Channel Islands

Polar Rose – let’s face it

In faces, polar rose, search, troubleshooting, wordpress.com on July 27, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Polar Rose is a new web application and browser add-on. It works by analysing pictures on the page and pinning a little rose to everything it determines to be a face. By clicking on the rose all other pictures of that person stored in the Polar Rose database, and even pictures of others who have been seem with them, can be browsed. The aim of the project, it would appear, is to establish this new kind of visual search engine as the ubiquitous people-finding software on the web.

I have been using the public beta version of Polar Rose (currently version 0.55.9) with Firefox 3 for a couple of months. It is enabled whenever I am browsing the web and I’ve got quite used to the little rose icon in the corner of my screen pulsing into life whenever a page with a portrait is loaded prompting me to label whomever I know. However, beta testing is an exercise in troubleshooting and my casual use of the program has apparently brought to light a problem.

When I upload images to this blog something gets added to the code of the page or possibly its style sheet. The offending item in the page’s source is this bit of weirdness:

[CODE DELETED]

It looks like a cousin of the tiny rose button that is placed by the program next to faces it finds and yet these are broken links and they are literally embedded within the code of my blog. They appear as a cluster of dead picture links around the top left of any page to which I’ve uploaded images. It is becoming rather disconcerting and apart from being careful to disable the Polar Rose plug-in before uploading pictures to avoid adding to their number the only other solution I can think of is exporting the blog’s entire content as XML (a wonderful feature of wordpress.com), removing the offending bits of code if I can find them, and importing the content again.

The problem seems to be a conflict between Polar Rose and the wordpress.com image uploader engine. It would be interesting to know if other wordpress.com users running Polar Rose experience similar problems and, if so, whether they occur across the range of available blog themes or just for this one. I have contacted the wordpress.com support forum and Polar Rose feedback services about the issue.

I am quite convinced that Polar Rose will come to be regarded as an essential tool for finding people on the web. After all, it is not necessary to know the name of a person whose picture is found but only to recognise them from a picture. The sophistication of their face recognition engine is, for a mostly code-blind web user like me, only to be guessed at. It is a very intriguing project and I’m glad to be playing a small part in it.

UPDATE August 7, 2008: Johan and his team provided a fix I helped to test by posting images here. Both Johan and Geoff were very polite, friendly and informative. I think their project is very interesting and anyone who wants to know about new visual search techniques would do well to check their site.

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  1. Thanks for your bug report and your review of Polar Rose. I will make sure our guys working with the plugin take a look at the issue ASAP. We are hearing up for a release of some new features this week – please let me know what you think of them!

    Geoff Parker – Polar Rose

  2. Geoff, thanks for your comment. I have managed to banish the offending snippets of code by combing through the downloaded WordPress extended RSS and deleting them.

    I look forward to all developments of your fascinating project with interest.

  3. Thanks again for your bug report, we appreciate it. It is quite difficult for our Firefox browser add-on to deal with dynamic content, like when you in WordPress write a new weblog post in “visual mode”. It looks like a rose unfortunately might be inserted into the post preview pane, and moved along to the weblog when publishing the post.

    We have implemented a fix for this issue, it will be included in the next add-on release (probably within a couple of days). Let me know if you want to beta test this bug fix already now, and I can send you an updated add-on. Feel free to send me an email if you have more technical issues or questions regarding the Polar Rose browser add-on.

    Johan Solli – Polar Rose

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