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{ Tag Archives } place

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.

walkon – a networked cities project

For my final project in Network Cities (ARCH531), I worked with Garin Fons and Amy Grude to explore urban flows. We propose a system that enables sidewalks to respond to you and the people who came before you. As you walk through a city, the ground underfoot glows. Intense, extended glows show the most common direction people in your place next went, while weaker illuminations indicate less popular directions.

Specific numbers of people, dates, and times are never shown. These features would increase the cognitive load on pedestrians, while we intend this service – once people become accustomed to it – to blend into the background and become a moving, changing part of the cityscape. Our goal is not to guide people to a specific path, but to highlight flows at a pedestrian’s given location. In doing so, we restore the idea of “the beaten path” to urban landscapes – something that has largely been lost with permanent, paved pedestrian ways. It is up to you to decide whether to stick with the crowds or see what lies in less frequented areas.

Explore the WalkOn presentation (Flash). The other projects in the class are worth a look too.

just for fun: people markup

For one of our Networked Cities projects, we were asked to explore urban markup. While looking at existing projects, my teammate David Hutchful and I got the feeling that tagging spaces is a pretty crowded space. Tagging or otherwise marking people with the intent of learning more about them or feeling more connected to them appeared similarly crowded.

Inspired loosely by Steven Johnson’s work Everything Bad is Good for You, we began thinking about intermixing the ideas of place and people markup with play. This led to imagining a game in which you tag other people. If tag from two strangers match, aside from some stopwords, within a certain range of time and place, each player might get points.

The idea of being tagged by strangers ultimately feeds into peoples’ curiosity of what others think about them. This became our focus for the project, which we are calling Mirror. We built in anticipation (you can only check how you’ve been tagged once per day) and ambiguity (tags, for you, are only localized to the resolution of a cell tower). You can only be tagged by people who are not in your social network.

These tags also build identities for places. Imagine a space that displays the way people currently in it have been tagged — reflecting its current occupants. Browse a map that shows the way people have been tagged in a neighborhood. We also imagine games, such as scavenger hunts in which the goal is to go out and get tagged in certain ways.


We tell show some of the possibilities in the above storyboard. There is another write up on the project’s page, as well as (an admittedly hand-wavy) tech/design explanation (pdf).

We actually believe that such a product could be bad for both you and community in general, but that doesn’t stop it from being fun to think about.

together alone

The phrase “alone together” came up in a couple of different contexts this week. In both instances it was expressed as being physical with other people participating in a solitary activity: checking email at Starbucks, flying without talking with your seatmates, and the like. This is not unlike Ducheneaut’s use of the phrase alone together (paper) in reporting that the social activity in the game World of Warcraft was less than had previously been estimated. Within this umbrella there are some distinctions that I’ve been mulling over.

As Ducheneaut observes, the café is a lot like the WoW experience. People are surrounded by background chatter and social interaction, even if they choose not to participate. The person who checks email at Starbucks did not attribute his behavior to seeking an environment, but instead to seeking serendipitous social interaction even though he does not actually experience this interaction when he goes to Starbucks. I am curious about how broadly this applies, and if it is generalizable to experiences like WoW.

There is also another potential distinction linked to the split between what the person says he is seeking (social interaction) and what he gets (a social environment). For most visitors (or is it most locations?), Starbucks does not meet Oldenburg’s criteria for a third space. In a “true” third space, the person’s expectation of serendipitous social interaction would not be unreasonable. Working backwards through the analogies (perhaps more than is reasonable), Ducheneaut et al’s work on the limits of sociability in WoW may bound or even push back against Steinkuehler and Williams’s persuasive argument that WoW is a third space.

The inside of an airplane is not the same and currently has more in common with Marc Augé’s description of non-spaces. People are not transiting airports and flying for the experience of being confined with 300 neighbors. Yet the people environment is similar, as are many of the things that people do in cafés and airplanes: read, consume beverages and small amounts of food, watch movies, listen to music, and catch up on work on paper or on laptops. In the economy section of an airplane, the people are too close, while in the coffee house people seek out others’ presence.

The media, though, is being used in part for different reasons. At Starbucks, it might be to relax or to get things done. This is true on the plane, sure, but it is also an escape from the environment. This is not a new observation, but bears repeating. Both sorts experiences suggest, though, that virtual realities are no more likely than truly virtual communities — more and more day to day situations are becoming intermingled, hybrid experiences. As hybrid environments become more prevalent and in more mundane settings, the design possibilities start to get exciting.