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iPad App: Flickpad
Digital cameras and online galleries have transformed how we take, organize, and share pictures. But part of me misses the simple, organic fun of casually sifting through a pile of photos.
Conceived and co-programmed in Hawaii, Flickpad offers a unique and instantly intuitive way to explore the photos your friends post on Facebook and Flickr on your iPad. While both Flickr and Facebook obviously have web interfaces, Flickpad takes a more human approach to browsing images. Which is to say, a slightly random one.
"When I saw the iPad, the basic concept for Flickpad immediately came to mind," says Chad Podoski, co-founder and developer for Shacked Software. "The iPad is a perfect size for a photo app and the multi-touch capabilities opened up the possibility for an immersive photo experience that had never before been possible."
I was eager to learn more. If you are, as well, read on for details on how you could win a free copy of Flickpad.
Code and Cameras
Podoski moved to Hawaii six years ago, after working for Nike at its headquarters in Beverton, Ore. Most recently, he worked for Blue Lava Technologies, developing the company's now defunct photo sharing application, ILovePhotos.
The intersection of technology and photography was a natural focus for him, as he's been an avid digital photographer for over a decade. His photo library is overflowing with over 35,000 images. Thanks to the web and social networks, he's immensely enjoyed sharing his pictures, looking at pictures posted by his friends, and giving and receiving feedback.
"I have been a Flickr user for more years than I can remember and have always really enjoyed using the site," he says. "Like most, I am also a Facebook user."
But the user experience on both services was missing something. So Podoski set about to shake things up with Flickpad. Once linked to your Facebook and Flickr accounts, users fire up the app and see a haphazard cluster of pictures, overlapping and askew.
At first, even I wasn't sure how the mess was an improvement.
"The choice to avoid the standard grid layout of photos for the primary interface of Flickpad is based on my belief that a grid does not best suit how people process visual information," Podoski explains. "Our eyes are used to scanning complex scenes very quickly and identifying areas of interest or beauty. It usually only takes a portion of an image or object for us to determine whether it is of interest."
Sure enough, upon launching Flickpad, your eyes are immediately drawn to a select few images -- even images that might be partially covered by another. In fact, sometimes only the corner of a photo can be enough to spark your curiosity. A splash of color, the edge of a cloud, a patch of bare skin.
The eye likes what the eye likes, and the randomness adds the perfect touch of fun, little moments of discovery that you wouldn't get from a boring matrix or list of photos.
"An added bonus of following this approach is that it allows us to show more photos at once, and at a larger size," Podoski notes. "Also, the ever changing nature of the layout of the photos keeps the interface from becoming stale to the user."
And since Flickpad is an iPad app, navigating through photos and calling up new images is as simple as moving them around or "flicking" them away with your fingers.
"The choice to heavily use multi-touch gestures ties back into the theme of making the app engaging and fun, as well as allowing the user to quickly process an ever growing number of photos from their online friends," Podoski says.
I did find at least one "grid view" in Flickpad. You get it when you browse the "Interestingness" gallery on Flickr, which displays the most popular images across the entire photo sharing network. Though they're not photos from your friends, they're almost always worth a lingering look.
Getting started with Flickpad comes naturally. But the app has a number of other features.
Flickpad supports commenting on both Flickr and Facebook, lets you mark favorite photos, and email or save photos to your iPad. You can browse photos from specific friends, block photos from specific people, and if you get tired of "flicking," you can activate a slideshow feature and set your iPad up as a digital picture frame.
Flickpad also has "fast user switching" so it can be enjoyed by multiple users of a single iPad -- a feature I wish all iPad developers would provide.
Podoski is half of the Shacked Software team. His partner is Dustin Bachrach, a senior studying Computer Science at Rice University in San Antonio, Texas. Bachrach has released a number of open source applications, and is a three-time Apple Scholarship Award Winner.
For Flickpad, both Podoski and Bachrach served as designers as well as programmers. And while Flickpad has done well -- the recently introduced Flickpad Lite has climbed as high as #2 in the free photo app category in the App Store -- it's not all the pair work on.
"In addition to our own internal apps, Shacked has also taken on a couple of local contract jobs," Podoski says. "We are developing a customer relations management Mac desktop app for a client that is located here and in Illinois."
And as of this writing, he teases, they are hoping to win a contract to build an iPhone app for a "beloved company with a long and storied history in the islands."
Try, Buy, Win
I enjoyed being one of the beta testers for Flickpad when it was only a Facebook photo app, and rejoiced when Version 2.0 added Flickr support. It was originally priced at $9.99, which is admittedly not as cheap as most photo apps. Right now, however, the price has been dropped to $6.99. Even better, you can try this innovative photo app for free with Flickpad Lite.
The Lite version is limited to two user accounts, five active friends per service, and five searches per app launch, certainly enough to see how Flickpad works.
But if you comment on this post by Saturday, Aug. 28, you could win one of two free copies of the full app, courtesy Shacked Software! Of course, you'll need an iTunes account and an iPad to redeem.
Here's a Flickpad demo video: