I’ve written a plug-in called MathMap for the popular image manipulation program The GIMP long ago and have worked on it on and off ever since. Rather than doing a specific effect MathMap is a simple mathematical language which can be used to specify a huge number of different effects (here are some examples).

MathMap has been used to illustrate complex functions, to generate weird Mandelbrot fractals, to analyze X-ray images of crystals and now seems to be very popular on Flickr to create Escheresque images – there’s even a group for those images!

Eternal Scream 3 (Alpha Blending)
Photo by Josh Sommers

If you want to try out MathMap for yourself, get it here if you use Linux (or MacOS X and you really know what you’re doing). There’s also a MacOS X version with a much nicer GUI, and an unofficial Windows version.

What the Hell is up with Flickr?

Flickr have just announced that they put limits on the number of contacts a member can have (3000) and on the number of tags for a photo (75). These are rather generous limits, but they do present problems for some users. In most cases, those users use contacts to allow people to look at their private photos (usually nudes, which Flickr is picky about, and it’s a little dangerous to not make them private), and despite lots of requests that’s the only way to currently do that.

What really puts me off is the reason for introducing the limits. They say it’s to improve Flickr’s performance, because lots of contacts makes calculating permissions slow, which shows more about their dedication to Flickr than anything else. Usually, when you want to improve the performance of a system, you make the implementation faster, not put limits on your users. And as a software engineer I can attest that if they can’t (easily) solve that problem they’re either incompetent or just don’t care.

Or maybe they just don’t have the time. They might be more busy with blocking people from public search and kicking members out. Those activies seem to be among their more popular pastimes. Implementing new stuff certainly isn’t – Flickr hasn’t had any major new features in ages.

Some alternatives solutions have been proposed, but the Flickr people persist that this limitations are necessary.

All in all I’m very disappointed with Flickr. The community is great, but management, or whoever is responsible for those debacles, sucks big time. I hope Zooomr gets their shit together and implements some much-needed community features soon.