14 Apr 2009 picNiche Toolbars
Mashup developer, Bob Davies, creator of the picNiche.com keyword tool, has created two microstock FireFox toolbars. One for microstock contributors and the other for microstock buyers.
The contributor toolbar is designed to make life easier for microstockers. It automatically checks your earnings, provides an FTP upload tool within the browser, notifies you of sales and image approvals, and partially automates submit pages. Additional features include news updates from relevant microstock industry publications (including this one), a global event calendar, and a killer buyer request facility. Let’s take a closer look.
Toolbar and Sidebar
Many of the toolbar’s tools appear in the sidebar, which can be hidden and revealed by clicking the picNiche button in the bottom-right corner of the browser window. The regular toolbar at the top can be shown or hidden using the regular methods.
Notifications for sales, review results, or new posts from any monitored blogs all appear as small pop-up messages in the bottom-right corner of your browser. There’s also a handy log of all notifications when you have the picNiche sidebar visible.
At the top-left, the toolbar displays the earnings balance of up to six of the top microstock agencies (supporting: Fotolia, Shutterstock, iStockphoto, Dreamstime, BigStockPhoto, StockXpert and 123rf). You can set which of these agencies are included and how often the earnings balances are updated in the configuration (see below)
No microstock utility is complete without its own keyword tool. The picNiche toolbar’s keywording tool uses data from the picNiche website to suggest keywords which ‘may’ be related to the keywords you enter. You can see the results for the word “fish” in the image to the right.
The usual caveats apply – be sure the keywords you include in your image data really do match your photo. Irrelevant keywords hurt your algorithm metrics at most agencies, and can cause your image to be rejected at some.
Used carefully, this tool can be great for finding keywords you’ve missed, or getting your keyword list started.
FTP Upload Tool
The toolbar also includes an FTP tool. The interface is gracefully simple. You simply choose the agencies you want to include by clicking the button with their name at the top. In the image to the right you can see that I’ve selected the first five of six agencies.
Then, just drag and drop the files to be uploaded into the window. Press the ‘go’ button, and the tool will start uploading each file to each agency you’ve selected.
Submitting photos one by one can also be time consuming, particularly when you’re clicking the same check boxes for each photo. The picNiche toolbar enables you to have some fields automatically checked each time the page is loaded. This accelerates the submit process, but needs to be used with caution. Those fields exist for a reason, so be very sure you understand what you’re doing if you enable this tool. Having the check boxes ticked by a program doesn’t negate your responsibility when you submit a submit page.
The Community Blogs tab of the options window allows you to be notified of new blog post at a long list of popular microstock blogs and resources. You can choose as many or as few as you like.
The Buyer Toolbar
Microstock buyers don’t miss out either. There’s a separate toolbar for buyers with a different feature set. It includes the multi-agency search facility available in the contributor toolbar, plus a simple image log, notifications from both microstock and designer blogs, and a facility to be notified when contributors using the contributor toolbar have new images approved (optional for the contributor).
The Killer Feature – Image Requests
The integration between the buyer and contributor toolbars hits a new high with the image request feature. Buyers using the buyer toolbar can submit a request for a particular images directly within the toolbar. Contributors using the contributor toolbar are instantly notified. They can check the details and respond with links to suitable photos in their own portfolios.
While many websites have attempted to provide this facility via forums and other on-website tools, the real-time alert facility of a browser toolbar might just be the killer feature that makes it work.
How it Works
The picNiche toolbar uses the passwords stored in the FireFox Password Manager. While this saves you having to enter your passwords into the configuration, you do need to have your browser saving your passwords for most of the tools to function.
The configuration only requires that you enter your username for each agency you wish to enable. The same window allows you to configure how frequently you want the toolbar to update your earnings information.
The toolbar itself is free thanks to the integration of referral links. If you register at an agency via the links in the toolbar and then sell or buy an image, Bob is remunerated in line with the referral program of each agency.
How Well Does it Work
The toolbar is being launched today bearing the forgive-everything “beta” markings. It has come a long way from the early versions, thanks in part to some ruthless beta testers. The functionality has all come online and the bugs fixed.
While the release versions of both toolbars tested fine for me, today’s beta release will expose them to more testing environments. If you experience a bug, be sure to let Bob know so he can fix it right away. If the bug is post-installation, you can send feedback from the About window, accessible from the drop-down menu on the right-most end of the toolbar. For installation support, see the picNiche About Us page.
Microstock Mash Market
Bob’s toolbars are the latest product from the small but active mashup development community focussed on microstock. Microstock agencies often resist such tools for various reasons. Some tools consume a disproportionate quantity of website resources the consume. Others present data in a way that can be misused and/or misunderstood. Bob reached out to agency heads during development of the picNiche toolbar, explaining his intentions and requesting feedback on how the toolbar could play nice with the agency websites.
Get the picNiche FireFox Toolbars
You can download the picNiche toolbars directly from the FireFox Extensions Website: contributor toolbar and buyer toolbar. Until they can be reviewed by the Mozilla FireFox team they’ll only be available in Experimental Mode, which requires a Mozilla account to download. Bob also has an official website for the toolbars complete with user-guide. You can also follow Bob on Twitter, where he tweets about picNiche, microstock and the life of a microstock mash developer.