Camera Dies at Five

CameraLibCardI took this picture in July 2009, when the young camera had just come to live with me in Boston. For five years, it served me well: the limit on photo quality was more often the photgrapher than the camera. It was very portable, and rather resilient.

But it was not immortal. Its behavior became more and more erratic until, a couple of months ago, it stopped working altogether.

What device (or devices) should I use to take photos for the next five years? The option with the lowest incremental cost is my phone, an iPhone 4. I know I’ll want something better than that as a camera, and probably soonish rather than later.

But I haven’t done much with the photos I’ve taken this year. I haven’t looked through the photos on the deceased Canon’s card. My Flickr photostream has seen little activity.

A new camera would probably renew my interest. A new photosharing service might also do the trick. I don’t feel as Flickr-friendly as I used to; and no, that isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the acquisition by Yahoo.

As the holidays (and my birthday) approach, it’s time to start thinking what I want in a camera in terms of photo quality, ease of use, portability, price,…or to search for the natural heir to the camera in the photo. Any suggestions?

Yahoo no longer delicious, interest Flickring

Yahoo has had a bad year. In a week or so, I’ll probably be able to update this post with a link to a timeline (I’m sure someone will do a Yahoo review for 2010).

The current month might be labelled the December of dumping Delicious, one of the hot social media properties when we used to call social media Web 2.0. A recent review at Mashable reminds us that Yahoo initially declared Declicious’ status to be “sunset,” then declared it to be for sale, but adds that a sale of Delicious might not be easy or even appropriate.

I use Yahoo for two things. One is email. I’d like to be able to get to my Ymail from the Android mail app, but since basic Yahoo mail doesn’t allow straightforward use of IMAP or SMTPs, I have to use the Android browser.

I also use Flickr. My Flickr Pro account is one of the few examples of my paying for a freemium service.

I’ve been very happy with Flickr, and have not been too annoyed since the Yahoo acquisition. So maybe my Flickr photo for this post about Yahoo is rather snide; or maybe Yahoo is like a precarious, storm-battered shack.

But my confidence is Yahoo has sunk below the point at which I can recommend Flickr. It has not yet sunk below the point at which I will use Flickr.

As we head into 2011, I’m regretting that each of the two Yahoo services I use is rather sticky. Perhaps it was silly to use an email address with a domain I don’t own (andrew at changingway dot org, now that makes more sense). I have thousands of photos at Flickr, some of which are linked to from this blog and from other sites.

Perhaps Yahoo will be the comeback kid of 2011. I don’t see that happening, though.

Google Ate My Picnik

Google acquired Picnik. Liz at GigaOm leads with the fact that this is the latest in a series of deals by which ex-Googlers have been brought back into the fold.

I’ve yet to see an answer to my main question about the deal: how will this affect the relationship between Flickr and Picnik? It’s been posed in several places, including the comments on Picnik’s post about the acquisition.

Rainbow MinicardWhen I’m using my Flickr account and click to edit one of my photos, it’s Picnik that starts up. Apart from wishing that it would start up rather faster, I’m happy with Picnik.

Photo Prints, From Flickr and Elsewhere

Remains of the Cake (SC)Around the holidays, and a few other times I year, I want to have some photos on paper as well as on the web. On the web mainly means my Flickr photostream. I’ve used various services (Shutterfly, Snapfish, etc.) for printing, with no clear winner emerging.

More recently, I used the Order Prints button that I see above each of my photos at Flickr. I had no complaints about the quality, the price, or the few days wait before the prints arrived.

Then, just before the 2009 holiday season, Flickr partnered with Snapfish. It’s perhaps for that reason that square prints are no longer available. That’s bad news since, as you can see, I like to do the occasional crop to square. Another difference came from my need to get prints quickly.

The need for speed pushed me toward a Flickr/Snapfish/Walgreens print. Snapfish partners with retailers such as Walgreens on the output (prints) end, just as it partners with Flickr on the input (jpgs) end. So I could pick up prints at a reasonably close Walgreens.

The experience with Snapgreens wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I was supposed to get an email when my prints were ready to pick up, but I never did. So I called the store to check, then went to get the prints, and they were fine. They ended up costing a few bucks, rather as if I’d had them mailed rather than driven myself to a store to get them, but that didn’t seem too bad.

On the other hand, I’m sure that there are better paths to printing than Flickr/Snapfish/Walgreens. For example, I drove past a CVS or three (or more) on my way to the Walgreens, and I could have just put the jpgs on a USB, stopped in at CVS, and printed the photos. The prints might well have turned out just as well – I didn’t do the experiment.

Next time I need photos printed, I think that Ritz Camera will get my business. They have a location a few miles away, and it shares a parking lot with the Trader Joe’s nearest me. I’ve had good service from other Ritz locations in the past. I also admire Ritz as a specialist amidst more generalist big-box (Best Buy) and big-URL (Amazon) competitors.

And Ritz do square prints. To be more specific, 6×6 prints, for which I already have some inexpensive frames from IKEA.

More when I actually travel the Ritz Road…

Forward Into the Future

IMG_2243Having a smarter phone, and hence a more mobile web, is making me rethink multiple aspects of the web and how I use it. For example, I thought of streamlining my use of email. Right now, I have three main email accounts, and am on more than a few distribution lists. I don’t know how many lists I’m on, which strongly suggests that I’m on too many.

It might make sense to choose one email, autoforward the others to that mailbox, and get off most or all of the distribution lists. That would give me manageable mobile email.

