— Forest and the Trees


flickr has changed their public api. Unfortunately, it affects everyone who’s made a Flash/Flickr tool. Mario has good summary here.

So, findr users – uh, it might not work. But, I’ll get to it soon.

Damn public apis.

UPDATE: August 20, 2006
I’ve updated findr to the new api location. If you are using flashr 0.4, you only need to change 2 lines in the flickr.as file

private var _AUTH_ENDPOINT:String = "http://flickr.com/services/auth/";
change to...
private var _AUTH_ENDPOINT:String = "http://api.flickr.com/services/auth/";
_REST_ENDPOINT = "http://www.flickr.com/services/rest/";
change to...
_REST_ENDPOINT = "http://api.flickr.com/services/rest/";

The updated source for flashr is here.

So, small change – but, pain in the ass because I have multiple versions of findr. I did finally get around to upgrading the detection script to swfObject – so you no longer have to click on findr to activate it in MIE. SwfObject is pretty nice, btw. In addition to handling the MIE problem, it easily allows you to pass variables from url addresses to Flash.

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I added a slide show to findr. The previous version had a link to flickr’s slide show. But, it didn’t work very well (didn’t support multiple tags, wouldn’t always show the same pics that were displayed in findr). Loved the idea of just tying into what flickr already made, but, oh well.

Anyway, new slide show, check it out (the slide show button’s over the thumbs) …


findr personal

findr advanced

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hmm.. just noticed that the slide show link doesn’t really work too well in findr. Apparently you can’t use multiple tags and the interesting setting. Findr uses “sort by interesting” to retrieve pics – you do get nice pics that way. The slide show works fine for single tags. And it works in findr personal (where “sort by most recent upload” is used). Looks like I’m going to have to get the slide show working in Flash.

So – two things I’d like changed to flickr - 1. an option to return photos’ tags on photo search – that would make findr personal usable – i.e., get rid of that initial wait. 2. slide show: multiple tags + interesting; photo number to start – e.g., start with the 10th most interesting photo.

Other than those problems, that flickr api’s pretty nice. And I love those easy to understand urls. That’s all that’s going on for the slide show – just calculate the url based on the tags clicked and open a new page. Unfortunately, I should have tested a bit more.

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I made a new version of findr – findr personal. It loads all of a single flickr user’s pictures and creates a tag structure. Unfortunately, the initial load is painfully slow (a separate query is called to get each pic’s tags). But, there are advantages to having all the data – for example, you know how many pictures relate to each tag.

I also fixed some bugs and added a couple features, including a link to flickr’s slide show player. In certain situations, the slide player may not exactly match what you are viewing in findr but usually it will work just fine. (flickr’s slide player doesn’t load 99 pics at once, support all type of sorting, or allow for a startPage param – or maybe it does, but I couldn’t figure it out).

Also – just to confuse matters, I’ve set up a new site, tagtree.net, for all of these tag based experiments. (I’m calling the tag navigation part of findr a tagtree.) I updated findr and findr advanced on this site, but, findr personal only lives on tagtree. Eventually, I’ll probably just set up a re-direct from here. I’m not positive starting a new site is a good idea, but whatever.

findr personal
findr advanced

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I had to make a trailer for the FlashForward awards with a soundtrack.

Two versions: QuickTime (30MB) for the awards; and a swf (16MB) for your downloading convenience that looks worse (jumpy, pixelated, not as in sync with music).

I used Camtesia Studio to make the trailers. That’s a nice, easy to use product. (Although more display options on the flash vcr control would be good.)

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I put up a new version of findr that has two advanced controls.

  1. You can return photos in any order – the default is “interesting”, but now you can retrieve by “latest upload” and more.
  2. Added a rather slow “noise reduction” or “tag spam blocker” feature. What am I talking about? If you drill down far enough in findr you always end up with this lion. It shows up because it has so many tags. Now you can eliminate pics that have too many tags. Open Advanced Controls. Check “noise reduction”. Use the slider to set the tag threshold. Unfortunately, it is slow. So beware. Flickr does not return tags with photos on a multi-photo query. So, you need to loop through a list of photos and grab tags for each one. That said, you do get rid of the lions. To see it work try: dog –> golden retriever –> family.

I am leaving the original version of findr up as well. The advanced controls are interesting as an experiment. But — they’re not really necessary; I don’t love how they look (need to skin that combo box); they’re slow; and, most of the time, simple is better.

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Well, I’m reaching a bit with that title. But, hey it’s a blog. First, definitions…

Folksonomy – user described data. E.g., users tagging their photos on Flickr.

Intersection – The common elements in sets. E.g., two sets [1,2,3,4,5] and [1,5,6,7,8] intersect to become [1,5]

Taxonomy – A hierarchical data structure. E.g., Computers –> Software –> Web Development Tools –> Front-end –> Flash.

