The Flickr iPad app

Few apps have deserved the response "at last" more than the Flickr iPad app. The fact that it has taken over four years for this to surface is a sign of just how much Yahoo has dropped the ball with the service over the years. But, hey, they're playing catchup, and they've done a really nice job of it with this app.

Browsing and searching through photo streams is easy, photos open smoothly into full view even on my aging iPad 3 (which will be replaced by a sparkly new iPad Air 2 next week...), and the information overlays use iOS's translucency beautifully. It also integrates nicely with iOS8's extensions system, allowing you to share photos around easily. It's a really nice piece of work. They may have done this late, but they've done it right.

There's no doubt that the iPad is just a superb experience for browsing and interacting with photos. I've had a really pleasurable time today browsing through friends' photos as well as exploring some of my own. If you have an iPad and are a Flickr user – current or lapsed – it's well worth a download.

The Flickr problem

Every time I mention Flickr - as I did this morning when I read about the app - I get at least one response along these lines:

It's a reasonable position. As I mentioned above, Yahoo's stewardship of the once market-leading photo sharing app has been less then stellar. The changes in the Marissa Mayer era of Yahoo have not always been well-received by users.

But here's the thing - I don't know of any other service that really does what it does. Instagram is great, but is very much a mobile-centric service, with limited support for those of us with large archives or an SLR and CSC habit we've yet to break. 500px is a little more arty in nature than I'm comfortable with for the majority of my photography.

So Flickr remains part of my social media arsenal, until something that genuinely exceeds it comes along. And given that Yahoo finally seem to be going in the right direction, I'm not sure how likely that is right now.

Time-travelling to Exeter

Here's an example of something that Flickr is still great for. The iPad app has inspired me to take a little time today to go through another set of photos from 2002. I've been steadily working through my digital photo collection, starting in 2001 when I bough my first digital camera, and working onwards, making sure they're all well edited, tagged and described.

I'm in 2002 right now, and that's brought me to a summer weekend in Exeter. The photos are a mix of images from my first (2MP!) digital camera (a Minolta), and scanned images shot on film. They're fun - but most importantly, they're of the weekend I got engaged. Special times. And now I have a backup online, with those photos I want shared publicly available to all. And already one has found a new life:

That's what Flickr's still great at.

You can see the full Exeter album on Flickr - or view it below:

Into Yosemite

Installing Mac OSX Yosemite

Oh, and I'm now working full-time in the new Mac OS version: Yosemite. It probably won't be released to the public until after Thursday's Apple event, but the public beta is now essential at Gold Master, and the version I've been running off an external hard drive seems stable. It's now on my "production" machine - and eight hours in, all seems fine.

The price of the four-day weekend

Morning Tom Foolery

I sometimes underestimate just how different the life I choose to live is. I can often work where I want - like the coffee shop I'm sat in right now. I have a lot of freedom to pick and choose the people I work with - and have taken satisfaction is severing ties with people who proved unpleasant as clients. I don't have a boss, or a full-time job. My time is pretty much mine to manage, but that comes with choices. For example, I've just spent four solid days looking after my toddler daughter, picking up some of my wife's days, so she can get a handle on her work as term really kicks in.

And I always, always, always underestimate how tired I'll be after a day looking after that tiny bundle of explorative energy. "Oh, I'll do some blogging and catch up on e-mail after she goes to bed," I say. Hah.


And so I find myself tearing through a Tuesday, trying to catch up on the work I haven't been able to do for over half a week. It's at times like this that I almost - almost - feel like going and getting a proper job again. The eternal problem with working for yourself is that there's no such thing - mentally, at least - as office hours. Your income is completely dependent on how much you work, and thus any time where you could work can lead to you feeling guilty for not doing so. Frankly, I'm the most demanding boss I've ever had.

And then I remember that little rampager, and remember she needs time with her parents far more than she needs more toys, and I try to settle down and live comfortably in the choices I've made.

#selfie culture

Is selfie culture rendering moments lesser than your role in them, and the record of them? Even if it is - is it a problem? And is it even new? I have a relative that doesn't see the point of most photos that don't have a family member in them...

The end of The Magazine

The end of The Magazine

Pioneering sub-compact magazine The Magazine is going away:

The Magazine will cease publishing its regular every-other-week issues with the December 17, 2014, edition. We don't see this as a failure, but as the right time. The Magazine was frankly gloriously profitable in its first year as readers came onboard to try out the app and the format, but they then very slowly trickled away. This was abetted in part by Apple's decision to hide Newsstand apps, a constant complaint by readers who simply forgot when we had new issues appear. We also have problems getting notifications to work reliably, which led to more people forgetting, and thus canceling subscriptions.

