Ten years ago today I posted my first photo to Flickr.
I'd been to Lewisham for the day, as part of my Random Borough project, and thought you deserved to see 13 of the better pictures in greater-than-microscopic size. For my inaugural upload I picked the ever-photogenic Laban Centre on Deptford Creek, in cobalt sunshine, and invited you to take a peek.
(more tomorrow - in the meantime you might enjoy my new Flickr photostream with more shots of gorgeous Lewisham)
This was long enough ago that less than ten million photos had been uploaded to Flickr - my Laban shot has a seven-digit ID number. By contrast my latest photos are eleven-digiters, confirming an explosion of digital imagery over the last decade. Sticking photos online was relatively new back in 2005, hindered by retro-mobile technology and substandard transfer speeds. Today we think nothing of snapping a selfie and zipping it into the cloud for immediate consumption, so much so that the visual may have overtaken the written in our digital communication.
April 9th 2005 wasn't the day I joined Flickr - for some reason I'd signed up over a year previously. They were a cute fortnight-old start-up at the time, complete with an occasional inability to spell.
Welcome to Flickr, diamond geezer!
You can use Flickr to:
• Chat and exchange photos live with your friends
• Meet people who have the same interests as you
• Stay in touch with your friends and family
• Have fun
When you invite people to join Flickr you are instantly connected to them. Invite people to join! When you click through people's profile pages to learn more about them, or search for them using their email address. Join a group by browsing through the public groups people have already started. Or if you want to have a special group for just you and your friends, create a private group. To benefit the most from Flickr, add more details to your profile about your interests, add a buddy icon and add photos to your gallery.
We look forward to seeing you in Flickr!
The Flickr Team
Please note: ln the initial weeks of the beta period reliability may be sporadic while we optimize the system and new servers. Outage start times and anticipated lengths wiltbe posted to the news page with as much notice as possible. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience thls may cause.
What's most amazing about Flickr is that it's still going. Ten years is forever online, plenty long enough for your premise to collapse, or for the big company who bought you up to leave you to wither and then pull the plug. In this case Yahoo haven't been the best online masters, intermittently upgrading the site's design to the detriment of usability. But the site is still here, and so are ten million or so images representing a phenomenal social record.
Since posting my first photo, it's been viewed by over 1000 people (1167 to be precise, a number I suspect will have increased somewhat by the end of today). Over four thousand have looked at the next one, a Tellytubbyesque landscape from the front of the same building, a total high enough to place it in my Top Thirty Most Viewed Flickr photos of all time. Indeed it's quite illuminating to look at my Top Five, to see what it is makes the greatest hits.
1)Marlborough Road (24,294 views): 90% of the hits on this disused Metroland station came on a single afternoon, from an unknown but very powerful source, helping to prove the irrelevance of online statistics. 2)Met No 1 (20,508 views): In 2013 a 'Learning English' website used my photo of a steam train at Farringdon to illustrate a podcast, and attributed it properly, which has brought a steady stream of visitors ever since. 3)Entrance to nudist beach, Telscombe Cliffs (17,763 views): It's the phrases 'nudist beach' that keeps punters coming back, alas missing the key word 'entrance' (nothing to see here) 4)178 Vallance Road, Bethnal Green (14,681 views): That's the Krays Brothers' address, their childhood home alas now replaced by something blander and brickier. 5)The Lawn, Harlow (11,763 views): Very occasionally one of my photos is embraced by Explore, Flickr's global daily Top 500 feature, which unaccountably loved this photo of Britain's first high rise block of flats.
At the other end of the scale, my least viewed photos are a sequence of inconsequential shots from Outer London, rightly of minimal interest. Even so, only three photos in my online portfolio have had less than 100 views over the years, which if you're on Flickr yourself you'll know is a phenomenal strike rate. Even the photo I added yesterday evening, which I've given zero publicity, has now been viewed 110 times. Admittedly it's of a levitating Yoda in Trafalgar Square, but my status as a high profile blogger continues to afford my Flickr uploads more attention than they'd otherwise deserve.
Flickr's alternative means of ranking photos is by Interestingness, a nebulous algorithm combining views, comments and favourites. This gives a completely different ordering, with the all-time Top Twenty illustrated below, and the Top Thirty always available here.
Top of the stack this time are the Maunsell Forts off Herne Bay, in a photo taken in 2008 when they weren't seen online much, and in which I somehow managed to snap a level horizon despite being in a small boat. That's followed by the platforms at Blackfriars, my accidentally fabulous shot of the 2006 New Year Fireworks, and a close-up of a gastank in Canvey Island. Around a third of my Top 20 are photos from the seaside, only a quarter are transport-related, and around half are happy accidents.
Flickr's longevity has also helped preserve hundreds of photos I'd otherwisehavelost when my hard drive died in 2006. But the potential danger works both ways. I've invested hours of my time curating an online portfolio, currently 9405 photos in total, complete with captions, tags and geographical locations. But there's no guarantee whatsoever that Flickr will maintain functionality in the future, or indeed continue to function at all. Indeed they buggered up their maps interface several years ago, making several collections I'd painstakinglytagged essentially worthless.
I've also invested a heck of a lot time in embedding Flickr into this blog. When I've visited somewhere interesting a lot of the links in the next day's post are often to Flickr photos to illustrate what I've seen. Then there are galleries, like the Bournemouth one at the bottom of yesterday's post, whose coding currently works perfectly but which might one day be rendered obsolete by some as-yet unforeseen upgrade. If Flickr over-improves itself, or fails completely, my blog will be rendered incomplete.
It seems unlikely that Flickr can survive another decade without something going wrong, be that degeneration of functionality or withdrawal of service. But then I might have thought that back in 2005, and yet here it is still going strong. I hope you enjoy looking at the photos I stick on there, be that for artistic, geographical or purely inquisitive reasons. And I hope they'll still be there to look at in 2025, even if the things I've taken photographs of are, by then, long gone.