Flickr Photo Maps

September 1st, 2006 2:06 AM

It’s been around for a few days now, and I’ve got mixed feelings about Flickr’s new geo-tagging support. On one hand, they’ve done more for the cause of spatial photo annotations in the last few days than anyone has ever done before. On the other hand, the data still ends up being controlled by Flickr, and the simple coordinate approach to geo-tagging means that you can’t attach any other interesting data off of locations.

Flickr has a great API for importing and exporting data from their system, but I still want to maintain my own data and I want to do it in a way that allows for rich semantics. The new Flickr UI for geo-tagging photos is a huge step forward. But it’s still difficult or impossible to: group separate points as being located in the same “place” (e.g. restaurant, club, hotel); mark points as being located in a particular city, state, county or country (with high enough quality GPS and mapping data, this can be reconstructed); cross reference points and regions with other data (browsing photos of places I’ve had Guinness or discovering which state has played host to my highest rated photos).

I absolutely love the clustering feature (among others) in the new Flickr UI whereby clusters are broken up into discrete photos (or smaller clusters) when zooming in. I’d love to see how they’ve got all of this working under the hood. But I’m still stuck with the same frustration I’ve always had with Flickr: tags and (now) simple lat-lon pairs simply aren’t meant to provide enough information to do the things I care about.