Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Flickr Hacks

There's so much buzz around Flickr right now it's practically deafening. Or maybe I should say blinding, because Flickr is a collaborative photo sharing service. I was perplexed why Yet Another Photo Sharing Website was so hot until I started browsing the myriad hacks and tools available for this site. Flickr has a web API, and there's a .NET wrapper around that API available at Flickr.NET. It's truly astonishing; a case study in what having an open API and community-driven content can do for your business. Here are some of the cooler Flickr hacks (warning-- heavy use of Flash ahead)

  • Flickr color picker. Shows all pictures for any given color you click in the color wheel. Quite mesmerizing.
  • Flickr postcard browser. Photos are "tagged" in Flickr with various descriptive words by the users. This is a quick way to browse around a specific tag.
  • Flickr related tag browser. This is like the postcard browser, but it also shows related tags that are frequently associated with whatever tag you're browsing in a ring around the pictures. Fantastic for browsing around and getting a sense of what tags are in use.
  • FlickrGraph. Flickr also contains social networks-- users who mark each other's photos as "favorites". This tool lets you map out the relationships between users in graphical form.
  • Flickr Replacer. A neat bookmarklet that takes any highlighted word on the web page and replaces it with an image representing that word (via tags, of course). Perfect for getting your rebus on.
  • Spell with Flickr. Spells a word of your choice using Flickr images representing each of the letters.

As you can see from the above sampling, Flickr is all about tags. There's a neat page on Flickr that shows the most popular tags at any given moment.

Amateur photographers take far better pictures, on the whole, than I could have ever possibly imagined. After seeing this, who needs professional photographers? Still, there's a big gap between the good and great pictures. My biggest frustration with flickr is that there's no rating system for the pictures. You can only browse pictures by user, or by keyword. I have a hard time coming up with tag keywords (frogs? dogs? clouds? graffiti?), and I don't really know any Flickr users. I'd rather just subscribe to some feed of highly rated pictures. Sort of an AmIHOTorNOT for photos, but hopefully without the prurience and desperation.

This is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg. There's an exhaustive list of all the Flickr hacks at The Great Flickr Tools Collection.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: