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I don’t want to turn this into a Dave Winer *thing,* (and I don’t want to contribute to a “bitchmeme”) but I have to say that the release of his newest software tool — a Mac-only screensaver/RSS widget called FlickrFan — fills me with, well… a sense of underwhelmingness. I mean, Marshall Kirkpatrick tries hard to make it sound like the best thing since bread came sliced, and so does Robert Scoble, but still fails to stir much interest (at least in me). And not just because this software is just for Apples, either.

When you get right down to it (which doesn’t take long) it’s a screensaver for Macs that lets you subscribe to people’s photo feeds from Flickr. Is that really a huge development? I find that hard to believe. I’ve been using a Windows screensaver called Slickr for some time now that does pretty much the same thing, and my friend Rob points out that he’s been using his computer as a photo and media server for years.

I’m not saying that Dave’s software is useless, or that showing Flickr photos on your computer isn’t a worthwhile thing to do. Far from it. In fact, just the opposite — I think it’s a great idea. But I don’t really think it’s anything revolutionary. Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins over at Mashable doesn’t think it’s much to write home about either, apparently, and says Yahoo Go does pretty much the same thing, but better. Michael Gartenberg at Forrester says that it “totally changes the game,” but that’s a pretty hype-ish thing to say, as Ian Betteridge notes at Technovia.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

55 Responses to “A Flickr-powered screensaver? Incredible”
  1. FYI, it's not a screen saver.

  2. […] love Dave Winer’s work, but does releasing a glorified Mac-only screensaver count as a major product release worthy of a Techmeme headline? Especially when slickr has been doing the same thing on my PC […]

  3. […] Mathew and Rob I don’t get why this is so damn […]

  4. Don't worry – others may say it for you – the software is close to useless. Horrible UI. Strike that. No UI. Incredibly poor instructions. The whole project could literally be built in a few hours – and be cross platform. There are lots of ways to pull Flickr content. There's no magic here – just really odd software wrapped in a fantastically unfriendly and close-to-non-existent UI promoted by Dave's fans in the echo chamber.

  5. The 'magic' is not the code but what the code does. It is true that others can do the same easily and some have even done it already or have thought of doing it. Even I have code that pretty much does all Dave's code does using AIR. Dave's strength is not in doing something first but seeing the gem of something wonderful beyond the mundane, like screensavers, and shining a huge spotlight on it until rest of us sees it as well.

  6. I don't buy the platform is the gem thing, either.

    PVR/DVR/Media Center software has been doing the same thing for years, attempting to become the platform. I love Dave Winer, I think he's a genius, but I think this is a miss.

  7. Of course you don't see it. I myself don't see it yet but am willing to suspend disbelief because stuff Dave shines light on tends to be, like a flower, takes time to feel the impact.

  8. @don. no, its just a slideshow (aka screensaver). dave isn't as smart as you think he is.

  9. I am not!

  10. I really wish someone like you would get of their fat arse and actually try and do something instead of always criticizing people. Its always this is not good enough or he/she is awful etc. What have you ever done other than be a poor journalist and average blogger.

    Take a risk, come up with a unique idea, forgo your salary safety net and then we will see what you are made off. I am sick of people like you for ever looking at the glass as half empty.

  11. I haven't tried FlickrFan yet so I have no informed opinion as to it's value or not.

    However, I do have an opinion that a person should be able to express his own thoughts and opinions without being personally attacked.

    @Paul: Why can the merits of the product be discussed without using personal attacks?

    If FlickrFan is so great then argue that counterpoint to Mathew's post, if you can.

    Make you comments useful.

  12. That should be..

    @Paul: Why can't the merits of the product be discussed without using personal attacks?

    sorry..

  13. One could be just wrong over time, be it DW, or somebody else.

    We recall (vaguely, but i believe i've the screenshot on my harddrive)
    that once DW said he did not at all support anybody to do another
    feedburner equivalent, because there's already a feedburner, and
    it's only feedbunrer that's trustworthy (even though Feedburner was
    providing a pretty lousy service.)

    Until one day Feedburner got acquired by Google, and DW seemed
    to have changed stance…

    That's remembered quite clearly, because we gave up doing an alternative
    to feedburner (in mid 2006 or so), “because DW did not support it.”

    Thinking back, we were just so stupid, to think DW was God of some kind
    (much like the late Jon Postel of the late 80's and early 90's.)

  14. This is like watching history come alive again, as we're taken back in time to when Netscape was the king of browsers and introduced this thing called 'RSS'. Dave Winer gets a hold of it, adds a few tweaks and introduces The Next Great Thing. It worked, too–no one can deny that Dave's breathless promotion doesn't aid and abet the spread of RSS.

    Of course, over the years Dave gradually moves from being promoter to creator and inventor or RSS. The only thing is, RSS is now ubiquitous that no one cares who claims 'ownership' of the concept.

    Then there's OPML, which is really not a great XML vocabulary, but it is simple and has the benefit of being one of being real easy for XML parsers to process, and is effective for listing stuff, such as aggregator subscriptions and sidebar links. It won't go beyond this, and didn't revolutionize the world, as was claimed when _it_ was rolled out, but handy, and had the advantage of Dave's popularity to push it out to startups and others Who Need Good Will.

    Now, we're seeing the same thing with this, well whatever it is, if it isn't a screensaver, Flickr slideshow, RSS media reader. You listen to the hyperbole of Dave and friends, and you have to look at the application six or seven times because you know you must be missing something for it to generate the hype –but you just don't see it.

    It is something and it's cool Dave is giving it away free, but it doesn't rate up there with, well, renting movies on iTunes when it comes to being a 'story'. The app won't revolutionize a thing, other than for people who have enough money to go out and buy hardware just to run it. I don't know about you Mathew, but I'm not one of those with the extra bucks to toss away like that.

    However, after some tweaking, I did get it to work on my computer, only to have the first picture that shows up is a dead body with a bomb attached, being looked at by a bunch of soldiers. Huh. I didn't realize this was in my Flickr stream. I'm sure the kiddies would get a kick out of it.

    It is more than just pictures from Flickr and a screensaver, because Dave has integrated his OPML editing into a live media feed, which is cool. Presented as such, I think you would find that people would be less wary of the hype and more interested in the technology. The release is way premature, and the write up is confusing and there's a lot of links you push that cause 500 errors.

    But something to completely redefine your front page and make such predictions? I don't know if Dave can pull off another RSS. I rather doubt it.

    I realize now that when I quietly roll out this tech and that for people to use that I've made a horrid mistake: I provide a link, and description of what it is and how to use it. What I should be doing is telling people that I've single handedly redefined networking as we know it, and then brow beat the other popular people I know into helping me promote it.

    You know, steak, not sizzle?

    I knew I was doing something wrong–I always assumed it was about the technology, and the application.

  15. […] FlickrFan Is a Tremendous Advance – For 2001 Published December 28, 2007 Uncategorized Dave Winer released “FlickrFan” a couple days ago, a screensaver that pulls images from the Flickr API and sends them to your hardware display device of choice.  Except it’s not really a screensaver, not according to Dave Winer in a testy series of exchanges with Mathew Ingram. […]

  16. yeah! I don't get it either…

    http://tinyurl.com/22xmzh

  17. […] of this software. Oh, and I couldn’t get the OPML software to work right anyhow. [From A Flickr-powered screensaver? Incredible – – mathewingram.com/work] You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not […]

  18. You know there is a really good service called Photocastr that does exactly this, and you know, works. http://photocastr.quantumfoam.org/

  19. Thanks for calling what it is – a screensaver (so what it could be an HDTV screen – it is still screensaver). There are several products out there so the hype is just marketing and shameless self-promotion.

