Friday, August 27, 2010

To Blip or Not to Blip... is no longer the question.

1.    a spot of light on a radar or sonar screen indicating the position of a detected object.
2.    a temporary or insignificant phenomenon, especially a brief departure from the normal.

If you’re not familiar with the term, then you do not have friends or family who have succumbed to the addictive power of

Started in Scotland by a man who created a website to upload and share one of his photos per day, the site expanded in 2006 to allow others to do the same. Like a virus, Blip spread through Europe, Asia, Australia, and made its way to North America. The stats of where these blippers are and how many there are would be fascinating, but Blip does not disclose that information. The bulk of subscribers appear to be located in Europe and I haven’t come across any journals from South America yet.

Blip has rules, some of which are applied concretely and others a little more subjectively. First and foremost, the photo uploaded must be a photo taken that day. You may upload a photo for last Wednesday but it must have been taken last Wednesday. Be sure your camera date and time are accurate or you’ll receive a message that your picture wasn’t taken on the day you are claiming. If they believe your explanation of an inaccurate camera date, your photo will appear.

You may subscribe to a person whose photos, or journals, are interesting to you. They may or may not subscribe back. Like a facebook friend request ignored, or a “follow” on Twitter that doesn’t get followed back, it may seem like a virtual slap in the face (thanks for the friend request / the follow / the subscription, but you’re not worthy of my attention - ouch!).

But time management can also be an issue. How many people can you subscribe to and comment on with any regularity? Some people upload a photo every day and others post sporadically. Either way, you could spend all day looking at photos and posting comments.

Some journals are worthy of a subscription regardless of whether or not they subscribe or comment back (depending on your photography interests). Follow the blips of a soldier in Iraq; a photographer capturing daily life on the streets of Cairo (oops - account suspended!); a woman exploring the people, food, and ruins of Tuscany (Rest in Peace, Molly); a Dutch captain of a ship in the North Sea; or a woman sharing her rural life in New Zealand. 

In Blipland, it’s not just about the photos. Many people create stories or poems to accompany the picture. Others post appropriate quotations or songs, or provide historical information to enhance their photos. Some write-ups are very personal and relate traumatic events that have occurred or are occurring. Check out the Spotlight Feature and you’ll see a lot of so-so photos with fascinating or very personal stories. You will also see some extraordinary photos without much text at all.

The formula for reaching the Spotlight page is known only to Blip Central. It's an automatic  mathematical configuration based on views and comments, and perhaps, ratings. If a photo is awarded five stars, and by the more people the better (you have no idea how people have rated it and who they were), the threshold for hitting Spotlight is much lower. One of my rated blips hit Spotlight with 89 views and 22 comments. An unrated blip recently arrived on the Spotlight page when it hit 117 views and 31 comments.

5/9/11 Update: The "automatic formula" has now been disproved. They modify and moderate. They have also raised the bar for hitting the Spotlight.

The other scenario is that ratings are not involved, just the views and comments as they compare to other blips of that day. Your image can hit Spotlight but as soon as another image tops your mathematical total, you're off the page. There's also a time limit, somewhere under 24 hours, for your photo to reach the Spotlight threshold. You may have a fabulous blip that day but if other blippers do too, and blip world is active with views and comments, you may not ever hit the page. Images drop off automatically after a certain time period, if they haven't already been pushed off by others.

And here's a third observation/theory: if you don't comment on other journals, the threshold for hitting Spotlight is lower. So if it is important in your mind to hit Spotlight, you are in effect encouraged to make few, if any, comments. This seems like an unfriendly blip idea/procedure.

Membership level defines the depth of your activity on Blip. If you are a paying member, you can “favorite” someone’s photo and upload a picture starting from the day of your birth, assuming you were there to take a photo (okay, you’re taking a photo of the old photo :). Otherwise, you may upload only from the date you subscribed. Everyone gets to award one to five stars on any photo. And there are some (one?) who will reduce the number of stars awarded to a photo. This affects the placement of the image on the Ratings page, i.e., your photo may have moved back a few pages. Disillusioned with having awarded stars later reduced by someone else, some blippers remove the ratings option from their journals.

(March 2011 Update:  star ratings have been revised. You now have the opportunity to award stars on each image but can see only the stars you have awarded. The image-taker sees the total stars awarded but still not from whence they came, unless the commentators have stated so. In effect, the star-reducers now only add to the total stars award.)

Composite photos or montages are permitted so long as each image was taken that day (at least those are the rules). Usually, a current photo of an old photo is passable as is a photo taken of your computer screen displaying an older photo. But if you don’t write up an adequate context for it, Blip might suspend it. You may link to your other uploaded photos (on Flickr, Picasa, TwitPic, etc.) but need to avoid linking to “commercial” sites, the definition of which can get tricky. There are trollers out there looking for "cheaters" (get a life, trollers) to report to BlipCentral. At times the application of the rules can be a little fluid but Blip attempts to keep any disagreements private (there was a recent public exception to this philosophy). Controversial forum threads get “locked” to end the discussion. 

There is a great divide between "oldies" and "newbies" that you can see by looking at subscribers/subscriptions. Otherwise, people seem to stick together by interests.
Here’s the upside: you will look at the world around you through new eyes. You will observe things and people you otherwise would not have noticed. You will make friends and see parts of the world you would never have otherwise seen. On the whole, it’s a very polite community. You may receive a little constructive criticism here or there (some blippers remove the comment capability after receiving less than welcome statements). Generally, people here are just nice, and very encouraging.

The responses give you a sense of who is out there and when, and I believe that Blip never sleeps: when Europe goes to bed, North America carries on, and as they turn their lights off, blippers from Asia are turning theirs on; next up, the Mideast. 

Blip on, my friends.

8/24/11 Update: After I hit 365 blips in a row, I decided to back off from what now felt like an obligation to post and to comment. I also reduced my subscriptions to alleviate what had become to feel like a burden. So now I post when I have something, and I comment when I can. I had to take my life back from blip...


  1. Interesting blog. I subscribe to several journals whose owners have not subscribed to mine; the fact that they are not interested in my pictures does not offend me, and I really feel that, as you say, it is easy to become overwhelmed if one subscribes to too many. I have only twice been offended; once by a popular blipper, who, when I disagreed in a very polite way, with a generalization he made, whilst explaining that I was in no way criticizing his actions, deleted my comment - so arrogant. The second time was with the powers that be; also arrogant to lock a thread before anyone had an opportunity to weigh in. This last has left me feeling disillusioned; it is always sad to find that something one thought pretty near perfect, has faults the same as the rest of us. I imagine that one day, like an old soldier, I shall fade away.

  2. Great write-up, it being fair and honest assessment, warts and all....way to go! Blip isn't perfect but I'm pretty sure no online community ever could be (not only are there always prats out there but I'm the eternal pessimist!), but it gets pretty close.
    (mo aka meancoast)

  3. Thanks ionnature
    I learnt more about Blip in 5 minutes on here than all the time I have so far been on Blip.