Twitter improves the way photos are shown on its site

Twitter has changed the way images appear on its website. It used to display cropped photographs in rectangular grids; now it will show the entire un-cropped photo and collect multiple pictures into larger, more dynamic image galleries.
Product manager Akarshan Kumar said in a blog post that the update is part of Twitter’s efforts to move past 140 character missives. “While Twitter began as an all-text platform,” he wrote, “rich media has become essential to the experience.”

A before and after shot for how Twitter handles photos within a user's Twitter feed.

A before and after shot for how Twitter handles photos within a user’s Twitter feed.


Twitter has made other changes to pursue that goal. Its platform now supports automatically-playing videos, better photo-editing tools, and redesigned profiles that make it as easy to view users’ photos and videos as it is to see their tweets.
Perhaps the most noticeable change is the introduction of Moments, a new tool that makes it easy to view photos, videos, and tweets related to specific topics. I said the tool is Twitter’s trending feature done right; others aren’t as keen on it.
Given the mixed reaction to Moments, it’s no surprise that Twitter has swapped the tool’s position on its navigation bar with the notifications tab, which many people are going to use to learn about their new followers, likes, and retweets.
It’s hard not to see that change as underhanded. Combine the little blue line beneath Moments with its new position in a place where people used to find valuable information and this seems like a desperate bid for confused clicks.
The change to how Twitter displays images is a little more straightforward. It’s innocuous, for the most part, and earlier this morning I was asked if I wanted the site to continue to automatically “expand” potentially violent or sexual content, presumably because the update will make that content more noticeable.

Now available: OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 beta with new Photos app

Apple released a beta version of its OS X Yosemite software on Monday, making it publicly available to all Mac hardware owners for the first time, says iMore. Aside from expected stability fixes and performance enhancements, OS X 10.10.3 provides a first look at Photos for OS X, the new app meant to replace both iPhotos and Aperture.

To get the new version of Yosemite and try Photos, which was announced last June, you’ll need to register with Apple here.

photos for OSX iOS

Last month, MacWorld took an early peek at Photos and found that the app has elements of both OS X and iOS in it, as you’d expect; [company]Apple[/company] has been merging together elements from the desktop and mobiles for some time. For example, you can view and group photos by Years, Collections, and Moments, just like you can on an iPhone or iPad. While you can save and sync photos from an iCloud account, it’s not a requirement.

Image editing appears simplified as well, combining several elements from both the old Photos app and Aperture, which has more advanced controls and features. Editing menus include Enhance, Rotate, Crop, Filters, Adjust, and Retouch; each of which having multiple methods to tweak pictures the way you want to.

 

Apple previews its cloud-oriented iPhoto replacement for OS X

Apple announced a new cloud-oriented app called Photos last June at its developer’s conference, which we later learned would replace iPhoto and Aperture. The new Photos app for iOS came as part of iOS 8 last year, and on Thursday, Apple previewed its OS X counterpart in a new pre-release preview version of Mac OS X Yosemite.

Developers can download the beta version of OS X that includes Photos now. For non-developers, Apple had promised that the new Photos app would be available in “early 2015” — which we now know includes April, according to Apple. Previously, users could check out the web version of Photos at iCloud.com.

The key to the new Photos app is that is relies on Apple’s iCloud storage to sync photos from a user’s iPhone to her computer and vice versa. Cloud storage isn’t required for Photos to work, and all photos can be stored locally. But iCloud integration is likely to be most users’ favorite part of the new Photos app and the area where Apple has made the biggest strides. According to the Wall Street Journal, the new Photos app includes “some behind-the-scenes intelligence to prevent large collections from eating up” limited built-in storage space — like the relatively tiny 128GB hard drives that come with most entry-level MacBook models.

In many ways, the new Photos app is the completed version of the photo-syncing vision that Steve Jobs presented in 2011 and was internally called “Hyperion” at Apple. If it works as promised, it’s likely to convince a lot of people they need to pay for extra iCloud storage. (Only 5GB is free.) The increased number of synced photos Apple will be handling may be why it’s investing $2 billion in a new data “command center” in Arizona.

The Photos interface appears to be simplified and streamlined from iPhoto and the professionally-oriented Aperture. While it might be a godsend for many amateur photographers snapping shots with their iPhones, pros will probably move to Adobe Lightroom. (Adobe even recently released an export plugin for Aperture users.) But for consumers, has Apple finally cracked the problem of photo backups and syncing on smartphones? We’ll find out when Photos is officially released to the public later this year.

Magisto’s desktop app wants to edit all your photos and videos

The average smart phone user captures 150 photos every month. That’s 1,800 photos a year. Add a DSLR camera or maybe a GoPro to the mix, and you’ve got a whole lot of personal media. With any luck, it’s all getting backed up and archived on computers and external hard drives, only to never be seen again.

Mobile video editing specialist Magisto now wants to help users rediscover some of that footage. Magisto launched its very first desktop app for Windows PCs Tuesday. The app scans and analyzes a user’s personal media collection to turn it into shareable video clips, complete with soundtrack and professional-looking transitions.

01-magisto5.0_footage

Magisto has been doing the same thing with its iOS and Android apps for some time, and the company recently shared a number of interesting data points about people’s mobile media collection habits with us. For example, the average camera roll holds about 630 pictures. Compare that with your typical hard drive, which may contain hundreds of gigabytes of personal media, and it becomes clear why Magisto wanted to be on the desktop as well.

But it’s not just those photos we archived long ago that make the desktop so valuable to Magisto. The company’s CEO Oren Boiman told me during a recent conversation that he also views action cams like GoPro as a huge opportunity. GoPro users easily capture gigabytes upon gigabytes of video, but a lot of that footage isn’t all that valuable, and very few users have the time and resources to ever edit the highlights. Magisto’s desktop app can now make use of that footage by selecting the best moments, and editing them together to a small, shareable clip.

05-magisto5.0_events

Magisto isn’t the only company trying to solve problems around personal media. Google is also offering to automatically edit pictures and videos that are uploaded to Google+. But uploading large amounts of HD video still can be a burden for users, especially those with low upload speeds. That’s why a desktop app may, at least for now, be key to unlocking long-forgotten photos and video footage.

Special report: How we really use our camera phones

You didn’t need the latest wave of selfie sticks to know that personal media on mobile devices is huge. People are taking photos and videos all the time, and Instagram and Vine have become the new social media darlings. But take a closer look at personal media, and you’ll start to notice some very interesting differences.

iOS users for example are on average taking a lot more photos than Android users, and women are a lot more into collecting visual memories than men. Personal media startup Magisto has been noticing very distinct differences for some time, and recently, the company gathered and shared some of its data and insights exclusively with Gigaom. The results are surprising, and a must-read for anyone building products for personal media or social online.

Now, it’s worth noting that Magisto’s data is somewhat self-selective. The company makes an app that helps you to turn your everyday snapshots and video clips into short, shareable videos, complete with soundtracks and visual effects. It’s safe to assume that people who don’t take any photos at all wouldn’t download Magisto to begin with. However, the company decided to look only at new users to exclude any feedback effects of users taking more photos or videos specifically because they’ve been using the app. Altogether, Magisto analyzed the personal media habits of 66,000 iOS and Android users worldwide for this report.

average

First things first: We really do take a lot of photos. The average user takes 150 new photos during a given month, according to Magisto. That’s about 5 photos a day. Video capturing, on the other hand, is still a lot less prevalent, with users taking on average just 7.5 videos during a given month. In other words, for every single video recorded, people take on average 20 photos. And most of these videos are pretty short: Those 7.5 clips make up just 7 minutes of footage combined.

roll

People don’t just take a lot of photos every month, they also like to collect them and carry them around for some time. The average user has 630 photos and 24 videos stored on their mobile device, with those videos again just amounting for 23 minutes of footage total. Apparently, very few people like to record their very first full-length feature films with their phones.

But these are just worldwide averages, across different device platforms, age groups and gender lines. Dive down a little deeper, and you’ll start to see a lot of very different usage patterns. Let’s begin with one of the biggest lines dividing us as a people: iOS vs. Android.

iOS

iOS users take 65 percent more photos during any given month that their Android counterparts: The average iOS user takes 182 photos per month, while Android users only take 111 photos on average. That discrepancy continues when you look at the size of camera rolls on both platforms: The average iOS device holds 2.3 times as many photos as the average Android device.

There are a number of possible explanations for this. One is that the Android ecosystem doesn’t just include $600 flagship phones, but also very cheap devices, some of which can be had for $50 or less with a prepaid plan. These lower-end devices typically come with a lot less internal storage, which impacts their owners’ abilities to capture personal media. You just won’t take 180 photos a month if your phone constantly complains about running out of storage.

One could also argue that Apple has historically done a great job at making iPhone photos look good, which encourages people to take more photos. Again, some of the more expensive Android flagship phones also take beautiful pictures, but a cheaper Android handset may not.

Female

One’s choice of mobile operating system isn’t the only factor that influences personal media habits — our gender has a lot to do with it as well: Women take on average 47 percent more photos than men, whereas men take 15 percent more videos than women. And the biggest photo lovers are female iPhone users under the age of 25, taking an average of 250 photos per month.

Finding a good explanation for this may be even harder than explaining why iOS users take more photos than Android users (and your chances of offending someone are equally as high), but this discrepancy explains a lot with regards to the types of social and user-generated services popular online today. Just think of Pinterest, one of the most visual social content platforms online, whose user base is reportedly 80 percent female.

The slight male dominance in video recording is also interesting, as it could point to a perception problem for video that may have to do with the way it’s currently being presented in capturing and editing apps. Or maybe it’s just long-ingrained collective gender stereotypes. Just think back to your family parties back in the 1990s or even the ’80s, long before everyone recorded everything with smart phones. That cousin dramatically crawling on the floor with a camcorder in one hand to get the best shot? Likely a guy.

And just for the record: Male Android users take the least amount of photos, with an average of just 90 photos per month.

Male

All of those numbers are global averages, but there are also interesting regional differences. Magisto didn’t share too much of this data with us — the company does have competitors, after all — but it highlighted one interesting outlier: Mobile users in Japan capture a lot more media than anyone else.

The average Japanese camera roll contains 1,500 photos and videos, which is 2.3 times the global average. As in the rest of the world, women under 25 who use iPhones once again capture the most photos — they are just taking even more snapshots than their counterparts in the rest of the world. On average, young female iOS users in Japan take more than 300 photos a month – that’s about ten every single day.

Maybe the rest of the world will catch up to this behavior in the coming years — but it’s likely that differences along gender lines as well as mobile platforms will continue to be a factor for some time, giving startups some cues which users to concentrate one, or even which challenges to tackle in order to close these gaps.

Images and additional reporting by Biz Carson.

Lyve now works with Seagate drives, hints at more partnerships

Lyve, the personal media startup that introduced its own $300 photo-centric backup device last year, is getting a lot more affordable: Any Seagate drive that has at least 500GB capacity can now be turned into a Lyve backup device, the company announced at CES in Las Vegas this week.

Users just have to download the free Lyve desktop app on their Mac or PC to make use of the drive. After that, Lyve will automatically back up any photos or videos from that computer, as well as any media recorded with mobile device that has the Lyve app installed, onto that drive.

Lyve was first only available to consumers who purchased the $300 Lyve Home device, which is essentially a connected hard drive with phone-sized screen and Lyve’s media management software.

In October, the company also started to make its apps available to users who don’t have any Lyve hardware, giving them a way to organize all their media on multiple devices through one app, but not offering any back-ups. Late last year, Lyve also announced the $200 Lyve studio, which comes with only 500GB of storage, and doesn’t have a screen. Since the release of the free apps, Lyve has seen 250 million photos and videos added to its service, Lyve CEO Tim Bucher told me during an interview at CES.

With this new update, Lyve seemingly deemphasizes its own devices, but Bucher said that we can continue to expect new devices for Lyve. Some of these are going to be made by partners, he added, without elaborating further. Seagate would be an obvious hardware partner for Lyve; the hard drive maker has a significant investment in the company. However, Bucher said that Lyve may also team up with other storage media manufacturers to turn their external hard drives into Lyve storage as well.

Lyve also plans to release an SDK for its service in 2015, and the company is getting ready to update its mobile apps with tagging as well as photo editing features, which it is providing in partnership with Aviary. Users will be able to buy premium effects for editing through in-app purchases, and Bucher told me that there will also be other premium services this year. That’s why making Lyve more readily available via external hard drives will actually help the company to make more money in the long run, argued Lyve’s VP of Marketing Tami Bhaumik: “It allows us to accelerate our plans.”

Machine learning will eventually solve your JPEG problem

I take a lot of photos on my smartphone. So many, in fact, that my wife calls me Cellphone Ansel Adams. I can’t imagine how many more digital photos we’d have cluttering up our hard drives and cloud drives if I ever learned how to really use the DSLR.

So I get excited when I read and write about all the advances in computer vision, whether they’re the result of deep learning or some other technique, and all the photo-related acquisitions in that space (Google, Yahoo, Pinterest, Dropbox and Twitter have all bought computer vision startups). I’m well aware there are much wider-ranging and important implications, from better image-search online to disease detection — and we’ll discuss them all at our Structure Data conference in March — but I personally love being able to search through my photos by keyword even though I haven’t tagged them (we’ll probably discuss that at Structure Data, too).

A sample of the results when I search my Google+ photos for "lake."

A sample of the results when I search my Google+ photos for “lake.”

I love that Google+ can detect a good photo, or series of photos, and then spice it up with some Auto-Awesome.

IMG_20131226_121710-SNOW (1)

Depending on the service you use to manage photos, there has never been a better time to take too many of them.