What you really want on the web is a taxonomy that you understand. You shouldn’t have to know exactly what you are looking for, just have a general idea – more of a Sunday paper and less of a dictionary. Obviously, you need a dictionary, and the web does that well. But, think about going to a movie. You don’t always know what movie you want to see. Sometimes you want to look at the movie section of the paper – see what’s playing close, at a good time, that’s getting good reviews. Searching for “King Kong” isn’t going to give you that. (This type of movie browsing is done very well at boston.com btw. Check out the movie map.)

When I made findr, I was thinking about it in terms of refining a search. But, the underlying concept of refining your search is taxonomy. You can’t refine unless you give structure to your data. E.g., I can’t ignore lousy movies in the paper without a system that rates them. And what findr does is create a structure. You want a funny dog picture. You start with dog, then you see chihuaha, then costumes – you are creating a taxonomy. The intersection keeps the costume within chihuaha. And the related tags (until you drill down deep) means you will have results. Now findr’s a good example, but, delicious is great – because it has more ways to interesect. I can look through my own tags and choose “flash–> data visualization”, and get the results. I can also look at a link and find other users who have bookmarked it and look at their links (which is a great way to find new sites). I’ve created a “me –> similar users –> flash” structure. It’s a different slice and it provides a different service – surfing, vs. retrieving.

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1. More hits on this website than all other days combined.
2. Worst day ever for Flickr API – really slow, and at least one API call no longer works (get pictures by interesting with multiple tags*).
3. So, all these people came to check out Findr, FlashForward finalist, and it wasn’t working. And even when it was/is working, it’s running so slow that it’s really not fun to use anyway – which is really the point. (And it’s still running really slow.)

This is the problem with working with Public APIs. It’s great to get your hands on public data. And, you don’t have to maintain a dBase – but, if you control the data (this blog runs on mySql), you can control the problems.

I had similar problems with when delicious went down a month ago. All the links on this site are saved as delicious bookmarks, and when delicious went down, so did the links. In that case, I could store the links locally, but I’m sacrificing control for convenience by using delicious.

It’s just a, kind of backward, change. We all get so used to everything working – and working fast. And things basically continue to work better and run faster. But with public APIs, you are letting go of control and sometimes that means letting go of performance. Letting go of control – your data, your source code – is a great trend – leads to more innovation, results in more user- vs. company-centric applications, but, it has consequences.

I still love flickr. I just wish they would have upgraded their API on different day than the FF nominations.

*I went back to “most recent”, which is too bad, interesting really does return interesting photos.

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Findr is a FlashForward Finalist in the Application category. Wow.

I’ve actually been doing a bunch of work on Findr. I am adding a couple search features and should be open sourcing it really soon (finally). The source is kind of a mess, but, I’ve now gotten 2 emails requesting it, so I’m feeling the pressure. (Thanks for the requests btw.) I just uploaded another version (0.7). It has a couple performance enhancements and some bug fixes. Thumbs load by row now, so, if you click on another tag before all the thumbs are loaded, all 99 thumbs will not load in background and suck up all your bandwidth. Also, Kelvin Luck updated Flashr (again) and it now has caching. I’ve done some testing and this seems pretty great – basically, you don’t need to re-query Flickr for the same request. Caching might cause some memory problems. If you have any, please let me know. It’s very easy to go back to the non-cached version.

Anyway, I’m flattered to get the nomination. But really, both Kelvin, for building Flashr, and Flickr, for putting out a comprehensive API, deserve as much credit as I do. Findr’s kind of buggy and experimental (it’s certainly not up to “client work” standards) – and the other apps look pretty great and solid – but, Findr is the only one developed using a public API and a 3rd party open source tool – and I’m assuming that that was one of the reasons it was chosen. I’m psyched about that. (I’ll blog about why soon.) And I’d love to see “using public APIs” as a FF category in the future. For other Flash apps using public APIs, please check the links page.

Oh yeah – vote for Findr here. All the finalists are here.

(Usage is sure up. Check my mochibot findr stats. Cool.)

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I made a Flickr photo browser type thing with Flash (requires Player 8, hi-speed, 1024×768). I’m calling it Findr. It uses the Flickr public API and Kelvin Luck’s fantastic Flashr (which wraps the API for Flash).

It’s still very beta with bugs to fix and design improvements to make. But, I wanted to post something before my talk on Wednesday, so here it is. And here’s what it does…

  1. First, enter an initial tag.
  2. Findr displays a list of related tags. Then, it gets a list of photos matching the initial tag and displays photo thumbnails.
  3. After the initial tags and thumbs load, you can click on tags or thumbs.
  4. Clicking a tag will grab a list of related tags and display the intertersection of that list with the other tag list(s). After displaying the intersection list, photos that match all clicked tags are displayed.
  5. Clicking a thumb will load a larger version of the image and display its title, owner, and a link to its photo page.

I’ll open source the code in the next couple weeks if anyone’s interested. Just need to clean it up first.

Also – for people using Flex Builder 2.0 Alpha, this does not work with Firefox Flash Player 8.5 WIN XP. It does work with MIE 8.5 WIN XP.

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