Appreciating Pix Services
D R A F T
For Geeks Only — Thinking about free twitter-oriented image-sharing sites —
VERY rough drafting going on here
update: 6/2 – just noticed new player, http://brizzly.com, which is more than an image sharing site. combines twitter and facebook, allows chat rooms called “picnics” and maybe other stuff. worth a look. doesn’t put tweets/captions with the pics. tweets the tweet, but, unlike twitpic and some others, doesn’t put the tweet/caption with the photo. maybe to allow multiple tweet/facebook/update/captions for a single picture? or maybe doing both twitter and facebook makes caption awkward. anyway, interesting new player
Liking @twitpic as my fav twitter-oriented pix-sharing service, I’m thinking out loud about what their challenges might be, why they probably made their recent change to accessing older pix, what I would want them to do, and what I would do if I were they.
They don’t seem to have a blog to explain what they’re doing and why. That’s probably wise since it might cause more problems that it solves. They are good people and answer question tweets with answer tweets. But, again, even that may be the kind of thing that causes more problems than it solves. While it may be a good thing to be perceived as “responding to users,” the reality is that systems design decisions have to be made by one or a few people who are able to understand and think through all the inter-related issues. It doesn’t work at all to make those decisions hastily based on the energetic voting public of users that usually only wants what it thinks it wants from moment to moment. There are some knowledgeable and thoughtful users out there among the fans suggesting/demanding changes, but there’s also a lot of off-handed superficial advice as well.
I don’t know what all the issues are, but I’m interested at the moment in guessing at what they might be.
I’ve been a @twitpic fan for a while now. I’ve posted about 200 photos to twitpic. I don’t know if that’s a little or a lot. Probably a lot less than a few really active users and a little bit more than most users. About a year ago, I was trying to decide whether to use twitpic or two other services for images. At that time, I wasn’t aware twitpic was the first of them.
Two were linked into twitter in a few nice ways (twitpic and yfrog). The other was not login-linked or otherwise-linked to twitter and I think was part of yahoo (flickr). I went with twitpic because twitpic:
1. uses twitter for login
2. makes image uploading easy
3. adds the tweet as caption (another one i looked at a year ago didn’t go that)
4. lets viewers look at older pix. it only let viewers move back in time, not forward in time.
Twitpic made a change recently. Maybe they thought it was a good idea. Maybe it was a step toward something they need to do. The @twitpic people are good people. They respond to questions. I have the impression they were there first in letting people add pictures to tweets for free (sort of for free, the ads are there). So I’m wondering if what I’ve been nagging them to do might be illogical for them to do. And, beyond that, given the experience with features of twitpic and other me-too pix services (yfrog, twitphoto, twitgoo, and others) and other user interfaces, what would I do if I had reasonable access to programming and other resources to make or evolve a twitter-oriented pix-sharing service (I don’t).
So it’s an interesting think piece. Something to pass the time. If you’ve been to this site before, you know the drill. : )
Anyway, the change twitpic made is changing the role of the three small images it shows to the right of the main image. For the past year, they were the three photos uploaded just prior to the main one. That was true no matter what image you accessed via direct URL. Recently, the three became the most recent three the account owner had updated.
Both are a good things to have.
I have to believe that storage issues are one of the issues all the free services run into. How long to hold onto the old tweets (Twitter), email (Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, etc), videos (YouTube), and images (Twitpic, Yfrog, the yahoo image service, TwitPhoto, TwitGoo).
How would I decide how long to keep old ones? Or how much disk capacity to allow each user? Or how many posts to make?
There wouldn’t be a problem with too many visits, because visits are the point of it, for the advertising revenues. The images that generate visitors and opportunities to display ads would be welcome. It’s the ever-increasing mountain upon mountain upon mountain of older images that just sit there consuming disk space, but still have to be reachable from shortened twitpic URLs, that would have to make a file-sharing service eventually wonder how to get out from under it.
Is twitpic a “for the love of it” break-even outfit? Or looking to make a bunch of money? Either way’s ok with me. Either way requires money from the ad revenues to afford the computers, disk drives, and network costs.
THE TWITLONGER EXAMPLE
Twitlonger is another free service I like a lot. I noticed several months ago, they pulled off a pretty elegant finesse. They announced a “server change,” moved to the “new server,” said they would be “migrating” the prior twitlonger posts to the “new server”, and just never got around to the migration. Presto! Instant relief from the need to store old twitlonger posts.
Maybe that’s what twitpic is doing. Maybe they’re getting us used to the idea that it’s only easy to get the most recent 20 images uploaded in preparation for getting away from what must by now be a very large accumulation of images on its disk drives?
Not sure what I would do …
THE CONCEPT OF A “USE CASE” IN SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT
We wanna-be geeks can just kibbutz at the owners of a system about what we want.
Or think in their terms. If they’re any good in the modern programming environment, they think in terms of “use cases.” Not “use” pronounced long like “yoooz a pair of scissors”, but “use” pronounced really short like “put something to yooss.”
