Friday, December 15, 2006

New server added

We just added a new server. Photos should load much faster now. Also some bizarre bugs that some of you got the last days shouldn't appear anymore. We are working right now on database issues. You will see further improvements in the site peformance during the next days.

Since Panoramio's layer in Google Earth was released last Saturday we are sleeping little, but no complains. Around 10.000 new photos are uploaded every day to Panoramio, it's so nice!.

We are looking forward to the next update of Panoramio's layer inside Google Earth's "Geographic web". There will be more photos visible. Some locations will be corrected thanks to the community suggestions. Not descriptive photos will not be visible.

I would like to thank the people that gave us feedback about the site and reported issues. We appreaciate it very much.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wikipedia and Panoramio in Google Earth

Official Google Blog announced last Saturday that Google Earth has added a new "Geographic web" layer that includes articles from Wikipedia, comments from GE community and photos from Panoramio. See also Techcrunch.

The layer is visible by default, you don't need to do anything. Next time you open Google Earth and zoom into a place, you will see little blue icons from Panoramio wherever photos have been located.

Some people have uploaded photos to Panoramio, but they can't find them in Google Earth. That's because layers are not updated in real time, it might take a couple of weeks.

You can see photos in Google Earth updated in real time opening Panoramio's KML file or at this page.

Since the layer was released Panoramio's traffic boosted. The number of photos uploaded overpassed the psychological border of 100,000 some hours ago.

We want to thank very much everyone at Google Earth Team.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Русский

Andrew “Banzaj” Fedorov just translated Panoramio (Русский) to Russian. Спасибо Andrew! A big step for Panoramio, thanks to Andrew, now 145 million people from Russia can enjoy Panoramio in their own language.

Already many photos from Russia were posted in Panoramio, my favourite places are the wooden churches of Kizhi, Saint Petersburg and Moscow, of course.

The size of Russia is huge compared with countries around as you can see at the mini-panoramio below:

Monday, December 4, 2006

Hi Korea! Panoramio translated to Korean

Since yesterday Panoramio is full translated to Korean thanks to Sungbong Cho. I believe the translation will increase very much the photos located Korea.

Unfortunately there are almost no photos from isolated North Korea, "the world’s worst Internet black hole", according Reporters without borders. Internet use is completely forbidden there, only a few officials are able to access the web and the country’s domain name - .nk - has still not been launched.

Still I discovered some photos from North Corea in Panoramio. You can watch the militarized border between the two Koreas and see some photos taken from the Chinesse side of the Tumen river. It seems everyone feels curious about North Korea.

There is a very beautiful volcanic mountain between China and North-Corea, Baekdu Mountain. The crater of Baekdu Mountain has a huge lake, one of the highest crater lakes in the world.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Panoramio in French and Hungarian

Last week Susanna Fábián translated Panoramio to Hungarian. Raphaële Blondiau made possible to read Panoramio in the language of Victor Hugo. Merci Raphaële. Köszönöm Susanna.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Italian and Swedish translations available

Thanks to Claudio Pedrazzi and Lars Karlsson, Italian and Swedish versions are available. Now Panoramio is translated to six languages; English, German, Spanish, Catalan, Italian and Swedish.

Translators are making a great work; Panoramio is fully translated, not only some sections and they also keep translations updated continuously. Tack Lars, grazie Claudio.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Panoramio in Spanish language media

Last sunday EFE news agency, the leading one in Spanish speaking world, distributed an article about Panoramio that appeared in several newspapers and websites around the World; CNN+, La Vanguardia, Terra and some other ones). As a result traffic from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and other Spanish speaking countries boosted.

Yesterday I was interviewed about Panoramio for Canal Sur Radio, but the best thing was getting an e-mail from a friend from Mexico city. Like every morning he was hearing his favourite radio program in Universal Stereo (92.1 FM) when they started speaking about Panoramio for some minutes. He made my day!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New homepage design

Just few hours ago we released a new homepage for Panoramio. José Florido, a very talented designer from Málaga has helped us very much with this new design.

I believe the new homepage looks much better. The code is standard compliant. The new design explains much better what Panoramio does and its features.

Now there is a mini-panoramio in the homepage that rotates, so you have the chance to take a close look at amazing places like Cape of Good Hope, Teotihuacan, Svalbard and many others.

The search engine is now in the homepage so there is a fast way to go anywhere in the world. Also there is more clear access to the World Map and to Panoramio's KML feed for Google Earth.

Apart from the homepage some other pages have been redesigned; help, about and team.

Monday, October 9, 2006

First birthday: 50.000 photos and new server. Update: 100.000 photos

Last Tuesday, October the 3rd, was Panoramio's first birthday. The present Panoramio got was a new powerful server with two dual-core Opterons, 4 GB of RAM and other nice features. Thanks very much to Mickey Everts from Neopolitan for the help with the migration to the new server and to John Hanke Director of Google Earth / Maps for his invaluable support, mil gracias John!

It was the right moment to move, the old server was smoking with traffic peaks. With the new server Panoramio's speed increased very much. The overall user experience is much better now, specially while browsing the map and watching Panoramio's KML feed. Traffic increased around 10% with the new server.

There are more good news. The day before the first birthday Panoramio reached the magic number of 50.000 photos (almost 55.000 right now). Now you can find a photo of almost any main city or known place in the World from North Pole to Antarctica. Growing at a monthly rate over 20%, Panoramio's future looks nice. We are enjoying working on it very much.

