August 30th, 2008 - By Humuhumu

The Challenge
Pictures are a huge part of Ooga-Mooga, but in different parts of Ooga-Mooga they play different roles. When looking at someone’s collection, the pictures are an expression of that person’s love for tiki mugs. But when the pictures come up when doing a search for mugs, they place a different and very important role: identification. The two desires are sometimes at odds.

How do I tell Ooga-Mooga which pictures are the “best” for swift visual identification when scanning search results, while still letting the pictures that are the “best” at explaining someone’s collection thrive?

And furthermore, how do I apply whatever the solution is to the over 25,000 pictures in Ooga-Mooga?

An Aside
More than 25,000 pictures! Whoa nelly! I’m knocked out by that. Your photographs have turned Ooga-Mooga into an incredible reference — nearly every mug in Ooga-Mooga has a photo to go with it, and nothing helps to identify what a mug is all about like its picture. Thank you for taking the time to photograph your collections and share them with the world, it’s amazing.

The Solution
I’ve completely overhauled how Ooga-Mooga handles photos. Before, photos were simply tagged as “representative” or “not representative.” This was confusing, and subjective. The most representative photos for search results are not always the more representative photos to tell a collector’s story. I won’t get into the particulars of how I’m handling it now, because it’ll bore you, but here’s the upshot:

  1. Images in search results are clearer
    The pictures that best illustrate what a mug looks like are the ones that will turn up in search results. Hopefully there’ll be less squinting at small pictures, and less of having to click on each mug to look through more photos to tell which mug is which.
  2. Search results are faster
    These representative photos are pulled from the database in a much faster way, so the search results page loads much more quickly than it used to.
  3. Your collection photos show up
    In rare cases, sometimes a person’s photo of an item was only of an unusual angle that was deemed “not representative” for search results purposes. This meant that the photo wouldn’t show up on their Collection page, either. No more! Now, your Collection page will show those photos. You’re more free to show your own personality in your collection photos.

Special Bonus
While I was at it, I also came up with a solution to a long-standing issue in Ooga-Mooga.

Ooga-Mooga is designed to strongly encourage you to share photos of your own collection because, well, that’s the point. We want to see your mugs. This is what has allowed Ooga-Mooga to grow into such an incredible documentation of tiki mugs. I don’t want that to change, but I also wanted to make it a little, well, friendlier while you were waiting to find that moment to take pictures of your collection.

To that end, on your Collection page, instead of seeing the big ol’ “?” mug picture on items that you haven’t uploaded pictures for yet, you’ll get a dimmed-out random picture from the mug’s template, with a text overlay explaining that you don’t have a picture yet. Hopefully this will still encourage folks to add their own pictures, but will make the collection a little more meaningful at a glance until then.

I hope you like these changes! I still have to go around Ooga-Mooga and make a few tweaks here & there as I switch over to the new system, but already I think it’s making Ooga-Mooga more fun to use.