I suspect that there was a deeper problem: even as a long-term subscriber (I've been subscribed since issue 1), I would struggle to tell you exactly what The Magazine is about. When it launched, it was a technically revolutionary digital magazine, that was small and tight, and largely filled with well-known Apple and design pundits writing about other things. In the two years since, it's retained the idea of being a magazine about other things for people interested in tech - but that's a brutally hard sell. And retaining and recruiting readers is the hardest part of any magazine. As founder Marco Arment said:

Many non-ideal factors and decisions I made up front probably contributed to The Magazine not being sustainable forever. But the biggest challenge was simply that running a magazine today is a really tough business. I thought making a high-quality app was the hard part that was keeping iPad magazines from being more successful, but the app turned out to be the easiest and least important part of the business.

Rather ironically, most big publishers have their markets well sorted, but their technology is a disaster area. The Magazine is failing for the opposite reason - great tech, but an un-marketable concept. I'd really like to see more big publishers do some interesting things with TypeEngine (the platform behind latter issues of The Magazine, targeting niches within their existing audience with lightweight, cheap magazines.

Magazines have always worked best in clearly defined niches (with a few, large and notable exceptions). The internet has only made niches more important as time goes on.

The Magazine was filled with fantastic journalism, exceptional photography and great illustration - but without a compelling hook, that wasn't enough.

Still, well worth checking out the next eight issues, and the vast archive, if you're interested in good journalism and an interesting digital publishing concept, even if it's approaching its end.

There's a rather famous graph of Buzzfeed's traffic kicking around. I've used it a bunch of times in lectures and training, and it looks like this:


There's a crucial point where the Google referral traffic drops sharply for a while. Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed founder and CEO, has talked about what happened to Buzzfeed's search traffic:

As it turned out, it was an error on Google's end. It took Peretti about a month to track down the right people at Google (he name-checked Google's head of search quality at the time, Matt Cutts). Google saw that BuzzFeed was embedding widgets from a related domain it owned, apparently for traffic management purposes. Google assumed it was malware being injected into BuzzFeed, Peretti said, and gave BuzzFeed a penalty.

Whoops. But while Buzzfeed was trying to sort it out, it also started focussing on social traffic:

By the time the error was resolved, BuzzFeed had shifted direction. Rather than try to balance content aimed to do well with both social and search, BuzzFeed was forced to focus entirely on social to get through the search slump -- and it kept that focus going forward.

The whole story is at least somewhat indicative of the increasing split between content that works well for search - things that answer questions or inform - and those which perform well for social - stuff that's amusing, or informatively entertaining. It's hard to optimise for both these situations - so sometimes you're forced into choosing.

Peretti also talks about some of these issues in a recent podcast:

Twitter's head of news Vivian Schiller is stepping down:

Vivian Schiller, the high-profile NBC and NPR exec whom Twitter hired to run its news unit, is leaving the company as part of a consolidation. Adam Sharp will now be in charge of both news and government at the social messaging company, as part of a larger consolidation across the media division by its new head Katie Jacobs Stanton.

Here's Schiller's own tweet about it:

There's been an interesting trend of social-savvy journalists finding their way into the social networks - think Joanna Geary at Twitter in the UK, Hannah Waldram at Instagram and Liz Heron at Facebook - but the path is clearly more rocky than you'd think. The Tumblr newsroom was an early example of that.

Blogging is dead #4

Lockhart Steele remembers the fun:

I sat on the roof of my apartment building last week with my old friend Jonny Porkpie, talking to him about this idea I had to relaunch my personal blog. Jonny, thinking it over, didn’t encourage or discourage me. Instead, he asked, “Should I relaunch my blog too?”

Which is really the perfect reply. Back then, we’d had a ton of stupid fun linking to each other’s blog posts for no other reason than that they existed and that it amused us greatly. Who wouldn’t want back in on that?

Are you obsessed with finding "influencers" for your brand or journalism?

Forget about it. It's a fiction, an seductive idea that science does not support - according to a recent post on the Harvard Business Review:

Duncan Watts, a researcher at Microsoft who co-created one of the most important models of how social networks function, says, “The influentials hypothesis is a theory that can be made to fit the facts once they are known, but it has little predictive power. It is at best a convenient fiction; at worst a misleading model. The real world is much more complicated.”

It's worth reading to the end of Greg Satell's piece on influence - because there are some gems at the end about how to really improve the chance of something going viral.