This first year we have learnt a lot about photos and maps from Panoramio's users, their requests, behaviour, comments and questions. This knowledge is going to make possible the next developments. Stay tuned, many changes are comming.

Update December 10th: 100.000 photos uploaded

Monday, October 2, 2006

Honorable Mention for Panoramio at Google Maps Spain's contest

Last Thursday Joaquín was in Madrid to get an Honorable Mention for Panoramio at Google Maps Spain's contest, organized for Ojo Buscador and sponsored for Google Spain.

There were 52 mash-ups running for the prize and I believe it was very difficult for the members of the jury, Matthew "Chewy" Trewhella, from Google, Mike Pegg from Google Maps Mania and Javier Casares from Ojobuscador, to choose.

Wikiloc got the first prize and I believe it fully deserved it. At Wikiloc you can publish and share your GPS routes and it's available in English, Spanish and Catalan. Wikiloc includes a lot of nice features, route profile, images, alternative maps, KML for Google Earth, etc. Using it you will realize that Wikiloc's developer, Jordi L. Ramot, loves his project, it's full of nice details.


wikiloc
- example of route at Wikiloc -


Tagzania was also there, a wonderful project that is working very good and with a huge community behind. It was one of the first mash-ups launched in july 2006 and maybe the example that encouraged so many developers in Spain to start working with Google Maps API.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ayers Rock / Uluru

Wow! That's was my first impression when I saw the satellite photo from Ayers Rock / Uluru, a red sandstone rock formation from central Australia. The rock is 346 metres high and has a perimeter of 8 km.



Ayers Rock appears to change colour around the day and year, as you can see in the photos from the mini-panoramio above. That's because of minerals like feldspar reflect the red light of sunrise and sunset. The rock gets its rust colour from oxidation and during wet periods it changes to grey.

There is a lot of superstition around Ayers Rock. Aborigines do not climb Ayers Rock because of spiritual significance, there are restricted areas for photos and you are supposed to suffer misfortune if you take away stones from the area.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The unavoidable beauty of Lofoten archipelago

In Panoramio you can watch places through common people's photos, not only typical postcards that always look artificial because of its perfection.

That's impossible for Lofoten. Absolutely every single photo you take there looks unavoidably like a perfect post card. The nature there is so extremely beautiful there that you have no chance, but taking wonderful photos. Don't believe me? Take a look a this mini-panoramio or full size in Panoramio.



Lofoten is a group of islands in Norway located above the Arctic Circle, between the 67th and 68th degree parallels. Despite its location and because of the Gulf Stream, winter temperatures in Lofoten are very mild. The smallest islands (Værøy and Røst) are the World's most northern locations where average temperatures are above freezing all year.

There is a well marked biking route through Lofoten islands with a lots of tunnels, some of them under the sea. You also need to take some boats. I friend of mine did it and recommend it to me like the best approach to Lofoten.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Markers speed and other Usability issues

Until now the speed of showing markers (green pins) in Google Maps was very slow, so we were very happy to hear from Google Maps API Blog an speed improvement of 55%.

Until now we could not even think about showing simultaneously many markers in a map. You can see a clear example of the benefits from speed improvement at Revoluz (our Real State mash-up), where we could double the number of listing markers shown in the map from 75 to 150.

However there are still some Usability issues. Even if now you can display many markers fast enough, users can't select them with accuracy when there are too many together. In order to limit the number of markers you can separate them into pages. Unfortunately pagination is a metaphor that doesn't work very well with maps. It's very confusing when you see no markers where there are actually many of them. For example, the area of France can look empty, because its markers are shown in other pages, but not at the one you are watching.

Another issue are globes (aka infowindows). When globes are displayed the map moves, so you miss your location everytime you want to see a photo. That's extremely disappointing and the reason we don't have globes in Panoramio.

We have got some ideas about how to solve all these problems. You will see them working at Panoramio soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Geocoding photos using any GPS

Geocoded photos with coordinates in EXIF tags have advantages. You can create your own maps, KML files for Google Earth and geocoded photos are automatically located in Panoramio, so you don't need to find the rigth location manually in the map. But, how to get your photos geocoded?

The perfect solution would be cameras with built-in GPS, but so far only there are just some cameras with partial integration. Ricoh Caplio Pro G3 has a slot for a GPS card and Nikon D2X can connect to a GPS using a cable. Not very comfortable solutions. The industry doesn't seem very interested in GPS integration until now, but luckyly there are other alternatives.

Many people have already a GPS and a digital camera like separated devices that they are not able to communicate between them. The primitive solution is looking at your GPS, edit photo's EXIF tags and add manually geodata photo by photo. Of course, there is software to do this work for you that works with any GPS. The software matches the GPS track log and your photos in order to write coordinates in EXIF. You just need to synchronize the time in both devices for making matching possible.

Some software solutions:

- Jetphotoshop: Photo-organizer with geocoding. Full free version. Also for Mac.

- Gartrip: It works with GPS devices from Garming and Magellan GPS. The number of track points is limited to 500 in demo version.

- GPS Photo Linker: Just for Mac. Full free.

- OziPhotoTool: Demo version for only five images in a waypoint file.

- RoboGEO. Demo version distort coordinates up to one kilometer.

- GPS Photo Link Software from Geospatial Experts: No demo version.

