What Flickr Looks Like Now

Notice all the white space surrounding the photos in the stream. You see photo titles and can select which size you’d like to view photos.

Click here to view this gallery.

Flickr will be rolling out a number of changes in the coming months, beginning with a new photo stream design, Justified View, and a new uploading feature, Uploadr.

Markus Spiering, Flickr head of product, discussed these changes with Mashable Tuesday. The company’s main focus, he says: user engagement.

Justified View, which will go live Feb 28, trades Flickr’s current white space-filled layout for something that looks a lot more like Pinterest (as has become the trend in web design). The new photo stream will first go live with your contacts (the people you follow). It showcases bigger photos and lacks text data. You can hover over photos to view tags and other information.

The new upload feature dubbed Uploadr, which will go live in late March, lets you drag and drop photos from your computer onto the site. Spiering calls Uploadr more like an app and less like a website. Photos are instantly viewed as thumbnail images, allowing you to add tags as you upload. Spiering thinks this will increase engagement, as Flickr continues to build the Internet’s largest collection of geo-tagged photos (currently numbering at about 270 million).

SEE ALSO: 17 Most-Popular Photos From Flickr Commons

Moving forward, Spiering says Flickr stands behinds Yahoo’s “mobile first” strategy, suggesting some future tricks the photo sharing service may have up its sleeves. The site’s first mobile app, for Android, was released in September 2011.

Though you may not think of Flickr as a mobile photography center in the likes of Instagram or Hipstamatic, the iPhone is now the top camera on Flickr, losing ground only to the iPhone 4S.

What do you think of Flickr’s changes? Where do you think the site fits into the mobile sharing space? Let us know what you use Flickr for in the comments.

More About: flickr, photo sharing, Yahoo

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Yahoo has launched a new webpage that visualizes what’s happening on the web in near real time — and it’s totally beautiful.

The Content Optimization Relevance Engine (C.O.R.E.) HTML5 site hopes to show users the “behind the scenes” process Yahoo uses to match readers with content on their personalized homepage, using technology developed in a Yahoo research lab a few years ago. While Yahoo’s homepage used to be arranged by editors, it now uses an algorithm to match individual user preferences.

“We can provide users with insights through the lens of the 700 million users that come to our site each month,” Todd Beaupre, Yahoo’s senior director of product management, personalization and social platforms, told Mashable.

The interactive site optimizes content discovery, showing you what’s popular for a variety of user demographics, such as U.S. city, gender, age and interest (news, finance, lifestyle, Yahoo’s entertainment, sports and health). You can also chose a number of these characteristics at once, such as female sports fans in Cleveland or 35- to 44-year-olds in Atlanta.

As far as utility goes, you can think of the site as a tool to provide similar insight to Twitter trending topics or Google trends.

“We’ll see that we put out a sports story, but the human interest angle means that it’s being clicked on by women, more so than men interested in sports,” Beaupre says, noting that Yahoo delivers about 13 million content combinations each day to visitors to its homepage. “We bulit this because we can’t always predict accurately what people are going to click on.”

The C.O.R.E. visualizer features Yahoo’s original content as well as content written by Yahoo’s partners.

For some additional insight, you can click on the “i” logo on the bottom of the site to reveal five HTML5 interactive infographics, which attempt to put the scope of Yahoo’s data into perspective.

Yahoo previously launched a similar tool Mail Visualization that shows emails as they are delivered across the world. You can watch emails delivered across the globe, visualized through circles corresponding the mass of mail delivered. Yahoo says it has two more data visualization projects up its sleeves.

What do you think of Yahoo’s visualization? What insight do you find most useful from its real-time trends? Let us know in the comments.

More About: dev and design, HTML5, Yahoo

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Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

You have to hand it to Google. With one fun little trick that a single engineer probably came up with in his mandated 20% spare time — getting the screen to “do a barrel roll” — the company got enough free media to make a chief marketing officer weep.