  20. Mattew, one of the problems of tech journalists/bloggers is that they do not see everything. This entry is just as silly as Duncan Riley when he proclaimed the new Hotmail should have been released with Silverlight, only 3 days after the presentation of Silverlight.

    Never possible!.

    In this post you don't see several things:
    – We're speaking about an 0.33 beta release to start with. Be happy if any version before 0.5 (let's be realistic and say 0.7) is widely usable, has an acceptable UI and is cross-platform.
    – Go read the feature list. I'll wait here. We're speaking about a free two way platform, completely open source, to flickr (and some more). Yes, this COULD become revolutionary. Think of the possibilities that it even might be turned in to an iTunes plugin and more. (I have no Apple TV and MBP is not linked to TV so couldn't say how easy it is to display HD pictures on TV).
    Imagine browsing your pictures/slideshow/screensaver/whatevah. They are backed up nightly in a folder monitored by Windows Media Player. By just dragging and dropping you can upload them to Flickr. Or better even, Dave also created XML-RPC, and already called this Real Simple Photo, so you can bet he might even implement the option to publish the pictures directly to a gallery on your blog. Actually I can see that this might already be possible on Mac (with Expression Engine CMS: I can easily have a folder which is regularly synchronized via Transmit FTP client and the EE photo gallery can be set to automatically import picture.) W00t, I just discovered how to painlessly backup my flickr account twice all while at the same time showing them off on our company's intranet.
    – Twitter, I bet soon also tumblr aso. All this can happen automatically if things work out well. (Dave, can I have some folder monitoring please with auto-upload to XML-RPC for new pictures, please? This could be awesome for a photoblog.)

    I digress. Both Marshall and Robert are hardcore RSS freaks, Marshall could even be called an evangelist. I'm sure they immediately noticed the potential of two way and how RSS (and OPML for that matter) can be used.

    Yes it's a big deal, options are endless, and who knows if Dave can pull it off once more? And he calls it a platform in his blog announcement. Open source. ;-)

    Let's just not forget this is version 0.33.

  21. @earl I only say it about Mathew because if you read his blog he is always negative and often without knowledge or fact. Read a few of his blog posts and then see why I made my comments.

    I wouldn't care but Mathew is loved by Gabe and gets on Techmeme so often now that people are beginning to take notice of his ill-thoughtout posts.

    @Mathew write about technology not gossip. If you did not like Dave Winer's product tell us why and what you might do technically different, given you claim to be a technology writer.

  22. An app called DeskLickr does the same. Mac only. I love it, but I think it is hardly a revolution. The homepage of my company's website fetches a random image from a group on Flickr dedicated to its employees photo hobbies. How about that?

  23. […] off there’s Slickr. I first saw the link to this in Matthew Ingram’s post about Dave’s application. I’ve downloaded and configured it on my laptop. The app is […]

  24. […] from Marshall Kirkpatrick, Mathew Ingram, and Om Malik among […]

  25. I tooled around with it for about 10 minutes before deleting the DMG. I don't really see the point, this stuff has existed for years. The AP feed was really cool though, so I wrote a Python script that syncs a local folder with its images. It updates via cron every hour so I get the same live screensaver but without having to run the OPML Editor (which seemed to hijack a lot of CPU, maybe because it's carbon and PPC?).

  26. […] Mathew and Rob I don’t get why this is so damn […]

  27. I've been campaigning for Barack Obama since he stated he was running for President. That is actually why I have been blogging so much. I have given him plenty of $$. I pledged to give him providian.com money monthly. Now, I am exhausted. November 4th needs to get here NOW! i look forward to hearing great things about your show!

  28. Rob Armstrong's pictures have appeared in publications such as Birds & Blooms Magazine and the Jackson Hole Explorer Magazine (including the current 2009 cover photo).
    flowers photographs

  29. Rob Armstrong's pictures have appeared in publications such as Birds & Blooms Magazine and the Jackson Hole Explorer Magazine (including the current 2009 cover photo).
    flowers photographs

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