If have not a GPS and you just need one for geocoding your photos, you don't need a GPS that includes maps, screen or many functionalities. You just need a GPS that stores track points. Sony just released a specific device, the Sony GPS-CS1, small, light and specially designed for carrying it with you while you make photos. Another option for a similar price is a very simple GPS like Garmin Geko 201.

Reference: "Geocoding photos" by Richard Akerman.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Willkommen bei Panoramio! Benvinguts a Panoramio!

Mapping photos has three main ingredients: photos, places and people from all around the world. That's why Panoramio should be available in as many languages as possible. The good news are that from today German and Catalan versions are available for localized browsers. Thanks to the kind people that help us, eSHa with the German translation and Ricardo Jaume and César López with the Catalan one. Now there are 4 avaible languages: English, German, Spanish and Catalan. More volunteers are helping us, so I hope Chinese, Norwegian and Bask versions are soon ready. If you feel like helping with translations, contact us.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hey! That's my car!

Sooner or later this was going to happen, after all that's what geolocation is about.

car in Edinburgh

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mecca

You have seen often on TV thousands of pilgrims around the Kaaba, the small cubical building located in the center of The Sacred Mosque of Mecca. A pilgrimage to it is required of all Muslims at least once in their lifetime, but are you interested in visiting the place? Sorry, but if you are not Muslim forget about visiting Mecca. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the holly city, but absolutely everyone can take a look at Mecca through Google Maps and the photos uploaded to Panoramio.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Trans-Alp biking tour

From Oberstdorf to Tirano, over 300 kilometres of trails through up to 2.500 high mountains of Germany, Austria and Italy. A really hard route where you often have to carry your bike. Only the strongest arrive. Thanks eSHa.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Amazing photos from a 17 year old photographer

Csongor Böröczky is just 17 years old, but he makes wonderful photos. My favourite is this one from Nordpark in Tirol (Austria), but the rest of his photos are also worth to take a look. He has been in many places as you can see below in his World map:

Monday, September 4, 2006

Merzouga and Erg Chebbi, Morocco

Merzouga is the most known location close to Erg Chebbi, a dune field located in South West Morocoo. Erg is the perfect kind of desert, a lots of sand making never-ending waves. In Erg Chebbi, dunes are specially tall, the highest one is 884 m.

Because there are no roads, just tracks (pistes), the only safe way for finding places there is through coordinates, so instead of standard address the hostels and touristic attractions in Erg Chebbi include coordinates for drivers using GPS devices.

When I was in Morocco in 2001 our local guide didn't need GPS. He drove 140 km/h our small rented car through tracks full of big stones and poteholes. We had a lot of baraka (luck, in Arabic) to arrive safely to our hostel.

Morocco is a very affordable and safe destination. In a couple of hours of flight from Europe you run completely away from the Western World, enjoy the delicious tagine and Berber hospitality.

As you can see in the mini-panoramio below, the landscape in Erg Chebbi is amazing.

Friday, September 1, 2006

The Eiffel Tower from any perspective

I'm sure you have seen photos from Eiffel Tower hundreds of times, but did you see the tower from any perspective? The wonderful people at Panoramio have taken photos from everywhere there, from the ground, from the top, from the platforms, from the Champ de Mars, from the river Seine...



I like this photo of a pillar, where the small size of the people give you an idea of how big it is. I also like this unusual perspective very much.

The tower stands 300 m (1000 ft) high, but depending on the temperature the top may "grow" up to 8 cm (3.25 inches), due to expansion of the metal when facing the sun. At the beginning the parisiennes didn't like the tower at all. The writer Guy de Maupassant ate at a restaurant at the tower regularly, because it was the one place in Paris he was sure he wouldn't see it. Comparing the different measures of radiant energy at the top and the bottom of the tower, father Theodor Wulf in 1910 discovered the cosmic rays. There are many copies of Eiffel Tower around the world, but I would say the most perfect one is in Las Vegas, of course.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Spitzbergen / Svalbard

The island of Spitzbergen is the largest island of Svalbard archipelago (names are often exchanged). It is located at latitude=78º and longitude=17º, very, very North. As you can imagine the nature there is wonderful as you can see in this mini-panoramio:



There are many interesting facts about Svalbard. Despite Norwegian sovereignty not all Norwegian law applies there. Under the terms of a Svalbard Treaty "If you're able to find a job, you have the right according to the treaty to come here". 40 countries have rights to exploit mineral deposits "on a footing of absolute equality", but there are only Norwegian and Russian mining settlements. By the year 2007 the Norwegian government is going to build a 'Doomsday Seed Bank' in which all species of seeds will be stored. The official language of Svalbard is Norwegian, but before they spoke Russenorsk, a mix of Norwegian and Russian, can you imagine? Skål and Nasdarovia!

Related: How to include a mini-panoramio in your site.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Coordinates in EXIF = Automatic Location

Thomas de Lange Wenneck has a GPS attached to his camara. When he takes a photo the coordinates of the place are automatically stored in the EXIF information of the image file. Later he just needs to upload his photos to Panoramio and they are automatically located in the map. No need to map the photo manually with Panoramio's drag and drop interface.

Btw, Thomas makes wonderful photos, like this one:

Photo from Thomas de Lange Wenneck

Mange takk Thomas!

35.000 photos and 6.000 people

Last month Panoramio reached 35.000 photos and 6.000 people. Just two months ago we had 20.000 photos and around 4.000 people. That means 75% and 50% growth respectively. Not bad.