It’s hardly an anomaly, either. As we showed yesterday in our gallery of silly Google tricks, this kind of whimsy is baked right into the search giant’s company culture. Easter eggs are buried all over. April Fools tricks happen year-round. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin built a company that likes to let its hair down every single day, and it’s what helped them get where they are now.

I’ve been covering Google since it was squeezed into one tiny office building in Mountain View, and the things I saw in those early days are still burned into my memory. The lava lamps, beanbags and Friday hockey games have become legend, but this kind of stuff was everywhere. Page liked to show off the working inkjet printer he had constructed out of LEGO. Brin could often be found fiddling with hardware-based screensavers. There’s a reason those guys are always grinning.

Granted, Google won the search wars with its algorithm. If it hadn’t had the Page Rank system, it would have been just another startup. But it’s one thing to have a great piece of technology, and another thing entirely to build a great company. Attracting talent is key. (Yahoo has had a difficult time with it, apparently.)

That doesn’t just mean free ice cream and backrubs at Google, though I’m sure they wooed their fair share of Silicon Valley engineers. Even the much-vaunted 20% time doesn’t mean much if there isn’t a company-wide culture that celebrates trying stuff and burying fun features in major products.

I visited Yahoo earlier this year and saw a well-meaning and earnest company trying to dig itself out of a hole of irrelevance. Senior executives presented their digital media strategy in the form of a periodic table — something I can’t remember a single thing about unless I look it up.

It’s odd that Yahoo hasn’t snagged this reputation for whimsical little tricks and childlike wonderment. With a name like that, you’d think they’d be all over it. But the company had a succession of CEOs who thought in very serious and grownup terms, such as Terry Semel, who wanted to turn the company into a kind of digital Hollywood studio.

Bing has the right idea with its animated desktops. It’s this kind of feature that will catch users’ attention and make them smile. But the large and lumbering Microsoft could also do with a greater reputation for surprise and delight. We all have way too much drudgery in our daily lives; companies can lift us out of it with great products, a sense of vitality and the odd, winking joke. As in any good relationship, that’s what we gravitate toward.

So yes, Yahoo, we’re sure your digital media periodic table is awesome. But try giving us a barrel roll once in a while too.

Gravity

Enter “Google Gravity” in the search bar. Hit “I’m feeling lucky” (if you have Google Instant enabled, it’s on the right hand side of the suggested searches). Then watch your world fall down.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of Flickr via puliarf

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Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook all compete for top talent. In doing so, they lure and acqui-hire the brightest minds in tech — who, unfortunately for them, later go on to trade these cushy jobs for the rough-and-tumble life of a startup founder.

Which of these four mega powers in tech (at one point or another) has produced, and hence pushed out, the top talent in the industry? A little analysis of the startups that have come from the former employees of these tech heavy-hitters, and a look at the funding these startups have raised, might shed some light on the answer.

TopProspect to the rescue. The startup, a site that helps you get hired through your social network friends, fashioned the infographic below after analyzing data, dating back to 2006, from its users and their social connections — that pool includes more than 3 million folks mostly in the Silicon Valley area.

“We only focused on companies founded in the last 5 years,” the startup explains of its data analysis. “Second, we made sure that the companies had at least 10 employees in our network (a pretty good sign that they’re legit, and well-connected). Finally, we only included companies with publicly available funding information.”

Google is birthing the most successful founders, if you measure success by funds raised (which isn’t always the best measurement of success). The search powerhouse-turned-social-media company has spawned 13 qualified founders in five years — who’ve started companies including Foursquare, Color and Qwiki. Together, these startups have raised a whopping $309 million in funding.

Lowest on the totem pole, at least for now, is Facebook. Its offspring includes seven founders — altogether raising more than $65 million — who have gone on to found startups such as Quora, Path and Asana.

Surprised by the results? Check out the full infographic below and share your thoughts with us in the comments.




