Legal and educational systems are lagging behind technology

I’ve mentioned this many times before and, I guess, I’ll need to mention this ever more – the technological progress of the recent years (the digital world, yes) has left many systems of our society behind.  Educational and legal are the most noticeable.   Here are a few words in the insightful and funny video (originally from the Ted.com – a place of many more insightful videos).  Here is a quote from a recent Boing Boing post showing the state of the legal system:

… pictures of Ford cars cannot be printed. Not just Ford logos, not just Mustang logos, the car -as a whole- is a Ford trademark and its image can’t be reproduced without permission.

New features from Flickr

Flickr Blog has two good news:

  1. Flickr Uploadr 3.0 is available.  Those of you using Flickr Uploadr to send pictures to you Flickr photo stream might want  to upgrade.  The new version offers a bunch of handy functionality, such as tagging, naming, and describing photos, as well as reordering.  These are much faster to do on your computer than over the network, so it should speed up your processing quite a bit.
  2. Statistics for Pro accounts.  If you have a Pro account, you can enable statistics and enjoy some graphs.  It takes about 24 hours for the stats to appear once you enable them, so be a little patient.  Finally, you’ll know  how people are finding your pictures, where from they are coming, and what are looking at the most.

On avatars

Avatars are those small icons with user photo or some other graphic. Avatars has been integrated with many applications and services in the last few years. ICQ and phpBB forums were among the first high profile, widely used applications, that allowed users to add an image of themselves. Since then everything and anything has avatars – all IMs, most forums, email clients, blogs, you name it. There are even several global avatar services (like Gravatar), where your image is assigned to your email address and then used by other servicse, such as blogs, where you comment and leave your email address.

There are two issues with avatars though. One is technical, another one is social.

The technical issue is that most people who use avatar-enabled services, are not technical enough to find out about the avatars. Or to get their own picture in digital form. So, all these people simply don’t use avatars at all. Their profile pictures appear as anonymous people. Not very useful for the rest of us, who have many people in our contact lists and want some distinction between different entries.

The social thing is with people insecurities and weird sense of humor. Instead of their real pictures, for these or that reasons, they prefer to use something else. Like pictures of cartoon characters, famous brands’ logos, abstract patterns, like green leaves, and stuff like that. Better than nothing, but not good enough. Why? Well, because most people’s creativity (or the time that they allocate for the choice of the proper image) is limited. As a result, I have three people in my contact list with Superman picture, two people with Peugeot cars logo, five people with monkey head shots, four people with … You get it. As a result, having parallel conversations with two or more people with the same avatar becomes complicated, and, way too often, messages are sent to the wrong recipient.

Is there a way to combat it? Probably not. As long as people have the freedom to put whatever they want instead of their image, some of them will choose to do so. And it’s not worth it taking this freedom from them. However, there is a way of stimulation (that’s what I’m doing now, no?). Some applications and services have succeeded more than others in pushing their users to use their own pictures rather than some abstract images.

One of these services is Google (GMail and GTalk). When I compare my contact lists from different IMs, GTalk has the most real phases. So, how did they do it? I am not sure exactly, but there are a few things I can think of.

First of all, is wording. On the settings page, the appropriate entry says “My picture:”. Not my avatar. Not my icon. But my picture. I guess most people understand it literally. My picture is something that shows my face.

Secondly, it’s simplicity. There are several ways a user can add his image. One of them, as mentioned earlier, is by going to Settings page. The link to Settings is right there, at the top of GMail page. And the picture section is again on the front page of the Settings page, not in the “Advanced” tab or somewhere even further. Those people who are more used to setting their IM clients, there is a way too. You can edit your picture through the settings of your IM application, since GTalk works with almost any IM client that supports Jabber protocol.

But the best of all, Google provides the way for non-technical people to get a nice picture of their own. It’s done via recommendation. Here is how it works. I am a GMail user. I am technically enlightened, and I have digital pictures of all the people I know (or almost all of them anyway). My mother is anther GMail user. But she is still learning her ways around the computer. So, I add her to my contacts. Google lets me set a picture for her. I can choose between the picture that I want to see in my contact list and the one she set for herself. I say – show me the picture that I chose. When I upload my favourite picture of my mom, Google asks me if I want to recommend this picture to my mom too, so that she could use it herself. I say “yes, please do”. My mom gets an email, something along the lines of “Leo decided to use this picture for your entry in his contact list. Do you want to use this picture for your profile? Click here for yes.”. That’s it. She does that single click and everyone else who she is a contact of, can enjoy a real face in their contact list. And she probably didn’t even recognize how cool that was.

I wish more applications and services took this approach. It would have made the web so much more personal and recognizable.

Giant move to Flickr

Ok, I hope I am writing this for the last time. At least for the next 10 years or so.

I am doing a huge move of my photo gallery. I got bored with trying out all pieces of software, migrating back and forward, configuring this stuff, adding features, backing up, fixing links, etc, etc, etc.

Flickr wins!

I have decided to move my complete photo collection to Flickr. Yup, you heard me right. No, I am sane and in good mind.

Flickr has everything I need from a photo gallery tool – speed, flexibility, tags, permanent links, ratings, social interactions (comments, bookmarks, groups, ratings, etc), and much more. It integrates nicely with a whole bunch of third-party software. There are many third-party services based on Flickr, such as image editing tools, backup to DVD tools, print and ship tools. And Flickr is standard de facto for photo galleries.

I don’t see any good reason NOT to migrate, so let it be. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Until the move is completely done and everything is uploaded and tagged properly, I’ll keep the local copy of the gallery. All new additions, however, will go directly to Flickr. I’ll also have some sort of sidebar applet with links to recent and random pictures. Stay tuned.

P.S.: This post pointed me towards this utility for batch uploads – very useful. Easy to use too.

P.P.S.: Years 1995 – 2002 are uploaded and somewhat tagged. The rest is coming soon.

Re: digitally tagging height

This is my response to this post in Sanjay’s blog. I originally wrote this as a comment, but before I pressed “Submit” button, I thought that it would be better to have it here, with all the crosslinks.

Sanjay noticed that pictures like the one of Maxim on his birthday are a cool new way of saving height measurements. That is instead of using old ways of pen, rule, and wall. He regrets only that there is no date and time information on the picture.

Well, that’s not a problem at all, my dear friend! Most of the modern digital cameras save a lot of meta information in the image file. With right tools that information is trivial to extract (Google search for “EXIF”).

I put a bit more thought into the idea and realized that it can actually be much more fun. With data and time of the image available from the image file itself, we are missing only one bit for a complete picture – the age of a child. Since there is no automatic way of getting it, a human interaction is necessary.

And where there is human interaction, there is social interaction. Flickr comes to mind. Consider this for a moment:

Parents make pictures of their kids against a height meter. Then, they upload these images to Flickr. Then, they tag these images with three tags. One tag for the age of the child, say “age14month” or “age2years”. One tag for the height itself, say “76cm” or “132cm”. And one additional tag to make these pictures easy to find, say “kidsgrow”. Maybe an image pool or user group would be a better way of goind about it.

With setup like this, there is a central location, where all such images are stored (backup). People can then easily find all pictures of their own kids, as well as other kids of the same age or the same height.

There are also a whole bunch of third-party applications that can utilize data from Flickr, like, for example, fd’s Flickr Toys.

How do you like the sound of that?

Pictures from New Year celebration

Happy New Year

I know you’ve been waiting, so here they are – pictures from New Year celebration. They aren’t many, because a) I wasn’t in a mood and b) I was busy being Santa Claus. But those that are there give the idea of what went on.

Album location: /photos/2005/2005-12-31_New_Year_Eve/