1 Proteus 5 months ago Being a thread... • prompted by doing coverage for the Homecoming Roundup • offered as thoughtful reading for those who might consider bypassing the GDP's photo management for external hosting • contemplating the implications of doing so • suggesting reasonable guidelines for same • proposing modest revisions to the GDP photo-upload protocol which would reduce the temptation to link externally • opening a discussion on above bulletpoints. While I occasionally whine at seeming limitations in photo handling on the GDP, as I see it Bax does things as he does here for good reasons.One showed itself in Snorre's posting yesterday: when we link to a long list of externally-hosted images in a single post, page-load time can take a real hit, especially if they're very high resolution. I was a serial offender in this regard from 2007 to 2011 (or so) when I was doing a lot of event coverage, before Bax built the event-coverage section. I'd routinely link to excessive multiples of images in a post. (I did try to respectfully size them.)Relatedly, page-load time is partially dependent on how many TOTAL images are on a page. Forum pages here consist of exactly 25 posts. Bax's current limitation to ONE image per post (I wish he'd allow maybe 3-5) does make sense: it means that, if we follow the rules, there can't be more than 25 images on any one page. That keeps load-n-scroll reasonable for users on mobile devices as well as laptops/desktops.It follows that if we go around the rules and link to gobs of external photos in each of the 25 posts, a page could have hundreds of images, and be unwieldy on any device (especially before being cached in the browser). Even if Bax compromised with us and allowed 3-5 images through this interface, we'd potentially triple-quadruple-quintificate the load.Also to keep load time quick, Bax's interface automatically resizes images uploaded to the GDP to different sizes to be served to different devices - but they're all pretty compact. (I think 450 pix wide on my 15" laptop.) I'd like to see that bumped up a bit, but I'm not an experienced webmaster.Anyway, point is: both image size and image count matter. From my conversation with Col Baxter last night, he's apparently not going to forbid us from linking to external images. That's good, because it's often better for my sense of "storytelling" to group related photos with a particular chunk of text. I'll take advantage of that. But if we're going to do that, we should be thoughtful and moderate.Any resolution greater than 1200 pix horizontal is utterly wasted for screen viewing. Unless the image occupies the ENTIRE screen, we don't have enough available pixels on our devices to see that big an image anyway - so the GDP shrinks the view to fit the space. We never SEE the higher res. Thus the only impact of higher resolutions is to slow us down. (Higher res is, of course, relevant for print.)So I'm going to adopt a rule of thumb for my own linked image postings: absolutely no more than 1200 pixels horizontal (and usually 800). And I'll try to avoid putting more than 5 images in any one post.And I'll suggest that anyone linking in from a 3rd-party hosting site be aware of the responsibility to size images appropriately. I think most users are (if they've linked from external sites in the past) - but new photo-linkers should also be. Another reason for Bax's system - where images upload directly to the GDP - is to keep all GDP content ON the GDP's server. That gives the GDP a little control over its own destiny. We all see that when PhotoPukit went premium a view months ago, images disappeared from all over the internet, gutting the content of countless forum posts which are now much less useful than they were. Easy to see how that reduces the documentary and historical value of the site.I've always maintained my own hosting for photos (I didn't know any better when I started doing it), and so far I've kept those links live from 2008 onward, even when I moved hosting. It's a responsibility I think about every time I'm researching or exploring something online and come to forum posts or pages from the past and resources are missing, going to 404 pages or "sorry, image missing" or other such dead links. I figure if it was important enough for me to PUBLISH on a public medium to begin with, it's important enough to keep there. (How far does this responsibility extend? Must my heirs keep paying my hosting? When my hosting provider goes out of business, what happens? Who's backing up and archiving the internet, and keeping all links updated? This is a phenomenal medium we have, and could be technically and historically foundational far into the future - but its actual content is maddeningly perishable. I know smarter and more knowledgeable people than me are working on these questions. I hope they figure out how to keep a permanent record.)So, aside from philosophical considerations of our duty to posterity (or our selfish desire to sign the earthly guest book in permanent ink), there are costs in time to our linking in from an external site. At minimum we have to transfer our photos to that site, then get the linking code and paste it in here. To be good citizens, we also have to resize responsibly before we upload - whether with an online tool as Ric12String suggested in the Homecoming thread, with tools provided by the image host, or with tools on our own computers. (I make copies of my high-res originals, then batch-resize them in the Preview app on the Mac - but there are surely hundreds of ways to do this.)These extra steps all take time and add complication - so I always have to evaluate whether it's worth it for the task at hand. While I'm at it, a few words about photo prep. We aren't all trained photographers (I'm far from it), but we can all learn to pay more attention to our photos before we post them. Again, it takes time - but many photos could benefit from better "framing" in the camera to begin with, some attention to overall quality (exposure, focus, clarity, contrast), and cropping to guide the eye to what the photographer considers important in the image. Most modern cameras, under most conditions, make easy work of focus and overall image quality. Blur is still a problem in action shots or when trying to avoid using flash, and too-dark images get grainy. We ought not to post images that fail these tests - except in cases where we think the content is that important, and we have no better image.Most of my time in photo prep is spent on (in roughly descending order of importance to viewers): weeding out the obviously bad shots; deciding on the best of several alternate shots of the same scene; then cropping the good ones to what's important; then tweaking any technical image issues (brightness, contrast, sharpness). I rarely apply filters, but that's because in my perception reality is already all the trip I can handle.The last thing I do before uploading is resize (so that I'm not cropping after a resize, and thus reducing either the size or the quality of the image).The point here is that we ought all to have graduated from the random thoughtless snapshot school, and should give some attention to material we publish. I'm ALWAYS open to suggestions or handy tips for taking better pictures, and a better workflow to get them online. IF the GDP created larger images from our uploads (say up to 800px wide, or, ambitiously, 1200) and if we had the option of having more images per post, perhaps with a dedicated caption field for each, I don't think I'd ever feel tempted to go to outside linked hosting. (We can argugotiate over exact count of permissible multiples.)Assuming the hosting could handle the load, and page times weren't severely impacted (I doubt these options would be abused), it would be the best of all possible GDP-image worlds: still self-contained, but bigger and more immersive images, more flexibility in "story-telling."