Image courtesy of Flickr, satanslaundromat

More About: facebook, founders, Google, infographic, microsoft, startups, topprospect, Yahoo




search image

Jeff Ente is the director of Who’s Blogging What, a weekly e-newsletter that tracks over 1,100 social media, web marketing and user experience blogs to keep readers informed about key developments in their field and highlight useful but hard to find posts. Mashable readers can subscribe for free here.

Algorithms aren’t going away anytime soon now that websites have a better way to directly describe their content to major search engines. Earlier this month, Google, Bing and Yahoo came together to announce support for Schema.org, a semantic markup protocol with its own vocabulary that could provide websites with valuable search exposure. Nothing will change overnight, but Schema.org is important enough to bring the three search giants together. Websites would be wise to study the basics and come up with a plan to give the engines what they want.

Schema.org attempts to close a loophole in the information transfer from website data to presentation as search results. As they note on their homepage: “Many sites are generated from structured data, which is often stored in databases. When this data is formatted into HTML, it becomes very difficult to recover the original structured data.”

Simply put, Schema.org hopes to create a uniform method of putting the structure back into the HTML where the spiders can read it. The implications go beyond just knowing if a keyword like “bass” refers to a fish, a musical instrument or a brand of shoes. The real value is that websites can provide supporting data that will be valuable to the end user, and they can do so in a way that most search engines can read and pass along.


How Schema.org Works


Schema.org was born out of conflict between competing standards. Resource Description Framework (RDF) is the semantic standard accepted by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The Facebook Open Graph is based on a variant of RDF which was one reason that RDF seemed poised to emerge as the dominant standard.

Until this month. Schema.org went with a competing standard called microdata which is part of HTML5.

Microdata, true to its name, embeds itself deeply into the HTML. Simplicity was a key attribute used by the search engines to explain their preference for microdata, but simplicity is a relative term. Here is a basic example of how microdata works:

<div itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Person">
<span itemprop="name">Abraham Lincoln</span> was born on

<span itemprop="birthDate">Feb. 12, 1809</span>.

He became known as <span itemprop="nickname">Honest Abe</span> and later served as <span itemprop="jobTitle">President of the United States</span>.

Tragically, he was assassinated and died on <span itemprop="deathDate">April 15, 1865</span>.

</div>

A machine fluent in Microdata would rely on three main attributes to understand the content:

  • Itemscope delineates the content that is being described.
  • Itemtype classifies the type of “thing” being described, in this case a person.
  • Itemprop provides details about the person, in this case birth date, nickname, job title and date of death.

Meanwhile, a person would only see:

“Abraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809. He became known as Honest Abe and later served as President of the United States. Tragically, he was assassinated and died on April 15, 1865.”

Fast forward to the web economy of 2011 and restaurants can use the same technology to specify item properties such as acceptsReservations, menu, openingHours, priceRange, address and telephone.

A user can compare menus from nearby inexpensive Japanese restaurants that accept reservations and are open late. Schema.org’s vocabulary already describes a large number of businesses, from dentists to tattoo parlors to auto parts stores.


Examples of Structured Data Already in Use


Structured data in search results is not new. The significance of Schema.org is that it is now going to be available on a mass scale. In other words, semantic markup in HTML pages is going prime time.

Google has so far led the way with structured data presentation in the form of “rich snippets,” which certain sites have been using to enhance their search listings with things like ratings, reviews and pricing. Google began the program in May 2009 and added support for microdata in March 2010.

A well known example of a customized structured search presentation is Google Recipe View. Do you want to make your own mango ice cream, under 100 calories, in 15 minutes? Recipe View can tell you how.


The Scary Side of Schema.org


Google, Bing and Yahoo have reassured everyone that they will continue to support the other standards besides microdata, but Schema.org still feels like an imposed solution. Some semantic specialists are asking why the engines are telling websites to adapt to specific standards when perhaps it should be the other way around.

Another concern is that since Schema.org can be abused, it will be abused. That translates into some added work and expense as content management systems move to adapt.

