Tag: flickr

More Valuable Websites I Use

I'm not an overly big fan of the social networking and/or 2.0 websites, but I do use a few of them.  The big ones (Facebook, Last.fm, Delicious, Flickr, and Twitter) have already been rehashed in great detail, but there's a couple others that really do what I need them to do, and are worth a mention here – namely, Goodreads and RunningAHEAD.

Goodreads

Goodreads is my favorite book-related website.  In essence, it's a way to catalog and organize books.  You can use it any number of ways – as a way to log what books you read, categorize books in your library using "bookshelves" (essentially tags, so you can put one book on multiple "bookshelves"), review & rate books, and then add friends so you can view all of this information on other like-minded people's accounts.  I find it a great way to keep track of what I'm reading, how many books I'm reading a year, whether I already have a book in my library and whether I've read it, whether I'm borrowing/lending a book from/to someone else, and even my wish-list of books (hint: make a bookshelf called "wish-list" and then you can direct people to the books on it directly). 

In addition, everything is hyperlinked, so clicking on the author of a book will bring up a list of his/her works, clicking on the title of a book will show links to pages where you can read reviews and/or purchase the book, cover art is imported automatically, and you can subscribe to a feed and/or summary email of someone's activity, if you want to see what they've read/rated lately.

Goodreads is completely free, with no limit on the number of books you may have in your library.  They even have easy ways to import books from a spreadsheet or from ISBN numbers, if you already have them in some other format.  If you join or are already a member, be sure to add me as a friend – I love to see what other people are reading and how they rate the books they've read.  My profile is here, and it's easy to sign up and start keeping track of your own books!


RunningAHEAD

Recently, I've gotten back into running regularly for exercise, and as part of my efforts, I find it interesting and motivational to log my running activity.  Prior to signing up with RunningAHEAD, I used to keep all my runs in a spreadsheet on my computer.  The biggest issue with this was I never seemed to have a copy of the spreadsheet on the computer I was near after finishing my run.  Now I have a single, centralized location where I can enter my workout information, track my running shoes and the mileage I've put on them, and even map routes and add extra information about my run.  The website also has some decent graphing and trending tools to allow you to visualize any of the data variables you choose to record regularly.  The site even has capabilities to join or start a training group – all members that join are listed together under the group heading, and you can then chat in a separate group forum, share running reports, etc.  Overall, a very nice little site that does what it should do, and is free to boot.

If you want to see my RunningAHEAD info, my info is here.   Be aware I only update on a weekly/biweekly basis with all of the runs I did that week, once I download them from my Forerunner, so it may not show the most recent run status for me.


[NaBloPoMo 2008 – #29/30]

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New Flickr Video is Pretty Damn Cool

Just heard about the new feature for Flickr Pro members – the ability to upload video to your account and tag/organize it just as if it was a picture.  Decided to test it out for myself to check out its capabilities, drawbacks, etc.

Pros:

  • The video quality is much better than YouTube, and by default is bigger than the default YouTube size.  Also includes a full-screen option without any hacks!
  • You can organize/tag the videos just like you do your photos, including adding it to a set/collection.
  • You can embed the clip in a blog or webpage very easily through the "embed" option, which allows you to set parameters such as size of the clip.
  • Has the same public/private sharing options as your photos, so if you already have these set up for family members, they'll be able to access the videos the same way they do your photos.
  • Videos are uploaded the same way you upload photos, and can actually be uploaded in a batch along with photos.
  • No limit on number of videos you can store in your Pro Account.

Cons

  • Video size/duration is limited to 150 MB or 90 seconds (whichever is less).  Not a big deal for little clips, but it would be nice if this got bumped up a bit for longer videos.
  • Video uploading is limited to Flickr Pro members.  Free members can view publicly-shared videos, but cannot upload them to their accounts.
  • No Vox integration yet, so no tagging, linking, etc on Vox.  You'll have to use the "embed" code to insert a video into a page, for now.

 

Even if Yahoo/Flickr isn't touting this as a YouTube killer, it's still a very nice application and one that I'll definitely be using in the future. 

And a comparison test, for you to see for yourself:

 

Flickr Version

YouTube Version

 

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PictoBrowser – A Flickr Slideshow Alternative

Edit 11/26: The creator of PictoBrowser, Diego Bauducco, not only responded to my feedback, but also read this post, and has addressed all of the issues I brought up regarding the software.  Please see the updates below in red if you're interested in how the issues were corrected.  Having a developer who is receptive to feedback and is actively looking to improve his product for the users is another definite plus that you should consider when considering this for your own use.

I recently converted my personal website (that I host for my family and friends) from auto-generated HTML pages of pictures to a template/widget-based system that separates the photo content and presentation of the photos.  My preferred implementation choice for this is PictoBrowser.