We want to thank all the people that use Panoramio. ¡Gracias!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Multilingual Panoramio

Since today Panoramio is ready to be easily translated to other languages. Spanish version is already available for browsers in this language. Some friends are already translating it, but if you feel like helping to translate Panoramio to any language, just contact us at questions AT panoramio.com. It's not necessary to make a full translation, any partial one will be also welcome (the translator will be mentioned in the credits, of course). Thanks in advance.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tag cloud and pagination

After some user requests we have implemented a tag cloud in Panoramio. We waited until there were enough tagged photos in Panoramio to make the tag cloud useful and attractive. There is nothing more disappointing than a tag cloud with few, irrelevant and biased tags.

However once you reach a certain point the tag cloud may encourage people to tag their photos in order to make them easier to find. We still don't have the posibility to search by tag, but we will try to do it as soon as possible.

Btw, we have also included pagination for user photos and comments, also a long overdue feature.

Enjoy it!

New KML feed for Google Earth

Last week we improved Panoramio's KML feed for Google Earth.

Now the KML feed is more responsive (it downloads all previews on one shot), prettier (frame around thumbails, bigger images, panoramio's logo) and more informative (titles on mouse over, name of the location, ...).

The user experience now is much better. Enjoy!

Google Earth Screenshot

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Geodata in EXIF and Suggest New Location

We were adding some new features to Panoramio the last week:

- Photos with geodata in EXIF are automatically located in Panoramio, so you don't need to do anything but upload the photo if it has the GPS coordinates in their EXIF tags.

- Mislocated?. Suggest a new location: Since there are many people correcting wrong located photos from other users in Panoramio we decided to create a new feature called "suggest new location". We will take a look at the suggested locations and accept or refuse them. This feature has been working only for a few days, and already many photos have been corrected. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Googleplex and Where 2.0 Conference

Two weeks ago Joaquín Cuenca and me where at Geo Developer Day in Googleplex. It was a day for meeting other developers that also use Google Maps API and make questions and suggestions directly to the developers of the API, Google Maps and Google Earth. We met Luistxo and Josu from Tagzania, the other Spanish mash-up from the Basque Country.

luistxo, joaquin, josu y eduardo en where 2.0
- Luistxo behind, Joaquín left, Josu right, Eduardo center -


John Hanke, the president of Google Earth, explained all the news. The most important for us was that Google Maps API provides geocoding for US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. This means that now is possible to know the coordinates of any address. Until now if you wanted to find locations by address you had to pay a third party service, so most of mash-ups didn't include geocoding.

In our case, geocoding will help Panoramio very much. Until now you needed to recognice a place from the air to locate a photo, it was difficult. Very soon in Panoramio you could say "7 Bacon Street, London" and the photo will automatically be located there, fast and easy.

There were other important news. The quality of the satellite photos for most of the planet has been improved. Now there are versions of Google Earth for Mac an Linux. Surprisingly Larry Page, Serge Brin and Eric Schmidt appeared few minutes. Joaquín and me were eating the whole day, good food was everywhere.

The next two days, 13th and 14th, we went to Where 2.0 Conference in San José. We all met again, but also a lot of CEOs and people from other business. Specially interesting for us were the speakers from other mash-ups (Flagr, Platial, Plazes, etc.)

We met Frank Taylor from Google Earth Blog, Mike Pegg from Googlemapsmania, people from Flagr and some other. It was interesting to speak personally with other people working on the same area about statistics, business models, etc. It's not very usual you have all these people around.

Joaquín Cuenca, my partner at Panoramio, was so excited about the new geocoding possibilities, that while I was drinking some beers with people from Tagzania he was creating a mash-up of Loquo.com (Spain's Craigslist) and Google Maps. It's still a bit rough around the edges, and there's still a lot to do to improve it, but you can already get the idea. By the way, the name is Revoluz.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Recent spam in comments

A while ago I put in Panoramio a put a simple spam barrier in Panoramio. You want to post a comment? You have to tell me the name of your planet.

Stupid? yup, simple? yup, effective? until a couple of weeks ago, yup.

And then something happen. The spam barrier was somewhat broken, and big way. Panoramio was suddently flooded with spam. Either spammers around the world had got half the brain of an amoeba and were suddently able to reply with the name of their planet when asked, or some spammer had customized its boot to target Panoramio.

Or, well, none of these two options.

Taking a look at the database, it turns out these spam comments are not comments, they are trackbacks! Carefully crafted trackbacks to make them look as comments, mind you, but trackbacks none the less.

So if you have a wordpress site and have suddently be flooded with spam, even when you have a previously fine spam barrier in place, take a look at your trackbacks settings!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Upload a photo, 2.0

In Panoramio we have redesigned the photo upload interface in a radical way.

I personally think the current widget to upload files used in browsers is horrible. It looks like a dynosaur from older times, when your files were named C:\hi.txt instead of C:\Documents and Settings\foo\My Documents\My Images\DSGN003.jpg. And don’t get me started on its lack of basic functionality: no way to select multiple files in one shot, no way for the webmaster to filter out the files to be show in the dialog box, etc.


Advantages of the new functionality:

1. Upload as many photos as you want at once

With the classic widget you have to upload photos in groups, for example 5 after 5. You need to pay attention to the end of the upload in order to select a new group of photos.

Now in Panoramio you can upload as many photos as you want at once at the same time, so you can do other things instead of waiting for uploading the next group or monitoring the process all the time.

Also in order to make the process faster, the upload start after selecting the photo, so you don´t need to press any "upload" button.

2. Did you choose the right photo to upload?

If your file is at C:\Documents and Settings\foo\My Documents\My Images\DSGN003.jpg the edit field it´s too short to see the name of the file you are uploading. How can you be sure you selected the right one?

Panoramio´s new upload system shows just the name of the file in edit field, not it´s location

But when image file names are as "intuitive" as Dc2351.jpg is very easy to make a mistake. It´s very frustrating to realize you made a mistake only after finishing the long uploading process.

In order to prevent these errors, Panoramio shows you right away a small thumbail of the photo you are uploading (only in Internet Explorer), so you can cancel the uploading in progress.

3. Is it really uploading? How long it takes?

The most frustrating experience uploading photos is the lack of progress indication. Feedback makes easier to wait, that´s why long operations should always inform the user about the estimated time left and about their status.

In Panoramio we developed a progress that shows the time left to finish uploading. This progress bar thingie has been the hardest part. The only way to do it in current browsers it to poll the server regularly asking him for the size of the whole file, how much have already been uploaded, etc. That’s slow, badly supported by standard server technologies, brittle, and, in short, a hack. And to add insult to injury, the browser already has all that information! But instead of giving a nice javascript object so that we can know the status of current http connections we have to start playing games with the server to get that info. Sigh.

If you’re at 80% of the upload process, and something bad happens (your cat eats your ethernet link, for instance), then you’re left in the cold. You have to resend all these images again. Why? If the upload process gets interrupted, I want all the photos that have already being pushed in the server to remain safely there, so that I don’t have to start again from scratch. That´s how it works in Panoramio because each file is uploaded in a independent query.

4. No more "browse" button

People´s goal when uploading a photo is far from "browse", they just want to "upload a photo". Although it works only in Internet Explorer, we could substitute the "browse" button for a "upload a photo" link.

5. Map the photo and name it while uploading

This is a specific feature of Panoramio that optionally allows you to locate photos in a place at Google Maps. Previously, you had to find the place first and second upload the photo aftewards. That´s was slow and cumbersome if you are uploading many photos.

Now you first select the photo to upload and while waiting you can (optionally) map the photo. The process of mapping doesn´t interrumpt the uploading.

My only doubt concerning the current upload system is that it also lets you choose the title of your photo at the same time the image uploads. That’s nice because the whole process is done in one single screen, but at the same time it seems to be a bit confusing.


I hope you like the new upload system. The implementation took me longer time that I want to acknowledge ;)

Special thanks to Raditha Dissanyake and Tomas Larsson for its work on a perl script to handle incremental the upload of files, and to Nicholas C. Zakas for discovering how to show up the file dialog box in Explorer from javascript (and submit that file without getting Access denied error messages).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Honorable Mention for Panoramio at Web 2.0 Awards

web 2.0 awards Panoramio was given an Honorable Mention for the Web 2.0 Awards in the category of Mapping. We are very pleased for this mention, especially because Panoramio was released just 7 months ago.

The winners of the Mapping category are 1. Wayfaring, 2. Frappr and 3.Housingmaps.

My favourite has always been Frappr. The idea (members of a group says where they are located) makes very much sense and it seems people understand it very well. Just take a look for its ranking at Alexa.

Housingmaps is good mainly because it's really a useful application for a common day task (searching for housing) with very good data from Craigslist.org, not spectacular, but very nice.

However I don't understand the first price for Wayfaring. This application goes one step forward, as Tagzania, Flagr or our Panoramio do. I believe no one of these sites is still mature enough, still a long way to walk. Apart from their own limitations, these sites bring Google Maps to the edge and unfortunately Google Maps interface has some usability issues, that makes its interface difficult to use for some purposes.

Friday, May 5, 2006

I invoke the lazy web...

Oh, lazy web, do you know why, oh why, does it takes more than 30 seconds to enter the site admin of a wordpress powered blog? (this very one, in fact)

I would also be grateful if you know how to fix it!

Resizing images

Until now I've used a bicubic resizing of the images. If you don't know what does "bicubic" means, suffice to say that it makes smaller images smooth. It makes them blury, in fact.

So know I apply a Lanczos filter to make the resize, couple with a little local contrast improvement filter.

Both effects are quite subtle, and of course your original image remains untouched. If you see your images a bit more sharp than before, well, you know now why.

Hope you like it!

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Kofi, we've got a problem.

Surprisingly Jerusalem was not included in the database of National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) we use in Panoramio. We thought that such a important city should be included, so we manually added it. Just now we realize how clever was the people from NGA "ignoring" the city.

After receiving e-mails, posts in the forum and comments to some photos complaining about the status of Jerusalem, we are aware of the problem. After all, hundreds of diplomats from United Nations have not solved this problem in 40 years.

Israelians and Jewish insist that the whole city of Jerusalem belongs to Israel. Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs claim the eastern part of the city to Palestine.

UN position says that the western part of the city belongs to Israel and the eastern part to an Arab state that still doesn't exist, so for the moment to a territory called West Bank. That's how it is in Panoramio..

However Panoramio's location system of photos can't distinguish subtles differences of hundreds of meters, thus some points located in the eastern part of Jerusalem appear in Panoramio as located in Israel.

Joaquín suggestion is not to make any statements about the "territory" in which Jerusalem is located. (e.g. to mark photos of Jerusalem just as "Jerusalem", not "Jerusalem > Israel" nor "Jerusalem > West Bank"). I like this solution.