Sometimes it’s easy to “just add a feature” that some user wants. More often, it’s better to collect the input from all the various stakeholders in the system (users, programmers, system owners, advertisers, sellers of new programming ideas and products) and incorporate those “little changes” into a smaller number of more comprehensive well-thought-through overall updates that allow the system to do — more, better, faster, cheaper, and often prettier — for everybody all at once. Experience tells most development teams that, by the time they take the trouble to make several small changes, and chase down the cascade of effects of the change, including the need to document the changes to make future changes more orderly, they may as well have taken the time to do it right (think through a more comprehensive step forward).
A “use case” is the “use” to which some type of user, some class of users, is likely to put the system.
<> This discussion’s maybe going further than the complexity of the most likely best answer most likely warrants. : )
<> But, what the heck, we’ll keep going for a bit …
So one use case would be, a twitter user gets a tweet with a twitpic shortened URL in it, clicks on it, and — voila! — arrives to the twitpic page. We’ll assume, for this scenario (use case), that this viewer of the image is not the person who posted the image and, if she has images of her own on twitpic, is not currently logged into twitpic. So this use case is the non-logged in viewer viewing from a twitter tweet link. We now have four viewpoints from which to consider this use case: (1) the viewer, (2) the person who posted it (the poster), (3) twitpic’s owners, and (4) twitpic’s current and possible future advertisers.
The next thing that comes to my mind before getting into the details of what the viewer, the poster, twitpic’s owners, and twitpic’s advertisers get and want from the current and some possible future system implementation, is to separate the thinking into layers of system architecture. The better systems these days are not only modularized in terms of being able to change the code in one place safely without getting wildly unpredictable effects in other parts of the system (“spaghetti code”), but also separated into layers of database vs. program vs. network interface vs. user interface. They’re still all related, but a great deal of important progress has been made at concept and detail of creating very well-defined interfaces between things like this. If not for the evolution of modularization and these interfaces, modern complex systems would not be — reliable enough, easy enough to build, and easy enough to change — to be practical.
<> Once again, not sure if going to this level of thinking is needed or useful for thinking about free twitter-oriented image-sharing systems, but we’ll play it out a bit and see …
As the owner/poster of the image, …
As the non-owner viewer of the image, I think I’d like to be able to go easily to the images posted just before and just after the one I’m looking at. That just takes “next/previous” buttons or left/right arrows that mean the same thing. It would also be nice to be able to go to the most recent image posted by that person. That should be the minimum. All the image-sharing services should do that. Some do it but it’s not clear. Others do part of it. Others do the other part. They should all do that and make it clear. By clear, I mean, the option should be labelled/indicated as “prev” “next” and “most recent”. Some let you go to most recent by clicking on the image owner’s username, but the user doesn’t know that right away. And if you notice the username click, you first think it will take you to the twitter profile not the image-sharing first page of images.
So that’s a minimum. They should all do it. Then they could also let the viewer move around among the pages of images. 20 per page in twitpic’s case. 10 per page in twitgoo’s case.
Also they could consider
Comparing twitpic, yfrog, tweetphoto, tweetgoo, flickr
Other issues: manner of presentation of the main image, manner of presentation and location of other images, manner of presentation of images from other image owners, manner of presentations of the ads, speed,
Another issue: twitpic makes it very easy to do this cool thing …
– bear, bear market, bears on wall street, bearing up well, a real bear, wheel bearing, bearing wall, grin and bear it,
unBEARable, can’t bear it, grin and bear it, bear down,
– bearer, bearer of good/ill tidings, stretcher bearer, ring bearer,
– bearing, sword-bearing,
– baring/bearing its teeth, barebones bearbones,
– beard, bearded lady, James Beard,
– bayer, bay air,
– bair conditioner, bair dryer, bairplane, bairport (laura),
– panda bear, grizzly bear, polar bear, black bear,
– teddy ruxpin, teddy bear, yogi berra, care bear,
– bernaise, beerenauslese, trockenberenauslese,
– drew bearymore, john bearymore, lionel bearymore, ethel bearymore,
– Berry Gordy BEAR-y Gordy of motown,
– berry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, Halle Berry Halle BEAR-y,
– Jimmy Buffett Jimmy BEARfett, Landshark Lager beer bear,
– Beers, bears, Budweiser, Michelob, Pabst Blue Ribbon bear,
– Smokey Robinson Smokey the Bear,
– Beringer BEARinger champagne,
– Eric BEARdon and The Animals,
– Bourdon tube BEARdon tube,
– Bourbon Street, BEARbon Street
– co owl uh = koala, co allah,
– dare, care, fare, bare, chair, pair, stair, fair, they’re, pare, mare, mayor, tear,
– lair, layer, lay her,
– aberrant aBEARant, a BEAR ant, a BEAR aunt,
– goldilocks and the three bears,
– bearlin, bearlin wall,
koala-fy: What every athlete must do to play in the Australian Olympics
A Koala bear walks into a bar, sits down and orders a sandwich.
The Koala eats the sandwich, gets up, spins around, pulls a pistol out of his pouch, shoots the piano player, and proceeds to walk out of the bar.
The bartender, in shock, shouts to the Koala, “Hey, who do you think you are, you ate my sandwich and shot my piano player, and just where do you think you’re going!?”
The Koala replies, “Hey, I’m a Koala. Look it up.”
The frustrated bartender pulls out a dictionary from behind the bar and looks up Koala:
The dictionary said “n. a marsupial that eats shoots and leaves.”
Begun May 13, 2010