The unsolved question of online photo sharing

The question of where to share photos online has become increasingly complex. Right now I don’t have a definitive answer. Let me explain.

I guess like most of us I began by sharing photos via email. With 2 megapixel digital cameras this was workable, but very basic. In the late ’90s I progressed to hand crafting web sites with embedded photos, typically as you’d use a blog today. More “open”, and with better control of photo presentation and context, but very labour intensive.

Then along came websites specifically designed for sharing. The first of these to get widespread takeup were Flickr, Picasa and a couple of others. I found that Flickr offered the best venue for sharing photos and information about photography. For example, the Flickr Canberra Photographers group was the #1 hangout for people with this specific interest, and groups like Strobist were a buzz of constant activity, questions, examples etc. Well before Google+ was thought of it provided (and continues to provide) a photographer-friendly environment with superior tools for image classification and presentation so I settled into a pattern of uploading almost all images to Flickr.

However Flickr was never going to attract my mum or some other family and friends. By way of contrast, coming from a “family and friends” heritage, Facebook arrived. It was never going to replace Flickr but in my particular case it became the #1 hangout for our family and friends, so I moved to a strategy of publishing (out of LR) almost everything to Flickr at high res and stuff for family and friends sharing at low res to FB. Some things ended up on both but it is painless out of LR anyway.

Then in the last few years Google+ arrived, and as someone who has several Android devices it was worth exploring. Capabilities such as circles, Blogger integration, pages and now communities make it attractive for many community-of-interest things. Can I move my entire extended family and friends there from FB? No. Does it replace Flickr? No, because it still does not provide the rich environment for image classification and presentation that Flickr has. Maybe it will never achieve this, as the design centre for Flickr is much more specialist than Google+.

There is another category of images, the “instant online” ones that come from my Android devices and from my Eye-Fi cards. Right now I send these direct to G+. The Eye-Fi ones are later imported into LR and if there is something worth keeping that I captured on my phone then I import it to LR also.

So right now when I sit in LightRoom I am copying images to up to three publishing services… FB, Flickr and G+. Not really a big imposition but a sense of tidiness makes me wish for a simpler solution. If I could elect for one of these to go away it would be FB, but there are a lot of people who would need to be convinced.

More on service management without control

I’ve been thinking more about some of the ways in which we can get benefit from ITSM where we may not have the sort of traditional control that is the norm in a single, centralised IT organisation. A common case that I come across is where a centralised IT group wants to extend the benefits to somewhat-autonomous groups that have their own IT assets and services. Typical cases are “federated” organisations, where there is some common purpose but not necessarily an unambiguous line of control over all IT resources.

Chaos? Conflict? Tension? Maybe not. Perhaps we have just been so used to the use of “control” as the paradigm that we forget that there are some others. I want to expand on some of the alternatives in the future, but for now, here is one possibility: think about it as a cultural change issue in the first instance.

So here is a link to a white paper that I have written about how much an approach might be used.

Challenges facing WOG IT Services

I’m sure that the title of this post could cover a multitude of issues, but I am going to look at it from a service management perspective. Why? Because my customers are facing real issues that need attention if they are to reliably deliver high quality services to the Australian public that directly relate to IT Service Management issues.

The Story So Far

Australian federal government agencies have embraced the e-Government idea with varying levels of enthusiasm.  Now, nearly twelve years into the new century,  we have e-Tax, the first glimmerings of e-Health and lots more. What has been slower to emerge (of course) has been a high level of integration between difference agencies, “one stop shops” and so on that make it appear to the consumer as if the Federal Government is a single organisation. Now I can hear the more cynical out there chuckling at the thought, but I’ll press on.


Now in 2012 we have the first examples of online services that bring together (and rely on)  underpinning services from multiple agencies. A simple example would be the use of an Australian Government Account to access services like your National eHealth record or Child Support Agency services. Good stuff. About time. However this is the comparatively simple case, where your credentials are a credential to a single agency. So agreements around non-functional requirements (warranty requirements if you want to talk ITIL) for underpinning services are bilateral, or at least tree structured, with clear understanding of who the provider and consumer of each service is, with simple enough dependencies to walk through issues like aligning capacity management processes, optimising planned downtime etc.

