Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

Being your own stock library

I have a tendency to fill presentation materials with pictures of myself. This is because I’m a hopelessly deluded narcissist. It’s also because its free, readily available and in high resolution. There might even be something relevant to the point I’m making, although I can always change the point I’m making if the photo is better than the point I’m making. I’m joking.

It’s not only pictures of myself, of course. Over a number of years I’ve built up enough photos of post-it notes taken at 45 degrees with a depth of field the width of a Sharpie to fill Slideshare. I’ve also got a folders overflowing with close-ups of whiteboard erasers, sketches of mobile sites that will never get built and abstract blocks of colour that I think will represent a particular mood when I’m stood in front of it telling some inane story about a workshop where a client lost a shoe or something.

And naturally, I’ve got a whole arsenal of photos where people I work with have been subjected to embarrassing manipulations and positioning to get the perfect shot that represents someone thinking about something really hard while half-looking at a screen but being really attentive to a random interloper who is being shown something really very interesting on that screen and very possibly pointing at it.

And handshakes. And headsets. And URLs spiralling around a globe.

Maybe I don’t have those last ones. But suffice to say, I’ve got a supply of stuff that I can use, rather than hunting down and trawling through stock sites for hours until you really do want to poke your eyes out with a kitten in a bucket. And if I don’t have what I want, I can often just go ahead and create something specifically for the thing I’m working on. This doesn’t always work if the thing I’m working on is something about, say, camels, but it’s great when I need something which represents ‘someone looking like an arse’.

In the end, it’s a personal preference, and a convenient, cheap way to add something of interest to something which is probably quite uninteresting. It’s not for everyone, but then, neither am I.

You’re more than welcome you use anything I have to add to your own stuff. There a load of stuff all creative commons licensed and available on flickr.

in praise of flickr. again.


I have, a number of times, errantly extolled the virtues of the flickr user experience to such an extent that I am probably some kind of fan-man. that is to say, I’ll often be asked what I consider to be a good example of user experience design, when, frankly, its sometimes easier to explain to people what I do by demonstrating what it means to a user in a practical application, rather than a more ethereal dissection of human computer interaction and the history of pointing at things with disconnected devices and why I chose orange for a headline. notwithstanding the feature creep of recent years and the freakout that was the acquisition by yahoo! which was erroneously blown up into some kind of photo-apocalypse, the flickr experience is still one which supports everything I want to do in a way that I like to do it and doesn’t ask or compel me to do things I don’t want to do in the middle of things I’m half way to accomplishing. it is still, 5 years or so after first using it, one of the very few sites I access without going via some kind of API and amazon cloud captcha interface which abstracts the operations and allows me to fiddle about and aggregate any number of similar services so that I forget what I was doing in the first place much like writing this sentence. flickr, the site, is, of course, its own presentation layer on top of its own services, and so is only one of a number of full-featured experience architectures that I might decide to opt into or somehow leverage. but, in the end, its the seamless integration of those services, the consistent, coherent application of visual design components and the logical, meaningful management of data and taxonomy that pulls everything together so neatly. and I can write little notes with smiley faces on. there can’t be anything better than that.

there are some features of flickr that I never use. galleries. favourites (much). but then, I know they’re there if I choose to opt in, but on a daily basis, they don’t interfere with my operations. this is probably because I’m not very popular. I expect that insanely popular flickr users are bombarded via notifications of additions to galleries, favourites, and invitations to groups like Sword of Damocles ur got exceelent PIKTUREs add 1 comment on a billion animated gif 600×600. but then, you can decide what to do with those notifications, and anyway, if you’re insanely popular, you probably have to deal with the popularly insane, but at least flickr will provide you with the tools to manage that effectively and efficiently, but the good folk at flickr understand scalability and the effects on user operations. at least, I think they do. I mean, with about 6000 photos a minute or something getting uploaded and each one of those objects existing as a unique entity with all the associated user operations, I’m thinking they’ve considered scale.

in the end, as far as flickr is concerned, I’m just a satisfied user. and I pay for the privilege. and I don’t often say that.

4000 a minute

as david rightly points out you just can’t keep up these days. it used to be the case that cool site of the day was indeed picking from about 100 new sites that had appeared that day. worldwide. and they weren’t cool, except they were there which was cool. the coolest one I remember whcih I can’t find in the archive was someone who had posted pictures from a nuclear bunker and I thought how amazing it was that someone could post pictures of themselves inside a nuclear bunker and then just use an img tag and publish them and I could see them halfway round the world without leaving my seat and there might be something in this internet thing but as far as I could get at the time was to post scans from scooby-doo annuals.

fast forward about 10 years and remember when you first joined flickr and started uploading your photos worried about whether you should be posting candid shots or posed shots or landscape shots or artistic shots and whether you should submit to that rating group of which there was only 1. because when you joined all those years ago, everybody looked at everyone else’s photos. I mean, if you refreshed the explore page after having looked at them all, there might be one or two new ones which might or might not pique your interest. never mind, come back at the end of the day and look at all of them.

not so now. flickr users are now uploading more than 4000 photos/videos/things a minute. that’s (hang on, let me open the calctool), um, more than 60 a second. by the time I’ve refreshed the explore page, even if I just repeatedly do that and not look at anything, about 300 objects have passed me by. so I hope people are putting them in that rating group so I can pass some value judgement on them. what do you mean there’s about a million ratings groups? how can that be? what do you mean its an interestingness hype methodology? oh. and while I’m banging on about it, why do I never get any of those “Your photo has been selected for the SWORD OF DAMOCLES AWARD! (insert huge gif). Please tag your photo with SWORDOFDAMOCLES and bother 10 other strangers by blarting this message all over their photo pages! thx!” awards? everyone has those. I want one. not enough cat/sunset photos I expect.

