Monday, August 28, 2006

It's Official: Flickr offers geotagging functionality

Earlier this month, I stumbled upon a feature that Flickr was working on, and wrote about my experience here on this blog. It disappeared shortly after making its appearance, and showed signs that it was still a work in progress (and an impressive one at that). Now it's official. Flickr just rolled out their geotagging components today, and they are wicked impressive.

Start by using the Organizer and selecting the Map tab. You're then presented with a Yahoo! Local Maps Beta-like interface (say that fast three times) on which you can drag and drop your photos to geotag them to your heart's content.

From what I've seen so far, it's pretty slick. They have some interface quirks to work out, to be sure, but I'm sure that we'll see those ironed out in due course. It will be interesting to see how the Flickr community uses these features. I know that geotagging has been around for a while, but in my opinion, it hasn't been available to such a large community with such a compelling interface.

I haven't explored as in depth as Thomas Hawk, so follow the link for his thorough review.

Update: For those of you who geotag your photos using another tool (or just have a really fancy camera), Rev Dan Catt pointed out that Flickr can read GPS information found in a photo's EXIF data when a photo is uploaded. You just need to turn it on.

Update 2: Flickr posted their own very informative post here.

Update 3: Flickr users have geotagged just over 1.2 million photos in just 24 hours!


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Blogger Gebimble said...

Wow, what an intriguing feature! But could you point out to one so narrow of mind and slow of uptake what good will this feature be for anything other than sight-seeing or oneupmanship between members? If that is all that it's for I'm not really aversed to it, seeing as it seems as though this is just a little addon for an already useful program, but surely revealing so accurately where your shots are taken is like watching one of those "how it's done" magic shows.

Tue Aug 29, 04:10:00 AM PDT  
Blogger brad77 said...

Well put, Gebimble, and a good question. Given by the tepid reaction of many, this may indeed be a feature that is slow in uptake.

I think that this feature, more than being revolutionary, will just become another way to organize your photos. I suspect that soon we'll wonder how we ever went without it. I'm a metadata junkie, and have been really happy with Flickr's use of tags to organize and categorize my photos. It "flattens" the directory structure, if you will, allowing you to search for images based on self-assigned attributes. It provides you a new way to navigate your shots without having to do so with a nested folder tree (although such a structure is something that many Flickr users are asking for...personally, I see the value in using both). For me, the idea of being able to virtually re-visit a location where a photo was taken years ago is intriguing.

Aside from that, I also think that there are scores of hypothetical uses for this. To use a friend's example, by combining a tag search based on location, you could find flora in San Diego or sea shells in Florida. Thinking of visiting somewhere? Search for "Best Irish Pub" in New York, or use the name of a bar someone recommended. More generally, you could just search for restaurants in San Francisco. Should you decide to visit, you already know where to find it (of course, it's probably worth double checking the location before you head out the door).

Also, but more along the lines of the "how it's done" magic shows you mentioned, photographers can use the tool to find sites for their next photo shoot. It gives them an additional tool to scope out the site before heading there.

I suppose that those applications could be lumped into the groups you already mentioned. I think that where this will really shine is how in reinforces the Flickr community. It sounds hokey, but in my opinion, what makes Flickr successful is its substantial user community. Hundreds of thousands actively participate, share, discuss, etc. Those people are going to determine the worth of this feature.

Along those lines, Flickr is somewhat of a social networking site at its core, and this type of tool encourages interaction between its members. Now, to quote a comment Thomas Hawk made on the FlickrCentral forums:

But on a more serious note, the first and the most valuable impact is that by geotagging your photos you can be shown photos by others who geotag near the photos that you took. One of my contacts recently shot me a comment on a photo saying how cool it was that we both took the same shot of the same thing at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland. This connection was made completely randomly. She just happened to see my photo and had to physically make the connection then comment.

By geotagging these connections can become automatic. You can potentially become much more aware of the photography going on in your geographical region. As people's geography/photography begin to overlap, for many this will result in first online and then even possibly offline (meetups, photostrolls, shoots, lunch, dinner, etc.) connections being made.

These offline connections help solidify even more the online sense of community. I am much closer to the people that I've gotten to know in the offline world from flickr -- aqui-ali, deb lattimore, john curley, sfbuckaroo, all of these relationships are much stronger because our online flickr thing went to an offline friendship thing. And of course our developed friendships fundamentally have been built around an internet site -- and this is amazingly sticky.

So I suppose that we’ll see. Hopefully, as more and more users get into the idea of geotagging their photos (more than 850,000 photos have been geotagged already), we’ll see some trends emerge that will bear out its usefulness.

Tue Aug 29, 10:11:00 AM PDT  
Blogger OhPunk! said...

That is just an awesome feature!

I'd love to see where that goes... (and who else will copy...)

** Shaun **
My awesome blog:


Tue Aug 29, 09:26:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Nika said...

I stumbled onto the geotagging feature on flickr last night and played with it a little bit. I just started a flickr account (shortly after joining the bizarre blogger-world) and have been blindly exploring some of its features. The geotag idea is great--it is easy to use and fun for people who do a lot of traveling (I can always hope). ‘tho I imagine it is good for people without itchy feet too—there are a lot of armchair travelers out there.

Mon Sep 04, 01:38:00 AM PDT  

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