picNiche Contributor Toolbar Survey Results

First off, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to fill in the picNiche Contributor Toolbar survey over the last month. The feedback is greatly appreciated, and I’d like to share the nuts and bolts of what I learned, and how picNiche is likely to develop in future as a result.

The charts shown, display each slice proportional to the entire subject, scored by the priority for each selection. ie. a need counts as a higher priority than a want, multiple wants carry more weight than a single need, collated over the entire dataset. For example: the usage figures treat each tool as though it were scored independently of the other tools. (Hard to explain, but easy to see in the charts).

Current Usage

The current usage of each feature in the toolbar gave me some surprises. I expected the Earnings Tracking to be much more used than the others as it’s the main function, but I didn’t expect Announcements to rank so highly (I’ve always considered it a tertiary function). For such a simple (and underexposed) tool to be ranked this high means I will have to improve the visibility of the tool to buyers to increase it’s effectiveness.

Likewise with the Upcoming Events calendar, I figured this was an ‘occasional’ use thing, but lots of people seem to use it regularly. As a result, I’ve updated the calendar (will be out on auto update soon) with accurate dates and events for the coming 18 months, included country information where relevant, and increased the total number of events listed from around 800 to a staggering ~4000 entries.

I had expected the workflow benefits (ftp, workflow scripts and keywording) to be more highly ranked, though they’ve made rather stagnant progress as I’ve limited development of those parts in the toolbar whilst I’ve been building the picNiche Image Deck. From additional comments in the survey it’s clear the keywording tool has been overshadowed by other more well-known alternatives (such as Yuri’s tool).

From a technical standpoint, I think the keyword quality provided by the picNiche data is high and ‘market relevant’ with non-english keywords also available. I’d be willing to bet it’s poor usage is mainly a result of a poor user-interface (my UI-design skills are quite limited to say the least ;)), so that will be getting revamped as part of the Image Deck too.

As for the blog poller and image search, there will be some minor improvements, especially to searching from the buyer bar, but on the whole the response on those aspects came out where I expected it to, so may be tweaked but won’t be hugely changed immediately.

Desired Improvements

Getting a bead on what people want from future improvements is critical, and I’m glad to say that these results confirm what I’ve been told by a lot of people via email and through the suggestions box.

A LOT of people want to track their earnings and their portfolio more carefully. This is the really tricky part, and I discussed this aspect in detail a few months ago on the Microstock agencies: Help me to help you! post.

To build this functionality, without crippling agency websites: I’m currently investigating the possibility of building and opening up a simple ‘agency-API-kit’ which would allow agencies to host a simple contributor-api, where each agency can securely make certain functions of their site available for third-party applications to work on your behalf without it needing a big investment on their part. There are a few agencies loosely interested already, though nothing solid set in stone. If you would like the agencies you deal with to get involved, help me out by asking them, give them my details or send them here and ask that they get in touch to find out more.

As mentioned above, workflow improvements and keywording will become a part of the Image Deck, along with categorisation and image status tracking where possible.

Comments on the survey about the rest (configuration, notifications, rss poller, and user guides) indicate mostly that user-interface improvements are needed. Many questions included were asking for benefits to be included which are already there, which makes it very clear that the interface is not communicating the many things it does clearly enough. I’ll start to resolve this soon by making a detailed “Tips & tricks” post, FAQ, guide or screen cast.

Automatic Updates

Updates are a tricky issue, on one hand I need to be able to put out fixes for site-changes as quickly as possible, this is something the Mozilla site cannot often do as their addon reviewers are spending their time like me, voluntarily. To top that they are making changes to the Mozilla addons site soon which may see their reviewers even more swamped with code to check.

On the other I need you to know for certain that my code isn’t doing anything dodgy. For some people their entire livelihood depends upon their microstock earnings, so taking any risks with security and trust is a huge no-no.

The results from the survey are favourable, and shows that the code is currently quite well trusted, though it’s not unanimous so I will not be hosting updates on the picNiche server immediately.

If a change or situation does arise in future where fast updates become critical I may move it to local hosting instead of AMO. The code will still be checkable by any developer (as Firefox addons contain their source code), but it would also be accompanied by publication on the web of the source and relevant notes/docs for other developers to investigate.

Agency Distribution

The purpose of asking for agency information, is to ensure that the needs of submitters are being met on all the major sites. Given my very limited resources (ie: just me and my pc for now ;)) I don’t want to be neglecting a site or sites which should be getting more attention.

The chart shows the 6 major agencies covered by the bar taking up almost 3/4 of the pie. The distribution among them is pretty much as I expected. Canstock Photo will be getting a little more attention in future as the Image Deck develops, as will the others included and provided as comments in the other field.

It’s interesting to see that not a lot of iStock contributors use the toolbar relative to their market-share, I assume this is mainly due to high instances of exclusivity among much of their contributor base and the use of DeepMeta instead of a generic agency-independent tool.


I’ve learned a lot, and there’s still tons to do. I’m grateful for the feedback and it’s good to get a firm direction on what’s needed. If you think I’ve missed anything major here, comment, email, file a request/bug on the picNiche issue center, or re-fill the survey and I’ll update what I’m working from.

It will take time, as I’m not exactly ‘staffed’ here 😉 So I’ll keep asking for your help in future, but in exchange I’ll do my best to keep on listening to what you need 😀


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One Comment

  1. grateful
    Posted April 28, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Excellent work. Nice to see the results of the survey laid out with such clarity. The time and effort you put into the toolbar is much appreciated.

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