This is good news from Flickr. Flickr is amending their changes, to ensure that Creative Commons licensed photos will not be deleted from free accounts that are over their limit. (via Jeremy Cherfas)

Flickr recently announced they would be deleting the oldest photos of free accounts that have more photos than the new limit of 1000 images. This caused concern as some of those free accounts might be old, disused accounts, where there are images with open licenses that are being used elsewhere. Flickr allows search for images with open licenses, and makes it easy to embed those in your own online material. Removing old images might therefore break things, and there were many people calling for Flickr to try and prevent breaking things. And they are, Flickr is providing all public institutions and archives publishing photos to Flickr with a free Pro account, and will also delete no Creative Commons licensed images, if they carried that license before 1 November 2018. (This prevents you from keeping an unlimited free account by simply relicensing the photos, and uploading new photos with CC licenses only.)

At the end of this month my Flickr Pro account will come up for renewal. It turns out that they doubled the price last summer (from 25 to 50 USD/year). Recently Flickr also announced that free accounts will be limited starting January 1st, 2019. The new limit will be at 1000 photos, and accounts with more images will see their oldest images deleted.

I have been a Flickr Pro member since early 2005, and store some 25.000 photos there, making up 75GB. I took a paid account in 2005 because back then they had a 200 photo cap for free accounts, and I easily reached that limit.

With a rate change like this it is a good time to evaluate whether the service is still good enough for me to keep at the new rate.

How do I use Flickr?

  • It’s an off-site back-up of photos
  • I use it to find Creative Commons licensed material for my presentations
  • I publish photos under such a license myself, to enable others to use them
  • I embed Flickr photos in my blogposts, so I do not have to store them on my hosting account (which has much less storage, 3GB)
  • I use it to quickly find things back in my own photos, through its album structure and search. “Don’t I have a picture of that building from when I visited that conference in Copenhagen a few years ago?”

So if I would want to replace Flickr, e.g. by bringing it home to something more under my control, what would that need to look like?

  • For the off-site storage I could easily find cheaper alternatives, in fact I already run several of them where there’s still over 50TB of total storage available.
  • Finding CC images on Flickr is still possible if you’re not a registered member, but it misses some showing me photos by myself and those I’m connected to first. I have a preference for using photos from my network.
  • Contributing CC images is important to me, also as I feel reciprocity is important, as I do use CC images by others a lot too. I don’t know of any other place where I could add CC licenses to my photos that casually. I have seen places where you’d pool your curated images under CC but that is additional work. Part of the utility is to automatically add CC licenses to everything I store online. Maybe some of you know an alternative?
  • Embedding photos easily at various formats (using HTML only, as I strip out the javascript stuff Flickr also provides) is something I have no ideas for an alternative currently. Probably it would mean exposing a replacement storage to the public, but not sure how to replace resizing on the fly. I could also try and do what Peter did, replacing all currently embedded photos on my blog, the photos I made at least, with locally hosted ones. It would solve this for the past, but not for the future.
  • Search replacement like embedding replacement would depend on having public storage, and would require keeping the album structure, added titles, geo-locations etc. That added metadata (80% of my photos have tags and geotags) were all added manually during upload, geotags mostly added manually, some automatically)

The ‘cost of leaving’ is mostly sunk efforts like added titles, tags and locations. So even if it feels differently, that is not a rational consideration to keep an account. Especially not as you can download all Flickr material including that metadata, so it is more about how you would make that metadata useful in a new set-up. The decision to make is if I want to find and set-up a workable alternative in the coming three weeks to save 100 USD, or do I buy myself 2 years of time with those 100USD?

If you have left Flickr in the past few years, what does your current workflow around photos look like?

Many tech companies are rushing to arrange compliance with GDPR, Europe’s new data protection regulations. What I have seen landing in my inbox thus far is not encouraging. Like with Facebook, other platforms clearly struggle, or hope to get away, with partially or completely ignoring the concepts of informed consent and unforced consent and proving consent. One would suspect the latter as Facebooks removal of 1.5 billion users from EU jurisdiction, is a clear step to reduce potential exposure.

Where consent by the data subject is the basis for data collection: Informed consent means consent needs to be explicitly given for each specific use of person related data, based on a for laymen clear explanation of the reason for collecting the data and how precisely it will be used.
Unforced means consent cannot be tied to core services of the controlling/processing company when that data isn’t necessary to perform a service. In other words “if you don’t like it, delete your account” is forced consent. Otherwise, the right to revoke one or several consents given becomes impossible.
Additionally, a company needs to be able to show that consent has been given, where consent is claimed as the basis for data collection.

Instead I got this email from Twitter earlier today:

“We encourage you to read both documents in full, and to contact us as described in our Privacy Policy if you have questions.”

and then

followed by

You can also choose to deactivate your Twitter account.

The first two bits mean consent is not informed and that it’s not even explicit consent, but merely assumed consent. The last bit means it is forced. On top of it Twitter will not be able to show content was given (as it is merely assumed from using their service). That’s not how this is meant to work. Non-compliant in other words. (IANAL though)

I’ve been using Flickr to store photos since March 2005. It’s at the same time an easy way to embed photos in my blog without using up storage space in the hosting account, and an online remote back-up. Over the years I’ve uploaded some 24.000 photos, though I’ve been using Flickr less in the last 2 years.

