At long last, Flickr has released a geotagging interface. Geo tagging is the process of applying longitude and latitude data to assets – in Flickr’s case, to images.
Why would you want to do this? It’s easiest to explain with examples:
- To show friends and family where you’ve been
- To provide information about a neighborhood (think visual local search)
- To create a virtual tour of the National Gallery of Art sculpture garden
I got interested in geotagging last year when a site called Geobloggers launched, integrating Flickr with Google Maps. That site was taken down in March, when the developer, Rev. Dan Catt was hired by Yahoo!
It’s great to see geotagging finally integrated into Flickr. The interface isn’t as polished as the rest of Flickr and not even as polished as the one Dan put together on his own.
But it works reasonably well. There are some nice Flickr touches, too. If you zoom out to the point where pictures overlap, they are automatically collapsed into one bullet. You can quickly tag a lot of pictures with the Organizr’s bulk tagging interface.
There are a lot of things I’d love to see:
- Let me time travel. One of the great applications of geotagging will be the ability to see a place at a certain time. On this map of the Mall, you can see a picture from the first Gulf War. You could also see the same place in summer or winter. Looking at the URL string that Flickr generates, it looks like this might be in the plans.
- Let me tag surf. When I’m viewing an area, I want to see the top tags people have applied to images in the area. For example, near Walt Disney World, I might see “kids, family, rides, etc.”. In Times Square I might see “theater, street performers, shopping, etc.”
- In zoomed out views, offer an option to show the maximum geographic dispersion of images. The current implementation uses a paging mechanism that is highly confusing and tends to ignore large regions. At a world zoom level, I care more about the dispersion than specific concentrations based on recency. There are ways to fake it. but they’re less than desirable.
- Let me use any map provider to geotag my images. Google Maps is still vastly superior to Yahoo! Maps. There are the obvious UI considerations. In addition, in some areas, like the UK and Ireland, Yahoo! doesn’t have detailed street data, making it difficult to pinpoint locations.
- Let me search for points of interest. In trying to geotag an image of a Sonic Drive In, I had to do a lot of work. I want to be able to type “Sonic Drive In, Walnut Island, NC” and have the database do the work. The way I ended up doing a lot of my geotagging was to search this way in Google Maps and then manually pan flickr’s Yahoo! Map.
- Give me a way to see other people’s pictures when I place mine. If I’m placing a picture of the Taj Mahal, I probably want to put it where every one else put their Taj Mahals.
- If I’m at a zoom level where I see city names, let me “snap to” the city name.
- Give me a module for my personal blog, similar to the one from Yelp. Now that I’ve done all the hard work of geotagging my images, I want to show it off!