Wednesday, February 07, 2007
For those who haven't seen it, Flickr is a photo-sharing site. You can upload photos to it, tag them, share them, comment on them, and search for them. But there are lots of sites for these activities. So what makes Flickr so useful?
1. It has the most photos from the most people and places. This isn't a set of proprietary or stock images. It's photos taken all over the world by pros and amateurs. Where else can you find Pakistani bathroom signage or Mexican biker teens while researching a project?
2. Tagging makes photo search flexible and powerful. I used to use Google Images to look for quick visual sources. Now I always use Flickr. On Google, images are only searchable by the titles given to them. On Flickr, they are searchable both by title and by tag. Even better, people have created specialized sets (i.e. "Urban Decay") that encompass a wide variety of content. Great for references for wall finishes and graphic detail.
3. Sharing is really easy. We've done FTP (too complicated for some). We've emailed photos (heavy, annoying, easy to misplace). We save to network drives (no one knows where anything is). On Flickr, we can upload our own photos, tag favorites from the entire site, and get dedicated web addresses for each flickr account member (a person or a project--your choice). And you can make it private or public, flexibly.
4. Commenting and review functionality. You can upload four new photos of options to your site, tag them "Giant Squid Layout," and get people's comments and preferences. You can set up automatic emails to go out when things change on the site. You can move things from "For Review" sets to "Done" sets. You can have blog style discussions in the comment body and all of that text is recorded for posterity.
5. It's (mostly) free. You can do a lot with your free account, or get a pro one for $25. I'm not there yet, but...
2.0 web applications have been a tough sell in my department. We tried hosting a wiki for an exhibit--too much effort. Heck, we're not even that great at using our network drive. But we've adopted Flickr easily and it actually increases our efficiency, productivity, and teamwork. Three generations of folks are using it.
Beyond the workplace uses, some museums are taking advantage of Flickr's 2.0ness to do neat projects--check out Jim Spadaccini's reflections on using Flickr for an exhibition website with the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology.
And finally, on a related note, Kathy Sierra's recent post on "user evangelists," which may have subconsciously triggered this Flickr lovefest. Then again, I did find 42,822 photos matching "I love flickr." I'm not the only one.