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Open Source: How Stock Photo Agency YayMicro.com was Created Using Only Open Source Technology

Bjorn has written a paper on the Open Source use at YayMicro. Please enjoy! Click here to download a PDF-version (106kb).

Open Source Image Agency

Beginning

With little resources, but lot’s of faith, energy and a common belief in how a microstock agency should be made, three entrepreneurs all quit their job at a leading stock agency, and started creating low price photo agency YayMicro from scratch.

They literally had nothing: No founding, no code, no stock photos. Today http://yaymicro.com features more than one million stock photos and is commonly regarded as the easiest to use microstock agency. This is a fairy tale story showing how far the open source community has come, and how you can create something out of nothing if you just believe.

Microstock: Low Price Stock Photos

Microstock

Microstock photography is an offshoot of traditional stock photo agencies. Microstock companies source their images via the Internet from a wide range of photographers, and customers can buy the stock photos at a very low price compared to traditional stock photo agencies. At YayMicro.com anyone can register as a photographer, upload their pictures and, if the photos are approved by YayMicro’s reviewers, sell them to customers around the world. When an image is bought through the website, the photographer receives 50% in commission. In contrast to traditional stock agencies, licensing rights at YayMicro is super simple. YayMicro offers a Royalty Free license that gives the customer permission to use an image on anything the customer want, as many times as he wants, for as long as he wants. The only limitation is on reselling rights, which can also be bought, but at a higher price.

TECHNOLOGY

Since resources were scarce, and software is expensive, the people at YayMicro were pretty much forced to look at free alternatives for anything they did. Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and Apple were out the window. Instead, every piece of technology was chosen from the open source community.

Operating System – CentOS200px-CentOS_full_logo.svg

The enterprise-class linux distribution was chosen because it has proven to be one of the most reliable and stable distributions. It’s one of the most popular server distributions, meaning it is easy to find solutions and support online. YayMicro is currently running CentOS release 5.5 (Final) that was released in May this year.
CentOS was an easy choice for Yay, since the developers had experience from RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). The community around CentOS provides the support needed, and the functionality is just as good as RHEL. In fact, CentOS can be regarded as the free edition of the same software that makes Red Hat an enterprise solution. It is incredibly stable, efficient, and secure. It provides the same level of security as other enterprise Linux versions. All updates also coincides with a release of RH, ensuring consistent compatibility.


Postgres-Database-Is-Expected-to-Suffice-the-Needs-of-Different-Administration

Database Management System – PostgresSQL

Obviously, for a microstock agency with millions of images, selecting the right DBMS is crucial. There were two clear alternatives YayMicro had to choose between; mySQL and PostgresSQL. Traditionally mySQL has been assumed to be faster, but less full-featured than PostgresSQL. However, this assumption is to a high extent based on history and old stereotypes, and for the most part outdated. PostgresSQL has become much faster recent years, while mySQL has implemented many functionalities in its last releases.

Both PostgresSQL and mySQL have their own loyal supporters, focusing on advantages in their system while talking mostly about faults and problems with the other. In the end both systems are excellent systems, and both would probably have been good choices for Yay. The choice might have come down to two factors that might or might not have been correct.

First, PostgresSQL have a rumor for scaling better with large amounts of data. This was hard to test initially, but with millions of millions of records, the database is still super responsive, even at high concurrency levels. Secondly it might have factored in that YayMicro felt PostgresSQL was the more “open” of the two open source systems, a belief that was somewhat “confirmed” in 2009 when Oracle bought mySQL.

Search Engine – Apache Solrsolr

One of the most important aspects of a successful stock photo agency is a good search engine. If users can’t find their picture in seconds, they’ll go somewhere else. Technically, searches could be done straight to the PostgresSQL database, but even though it’s super fast, it’s nowhere near what YayMicro needed. Consider this; each image is tagged with 50 keywords, the database holds more than a million images. Each search should take into account the relevancy of search phrase, orientation of images, how many people is in the picture, country of image, explicit images and categories. It should return a ranked list of a search, giving you exactly result from 350 to 400 if that is what you ask for. Consider thousands of people searching the website for images at the same time. Apache Solr is up for it.