Schema.org might also tempt search engines to directly answer questions on the results page. This will eliminate the need to actually visit the site that helped to provide the information. Publishing the local weather or currency conversion rate on a travel site won’t drive much traffic because search engines provide those answers directly. Schema.org means that this practice will only expand.

Not everyone is overly concerned about this change. “If websites feel ‘robbed’ of traffic because basic information is provided directly in the search results, one has to ask just how valuable those websites were to begin with,” notes Aaron Bradley who has blogged about Schema.org as the SEO Skeptic.

“The websites with the most to lose are those which capitalize on long-tail search traffic with very precise but very thin content,” Bradley says. “Websites with accessible, well-presented information and — critically — mechanisms that allow conversations between marketers and consumers to take place will continue to fare well in search.”


Three Things To Do Right Now


  • Audit the data that you store about the things that you sell. Do you have the main sales attributes readily available in machine readable form? Make sure you have the size, color, price, previous feedback, awards, etc. easily readable.
  • Review the data type hierarchy currently supported by Schema.org to see where your business fits in and the types of data that you should be collecting.
  • Check your content management and web authoring systems to see if they support microdata or if they are at least planning for it. Microdata is not just a few lines of code that go into the heading of each page. It needs to be written into the HTML at a very detailed level. For some site administrators it will be a nightmare, but for others who have done proper planning and have selected the right tools, it could become an automatic path to greater search exposure.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, claudiobaba

More About: bing, business, Google, MARKETING, Schema, schema.org, Search, SEM, SEO, Yahoo

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This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

The term “offload” or “offloading” in information technology and computer science refers to the transfer of something from your system to an external system. In the context of websites, your system is your website (and your web servers/web host), and the external system consists of third-party web services such as Google Analytics or Shopify.

This article suggests five common site features that you can host elsewhere.


Why You Should Or Shouldn’t Offload


There are advantages and disadvantages to having parts of your website catered to by third-party web services. In order for you to decide what should and shouldn’t be on your system, let’s first talk about the pros and cons of website feature offloading.


Pros of Offloading


  • Reduced Cost: Whether it’s lower web server costs, fewer employee hours to commit to maintenance and management, the web solutions listed below will generally lead to cost reductions. Many of the services mentioned are either free or significantly lower in cost than if you were to develop, manage and maintain them yourselves.
  • Generally Better: Third-party solutions are often built by innovative companies such as Google and Yahoo, who are highly regarded as experts in the products they offer. The research, talent and manpower they’re able to commit to solving problems are more than most companies can handle.
  • Faster/More Reliable Service: Companies such as Google and Yahoo have massive IT infrastructures and server farms to ensure that their services perform well and with little to no service interruption.
  • Data Security: If a site feature requires user data management (such as credit card information and phone numbers), the web solutions mentioned below are known to have great security features. If you lack data security expertise in your company, it might be a good idea to let companies that are better equipped to handle sensitive data handle information submitted to you. This also reduces the chance of data compromises due to insecure servers, or may lead to reducing costs related to data security — security audits, SSL certificates, security consultants and developers, and so forth.

Cons of Offloading


  • Potentially Slower Web Pages: Having an external website serve parts of your website could potentially slow down some of your pages, especially for features that are embedded in your web pages (such as contact forms). This is because whenever a widget from a third-party company is included in a webpage, it has to make a connection to the other company’s server — which could be located far away from your own.
  • Lack of Control: Site features that can be offloaded are typically customizable, but there will always be limits to your ability to customize them when compared to things that you manage yourself.
  • More Things to Worry About: Most of the web services discussed here require you to sign up for an account on their website. This means more information to deal with, more systems to learn and more time needed to keep track of stuff.
  • Privacy Concern: If a site feature requires user data to be submitted, you will not be able to completely oversee what happens to that data.

Now that you know the benefits and disadvantages of offloading your website features, let’s look at those web services that are most commonly offloaded.