If there’s one area that has lagged, though, it’s the creation of curated photo albums. Sometimes Google makes them for me and, although I like it in theory (especially for sharing an experience in a neatly packaged way), they’re usually not that good. It will be an album titled “Trip to New York and Jersey City,” for example, and will indeed include a handful of photos I took in New York, just usually not the ones I would have selected.

Although I’m not about to go through my thousands of photos (or even dozens of photos the day after a trip) and create albums, I’ll gladly let a service to do it for me. But it’s only if the albums are good that I’ll do something beyond glance at them. Usually, I love getting the alert that an album is ready, and then get over the excitement really quickly.

So I was interested to read a new study by Disney Research discussing how its researchers have developed an algorithm creates photo albums based on more factors than just time and geography, or even whether photos are “good.” The full paper goes into a lot more detail about how they trained the system (sorry, no deep learning) but this description from a press release about it sums up the results nicely:

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]To create a computerized system capable of creating a compelling visual story, the researchers built a model that could create albums based on variety of photo features, including the presence or absence of faces and their spatial layout; overall scene textures and colors; and the esthetic quality of each image.

Their model also incorporated learned rules for how albums are assembled, such as preferences for certain types of photos to be placed at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of albums. An album about a Disney World visit, for instance, might begin with a family photo in front of Cinderella’s castle or with Mickey Mouse. Photos in the middle might pair a wide shot with a close-up, or vice versa. Exclusionary rules, such as avoiding the use the same type of photo more than once, were also learned and incorporated.[/blockquote]

disneyphotos

It’s just research and surely isn’t perfect, but it feels like a step in the right direction. It could make sharing photos so much easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved. There’s no doubt the folks at Google, Yahoo and elsewhere are already working on similar things so they can roll them out across services such as Flickr and Google+.

Remember physical slide shows with projectors? The same rules still apply: Your aunt and your friends don’t want to skip through 5 pictures of your finger over the lens, marvel at the beauty of the same rock formation shot from 23 slightly different angles, or laugh at that at that sign that you had to be there to get why it’s funny. They want a handful of pictures of you looking nice in front of famous landmarks or pretty sunsets. Probably on their phone while waiting in line at the checkout.

I don’t always have the self-control or editorial sense to deliver that experience. I’ll be happy if an algorithm can do it for me.

How this Instagram-for-doctors is helping the ebola fight

Doctors without Borders, the esteemed non-profit that sends medics into developing countries, has found an unlikely ally in the war against ebola. It’s using Figure 1, a social network that bills itself as the “Instagram for doctors,” to recruit physicians to the cause. Figure 1 is giving Doctors without Borders free advertising in order to raise awareness of the mounting ebola crisis and prod potential volunteers to help in whatever way they can.

A nurse helps an ebola patient in Doctors without Borders' Figure 1 ad

A nurse helps an ebola patient in Doctors without Borders’ Figure 1 ad

The app pinned this picture of a nurse in New Guinea to the top of its feed, putting it front and center of its users. “It got a crazy amount of attention, over 15,000 views in 24 hours, which for us is quite good,” Figure 1 co-founder Dr. Greg Levy said. “All kinds of favorites and comments.”

Figure 1 was started to make it easy for doctors to educate themselves about new illnesses, procedures, and technology. Doctors and med students peruse a feed of injury and ailment images uploaded by other doctors, with all patient identifying features blurred.

“We had studied workflow behaviors of young physicians, keeping track of cases by taking pictures with their phones and sharing with their colleagues,” Figure 1 co-founder Dr. Josh Landy said. “We took a workflow that already existed and gave them away to have it searchable and protect patient privacy.”

Social networking, when developed for a particular profession, can sometimes create substantial value for their users. And as the Figure 1 – Doctors without Borders partnership shows, it can also create an unparalleled opportunity to reach a wide swath of such professionals.

As Figure 1’s user base grows, so does its power to reach medical professionals. Figure 1 has 150,000 doctors on the app, so it still has a ways to go. There aren’t a ton of up-to-date numbers on how many doctors are in the U.S., but the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics puts it at roughly 700,000.

The initial positive reaction to the Figure 1 ebola ad convinced Doctors without Borders to expand its partnership. The app is now helping it advertise new types of health techniques in Papa New Guinea. To combat tuberculosis, drones are bringing specimens from remote rural areas to the nearest hospitals for testing. Showing that activity to doctors in the U.S. keeps them abreast of the latest technology and — in theory — piques their interest in joining Doctors without Borders.

The drones that send TB specimen from rural areas in Papa New Guinea

The drones that send TB specimen from rural areas in Papa New Guinea