Solr was created by CNET Networks in 2004, and donated to Apache in 2006, thereby going open source. Although Solr is still a young project, it has become extremely popular and proved to be a really strong search engine. YayMicro is the only microstock agency that uses this modern search engine, and as a result features the fastest search in the industry. Other users of Solr include NASA, CNET, Yellow Pages, Digg.com and SourceForge. You can try the search here: http://yaymicro.com/search.action

JqueryJavaScript Library – jQuery

JavaScript is what made webpages dynamic, and jQuery is what made JavaScript accessible. That’s a bold statement, and might be an exaggeration, but it is meant to show how important jQuery has been to the development of YayMicro.com. “jQuery: The Write Less, Do More, JavaScript Library” is their slogan, and it’s very fitting. Javascript has never been this easy.

Adding a simple line of code (importing the jQuery Library) does two things. It makes it easy to write javascript code, and it makes it possible to include tons of jQuery compatible plugins. Whenever new functionality like image previews, login boxes, button effects or image galleries have to be implemented, jQuery is there to help. It’s not an exaggeration that implementing the preview function on the page took less than three hours, and most of that time was used browsing for the right plugin. Released just four years ago in 2006, it’s already used by more than 31% of the 10.000 most visited websites. That’s no coincident.

YayMicro uses the latest release, 1.4.2 of jQuery. Updates are done as soon as new versions are proven to be compatible with all used plugins.

Image software – ImageMagickimneeeerdo

An image agency needs a stable and extensive image converter. ImageMagick provides all the needs, and does so with a BSD license. All image conversions and vector graphics are done with ImageMagick and GhostScript. ImageMagick is also easily adjustable to Yay’s server environment.

ImageMagick has support for over 100 formats, tons of functionality and extensive security features, including memory and thread error detection. All the stock photos, more than one million, have in some way been handled with ImageMagick.

logoWeb Application Development Framework – Stripes

Web Application Development with Java has historically been responsible for many headaches for developers who had to spend 80% of their time configuring, and only 20% of the time were spent on actual code writing. When Struts went open source in 2000, it got a little better for developers, but there was still a lot of time spent on configuration. WebWork 2 and Spring-MVC are better, but nothing really compares to how easy it is to develop Java EE applications with Stripes. Auto-discovered ActionBeans, transparent file upload capability and a great Localization system are just some of the things that make Stripes so easy to use.

On the Stripes website, they claim that: “Stripes aims to provide an experience similar to owning Apple hardware, Sony TVs and luxury German cars (without the price premium); things just work, they feel right and every now and again you get that “Oh, it does that too? Awesome!” feeling.” Stripes really does this, and for the diehard Apple fans in Yay, the Apple reference alone is reason enough to use it.


Other technologies

To make YayMicro.com work, there are too many technologies involved to write in-depth about all of them. Here are the nuts and bolts of the open source microstock agency that is YayMicro.com.

• Eclipse The open source toolset Eclipse is used for developing the Java EE applications that are used.
• Apache ActiveMQ Apache ActiveMQ is a message broker that enables applications to talk to each other.
• Bucardo Bucardo is the open source Database Synchronization system built for PostgresSQL
• Bacula Bacula is the backup application that makes everybody at YayMicro sleep well.
• Apache Subversion Subversion is the revision control system used. A more modern version of the all-popular CVS.
• Wordpress blog.yaymicro.com is running on WordPress, (which means YayMicro is also using mySQL)

Click here to download a PDF-version.

-Bjorn Sjogren

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Dr. Jackson Avery (actor Jesse Williams) from Grey's Anatomy as a Stock Photo Model!

The other day I was helping out a client looking for different types of people in our stock photo base. After working in the stock photo industry for some years you begin to recognize the different models, and you’d probably greet them as old friends if you ran into them on the street. Even when you have 10.000+ models in your image base, as we do now, you still recognize a surprising number of them!