1. E-Commerce Management System


Custom-built e-commerce systems can be costly — not only the upfront costs of having one developed, but also those incurred once it’s up and running. There are open source software apps like Magento that are far less costly than building your own system, but still, dealing with security and data privacy can be a nightmare. The complexity and robustness in features of typical e-commerce solutions can be taxing to your web servers (and your budget).

Check out the following excellent hosted e-commerce management systems below.

  • Shopify: With a client base that includes Amnesty International and Pixar, it’s no wonder that Shopify is regarded as the go-to for hosted e-commerce systems. It will deal with credit card transactions for you, has a user-friendly interface for managing your inventory and your e-store will be highly customizable so that you’re able to match your existing company brand. Plans start from $29 a month.
  • SolidShops: If you’re a big fan of 37Signals apps (e.g. Basecamp and Highrise), you’ll appreciate the simplicity and ease-of-use of the SolidShops interface. SolidShops is a newcomer in the hosted e-commerce space, so while it’s still in beta, it’s free to use. After beta, plans start at $29 a month.
  • E-junkie: If you deal with digital goods (such as e-books), E-junkie is the premier solution for you. E-junkie lets you embed a widget into your site for near-seamless integration. Plans start at $5 a month.
  • Wazala: Wazala promises that you’ll be able to build your very own e-commerce site in 15 minutes or less. Now that’s a promise we can all appreciate! Wazala can handle credit cards, or PayPal and Google Checkout for utmost convenience to your e-shoppers. Plans start at $9.95 a month.

2. Website Analytics


It’s impo
rtant to learn what users are doing on your site so that you can ensure optimal use and growth. However, having server-side statistics-gathering tools that you host yourself can be taxing on your web host and will not give you the benefits associated with using third-party services, such as integration with other products.

Here are three web analytics tools you can offload the work to.

  • Google Analytics: Google Analytics is highly regarded in the web marketing space because it’s free, has loads of features and reporting tools, integrates with other Google products and is easy to install.
  • ClickTale: If you would like visuals on what your website users are doing, check out ClickTale, a web analytics service that tracks and records user action. You can see where people are clicking on most (and thus, most fixated on), as well as watch videos of how users are interacting with your site. ClickTale has a free plan that records 300 user interactions, and paid plans start at $99 a month.
  • Yahoo Web Analytics: It’s hard to be trailing Google, but Yahoo has launched a wonderful analytics tool that rivals Google’s Analytics. Yahoo Web Analytics boasts near real-time analytics, whereas Google Analytics can take up to 24 hours to update your data. It has advanced data visualization tools to help you create images that you can use in reports and slideshow presentations.

3. Forums


Building a community has many benefits: It connects your customers with others, allows them to help themselves if they have a question about your product and can increase customer loyalty. However, maintaining your own forums on-site can be a burden to your web servers because of the amount of data interactivity that forums typically generate. Additionally, most self-hosted, open source solutions out there, such as phpBB, are notorious for being difficult to deploy and customize (this is spoken from experience in developing for these systems). Check out hosted solutions for community forums that will reduce your stress and headaches.

  • Ninja Post: With Ninja Post, you can get your very own forums up and running in no time. It has all the features you’d expect from a forums system with some nice perks like real-time thread updating, Twitter/Facebook integration, integration with Google Adsense, and more. Plans start at about $8 a month.
  • Nabble: Nabble is a free and simple tool for creating a basic forum. It allows you to embed your forum on your website, providing you with a tightly integrated solution.
  • ZetaBoards: ZetaBoards is a free, hosted forum web service with tons of awesome features, such as full customization (if you know some CSS), support for custom domains (so that the web address of your forums will match your website’s) and more.
  • Lefora: You can create a forum with Lefora, a free, hosted forum web service. It has beautiful features such as the ability to post images and videos, Facebook and Twitter integration, and a graphical user interface for the forum post editor so that your clients won’t need to deal with code and markup to format their posts.
  • ProBoards: ProBoards is a free, hosted forum web service that allows you to create your very own forum in seconds. It’s simple, customizable and even has an iPhone app that people can use to post on your forums.
  • Zoho Discussions: Zoho Discussions is a forum, customer support and customer feedback system all rolled into one. It’s fully customizable, has content discoverability features such as RSS feeds, search and SEO options, and more. The free plan is great for intranets, with the ability to have two forums and one moderator. The next plan starts at $12 a month and gives you the ability to have public forums, community statistics and increased file attachment limits (for users who would like to post images and videos, for example).

