Now, I know this isn’t an easy problem to solve. There are issues around consolidating identity, privacy and permission, dataportability, standards, scale…
One of the ideas swirling in my head is to have a repository of some sort. The repository handles the identity part of the equation. So I can go in there and tell it that ‘dekrazee1‘ and ‘Rai Pratibha‘ and ‘Pratibha Rai‘ are the same people. Maybe even allow it access to my social graph so it knows that if a contact is talking about a Rai, it’s me, not the other Rai. When someone tweets @dekrazee1, before the tweet is pushed to Facebook, the repository can tell it that the tag must be changed to Rai Pratibha to put it in the FB context.
Then all other services plug into it and voila! Universal people tagging! No more linearly restricted web! yaaay!
(Yes, I did say it was utopian… :P)

I’ve only spent a couple of hours thinking about this tonight, so haven’t done much research into it. Is anyone else working on something like this? Is it a solvable issue?

Pro Bono: My Flickr experience

September 22nd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve been a Flickr user since 2007, and in that time, I have uploaded about 4000 photos. I upload my images to Flickr for two big reasons – As a backup to my many backups, in case the unthinkable happens, but mainly as a way to share my experiences with my people.

The more I use Flickr though, the more limited I think it is. From Flickr’s About page, they list two goals – Sharing and Organising.

Let’s start with sharing. What I think works well on Flickr is uploading photos and distributing it to all my different channels. So anything I put up is sent to Facebook, Twitter (via Friendfeed), Google Buzz and my blog. (Well, that’s broken right now, due to the move to, but you get the point.) People from all my different networks are able to catch up with my uploads if they so choose. This is the main reason I don’t put my photos on Facebook. They would be constrained to just that network.

Once it gets to this point however, I feel that the continuing process becomes too restricted. A non-Flickr member who clicks through to my photostream can only view the image, check out Exif data and click through to other items in my photostream. If they want to make a comment, they’d have to sign up to the service. I can understand not allowing anonymous comments, as a Flickr user I wouldn’t want that, but asking someone to sign up to the WHOLE service just to leave a comment is a bit much isn’t it?
Why not add a blog-like comment form where non-members could leave identifiable comments on an image using a name and e-mail address, or using a 3rd party log in like Twitter or Google? My instinct is that some of my friends would be more amenable to sign up to Flickr once they’ve had some engaging interaction with it.

On to organising. The more I use Flickr, the more painful organising gets. I’m not sure if it’s because of volume, or that it took me a while to figure sets, collections and tagging out, but I keep finding myself wishing for a better deal. First off, I really really need a level higher than Collections. I find that I have a few Collections I’d like to link up, and there’s just no way of doing that.
Flickr lets you locate your photos on a map. Anyone who has used that probably know *just how painful* the process is. I guess it works better if your camera has geotagging, and maybe that’s what that feature is for specifically. Otherwise, it’s just too hard.
And finally, editing tags. Ever mistakenly added a tag to a set of images which is inaccurate, and tried to take the tag away? If there is a way to do that en masse, I haven’t found it. One has to go through each picture, page by page, click on the little ‘x’ and then confirm the deletion. Not fun.

And now for the big one – viewing images. Flickr recently had a major release where they tweaked their UI, made the default image size bigger and added ‘lightbox’ browsing. I really like browsing images in lightbox view, without the clutter of the single image pages. However, the image description is missing from the lightbox view, and is hidden on the single page view if the image is in a horizontal orientation.

I find that this really takes away from the browsing experience. People are telling a story through their pictures. Titles and descriptions are part of the story-telling. Not making these visible as we browse photos definitely takes away from the overall experience. The main experience on Flickr in my opinion…

How do you describe Twitter?

September 13th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

I found myself in a situation where I needed to describe Twitter to a friend yesterday. She is what I classify as a regular internet user – knows about and uses the ‘big’ sites – Facebook, YouTube, Google & Gmail (but has no knowledge of all their other services).

I tried explaining how it works – you send an sms, and it is broadcast, and others can read and respond to it – but the look on her face was telling me I wasn’t doing a very good job.

I eventually said “It’s like IM for status updates”. That seemed to get the idea across, but I don’t think it describes the service very well.

I can’t believe I don’t know how to explain Twitter despite using the service for something like 3 years now…. but then, it’s one of those things that needs to be experienced to be understood isn’t it?

Help me out please – how do you explain Twitter to someone new to it?

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