What do you think? Does anyone have the telephone number of Kofi Annan?

Monday, April 3, 2006

INSPIRE directive should be modified

INSPIRE directive from European Union guarantees the right of the public to discover, and view, geospatial data (mainly maps) for free. That's good. However access to the geospatial data and the right to republish it are not free of cost under the current wording of this directive.

In the U.S. government geospatial data is completly free and this industry is 5 times bigger there than in Europe. Nowadays in Europe only few companies that can buy this data and because it is very expensive its use is strongly limited to few applications.

The European industry of geospatial services could be boosted with free access to geospatial data. You can sign the petition to change the INSPIRE directive.

More information about modifying the INSPIRE directive.


Why Geospatial data should be free.


Monday, March 6, 2006

Panoramio in press

Panoramio has appeared in March edition of The Atlantic Monthly inside a long article about Google Earth: "Spy's-eye View"

Panoramio in The Atlantic


And also the last week in El País, the leading Spanish newspaper:

Panoramio in ElPais

Friday, March 3, 2006

Alpha in PNG images

Quick trivia:

Why do some PNG images show with weird backgrounds in Explorer ≤6?

(Remember I said Explorer. If you see these images with a white background you're seeing them with an PNG alpha capable browser, aka "anything but explorer".)

I hope we all know by now that Explorer doesn't render correctly PNG images with an alpha channel (ie. with transparent parts). But, if it doesn't render them correctly, how do it render them?

It renders them against a solid color background, instead of using the content of the page as background. And what color does it use for the background? Actually the color is inside the PNG file itself, and you can choose it!

If you use, as I do, The GIMP you can check the option "Save the background color" when you save a PNG file. That option will set as "background color" the current background color in your palette (green in the image).

Check background color

Foreground and background colors in the Gimp

Carefully choosing your background color you will be able to use your PNG files with an alpha channel if you have a solid background in your page.

Explorer handles correctly the case of a 1-bit alpha channel in the PNG images (as with GIF images), so the remaining buggy case remains 8-bit alpha channel against a non solid color page. For that one you will have to resort to Explorer filters to make it work. But be careful, filters are slow, and if you have a lot of little images using filters for the alpha channel will make your page extremelly slow to load!

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Tagging photos

After yet one more excellent suggestion of Matthew & Thorsten, we decided to implement tags in the photos.

Actually, we had tags in the pipeline since almost the beginning of Panoramio, but there was always just-one-more-thing to do before. Not this time.

Oh, I know, everybody under the Sun implements tags nowadays. But they're neverless useful, if not original. Enjoy them!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Usability issues in Google Maps

I read in Clickz a month ago that Google has plans to display ads (little blue pins) in their maps. I can't see these little blue pins (or markers) anymore in Google Local, but here it's a screenshot.

Maybe it was just a test and I hope so because I see some serious Usability issues in the actual behaviour of markers.

Where, how many, how to select?

Markers located very close superpose one over each other. As you can see in the image markers can be so hid behind others that you can't select them, you can't see exactly where they are located and you can't know how many they are. Sometimes there are so many markers that you even can't see the map.

Displaying globes

When a marker is selected displays a globe with information. When you select one marker close to the borders of the map, the area of the map changes in order to make enough space to display the globe. This is confusing. You lose your location and need to drag the map to go back to where you were.

Using lists of items

It's not possible to know in advance what a marker represents. Does it represent a restaurant, a hotel or a bar? You need to select a marker in order to see what it is about. You also can remember the letter (A, B, C...) of the pin and check the list beside the map. Both systems are not very nice.

Google Local includes a list with the items represented by the markers next to the map. In a list you can easily find the information you need (name, telephone, price, etc.) faster than checking markers. It seems a good solution, but it's not perfect.

For instance, one of the main problems with the list of items is that when you have too many elements on it, you will need to paginate to show them all. In the map you only can show the markers from the items included in the page you are, but not the rest. That is what Google Local does at the moment and it is cofusing because the map can show no-marker where there is actually one, but in another page. Pagination is an element that works good with lists, but doesn't fit with user's mental model interacting with a map.

Google Local and API

Markers work ok after a search in Google Local because you know what to show and what area to show. You avoid some problems when there are few pins and the zoom is low enough. However pins don't scale well.

For sites that use Google Maps Api these issues can be more important. In some of them it makes sense to pan around the map or to zoom more than in Google Local. In these scenarios the usability issues of markers matter. Of course, sites can change the behaviour of pins for their own purposes, we already do it in Panoramio. However pins for ads are supposed to be defined by Google and not very much customizable. I really wonder how Google is going to solve these issues and which format will they finally use for ads in their maps.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Settings, alarms and failed experiments

I had that "be able to change the settings of your user" thing in my TO DO list for longer than I want to acknowledge. It's done now. There are no fancy Ajax tricks, but you should be able to change your name, email or password easily.

As Matthew suggestted in the forum, I have also added email alerts, so you can follow new comments on your photos by email.

And as Thorsten suggestted, you can delete your comments. I still have to make them editable.

I also made images open in new pages when you clicked on the thumbnails in the home page. Unfortunately, after using it for a few days, I concluded that it was a bit confusing. You ended with a lot of windows. That's exactly what Eduardo predicted, I guess that sometimes you have to make the mistake yourself.

Next I want to implement the reading of EXIF tags, general tags on your photos, and some improvements to the home page. But probably not in that order.