4. Site Search


Using a third-party site search has the benefit of using the technologies these search companies have developed to your advantage. Not only that, but it saves you from having to create/develop your own search feature and can cut some costs related to increased site interactivity and bandwidth usage due to users searching your site. Here are three awesome options for offloading the burden of site search.

  • Bing Box: Bing Box is a free, simple widget by Microsoft that will give your users the ability to search your site using Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
  • Google Custom Search: Google allows you to take its years of experience and excellence in the field of search and integrate it into your site. Using Google Custom Search is a snap, and you can get it set up within minutes.
  • Yahoo Search BOSS: Yahoo Search BOSS is a solution if you need a completely customizable search engine for your site because, unlike Google Custom Search, which retains a lot of Google’s branding, Search BOSS gives you utmost design flexibility. Not only that, but it doesn’t display ads in search results like Google Custom Search. The downside? You’ll need access to a web developer to get it up and running on your site; it’s not a copy/paste solution.

5. Contact Forms and Other Web Forms


Web forms are the bread and butter of website interaction. It is the primary way you can gather data from your users (aside from publishing your e-mail address, which can be clunky and lead to tons of spam). Contact forms can be tricky to set up and develop on your own and won’t nearly come close to the reporting/analytics features and ease-of-use that third-party form building web services have to offer. Here are a few to check out.

  • Google Docs Forms: Not many people take advantage of the fact that you can create embeddable web forms (for contact forms, registrations and online surveys) using Google Docs. What’s great about this web service, besides it being free, is that it integrates directly with the Google Docs office suite (such as its spreadsheets and documents).
  • Wufoo: Wufoo is a fun web form builder that is so simple to use. It allows file uploads/attachments (in case your web form user wants to upload pictures or PDFs, for example), it permits customization and takes the time to make sure your data is safe. Its free plan allows you to have up to three forms and 100 submissions per month.
  • JotForm: JotForm is a free web form builder that has a slick interface for you to take advantage of when buildi
    ng your web forms. You can even build payment forms with it (integrated with PayPal, Google Checkout, Authorize.net, and so forth).
  • Contactify: If you just need a simple contact form, check out Contactify, a free hosted solution for dealing with your website communication needs. It will reduce the spam you get from having to provide your e-mail address in public.

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Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kemie

More About: analytics, business, design, forums, Google, List, Lists, Search, small business, web apps, web design, Web Development, web forms, widgets, wufoo, Yahoo

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If you were particularly bummed by that whole horoscope shakeup last week (I, for one, would really dig being an “Ophiuchus”), here’s something to ease your mind: Data visualization master David McCandless and coder Thomas Winnigham have put together one, generic horoscope, fashioned from those archived on Yahoo Shine.

The above horoscope — which applies to everyone — is just one part of McCandless and Winnigham’s “Horoscoped” project, in which they used a Python script to screenscrape 22,186 horoscopes from Yahoo Shine into a spreadsheet. (You can check out the Python scripts they used on their website.)

From there, they analyzed the ‘scopes in a variety of ways, one of which revealed that about 90% of the words in the horoscopes were the same, a revelation that let them write the above prediction.

McCandless and Winnigham have more fun star sign-related stuff over at Information is Beautiful, so head on over and take a look.

I would get all hyped up over these realizations if it weren’t for today’s horoscope for Capricorns: “Just keep coasting. You need to experience things for a while and be passive.”

Duly noted.

More About: horoscope, humor, information-is-beautiful, pop culture, Yahoo

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