I just got a new prime lens for my Nikon D90 and want to take it out for a spin. I also want to do a very casual social meetup with fellow local shutterbugs to do it. This raised an important question for me – when in Boston is the best time to go for a photo walk? Too early and you miss the good stuff, too late and you miss the good stuff, wait too long and everyone’s calendar is full. Naturally, I turned to APIs and RSS for the answer. Here’s how.

First, I want to take photos of flowers in Boston in the spring. Logically, I should be able to look at prior year data to see when the most photos of flowers in Boston in the spring were taken. This is where APIs fit in. Flickr and other photo services offer API interfaces. They don’t necessarily provide them very obviously because only a small minority of users make use of them, but for those of us who do, they’re invaluable. Here’s the Flickr API.

Flickr Services

Take note that you can query the API by tags and formats in a series of GET variables:

http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?variablesgohere

So I figured, let’s add the tags boston, flowers, and spring, and get the API results as an RSS feed:

http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?tags=flowers,boston,spring&format=rss2

We’ve got data!

Flickr Services

I know what you’re saying. That’s really unhelpful, and in raw format, it really is. Enter one of the many free timeline web services out there, xTimeline. I threw the RSS feed results into xTimeline and…

Flowers in Boston RSS timeline

Now I have visualized, clustered data. What does the timeline tell me? The people who took photos in Boston of flowers in the spring took a lot of them in the second and third weeks of April in years past. That, based on crowdsourced data, is when I should suggest mine.

So, if you’re game and the weather is game, let’s go for a walk with your digital camera if you’re in the Boston area on Sunday, April 19, 2009 from 4 PM – 7 PM. Bring your digital camera of any kind – iPhone, point and shoot, mammoth DSLR, whatever – out to Nobscot Reservation in metrowest Boston and let’s take some spring pictures and share what knowledge we have about how to take better photos!

This event brought to you by RSS, APIs, and nerds. By the way, you can do this kind of research with any RSS feeds or APIs that can generate RSS feeds. Give it a try sometime.

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