From Hack to 72 Million Photo Sharers

Flickr Photo Session iPad Chat and Drawing ToolHopefully if you’re reading this blog, you know how much Yahoo! loves the culture of hack at our Open Hack Day and HackU events. But not everyone knows how much hacking we Yahoos actually get to do inside the company. Yahoo! holds quarterly internal Hack Days, where any employee can build on Yahoo! UI libraries, product APIs, and more to develop prototypes for our creative ideas. I recently had the pleasure of winning one of these Hack Days with a photo sharing concept that is now launching as a new product feature for Flickr, called Photo Session.

The idea came to me after sitting with some friends and looking at pictures together on my new iPad. I thought about how great it would be to bring more of the in-person experience from the old days of physical photo albums to the world of online photo sharing across all kinds of new devices. I wanted to be able to “sit” together with people far away, look at the same thing at the same time, and share my own color commentary on the pictures – even if I was using an iPad and my friend was using a desktop or iPhone. So, I decided to hack up a rich, app-like tool to help people tell the stories of their photos, and I made sure it could span devices to facilitate easy narration, annotation and dialogue.

Seeing my idea go from the quick-and-dirty prototype I built with the Flickr API during a sleepless 24 hours, to a fully-functioning innovative feature for Flickr’s 72 million visitors is just as satisfying as having the young team I mentored win Yahoo!’s 2011 Open Hack All-Stars competition a few weeks ago! Okay, maybe it’s slightly more exciting. I’ve been an avid photo sharer on Flickr for years and am thrilled to help Flickr take the conversational part of photo sharing even further with live sharing for small, intimate groups.

Check out this interview with Flickr’s head of product, Markus Spiering, and myself to find out more about Photo Session from Flickr, and the big technical challenges we dealt with using HTML5, JavaScript, CSS, and Flickr’s rich APIs as we pushed the browser to its limits.