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Introducing FlickrFan

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Update: Over a month ago, I visited Dave Winer’s Berkeley, Calif. home. We went for a walk that knocked the wind out of me, but during course of our conversation, Dave mentioned that he was working on something new. After nearly 45 minutes of rigorous walking, we returned to his house and he showed me an early version of his new application, FlickrFan.

One caveat, the first beta release is Mac only. That’s because I’m doing all my work on the Mac, and this is a one-man show. Later we will work it out for Windows too, and with a bit more work and a bit more luck, for Linux.

It is a simple application — download and install it on your Mac, and using RSS it pulls down images from Flickr and displays them on your screen. It can be a Mac Mini attached to a giant LCD screen or simply your iMac. Doesn’t matter! What matters is that images become almost like a constantly changing channel. Dave showed me his personal channel where photographs from professional news photographers were mixed with baby pictures, photos of vacations long forgotten and friends we have forgotten to call for a long time.

This is a highly personal use of RSS, just like Dave envisioned it long time ago. Our readers are pointing out that there are similar offerings for Windows platform, Slickr in particular. I wasn’t aware of that application, and glad to hear about it. It is understandable that some might be underwhelmed, but to me it is not the application, but the concept that is more exciting.

As broadband becomes faster, who is to say that we can’t randomly pull videos (that some day will be better quality than today) that interest us from YouTube and automatically display them on our screens. What FlickrFan shows that with ample broadband, open platform (PC or a Mac or a Linux device) and RSS (or some such subscription mechanism), we can create real simple convergence.

33 Responses to “Introducing FlickrFan”

  1. Yep it’s been done before, and it’s a nice idea. However I can’t help feeling that there is a huge amount of potential in the metadata being stored with every photo on Flickr. How about an interface where the thumbnails for pictures coagulate together based on the tags that are applied or a multi-dimensional navigator that arranges photos in a virtual space by shutter speed=X, aperture size=Y and for a third dimension add ISO setting=Z

    If Dave Winer is really as clever as people seem to think, this sort of thing should be a walk in the park for him.

  2. Your article has made me think… a YouTube RSS feed that randomly shows various videos has no use, but what if, newsflash style, a Youtube RSS Feed alerts you to a new video post on a channel, or a specific event like a localised news event or a sports result? That would be a useful application.

  3. Take in one step further. Create a incoming stream of videos with FlickrFan, filter them to create your own “tv station”, then broadcast it on the web.

    The filtering would be the important part, to create an outgoing stream of videos on the same topic. If the videos had metadata, then the filtering would be fairly easy.

  4. Mmm … forgive me for sounding a little brittle, but there is nothing new in this concept at all. Quite apart from the ‘it was available here before / PCs can do it already with this … ‘ chat … all valid, but putting aside the tech side of things, let’s just consider the core concept – randomly looking at lots of your pictures / videos / whatever over time.

    Every time my wife gets out the ‘holiday / wedding / her youth / my youth / blah blah blah’ pics, and begin to randomly show off the entire collection to whatever guest has enjoyed dinner and of course not a little wine with us, I become frigid with boredom.

    Now, I love my wife. The holiday was a pleasure, the wedding my finest day, her youth pretty damn interesting and my youth, well, I have to give it a nod, it was after all the making of me.

    But a random stream of photos of the above? I don’t need it, I really don’t! You want me to spend the next hour / day / weeks constantly staring into some freeze-framed / video restricted snapshot of some long gone moment. Sure, I am happy they are there, and I want to dip in or go find from time to time. But streaming? Constantly? What happened to the here and now.

    So, nothing new here. Just a (not so) fresh spin on the age old ‘have you seen our holiday snaps?’ horror that need never show its teeth, made worse by there being no guests, no dinner, no wine, and no end in site.

  5. PC users can simply use 8hands which also has a smart RSS that not only get the pictures into a ‘media zone’, but also notifies you upon any new comment, or when a friend uploads new photos. real nice.

  6. “subscribe to new content from others is a killer feature and totally changes the game.”

    This killer feature mentioned is a flickr standard. is it playlists? is it members pic list? What exactly is the “killer” here? i do not see anything of significance here other than Dave Winer is a person with a great reputation.

    Calling such micro-evolutionary steps as revolutionary is a bit like “crying wolf”.

  7. This feature that allows me to not only get my own content on a the TV screen but rather lets me also subscribe to new content from others is a killer feature and totally changes the game. I would like to see the future of how content delivery can work seamlessly and we have a Macintosh handy, we most certainly would want to download the beta. Weel i would recommend this.


  8. “It is understandable that some might be underwhelmed, but to me it is not the application, but the concept that is more exciting.”

    The application and the concept seem quite underwhelming. What exactly is new here? This has been there since Active Desktop. The “social twist” is just a flickr stream – already rss’ed years back.

    What was the “working on something new”? How many hours does something like this take to make?

    Maybe Silicon Valley is really running out of ideas.

    Not just underwhelmed. Totally over-underwhelmed.

  9. “When you think about FlickrFan as an open and easily cloned tool that lets your HDTV embrace the Internet, it’s easier to see where this is going.”

    It doesn’t “let your HDTV embrace the internet”. It allows a computer (and a pretty expensive one) do something download files automatically from the internet and place them in a folder. The innovation here is in the form factor of the Mac mini, not the software.

  10. Om

    Nice discussion and I’m glad you’re looking beyond the surface on this.

    If you look back a few years, the idea of an enclosure URL embedded into an RSS feed completely underwhelmed people – but it’s been the basis for a hell of a lot of development.

    When you think about FlickrFan as an open and easily cloned tool that lets your HDTV embrace the Internet, it’s easier to see where this is going.

  11. Boot up any TiVo made since ~2005 and add the Flickr app to it. Better TV-based experience without the hassle of moving a Mini to the living room.

    Or just subscribe to your photo feeds using a normal aggregator like Feeddemon, and have it dump the photos into a shared network folder. Then fire up a slideshow on the Xbox 360 that’s already in the living room to begin with.

    I’ve done both of the above, and in all honesty, it is fun… for about two days. Then you realize that sitting and staring passively at random photos just isn’t gonna fit in anyone’s time budget.

    Ditto for a theoretically random selection of YouTube vids. The absolute last thing I want is random video. I’ve got a DVR to avoid just that.

  12. Jamie Flubert

    Another great one for the PC is called “John’s Background Switcher” that draws on pictures from all sorts of sources including your own PC, Flickr, Picassa, Smugmug & Phanfare. It’s easy to create your own theme and the configuration options for each source match those on the source’s website. If you have a second monitor, it can be configured independently, which is actually how I use it.

  13. Didn’t Windows 98 have this feature with Active Desktop? You could set your screen saver to show a pre-defined webpage in full screen mode, which would then constantly be updated in a slideshow.

    The idea is a clever one, but it’s not particularly new that I can see, other than it being limited down to specifically RSS rather than just any old set of pages. I suspect if anyone other than Dave Winer had written the app, it would not of gotten a mention on here or most of the other blogs talking about it.