Oh, and as you can see, we're really earing our users feature requests, so keep them comming!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Awful days

Some days you feel it would had been better to not quit the bed.
And some days you just can't quit your bed.

Yesterday I passed all the day with a strong pain in the back, and I couldn't even go to work. I passed the morning just checking that all the doctors near me where full, and the rest of the day trying to do something useful with my laptop... until yesterday evening, when the screen of the laptop decided enough was enough, and stopped working since then.

Today I'm feeling somewhat better, but it still hurts. I'm using the Mac now. I passed the latest hours installing emacs, getting a decent developer environment and doing some work on the javascript engine.

It turns out I was not just lacking concat and reverse on Arrays. It seems that I can't even read my own TODO items. I just had toString, join, pop and push, and thus I was lacking concat, reverse, shift, slice, sort, splice and unshift.

I have implemented now all of them, and they have all of them worked at the first try, except for splice (I got wrong some indexes on some for loops on splice). O'Caml is truly an outstanding language.

On the Panoramio front, yesterday I coded a first cut at a home page somewhat usable for people without Javascript activated. I still have a lot of work to do on this front.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Filtering photos

I have pushed a new feature in Panoramio.

Now you can say us if your photo is "about" the place you took it, or if the place is somewhat irrelevant.

For instance, if the picture is about a party, or about you in a closed room, then it's probably not about the place, but about you / your friends. If you mark these photos as not being "about the place" when you post them, then other Panoramio users can choose to see them or not.

That's to help those users that were looking for landscapes / buildings / etc. and want to filter out other kind of pictures.

We have not yet layed down a full set of objective rules, and we have been putting photos in the "not about the place" category using my instinct. But definitively we have to follow some rules. If you think that some of your photos were "about the place" and we marked it as not about the place wrongly just let me know. Btw, we are taking ideas about what kind of images would you like to see filtered out in Panoramio.

For those that only want to see "about the place" photos, click on the link "See only photos of places" in the main page.

Update: Since many users didn't uncheck the option when they were not photos about places, we decided to supress this filter. We will develop another solution for filtering photos in the future.

On other news, we also added a kml feed on each user's page, so now you can brag showing only your photos on Google Earth to your friends :)

I finally added a javascript layer around the server side "mark as favourite", and I even managed to get some minutes to implement some missing functions in Array on my ecmascript engine (reverse is still buggy).

And for those greasemonkey's users out there, Johan Sundström has written a script that will add a link to Panoramio in Google Local, so you can quickly see photos of the region of the world you're seeing in Google Local.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Photo acceptance policy

Until now we have been very laxists with the moderation of photos in Panoramio, only deleting sexual explicit photos. However many users have complained about the photos that have no relationship whatsoever with the place they were taken (close ups of people, for example).

We understand some people want to share their photos with their friends using Panoramio, and we have absolutely no problem with this. It's even one of our goals. But there are pictures that definitively cross the line. Hint: posting your head on a white background is not ok, posting you having great time with friends in a beach is ok.

We are implementing the concept of "private" photos, ie. photos that don't show up in the main page. But until then, we have to ask you to be reasonable with the pictures you post, or they will be deleted (we will keep you a copy for a while, so if you had no copies of a deleted photo you can ask us for it.)

Another kind of problematic photos are logos, copyrighted photos, or mini images copied from some web page. Those are also not allowed because of legal issues. We are proud to host your photos, but it doesn't mean we can host any image you send us.

So far, the vast majority of photos we have received are stunning photos of places. Please keep it that way. Keep rocking!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Latest developments

Being featured in Google Earth gave me the energy to code some long overdue changes to Panoramio.

First, I put a common header in the user and photo pages, so that users can jump directly to their pictures, to the home page, and sign out / sign in easily. I remember Johan said sharing the header will improve the feeling of "being part of Panoramio" (the words are mine). I still have to find someway to integrate this header in the home page... I hope you like it, because I tried several ideas and I passed several hours in The Gimp to do it.

Now you also have RSS feeds in the user's page, so you can follow the photos of your favourite users from bloglines or your favourite aggregator. And speaking about favourite users, you can now add users to your favourites clicking on their star or add them using the input box in the right column if you are logged (Actually, I put the RSS feeds and favourite's users a while ago, but I have not blogged about it).

I also improved a bit the algorithm to choose the photos to display in Google Earth, and raised the number of photos downloaded when you stop over an area.

And something Eduardo was begging for a while, a way for people to spread the word about Panoramio. Now (only when logged) you will have in your right column a "show these photos to a friend" link. That will let you spa^H^H^H tell your friends how great is Panoramio.

On the bad news, you can see that when you use sign in / sign out / stars it works reloading the page, so the results are not as smooth as they can be. At first I had a full javascript solution working, but there were too many bugs. There are just too many things to coordinate to keep these 3 things fully in javascript, so by now I will let the server-side fallback do its job. Later I will javascriptize the stars (I don't think sign in / out are really worth the effort).

Well, I hope you like these things, because they sucked away my week-end and latest evenings (again!)

This evening I decided to code a bit on the javascript engine. I have fully finished variable instantiation now. It was not yet done, that why I was using that weird "var a = function fact(x) { ... }" instead of just "function fact(x) { ... }".

Now the TODO is starting to look reasonable...


  • Unicode support

  • Track correctly line numbers for errors

  • Human readable error messages

  • Fix string to number conversions

  • Handle efficiently big sparse arrays (firefox also has this bug)

  • toLocaleString is not just toString...

