My Life with ZoneTag
On my recent trip to Greece with my wife to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, I made myself one promise: I would not use the Web for the whole week. By and large, I kept this promise, however I was not completely off the grid. While we were island hopping, I was snapping pictures with my N73 and using Zonetag to send them up to FlickR. The results are available here.
ZoneTag is a nifty downloadable application and service, developed by Yahoo! Research, which allows you to (among other things) upload images directly to FlickR from your camera phone. Of course, there are plenty of applications that allow you to do this, but the ZoneTag difference is that by using the CellID, and cross-referencing this against a database of CellIDs that they maintain, ZoneTag can accurately geotag your photos even if your device doesn’t have a a GPS built in. ZoneTag also learns CellID locations through users using the system and telling it their location. It’s “leveraging collective intelligence.”
Anyway, apart from being a bit of geeky fun, there was a method to this madness. Publishing these photos allowed our kids (being looked after by my saintly mother and sister) to keep track of our travels. It was like being able to send postcards instantaneously. And unlike MMS, sending an image with Zonetag does not compress / reduce the images to the Nth degree – the original images with their original detail are sent up. Now, granted this is the Greek islands and you can pretty much just wave a camera around snapping randomly and get great pictures, but I actually think these turned out pretty well. My only complaint (a Nokia complaint, not a Zonetag one) is the high level of compression (which I’ve complained about before) and some softness in the corners (which to a certain extent can’t be avoided with small lenses, but I would have expected more from a “Carl Zeiss” lens. (Carl must be spinning in his grave.)
I was also trying out a new product from Yahoo’s Berkeley labs – Zurfer. Zurfer is a Java application that allows you to browse FlickR images. The Yahoo! labs guys call it Zonetag’s “little brother.” It’s got a slick and responsive user interface that’s simple but also powerful in its task: enabling you to browse photos. You can browse your own photos, your contacts’ photos or (more interestingly) photos around you.
What would I like to see more of from these guys? For starters, I’d like to be able to upload pictures after the fact, and in batch, instead of having to go through the process for each and every photo I take when that photo is taken. I’d also like the ZoneTag UI to be built more into the camera/viewer functions (send to ZoneTag should be another option under “send” when I’m viewing images). As for Zurfer, I really like the concept, and it was fun to use, but I wonder if this couldn’t be built inside Nokia’s Series-60 browser as a Web App and thereby spare people the hassle of downloading yet another app to their phone. Then again, if it were inside the browser I wouldn’t have been able to keep my promise.
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