What’s wrong with this picture?
This Google Earth capture is an example of very poor geotagging etiquette. First, the number of images tagged to this specific location is almost unmanageble. Granted, I’m zoomed out quite a bit, but if one zooms in closer, the situation does not improve. All of these images are tagged to the exact same lattitude and longitude.
The second problem is that the photographer didn’t bother to change the default image filenames. "DSC0323" means absolutely squat to me, and probably doesn’t have any more meaning for the photographer. Most of the time this is a sign of laziness. However, in this case I happen to know that all of these images are part of an interesting photo essay on the filth found in Walmarts in our area. The photographer left no commentary on the images, but preferred that the images speak for themselves. I’d like to think that the lack of naming is intentional.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first "cluster of nothingess" I’ve found. Specifically for Flickr, if you’re geotagging your photos, you’re going to make them available to other viewers through some mapping program. It’s only considerate to avoid confusion. I think it’s high time someone laid down some guidelines for geotagging – a geotagging etiquette, if you will. I’ll start with the following suggestions:
- Get the location right – Make sure your coordinates are accurate. It’s frustrating to see an image in a location on Google Earth or Maps, knowing that the actual location where the photo was shot is miles away. I recently saw one photo of the Gaffney Peachoid tagged for a location just around the corner from my office. It’s actual location is about 30 miles northeast of where it was tagged.
- Name your images – A descriptive name is much more appealing when it appears as a Google Earth placemark. Personally, I hardly ever bother looking at images with the default names unless these are the only images available for a particular location.
- Don’t overtag – Let’s say you took a bunch of photos at Fort Sumter in Charleston. I’m sure you didn’t take all of the photos standing in one spot. At least make the attempt to tag the photos according to where the pictures were actually taken (see suggestion number 1.) This will avoid the confusing superclusters as seen in the image above.
- Geotag events only if they are specific to a certain location – Locations are germaine to certain events, and some events are more important than others. It’s probably OK to geotag Mardi Gras photos to Bourbon Street, or photos of a Cub’s game to Wrigley Field. I’m sorry, but the location of little Suzy’s 7th birthday party probably doesn’t need to be tagged, nor does your last Fourth of July cookout, unless the location of either of those events has some appeal to the general public. You don’t have to geotag everything that happens in your back yard.
- Geotag people only if they are specific to a certain location – This is similar to the suggestion above. Little Suzy and her friends at the birthday party don’t need to be tagged. Conversely, photos of people in context can tell lots about the flavor of an area. I have photos of some punk rockers at Trafalger Square. Both the location and the subject matter are compelling. Some may want to take the "we were here" photos, which I think would be acceptable in this context.
- Don’t geotag your home – A photo of my living room might reveal a decent TV, a good stereo system, and veritable shopping list of other items for potential thieves. No need to provide them with an exact location.
- Buildings, interesting locations, unusual sights are all worthy of tagging – Just keep in mind that these images are going to be seen by lots of people. There should be some compelling reason for geotagging that image.
These are just suggestions, and there are going to be exceptions. I guess the main guideline is to think about why you are tagging that image.
[tags]geotagging, Flickr, tags[/tags]