You can do a lot more with Yahoo's popular photo sharing site Flickr than simply upload your own photos and browse images created by other users. A new book in O'Reilly's popular "Hacks" series shows you how.
Flickr, if you haven't yet tried it, is a free service from Yahoo that allows anyone to upload, share and print digital photos. It's a very easy service to use, and many people use it as either a primary repisotory, or as a convenient online backup system for all of their personal imagery.
Because it's so popular, it's also an excellent resource if you're searching for images, of all imaginable subjects. Basic search lets you look for images by keywords, groups (collections of images posted as part of a private or public discussion), or by specific photographers. You can also search for images based on the tags the image owners have associated with pictures.
Advanced search adds a date filter, and also lets you search for images that you can use commercially, or that you can modify, adapt or build upon—in other words, use in mashups that combine multiple types of web content.
Flickr's frequently asked questions section is very well written and offers good, detailed instructions on using the service. Nonetheless, it's useful to have a guide to all of the different types of things you can do with the service.
Flickr Hacks, by Paul Bausch and Jim Bumgardner, is just such a guide, written in the same style as the other O'Reilly "Hacks" books, with fifty tips and tricks each covering a specific aspect of working with Flickr.
The first chapter covers Flickr basics. This is mostly familiar territory for anyone who's been using Flickr, but it's worth skimming to pick up a few tips for doing things you might not have run across previously.
Chapter two is dedicated to tagging photos. I've long been vocally skeptical of tagging's usefulness, but I have to admit what Flickr has done with tagging has impressed me. This chapter is also impressive in its approach, describing solid tagging principles that should really help improve the findability of your images.
It also offers sound advice for creating more complex tags, including geotags (adding geographic information that let you create mashups with your photos displayed on a map) and compound tags (tags that are associated with specific applications). Kudos to the authors for writing such a sensible and coherent chapter on a topic that is so often regarded as an afterthought by people using tags.
Chapters three through five are dedicated to exploring progressively more sophisticated uses of Flickr. As with the other hacks in the book, some are useful for anyone, regardless of skill, while others involve programming and require a bit of effort to implement.
Chapters six and seven are for readers who want to roll up their sleeves and play around with code. Chapter six is an excellent overview and tutorial of Flickr's API (application programming interface), which lets you do interesting things with Flickr that otherwise would take tons of time and effort to accomplish.
Once you've mastered the essentials of using the API, chapter seven offers a number of hacks that take advantage of it. For example, there are hacks to create mashups of your photos, to make a slider puzzle out of images, to create a mosaic image using multiple thumbnail images and several others.
In all, Flickr hacks is an eminently readable book that shows you how to take maximum advantage of Yahoo's photo sharing service. If you're new to Flickr, consider the book essential reading. Even if you're a regular Flickr user, Flickr Hacks will likely open your eyes to some new and interesting way to use the service.
by Paul Bausch and Jim Bumgardner
Other books in the O'Reilly Hacks series I've reviewed: