July 16, 2004 23:43 | Social / WebBlogging

Timestamp timezones in Flickr

(and by extension, in social software enabled content management systems, especially moblogging ones)

Currently, Flickr timestamps everything in it's developers' timezone, Pacific Standard Time. To anyone not on the western seaboard of North America, this is pretty much useless. Who bothers doing timezone conversions when looking at friend's pictures? ;)

So, two options: display the timestamp based in the timezone of the poster or, even better, in the viewer's. The former is arguably also just more metacrap, the latter is a far more useful frame of reference for the viewer.

"Ohhh he/she posted this 20 minutes ago / while I was making coffee, he/she was in a restaurant in Shibuya / etc..."

Brings you closer to me, you know. :)


> The former is arguably also just more metacrap

Hmm, not sure I agree about that. Everything should be in the poster's timezone, that way readers will be able to think "what, he's still awake at 4am!". Also, displaying time in the reader's time zone, a night picture will look strange if marked 2pm.

Putting your local time somewhere on your site sounds like a better idea to me.

I wouldn't mind both. The poster's time more prominently and a paler or smaller "20 minutes ago".

... or they could just make it configurable in your account options.

Remember Flickr is essentially a shared space and not a weblog. If everything is posted in the posters' timezones, the timestamp quickly becomes just some visual garbage on the screen as you stop trying to "translate it" into one that is closer to your temporal frame of reference. This is already the case for me. PST is what 3-4 hours difference from me? Just that is more than I want to need to have to process... ;) When I am in this space, for timestamps to be relevant, it needs to be synchronized to "my time", my "reality".

The timestamp in this environment is not so much metadata about the image as it is a temporal orientation device. As such, a night shot from Tokyo marked 2pm EST is not "weird".

Having both originator's and local timestamps is not a bad idea, but could be visually cumbersome.

Allowing the user to choose between the two... well, sure, but most people wouldn't/don't get the subtle difference ... and which does Flickr set as default?


Writing this I brought to my conscious level something from my subconscious ... having a photographic memory and not wearing a watch (or being an overly time keeping person), much of my memory is much like a personal moblog... timestamps (moments wher I consciously look at the time) are like lynchpins around which my memories float..

Hrm... some time ago I said to someone: timestamps are the thumbtacks on the corkboard of memories.

The timestamp in this environment is not so much metadata about the image as it is a temporal orientation device. As such, a night shot from Tokyo marked 2pm EST is not "weird".

Agreed, but not everyone would see it that way. I personally would feel that the posters' timestamp would be of more value to me in terms of understanding the image.

Maybe it's because I'm coming at it more from a photographic aspect ("*this* is what the person saw through *her/his* eyes at *this* time in *her/his* world") than a social netwoking angle, but I like to try and see photographs from the posters' point of view, and not try and relate that to my own timezone.

That being said, there is a case to be made (which you did very well ;) ) to timestamp with the posters' timezone, like the example you gave above in the resaurant/coffee simile.

I think that one elegant solution would be to have Flickr not show/give the option to configure 2 or more timezones, but rather show something like this:

"Taken at [time],[posters' timezone], 37 minutes ago"

So here I'd see:

"Taken at 02:04am, JST, 11 minutes ago"

Steve, there's a big problem...

Flickr doesn't use EXIF data, but the time you have uploaded the picture. Which is fine in case of mobloging from a cell phone but not at all if it's from a desktop when you have taken the pictures... 2 years or 2 days ago.

See the comments I have made on my (very bad) layout flickr mockup

Sorry, I wasn't totally clear; I should have specified "moblogging" with Flickr.

Flickr does save EXIF data AND you can configure your timestamp to your local address. Just set the nearest airport on your profile page here: http://www.flickr.com/profile_edit.gne

And if you click through on the Camera data on each photo uploaded, you'll see a page that contains all the EXIF data.

These are perhaps not the most obvious place to find these things, but, we're working on UI improvements. :)

Hi Caterina!

We got a bit derailed here... My airport code has long been set to my local YUL and the EXIF data feature I noticed immediately. Good stuff.

But seeing people's pictures posted with a PST timestamp is not of much use to me, as I tried to explain. I've been too busy last few days to riff on a mockup like Karl did, but it is something I'm planning to do too. :)

It would be great if the original EXIF date/time from the uploaded pictures was used as the time-stamp within flickr: it would make sense for me as I am uploading a whole archive of images.

Would it be possible as a preference?

I made a quick mockup, if you want to take a look:

I also moved a couple of things around.