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Bootstrapping thumbnails for photo apps

Sunday, December 28, 2008 by Dave Winer.

A picture named trpar2329681.jpgYou know I like Tweetree, I gushed about it yesterday. The main thing I like is that it gives you a graphic view of things you link to from Twitter messages. So in addition to seeing a URL, you also see a visual image of the thing it points to. This is especially nice when pointing to a Flickr picture. But what about other photo storage systems? Will Tweetree have to implement special support for each of them? And what if I create a new app, how long will I wait for them to support it. Probably not very long now, because they're hungry, but what about when they're rich and famous? Maybe they'll think that supporting the big apps is all they have to do.  Permalink to this paragraph

Anticipating this, and wanting to make it easier for everyone, and making innovation by small unknown developers possible, let's get started with a bootstrap for new photo apps to say to Tweetree and comparable services: "Here's a nice thumbnail image you can use to represent the picture on this page." Permalink to this paragraph

HTML provides a simple mechanism for just this -- the <link> element. I've added one to this page, as follows: Permalink to this paragraph

<thumbs:thumb url="http://static.flickrfan.org/afp/thumbnails/2008/12/28/trpar2329681.jpg" type="image/jpeg" width="150" height="87"> Permalink to this paragraph

You can see this by viewing source on the pagePermalink to this paragraph

Now when I link to this page in a Twitter post, and Tweetree sees it, they can, instead of displaying the full picture, which in this case it is hard to find (and if they find it, it's HUGE way too big to display inline), they can show the thumb, and link to the page with the full image on it. Much more managable. Permalink to this paragraph

Now let's see if the Tweetree guys play. I've been trying to get the Twitter guys, and then the FriendFeed guys to work with me, but so far no luck. But I think these guys may be more willing to do a bootstrap. Permalink to this paragraph

BTW, Scoble says he wants to do the same thing for videos. Makes perfect sense. Everyone can play the bootstrap game. Scoble get your web guy to add a link element in each of your web pages that contains a video like the one I've added, except the type should be video/mpeg or video/quicktime or somesuch. Permalink to this paragraph

I love bootstraps cause they yield open web ecosystems when they work. Let's see if we can get one to work. ;-> Permalink to this paragraph

PS: December is historically a very good month for bootstraps on scripting.com. Here's the archive page for 12/27/97. Look at the first item. That's the beginning of RSS. ;-> Permalink to this paragraph

Update #1: Zach Beane makes a very good point, I had invented two attributes of <link> and that's a no-no. I either have to use what's already there and that would involve putting the width and height into atts that aren't named width and height, or do it the right way, and create a new element for this purpose in a namespace, which is what I have done in the second iteration. It's what I would want someone extending RSS to do, it's the respectful way to do it, applying the Golden Rule. So I defined a namespace, declared it in the <html> element, and used it in the document <head>. Permalink to this paragraph

Update #2: If this were working now, this tweet would appear in Tweetree with a thumbnail in addition to the link. Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

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