Archive for June, 2007

Mesa Arch

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

Mesa Arch Canyonlands National Park
Mark Zanzig/www.zanzig.com

Moab/UT, 16-SEP-03 – The morning sun delicately illuminates the Mesa Arch, creating a warm glow right below the arch. The arch is situated at the Canyonlands National Park, about 40 miles from Moab. Photographed using a Canon AE-1 Program camera on Fuji Sensia 100 slide film.
A shot from our 2003 trip to California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. The Canyonlands National Park is certainly one of the highlights of any trip to Moab. Arches are created by “differential erosion”, that is the washing out of softer sandstone from the rock. If the softer sandstone happens to be below the harder parts of the rock, it may be washed out completely, just leaving the upper part of the stone and thus creating the arches that are typical for this area of Utah. Photographers visiting Mesa Arch will have the best light in the morning, as this view is to the east, and the warm reflections from the rocks below will create the “glow” you see in the photo. The National Park is open all year, 24 hours a day, and subject to entrance fees.

Canyonlands National Park (official site)
Mesa Arch on Google Maps
More photos from Moab

Flickr lifts ban partly, but: too little too late!

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

It is strange that just about a week has passed since the revolt of Flickr users has started against the censorship practices of the popular Yahoo! owned photo sharing site. It certainly feels much longer. A quick wrap-up what has happened so far:

  1. Thousands of protest pictures have been uploaded to the Flickr service, clogging up user groups and making it even to Explore, the exhibition of the most interesting photos of the site.
  2. 10,000s of photos have been removed from the service by its members in preparation to leave the service, while thousands of users have opened new accounts with other services.
  3. The press have covered the topic widely across the world.
  4. A discussion thread of 4,976 posts had been created containing mostly critical comments and questions towards Flickr and Yahoo! management.
  5. The official German youth protection authority, jugendschutz.net, has told the press that the filters implemented by Yahoo! “exceed what is legally required” in Germany.

During the whole week Flickr management has been unable to provide satisfying answers to their member base. While they announced they were “trying to hammer out a solution”, the silence continued even following the statement from jugendschutz.net, a fact that has made Flickr and Yahoo! the laughing stock of its critics.

Today Stewart Butterfield, one of the company officials, has broken the silence and announced that Flickr have lifted their filters partly. The system itself remains unchanged for the time being, but from now on photos that are flagged as “moderate” can be seen by German users again. The filter settings apparently remain unchanged for users in Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong, where users were not as vocal as in Germany.

In a further update, Butterfield provides some insights into how the present solution was determined:

I’m not sitting in my office in California guessing at German laws, but working with local counsel in our German office (in-house and external) and elsewhere in the EU, along with German management and policy teams.

Nonetheless, the service is now facing further questions from the users, who think that the solution is lame and far from being satisfying – “too little, too late” is one of the complaints. The major concern remains that the efficiency of the filter solely depends on users labeling their photos correctly as “safe”, “moderate” or “restricted”. This, however, depends largely on the cultural background and does not take into account the legal requirements of specific countries like Germany. While showing a Nazi flag in the public is regarded as perfectly “safe” in the U.S. for example, it is strictly prohibited in Germany. Users with German accounts will still be able to access such photos, making the filter pretty much useless in terms of legal protection for Flickr. Also, instead of implementing a suitable age-verification system along a more refined filter, the solution presented by Flickr management is seen by the users as half-baked and embarrassing.

Over the week, the user base of Flickr continued to detoriate. Statistics provided by Flickr.com indicate that those using semi-professional and professional cameras have stopped contributing photos to the service. Here is a chart showing, for example, the share of uploads over the past 12 months of those using highly popular Canon DSLR camera models like the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (aka 350D) and XTi (aka 400D):

Canon Cameras becoming less popular with Flickr users
Source: flickr.com

The graphs look similar for other major camera manufacturers, and critics of the censorship celebrate this as victory over Flickr. They claim that those users who contributed the most interesting pictures (from a photographic point-of-view) either hold back their uploads or have already turned away from Flickr. But only Flickr knows the real numbers, and the damage caused by the unfortunate censorship debate.

Critics say that Flickr already lost the battle, regardless of having lifted the filter to some extend. The damage has been done, and the trust has been lost within the community. And thus, over the weekend, the blogosphere has already begun discussing where to go, not if to go. Flickr seems to be a bit tired of the discussion as well. Staff member George Oates says:

“Seriously – if people are so entirely upset by what we’re doing here, they should look for a place that suits them better.”

Stewart Butterfield, the CEO of Flickr, explains in an update:

“From my position, as the one responsible for the decisions we make, I know that we have to take into account the biggest picture and the longest view. And that’s what we do – it’s just not going to be for everyone.”

(Please make sure to also read this translation of Butterfield’s post.)

And so the censorship discussion will leave its traces within the service: where once talented semi-professionals and professionals presented their portfolios to the world, now moms and pops will share and discuss snapshots of their families and pets. While this target group is certainly much easier to manage, the service has lost its appeal to many who contributed to its success.

Happy Birthday, Munich!

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Each year in June, the City of Munich/Germany is celebrating a giant birthday party. Founded officially in 1158, the city is now in its 849th year. There is nothing too exciting about the event itself, though. You have some free music (with both rock bands and humptah bands playing) plus the usual assortment of stands offering food, drinks, and artwork. The visitors are mostly locals, with some tourists as well. At least some folk groups show up in historical frocks, but again nothing too exciting. The weather was quite beautiful, but I was not in the mood to do a lot of shooting.

I just hope it will be more exciting next year, when it is the “round” 850th birthday.

View across Odeonsplatz
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Historial Frocks and a Horse
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Humptah Band Playing on Marienplatz
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

More photos from Munich

Keeping the Masses in Check

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Just to put a little perspective on my book review of State of Fear published earlier today. The partnership between politicians, journalists, and scientists is working quite well in Germany. I found the picture below in my photo archive, dated 07-APR-07. BILD is one of the leading newspapers in Germany, very popular with non intellectual readers (aka The Masses), and the headline says: “New climate report shocks Germany. How we have to change our lives now!” All thanks to the recent reports on global warming. It’s working beautifully already.

So müssen wir jetzt unser Leben ändern!
Mark Zanzig/zettpress