There are a lot of really nice photographs of aircraft one can find on the Internet. Not only do people create galleries of photographs, but you can find pictures by “following” individuals on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, or by joining specific Facebook groups.
What irritates me – and I am saying this because I tend to look at photographs as a form of historical record – is the lack of information about what all these photographs depict. I started So Many Aircraft as a means of providing and distributing reference information about aircraft, based on my own interest on building scale models. Collecting reference material for a model project often involves attempts to understand where and when a particular aircraft was used, and correlating multiple photographs found from different sources (as a model of an aircraft is like a snapshot of history). Against this, finding a (nice) photograph of, say, a Boeing 737 labeled “737 taking off from runway 17” is frustrating: Exactly what variant of 737 is this (I can see that it is a 737, but is it a -300, -7H4, or what?), what specific aircraft is this (what is its tail number and/or construction number?), where was this picture taken (runway 17 where?) and when?
Look at the picture above: At So Many Aircraft, we always aspire to provide as much information about the subject of the picture as possible. In this case, this picture would minimally be labeled like this:
Boeing 737-7H4 (N792SW, c/n 27887) of Southwest Airlines at KMHT (Manchester, NH) on 2015-12-21.
As you can see, some of those details are not evident in the picture: The tail number is obscured, you don’t know when the picture was taken, and if you don’t frequently visit KMHT you might not recognize its tower; also, the aircraft is sporting the old Southwest livery but the picture is very recent. In some cases the caption will also convey some additional, interesting information about the particular aircraft, such as details of its operational history.
Beyond describing what is in the picture, there is additional information you might want to convey when publishing your photograph(s), such as who exactly took this picture and how can others make use of it. Pictures in So Many Aircraft’s social media (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) are licensed under the Creative Commons’ CC BY-NC license, meaning they can be freely shared and adapted, but with attribution and indicating if any changes were made, and they cannot be used for commercial purposes (we are happy to license our content under some other terms as well; please contact me if you have questions).
There is some really interesting work done by Margaret Warren on using RDF metadata to describe images and even parts of images. So Many Aircraft has its own controlled vocabulary (“ontology”) of aircraft makes and models, and we are planning leverage that and to collaborate with Margaret to better describe and label images. Stay tuned for a future blog post on this.