Great Scottish Run + Facebook: An experiment in crowdsourcing metadata

The Great Scottish Run took place on Sunday. Two races – a 10K and a half-marathon – happened under this banner and as always the Herald & Times photographers where there to capture the action.

As in previous years, we ended up with thousands of photographs. And, as in previous years, we made hundreds of those photos available to buy via our photo sales site. But the problem we’re always left with is one of discovery: without having the names and email addresses of those pictured, how could we let people know their photo is available to buy?

So, this year we’re trying a new experiment. As well as putting the pics up on our photo sales site we’re also uploading them all to Facebook. Users are able to ‘tag’ themselves and their friends in our photos with prizes available to act as an incentive. All the pics going up on Facebook have a unique reference number which allows them to be found quickly and easily on our photo sales site.

Adding this reference number was actually the trickiest part of the whole process – standard Photoshop actions, even combined with the new Photoshop Variables feature, don’t offer the flexibility needed for this. Instead, the solution was to script a Photoshop extension in Javascript that would extract the reference number, overlay it on the image and resize the output to a Facebook-friendly res. What… you can script Photoshop in Javascript? Who knew? Not me, until last week.

Anyway, it’s early days but it seems to be working quite well so far. The technology part was a breeze and should be reusable in future with mimimal effort.

Unfortuantely the Evening Times Facebook page was only five days old at the time of the Great Scottish Run, so we were a bit short of friends to give this a big kickstart. Hopefully we’ll be able to use this technique again in future to aid discoverability of our photo sales service.

If you took part in the run, go here to see if you can find yourself or your friends!