Similar to Flickr's slideshow, PictoBrowser allows you to embed some of your photos in another website or blog.  Unlike a Flickr slideshow, PictoBrowser relies on the user to click through the photos (which I like) and by default displays thumbnails and picture titles at all times (which I also like).

PictoBrowser allows you to select a flickr set, tag, or group as the basis from which to pull pictures from.  To set one up, you click the word "PictoBrowser" at the bottom right of any existing widget, enter your flickr username, and then choose from the available tags, sets, or groups.  PictoBrowser only pulls your publicly available photos to use in the slideshow, which makes sense as you don't have to log in anywhere to use the application.

If you want, you can also use the advanced builder (found here) to configure your embedded widget a bit more to your liking.  Details like displaying notes, hiding thumbnails, changing the width/height of the embedded viewer, and background color are all configurable through an easy-to-use GUI.  After making your selections, you just need to hit "continue" to auto-generate the code snippet to copy over into your page (Vox users should paste into an "embed" box).

Here's an example PictoBrowser using my flickr set from my recent trip to the Renaissance fair, so you can see how it behaves:

There are a couple things I'm not satisfied with quite yet:

  • You can see that some of the picture titles are cut off after 40 characters (a limitation that seems to have been added to this latest version).  This means you need to shorten your picture titles and put the rest of the information in a note to make sure you get the info across to the viewer.  Titles have been updated to fit the available width, and should fit just about any caption you plan to use for your photos.
  • Notes are not turned on by default, so you'll need to use the builder to create your widget if you want this on.  (Since only the pictures that have notes will display the word "note" indicating that there is additional information, you'd think notes would be displayed by default, and only turned off if the user wanted to add notes to the photo, but for some reason didn't want them to show up on the pictobrowser widget.)  Notes are now on by default, so you don't have to do any special configuration to have these shown.  If your photo doesn't have a note, no "note" indication will be shown for that picture.
  • In order to view a note, you have to drag your mouse down to the thumbnail area in order to see whether a picture even HAS a note.  This seems counter-intuitive – you should click on a picture to progress to the next, and immediately see whether the picture has a note, just like you immediately see the title to a picture.  Same with the word "link" that takes you to the picture's flickr URL.  The words "note" and "link" that lead to the photo notes and photo URL now are displayed automatically without needing to move your mouse anywhere!  As soon as the picture loads, these are made visible, so it is easy to see where you need to move your mouse to view the note or go to the photo's URL.
  • Once you're viewing a note, you have to click-and-drag to scroll down the note field on a long note.  While this is very Web 2.0-ish, again it's not very intuitive, especially as there is a non-functioning scroll bar on the right side of the note.  This scroll bar is an indicator only, and not for navigation.  I was wrong on this point – the scroll bar CAN be used for navigation, and works just fine for this purpose.
  • The widget still doesn't allow you to repeat from the beginning when you've reached the end of the slide show.  To start over, you have to either refresh the page or navigate back to the beginning using the thumbnails at the bottom.  It would be nice to have this repeat from beginning as an option, if not the default behavior for the widget. Diego explained to me that this is not allowed by design – he said that this repeat behavior proved too confusing to users when it was implemented, especially if the thumbnails at the bottom were hidden.  I'll trust him on this one, and the addition of keymappings to your left, right, up, and down arrows on your keyboard to navigate through the photos does make up for this.
  • The widget relies on flash hosted on the creator's site (http://www.db798.com).  This means:
    • If for some reason, that site was unavailable, you wouldn't be able to view the pictures through the widget, even if they're available on flickr.  (Unlikely to happen nowadays with most people's webhosting providers, but it IS possible.)
    • If the creator makes an update to the widget, any copies you've embedded will be updated to reflect the latest widget behavior.  In my case, this meant something that worked previously (titles longer than 40 characters) suddenly stopped working without my knowledge.  I don't expect the creator to intentionally break/change a previous feature, but this is aggravating when it does happen.
    • Again, I was wrong about this.  By default, the flash file is hosted on Diego's site, but you CAN save a copy of it to host on your own site.  You will have to update the HTML snippet you load on your page to direct it to your copy of the flash file, but after that it should work just fine.  I would actually recommend against doing this, though, as you will be losing out on any future improvements or bug fixes in the program if you rely on a locally-hosted copy of the flash file.  However, it is nice to know that you can hold on to a copy to utilize in case the hosting website is ever no longer available.

All-in-all, PictoBrowser is a really slick way to display your flickr photos in another location.  I hear there is a plugin for WordPress blogs (which don't allow the HTML "object" tag).  For other sites like Vox, it is really easy to copy/paste the code into the page you want to display your pictures. 

I would definitely recommend PictoBrowser to others who are looking for a good way to share their pictures online.  It is a simple way to disseminate flickr photos to friends and family in a way that is user-friendly and intuitive, even for folks who aren't familiar with flickr or technology in general.

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