The Friday Fillip

Flickr is one of the roaring dot com successes… Modest start, Canadian connection, unfortunate trend setter for dropping the ‘e’ in ‘er’, huge sale to Yahoo! And now with an astonishing two billion photographs on board. How to mine this wealth? Well, there are a good many ways — in addition to Flickr’s own search function — it seems, and in today’s fillip I’ll take a very brief look at a few of them.

Compfight helps you find photos you can use — because they’re licensed under one or another Creative Commons license. As well, you can ask it to select only those pics that make the original available: some folks will only post a cropped or lower quality image to Flickr. It will also give you a safe search setting, if that’s the sort of thing that turns you on. Your results come up in a nice array of thumbnails. All round handy.

Flickr Color Selectr (see?) does just that. You give it a color and it returns with thumbnails of (Creative Commons licensed) photos that match your hue. I prefer Idée’s color search, which was the subject of an earlier Friday Fillip; but Selectr has the advantage of not drawing from a limited set of Flickr photos, the way that the Idée project does.

If all you want is some nifty pics, without the trouble of having to institute a search, it’s Flickriver you want. It seizes on those photographs that Flickr designates as “interesting” and gives you them in an “infinite” scroll, so that you’re spared even the labour of clicking on a “next” button. (It does have some regular searching capacity as well.)

Now, Tag Galaxy is cool. I’m a sucker for an inventive user interface, and this one is inventive indeed. First off, it treats your search terms and associated terms as planetary objects in a solar system, letting you choose which of the terms will be the centre around which the others rotate. (See the graphic below for a glimpse.)

When you’ve assembled your search terms to your liking, and you call up the Flickr pics that correspond, you’re presented with an unusual way of viewing the thumbnails. They’re disported around a globe, a sphere that lets you rotate it in any direction; a click on an interesting thumbnail floats a larger version free for you to examine. A click on that takes can take you to the appropriate Flickr page.

(I have a feeling that this rotating globe idea will be a feature of the iPhone’s new app selector in the upcoming release — but that’s another story…)

Finally, Tiltomo works with a couple of test Flickr databases, proofing its content-based visual image search tools. Essentially, its goal is to let you find images similar to the one you have chosen, similarity being based either on the subject (i.e. content) of the image or on the colour and texture of the image.


  1. Tag searches in Flickr might not always give you the best results. Cathy Marshall’s recent “Do Tags Work?” article in Tekka ( points out that titles and narratives provide more and better descriptors about a photo than do tags. For example, her searches showed that tags didn’t include verbs, which would challenge anyone looking for photos of an activity.