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Flickr Adds People Tags, Updates Profile Pages | by Thomas Hawk
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Flickr Adds People Tags, Updates Profile Pages

Yesterday Flickr rolled out the latest feature to their service, what they are calling "People in Photos." Essentially the site now allows you to tag other Flickr members in photos and then those photos appear on their profile page. The other person is also notified (the first time only) when they are tagged by flickrmail. You can tag people in your own photos or in other photos unless they are blocking you on Flickr. If you do not like a photo that you are in where you are tagged you can remove your people tag and/or block the person who has tagged you to prevent them from tagging you in the future.


Along with the new feature they also redesigned the Flickr profile page to both include photos that you are in and your most recent favorites. As it stands right now both of these two new sections show the most recent photos you've either faved or been tagged in. Since some might prefer some different photographs of themself over other photographs their profile page, it would seem that some sort of organizer would make sense for your profile pics in the future, but at present it simply shows the 12 photos you've most recently been tagged in on your main profile page with a link to more photos off the main profile page.


I've played around with the new people tags for the past 16 hours or so and have to say overall I like it. The service seems fast, easy and intuitive. Simply draw a box over someone's face on a flickr photo and start typing in their name and it highlights from your contacts who logically the person might be. If they are not a contact of yours you can use a "search through all Flickr members" option to try and find them elsewhere on the site. It would also be nice if flickr had some sort of bulk tagging tool (do I really have to people tag all 84 photos I've got of Kevin Rose one by one?).


Because some people choose unusual names for themselves on Flickr instead of their formal names, sometimes you also have to do a little googling to find just the name that you want. I did find that I was unable to tag a few people because they'd blocked me (no I'm not naming names) and others because I simply couldn't find them on Flickr (are you on Flickr Daniel Burka or Bret Taylor?). It might be nice if Flickr also allowed you to type a user's email address into this search box to try and cross reference them on flickr by email.


If you want to add yourself to a photo you can do that too. (tip: type me in the search box for a shortcut rather than your name).


Although I thought the profile photos and favorites were displayed pretty well, I hate the page that you go to for "more" photos of you (here's mine). It's not near as elegant. Flickr should use a format more like the square sets thumbnail images rather than the clunky small view thumbnails. While I like the thumbnails of photos that you are in and favorites on the profile page, I thought the way that they moved testimonials to the middle column also feels clunky. I liked it better back over in the right column where they had it before. The spacing on the testimonials also feels awkward from a design perspective.


As part of the redesign they've also axed the sections on the profile page which used to include your interests, favorite music and favorite books. No big loss there. I lost a quote that I had put there in the books section about Jack Kerouac, but I just moved that quote up to my main profile section. If you lost data in that change do a Google search for your profile and use the cached view to copy any data there that was important to you.


They also added the phrase " my own words," at the top of the profile page section. That sounds a little hokey to me.


I also don't like how Flickr has positioned groups now on your profile page. The listing of groups defaults to displaying the oldest groups you are in first. Unfortunately many of these groups are dead groups or inactive groups. Flickr instead should sort the groups by activity. This would give other users a better place to discover actual active groups that their friends and contacts might be in.


I do like that Flickr has now added when you joined Flickr. It makes me feel more like an American Express Cardmember now. "Thomas Hawk.... on Flickr since August 2004." I think these sorts of changes give people who are checking you out a little more insight into your history and activity on the service and interaction with other users.


People who won't like this new feature will likely be the privacy types who don't want people to so easily view photos that they are in. Because you can opt out of this feature though I'm not sure that it's that big of an imposition for those folks. Especially since you are notified the first time that you are people tagged, if you don't like it you can easily just go to the settings section and disable it.


From a bigger picture sort of perspective this is a logical new feature to add. While Flickr doesn't have the largest collection of photos on the web (I believe that distinction now belongs to facebook), they have the largest collection of *organized* and high quality photos anywhere on the web. By getting their users to people tag, this gives them greater data to use in other ways. Certainly data that strongly suggests that a user is actually in a photo would be useful to rank by interestingness more broadly in search engines when people search for someone's specific name.


Right now if you do a Google search for "Thomas Hawk" it shows you a row of thumbnails that Google thinks are most relevant on the main search page. Right now these thumbnails are not so relevant. While the thumbnails are of photos I've taken, they are not photos of me. I think when you are searching for a person's name, probably photos of them ought to rank among the most relevant of images. By getting this important social data, Flickr/Yahoo can work to ensure that photos of actual people begin showing up more prominently in search queries for them. I'm not sure how much this matters for Yahoo now as they've turned their search over to Bing, but I think it could be helpful data for Bing to mine to improve their own search queries.


Of course also from a different bigger picture sort of perspective this new features worries me as well. Because Flickr has not addressed their common practice of nuking users accounts and data without warning, I suppose this might be one more example of hours that someone could pour into Flickr only to have it all wiped out with the push of a button by an overly vindictive Flickr "community management" censor type.

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Uploaded on October 22, 2009