A twist on online communities

Judging from my posts around here – not to mention my daily browsing habits – I’m obsessed with Flickr. I wanted to take a step back and give a bit of basic info about the site to those who are not that familiar with it. It is my way of trying to spread all that Flickr goodness to more people.

Flickr may seem like no more than a photo-sharing Web site, but it’s actually much more than that. It is a large community of people sharing images, yes, but also learning about a myriad of topics, exploring nearby and distant lands, and communicating with people from all
over the world. In some ways it resembles corners of blogworld. One important difference is that a good chunk of the communicating is done through images rather than text.

Flickr can help you get to know people in all sorts of ways through their photos (and I don’t just mean by looking at what they had for dinner, although frankly, if the cook or restaurant is a good one, that can be interesting as well), you can also get to know cities (e.g. the Guess Where Chicago and Guess Where NYC groups are both fun and informative), learn about healthy foods, read thought-provoking (or not) quotes, and much more.

In case you don’t need these basics, perhaps you’ll find some helpful tips in my guide to finding great photos on Flickr published yesterday on Lifehacker. Consider that the second installment to this post.

Here are some of the basic features of the site. Some of the links below will only work if you are logged in to the system. If you have a Yahoo! account then you are all set. If not, sign up for a free account now, you won’t regret it.*

  • At the most basic level, Flickr is for uploading and sharing your photos. There are several tools available for this from uploading in the browser to stand-alone applications (and even widgets). Or you can forward your cameraphone photos directly to your account.
  • Once you have uploaded your pictures, you can make them completely public, only accessible to contacts designated as family, only accessible to contacts designated as friends, accessible to both family and friends, or completely private.
  • You can post photos under Creative Commons license allowing others to use your images depending on the specifics. You can
    set a default license for all your uploads.
  • You can mark other people’s photos as your Favorites if you want to have easy access to them later. You do this by clicking on the Add to Faves button above the photo.
  • You can organize your photos into Sets. You can create new Sets under Organize. Also, once you have a Set, you can add a picture to it by clicking the Add to Set icon above the image.
  • You can join Groups based on various themes and topics. Click on Groups and then do a search on a topic of interest. Choose the group and join it as a member. Once you are member of a group, you can add photos to it. To add one of your photos to a Group, click on the Send to Group icon above the photo you are viewing. (You can only add your own photos to Groups.)
  • You can create Groups (private, invitation-only or completely public) organized around themes. If public then others can contribute their own photos to your group. Groups can also have ongoing discussions.
  • You can comment on others’ photos. You can also easily follow whether people have commented on or favorited any of your photos. The system also lets you see all the comments you have made on others’ photos and whether photos you have commented on have received additional comments.
  • You can add notes to your photos (or others’ photos if they allow it) by clicking on the Add Note tab above the image. Drag the box to the area on the photo that you want to annotate and add your comment.

As you can tell by this list of features, much of Flickr goodness comes from sharing photos with others in various systematic ways. There is also a lot of communicating that gets done in the comments and on the notes to photos.

Now that you know some of the basics of the site, you may be interested in this guide to finding great photos on the system.

* I am not affiliated with either Flickr or Yahoo!, I just think Flickr is a super service and want to help people understand it better so they become members of the community.

5 Responses to “A twist on online communities”

  1. Don Kasak Says:

    I’m switching, albeit slowly, from the Gallery on my site to Flickr. There are a lot of photos that need to be moved, but the annotation features blow Gallery away. You can also cut down on the Eastern European comment spam advertising great deals on Viagara, too. 🙂

    As for the Gender Signs group, I should go back to the restaurant in Saint Louis that had this “broken urinal,” and snap pictures of the door signs.

  2. eszter Says:

    Interesting, Don. Although in that case it may well be that the urinal was much more interesting than the sign. (Or do you remember an interesting sign?)

    As for Gallery, it’s definitely a good system (granted, mine had bugs almost from the start), but it seriously lacks that amazing community component and cross-referencing, which is available on Flickr. Being able to connect photos to others’ photos can be really neat and interesting, but is not possible on indvidual disconnected sites like that.

  3. s Says:

    It took me only a few days to abandon my beloved Gallery installation after starting my Flickr account. I have few regrets. I did have a different way of using Gallery that is hard to reproduce on Flickr, but all things considered I made the right choice.

  4. Scott D. Feldstein » Eszter on Flickr Says:

    […] Blogger, Flickr buddy and Chicago resident Eszter Hargittai has written a great entry on the joys of Flickr. It’s more than you think it is! As I wrote in a comment there, I abandoned my self-hosted Gallery photo solution in favor of Flickr several weeks ago. Why? Flickr is so much more social. Check out Eszter’s blog entry “a twist on online communities. Then read her article over at Lifehacker entitled How to find the best photos on Flickr. Then get your own Flickr account! Filed under: Nerdy Stuff, Education, Reviews — […]

  5. eszter Says:

    Are you purposefully being cryptic about the “different way” Scott?:)