When a Sunrise is a Sunset

Flickr’s New Auto Tags Are Wrong and Unwanted

By Melvin Ah Ching

Sunrise From Hawaii

This is one of many sunrise pictures I have posted on Flickr.

I have a love-hate relationship with Flickr.

I’ve been using the Flickr photo sharing service since 2004. I think this was some years before Flickr was sold to Yahoo. Back in those days Flickr users were a happy bunch of photographers. The interface was simple, uncluttered, nice and a pleasure to work with.

By 2010 things changed. Yahoo bought Flickr and big changes to their user interface and presentation were implemented. Many Flickr photographers, who I believe include a large group of crusty older people who love familiarity in how things are done, got upset.

Implemented changes to Flickr’s presentation, user interface and features have often been met with stiff opposition from long time users. Complaints were made in numerous public posts to the Flickr Help Forum.  Users asked Flickr to return the user interface to how it was. Most if not all requests to have Flickr rescind new features or allow the old timers to use the old interface as an option fell on deaf ears.

On May 7 Flickr implemented a new “Auto Tag” feature that retroactively applied automatic tag links to not only newly uploaded photos but to all photographs in every user’s library. For many users we are talking about hundreds if not thousands of photos.

Here is how Flickr explains Auto Tags:

“Tags play a key role in how you organize and search for photos on Flickr and today, we’re happy to share some changes that make tags more powerful.

What’s changing?
Starting this morning, in addition to any tags that you add to your photos, you’ll notice that Flickr may also add tags to help make them more discoverable in search. This is thanks to Flickr’s image recognition technology, which recognizes patterns in photos. For instance, when our technology recognizes patterns commonly found in car photos, it will label the image “car” and when it finds patterns commonly found in cat photos, it will label the image “cat.”

You’ll notice that tags added by Flickr will appear in an outlined box to make them visually distinct from the ones you add (which appear in a gray box). As the photo’s owner, you can delete any tags you don’t want or tags that are inaccurate.

Inaccurate tags
While we are very proud of this advanced image recognition technology, we’re the first to admit there will be mistakes and we will constantly be working to improve the experience. Usually, you can tell why a mistake was made (sometimes a bike looks like a motorcycle), but occasionally, it may be baffling (no, your grandma doesn’t look like a cat!). But the good news is that if you delete an incorrect tag, our algorithm learns from that mistake and will perform better in the future.

The tagging process is completely automated — no human will ever view your photos to tag them. And, as always, Flickr treats privacy very seriously by respecting your settings. You maintain complete control over which photos are visible to others and which are available for search.

Why change?
As we’ve redesigned Flickr, we’ve tried to make it the one place where you upload every photo and video you take, and then easily find, organize, edit, and share them. This requires powerful image search, and to deliver that, we need to be able to identify the content in each photo, whether you add tags and descriptive titles or not. Before, our search could only rely on text, date, and location (when available), but now visual patterns in the images can help us identify and surface the best results in your searches. Many of the improvements to search results you’ve seen over the past several months are the result of these tags.

These tags also provide the opportunity to bring you lots of innovative features that we’re incredibly excited about. The new “Magic View” on Camera Roll is the first of these powerful new innovations — we hope you love it.

What’s next for tags?
We will continue working to constantly improve this feature. Flickr’s tags may evolve as the image recognition technology becomes more accurate and as the algorithm learns to recognize additional concepts. We also want to bring more control to you, so we plan to add tools soon to allow you to batch edit these new tags.”

Getting Past The Hype

First of all in the quoted statement above, Flickr tells users that it “treats privacy very seriously by respecting your settings.” Wrong. They forced a default setting upon the users by implementing Auto Tag as a standard feature and not an option. Users should be able to OPT IN on the tagging and many other features that Flickr has implemented.

Flickr updated their post to state that batch removal of Auto Tags are coming. Hopefully that will be implemented soon and that there will be a permanent opt out from the Auto Tagging process.

Meanwhile many photos are tagged wrong. All of my Sunrise photos are auto tagged as “sunset” while my manual tags are correctly stated as “sunrise”.

Auto Tag Graphic

Manually tagged as “sunrise”; Flickr bot tags it as “sunset”. Not good!

As an end user, I want complete control of my Flickr photo experience. This includes how my photos are tagged. The gray tags are user generated while the white tags are auto inserted by Flickr.

Here is what other users are saying about the Auto Tag:

The guidelines specifically state “We don’t tolerate spam, deceptive tagging or other abusive means to generate revenue and traffic.” Since tagging is only for the purposes of generating traffic, then blind auto-tagging definitely generates deceptive tags. For example the Flickr tag category of “bird” has been put on many of my photos that do NOT contain a single bird, but rather lions, whales, dogs, kangaroos and people. Since I have over 4,600 photos, I don’t think it is right that I should go through them all and eliminate all the deceptive tags. The person(s) or system(s) that added them should have to remove them, all of them.

