Flickr adds Downloadable Video Sharing

It’s not often that there’s a new feature worth talking about at Flickr. And it seems to have been so long that Flickr’s marketing team dropping it into a particularly bare email, giving it just two lines.

Flickr Photostream

But it’s actually quite interesting. Flickr has now made it possible to allow you to share videos in the same way as you can allow people to download your photos. You set your defaults and can tweak them for individual items.

It’s useful in two ways. Firstly it’s a way to allow videos to be used, modified and uploaded by others under a Creative Commons License, which is a great way to allow others to build on your work. And it also allows friends and family to potentially download and save videos which are important to them – meaning that your backup archive doesn’t just have to be on your own computer.

The first way is the most interesting though – obviously Youtube, Facebook and the likes of Instagram and Twitter are either the giants in online video or trying to get there. But although they all have ways to embed video and therefore display the original upload information and advertising, they don’t have any ways to allow people to share and download videos.

That relies on filesharing services like Dropbox, Hightail etc.

But that then relies on a personal relationship with the sender. I need to know the videos exist and be given the link to their location to be able to access them.

Flickr allowing video sharing changes that. It could really benefit a core group of video creators – although I wonder how many of them will actually be aware, given the lack of promotion about it. Strange considering how immensely important video is for big tech brands and publishers right now.

A digital Sunday evening…

It’s Sunday night and for various reasons I’ve been offline for about 48 hours and I’m pretty tired. So what am I doing?

  • The Xbox is currently playing Forza Motorsport 3 for itself as the AI goes through the tedium of endless races to get the final game achievement and clear the way for Forza Motorsport 4 – important considering the amount of coverage I’ll be doing on OnlineRaceDriver.
  • My phone is currently uploading 100+ images from today to Flickr after our trip to Woburn Safari Park, which I’ll then need to group edit and tag.
  • And I’m on the laptop, having cleared out any notification emails, scanned and marked as read any RSS items, and started sorting out what I need to finish this week for both client sites and my own. Assuming that’s ever finished, hopefully I’ll catch up with the F1 race from earlier with iPlayer.

What struck me is that I don’t think the fact I have 3 internet devices all chuntering away on a ‘relaxing’ Sunday night is at all strange. And while I might be slightly unusual in running my own online-based businesses and spending most of my leisure time online, I suspect we’re still nowhere near the peak demand in bandwith for uploading and curating personal content online. What was once the preserve of the geeks and over-sharers is not only increasingly normal for everyone, but faster internet access, mobile connectivity and general access throughout less-developed countries means we’re still figuring out what we can do, and crucially, how to do it more easily.

Checking out my stats on Flickr, it’s blindingly obvious that most of my uploads have all come since I started using a smartphone, which allows quick uploading to Flickr. Without that, everything would still be on my memory card or hard drive.

And it was only recently that I finally got around to using the group edit functions, and could suddenly make a lot more photos public and accessible with at least some attempt at titles and tags (My default upload is always private for various reasons).

And that’s adding up to 10’s of thousands of views on Flickr alone.

It made me think that so much of the web is still so difficult, and that we’re still miles away from the potential in universal easy access. And that will also enable us to more easily spend time offline or better utilise mobile connectivity. It’s time to make things easier for everyone…

Some calming inspiration…

Things have been busier than ever over the past few weeks, which makes me hugely thankful as someone who is mainly freelancing. And as a result, I’ve been reminding myself of various ways to keep inspired and avoid getting stressed.

Besides reading, videogames, and actually getting outside with my family, there are still some things which work whilst staying in front of a PC screen. Some research may suggest videos or images of cute animals helps lower stress levels, and I’m not averse to the odd lolcat, but I think the best thing I’ve found is a couple of minutes looking at ‘Interesting photos from the last 7 days‘ on Flickr.

It’s incredibly simple – a page of 9 photos which Flickr users found interesting. And the Reload button finds 9 more. And so on until infinity, or the next week presumably roles around.

But beyond the fact that most pages feature 9 amazing images on a huge variety of subjects, it’s also a calming and inspiring sign of how much amazing content is being uploaded onto the internet every second, minute, hour and day. Rather than feeling like the information overload of RSS and Twitter, the chatter of Facebook, or the audio-visual hullabaloo of Youtube, it’s just 9 simple images. No more, no less.

In some ways, it makes me question how complicated we actually need our information filters to be.

