More Flickr Goodness

Since SmugMug bought Flickr, things have been improving. First and foremost is that Flickr will remain Flickr and not become part of SmugMug. There will be some changes of course, but all of them for the better.

First of all, the free Flickr account will continue but beginning in January it will be limited to 1,000 photos and videos. That may seem disappointing, but a majority of the current free members have less than 1,000 photos in their account. I found out years ago that $50/year was a very affordable way to protect my collection of family photos, scanned records and other ephemera from disaster.

In addition to focusing on photographers, I’m happy to see that the SmugMug crew appreciate Flickr Commons as much as I do.

When a company is generating income, they will have money to provide features and services that would not be available otherwise. I look forward to watching Flickr grow. Click the button below to take a look at one new feature – The Weekly Flickr. This one celebrates Valentines Day.

Weekly Flickr Valentines Day

Flickr Update

Some time back, SmugMug bought Flickr from Verizon. The original plan was to incorporate Flickr accounts into SmugMug. Fortunately, SmugMug’s CEO had second thoughts and has decided to keep Flickr as a standalone platform. This is great news for the genealogy community. Flickr has served the genealogy community well by uploading our digitized images at their original resolution and size, providing tools to organize those photos, giving us control over who can and cannot view our them and offering social features like comments, in-house mail and discussions.

After years of neglect at Yahoo, Flickr looks a bit tired and many of its tools need updating. With SmugMug in charge, Flickr will once again be the platform we all know and love. This won’t happen overnight. First SmugMug will need to move all the Flickr content from Yahoo servers to their own. Logins be upgraded too. After all the compromised Yahoo accounts in the last few years, I’ll be happy to see that replaced. Both of these tasks will take time, but once that’s done we should see improvements to existing features and quite likely some new ones too.

I have been a Flickr user since 2005 and have more than 10,000 photos stored there. I’m looking forward to Flickr’s future. It already has a number of features making it very useful to the genealogy community and I am hoping to see even more.

Create Graphic Books With Keynote

If you think Keynote (Mac, iOS) is only for presentations, you are missing out on a lot of graphic goodness. Keynote offers a broad range of features that can be used in all kinds of creative ways. Forget the bullet points and test drive its graphic features to create beautiful books, cards, blog images and much more.


Scrapbooking doesn’t have to be cutsy. In this example, the notepaper layer tells how to layer the graphics, but it could just as easily be used to tell a family story. Keynote makes it easy to layer graphic elements like the textured background, the page from an old family letter and the vegetation. When you don’t have a photo to complement your story, look for other options.


Keynote can also be used to introduce a blog post. This one is quite simple . . . an old family photo, a map of Savannah from an old book, a graphic and some cool fonts. The graphics and the title grab the eye and make your readers want to learn the rest of the story.

Historic graphics such as the map shown above are easy to find. My first stop is always Flickr Commons. Archives, libraries and many other institutions from around the world have posted their photo/graphic collections in the Commons. Even better, most of them are public domain so we can put them to good use. It’s doubtful you will find a photograph of an ancestor, but you can find plenty of images to add atmosphere to your stories. KeynoteGraphics103

This photo takes us back to Grafton Street in Dublin, Ireland, sometime around World War I. If you are telling a story focused in a particular place, check Flickr Commons to see what you can find. Both the British Library and Internet Archive are scanning and posting graphics from old books at the Commons that can also be quite useful.


Even today’s photographs can be aged to fit your needs. Apps like Stackables [iOS – $2.99] and Distressed FX [iOS – $.99] can turn a photograph into a piece of art – aged or otherwise.


Keynote makes it easy to combine your text with photos, maps, graphic images and ephemera to build a graphical storybook.


One other thing that makes Keynote so useful for storytellers is that you can create your “little stories” as your research discovers them, then rearrange them in whatever order you want. And, when you are ready to share, all you do is export the entire “presentation” as a PDF document.

Your graphic book can now be easily shared with family and friends.

Build A Family Network

If you’re like us, you’ve got family spread across the country and maybe even overseas. Although the costs to travel mean we don’t get together as often as we would like, that doesn’t mean we haven’t found creative ways to stay involved with far-away family and friends. Facebook has revolutionized how we can “keep up” with each other, but it does have serious privacy and security issues. I’m not about to share vacation photos on Facebook because that sends an open invitation to crooks that my house is just waiting for them to help themselves to my stuff. Personal news like new babies and deaths in the family can alert con artists of potential marks. I still enjoy Facebook. I’m just not putting much personal stuff out there.

Our family has been building its own family communications network. Some of it was intentionally set up, but a lot of it has just happened. For example, we have used Skype – a lot – to make video calls. It’s great to visually participate in birthday parties and other special events even when we can’t be there. Today, there are a growing number of web-enabled televisions offering both a high-def webcam add-on and Skype access. Imagine that same birthday party on a big screen tv! Skype supports free group calls too. Up to ten users can participate in a group call – audio or video. Skype’s text messenger component can be used in conjunction with an audio or video call to share photos or files while you’re talking.

FaceTime image courtesy

As more and more in our family have moved to iThings, Skype is being augmented with FaceTime. We can even FaceTime directly to the grandkids through their iPod Touches. Although FaceTime doesn’t support group calls, the combination of FaceTime and the Messages app makes it easy to get “status updates” just about any time. And, while nothing’s totally secure or private, it’s a much better option than Facebook.


We also use Posthaven to maintain a family news service [see article]. It functions as both a mailing list and a family journal and is so easy even the most digitally-challenged can participate. Here’s where birth announcements, family news and vacation pics are shared. Because posting is done via email, it’s a mobile-friendly platform that works well for posting vacation updates. Posthaven will cost $5.00 a month to use, but each account supports up to ten blogs.


For our photo archive, we use Flickr. You can define who can see your photos and Flickr has a group feature that lets a group of Flickr users share selected photos to one or more groups. Flickr supports private groups which are only visible to group members. One of the nice things about using a group is that group members can see all the photos shared to their group regardless of the privacy settings the owner set for them. This means I can post my current vacation photos privately, yet members of our Flickr family group will be able to see any of them that I share with the group. A free Flickr account includes up to 1 terabyte of photo storage (the equivalent of approximately 560,000 photos) and saves your photos at their original size and resolution. A “pro” subscription costs $25/year includes ad-free browsing and sharing along with a Desktop Uploader to automatically upload new photos to your account. Not only is this a great photo-sharing platform, but it’s also a delightful off-site storage option for our photo collection as well.

Our network combines easy apps and platforms with a comfortable level of privacy and security. It allows everyone to participate regardless of their digital skills. Best of all, it allows us to stay involved with our families both near and far. Yes, we are keeping “local” copies of the blog posts, photos and messages, but that is part of our disaster plan to insure these goodies will be around long after we’re gone.

Ain’t technology great!