People who have followed me on Twitter or this blog for a while may be aware that back in June 2009 I started a Flickr photography group called Thing a Week. The concept is quite simple: To take a picture on a different theme every week.
Now the group is under new management and has a snazzy new website, it seemed like the perfect time for me to get all nostalgic.
A half-remembered history of Thing a Week
The original inspiration came from the 2009 Cardiff Photomarathon (back when they still used film!). A group of us hung around the Millennium Centre at the end of the day and talked about what a fantastic idea the Photomarathon was and how someone should start something similar that we could do throughout the year. Shortly after I decided just to go ahead and get something started.
It got pretty popular for a while and I had great fun running things and taking a new photograph every week. I also learned a lot about running a group, trying to be inclusive and democratic but clear and fair about the rules.
I felt that Thing a Week should be about motivating yourself to take more photographs and encouraging feedback and constructive criticism, so it was important it didn’t feel like a competition. One of my first ideas was to introduce badges.
The idea was that anyone could create a badge and award it to anyone else, for any reason. Old badges could also be recycled, and were given jokey names like the ‘Actually I Really Like That Award‘, the ‘Awesome Anthropomorphic Award‘, the ‘Limited Edition Attack of the Thing Award‘, the ‘Epic Award for Epic Awesomeness‘ and so on.
While the badges added an element of fun, the real challenge as an administrator was picking the themes. I actively solicited for ideas in the group’s forum and would either pick one myself or put a few interesting ones up for a vote. Every theme was different, but some of the earlier ones were: Back to nature, Toy story, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”, Ten things, Phobia, Weather, Lucky number, Play with your food, The five senses, Anthropomorphise, Rude, Out for a walk.
As the group found its legs, it became clear that there were two aspects to a successful Thing a Week photo: A great picture and a great idea. You can check out some of the most algorithmically ‘interesting’ pictures on Flickriver.
I even gave an Ignite Cardiff talk about the group (slides here), which was a big first for me. There is video out there, but I refuse to watch it because I would rather cling to the impression I have that it went really well!
Perhaps the highlight of the whole thing was the Thing-up – a very well attended gathering of local (and a few not-so-local) Thingers at St Fagans, March 2010.
After a year though my motivation had begun to fail, and I was of a mind to bring the group to an end. After some discussion though, Jason and Renato volunteered to help out and soon pretty much took over the running of the group. More recently Howard took charge of what had become a small but dedicated group of loyal Thingers. I owe big thanks to all three for keeping the group alive.
Thing a Week: The Next Generation
Now Mark has taken over the project and is breathing fresh life into it. For the first time the group has a dedicated website at thingaweek.co.uk with a countdown clock so you can see exactly when the next deadline is. You can also subscribe to email reminders, which is an utterly brilliant idea!
Thing a Week is still the same Flickr group as it ever was, but now it’s just easier to keep track of what the current theme is, and when you have to have uploaded it. Mark has been involved in Thing a Week since the early days (and, fun fact, he was helping to coordinate the Ignite Cardiff event I spoke at). He clearly has some great ideas and plenty of motivation to give the group a fresh start.
Now is the perfect time to get yourself involved, so: