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The Best Hacks on Flickr

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One of the nice things about Flickr is that because of their open API a whole host of developers have built more and more interesting things to do with the site.

It’s interesting to me today that so many of the ways that I use Flickr are not even through the site as designed by Yahoo, but instead through the work of outside developers who are constantly creating new and interesting ways to experience the site. Today I thought I’d share what I think are the top 10 Hacks on Flickr.

This list is by no way exhaustive or complete, but as somewhat of a power user who uses the site every day I thought I’d offer some tools that you might want to try out. One note is that many of the best hacks on Flickr today are being done through Greasemonkey scripts. These will not work with Internet Explorer but will work with Firefox or Flock.

So on with the list.

1. The number one hack for Flickr would have to be Flickrleech. Flickrleech is a site developed by Andrew Houser (who is also a kick ass photographer), or simply Houser as he is often called, with the tagline, “because paging sucks.”

When Houser released Flickrleech originally it would allow you to pull up any Flickr user’s photos as a full page of thumbnails with no pagination. Although very cool, loading up 7,000 thumbnails wasn’t exactly the nicest things to do to Flickr’s servers and Houser actually changed his site to load 500 thumbnails at a time and today it sits at 200 thumbnails at a time.

Still, having the ability to browse a flickr user’s photos at 200 thumbnails at a time is remarkable and allows you more photos on a single page than anything Flickr offers up themselves.

I’m constantly using Flickrleech to check out a new photographer’s photos or to rapid fire go through someone’s stream.

2. The number two hack for Flickr is a newer one and was released earlier this month by Intel’s Eric Appel and is called SmartSetr. One of the annoying things about Flickr is that when you want to create a set you must do it manually. Even with batch tools this gets tedious and having to add every new photo to a set every single time sucks. So Eric developed SmartSetr. SmartSetr allows you the ability to build sets that are organized around the concepts of tags, dates, and other metadata associated with a photo.

If, for instance, you want to build a set called Neon Days and Neon Nights (like I did) that holds all of your photos of neon signs, by building a SmartSet you can simply tell flickr to add any photo tagged neon to this set. Although SmartSetr isn’t dynamic, Eric refreshes your sets for you once a day and things get updated. It’s also really cool that you can organize your set by interestingness, so that your best photos show up first in the set — something you can’t do on Flickr. More from Eric directly.

3. The number three hack for Flickr is a greasemonkey one called Flickr Multi Group Sender. It was developed by Steeev (who does some of the best Flickr development work around) One of the problems with Flickr’s add to group function is that it is painfully and woefully slow. I’m not sure if this is because Flickr is trying to load up little mini thumbnail icons for every group or if it’s something to do with how you access their database but it’s weak sauce. But multi group sender makes this much easier. Multi group sender allows the add to groups function for photos on flickr super fast. You can also add to multiple groups at once by simply holding down the control key… opps, I mean command key (I keep forgetting I’m on a Mac).. and selecting another group. Careful with adding your photos to too many groups though. Adding your photo to more than about 10 groups gets you dinged in interestingness.

4. The number four hack for Flickr is another greasemonkey one. This one is called Flickr rich edit and it was written by Jason Rhyley. Sometimes when you say something, you really want to say something. Unfortunately natively Flickr has no rich edit tools and so users must be familiar with how to manually mark up their text or they can just use this tool. By using rich text edit you are able to add rich text edit tools above text boxes on Flickr so that you can better get your point across when you need to.

5. Tabblo. This is kind of an unusual one. Maybe not so much of a hack, but it sure feels like one. Tabblo is a photosharing site that allows you the ability to customize the feel, layout, tone and design of your photo page. The yin and the yang of Flickr is that everyone’s pages look the same. On the one hand this gives Flickr a very elegant, almost like a virtual art gallery or museum feel. On the other hand sometimes people want more customization over how their photos are presented. Some companies like SmugMug make this customization part of how they diferentiate from Flickr. Flickr is torn because while you might like to give users more control over the design of the photos, if you’re not careful, the next thing you know the place ends up looking like MySpace.

Enter Tabblo. Tabblo uses the Flickr API to import your photos into their site and then allows you the ability to design a page however you like. The nice thing about Tabblo is that unlike SmugMug the site is free and with a direct Flickr import function makes it super easy to design special custom pages using your Flickr photos. Here’s a tabblo with some of my shots from New Orleans last year.