Another user writes:

The Tag-Bot is supposed to respect our privacy settings. Mine is set so only I can add tags, but that dumb Tag-Bot adds tags anyway. Thanks Flickr for not respecting my privacy settings and adding a bunch of idiotic meaningless tags to my images.

Numerous complaints have come in about incorrectly tagged photos. Bird tags where there are no birds in the photo. Ships tagged as cars. Sunrises tagged as sunsets.

Bottom line is that many Flickr users don’t like the Auto Tag as well as other interface enhancements (Camera Roll, Wall Art, Layout, etc.) made recently and over the last 5 years. 

Time to go back to how Flickr was, before Yahoo, when it looked like this and functioned in a more simplistic way:

The Old Flickr display

The old way that Flickr displayed photos and albums was better.

 A sunrise is a sunrise. It will never be a sunset.



Posted in Commentary, Photography, World Wide Web, Yahoo | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Surveillance Video Interview with Edward Snowden

HBO’s John Oliver’s topic on this video is “Surveillance” and online privacy. It is quite an entertaining interview deeply mired in some troubling facts that have been revealed by Edward Snowden,  a former system administrator who leaked classified NSA documents to the media over the last 2 years. This video clip is a bit rough around the edges, but is quite entertaining and informative. Oliver went to Russia to interview Snowden and in the end, they make the issue of government surveillance and privacy immediately relevant by using a “junk” example. Watch the clip. It’s about 33 minutes long.

Posted in Internet, Legal, Privacy | Tagged , , ,

Top 10 Apple Products I Am Not Getting for Christmas


It’s December 24. Like every Apple fan out there, we’d all like to get a great, cool and new Apple product. Tell you what… it’s not happening this year, unless the Christmas Fairy is extra generous and surprises me. More than likely not.

So without anymore fanfare, here is a list of the top 10 Apple products I am not getting for Christmas:

#10: Apple iPod Classic – Well no one is going to get a brand new Apple iPod Classic this year from Apple or most retailers. Reason? Apple discontinued the venerable little MP3 music player this past fall. Luckily for me I could see this coming and I actually did buy a 160GB model, brand new this past June. So yes, Christmas came early.

#9 Apple MacPro computer – Yes, everyone would love to get an overpriced and overpowered Mac. If I were like making the next Star Wars movie or something, I’d probably have at least one or many like these. Frankly, it’s nice to have but I don’t really need one. The MacPro is the same circular tower that was introduced late last year. It screams.

#8 Apple iPhone 6, 6-Plus, whatever. Actually I don’t need one and its high monthly bill and locked in two-year contract. Never owned an iPhone and don’t intend to get one anytime soon. Surely it is a nice device running Apple’s latest iOS 8x. It does ApplePay and all of that fancy stuff including being a telephone.

#7 Apple Pay – I don’t have any device that supports that. So for now I will continue using old fashioned credit cards and untraceable cash.

#6 Apple iOS8 – Well you can get this free with the purchase of any new iOS device – Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch all come with this. You can also get this free if you own an iOS device that supports it. Sadly, my 4-year old, 4th generation iPod Touch doesn’t support any Apple iOS system higher than 6x. I’m out of the loop.

#5 Apple OSX 10.10.x – Yosemite – Yes, my two MacBook Pros can both support this latest update to Apple’s OSX operating system. It’s free. But guess what? I haven’t bothered downloading it yet. In fact my 15 inch MacBook Pro is still staying with Snow Leopard which was what – OSX 10.6.8. A few years ago I actually bought Mountain Lion which is OSX 10.8.5. It runs on on my smaller MacBook Pro real nice. I’m happy with it. Haven’t found any reason to update. Surely I can update to OSX 10.9.x – Mavericks. I have that. It was free. Just haven’t installed it.

On another note the main reason why I haven’t upgraded to Yosemite is because of all the bad things I heard about iTunes 12x. It does not support the vertical sidebar on the left, which I have used for many years since iTunes 2 or whatever to build many custom playlists. I love playlists. I love easy access to them. iTunes got screwed up after I upgraded to version 11. I think 10.7 was the best but I could not easily downgrade to that after I installed 11x. Sad. Apple has ruined their OSX music player software.

So for now I will not upgrade to Yosemite until perhaps I buy a new Mac, like maybe next year or 2016.

#4 Apple iPod Touch – If Apple comes out with version 6 of this thing I may think of buying one. But that won’t happen this year. Or even next. No one knows. However if Apple does release an iPod Touch 6 I hope it supports ApplePay as well as be backwards compatible to OSX 10.6.x. What I love about the iPod Touch is that it is just like the iPhone except it does’t have a phone nor the high monthly bill for cellular service.

