Dec 132007

We get a lot of great feedback from our PicLens user community, and by far the most common comment/question we get looks something like “Wow! PicLens is awesome!  How can I get PicLens to display the photos I’ve posted on my own web site?”

The answer is simple:  Implement a mediaRSS feed for the photos on your web site!

What that means is:

  1. Generate an RSS feed with the mediaRSS standard tags for the photos on your web site.  mediaRSS tags allow you to indicate URLs for thumbnails of your media content and content URLs at different resolutions.  mediaRSS aware readers (like PicLens) can use that info to pick the thumbnail or content size that is most appropriate to the current display context.
  2. Embed a link to that RSS feed on your web pages.  This is as simple as placing a link tag like <link rel="alternate" href="photos.xml" type="application/rss+xml" /> in your HTML.  The photos.xml file on your web server can be a static file or dynamically generated by server script.
  3. Make sure that you provide some sort of association between thumbnail URLs on your HTML pages with the corresponding content items in the RSS. Otherwise, PicLens won’t be able to make the leap from an item on the HTML page that the user has expressed an interest in to the full-scale content described in the mediaRSS.  

If you use the same URLs in the HTML thumbnails and <a> links as the RSS content items, you’re all set.  PicLens will look for <a> links containing an <img> tag and look up those <a> link href URLs in the RSS content items to find a match. 

If for various reasons the URLs in your HTML are different from the URLs in your RSS (<cough> Picasa! <cough>), you need to specify item IDs in the HTML and RSS items so we can match them up.

We built a demo site showing mediaRSS embedding here:

You can also read more about the mediaRSS spec at Yahoo:

At this point, the HTML scriptmasters have already stopped reading and have rushed off to their shell accounts to whip together some scripts to spew mediaRSS for their photo albums.

For the rest of us, though, constructing an RSS feed by hand may be a bit of a challenge.

PicLens Publisher

To solve that problem, we have created a utility program to generate a mediaRSS feed from a group of photos automatically – PicLens Publisher.  Before you upload a group of photos to your web site, you can run them through PicLens Publisher to generate thumbnails and an RSS feed.  Upload the collection of photos, thumbnails, and RSS to your web site and you’re good to go.

PicLens Lite

So now you’re saying “Cool!  Now my photos on my web site can be viewed at max quality, full screen by people who have the PicLens browser plugin.  But what about people who don’t have PicLens? Do they see nothing at all?”

First of all, mediaRSS is a web standard, so when you embed mediaRSS into your web pages it will be readable by any browser or tool that understands mediaRSS.  This isn’t a PicLens proprietary thing.

Secondly, your photos are still visible on the HTML page.  The presentation just isn’t as fulfilling as what PicLens offers.

Thirdly, we created PicLens Lite so that visitors who do not have the PicLens plugin can get much of the PicLens full-screen immersive feel when viewing your photos on your site.  PicLens Lite is a Flash app that you can embed into your HTML pages to display the content in the mediaRSS feed(s) of your web site. Read more about how to do that on the PicLens Webmaster’s Guide.

There you have it.  Build a mediaRSS feed for your photos and let PicLens or PicLens Lite do the rest!