Giving Flickr the flick

I’m afraid I’m less than satisfied with Flickr.

I joined Flickr last year when I first started work on Swinburne’s digital collections. I’ve always been a pretty average photographer – it might be partly my shortsightedness, but it’s mostly to do with me panicking and jumping at the last minute just before I hit the ‘go’ button. I end up with some impressive ghostly images, but the intended subject usually eludes me. Suffice to say, don’t ask me to take your wedding photos unless you don’t mind sharing the limelight with the undead.

Working on the Swinburne Image Bank, an online gallery of over 2500 photos taken during Swinburne’s 99 year history, I don’t have to take any photos myself, but I’ve learned a bit about DPI resolution, export formats and image enhancement. Some of my favourite Image Bank submissions to date include ‘youthful seamstress’, an ‘ETS 2010 modular electronic typing system’ that’s almost as old as I am, and some glorious examples of fashion through the ages: 1975, 1977, 1987 and 1990. The influence of everyone’s favourite TV couple is palpable. There’s also plenty of inspiration for anyone needing an authentic Halloween costume, especially if you’ve forgotten the art of ‘business in the front, party in the back’ or you’ve misplaced your Dame Edna glasses.

To be serious for just a moment, the Image Bank is actually a very important tool for Swinburne, in terms of documenting and displaying its progression from working man’s college to TAFE and higher education institution with an increasingly impressive research profile. We’re very lucky to have such a vast catalogue of Swinburne’s staff and student achievements; most other Victorian universities have nothing like it (although I found this gem in Monash’s gallery).

Swinburne Image Bank is harvested by Picture Australia, the National Library of Australia‘s online pictorial collection, which has an interesting interaction program with Flickr, the subject of this post and the embodiment of the fifth and sixth 23 Things tasks. Flickr is an online photo sharing and management tool owned by the Yahoo corporation, and you need a login to join (unless you already have a Yahoo ID, in which case you can use that).

Flickr allows you to upload and share your photos with friends, family, and if you want, the world. You can choose to assign a Creative Commons licence to your happy snaps, allowing others to use your photos for non-commercial purposes as long as they give you credit (as I did here). However, if you’re keen for your images remain the same when reproduced, and you don’t want them recycled like this, then you should read the fine print about attribution, non-attribution, non-commercial etc licences before you agree to them.

In many ways, Flickr is the perfect Web 2.0 tool. It helps ordinary Web users explore their creativity by tagging and sharing their photos with others. It also allows the more serious paparazzo to receive feedback through the comments facility, a good alternative to workshopping in person, and after all, Web 2.0 is all about recreating the physical through the virtual. Joining a Flickr group provides access to photos and social networking opportunities with likeminded people. On advice from some of the other Swinburne 23 Things bloggers, I’ve joined Swinburne photos (still a small pool) and Withnail and I, (photos from devotees of the movie who have recreated scenes all over the English countryside), and I also found a group called Vanishing Beauty, for photos of beautiful old things trying hard to survive in a world obsessed with the new. It’s an interesting concept for a website designed entirely around new technologies.

With over 1500 photos uploaded every minute, Flickr is an indispensable resource for images to spice up your presentations, blog posts or even your workspace. The Flickr blog presents some amazing photos from all around the world, and a quick search on ‘Swinburne library’ shows that even our humble environ has a presence on Flickr.

Yet Flickr is far from ideal. My first stumbling block was having to create yet another login – I haven’t used Yahoo regularly since Google arrived on the scene (with far better search capabilities and email functionality) and my membership had lapsed. Next I found I could only load 100MB per month (a quota I quickly filled, unfortunately). Worst of all, being a compulsive categoriser, I struggled to limit myself to the 3 free albums (or ‘sets’, a Flickr-specific term Dana finds unhelpful) available to me. I’m not prepared to purchase extra space when Picasa Web allows me 1GB of storage at no cost, and uses my Google account.

Despite these administration problems, I really enjoyed sharing the few photos I’m able to, and admiring the work of others. As Dana suggests, Flickr is a wonderful tool if you’re ‘just looking’. If you like, you can ‘just look’ at my photos here, although I’d love it if left a comment!

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2 Responses to Giving Flickr the flick

  1. Sara Jervis says:

    I joined Vanishing Beauty and thought I was posting just two photographs on the site. To my chagrin and embarrassment, my family photographs in my Flickr account were copied. These have nothing to do with Vanishing Beauty. I realise that I could have made a fool of myself; there is no checking audit to stop unsuitable images, and my amateur status as a user of these new sites and programs showed up. I deleted the unsuitable images and then went on to post an item about hopscotch without an image. I wonder if there are sheriffs out there to scold me.

    I often ponder about the marvels of Image Bank. I think our images are so good because Swinburne commissioned studio photographers to take the photos for brochures, PR and other purposes, up until the late 1960s. After that we used our staff who were professional photographers. Black and white photography has its beauty anyway, but when an expert lined up a shot for one of our myriad publications, the result was sometimes brilliant – images with exquisite lighting and composition. Our Image Bank is indeed a treasure trove.

  2. […] at Google Docs, for example, which offers a free hosting and editing service for office documents, and Flickr, a centralised space for storing images. But how can we take our desktops with […]

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