Organising images in a world of omnipresent platforms

Why Can’t I choose different or multiple programs to work with the same image database? Organising a growing personal database of images, photos and snapshots has become a problem of picking the least unsuitable platform. I want to instead find the most suitable application.

I’m starting to reach the limits of my patience when it comes to opaque tools. And specifically image organising.

Everyone with a phone made some time after the year 2000[1] deals with digital images.

But do we know where these images are, physically? Does it matter? How do we transfer them somewhere else?

And how do I find that one image of that poster that I took somewhere, can’t rememeber exactly when. Or where… But I know I want to reference for this current project.

Many of the tools available for organising images today are chronological and opaque. You put your files into the application and they become part of an application’s closed database. Stuck inside the system.

The files may be represented by real files on the computer (Adobe Lightroom, Apple Photos), but whatever organising you did in the application remains inside the application in a non-open way.

If I wanted to migrate to a different system, I’d have to write elaborate migration scripts, only to migrate to an equally closed system.

Enough with the closed system. They create an uneccessary dependency. I become dependent on them because they make it more than inconvenient to move to another system.

Little innovation is happening on the application front. There are few better tools around, but a plentitude of equivalent platforms to choose from.

Innovation on the application front will most likely benefit all users. We are currently dumbing things down so that ‘everybody can understand’.

This is part of an ongoing problem where ease-of-use trumps innovation and advanced features. It happens to go hand-in-hand with vendor lock-in. Ease of use is how some companies justify closed systems. And to make it that easy, and apparently seamless, they say we need closed systems.

We have few options. The different softwares are more or less the same. The applications aren’t in real competition with each other, there is no need for innovation because they know how difficult it is to migrate to other applications. Maybe because moving your files to another application means moving your everything digital to another platform.

It is the platforms that are competing, and there too, most of the mature ones are fairly similar. But why does my phone manufacturer lay the law for how I should organise my digital life? How did they make it so difficult to choose another way of organising?

Why do I need to lock in to a whole platform just to use an application?

If I have a top brand Android phone, I’m almost automatically signed up for all their cloud services, and my digital life starts syncing there. But I use a Mac as my personal computer. And I want to be able to use those photos on my computer too. After all that’s how I do a lot of my research, by taking photos with my phone.

But I am growing impatient, impatient that my photos are sucked into a black chronological box, impatient that I’m stuck with a whole platform to perform single tasks.

I’d love for my images to be available on my computer. And I want to organise them differently.

I want to see my photos in a different way. I want to be able to link photos manually. I want to be able to classify them using either my own computer, or a cloud of my choice.

I want to cluster similar images based on colour. I want to cluster them based on features. I want to cluster them based on shapes, or keywords.

I want to be able to see the image classification transparently. I want to be able to add to it. Add a colour, add a keyword, add other meta-data, so that I can organise them myself later on.

I also want the ability to reference other things. I want to link them to other things and I want other things to be able to link to them.

When I work on a project, I might want tot use a few clusters of images from a previous project in the research phase. But I don’t feel like there should be a need for me to make digital copies of these images just to make it happen.

This would be both environmentally sound and it would remove a lot of mental overhead in organising multiple collections of the same images.

But maybe I just want a subset of those images for my new project. I can do that too, by creating a new ‘cluster’, rather than deleting my digital copies.

Google Images is great for some things. They do image classification under-the-hood, so I can search for things like ‘egg’ and find (almost) all the photos I take of hard-boiled eggs.

They let me view a map over images I’ve taken with cell-phone reception.

And they let me organise images into arbitrary selections called albums that I can share with my friends.

All great, but I’d like to see all the keywords the classifier has added to my image! When I download the image to view on my computer, that data is not present. Why?

It does sometimes store the GPS location of the shot, so I can extract it later if I wanted.

Importantly, it automatically syncs all my new photos to a cloud somewhere and lets me delete the ever growing mass of digital information stored on my phone – freeing up space for more digital hoarding.

See note called In order of time, chronologically

Jeg begynner å nå min tålmodighetsgrense for opake verktøy. Spesifikt for bilde-organisering.

See XMP metadata.

Check out these applications



ExifTool by Phil Harvey