My funny machine tags in flickr

aperture keywords

People (ok, two so far) comment on my “funny machine tags” in flickr, such as “a:a=years” or “a:a=countries”.

There is a good reason for them.

My photo management app, Aperture, allows hierarchical keyword groupings, so I can group cities under states and states under countries and then I add city-specific buildings or whatever under the cities, e.g. england > london > london eye. Benefit of this is that I can just drag the “london eye” keyword onto the photo, and the entire hierarchy is included (or maybe not “included” but if I search for London, then it’ll come up).

The hierarchy also reduces the size of my top-level list – rather than having every city in every country I’ve visited, I just have a list of countries, and drilling down gives me the relevant list of cities and then a list of relevant places. The list is not only shorter:organization is improved as well.

But I travel a lot, so even a list of countries gets long, so I created a ‘countries’ keyword which I used as the top level for any location-based tag (e.g. countries > england > manchester > urbis). To mark them as special, and also to have them sort at the top (the list is alphabetic), I initially prepended a ‘%’ to the name.

Keywords are now all set for Aperture. The problem is exporting to flickr. I use ConnectedFlows’s FlickrExport for Aperture, which will upload the entire hierarchy of the tags I’ve included. And that’s great – except that the grouping keywords are not very useful tags.

There is a feature to exclude keywords, but what wasn’t indicated was that it only excludes (via regular expression matches) some of your existing flickr keywords, not the ones from Aperture. Sidenote: the flickr tag list is useless as it displays (and includes) tags with punctuation and spaces removed.

I remembered that flickr had recently introduced a minor feature to hide machine tags, which are typically added by … machines, which are in the form of thing:name=value. Thus, if I formatted my grouper tags as “machine tags” they’d still go to flickr, but they’d be hidden from view. I used ‘a:a=’ as a prefix to my group name so they’d all sort on the top of the keyword list in Aperture.

easy, eh?

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