Friday blog rescue: Corkboard on Compfight

Corkboard is a new venture put together by SJMC students and faculty, billed as “a place for literary journalists.” Each week in its “Pushpins” column, the editors offer tips for effective and creative writing. This week’s blog rescue brings you one of those tips:


While technically Compfight is a tool for designers, most of us digital journalists (and hell, anyone who wants to write for a living) are expected to know a little about design anyway. This site is a great way to quickly and easily search images available in the vastness of Flickr’s database of user-uploaded photographs. Should you decide to write a story about trying to eat a durian fruit or your pilgrimage to see the Quick Stop of Clerks fame, you can use this as a writing tool for reference photos or even (when properly attributed) as part of the story. We’re also asking for a photo with published submissions for Corkboard, so this may be valuable when you realize you don’t have a photo to submit alongside your winning prose.

So how is this better than plain old Google Image Search, or Bing? First off, Compfight searches exclusively in the Flickr database–this means that, in general, the photo quality will be higher, with most images showing up in high resolutions. For the photo illiterate out there, high res is good.

Second, Compfight allows you to sort images by the types of licenses on each photo–this means you can search for photos that you are allowed to be used elsewhere according to the rules the photographer has posted for sharing their work through a Creative Commons license. You’re not allowed to steal copyrighted images, but CC images can be used and remixed if they are properly attributed back to the original work and author, and the use of that image adheres to the artist’s stipulations within the CC license. Compfight’s filter for different types of CC licenses makes the process of finding legal images a lot easier than Google does.

Finally, Compfight is beautifully executed and fun to use. It may be vain, but the sight of seeing hundreds of Flickr images cascade across your screen after a good search is a genuine thrill, at least as thrilling as hunting for interesting web images can be. It also allows you to view hundreds of Flickr images at a time WITH their dimensions listed below each thumbnail, which makes the process of sorting through to find the closest image to what you have in your head that much easier. The site is an elegant and useful manipulation of what Flickr can do with the right software.

Get searching at Compfight here. Remember though, Flickr doesn’t always have the best safe search restrictions in place (anyone can post just about anything after all), so don’t search for anything NSFW if you might have someone judge you from over your shoulder.

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