ShoZu shut down

ShoZu logo

This isn’t news, but I was reminded this week that a service I used in 2007 was no longer around and this was having a negative impact on one of my blog sites.

Nokia N73

Back in 2007 I had a Nokia N73 and I used a now defunct application to upload photographs I had taken automatically to the blog. This application was called ShoZu, which had being launched in 2001 and was able to upload photographs to Flickr automatically. This was really useful, as I was on Vodafone and at that time Flickr was blocked by their content filters, so I couldn’t upload automatically. With ShoZu I was able to upload the image to the ShoZu servers and then it would upload a copy to Flickr. You could also use Shozu to post to Twitter and one function I liked was being able to upload automatically to a WordPress blog. Well it didn’t upload directly to WordPress, it merely adding HTML code and embedding the images hosted on the ShoZu server.

With ShoZu now defunct, there were no images, just dead links. So the blog posts consisted of a title and some dead HTML coding.

I have no recollection of when ShoZu went down, there was a news item in 2010 when they got taken over by Critical Path, but by then I was no longer actively using the service, having moved to an iPhone by then and having direct access to Flicker through the Flickr iOS app.

So it’s only when looking through archives of my old blog posts that I realised something may be missing.

Luckily I had copies of the images on Flickr (and on Amazon photos) so I updated the old blog posts and added copies of the images.

This wasn’t as simple as you may think as the blog post titles weren’t always clear about what the image was. However as the blog post link had the image file name in it, I could search Amazon photos for that file name and find the image.

It reminds me that embedding externally hosted content can be problematic, what happens when that service dies or is shut down. Just because something is free, doesn’t mean it will last forever.

They’re not deleted…

Flickr

In a recent blog post I reflected on if I should renew my Fickr Pro subscription.

I said

“I think the time has come, after eleven years to leave Flickr.”

So I decided not initially to renew my Pro subscription and look for alternatives to host my photographs online.

After some thought I realised I appreciated the way in which I used my Flickr account to not just store photogaphs, but also access them for images for blog posts and Twitter updates. However I still didn’t think $50 subscription was value for money.

So I was still going back and forth between do I subscribe or do I let it lapse.

However a decision by Flickr to retain all CC licensed photographs, has allowed me to defer my decision, as all my photographs are CC licensed, they haven’t been deleted.

At the time of writing, I am still thinking about paying the subscription, but I think I am learning towards yes.

Is it time to go?

I think the time has come, after eleven years to leave Flickr.

Back in the middle of the 2000s we saw an explosion of social media sites, we saw the birth of YouTube in 2005, Twitter hopped onto the web in 2006. Flickr was launched as a social photography site in 2004.

I joined Flickr in April 2007, a month after I had joined the Twitter. I think the reason I joined was that many of my professional peers were either members, or were joining at the same time.

The first photograph I uploaded was of Admiralty Arch having just emerged from the Strand Tube station. The photo was taken on March 30th 2007 with a Nokia N73 mobile phone.

Admiralty Arch

I went Pro in July 2007 and have then since paid every year for the professional account. I have at the time of writing 14,280 photographs on Flickr.

I like to think that this is my top photograph, it’s of a zebra at the West Midland Safari Park.

zebra

The reality is that it’s a classroom in Gloucestershire College.

a classroom in Gloucestershire College

I use Flickr partly as a place to store photographs, but mainly to collate photographs into “albums” so I can find them easily when I need images for presentations, to share images on Flickr, or to use images on my blogs.

An example workflow, is to take a photograph of some nice food, edit and post to Instagram, then use IFTTT to upload that resulting image not just to Twitter, but also to Flickr. I can then download the image from Flickr and upload to the blog. I use to occasionally embed straight from Flickr, then that stopped working for a while, so I stopped using it.

However I think the time has come to cull my Flickr account. I don’t think it’s worth $50 per year. The value is there, but I am not sure if that value is $50. I am a little disappointed that existing Pro subscribers are not only not grandfathered in, on their old pro rate, but that they don’t even get the introductory discount of 40% that new subscribers get.

I still have a little time to reflect on this, but I think the time has come to say goodbye to Flickr.

The fickle nature of the web

Spider Web by Daniel Orth CC BY-ND 2.0
Spider Web by Daniel Orth CC BY-ND 2.0

The fickle nature of the web is one of those things that I find annoying. You post a link, embed a video and then a bit later you find that it has gone! This was very apparent today with the news that the BBC are, in order to save money, will close down their recipe website. For me this is a mistake, however I also understand how this can happen, not just with textual content, but also media too.

I understand that with YouTube videos you can get take down notices and the link no longer works, or you are left with the blank player if you have embedded the video into a blog post

There are times though when people have removed a video years later and looking through an old blog post you find the embedded video has disappeared as the obscure service you used has shut down, or was taken over.

A few years ago I had a Nokia N95 and used the Shozu app to upload photographs to Flickr, it also had another feature of creating a WordPress blog post and embedding an image. This was shut down a few years ago, so now I have lots of posts from conferences back in 2008 or thereabouts that consist of basically a blank post. The post title was left and is merely a filename and then you get the blank square with the red cross. It is for these reasons that I try not to embed content from third party sites if I can help it.

A  good example of this is from 2008 when I posted a video from the mLearn 2008 conference. I used VideoPress rather than a third party site so my copy is still there on the blog. However I also uploaded the video to YouTube and Blip. However the Blip site is now dead and gone….

One aspect that I do find frustrating is when links disappear. A few weeks ago I tweeted (and Google+’d) a link out about #digitalcapability and wanted to use the link again for something else, so looking over my Google+ profile I found the link, clicked it and got a 404, the missing page error. I checked with the author and he kindly pointed out that the URLs had recently changed and there was a new link. No problem, but I did wonder how long before the URLs changed again or the page disappeared!

Sometimes it isn’t as quick and it can be a few years before the site disappears and the link is no longer live.

Sometimes I think, why do people and companies do this? Then I remember I do this myself and sometimes you have little choice.

WCC Logo

Back in 2001 I was appointed Director of the Western Colleges Consortium and we had a website and the URL westerncc.ac.uk and the consortium was wound up in 2006. As a result the website was shut down.

Back in 1998 when I created my first web site I used the free hosting from the ISP. A few years later I moved hosting providers (as I was using too much bandwidth) and had a domain of my own. I did leave the old site on the ISP, but due to bandwidth usage it was eventually shut down!

Sometimes there are things you can do, so for example when I moved my elearning blog from iBlog, which I was using when I was at the Western Colleges Consortium, I initially moved to wordpress.com, so had the URL elearningstuff.wordpress.com. Due to a variety of reasons I decided to move to my own domain elearningstuff.net and imported all the content. However due to the number of incoming links to the elearningstuff.wordpress.com site I used the domain forwarding service from wordpress.com (and still do) so that any links to elearningstuff.wordpress.com are automatically forwarded to elearningstuff.net. So I do try when possible to ensure that existing content on the web is still accessible years later.

In many ways I wasn’t surprised to read on the BBC News that the BBC are to remove existing web content and in the future only have some web content around for 30 days!

Sounds like BBC iPlayer, no these are recipes from BBC food programmes. This is from the BBC News item (and I expect like other BBC News links this will be around for a long time).

BBC Food news item

The BBC Food website carrying more than 11,000 recipes is to close as part of a plan to cut £15m from the corporation’s online budget, a BBC source has said.

All existing recipes are likely to be archived, though whether some could  move to the commercial BBC Good Food website is still to be decided.

TV show recipes will be posted online but only made available for 30 days.

I can just about understand a future policy doing this, but why on earth are they going to remove the existing web archive of content? What is the point of this exercise? There are, as the report says, thousands of recipes online that can be searched, found and used. I use this a lot myself for finding recipes and inspiration.

For me this is a mistake, sometimes you can’t avoid losing or deleting web content, sometimes you make a mistake, but in this instance I think that it would be mistake to lose the web recipes from the BBC.

Your thoughts? Is this a good idea? Will it help other publishers provide content now? Or do you think it’s a mistake by the BBC to do this and they should keep the food and recipe content online?

The Mahler Project

A documentary about the Geek Out! event at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford. A group of intrepid geeks set out to achieve a 30 year old challenge by playing Mahler’s first symphony on a network of ZX Spectrum computers.

How did I found out about this, the video uses one of my CC licensed images from Flickr.

Museum of the History of Science

Flickering

Well Flickr has undergone a makeover and their website is now very modern and stylish.

Flickr

It reminds me very much of the iPhone app, so where is the iPad app then?

Yahoo have also changed what you get in the “free” account, before you had a limit of 200 photographs and no full size images. Now for free you get one terabyte of storage and full resolution images.

Flickr

I have a Pro account on Flickr and there are still some advantages to having that, but it’s impressive that Yahoo have taken the plunge to move Flickr forward to compete with the likes of Facebook and Google+.

Certainly with the way that the Flickr API works, it makes sense to grab a free account and use Flickr as a backup to your other photo sharing services. Having an account doesn’t mean you need to partake in groups or have contacts.

Flickr for me is quite old school Web 2.0 and I think that’s the reason I have stayed there, rather than move to shiny new services. I do do the Instagram, but will usually copy images from there to Flickr.

It’s interesting to see how old school Yahoo is now evolving, as it’s not only do we get a new Flickr, but they’ve just gone out and bought Tumblr. Interesting times.

Missing #366photos

Last year I took a photograph everyday and posted it to Instagram and Flickr.

#366photos

On the 1st January I kind of breathed a sigh of relief that it was all over, job done. I wasn’t going to not take photographs any more, but I wasn’t going to feel the pressure of taking a photograph everyday.

Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy taking a picture everyday, it was quite a challenge to ensure that I didn’t repeat a picture, alas there were a few which are similiar…

I also liked the challenge of doing different kinds of pictures and that really did make me think about what pictures I was taking and which filters or how much to crop.

I liked using Instagram, and it was nice getting positive feedback from my Instagram followers.

Though I did feel glad when the year was over, now we are in February, though I intended to take just as many photographs as I did last year that certainly isn’t the case. In January 2012 I uploaded 115 photographs to Flickr, whereas in January 2013 it was just 34.

I think I might get back into a “photo a day” habit, but I won’t be tagging them in the same way.

Playing with the Apple TV

I spent a bit of time this evening trying out more of the different functions of my Apple TV. I have been using it more recently for streaming video from my iMac to my TV. Tonight though I wanted to see what else it was capable of. One thing the Apple TV will do is allow you to play video (and audio) podcasts to your TV.  I tried a couple of the (high quality) MacBreak Weekly podcasts and was quite impressed by how they looked on my TV. Not sure though if I would ever actually watch a whole episode of MacBreak Weekly on the TV, at this time I prefer to listen to it in my car. Though I am sure there are people out there who would watch it.

Like a lot of these devices, the Apple TV, allows you to watch YouTube on your TV, and though quite an easy interface, entering text on the Apple TV is nigh on impossible to do easily. The Apple Remote has very few buttons and makes the PlayStation text entry simple and effective! However all is not lost, Apple’s free Remote App for the iPad (and iPhone) allows you to use that to control the Apple TV. On the iPad this makes it much easier to enter text, such as names and search terms for YouTube.

I used this way to enter text to add my Flickr account to the Apple TV. Interestingly I had to my Flickr name, not my account name. I quite liked how I could show my Flickr images on the TV. This is how I show photographs quite a bit now, since I went digital, I certainly don’t print out as many prints as I should and like.

Overall there are many features of the Apple TV I like, the interface is quite usable and certainly much better than some other similar devices I have used. It is though not perfect, I would like to be able to use it to access BBC iPlayer, 4OD and other video on demand services and not just film rentals from iTunes.