Deep Meta Test Drive Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my Deep Meta test drive. You can read Part 1 here. So far I have successfully installed Deep Meta and know where things are, sort of. I’ve also finished prepping for my first Deep Meta task: I will be updating all of the lightbox graphics and links within my iStock portfolio.

What I need to get started

In order to update all of my lightbox links I’ve had to do a lot of prep work. I have gone through all of my existing lightboxes to see which ones are performing well based on the number of views I’ve gotten on them. You can see your views by clicking the ‘lightbox’ link at the bottom right hand side of any page on iStock.

I’m also looking at the contents of my lightboxes. Occasionally I’ve started a new style and will promote them as a separate collection. But, if I’m not adding files from time to time, they stagnate. There’s really no point in me hanging onto a bunch of lightboxes with only 4 or 5 files drawn in a style I never plan to explore again!

I’ve also updated all of my graphics, which I’ve uploaded to Photobucket for storage.

Before I dive in I’m going to hand UBB code all of my graphics and lightbox links so that I have everything ready to go. If you’ve never coded UBB before, I suggest you check out this brilliant tutorial by emyerson. I’ve stored all of my UBB code in a text document that I’ll leave open as I work.

Deep Meta

Now all I need to do is figure out how to edit a file in Deep Meta. So far I’m on the Files page, which shows me my portfolio:

I’ve also looked at the Ratings & Comments tab, and have figured out how to sort and filter my portfolio. But dangit, I can’t seem to figure out how to actually EDIT my files! I keep clicking on different files and on the previews on the right hoping editable fields will magically appear… So far, no dice.

I’m not the sort of person who watches tutorials, I prefer to figure stuff out on my own. But I’m pretty stuck here. Until…

I double click on the small thumbnail for one of the files in my portfolio list. Voila. A new window pops up:

Big ‘Duh’ moment for me. At least I figured it out without resorting to a tutorial 😉

File Details

This window contains everything I’d ever need to edit in a file. At the top you can see tabs for General, Keywords, Categories and Releases. On the General page I can edit the title, description, my options for allowing prints and extended licensing, Editorial information, the media type (for photographers only it seems: the only options listed are ‘digital’ or ‘film’):

The Keywords tab shows me all of my keywords. There’s a big blank space off to the right, and I suspect this is where the ‘Keyword Suggestinator’ would live if I were uploading a file. Unfortunately I can’t yet upload vectors with Deep Meta so I mostly skim over this page:

The Categories page has a great drop-down list of all the categories. This is a big improvement over the Category Browser on iStock, which is teeny tiny and only allows you to select one category at the time. With this drop down view in Deep Meta I’ll be able to browse through all the categories to see which ones fit my file, rather than guessing:

Last is the Releases page. It’s showing as blank and I assume that this is more useful when you’re uploading a file, rather than viewing your existing portfolio:

Time to get updating

It’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. As a test, I grab a crappy old file to edit, just in case I mess everything up. I doubt any client will be upset over broken links on a file this old/terrible. What I’ll be doing is using this file as a guinea pig to make sure that all of my lightbox links work and the graphics are the correct.

I open the text file where I’m storing all of my UBB code and copy paste it all into the Description field on the General page. It’s quite a jumble, but it represents every lightbox I have on iStock:

I click on ‘OK’ on the bottom right and my editing window closes. Now, since I know that I need to sync Deep Meta with iStockphoto to view new files, I’m assuming that I’ll need to in turn sync back to iStock for the changes to register. Sure enough, I go under the ‘iStockphoto’ menu button and there’s a link to ‘Send Updates to iStockphoto’ (F6). I click and in a second I get a ‘Done’ message in the Updates popup window.

This screenshot would be more exciting if I updated more than 1 file. Sorry!

I hop back onto iStock and lo and behold, the file has already updated. That was fast!

I spend a couple of minutes making sure that my UBB code is right. I click to open each lightbox and ensure the graphics all match. Everything works. Hooray, advance preparation!

And we’re off…

Here is where the real work begins. Starting at the very oldest files in my portfolio, I double click to open the File Details in Deep Meta. What I’m doing is adding extra text on the files I’ve been too lazy to write much about. I’m also deleting all old lightbox links/graphics, and adding more information about how I’ve built the files wherever I can. I’m also including a note that all vector downloads come with a hi res JPEG: Not everyone know this and it’s a great bonus for clients!

Wow, my portfolio has gotten messy. There are links to lightboxes that I deleted years ago, links to ‘detail’ views that have long since been lost on the internet, and often I’ve barely written anything about the file at all. I like to think that I’m meticulous about my metadata but clearly I’ve gotten lazy here and there over the years.

