SM: Did you spend very much time learning how Flickr operated?
JH: I never spent very much time focusing on one specific project except when I was younger and I was programming. I had a lot of questions in my mind, and I am not a very organized person, so I spent time sorting things out in my mind. I was not making a precise study of Flickr, but I spent a lot of time using it.
SM: A lot of entrepreneurship comes from people just playing and tinkering with things.
JH: Another site that I liked a lot was Wikipedia, and I was really impressed by its growth. The personality of the person writing the article there is not important. If you participate and you know what you are doing, then you are contributing to something worthwhile. There is a big difference between participating in Wikipedia and participating in Flickr. On Wikipedia, at the end of your activity you have left something that adds value to the rest of humanity.
When the thought occurred to try and combine the two, I realized that it would satisfy my taste for the visual interface yet leave something substantial for humanity. The result was the idea that led to Fotopedia. The idea was to make a site that was like Wikipedia for photos. We use Wikipedia articles as anchors or like a dictionary. We then ask people to attach pictures to illustrate the concept.
The other side is that we give people access to creative commons pictures. That allows for reuse with no legal issues. When they want to use a picture for a place such as Katmandu they can do a search. The key part is that when you search and you see the results, you may find your picture is one of the fifty or one hundred results that were good enough to be included.
The most active people return on a daily basis. They look at all the pictures and look at the flow of incoming pictures. They validate the subject, and they can vote positively or negatively. This is how we have been able to accumulate 600,000 pictures. We have a lot of original pictures, very high-quality pictures.
SM: Who are the curators? Who are your active users and why are they active?
JH: The most active people are those living on islands. It is a way to connect with the outside world, and perhaps they have more time. We have a lot of islanders. We also have observed is that almost 100% of the time people come to upload their own pictures, and then they get hooked. They begin to understand that the project is greater than their own picture and in that essence they become curators. People can never stop taking pictures. Even if you have 5,000 pictures, it will take only a few months to upload your photos. Once they are done adding their pictures, they join the community and become curators.
SM: Who uploads pictures at Fotopedia, professionals or serious amateurs?
JH: There is a mix.
SM: How do they find out about Fotopedia?
JH: A lot of people come because those who already use Fotopedia have told others about it. We also get a lot of visitors from Google. We get people who were searching for a specific location. Today that accounts for about 80% of our traffic. Most of our traffic comes from multiple word queries which are very specific. We started gaining traffic in Google for searches on lesser known, exotic places. As we have grown then our results become more prominent in other searches as well.
SM: Is Fotopedia a nonprofit?
JH: Wikipedia is a nonprofit, but it does need money. Fotopedia is not a nonprofit. Wikipedia has to spend time raising money. It takes a lot of energy to do that. I am lazy. I think it is easier to run a business for profit. Even if it is a community site, I have to make money on it.