Flickr is a social networking tool for uploading, storing, and sharing personal photos and videos. The interface is intuitive and very user friendly, which has helped make Flickr one of the most popular photo and video sha rin g sites out there. As of October 2009, Flickr claims to host over four billion photos![1] Flickr isn't just for personal use, however. Flickr is a great tool for growing both small and large businesses. It is also being used by a variety of USG agencies to enhance the collective understanding of their employees and the public at large. The USG intends to become a stronger presence on social networking sites, such as Flickr, over the coming months and years. Due to this fact, you will need to know what Flickr is, how to use it, how it's already being used, and some of its advantages and disadvantages in order to be effective in today's government sector.

History and Background

Like many great inventions, Flickr was created quite by accident. It began as a tool to enhance online gaming at a small Vancouver, British Columbia-based company called Ludicorp. The tool would allow online gamers to share photos and save them to a website while playing Game Neverending, a massively multiplayer online game.[2] The owner of Ludicorp, Caterina Fake, and her husband, Stewart Butterfield, a programmer at the company, never got the game off the ground, however, they knew they had stumbled onto something big. They launched Flickr in 2004, and successfully attracted millions of users and the attention of Yahoo!, an internet search engine and web-based email provider. In March of 2005, Yahoo! purchased Flickr and relocated the owners and employees of Ludicorp to Sunnyvale, California. Since that time, Flickr has turned into one of the Web's fastest-growing collaboration tools.[3] "Butterfield says Flickr's biggest innovation came from recognizing the social nature of photography. 'It's meant to be shared, talked about, pointed to, saved, archived and available by as many means as possible.'"[4]

Key Functionalities

Flickr has a variety of features that allow users to upload and share videos and pictures with their family and friends. Users can also embed their Flickr pictures straight into their web logs (Blogs). In addition, Flickr allows users to search other photographs and videos that have been posted from all over the world. Below, we will take a look at Flickr's key functionalities so that you will be better prepared to use the tool in the workplace.


Flickr offers two types of accounts, free accounts and Flickr Pro.
  • Free accounts allow users to upload 2 videos and up to 100MB of photos each calendar month.
  • Flickr Pro accounts cost $24.95 per year and allow users unlimited photo and video uploads, storage and bandwidth. You can also show HD video with a Pro account and enjoy ad-free browsing and sharing.

Choosing an account depends on how you will use Flickr. If you're a professional photographer, for instance, you probably want to invest in a Flickr Pro account. However, if you're an average user of the site, a free account will probably meet your needs. You can always start out with a free account and then upgrade if you find that you want more options.


Once you create an account and establish your profile settings, you can begin uploading photographs into Flickr. Uploading photos is easy and there are several ways to do it. You can install Flickr tools on your PC or MAC for easy upload from your desktop. You can also email photos straight to your Flickr account, or use the most popular method, which is a web form that allows you to browse through your photos on your computer and select the ones that you want to upload to Flickr.

As you add photos to your Flickr account they will display in your photostream. "Your photostream is a visual history of everything you've ever uploaded to Flickr. In addition to your profile, your photostream is your public "face" on Flickr, though everyone enjoys a different view, depending on their relationship to you and your privacy settings."[5] If you have a free account, Flickr will only display the last 200 most recent images that you've uploaded to your account. However, if you have a Pro account, you will be able to see every image you've ever uploaded.

After you upload your photos, you can edit them. Just click on a photo in your photostream and crop, get rid of red eye, and add things to your photos.

Resources: - To read up on the various ways to upload your photos.

Photo Organization

There are several ways to organize your photos once you've uploaded them to Flickr. Within the tool, you can "tag" your photos and create sets, galleries, and favorites.

Tags are a way to attach metadata to your photos in Flickr. They help you organize and find your photos by attaching keywords to them. Depending on how you upload your photos to Flickr, there are a variety of ways to add tags.
  • Phone or email upload - To add tags when you upload photos via your phone or email, simply type the word "tag:" in the subject line or body of the email, followed by a list of keywords with which you'd like to tag your photo. For instance, if your photo if of the Washington Monument, you could tag it this way: tag:"Washington Monument" DC mall national.
  • Web form upload - To add tags using the web form upload method, simply add whatever tags you'd like to attach to your photo in the section labeled "Tags."

