Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Flickr Frustrations

You may have noticed the new widget on the right hand side of the page: a little moving mosaic of pictures. This is a toy from the Flickr website that lets me display a random selection of pictures that I've uploaded to my Flickr account, for your viewing pleasure. Just click on one of the pictures and you'll be taken to that picture in Flickr.

For those that don't know, Flickr is a photo-sharing website, allowing you to upload your own photos, and explore those that have been uploaded by others. You can tag your photos according to subject, and search the whole of Flickr for photos based on the tags that other people have applied. As well as making photos available in several sizes, you can add descriptions, captions and, most fun, "post-it" style notes to individual pictures. I've had a Flickr account for about 18 months now. There are free and paid-for versions, and I opted for the free version.

Until recently, I haven't made a lot of use of Flickr. When I first joined, I only uploaded a few pictures. To be honest, cool as it was, I just wasn't that taken with it. I wasn't particularly impressed by the interface, and I didn't think that I was going to make a lot of use of the additional features it offered beyond a service like Blogger. It was great for finding photos, but for uploading my own, I could take it or leave it.

Skip 18 months, and quite a lot has changed at Flickr. They were bought by Yahoo (which you may or may not view as a good thing), and a lot of improvements have been made to the interface to let you organize and upload your photos better. I liked the new interface much better, so I started to use it more. And here began the problems.

I noticed pretty quickly that the photos that I was uploading weren't searchable by anyone else. If I searched my own photos, I could find stuff based on the tags I knew I'd applied, but if I tried searching the pool of everyone's photos, mine didn't show up. Thinking that my account was still "pending" because I hadn't uploaded enough photos, I uploaded some more. Still no joy. Having searched the forums and the online help, I threw in the towel and contacted Flickr support. Hats off to them: they answered my query within 12 hours, identified the problem correctly, and gave me a solution. Unfortunately, the answer wasn't particularly encouraging.

My account wasn't "pending", it was "NIPSA", which stands for "Not Included In Public Search Areas". In other words, what I was uploading was marked as unsuitable for general viewing. Why? Because some of the pictures I'd uploaded were not photos, they were pictures. You know: the kind of pictures I upload to this very blog all the time. And this decision had been made without even the courtesy of informing me. If I wanted the "NIPSA" label to be removed from my account, I had to set permissions on the offending non-photos so that they were only viewable by friends and family, or I had to mark them as "potentially offensive". Excuse me? Hands up the first person who has ever, I repeat, ever, found anything genuinely offensive in any of my pictures?!

So, a picture of one of my daughters is to be considered potentially offensive by the powers that be at Yahoo? Well, excuse me buddy, but I'm potentially offended by that idea. I can understand that Flickr is a photo site, and I can understand that they are very keen to avoid copyrighted works being published there, but there has to be a better way to do it than by employing this sledgehammer policy.

So what should I do? My immediate reaction was to stop using Flickr altogether, but then I decided that was cutting off my nose to spite my face. If all I want to do is upload photos, then there's no doubt that Flickr is a whole lot easier than Blogger, and gives you a lot more functionality.

I could just remove all the non-photos from Flickr. After all, I post them all here, so what's to be gained? Well, at the moment, very little, but you could potentially visit Flick to download larger versions of the pictures, if you so wished. I could also use their cool "post-it note" functionality to add notes to specific areas of pictures, for those of you that were interested in the more technical, geeky aspects of what I upload.

I could mark them as visible only by family and friends, and then require that all readers of this blog ask me to be added as one of my friends. Which, for all I know, may require you to sign up to use Flickr yourselves. That sounds a bit steep to me, and a bit of an administrative chore for me.

Or I could (and this is what I've chosen to do for the time being) just mark my non-photos as being "potentially offensive". But sorry, as a long term solution, that just sticks in my craw. My pictures are about as offensive as guinea pigs, and I object to them being lumped together with porn.

To be honest, I'm erring towards the option of removing the non-photos. There aren't that many anyway. But I'm interested in hearing your thoughts. I'm also interested in finding out exactly what you can see by clicking on a picture in that little widget on the right as things currently stand: do you just see photos, or do you see my pictures as well? Please let me know via the comments button!

Currently, my account still seems to be "NIPSA". I've no idea how long it will take to be reviewed, but I await the change with baited breath.

2 comments:

Kary said...

Hi Neal...I definitely know from what you are talking about. I too have been NIPSA'ed by flickr and sprinkled with their dreaded invisibility dust.

If it helps, I received a reply from them stating what percentage of photos to non-photos can be in a photostream before its nipsa'ed. They stated 50%. But also, a thing that will get you nipsa'ed quickly is posting images that aren't yours. This can be as harmless as posting ephemera images that are in the public domain...which is where I got into a lot of trouble. So unless you have that stuff, just keep the illustration to photo ratio to around 50-50 and you SHOULD be okay. I say should because who the heck knows. I find them to be more than a little passive-aggressive in their dealings with customers...paying or not. The mere fact that they can't seem to figure out a way to inform someone they are NIPSA is more than just bizarre to me. And like you, the idea of lumping my illustrations in with porn really just ticks me off. The link to the letter I received from FLICKR is here [link: http://journal.kboan.com/2006/06/02/flickr-answer/] if you need to refer to it...hoping you won't need to though.

Kary said...

Hi Neal...I definitely know from what you are talking about. I too have been NIPSA'ed by flickr and sprinkled with their dreaded invisibility dust.

If it helps, I received a reply from them stating what percentage of photos to non-photos can be in a photostream before its nipsa'ed. They stated 50%. But also, a thing that will get you nipsa'ed quickly is posting images that aren't yours. This can be as harmless as posting ephemera images that are in the public domain...which is where I got into a lot of trouble. So unless you have that stuff, just keep the illustration to photo ratio to around 50-50 and you SHOULD be okay. I say should because who the heck knows. I find them to be more than a little passive-aggressive in their dealings with customers...paying or not. The mere fact that they can't seem to figure out a way to inform someone they are NIPSA is more than just bizarre to me. And like you, the idea of lumping my illustrations in with porn really just ticks me off. The link to the letter I received from FLICKR is here [link: http://journal.kboan.com/2006/06/02/flickr-answer/] if you need to refer to it...hoping you won't need to though.