So at first I didn’t stop to take a closer look when I saw a familiar face. But there was something about those blue eyes that made me click back to take a closer look. I thought to myself “This must be that Grey’s Anatomy guy, Avery, but is he a stock photo model”? I got Jan to check the model release, and it’s true.

Stock Photo of Jesse Williams, who plays Jackson Avery in Grey's Anatomy.

Jesse Williams, who plays Jackson Avery in Grey’s Anatomy, is a stock photo model represented at Yaymicro.com!

Let’s enjoy his pictures while we wait for season 7, where he’ll play a leading role. First episode, “With You I’m Born Again” airs on September 24, at ABC.

Cheers, Linda

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Help – I Got an Image Rejected!

stock-photo-image-rejected-reasons

All images at YAY goes through a quality control. Normally this is done within 24 hours, but not during weekends.

Sometimes your image(s) will fail the approval process and get rejected. When images are rejected you’ll get one or more reasons for why we couldn’t accept your image into our database.

It is important not to take the rejections personally. It might feel harsh to find several images rejected, and rejected sometimes for reasons you don’t understand. Our reviewers looks at thousands of images each day, so mistakes will happen. If you feel wrongly rejected, please e-mail us and we’ll look into it.

You can view the list of most common rejections and explanations here.

You should try to look at rejections as possibilities for learning and improving. Creating great stock photos is a challenging process. By taking time to understand your rejection, and then working on improving your technique you’ll be one step closer to create better stock photo! Often you’ll find tips and inspiration in different stock forum, discussion groups, and on photo/photoshop tutorial sites. If you have tips for great sites, share it with the rest of us in the comment-field!

At YAY we have full-time, permanent reviewers solely working us. This might cost a bit more than freelance reviewers, but we find it easier and more reliable in terms of consistency, quality and possibilities for improvement.

So, if you have any questions or feedback about the review process, please e-mail us and help us improve our process!

Linda :)

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YAY! We Got 1 Million Images!

Thanks to our wonderful photographers, only two years after startup we’ve reached 1 million images in our image base!  As we say in our press release: We are proud and excited that so many talented photographers have decided to let us sell their images for them! Thank you everybody!

The wide range of images combined with usability and low prices are attracting new customers in great numbers – we expect to multiply sales in 2010.

Image No. 1 million by Stephanie Frey:

Image no.1 million

Read more about the image and take a look at some of the other images from Stephanie Frey.

Read the press release here. You can also download a PDF of the press release.

Congrats and cheers from all of us at YAY!

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Third Party Sales Program

Some photographers have been asking for more information on our third party sales program. Unfortunately, I’ve haven’t had the time to write more about how it works – until now. We’ve finally added a page with information on our 3rd party program.
To give a a short update, this is what the introduction says:

YayMicro offers a 3rd party sales program for our top photographers. This is an exclusive program where we promote and sell images through a growing network of partners. This requires no extra work for the contributor, but can generate a steady stream of revenue.

This program was introduced in January 2009 and has since then grown into one of our most profitable sales channels. There are a lot of image agencies in the world, and many of them are having trouble getting the content they want. We use our experience from the industry to collect photographers that fits an agency’s needs. YAY represents over 5466 photographers from around the world and has an image collection of 920 000. This brings us into an exclusive range of agencies, because most of the world’s image agencies have a rather small collection of their own – while they resell the content of other agencies.

These smaller agencies have until now been locked down for the average microstock contributor. We can help you get your collection to a range of different agencies around the world.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to send an email to contribute@yaymicro.com or comment this blogpost. We’ll soon start a new collection, so follow the blog and start making your own project folder now.

Jan

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Do You Want to be a Guest Writer at YAY blog?

In order to expand out blog we’re currently looking for guest writers to join YAY blog.  If you are interested in writing at YAY blog, please send me an e-mail at linda@yaymicro.com. You’ll have to write in English (or Norwegian).

Cheers, Linda

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