3 Jan 2011

The recent Purple Screen of Death unveiled an uncertain future for two of Yahoo!’s web services that I use; Delicious and Flickr.

I wouldn’t call myself a heavy user of Delicious – I tend to go through periods of bookmarking everything one week, to not touching it the next. Despite their story changing from ‘sun-setting’ to ‘selling’, I’m done with Delicious and have moved over to Pinboard. But this post isn’t about that.

Flickr is a site I use a lot more. As the PSOD didn’t even mention it, there has been a lot of speculation about its future. My first reaction was that they couldn’t possibly shut the site down; it clearly has a large user base and must generate some amount of money with its Pro accounts. But I think Jason Scott sums up the naivety of that view very nicely:

I am, frankly, a mixture of disappointed and sad that after Yahoo! shut down Geocities, Briefcase, Content Match, Mash, RSS Advertising, Yahoo! Live, Yahoo! 360, Yahoo! Pets, Yahoo Publisher, Yahoo! Podcasts, Yahoo! Music Store, Yahoo Photos, Yahoo! Design, Yahoo Auctions, Farechase, Yahoo Kickstart, MyWeb, WebJay, Yahoo! Directory France, Yahoo! Directory Spain, Yahoo! Directory Germany, Yahoo! Directory Italy, the enterprise business division, Inktomi, SpotM, Maven Networks, Direct Media Exchange, The All Seeing Eye, Yahoo! Tech, Paid Inclusion, Brickhouse, PayDirect, SearchMonkey, and Yahoo! Go!… there are still people out there going “Well, Yahoo certainly will never shut down Flickr, because _______________” where ______ is the sound of donkeys.

Unlike Delicious, I don’t plan to leave Flickr until there’s a more obvious alternative. Nor am I rushing to retrieve all of my photos from the site as some people are. This is more a result of the fact I have never used Flickr to archive my photos; I have only ever uploaded the small percentage that I have wanted to share. (Although, come to think of it, there are some screenshots and non-photo images on there that I should make sure I have copies of.) But this has meant I’ve needed a separate strategy for backing-up my photos.

At the moment, my strategy is to copy them to as many hard-drives as I can. My laptop is the primary store of photos, but this is my work machine, so it clearly isn’t appropriate as a long term option. The Viglen box running my home automation has a meaty disk in it, so that is the first tier of backup. On top of that, I recently bought an external drive which lets me take a backup ‘off-site’. So that makes three copies in my physical reach where I am sat now.

Finally, I also keep a copy in a bucket on Amazon’s S3 service. This one is the most out of date because I haven’t automated the uploading to it, but that’s something I’ll be looking at soon. At last count I have just over 9000 photos up there, dating back to 2003, with a backlog of about 4000 waiting to go up.

In the early days, I would take lots of photos and wouldn’t delete anything – just in case I ever needed a blurry photo of Venice in 2005.

How could I have possibly illustrated this blog post without that?

Needless to say, I’ve come to realise in the last couple of years that I need to be more ruthless and delete the chaff. Particularly as the size of each individual photo has gone from around 1Mb in the early days, up to 6Mb with my shiny new Lumix GF1 – and that’s without having got to grips with RAW yet.

With all of those photos on S3, I’ve found myself wanting an easy way to browse through them – partly to help weed out the ones not worth keeping – as well as just making the last eight years of photos available to actually look at. Basically, I want my own personal Flickr.

A key thing here is that this wouldn’t be a replacement for how I use Flickr itself – particularly the social side of it. This would be purely for my own consumption – with the ability to share photos with specific people. For example, I have taken plenty of photos of Toby that won’t go onto Flickr, but I want some way of sharing them with his Grandparents and close friends.

I know things like Gallery exist, which I could probably have up and running in no time. Coincidently, having just gone to the Gallery site, I see a recent news item on the ability to host Gallery photos on S3. But regardless, I’m going to have a play with a roll-my-own solution.

I don’t know how far I’ll get, but I’ll certainly post updates along the way, all in the spirit of my plan for 2011.

  1. kybernetikosJanuary 3, 2011

    The problem with s3 is that it costs significant amounts even for small quantities of data and usage. It must be tempting to try to link up to dropbox or google docs store.

    Incidentally, I switched to Pinboard too. I would have preferred slightly better integration with my browser, but so far I’m pretty pleased with it.

  2. nickJanuary 3, 2011

    At the moment, I’m paying about $2.50 a month for what I’ve got on S3 already, so it does cost slightly more than my flickr pro account ($50 over two years) – but not substantially more. But it is still cheaper than Dropbox, which would cost $240 to get 50GB of space over two years. The equivalent ‘raw’ S3 space is ‘only’ $168. Of course I could cheat and get 25 free 2Gb accounts and stripe the data over them, but that doesn’t seem right.

  3. JonFebruary 3, 2011

    I’m hoping to have a fairly robust setup using the following approach: all files stored on 2TB NAS with RAID (positioned up high and locked out of the way to help prevent flood damage and burglary); daily scheduled backup with versioning to another hidden NAS for local recovery and additional burglary protection, offsite backup (just a big HD with all the files up to a certain date), scheduled task to look for only the files changed since offsite backup which are then mirrored on a friend’s PC using BuddyBackup (Windows only unfortunately, but this will only be a smaller subset of files so 2GB free from Mozy, Dropbox, etc. might suffice).

    I know what you mean about file sizes though. I’m shooting some stuff in RAW, but even worse is the video! It’s only 720p but I’m generating close to 1GB per month now. Local recovery is a must as it would take an age to download all the data – disaster recovery only.

    As an option for sharing photos with relatives I find Picasa is works well. 1GB of free storage and you can set the photos as ‘public’, ‘anyone with the URL’ or ‘private’.

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