PicLens for flickr

I was pointed to this by one of my excellent flickr contacts. If you’ve ever struggled through multiple pages of photo pools or even your own photostream looking for that particular image, or just to have a browse around, you’ll know that there’s still the page-at-a-time top-level filter to most of those operations. There are any number of aggregators out there which might do something different, and yes, you could probably just take an rss feed and roll your own viewing platform, but, you know, I’m not going to do that.

So hallelujah for PicLens. Not only does it do wonderous things with a photoset, pool, contact list, comments list etc., it also happens to manifest itself as a firefox plugin. Not necessarily a big deal you might say, but this is the most un-firefox plugin firefox plugin I’ve come across. It doesn’t just sit in your browser and do neat things, it takes over your entire screen and throws photos around in a 3-dimensional space, offering views of multiple images that you just can’t get otherwise. Honestly, it breathes a whole new life into an old photostream and makes you re-evaluate those photos you’ve seen over and over for the last 5 years. Brilliant

It does allow you to change views, so you can make it look like Adobe Bridge (on a day where Adobe bridge isn’t taking 99% CPU and crashing your computer), but its the flying-around-in-space views that really make it interesting. Of course, if you have a 1920×1200 desktop, you need something quite hefty to iron out the judders, but, being a designer, I’ve obviously got far more horsepower than I need anyway, so it flies along nicely. Do try it. Its not just for flickr, it works on facebook, yahoo, picassa, bebo, myspace, and much more.

I was using Firefox on XP, for those of you who like numbers. I did notice as I was installing the plugin that it said something like ‘oh, um, Mac users click here’, but I didn’t investigate.

Listening Post: Go! Team: Get It Together

flickr emptiness

portal 1
portal 1 by Tim Caynes

its the old mother hubbard of this modern age and now my boneless social dog is tripping out the kitchen door and closing the door behind him. all my friends I’ve never met are getting their coats and slinking off to somewhere more interesting instead where there’s fluffy cats and african landscapes and close-ups of moist roses.

this morning I went to the flickr cupboard and the cupboard was bare, not a single post-processed gem of a disused toilet or a murder of emos gathered outside the forum or a perspective-shifted alignment of the steps up to a car park or even a car park. not since june 2005 has there not been something straining to get itself published to the sound of one hand clapping and an uncomfortable silence at the community bar. there is always a stock of recently cropped aligned layered filtered adjusted shifted merged actioned photos gathered neatly filtered by modified date in the adobe bridge folder called’ flickr’. even if there isn’t, there’s 200 subfolders of a folder called ‘sony w1’ each with 200 photos in there that are just dying to be fiddled about with in an ironic post-film post-apocalypse post-lomo post-this-letter-for-me kind of way.

but not today. I’ve posted everything. everything I haven’t posted isn’t worth posting. I haven’t taken any pictures recently that aren’t david bowie’s head on my shoulders or flowers at funerals. it’s flickr emptiness. whaaaaa.

actually, I’ve been too busy to go out and take pictures. I’ve been spending all my time blogging developing product category design frameworks and even though the sun is shining right through the office window and onto my monitor so that I can’t even read what I’m typing which explains a lot I can’t get out to make the best of it. I’ll go out tomorrow. take a picture of my feet or something. I’ll probably run out of anything to say before then at which point I’ll be completely social media bereft. mind you, there’ll alway be someone cycling past on the pavement to give me something to blart about. oi! you! get on the road! you’ve got a whole bloody cycle lane!

I will never understand explore

sleeveface 2
sleeveface 2 by Tim Caynes

following the insanity of the last couple of days worth of flickr stats that are possible when you line up the creases on your shirt with david bowie’s head there is the inevitable drop from the flickr explore page and a return to pictures of car parks and old ladies shopping in norwich that really nobody cares about except other people in norwich taking pictures of car parks and the occasional old lady. my experience has always been that real photographers always catch up with you in the end so even though you might have the temerity to be the most popular photo on flickr for a couple of hours with a picture of yourself as someone else take in your hallway with a cheap compact camera during a screen break when you’re supposed to be putting a project plan together, eventually, real photographers with enormous digital single lens reflex cameras will flood you with professional shots of cats and bridges, or if you’re lucky, a cat on a bridge. or a dog. in a sunset. or something.

I know there is some algorithm going on there somewhere, but I still can’t work out how you can go from the top to the bottom to off the list entirely in the space of about a day I know I could just add a photo to every photo pool out there and get every rating group and comment and fave group to do what they do and add comments and faves even though it might just be a pinhole camera photo of a traffic cone at night and it would still be stupidly ‘popular’ and it would receive a disproportionally huge amount of diamond, top rated, sword of damocles, platinum pic, super fave etc awards with animated gifs going off all over it but what if you just a take a picture that you like and add it to 1 group, albeit a stupidly visible group, and then you get 125 favorites overnight? what point am I making? I don’t know. I’m just saying I don’t get it but why is that different from anything else cats will take over the world.