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FlickrMaps a failure?

It’s been interesting to see the mixed reaction that FlickrMaps has received since it’s recent launch. After all, it’s such a cool idea, to be able to show on a map where you took your photo, and see what the rest of the world looks like through other people’s eyes. It’s like Google Earth with a few hundred thousand personalities. Beautiful.
Oh and, of course, it’s a mashup, so it must be cool!
This is what Flickr told us to expect from FlickrMaps:
See, there’s your local park, and that’s about where the statue is that’s in your photo. Drag your photo there. Very cool.
Here’s what it’s like in London.
London on FlickrMaps
Yes, you know London, in the UK. That city with a population of population 7.3 million, inhabiting an area of 174 sq km. Here’s the map that Flickr/Yahoo give me to position my photos on. Forget about the park, I can’t even find my suburb.
And, as you can imagine, it’s not much more fun in Sydney.
Sydney Map on Flickr
Yes, at a stretch, there are satellite maps that you can use in these locations that give you more granularity… but nowhere near the precision of streetmaps. And not what Flickr promised.How have the people of London responded?
London FlickrMaps photos

Pretty underwhelming really, isn’t it.

There is more to this than just the US-Centric product focus. There are also some pretty significant (in my opinion) flaws with the way that the Map service has been designed.

Let me start by saying that once you *find* the map section, then adding your photos to the map (assuming there is a decent map of the where you took your photo) is a real pleasure.

But here’s the problem – when are you *most* likely to add locations to your image?

I’d hazard a guess (and it is only a guess, perhaps Flickr have user research to show differently), but I’d guess that it would be at the point that you’re uploading your photos. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty much the only time that I add things like tags to my photos. And it’s when I’m uploading a bunch of photos that I might think about putting them into a set.

(Again, this is dangerous business, looking at your own behaviour and theorising that everyone else’s behaviour is the same… so I’d be interested to hear how/when you add tags or make sets… and at what points you think you’d add geotagging to your photos).

Alas, while you’re uploading your photos, and even once you’ve uploaded them, there’s no hint of the map.

When I went to explore FlickrMaps this morning, I literally felt as though I was hunting for them. Where was the first place that I went? Well, to the detail page of one of my photos, of course. I was sure I’d find a call to action asking me to put my un-mapped photo on the map. Nope.

Eventually I got to – ‘oooh, the organiser’. Perhaps it’s there.
And there it was.

So, I find the Maps either because I’m hunting for it, or because I happen upon it. This means that I’m unlikely to geo-tag very many photos.

And, as demonstrated by the map of London and number of uploads, it seems that not so many people *are* geo-tagging their photos.

BUT – things may not be as they seem. Did you notice that strange paging device on the map? This one:

Map Pages

Do you get it? I sure don’t. Maps and pages… what is this? An atlas? (See it in context in the image at the top of this post)

After playing with it a while I learned that if I clicked on the arrows to the left or right I got to see the map refresh and show me different numbers of photos uploaded in different locations. Apparently this is a page.

Now, am I just being thick, or does the concept of ‘pages’ just make no sense at all on a map like this? I don’t know about you, I’m basing my expectations on the other Yahoo and Google Map mashups with all the masses of pins poking out all over the place. And no pages.

I can’t even begin to get my head around what a page might mean in this context… what goes on one page and not another? And playing with the pages didn’t clear things up for me either.

I can’t think that these pages are helping the situation any though, because according to this widget there are 3.5 million images that have been geo-tagged. That’s a pretty impressive number.

Go play with the map though, and tell me where all these images are… I sure can’t find anywhere near that many. I’ve played around with England, NSW (Australia) and East Coast USA and I don’t reckon I’ve seen more than three thousand photos on the map (and that’s erring on the generous side).

So, has FlickrMaps been a failure so far? Well, if you define success by uptake, then I’d say the jury is out.
If there have been 3.5 million photos geo-tagged in the last couple of weeks, then you’d be a hard judge to call that a failure.
But, if that is the case… then I’ve never seen something successful look so much like a failure.
Come on Flickr. Don’t be hiding your light under a bushel.
Let’s see those 3.5 million geo-tagged photos and where they’re at. Let’s see the FlickrMap phenomenon come to life. And let’s get more people geo-tagging by thinking about how we can seduce them into geo-tagging at the moments when they’re most likely to participate.
Oh, and to everyone in ‘the Valley’. Please don’t forget about us, your loyal customers, from *all over the world*!
Update: Dave (Heller) Malouf has an interesting post with his evaluation of  FlickrMaps here. Check it out.

Firefox is driving me bonkers (my accident prone tab closing experiences)