  • Build a pretty-printer and use it instead of the compressor for js_function_to_string

  • Fix arithmetic that uses uint32

  • Implement real objects for standard Errors (right now I'm throwing string objects)

  • Joined objects

  • Implement Array.prototype.concat and Array.prototype.reverse

  • Implement all the native objects, right now I only have Object, Function and Array (and their prototypes, constructors, instances, etc.). This TODO item is big.

  • Label sets support

  • New expressions (this is the last expression not yet implemented, probably just a few minutes to make it work)

  • Run the SpiderMonkey regression tests, cry and fix bugs



Well... it looked reasonable in my head.

Update:
New expressions are now fully implemented:

function test_constructor(a) { this.hello = a; }

var o = new test_constructor("world");

var st = "";

for (var i in o)

    st += i + " " + o[i];

st;

gives

"hello world"


Btw, do you know of any plugin to colorize javascript code in WordPress?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

We have been Googled!

The Google Earth pals just linked to us in their list of feeds.

The server is slowly heating. I hope it will support the load, but anyway, that's the problem any webmaster wants to have :-)

Update: Further proof that our server is heating...

Trafic of 10 January

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Functions!

I implemented functions, at last!

So now I can execute:


var a = function fact(i) {
if (i == 1)
return 1;
else
return fact(i - 1);
}

if (a(3) == 6)
"pass";
else
"fail";


And it actually says "pass"! When I showed it to my wife, she looked at me as "did it really took you so long to do just that?". Pfff, Girls.

The big thing is still missing is all the native javascript objects. I have just done the objects Object, Function and half of Array (and their respective instances).

I'm still lacking objects literals (it should take 1 or 2 minutes), and a list of little TODO items that is getting longer and longer as time passes.

Little incompatibilities between browsers

On the series of incompatibilites between browsers, I have two new items to show.

First, don't use location.hash = "#foo" to jump to "foo" link, because Safari will jump to %23foo. Safari's behaviour seems very logic, but I don't really know who is right, Safari or the IE / Firefox crowd.

Second, don't use
<a h ref="javascript:void(foo())" >foo</a>

You should really do
<a h ref="something.html" onclick="foo(); return false">foo</a>

For the purist out there, yeah, that's not exactly equivalent, onclick="try { foo() } finally { return false } gets you closer, but the value of this will still be different in the two foo's.
Putting javascript:void(foo()) in the href turns out to produce buggy results, because once a user clicks in a link, and Internet Explorer engine passes onclick's or any other guard and reaches href, then it enters in a different state, that only quits when the new page loads (a href to an anchor is of course an exception).

In this new state, animated gif images stop their animation and Bad Things Happen™. Among others, expect your javascript code to fail in subtle ways. Explorer is not expecting to execute javascript code after you click on a link. It's already hard enough to make it behave correctly on its natural state, so trying to do something useful after a successful click on a link is roulette.

P.S.: WordPress 2.0 is nice and all, but it's html editor is a pain. I had to put the above html code in a pre tag, using entities, and breaking h ref (like here) because otherwise it changes it!

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

A plan for blog's spam

(Please, excuse my lame rip-off of Paul Graham's title)

I shall say it up-front. I don't like captchas.

For those in the dark, captchas are images of words, usually distorted. Sites that accept public comments ask their users to write the word in the captcha. If the user is able to read the word, then the system concludes the user is a human being. If it fails, it concludes that it was a bot (a computer program). The reason is that is very easy for a user to read a word, even if deformed, and it's extremelly hard for a computer to visually "read" a word.

Given than bots usually post spam, and human beings usually post legit comments, the "captcha" test is a simple way to differenciate between spam and human's comments.

They have however several problems:

  1. Human's with disabilities (for instance, blind people) are not able to pass the test.

  2. New programs have been developed that are able to read the captcha, and thus pass the test.


Newest captchas, harder to read, have been developed to make programs fail. They are, however, so hard to read, than even humans fail regularly the test. For instance, I needed to try three times before I could pass the test in the captcha I had on this blog. That's embarrasingly the same success rate of latest programs (33%).

I thus started looking for another solution. In the same "make it hard for computers, easy for humans" spirit, I come to the conclusion that the easiest way to solve the problem was to just ask some stupid (for a human) question to the user.

My question to let you publish on my blog is: What's the color of white pages?

And my question to let you register an user on my blog is: What's the name of your planet?

The replies to these questions are, of course, "white" and "earth". See, I'm not even afraid of putting here the replies. A computer has to understand english to extract the replies.

If this method ever becomes popular, spammers will surely attack it. It seems to be safe of automatic attacks except for spammers building a database of questions - replies, or using a load of possible replies (for instance, all the english words in the dictionnary).

My suggestion to prevent the first kind of attack is to use your imagination for new questions. Make them relative to recent actuality, for instance, so that previous collected questions - answers become useless.

As for the second attack, you can artifially wait several seconds before giving your answer, so that people trying a lot of different answers will need a lot of time to check the reply of all them.

This method is obviously not useful for high profile sites, as Yahoo! Mail, as you only need a couple of seconds of human's brain to fully crack it. But I hope it to be useful for random blogs, because spammers don't want to crack a random blog, they want to crack a million random blogs. I hope that the expectative of having to reply a million different questions will change their mind. Or most probably, make them spam other, unprotected blogs.

I have removed moderation on the comments on this blog. Let's see how this thing works...