I am a fan of Flickr and think it’s a wonderful place to store and tag photos. Recently I’ve been wondering about how useful Flickr is as an entomological resource and thought of a few questions:
- How many new insect photos are being added daily?
- How common are misidentifcations?
- How many insect photographers add geographic data (geotags)?
- What is the number of unique insects represented on Flickr?
- How could Flickr be used in an insect-based meta-analysis?
As I wrote this there were (searching everyone’s uploads with no filter):
- 839,123 results for ‘insect’
- 28,014 results for ‘hemiptera’
- 1,673 results for ‘pentatomidae’
- 816 results for ‘palomena prasina’
Flickr map of Palomena prasina © Yahoo 2009
I found that there have been around 1,000 extra hits for insect everyday in the past week and that searching for ‘palomena prasina on the Flickr map gave ~217 results (depending on the type of sort) which were spread around the UK, France, northern Spain, Germany, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands.
As I browsed through general search results for the Palomena prasina photos, I saw a few that were obvious misidentifications. I think that misidentifications are probably the biggest limiting factor that would be hard to control if you wanted to use Flickr tags/information in an academic way. Whilst there are plenty of very knowledgeable Flickr entomologists, it’s hard to know which photos are identified correctly.
Whilst the map search was interesting, it wasn’t overly useful in it’s basic form. I think that a more sophisticated map search might be possible using of the Flickr API, but you would still be limited by the proportion of images that have geographic data.
Finally, everyone tags and organises their photos differently. I try and enter in as much information as I can without it being too long or bothersome. For an insect shot I try and include: country, county, area name, specific location (like the nature reserve), class, order, family and genus+species. By doing this I can search for particular insects in different areas quite easily. I started added a few six-figure grid references to the images, but as every specimen has a map location, this isn’t a priority for me.
I feel that Flickr could be used in a more powerful way and have a few ideas how, but I’ll save that for another post.
For now, why not check out some of the Flick insect groups? I’ve linked a few below: