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Flickr Hacks by Jim Bumgardner, Paul Bausch

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Hack #24. Add and Track Contacts

Half the fun of using Flickr is staying in touch with friends and family by watching their photographs.

Your Flickr contact list represents the other Flickr members that you want to keep track of. If you add your friends, family, and other photographers you admire to your list, keeping up with their new photos is a snap.

Adding Contacts

As you explore photos on Flickr, you might spot a particular photographer whom you'd like to keep up with as she adds new photos. To add any Flickr user to your contact list, you first need to get to that user's photostream.

From any photo's detail page, look for a byline in the upper-right corner. The byline will say, "Uploaded on [date] by [member]." Clicking the member's name brings you to her photostream. At the top of the photostream you'll see a link to add that member as a contact. Click the link, mark her as a friend or family member if you want, and then click OK. That member will now be listed among your contacts.


Keep in mind that adding someone as a Flickr contact is a one-way operation. If you add someone to your contact list, you won't automatically appear on her contact list; she'll receive a notification that you've added her, but she'll have to manually add you as a contact if she wants to.

If you want to add someone to your contact list who isn't yet a member, you can send an email invitation. Click Invite from the top of any Flickr page to bring up the Invitation page shown in Figure 4-1.

Inviting contacts via email

Figure 4-1. Inviting contacts via email

Enter up to three email addresses (and their Friend or Family status, if applicable), customize the message, and click Send. The people you listed will receive emails from Flickr asking them to join. Once they join, they'll be added to your contact list with the relationships you specified. Specifying people as Friend or Family means they'll be able to see photos that are just for them [Hack #2] .

Watching Contacts' Photos

Once you have a list of contacts, you can keep up with their daily postings on your contacts page (Figure 4-2).

All of your contacts' recent photos appear on one page

Figure 4-2. All of your contacts' recent photos appear on one page

Click Your Contacts' at the top of your Flickr home page to see recent photos. You can choose to limit the page to contacts you've designated as friends or family members, or to limit the page to one photo per contact. Viewing your contacts' recent photos is a great way to see what your friends and relations have been up to lately.

If you'd rather not have to visit Flickr to keep up with your contacts, you can use the RSS and Atom links at the bottom of the contacts page to keep up with their photos in a newsreader [Hack #17] . Figure 4-3 shows the contacts feed in the Safari web browser, which doubles as an RSS newsreader.

Viewing contacts' photos via RSS

Figure 4-3. Viewing contacts' photos via RSS

Clicking on any of the photos in the feed will take you to that photo's detail page.

Watching Contacts' Activity

Friends, family, and other Flickr members can interact with your photos by leaving comments. Click the "Recent activity" link next to the "Your photos" link on your Flickr home page to see the latest comments on your photos. As with many other spaces around Flickr, you can also subscribe to your recent activity via RSS or Atom [Hack #17] , so you can keep up with comments in your preferred newsreader.

Recent activity feeds are typically used to keep tabs on one's own photos, but you can use those feeds to see recent activity with your contacts' photos, too. This will let you know which of your contacts' photos are getting the most comments, and what people are saying about them.

To start reading others' recent activity feeds, you need to know a bit about Flickr member IDs. In addition to the member ID you see on a user's photostream (e.g., pb), every Flickr member has an internal NSID—an alphanumeric string that represents that user behind the scenes (e.g., 33853652177@N01). Once you have an NSID in hand, you can build your own recent activity feed URL.

A quick way to find your own NSID is to browse to your Flickr home page, choose View → Page Source on your browser's menu, and search for the variable global_nsid toward the top of the page. Whatever this variable is set to is your Flickr NSID.

To find someone else's NSID, browse to his photostream and click on the Profile link on the right side of the page. From the Profile page, you'll find a link that says, "Send [member] a message." Right-click the link, choose Copy Link Location or Copy Shortcut from the menu, and paste the link into a text editor such as Notepad. You should see a URL like this:


Everything after the equals sign is the member's NSID. Jot down the member's name and the NSID, and go to your favorite RSS newsreader. Here's the format for recent activity feed URLs:

http://www.flickr.com/recent_comments_feed.gne?id=insert NSID&format=rss_200

Insert the NSID, and add the URL to your newsreader. Repeat the process for as many of your contacts as you want to watch. If possible, group the feeds together so you can browse them all at once. Figure 4-4 shows a group of contact activity feeds in the RSS reader Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com).

Watching contacts' activity at Bloglines

Figure 4-4. Watching contacts' activity at Bloglines

The feeds will still be titled "Comments on your photos," but don't let the title fool you—you'll bee seeing your contacts' photos and recent comments people have left about them. It's a good way to see which of your contacts' photos are generating the most conversation.

See Also

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