Later, you can find your photos by clicking on the tags you've attached to them. For instance, if you wanted to find all the photos in your photostream of Washington DC's monuments you could click on "mall" or "national," or any other tag you've used to identify photos relating to this subject.

In some cases, you can even add tags to your friends' photos, depending on the permission level they've granted you.

Sets are collections of your photos organized around a theme or an event. You are probably familiar with photo albums; this is essentially what a set is in Flickr. You can can create sets to document a recent vacation or to collect all the pictures of your favorite person or pet.

Delving a little further into organization, Flickr allows you to organize your sets into collections. Collections are groups of sets that capture a certain theme. Do you go to an annual family reunion or like to travel? Organize your sets into a collection called "Family Reunions" or your vacations into a collection called "World Travels."

Galleries are a unique feature of Flickr. Galleries allow you to browse through public photos and videos and collect up to 18 of them into a single place. You can be creative and organize photos and videos from around the world into particular themes, or completely randomly. You can give your galleries titles, and write introductions and descriptions about the photos and videos in the gallery.

Favorites are simply an easy way of bookmarking your favorite photos or videos that have been published by another Flickr member. Adding a photo or video to your favorites makes finding your favorite items easy.

Resources: - To read up on how tags work. - For more information on sets and collections. - For information on galleries.

Sharing Content

Another great feature of Flickr is the ability to share your photos and videos with family and friends.

Contacts allow you to add people you know to a list of individuals who can view your Flickr content. When you upload your photos or videos you can set your privacy settings to reflect who can view your material. You can make it public or control it so that only your family and friends can see your content. Once your family and friends add you as a contact and access your photostream, they will be able to see all the photos and videos you've designated for their viewing. In order for you to be able to view someone else's private content, that person must add you as a family or friend.

Guest Pass
You can also share your photos with individuals who are not Flickr members by selecting a photo, video, or set and clicking on "Share This" at the top right-hand side of the screen. You can then enter email addresses for individuals you'd like to share your content with and adding a guest pass.

Exploring Content

Flickr allows users to explore images from all over the world. You can browse interesting photos and videos from the last 7 days, by popular tags, a calendar of interesting pictures listed by day, a clock of pictures and videos from the last 24 hours, by maps, or by groups, just to name a few.

Groups are a way to allow you to meet people who share similar interests and/or hobbies. Groups can be completely public, public, but by invite only, or private. Members can upload content to a group site as well as chat via discussion boards embedded in Flickr. To search for a group, type a search word into the search box under Groups on the main navigation bar at the top of your Flickr page.

Maps are another interesting way to explore and share your media. You can geotag your content and add it to a map or search for other members' photos or videos on a world map. It's a fun way to explore where Flickr members have been.

Creative Commons
Another way to share and explore Flickr content is to offer it under a Creative Commons license. There are several types of licenses under Creative Commons that you can apply to your photos and videos. Depending on how others have applied the licenses, you can use their work to enhance your own projects, presentations, and reports.

Resources: - A helpful screencast on adding your content to the world map. - View media and licenses at Flickr's Creative Commons.

Examples in the Government Sector

Now that we know what Flickr is, as well as some of its key functionalities, let's look at some examples of Flickr in the USG.

The White House

President Obama is on a quest to fulfill his campaign promise to make the USG more transparent. In that vein, his aides are quite active on Flickr, among other social media sites. Get your fill of the goings on at the White House by checking out their official photostream at


Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has a massive project currently underway in conjunction with Flickr at a website called The Commons. This joint project was launched in January of 2008. "The key goals of The Commons on Flickr are to firstly show you hidden treasures in the world's public photography archives, and secondly to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer. You're invited to help describe the photographs you discover in The Commons on Flickr, either by adding tags or leaving comments."[7] For more information, explore The Commons at


National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

If you visit NASA's home page website you'll notice that this government agency is keenly interested in advertising their mission using Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr. As you can imagine, they have some pretty cool photos to share with the world. In fact, they have several Flickr photostreams available to the public. Their main photostream is "nasa hq photostream," which can be found at They also have a "NASA - Libraries and Archives in Second Life" photostream, which is available at "The primary mission of the library and archives at NASA CoLab is to house and make available to the public records and other documentation relating to the NASA CoLab organization in Second Life and of the historical events of human space exploration by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Its educational goal is to provide reference and outreach services including displays and programming."[8] The libraries that are available in Second Life, are also available via Flickr.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Like any tool, Flickr has its pros and cons, which are listed below. As you become more familiar with the Flickr, feel free to add to these lists.