I keep accidentally closing my tabs in Firefox, and it’s driving me mad!
Dan Saffer and Fred Sampson have been talking about Firefox’s recent experimentation with close buttons. It seems that Firefox have been playing around the close button, including moving it from the right to the left and back to the right side of the tab.
All I can say is that I never accidentally closed a tab before those x’s turned up on the right of the tab, and I do it *all* the time now, and it *really* annoys me!
At least in the older version when I hit the ‘x’ and I was closing a set of tabs, Firefox would check to make sure I wasn’t doing something crazy.
Now I’m sure I miss out on lots of interesting reading because I’ve opened up a tab for something I plan to get to later, and then I accidentally close it – and I don’t even know what it was!
Does anyone else do this or am I being a bit of a moron?
For me it’s such an unconscious thing – it’s like the X is calling me and saying ‘click me! click me!’ – and so I do! I’m not even sure what I’m trying to do when I click it… I think a lot of the time I’m going to navigate to another tab.
It seems wrong that I can do something so irretrievable so easily. There’s no way (that I know of) that I can find out what that tab was holding for me once it’s gone… yet, I can understand how frustrating it would become to have to confirm that, Yes, I really do want to close that tab everytime I consciously tried to close one.
I know that the left hand side isn’t perhaps the most logical/conventional place to put the red X, but I think that extra bit of thought ‘what is that X doing there? oh, it’s delete’, would definitely save me from making this mistake all the time.
Either that, or some how let me do a Control+Z and undo my delete… or something that can let me find that damn page that I obviously wanted to read and now is lost for ever (or, until I stumble upon it again).
And, while I’m whining about this version of Firefox … I can’t *tell* you how many time’s it’s crashed while I’ve been using WordPress. They’re not playing nicely at all. I think I do more saving than writing these days! It seems to particularly hate when I’d doing anything with an image.
Mercifully, there is the ‘resume session’ option offered when you re-launch the browser. Now, there’s an utter godsend. All I need now is something like that for when I accidentally close a tab!
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I’m terrible at tagging. How about you?

Tags in Kyoto

I don’t know about you, but when i look at my Flickr and tags and even the categories for my blog, it makes me realise that folksonomies are not so simple.

Particularly my account is now so completely out of control that I frequently can’t find things that I *know* I saved and tagged… and I’m supposed to know a thing or two about how to label things!

Where are the main problems? Plurals and abbreviations are my biggest foes. Sometimes I pluralise, sometimes I don’t. Generally I use the full word or term, but occasionally I’ll use an abbreviation, or both! If a term has two words to it, the way that I join the words to make a term varies.

It’s a complete mess.

Why did this happen? Because I didn’t make any rules when I first started, and my ‘rules’ have evolved over time as I see different ways that other people use tags, and as I succumb to using ‘suggested tags’ that break my ‘rules’.

Not only that, but usually I tag in haste, often times because I want to come back and look at the page/site at leisure but I don’t want to lose the link. I’m not really thinking too much about whatever my latest tagging rules might be, and there’s nothing to remind me of what rules I’d decided on.

And, most of all. The system doesn’t care how I tag and doesn’t keep me in line!

it drives me crazy. I feel like a plumber with a dripping tap. But will I ever go back and tidy it up? Probably not. I have a whole lot of links there now – it would take a serious investment of time to tidy up now… and what’s to stop it from ending up in the same state of disrepair in six months time?

If I’m having these kinds of troubles with tagging, then surely others are having even more troubles. And the value of the tagging must surely be diminished because other people are getting less rich results due to my haphazard tagging.

I do love the freedom and flexibility of tagging… but more and more I find myself wanting some rules, and some compulsion to stick to the rules or knowingly break them. And I want a smarter system that realises I’m being silly when I randomly choose to make a tag a plural for no good reason at all.

I want some structure to my tagging.

Do you? Or do you think I’m taking all the fun out of folksonomy?

Photo Credit: AnnDeeScraps @ Flickr

who moved my @ key?

UK Keyboard
I’m making more typos than ever these days, and this is what I’m blaming – UK keyboards. They’re driving me mad.
It wasn’t that long ago I started trying to make myself become proficient with a Wacom tablet. At first, I felt like I had the motor skills of a very young (pre-Playstation) child and struggled to bend it to my will. It didn’t take long, maybe a few hours, and I had it pretty much under control. (Although, my ‘double clicks’ are still pretty haphazard, and I’m not always 100% sure how to activate the ‘right click’).
I’ve been in the UK over a month now and using their crazy keyboards for most of that time, and for the life of me I still forget that the @ symbol is not above the number 2 (where it belongs!), but moved right across and down the keyboard where the double quote (“) should be. And where is the double quote? On above the 2.
Why oh why?
Now, I know, there is an extra ‘important’ symbol that needs to be fitted into the UK version of the keyboard – the Pound (£), of course. From my initial observations… there doesn’t really seem to be much other excuse for the ABSOLUTE WHOLESALE REDESIGN of the arrangement of the symbols on the keyboard.
Perhaps someone can explain to me what this symbol is: ¬ and why it is so important that it scores the top LH key, replacing the much more useful (IMHO) ~ symbol which is, funnily enough, now moved down near the @ (eh. I made three mistakes trying to type that symbol just now and I’m writing about how annoyingly hard it is to find… that’s not funny).
Did whoever is responsible for this design have some belief that the spot down near the LHS shift key is a more ergonomic place for frequently used symbols, perhaps? Why else would the @ and ” be swapped around like that? (and @ is, I assume, a relatively recent addition to the keyboard, so it can’t have happened all that long ago, could it?)
Not to mention the # key. Now, at least it has the excuse of being replaced by the £ symbol which seems somewhat inexcusable, but according to the source of the image above, whoever designed UK keyboards for Macs dispensed with the poor old hash key altogether! Now, that’s utter madness. Surely the # symbol is one of the more useful symbols on the keyboard (especially in these wiki editing days!). I certainly use it more than, say the ^ or {} or definitely ¬ keys!
Ironically, it was just the other day when I sat in on a discussion about the QWERTY keyboard and it’s design flaws and historical legacy. Eh. I’m quite happy with QWERTY I have to say… I can’t really think much faster than I can type at the moment anyways… but is there any chance we might all have one QWERTY keyboard… or am I being overly demanding? (and Anglo-centric?)
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