The Problem

What I am seeing today is a significant shift in the topology of online services.  Roles of “producer” and “consumer” are becoming more fluid, and the creation of new business services can turn the technical services tree on its head.  So Agency A is provider to Agency B today, but in an instant that relationship can be reversed. For example Agency B may end up providing a higher level service back to Agency A or to Agency C who then adds value and acts as provider to… you see the problem.

Almost before you know it you have a business service dependent on web services from five different agencies, maybe on some who you didn’t know were even involved. Fantastic! Just what we asked for! Or is it?

Imagine if Agency A has their scheduled maintenance window on Monday nights. Agency B on Tuesday. Agency C on Friday. What does overall availability of the service look like? Less than ideal. Imagine if Agency B suddenly adds 20% more users. Whose infrastructure is impacted? Are they notified? How can it be planned and budgeted?

So pity the poor enterprise architect in an agency. How can you develop a level of confidence that a solution built on top of this arbitrarily complex set of web services will have appropriate availability, capacity, security, continuity…

One Potential Solution

If this was a single enterprise, using web services, SOA or whatever, we would architect underpinning services to have common warranty characteristics.  So we might have “tier 1” business services built on “tier 1” underpinning services. So long as we don’t introduce “tier 2” underpinning services we can be relatively confident of the overall fitness for use of the business service. If we know we need something from what is currently a “tier 2” underpinning service, we can just upgrade it to “tier 1”.

So that’s simple then🙂 We just get all government agencies to agree on some defined service tiers and align their existing and future services with them. Of course the elephant in the corner is called Tragedy of the Commons, also known as “we don’t have budget for that”. So who in a WOG sense has the power and credibility to lead this?

Red Centre Enduro

Day -1  Fly to Alice. Uneventful, except to discover en route that Adrian and Jess have a new baby today. How exciting! Checked in to the motel, John was already there. Reassembled the bike, had a beer and then Tony took us out to see new baby! Couple of beers with Adrian and family, had a good time with Brian and then walked back to the motel. Dinner at Bojangles with John… quite satisfactory.

Day 0 Had a walk around the Todd Mall Markets. The usual story, nothing of interest. I guess I’m not the target market. Got the bike sorted (small problem with rear brakes), went for a gentle ride and then rode over to Adrian and Jess’s place for Brian’s birthday party. Dined at the Red Ochre.. a lamb shank in a pie.

Day 1, two stages. The first around 40km, mostly singletrack. Not super technical but hard work. I took it very slowly and finished in about 3 hours, seventh last. I kept the bike upright which was the main goal. Then on dusk the second stage, the timed climb of Anzac Hill which is a gut busting 300m. Went into serious oxygen debt but that’s OK. Cough, cough. Had pizza for dinner at Casalinga, which is fairly good.

Day 2, a stage that was supposed to be 48k. The first part was difficult, then it got easier. Climbing, sand, sand, climbing… then got to some fast and flowing singletrack much more like what I am used to. Then I came upon the aftermath of a stack where a female competitor had lost it on a loose gravel downhill, and then another rider went over the top of her. Stayed around long enough to call in the coordinates so the rescue vehicle could get there quickly. Not life threatening but painful I am sure. After the water stop I must have gotten lost because I cut more than four kilometers off the circuit. No idea how, but at the end it was obvious that something had gone wrong. The last 4ks were flat and fast and I sat on 30-35kph which was fun. I reported the problem when I got in and was docked 30 minutes which was fair. Tony, Adrian, John and I had dinner at Hanuman which was good, the company even better.

