(re)definition and usability


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Left: a shameless plug for my former employer. Their site is here, and oddly enough, it says nothing that I can see about their Flickr account. Seems to me that they must be using this as a tool to direct existing Flickr users back to their website, and are not concerned about directing users in the other direction.

That being said, there are some nice historical photographs in their stream, and it is a comforting bit of nostalgia for me to be once again prowling around the site that I called home.

Because of this collection’s relative isolation, I find there is not too much more to be said, and would like to use this space, then, to sound off on the usability of Flickr in general.  As a tool, it seems to be top-of-the-line.  There are endless features, most of which have been outlined in a blog post over at CNET (and I found it more helpful than Flickr’s own docs).

For me, the main issue with Flickr is that all its available features give it a high learning curve.  It is a tool for sharing and utilizing photographs, and so it feels more like a big swimming pool (to borrow a little of their vocab) than a traditional “photo album” hosting site like PicasaWeb which is designed more to recreate your living room mantle.  You can constrain your Flickr photos into collections and sets if you like, but that’s not really a primary function.  By default, each new image is added to your “photostream” and the very word enacts and mimics the fluidity of the site itself.

web 2.0 in action
web 2.0 in action

Flickr photos are instead organized by tags, and are explored by users en masse.  This gives your image web-like flexibility (and also library-like folksonomy), but it also extends the photo’s definition beyond normal boundaries. Flickr photos aren’t just family keepsakes to be filed in one place, they are documents meant to be explored and exploited using any and all available web technologies. This is perhaps where some of the fear comes in; Flickr requires a shift in perception of what the photograph is designed to be.

As I continue to dig into more specific library collections, I will attempt to further expound upon the specific ramifications that this “new image” inflicts upon patrons and caretakers.


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