Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why Use Flickr? One Example of Its Advanges in Action

Some time ago, Mike Bergin asked why and how a blogger would use Flickr for image hosting. The thread generated many interesting responses, some favorable and some not. Participants cited a variety of reasons for using the service. A few expressed frustration with its limitations.

For me, it comes down to four basic reasons. First, titles, tags, descriptions, and sets make it easy to retrieve older but still useful photos – much easier than on my computer. Second, it provides a space to post photos of subjects that would be off-topic on my blog but that I would still like to share with others. (For example, it is hard to write a nature blog post around photos like these.) Third, the Flickr community (or more accurately communities) can be a source of encouragement and feedback. Groups make it easy to find other users with similar interests, even fairly arcane ones. Fourth, many Flickr users (as I do) post their photos under a Creative Commons license. This provides a rich source of images that can be used with blog posts; many of the photos in recent Loose Feathers editions have come from Flickr.

I experienced an example of the third advantage last weekend. I was having trouble identifying a moth from an older photo, shown below. Within a few hours of my posting it to Flickr, a few of my contacts responded with helpful suggestions, one of which nailed the identification as a Maple Looper (Parallelia bistriaris).

Chances are that even without Flickr, I would have had an accurate identification eventually anyway. Over time, I have developed contacts through the blogosphere and Twitter who are knowledgeable about insects in general and moths in particular. But, like the blogosphere, Flickr has the means to link people with similar interests who live in disparate locations. It is to the advantage of nature bloggers to participate in these communities where they exist.