Day 3, the big day, 77 kilometres. The first 17 k’s were hard work, up and down on rocky firetrails, with me having to walk many of the uphill sections. Then it opened out and it was a quick run to the water stop at 24k. Then onto the sealed bike path that goes out to Simpson’s Gap. Ran over a snake but I don’t think I injured it (it was sitting in some dappled shade which made it hard to spot. I was riding solo which meant that I was not going super fast, but still very enjoyable with the fantastic scenery. Lots of birds including a very large flock of budgies. At the end of the path the route turned south on the road, with nearly 20k’s of sealed road and then some bumpy, gravelly 4WD track. I was getting tired and the headwind was not pleasant. Then even less pleasant was the loop along a ridge line which was quite difficult (at least one of the elite riders fell and smashed a bike). The the last 7ks on flat surface to the Alice Springs BMX track where I managed to ride the lap and finish. Last. Tired. 6 hours. In retrospect I should have pulled the pin at the second water stop and taken the main road straight in from there which would have left me physically in a much better place. John and I had dinner at Monte’s which is excellent. Good choice of beers and wines, good casual food, friendly staff. All the hipsters seem to go there.

Day 4. Sore knee and lethargic body. I decided to take the day off, read my book, did some washing and not much else. Back to Monte’s for dinner!

Day 5. The last stage. Just over 40km and most if it rideable and fun. I had a close encounter with a frill necked lizard which wasn’t shy at all, then a few wallabies which hopped fairly erratically across the path in front of me. I was going slowly and stopping to savor the view and take a couple of photos, so I expected the sweep to catch me but it never happened. I made it to the finish to the usual P.A. announcement and applause…

Saturday. Not much on the agenda: I cleaned and packed my bike then borrowed Jess’s car to do some sightseeing. I went out to Standley Chasm (out past Simpsons Gap) and Honeymoon Gap to take some photos. The walk to Standley Chasm is scenic. In the evening I had dinner with Adrian and Jess and the boys. Home made pizza!

Sunday was the flight home. Uneventful until my suitcase didn’t turn up in Canberra. It made it the next day. The guy at Qantas baggage must be used to customers being irate about lost luggage: he bribed us in a charming way with sets of Qantas PJs and toiletries.


Response to Gerry Harvey and the Fair Imports Alliance

Dear Fail Imports Alliance,

You think it is the fact that goods under $1000 being imported without GST is what makes e-tailing from overseas sources attractive to the customer? Let me give you some feedback as someone who has purchased clothing, sporting goods, books, photographic equipment, all for personal use from overseas retailers in the past twelve months. These have come from USA, UK, Hong Kong amongst others.

  1. The savings to me as a customer are not 10%, they are 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%. That is despite me having to use very expensive shipping methods such as FedEx and USPS. Have a look in your own back yard for the inefficiencies in Australian retailing cost structures because unless you can take out an addition 20-50% you will still not be competitive. Your members are the problem.
  2. If something is not in stock at my local shop here in Canberra then I can order it and have it delivered quicker from HK, UK or the USA than I can by getting my local retailer to place an order on a Melbourne wholesaler who has it in stock. Retail service in Australia is part of the problem not just the price. Your members are the problem.
  3. The range of goods offered in Australia is narrower than the countries that I have mentioned. Economies of scale of course come into it, but there is also a certain laziness in Australian retail where everyone takes a standard sized frontage in the local Westfield or Stockland, stocks the same stuff and doesn’t think outside the square. Your members are the problem.

So even if the threshold drops to $250 (lower in real terms than it has ever been before), you still won’t have addressed the issues that I have listed and I will continue to use Amazon, Wiggle, Adorama etc. etc. etc.

Tell your members not to waste their time on this campaign, it is a dead duck. Use the energy to improve how they serve me as a customer.


UCI road cycling world championships

Final medal count was

Gold Silver Bronze
Aus 1 1 1
GB 1 1
USA 1 1
Ita 1
Nor 1
Swi 1
Ger 2 2
Den 1
Ned 1
NZ 1
Swe 1

That should cause some soul searching in a few countries…

… and for those who thought that ANBG attitudes were reconstructed… peace in our time.

I have blogged a couple of times in the last few years about the stresses and strains on the ANBG caused by having to come to terms with the fact that public access, public engagement and public support are integral to the ongoing viability of the ANBG. Just being “good at science” isn’t cutting it and won’t cut it. I thought the war was over, but maybe that was the “phony war”.

We were at the ANBG visitors’ centre, talking to a staff member. In discussing the physical appearance and attractiveness of the gardens, this person used the phrase “appease the public”. Not “engage the public”, nor “please the public”. Appease.

Some people still don’t get it do they?