  • No storage limit: Basically, you can upload as many pictures as you want; all you have to do is abide the monthly 2 GB bandwidth limit.
  • You can edit photo titles, tags and create photo sets.
  • Interaction: visitors can comment on your photos, make notes within the pictures and watch photo sets as a slideshow.
  • Visitors can subscribe to a RSS feed with your 20 latest pictures.
  • Your images will be resized for viewing on the web site, but you always have a safe and permanent backup of your original images.
  • It’s cheap: $24.95 per year is practically no money at all for all the functionality and storage you get.
  • It’s a very well used photo service if you want to get your pictures noticed by others.
  • There are countless third-party tools and software to work with your pictures.[9]
  • Creative commons - use it for work!

  • Uploading images. Flickr doesn't provide an official tool to batch download your pictures.
  • Flickr's web site doesn't always do what you want. After you edit pictures, you may have problems with links and title captions.
  • When watching a specific picture, you may not be able to see the rest of the thumbnails.
  • No keyboard navigation support.
  • The default title for an uploaded image is its file name.
  • You cannot give multiple images the same name.
  • The thumbnails on the slide show are quite small.
  • You cannot see the current image's title and caption in the slideshow.
  • No email notification if someone has commented on your photo.
  • Flickr Uploader is difficult to use on a MAC.
  • No control over the images in your home page.[10]

Activities and Assessments


Now that you've learned about Flickr, take the Flickr Facts Quiz to see if you need to brush up on your Flickr knowledge.


So, you've learned about what Flickr is, you've seen some great examples of how it's being used in the government, and now it's time for you to create your own team Flickr account, if you don't already have one! Welcome to the Flickr Webquest! During this webquest your team will create an account and complete several Flickr-related tasks. There are three main phases of the Flickr Webquest:
  • Phase 1 - Create and Research! Create your own team Flickr account. To sign up for an account, go to to get started. After your team has created an account, look around! Research everything you need to know about Flickr using the links above in the Resources section of each topic.
  • Phase 2 - Complete the following tasks:
    1. Establish your profile.
    2. Upload photos and/or videos.
    3. Establish a Flickr contact by finding the other team from class on Flickr. Give them permission to view your team's content.
    4. Create at least 1 set from your photostream.
    5. Tag at least 10 photos and/or videos.
    6. Send a photo/video or Set to a non-Flickr member using the guest pass feature.
    7. Add a Creative Commons license to at least one photo in your photostream.
    8. *Optional: Create a Flickr Gallery.
    9. *Optional: Add a photo to the World Map.
  • Phase 3 - Discuss! After you've created a team account and completed the tasks defined in Phase 2, share your team's experience using Flickr and how you are, or will use, Flickr on the job. Each response should be around 300-400 words in length. Post your team's response in the designated area of the Flickr Discussion Board.

Discussion Board

Share your Flickr findings with your colleagues in the Discussion area associated with this page. Each week one student will be responsible for formulating and posting a thought-provoking discussion question about Flickr and/or how it is used in the workplace. The remainder of the class is responsible for posting (1) response to the question and for posting (1) response to a fellow classmate's response.


  1. ^ 4 Billion Photos on Flickr from FlickrBlog
  2. ^ Graham, J. (2006, February 27). Flickr of idea on a gaming project led to photo website. USA Today. Retrieved from

    History. Retrieved from
  3. ^ Graham, J. (2006, February 27). Flickr of idea on a gaming project led to photo website. USA Today. Retrieved from

  4. ^ Graham, J. (2006, February 27). Flickr of idea on a gaming project led to photo website. USA Today. Retrieved from
  5. ^ Photostream. Retrieved from
  6. ^ Meg Pickard's Gallery. Retrieved from
  7. ^ The Commons. Retrieved from
  8. ^ Flickr: NASA - Libraries and Archives in Second Life. Retrieved from
  9. ^ These pros (except for the one we added at the bottom) are from: I'm on Flickr - Pros and Cons on Robert's Talk blog. Retrieved from

  10. ^ These Cons were taken from The Pros and Cons of Flickr, retrieved from