I’m a huge — huge — fan of Flickr. If the Earth were days from destruction but I could save myself and one minivan’s worth of people by driving to a NASA facility where VIP escape ships were secretly being prepped for launch (I’m not a VIP but I imagine that the VIPs would have computers that occasionally needed to have their WiFi fixed), I would give one of those seats to a mortal conceptualization of everything that Flickr.com represents.
(Besides, my cousin Gerald is a jerk. Screw him.)
So I was pretty excited to learn about Photonic, a new desktop Mac client for Flickr. There are tools for uploading pictures and tools for browing images and (please fill in three or four more functions that sound likely to save me some time) but Photonic seems like the first one that attempts to be a single, unified dashboard for the whole smash.
Okey-doke. As usual, our game starts with dialog box that sends us to Flickr and authorizes the app to knock up your photo feed. Done and done.
Let’s start off by uploading a photo. I like what I see already; classic iTunes-style interface in three vertical columns. The window’s already populated with my contacts, groups, sets, etc. But I wonder if this is the most elegant approach. I have lots of friends and lots of sets and I’m in lots of groups. To get through that whole list I need to grab the scroller on that bit of the window and then exercise some patience.
But back to our first goal. Makes sense that I can just drag a photo into that center area, right? Let’s see what happens.
Yes, indeed…dragged straight from iPhoto. I click on the thumbnail and all of the detail fields on the right activate. Time to apply the snarky comments that inspired my taking that photo back at Barnes & Noble.
Adding tags. Nice…it auto-completes based on tags you’ve already applied to photos in your photostream. Isn’t it weird that this little desktop app that works with a free online service handles tagging so much better than iPhoto (for God’s sake)?
But the mechanism does break an interface rule. You tell the tag editor “Yes, good boy, you did indeed predict that I was about to type ‘antidisestablishmentarianist'” by hitting “return.” The answer we were looking for is “space bar.” Space bar. Oh, so sorry. Not a match, we add $50 to the high-low jackpot.
(by which I mean: not a huge mistake but it prevented me from using this feature correctly on my first and second tries)
Next I add it to a photoset and then I consider adding it to one of the groups I’m subscribed to. Very nice. After a moment’s thought I think I’d rather see both of these done as popups instead of scrolling text fields. I’d much rather be able to see dozens of these items at once instead of just four or five.
Click “Upload Selection,” sheet drops down with progress bar…presto, I’m looking at Flickr’s standard “Your photo has been uploaded; hail Jambi!” page.
Well done. Some UI tweaks would be a good idea, but that’s about as good as you could do that, I think.
Let’s try something a bit harder: dragging a batch of photos in and then arranging them into a photoset. The problem with most of these tools is that they don’t make it dead-simple to figure out what order the pix will land in.
I’ve grabbed a pile of photos and dragged ’em in without really caring about the order. Plop. Grabbing a thumbnail let me drag it into a new position, complete with cool Core Anmation graphics. Nice touch.
The thought “You know, I’d really like to make those thumbnails bigger while I write my descriptions” is followed by a look at the window and the discovery of an iPhoto-like slider at the bottom corner. Presto: I can make the thumbs as big as I want, all the way up to full-window size.
Nitpick: this slider has no label of any kind and it ought to be under the image well, where it makes contextual sense.
Type in my usual, wordy photo description. I wish I could expand that editing pane…seven lines of visible text crowded in a gutter isn’t a lot of elbow room for writing three or four paragraphs.
How do I create a new photoset?
Damn. I’ve been looking closely and I have absolutely no clue. In fact, I’ve clicked on an existing photoset that I don’t want…and now it appears to be impossible to “unselect” it. That’s no good and “no damned good,” in that sequence.
Hello, Help system.
“Help isn’t available for Photonic.” Spiffy.
Hello, support site!
It’s asking me for a login and a password?!? What the hell is this? That’s the sort of decision you make when you’re absolutely 100% certain that your app is so perfect that nobody will ever seek help on any function whatsoever. Or that you have no interest whatsoever in providing support in the first place.
Nope, I can’t just type a search term into the field on that webpage. Doing so takes me right back to the login screen.
Fine. In order to get basic information about a fundamental feature whose use should have been immediately obvious, I will sign up for an account on this generic-looking website which lacks anything to indicate that I’ll find the answers I need here.
(Is it okay if I mutter “**** you” after I complete each field?)
I have filled out the form, I have logged out of my usual Gmail account, logged back in to access the “trash” account I use for pointless message board logins, authenticated my new account on the support forum, logged in…and now I discover that the message board contains two (2) messages with zero replies.
The “Issues” tab has seven (7) open issues. None of them tell me how to create a photoset.
Okay, I’ve located one message from a user asking how the hell to create a photoset. No replies, but it’s just 8 hours old.
Notify the family and call the code: time of complete death of interest in Photonic came at 5:07 PM.
It’s a very, very promising app, but a Flickr app that doesn’t understand the fundamentals of a Flickr workflow and forces users to just throw all of their pictures into one big soup is useless.
When Photonic 1.1 is released I will check again with sincere great interest.