But one of the emails is andrew dot watson at yahoo.com. To autoforward from that mailbox would cost me $20 a year, every year for the forseeable future. In Yahoo’s helpful words: Yahoo! Mail allows you to forward messages that come to your Yahoo! Mail Plus account to another email address. I emphasize Plus because Plus includes forwarding and POP access, whereas basic Yahoo mail does not include these features, basic though they seem to me.

I shouldn’t be too hard on Yahoo (especially since I own some shares). It’s not the only site that charges for forwarding. The site that hosts this blog has a similar policy in place if you want to redirect yourblogname.wordpress.com (as well as all of your permalinks) to your new domain name. The WordPress policy is similar to the Yahoo policy, but it’s not identical. It costs $10, rather than $20, a year.

That leads me to the following recommendations.

  1. For service providers, such as Automattic (owners of WordPress.com) and Yahoo: consider offering a “forward forever” deal. I’d suggest pricing it at twice the cost of one year’s forwarding. That way, the user gets to pay and forget, rather than being reminded every year that they need to keep paying for a service they don’t really us. That would be good for reputation, goodwill, etc. – and for cash flow, in that you’d get money now, rather than in future year.
  2. For web service users, especially content creators, think about leaving a service before you think about using that service. This echoes the advice given to firefighters: don’t go into a building without knowing your way out.
  3. For web service users again: own your own domain. I’ve taken my own advice here, by owning changingway.org. On the other hand, I don’t own flickr.com, which is where I keep most of my photos (including the one used in this post).

But that brings me back to Yahoo, which owns Flickr, and forward to consideration of getting photos out of Flickr and other photo services…. which deserves a separate post.

Moo Minicards and Flickr Pro

Japanese Garden Bridge MinicardIf you have a new* Flickr Pro account, you can get a free 10-pack of Moo minicards. The image is a minicard-proportioned crop of one of my photos. Feel free to use it, or any of the other minicard crops in my MooMini4U photoset.

Even if you don’t have a Flickr account, MOO MiniCards are cool, and you are still welcome to use my crops.

More MooCoolness to be posted here soon…

*I’m not sure exactly what new means here. Follow the link and see whether you get free minicards. That’s what I did, and I did 🙂

Choosing an Online Photo Service

Crowded Kid's MuseumYou want to put photos online. Which of the many services in this crowded space do you use?

This post was prompted by a recent conversations with friends who are considering this question, and by a recent post by Frederic at ReadWriteWeb. Frederic compares 10 services, while acknowledging that there are many more. He provides a good comparison between the 10, with a service/feature table and a couple of paragraphs on each of the 10.

I’ll complement Frederic’s post by focusing on user actions and priorities, rather than on services and features. I’ll start with the question: what do you want to do? I suggest that the following are among the most important actions for many of us.

  • Get started quickly, and then be able easily to work with the service, rather than having to spend time and effort working the service out. I’ve put ease of use at the top of the list, but it ease of use should flow down to the other items; in other words, everything else on the list should be easy, not just possible.
  • Share photos with others.
  • Specify who should, or should not, be able to see particular photos. This is the other side of the sharing coin. Sharing is important, and should be easy. But not sharing everything with everyone may also be important, and should also be easy.
  • Create stuff, such as prints and books, from the online photos.

Central to this list are the second and third points: the two sides of the sharing coin. If we take these as our twin starting points, we might quickly arrive at the conclusion that the service you should use is the one your friends and family use. If the service already knows about them, you can identify them as people with whom you want to share. Hence you can share photos of, say, your kids, with them, without having to make them visible to everyone on the web.

That suggests that, if you’re looking for an online photo service, you should use the one your community already uses. It may of course be more complicated than that. You probably have multiple communities; to take the example of one friend, I’m on Flickr, but the childcare we used to send our daughters to has a “room” on Snapfish.

I won’t even mention some of the other complications. Frederic covers some of them. Having contrasted his post with mine, I’ll finish on a note we can sing together. Flickr is the one to beat, and, for many of us, it has yet to be beaten.

Bad Signs Badly Captured

One of my favorite Flickr groups is Bad Signs. I’ve contributed a photo or two over the years (yes, self, it has been that long).

24 Hour Access to Driveway?I tried to get good photos of two of my current favorite bad signs, which happen to be less than a hundred yards apart in Jamaica Plain. Here’s one. Due to the setup of the sign and the driveway, I could have got a good shot of the sign itself or of the reason it’s a bad sign. Since this photo is a compromise that makes clear neither the sign nor the reason for its badness, I’ll explain. The sign says “Please do not block driveway. 24 hr access.” A glance at the car, its tires, and the vegetation around and in front of it suggests that the car hasn’t moved in 24 months, let alone 24 hours.

My attempts to capture the other sign were even less successful. It’s a sign that proclaims that “Boston police seek aggressive drivers.” It’s on the District E-13 police station. I’m wondering how many people have gone in there saying something like, “I’m an aggressive driver and I’d like to apply for the job.”

I thought it unwise to get to take a photo of that sign from too close. That would have put me either in the middle of Washington Street, which would have meant trouble with traffic, or right next to the sign itself and hence the station, which might have meant trouble with the police. “Ridicule of District E-13, eh? We don’t take kindly to people shooting that film.”

So I remain free to take further bad photos.

Long Self-Portrait as About Video

The folks at PhotoJojo coined the phrase long portrait, Mashable Stan hailed the long portrait as a use for Flickr video, and Heather Rasley commented about the long self-portrait.

That got me thinking about an About video, in lieu of, or as part of, a blog’s About page. So I made such a video. There’s about a minute of About video.