And on another level, it just helps me relax for a few moments – and it never takes long before I’m ready to get back to it!

Visual representations of your latest Tweets with Portwiture

Portwiture is an interesting mash-up by Tyler Sticka, which grabs photos from Flickr which match the content of your most recent Twitter updates.

By inputting your Twitter username, a grid or slideshow is created, and you can select the number of photos, to grab photos by relevance, recency or how interesting they are.

And that’s it – as Tyler writes, it’s simply an experiment in mashing social services, using JavaScript framework jQuery and public APIs, some PHP and SlideShowPro. What is quite fun is that he’s suggested anyone who wants to discuss possible uses should do it on Twitter with the hashtag #whyportwit.

I ran my own Twitter account, and you can see the results.

Although there’s no easy embed option, an RSS feed is provided – it would be great if images could be linked to individual tweets – perhaps providing a business model if Tyler uploaded advertiser images, and then pulled them into the system alongside Flickr photos?

And if I could just embed it easily, it could become a really fun way to see Tweeple represented.

But it’s yet another example of the benefits of Open APIs and inventive people, which has fuelled Twitter so far.

Great marketing can be quick enough to beat the news

Now here’s an example of a great use of marketing to respond quickly and effectively to things as they happen.

I hadn’t heard anything about Virgin Trains trying to cut down on people kissing and hugging at the passenger drop-off point at Warrington Bank Quay station. Apparently a sign banning kissing was put up in a light-hearted manner to ease congestion and suggest people should go to the short-stay car park (and pay!) if they want to hug and kiss someone leaving on a trip.

Instead, the first things I saw were:

Mills and Boon respond to Virgin

Mills and Boon respond to Virgin

It was apparently done by St Lukes, who handle advertising for Mills & Boon, and it’s timely, considering news about the sign only appeared two days ago.

It’s also relatively low cost – there’s a Facebook group, a Twitter account, and a Flickr group.  And people are being encouraged to interact and upload images of themselves kissing etc.

It’s already had a bit of coverage via Brand Republic and The School of Life.

But most importantly, it’s effective because it was done quickly, enthusiastically, and allows people to get involved.

As a result, if it becomes a huge runaway success, then it’s great. But if it only achieves minor success, then nothing has been lost except a bit of time.

And it ties in brilliantly with Mills & Boon promoting romance, rather than books about romance.

I’d guess it didn’t take much negotiation around permission and planning, which is a benefit of having clear beliefs and trust.

And suddenly a brand which I’d associate with my grandmother now seems lighthearted and fun enough to check out the next time I want to buy a romantic present.

My Christmas: Information as gifts…

One of the detractions around social media, social networking and blogging etc is that there are plenty of people in the ‘real world’ who don’t give a monkeys about the internet.

Which may well be true, but in addition to the somewhat reasonable 140 million+ active users on Facebook, this holiday season emphasised how the world is changing on a personal level – namely the relationship between an online geek (me), and his almost technophobe parents.

It started pre-Christmas, when my folks replaced their aging desktop with a shiny new laptop and signed up for broadband. (For reference, the desktop must be about 10 years old, and they were still on dial-up!)

Then they started asking me to find albums by relatively niche Irish folk artists on Amazon. And my mother decided to borrow Tribes – which is promising as she completed a degree in sociology in her spare time a few years ago with marks I’ll always be proud and envious of!

But Christmas really was The Tipping Point.

For starters, their gift to me was a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, Outliers: The Story of Success.

My gift in return was a webcam, and a quick lesson in using Windows Live Messenger, Gmail, and Flickr. (We tried Twitter but that’s probably a step too far!)

The reasons were simple:

1. They already have a hotmail email account, and although there might be better IM clients, not only is Windows Live Messenger pretty simple and easy to use, but enough people use it that I wouldn’t be sole technical support.

The main reason is that it means they can see their grandson on webcam whenever we’re online.

2. Gmail is intended to be a starting point for them to hopefully move to Google Calendar,  Google Docs etc.

The main reason is that it means I can share my calendar so we can all schedule our lives and events without playing telephone tennis for days and weeks beforehand. Facebook might also be useful, but that’s for Phase 2!

3. Flickr is a nice way to start seeing the value of sharing images, tagging, etc.

But the main thing is that my dad has always had an artistic side which is always underexploited, and has always be into photography. Plus they can see ‘family only’ images of the family.

