Future of Web Apps 07 – Part 2

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Part 1 of my roundup is here. Some would say that this is a bit late because the conference was in february this year, but the stuff that Bradley Horowitz from Yahoo had to say is interesting and will only get even more interesting as time passes by.

Flickr is one of the world’s most popular sites where people can share, publish, discuss and organize their pictures online. One of the most important features of Flickr is the fact that people add a lot of descriptions to their images. These descriptions are what we call metadata. All the extra information that we add in addition to the image itself. Title, tags, exposure information from the camera and location data. These metadata are extremely important for a system like Flickr because it makes it possible to find and organize images in a lot of different ways.

The most obvious one is to search for a certain word. Do a search for “Norway” and you will find all the images that people have marked with “Norway” and so on. In addition to all the metadata that people add to their images, Flickr also keeps track of how many people that view an image, how many people that comment on it and so on. In total this adds up to a very detailed database of images that can be searched and organized in a lot of different ways.

Bradley Horowitz on the Future of Web Apps
Among other things, he did a roundup of what they call “interestingness” at Flickr. A way to sort out the best images. According to Horowitz it’s “based on implicit, organic measures.” As far as we know it’s a combination of the amount of views, the amount of comments and the amount of times an image has been marked favorite by the users. Have a look. Here is what’s showing up with a search for “Norway” through the old method of sorting. Newest images on top. And here is the same search sorted by interestingness. As he said, “interestingness works”.

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Then he started talking about new ways of using the data that they have in their database. An example: combine the tag “route66” with the geo location data. Suddenly you can ask Flickr the question “where is Route 66” and it will answer quite accurately (have a look at the slide in the picture above). I don’t think this is the best way to find Route 66 but it is an interesting approach to the use of data from Flickr.

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Then, you can start combining maps with tags. Tell Flickr to show a map of London with the tags people use placed on the map. You immediately get an idea of the most popular places in London and can start browsing images of those places.

Now, combine that with the time stamps and ask Flickr: “Show me places that are popular at night in London.”

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As you probably have understood, having a huge database of images with extreme amounts of metadata added gives some interesting possibilities.

So now you can head over to TagMaps and have fun.

Mr. Horowitz also did a nice demonstration of Yahoo Pipes. An utterly powerful tool that I’ll have to get back to later. If you are confident with RSS feeds and have some understanding of programming I would recommend that you visit Pipes and test it for yourself.

..and you can still find more details from the FOWA07 conference over at Ryan Carson’s blog.

Future of Web Apps 07 – Part 2

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