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neartime: find flickr photos taken nearby in time and space

Ever since I first started geotagging photos and posting them to Flickr, I’ve wanted to use this information to find photos that were taken in roughly the same location at roughly the same time. can I find photos with myself in them? Can I find other pictures from an event without having to use textual searches? I’m not the only person with these aspirations. Building on a post by Dave Winer about a similar experience in Social Cameras, Thomas Hawk of Zoomr talks about combining location information with timestamps to find near photos. Mor Naaman mentions this form of browsing in an October 2006 article in Computer, noting that Microsoft’s World-Wide Media Exchange (WWMX) let you browse photos by time and location in 2003.

WWMX’s photo database, though, is very small. Flickr has many, many more geotagged and timestamped photos. Flickr doesn’t make that particularly easy to explore by time and date within their interface. To find photos taken near, in location and time, to a given photo from a photo’s page, you would: (1) Go to the photo’s page. (2) Click the map. (3) Click to explore photos taken near that location. (4) Adjust map to desired zoom level. (5) Once the map loads, open the filters. (6) Enter a taken on date from the original photo. (7) If there are many results, go to the “link to the this page” link. (8) Paste URL in browser. (9) Edit time range in the URL. Hit enter. (10) Repeat.

I’m lazy; this was too much for me. Additionally, depending on the location and the event, I may want to play with the parameters a bit, and wanted a better interface to do this than the URL. For my own convenience, I’ve written a bookmarklet that will take you from a (geoagged) Flickr photo page to a page of thumbnails of photos located nearby geographically and chronologically. You can try it by dragging the below bookmarklet to your toolbar:


You may get some unexpected results. There are four general contributors to this that I’ve noticed. (1) Some users just geotag photos wherever seem right. (2) Some users don’t have their date and time set right. (3) Sometimes the combination of users’ recorded photo info and time zones doesn’t work out (I’m using a time zone offset from the photo’s location, which helps a bit). (4) Sometimes the Flickr search returns incorrect results.

There are also some better ways to implement search (particularly with respect to paginating photos according to distance and time rather than the options provided by the Flickr API), but those will have to come later. In the meantime, have fun and let me know what you think.

Update – 24 August 2010: I’ve updated the bookmarklet to work with the new Flickr photo page.

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