We’ve already had a couple of webcam enabled chats over IM, and I’m hoping it’ll encourage them to explore and try other new ways to share and communicate with friends and family.  I’m certainly past the age of worrying that connecting with my parents might make me seem less cool, or that they’d see an inappropriate picture or comment – at my age, the chances to behave inappropriately are frustratingly rare!

Terrorist attacks in Mumbai – Twitter becomes source for updates

As the full horror of the ongoing terrorist attacks in Mumbai (Bombay) unfolds, Twitter has once again become the place to find first hand accounts and updates. So much so, that CNN is citing both Twitter and Flickr as the places to keep up with the latest updates, as updated by @Moto62 and many others.

Meanwhile @BreakingNewz is trying to raise awareness of a blood shortage at JJ Hospital due to the attacks. And @hemanshukumar provides a phone number to donate at St George’s hospital. And @Netra provided a direct contact for the blood bank at JJ Hospital.

Other reports on the role Twitter is playing in relaying first hand reports and reactions to the news include Techcrunch, and GigaOm.

Responses and reactions are flowing incredibly fast on Twitter, and you can follow the stream here. (Flickr results are here). Or you can follow a localised Twitter search updates.

It’s hard to find the right words to express the sympathy I have for everyone there right now, but seeing individuals sharing important information to help each other is a reminder of the good in the world. And also that in the debates about monetising microblogging, perhaps we’ve missed a far more important role and legacy we could be helping to develop further as a response tool to tragic situations.

Don’t swap journalists for users quite yet…

User generated content (UGC), citizen journalism, blogging. I’m a huge fan of all three when used correctly, but they all need to be handled with care by traditional media companies, whether it’s not serving them properly, or, in the case I’m going to hypothesise about, overestimating their effect.

Way back in June I quoted figures which put submissions to Youtube at 0.16% of users, while Flickr submissions were at 0.2%. Wikipedia was the involvement leader with 4.6%. Which should be one worry to the people I’ve spoken to who believe traditional journalists will be replaced by users in the near future.

Putting this to one side, along with discussions of trust, I think there is a further concern which anyone should consider before cutting journalists in favour of UGC.

And that’s going to be a growing rise in the need for payment for UGC. The oft cited example of OhMyNews already pays for submissions, and some bloggers are now being paid to produce work professionally. At the moment, these are exceptions rather than the rule for User Generated Content.

But there’s an established global market which already handsomely rewards creativity, and which will have an effect on any creative efforts produced. Users of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Rolepaying Games), or users of Xbox Live will already be familiar with the concept of creating virtual items, Forza Motorsport car liveries, or a wealth of other content, and being reward in game currency, or via online auction sites in real money. And then there’s Anshe Chung, the Second Life millionaire

As increasing numbers of people are playing online games, and are familiar with the concept of virtual capitalism, then they won’t be satisfied with the fame of having their content published on a large website, and will increasing expect fair recompense for their efforts…

And to get the best UGC, to make it worthwhile, you’ll need to be making your site more financially rewarding…

And the worst part will be that your submissions will now come from people who aren’t tied by a contract or a notice period. Instead they’ll be free to submit to any site which appears overnight with a more attractive offer…

(None of this is meant to dissuade you from using UGC on your site… But as with anything, it’s one aspect of the future of online publishing, not the only answer…)

The User Generated Content myth.

You know how everyone, their dog, and their dog’s dog is talking about User Generated Content, Engagement, and how everyone is dying to upload their lives onto the internet, if only they had the chance?

Bill Tancer from web audience measurement firm Hitwise has some stats for you:

0.16% of the people visiting Youtube are uploading videos.

0.2% are visiting Flickr to upload images.

Wikipedia has the biggest involvement at 4.6%

That’s not to say they aren’t immensely popular, and getting more so by the second.

“But despite relatively low-user involvement, visits to Web 2.0-style sites have spiked 668 percent in two years”

The lesson is that millions want to be able to take a peek at the private lives of others, and displaying User Generated Content is a great way to build an audience and get traffic. But don’t expect a huge amount of content to suddenly appear overnight. Especially if your site isn’t a giant like Youtube or Flickr. Because if they’re getting 0.2%, you can bet a site with a smaller audience will get far less than 0.2% uploading. After all, what kind of exhibitionist targets smaller groups of people?