#3 Apple iPads of all Types – A tablet computer is one of those “nice to have” things in life, but frankly I don’t feel a compelling need to own one, much less any iPad that is currently out. All of Apple’s iPads are nice computers. If you have one, I share in your happiness.

#2 Apple MacBook Pro Laptop Computer – I probably don’t need one yet,  since both my 2009 MacBook Pro and 2011 MacBook Pro continue to work and function like champs. However if I had my choice of getting a new MacBook Pro,

I’d definitely get the latest and greatest, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. It is a beautiful computer with a beautiful screen and packed with most of  the latest features. What’s not to like? Oh, that. It doesn’t have built in ethernet or a DVD optical drive. I feel more secure connected to a wired ethernet. There is a workaround if you go through the Thunderbolt port. Not very practical if you want to also connect a Thunderbolt monitor. The DVD thing, I can live without but would be nice to have an internal one like most of my previous Mac laptops. However this Mac is plenty fast, up tp 3.7 ghz depending on which model option you select. Plus all models come with onboard flash memory storage options. Nice.

#1 Apple iMac with 5K Retina Display – Never have been a big fan of the all in one iMac computers. This one however is a stunner. Comes standard with a 27 inch 5K Retina display monitor (built in), standard hybrid fusion drive up to 1TB in size or the option to get an SSD flash drive up to 1TB (I’d go with the SSD). Prices start at $2499 and can easily climb to the low end tiers of owning a MacPro desktop computer. This iMac also comes with built in ethernet which has been a standard for  iMacs for many years now. I hope they continue with this option. You can read more about the 5K iMac at the link provided above.

This all said, here’s wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

* Links to Apple’s website may go out of date without notice.

My New iPod Classic

I now consider myself lucky to have bought an iPod Classic this past summer. With the discontinuation of the iPod Classic, prices for new, unopened iPod Classics in the used market have skyrocketed. I regularly use mine and it is not for sale. Onwards to 40,000 songs!


Posted in Apple, Commentary, Computers, iMac, iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iTunes, Mac OSX, MacBook Pro, MacPro | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Holding on to Your Telephone Landline

In this day of smart iPhone and Androids, is it any wonder that some people don’t find the old fashioned telephone landline relevant anymore? I am a die hard landline user. I don’t own an iPhone or any other wireless phone device. I do have an iPod Touch but it’s not a phone.

I am holding on to my landline because I can be free of phone calls most everywhere else I go. People can call me on the landline and if I am at home, I will answer it. If I am not, well tough luck. I don’t have an answering machine directly wired into the landline. However a few people know my Google phone internet number and they can leave a voice or text message there.

The telephone I use is a General Electric touchtone desk model with speakerphone, auto dial, and at least a dozen memory phone number pre-sets. It doesn’t do the internet, but Google Voice calls can be routed to this phone which means I can still get free long distance to anywhere in the U.S.A. One thing about landlines… the phone service works even when the power goes out. That doesn’t apply to cell phones or the newer Voice Over IP phones.

The bottom line? Are you a landline phone user? I am and will be for the foreseeable future.

Larry Ignacio's Honokaa Plantation Museum

Landline telephones have been around for more than 100 years.


My GE landline telephone with auto dial, memory presets and speaker. Smartphone not required.

Posted in iPhone, Technology, Telephones | Tagged , ,

Photoshopping Real Women into Cover Models

This is something many people have always known. The popular cover girl model and movie star is not all she seems when presented by the media and marketed for one product or another. Heavy emphasis go into makeup, looks and then post production. With still photography, that means a trip to the nearest Macintosh computer and image alteration with Adobe Photoshop.

Cindy Crawford

I’ve always known about this. Once upon a time many years ago I attended a demo for Photoshop version 3 or 4. There they had a photograph of super model Cindy Crawford. They showed us a video of what they did to her image after a photo shoot. They enhanced her skin, took a few sags off here and there, slimmed a few lines down and sharpened the image. This is all the standard stuff one can do with Photoshop and many other lessor known image editing programs.

Since that time I have always looked at modeling shots and advertising with a jaundiced eye. You should too. Be very skeptical about the images that are presented to you. Most of the time they will have been “photoshopped”.

As a photographer I edit my images all of the time, with either the older version of Photoshop that I own or with Apple’s own iPhoto software that allow me to do basic enhancements such as sharpening, color saturation, shadows and brightness. Many of the photos that I have on my Flickr photo stream are slightly enhanced with digital tools. Such is the power of the Macintosh computer and frankly many other platforms.

Today some women are reacting to being “photoshopped” and prefer being presented as their real selves.

Image manipulation. What do you think about it. Leave a comment.

Waikiki Honolulu 9-5-09

Would this woman look any better if I did extensive photoshopping to this image? I don’t think so.

Posted in Applications, Art, Commentary, Photography, Technology | Tagged , , ,