6. Flickrmud. One of the problems for some Flickr users is that because the site is popular ofentimes it gets blocked. A while back Flickr was being blocked in the entire UAE. There have been reports of libraries blocking Flickr and certainly businesses blocking Flickr who don’t want their employees wasting away valuable company time on social networking or seeing the occasional porn shot that creates company liability. While one answer is to simply buy your own laptop with EVDO and bring it to work, this isn’t always the most economical approach. But if you are experiencing Flickr blockage somewhere check out FlickrMud. How Flickr mud works is that you simply change the url to access Flickr. Instead of accessing thomashawk’s flickrstream like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk. You access it with this url instead: http://www.flickr.mud.yahoo.com/photos/thomashawk. By adding the .mud.yahoo before the .com oftentimes you can access the site because this way of accessing Flickr is much less known and less likely to be blocked. Mum’s the word on this one of course ;)

7. Moo Cards. Again, not so much of a Flickr hack as a tool for the flickr photographer. One of the problems with the outside world (yes even with Stewart and Caterina on the cover of Time magazine, etc. etc.) is that outside your immediate bubble of friends, a whole chunk of the world has no idea what Flickr is. As a photographer out there shooting all the time people will ask me where they can see my work. Even if you say “flickr” “thomas hawk” etc. People will forget. By ordering up some Moo cards (they are only about $25 for 100) you can give these cards out to people when they ask where they can see the shots.

Of course one hack with your Flickr Moo cards is that you don’t actually have to send them to your Flickrstream. My Flickr Moo cards have my Zooomr stream ID url on there instead. Opps, did I just say that, Doh!

8. Slickr. One of the things that is cool about Flickr is that there is an amazing amount of fanastic images online. This is cool and all but Flickr’s slide show functionality sucks, it’s not full screen, etc. This is where Slickr comes in. Slickr allows you the ability to point Slickr to someone’s photostream, your photos marked favorites, etc., etc. and then actually download full high res photos of all of whatever you point it to to your computer. It was developed by Gabriel Hanford. Once on your hard drive you can better make use of these images for your screen saver or for your desktop backgrounds and all that. One of my favorite things to do is to sit back and watch my Media Center PC rotate through my favorites from Flickr on beautiful full high res clarity.

One note with this. You might want to check out the photo license of the photos that you choose to download with Slickr. Although Slickr works with all licenses, technically you’d be breaking the rules by downloading an all rights reserved licensed photo. Creative Commons licensed photos of course (like mine) are free to use for non commercial (in my case) use and if you want to download all of my images for your screen saver, desktop, etc., or even just one of my sets like Superfaves, feel free.

9. Flickr Friends (formerly Flickr Stalkr). Flickr Friends got off to a rough start originally at Flickr. Developed by James Newbery it was initially named Flickr Stalkr and well, that just didn’t sound right and so they saw themselves get nipped in the bud early on. Subsequently though the site relaunched as Flickr Friend Finder and is a way for you to find all of your friends (or ex-girlfriends, opps, did I just say that too?) on Flickr. With Flickr Friend Finder you simply enter in a string of email addresess (or upload your address book to them) and they will return back to you everyone who is on Flickr. You can then add them as friends to make sure to keep tabs on what they are up to photographically speaking. James has the following privacy statement up on his site:

“Your addresses will not be stored anywhere, read by anyone, or made accessible to anyone. Any file you upload will be deleted from the server immediately.”

…of course it’s up to you whether or not you think it’s a good idea or right to use your friend’s email addresses this way.

10. jUploadr. One of the things about Flickr’s bulk uploader tool (in my opinion) is that it is not very good. Especially on a Mac it is very slow to load, won’t strip the .jpg titles from the names of my photos, etc. jUploader was developed by Steve Cohen and offers a better, faster, way to upload. You can enter in default tags, descriptions, etc. for all of your photos or you can easily select photos to bulk tag/descript before uploading to Flickr. jUploader is also our official uploader for Zooomr as well and if you want to upload your shots to Flickr and Zooomr, once you are done with one you can simply click on the other to send your photos there as well. jUploadr runs on Windows, Linux and OS X.

Related posts:

Top 10 Ways to Find Great Photos on Flickr

Top 10 Tips for Getting Attention on Flickr

If you like these Flickr hacks feel free to digg them here.

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Thomas Hawk is a San Francisco based photographer and technology writer.
He publishes the web site Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection and is also
the Evangelist and CEO of the photo sharing site Zooomr.

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