My account is from just before the moment Yahoo bought Flickr from its founders, which was also in March 2005, and it forced me to create a Yahoo account for it in 2007. Yahoo never seemed to have much vision for Flickr, but as an early user (Flickrs was founded in 2004) the original functionality I signed up and paid for was all I really needed.

Yahoo has been bought by Verizon last year, and since then it was likely they’d sell some parts of it. SmugMug has acquired Flickr last week, and that at least means that photography is now the main focus again. That hopefully means further evolution of Flickr, or it might mean a switch to SmugMug in the future.

Tellingly one needs to accept the new terms of service by 25th May 2018, which is the day the EU data protection regulation GDPR enters into force.

It also means that I will be able to delete my Yahoo account, which I only had because Flickr users were forced to.
Yahoo is an internet dinosaur, launched in 1994. Its best days already lie way back. Deleting my Yahoo account as such is also an end of an era, an end that felt long overdue for years already.

Adding metadata to stuff can be a pain in your proverbial back-end. Especially if you, like me, take a lot of pictures, but do not own a camera that adds GPS coords automatically for you.
Lucky for me, the guys at Sumaato Labs (based in Hamburg, Germany) have made my life geotagging photos in Flickr a whole lot easier. Because they’ve built the Localize Bookmarklet
Here is how it works. You drag the bookmarklet to your toolbar (Firefox) or bookmarks (IE).
Open up a Flickr photo page.
Sumaatolabs Localize Bookmarklet
Hit the bookmarklet…..and you’ll get Google Maps right there in your Flickr page.
Sumaatolabs Localize Bookmarklet
Search your location. And put the arrow where you want it.
Sumaatolabs Localize Bookmarklet
Save, while adding a little description if you want.
Sumaatolabs Localize Bookmarklet
And now the geodata is stored in three places. Under the pic, in the tags, and in the Flickr Additional Info section. Cool! Don’t you just love AJAX and API’s when it’s used like this?
Another elegant feature: it remembers the last location you used for geotagging. Because your next picture is more likely to have been taken near there.
Sumaatolabs Localize Bookmarklet
Oh and one more thing. I really miss the geotagging feature in Plazes for Flickr photos (as Plazes already know where I am/was, I could skip the interaction with a map.)

When I wrote about the dinner with Marc Canter here some 2 months ago I also mentioned thinking about social software as being composed of different triangles.

The notion stems from how I use Flickr and delicious. I track individuals and their bookmarks and through those two pieces of info I get to know their use of language as well as their general areas of interest for the day. But I also look at how the stuff I bookmark has been tagged by other people. Are these people already familiar to me? Different language use (in the tags) may hint towards different circles of people and communities.

You see that in both cases I don’t really look at the bookmark itself, and I certainly don’t use it as a singular piece of information. It is merely an object around which I look for existing relationships, and scout out possible new ones. An object of sociality that has served its role as soon as I used it to find new people, or connect to already familiar ones.

It works much the same way for Flickr, though the aspect to get a quick glance at what my existing relationships are up to is more important to me here.

In general you could say that both Flickr and delicious work in a triangle: person, picture/bookmark, and tag(s). Or more abstract a person, an object of sociality, and some descriptor. In every triangle there always needs to be a person and an object of sociality. The third point of the triangle is free to define as it were.

Flickr Photo as Object of Sociality

This becomes more interesting once you start using the descriptors to move from one object of sociality to the next, or when the descriptor is an object of sociality itself. Now you can hop through different applications while still doing the same thing you previously did inside one application: build connections to people based on their current interest, albeit a picture, a location, an event, a bookmark, a blogpost or a document.

We generally call the stacking of apps like this mash-up. But in this case more importantly it allows us as people to seamlessly wander from one application to another while not being interrupted because you have to consciously migrate from one ‘channel’ to another. It is not mash-up to bring more functionality into one new application based on existing ones, it is mash-up to more closely follow your own routines while building and maintaining relationships.

Plazes for instance puts itself in the place of the tags in Flickr, and presto, now pictures are tied to geographic locations and vice versa. Through which you then can find (new) people again.

Flickr and Plazes Mashed

To me this also means that self-proclaimed social applications that do not offer you the possibility to explore all sides of a triangle, aren’t useful as a social medium. A bookmarking service that does say how many others bookmarked the same thing, but does not let you explore who these people are or lets you see who uses what tags, only the tags used by themselves, doesn’t do much in a social sense. By maintaining the triangle you make sure that individuals keep their face in the masses even when you aggregate info. (You can always drill back to a person and her personal set of in this case bookmarks and tags)

You can enter any triangle through a single point. This is the most basic use of an application. I store pictures, I bookmark, I write, I geotag. But from that you can start exploring the sides of the triangle, finding new connections to people either based on the object of sociality, or by browsing the descriptors and hopping to the next object of sociality.

Social software I think is social because it puts relationships in the center view, and less the information that flows through these relationships. The possibility of triangulation allows you to also extend and broaden both existing and new relationships into new information domains, and thus increases the likelihood of new networks of relationships and meaning emerging from the background noise.

Photo Value of Triangulation by Roland Tanglao during the Seattle Blogwalk. (CC license)