DESCRIPTION TIP: As a former designer who’s purchased tens of thousands of dollars of stock imagery, I have a MAJOR pet peeve: When I see a file I like but the description only says something like ‘woman eating’. Oooookay. Good, she’s eating. What is she eating? It’s hard to tell from the thumbnail and I’m specifically looking for a woman eating healthy food. The model has dark hair and eyes but there’s no further information as to what race or nationality she might be: Often design clients are looking for a specific ethnicity in their projects. ‘Guessing’ won’t cut it for paying customers. I need to know more information before I’m willing to part with my client’s hard-earned cash.

This can be doubly frustrating when it comes to vectors. People often use effects like clipping masks and gradient meshes but don’t include this information when they upload the file. You’d be amazed at how utterly baffled clients are when they can’t click on a shape because it’s been masked or locked.

People also hate having to group and layer things. This is the illustrator’s job. If you’re one of those lovely illustrators who properly organizes their files then why not advertise this in your Description?! It might mean an extra sale if a client is torn between your immaculately-described file and a file from someone else that states the illustration is of a ‘cool vector drawing’.

Which description do you think would interest a potential client more in the example below? (The first description is the real one from Penfold, who always describes his files perfectly. I made up the second example.)

As I’m working I notice something seriously cool happening. As I paste in my UBB and edit the text in the Description field, the preview box on the right hand side of the File Details window updates. Live. As in, while I’m typing. This is an excellent feature because I can tell immediately if my graphics aren’t loading properly: They vanish in the detail view. Slick!!

There’s also the handy dandy wavy red line under misspelled words. Nothing looks weirder than a file with really bad typos. Scratch that, I’ve seen some truly hilarious typos over the years and they’re always good for a giggle. But typos, while good for laughs, aren’t professional looking. Many thanks to Deep Meta for identifying my typos!


As I work my fingers are ITCHING to update everything. Titles, keywords, you name it. But I’m restricting myself: If I try to update too many components I’ll get distracted and start screwing things up.

After a few minutes I’m getting into a good groove. My biggest complaint is that whenever I double click a file and make my changes, I have to click on the ‘OK’ button to go back to the file list. This is fine, but what I would LOVE to see is some kind of ‘Next’ button. This way I could finish a file and immediately go to the next one without having to close/open windows.

That said, I am making fast work. After a few dozen files, copying and pasting out of a text file is getting boring, so I go ahead and store the UBB into ‘snippets’ using TextExpander  (Mac – for PC, try FastFox). With TextExpander I can store a large block of text, then assign a keystroke that will auto paste the full text into wherever I am typing. I couldn’t live without this program.

For example for my lightbox of people, I used ‘zpeople’ as my shortcut. Whenever I type that in it expands to show all of the UBB for this lightbox link. Using a text shortcut program was critical. I don’t think I’d have had the patience to copy-paste through 1,200 files.

The End

I won’t lie, it took me a long time to finish my portfolio. I had almost 8 years worth of metadata to correct and standardize. I’d guesstimate it took me 5 hours total, going from file to file to file. As I worked I’d sync my data back to iStock every couple hundred files, making sure to check them online to make sure they’re looking OK.

That being said, this 5 hours of work was absolutely worth it. I was able to correct years worth of inconsistencies and laziness, and ensure that every single link I’m putting into my descriptions goes to where it’s supposed to.

Had I attempted this on iStock I could see it taking literally weeks of my time. And thanks to the handy preview in Deep Meta that shows whenever you select a file, I was able to easily scroll through my portfolio as I worked to see which files still needed updating. I couldn’t have done this on iStock without loading each and every File Closeup page up: The page load times alone would have totalled more than 5 hours I’m sure, and that’s just proofing!

I can’t believe I maintained a portfolio full of lightbox links this long without trying Deep Meta.

While I still can’t upload my vector files using this program – and I can only begin to imagine how awesome that would be – there’s no way I’ll be giving Deep Meta up. Ever. It’s an incredibly valuable and useful tool even if you’re only using it to update lightbox links.

Illustrators, if you haven’t given this program a try yet… DO IT. Trust me, you will thank me for the countless hours you will save on portfolio maintenance.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some messy keywords and titles to attend to. Happy Deep Meta-ing!

One thought on “Deep Meta Test Drive Part 2

  1. Carol says:

    thank you! I’ve been trying to figure this out inside istock, and it just wasn’t working. Is it possible to apply the code to an entire lightbox at once, or must each image be coded separately?

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