Sunday, 24 June 2007

Your photos on every desktop? Google Pack Screensaver feeds






The free Google Pack collection of "essential software" put together by Google () includes a nice Google Photos Screensaver which you can set to rotate through the photos or other images on your computer (e.g. all pics in selected folders). Google have provided clear instructions including a video on how to add photographs etc from folders as a source for screensaver pictures.

But I particularly like the fact that you can even add photo feeds (photo streams) from the Net to your screensaver.

For those who don't know what feeds are, the good news is that you don't have to know. For present purposes, all you need to know is that popular picture uploading / photograph sharing sites like Flickr, Photobucket and Google's own Picasa Web allow users to provide feeds of their uploaded photos, which can then be accessed via the standard feed icon:
(or - it's the same thing - "Feed" or "RSS" link), which you'll find tucked away usually at the bottom left or right of the relevant webpage, usually with a "Subscribe to X's photo" description. Google have put together a list of other sites that support photo feeds.

How to add a photo feed from the Web to your Google Photos Screensaver

  1. First, make sure you have permission to use the photographer's work on your computer. You might think that if they've uploaded their pics to the Web it should be OK - but nope, copyright is never that straightforward. E.g. I have the copyright to the content of this blog, and even though I've published it on the Web so that it's easy for others to copy and paste my text / pics or scrape them from my feed, that doesn't mean that it's legal to do so - in fact, my content can only be used or reproduced on the terms I've set, which in my case is the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 version of the Creative Commons licence - which basically allows people to use my content privately for free without further permission from me, as long as they credit me. If the author has licensed their work under Creative Commons or similar licences, then you should be OK.

  2. To check permissions, you may have to do a bit of clicking through. Flickr at least have made it easier to do this, by putting the copyright info (e.g. "Some rights reserved") right under each pic, and you can click hover over the icons to see the details. More photo sharing sites ought to do this. Here's an example from the Flickr page of SWSwann who kindly gave me permission to use a photo in my post on "how to sneakily upload an MP3 to Blogger even though they won't really let you yet" (I also show in that video where to look to see the licence) - see the "Some rights reserved" and icons before it?:


  3. All right, you may well sigh and point out that even if you don't have permission to include someone's photostream on your home computer screensaver but you do it anyway, who's to know? And would they really bother to take you to task for it? But hey, I'm just pointing out the strict line on this - remember that record companies have sued grannies and 12 year old girls on MP3s. So you can't say you haven't been warned.

  4. So, go to the page whose feed you want to use - sometimes you have to go to a particular album to see a feed link. Again, as I know it's CC licensed, I'll use SWSwann's page as an example. See the orange feed icon in the illustration under 2 above? RIGHTclick that link and choose Copy Shortcut (or Copy Link Location or the like) to copy the feed link to your clipboard.

  5. Now follow the Google instructions on how to get to your Google Photos Screensaver Settings, but this time tick Photo Feeds and click Configure. Paste the RSS feed link you copied earlier in the box at the top, click Add, and then you can go and get more feed links and paste the next one you want, click Add, etc. Finally click Done when you've finished, and OK. And that's it.

How to make your own photos available for others to add to their Google Photos screensavers

The process is similar if you're a photographer or artist and would like to promote your work and like me you think that "free for personal use" is a great marketing device.
  1. Make sure you license your pics clearly. If you want to restrict use of your photos, adding a licence is a good idea as you don't want to see commercial enterprises like big newspapers printing your photo without paying you for it, for instance, even if you're happy for people to use it for free privately. Flickr have made it relatively easy to add a CC licence to your photos.

  2. Of course, you need to make sure that the photos or albums you have in mind to make available for photo streams are in fact publicly viewable so that people can actually see them to add them! You may need to edit your Album Properties in Picasa Web, for instance, to tick Public.

  3. Next, publicise the availability of your photo feed, e.g. in your blog sidebar. For instance, under the display of pics from your public Picasa albums which you've added to your Blogger blog using Kirk's Picasa Web Albums Widget Creator you could insert a note like:
    "Add this photostream free to your own Google Photos Screensaver (here's how)"

    - making sure you show your photo feed link clearly (e.g. make "this photostream" the link to your feed). If you want to link to this post for the "here's how", as I've shown above, please feel free to. Similarly you could add that note to a Flickr badge in your sidebar.

  4. Another good way to publicise your photo feed is via Google's Google Pack Group. A good thing is that if you join that group, then, while you're signed in, go to the Google Pack Group's screensaver page, you can add your feed to the list there. Just click the Edit link at the top right or the "Edit this page" button at the bottom left and add your details, remembering to make your feed link a clickable link (yes, it's effectively a wiki). You may need to click the Edit HTML link if, as on my system, you can't add any text otherwise.

The future? Feed me kittens and puppies...

Major search engines now provide feeds for search results. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before photo sharing sites do the same thing - so you could have a feed just for pics which match the search term "puppies" or "kittens". Awwwwwww.

I suspect it's mainly a question of sorting out the copyright issues. But if they filter out photos without Creative Commons licences from their search results, they should be able to include a "Subscribe to puppies photos for private use" link or the like, automatically. It shouldn't be hard to do and it would be great if they did that - what serendipitous fun to have random new pictures of cute kittens etc popping up unexpectedly on your computer. (If you're female, anyway. I suspect that men - let's not be ist about it, some of you, then - might prefer to subscribe to search results of a, shall we say, perhaps slightly different nature. Well, you could, if they've been appropriately tagged and the photo sharing site provides the feeds.)

Flickr seem ahead of the game on this one - they've already created a Creative Commons photo pool (see the feed link). But the feed links aren't easily obvious from Flickr's CC pages. And even though you can search for CC licensed pics on puppies you can't see a feed link. Hint hint, pretty please, Flickr, Picasa etc...?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wrote something about that too, here: Google Pack (it's in german)

Anonymous said...

I added some more Informations about the Google Pack