When I launched my Flickr Widget a couple of years ago, I decided I would host the tiny little Flash file that is the heart of the widget. I didn’t want to bother end users with downloads and installs and such. I put the file on Amazon’s S3 service, and offered an embed code generator form on this site. This worked well for a while, but more and more people started using the widget. Soon, Amazon started sending me hefty monthly bills.
I experimented for a while with hosting the file on the same server that runs this blog, but my host did not like that idea. Their terms of service don’t allow me to host non website-related files. So I moved the file to a friends VPS (Virtual Private Server). By then, the 5 KB Flash file was being served millions of times a month, causing around 30 GB of monthly traffic. I needed a more permanent solution. More New adventures in hosting a single file
A couple of people have emailed me, complaining that my Flickr widget does not work on wordpress.com blogs. As it turns out (I didn’t know this because I host all my blogs myself), Automattic blocks a number of HTML tags, including every single one that could be (ab)used to display Flash movies. There’s a workaround that might work, but that’s far from ideal.
So how about Facebook, MySpace, TypePad and all the other things I don’t personally use? Has anyone tried adding my widget to any of these, or anywhere else of interest? Please leave a comment if you have and report whether it worked or not. I know that it works fine on Blogger, and I’ve just submited the widget to Hyves.nl, which is Holland’s biggest social network, to be considered for inclusion.
Lots of people have contacted me, asking for a version of my Flickr widget that they could use on their website, without having to use Flickr (or Picasa). Doing such a version was easy enough, but I was hesitant to release it. The DIY version of WP-Cumulus has yielded more support requests than the actual WordPress plugin, and answering all the email has been taking a lot of my time.
One thing I could have done was to simply release the sources for the Flickr widget. But there’s a lot of Flickr/Picasa specific stuff in there that you would need to take out before being able to hook the movie up to another data source. So that would have made things harder for everyone. More Introducing Photo widget, floating thumbnails for your website
When I first heard about Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) in 2006, I wasn’t sure what anyone was ever going to use it for. It was not quite a web hosting service, because there were no extra services like PHP or MySQL. Or even FTP access. This was clearly aimed at developers, but most of those would probably have their own dedicated server boxes with tons of storage, right? Until I stumbled across a ‘use case’ for it this week. I signed up and found it to be a very flexible and useful service. More Amazon S3 – pay-per-view online file storage
If you like, you can now try the Flickr widget I blogged about a little while ago. This is the first time I’ve released something like this, but I’m pretty confident it’ll work. I’ve set up a page on this blog where you can enter your Flickr feed, along with some other details, and create your personalized version of the widget. It’s generates an HTML code snippet that you can copy-paste into your website. In fact I just used it to create the widget embedded on the left.
One thing I was concerned about was where I should put the Flash file. If this thing should become popular, it could cause lots of traffic. That’s why I chose to host it at Amazon’s S3 service. I’ll blog some more about this soon because it’s is an interesting service, but what it comes down to is that S3 is an extremely reliable way of hosting files. Even if there’s a little hick-up here at roytanck.com, the widget will still be served. That means no big empty hole in your blog, unless Flickr is down. Or S3. Both highly unlikely.
Let me know if you run into anything. I’m pretty sure the widget code will remain the same for the foreseeable future. All URLs are final, so if you successfully generate the widget, it will continue to function, even if I need to make little adjustments to the form or the Flash movie later on.
This is the personal blog of Roy Tanck, freelance WordPress consultant, designer, geek, and amateur photographer. It's also the home of projects like WP-Cumulus (a 3D tag cloud for WordPress). More about me here, or you can follow me on Twitter.