Attribution is a FBW (Frequently Blogged Word) around here. I’ve had some back if the brain pondering about how to extend my Flickr CC Attribution Helper to work with images from other CC licensed image collections that have a JavaScript API available (I am thinking of Pixabay, DeviantArt, and MediaWiki Commons as a start).

I think its doable, if I can get hotlinked images and a way to parse out the license flavors from the results.

While I will still tinker that, I made a leap for joy today, when in the new Creative Commons open slack channel, I found out about Mediachain

This is a case where I am so excited about something, I am not fully able to explain how it works (there is a technical-ish post), but it seems like it is using blockchain (or similar) technology to be able to track the metadata about images, even a they are remixed. In addition, this provides a way for them to provide cut and paste attribution like my little tool does.

So for the image above, I searched Media Chain on the teams wide open. Boom, 1000 results, all creative commons licensed. I see preview, a creators name, a link to the source (e.g. flickr, 500px in these results), and the license flavor:


I liked the open in the top right, a photo by Alistar Nicol on 500px. Click image, I get everything I need to know about the image


I bet the mumbo jumbo in the URL is a key, a hash to it’s “chain”

I get a copy paste HTML chunk to toss into my blog:

Wide Open by Alistair Nicol via Attribution Engine. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND.

Or I can just copy the caption for a text attribution (put into a visual editor I would get links):

Wide Open by Alistair Nicol via Attribution Engine. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND.

Maybe the image is close, but not exact– there is a find similar images button

Now the links for the image do bring me to this info page on MediaChain, and so it’s another click to the source, but this one link provides all the critical info for the image.

Pretty exciting- look what it offers from the front:


You can also upload an image to search for similar ones – so I used my own flickr image I used on a recent post:

In Medichain, click the camera icon to select an existing image, in this case my grid of 0s. Will it find anything?

Only like 500 similar images. I am so unoriginal.

Only 6 of 500 results similar to my own photo found in Mediachain

Only 6 of 500 results similar to my own photo found in Mediachain

Think of this as a way to try to replace a copyrighted image with something… open.

I get pretty excited, and pushed aside what I ought to be working on. I bet I can make it a tad more convenient to search. I have this Javascript bookmarklet creator I use for WordPress sites, and in 2 minutes, I hatched a bookmarklet tool for Mediachain.

To use it DONT CLICK THIS LINK drag me to your browser bookmarks / favorites bar.

Let’s say I am just elsewhere on the web, say doing important research and I remember I need to find an image to represent my joy bout finding Mediachain. I know from my own experience, that a term that brings images that suggest this feeling is leap. I just click my little bookmarklet tool, and it provides an input box to search for:

I can search Mediachain from anywhere I am on the web

I can search Mediachain from anywhere I am on the web

And boom! Results! Image found, and used here in a one click copy then paste

Airtime – Jumping For Joy by *Vlad* via Attribution Engine. Licensed under CC NC.

Note to self and maybe Mediachain– I like responsive sizing, so to work on my blog theme, I added width="100%" to your img tags

Or I could easily go, at least for flickr images, from the Mediachain results to flickr, and use my preferred flickr cc attribution helper.

But here is the other way I like searching for images, in the context of what I am reading on the web. Let’s say I am reading Tom Barrett’s post today on his launching if a creativity twitter chat. I see a phrase I might want to search on, international chat. I highlight it with my mouse, ignore the popups…

Highlight a word in a web page I want to search on...

Highlight a word in a web page I want to search on…

… and click my bookmarklet tool. Boom, again! Look at all the images. All CC licensed. From different sources (note, these images are not the greatest, a bit stereotypical, except the cat. Oh in French, “chat”)


My bookmarklet then let’s me quickly search Mediachain for keywords, from anywhere I am on the web.

Maybe you don’t want to fiddle with bookmarks. I have yet another option, creating a search shortcut (this is Chrome, it can also be done in Firefox and Safari). I will do an actual search in Mediachain, for oh, a highly interesting word — all I am looking for is the URL structure of the results, so I copy it

On OSX I go to Chrome -> Preferences, I think on other platforms it is a wrench icon (see an article I used as a memory jog, it shows doing this in Windows).

In your preferences, under Search for Manage Search Engines. This confused me first. The top pane in OSX are the built in options you can use in Chrome for your Omnibox search (when you search from the URL bar). Chrome kind of likes you using Google, for some reason. Below it, I saw this long list of what looks like every site I have run a search from. Scroll way way down to the bottom, and here is the magic place to add a new search shortcut:

Adding Mediachain as a search shortcut

Adding Mediachain as a search shortcut

The first box is the name of the site you are searching, I entered Medichain but you could enter, oh anything, like Zelda's Box (which would be rather silly and useless). The second box is a shortcut code so you can remember it, I like mc. The third one represents the pattern of the search URL, where you use %s as a placeholder for whatever will be entered, so in the third box, this one you must get exactly right, enter:

Now go back to any web page, and go to the url bar. Type mc then press TAB – this calls up your saved search (see how the name changes to show Mediachain):


It’s a shortcut search, let it loose by pressing Enter on your keyboard…

Just look at all those pretty frogs!


Okay folks, I tossed you a lot here in this blog post. I’m super jazzed about the features of Mediachain, and my hunch is that it will do more than images. But it provides a single interface to search many sites for open licensed images. And it gives you cut and past attribution. That’s all cool.

But there is more at work– the promise is for Mediachain to possible track the trail of media as it gets remixed around the web– and animated GIFs are pretty notorious for being attribution dead ends. Check out the Mediachain blog post on the Gif That Fell to Earth for a compelling story.

I’ve only been looking at it a few hours, so more digging, searching, and exploring is in store.

Top / Featured Image: I did a search on Mediachain for “wide open” and saw more than 1000 open licenced image results, the one I chose was the 3rd listed — Wide Open by Alistair Nicol via Attribution Engine. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND, the original from 500px.

This could be my new way of image searching…

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Amazingly exciting stuff.
    I’ve noticed how quite a few tools, ms sway for example, build in media searches, usually suggesting folk do the right thing, this could both widen the search and do the right thing automatically.

  2. This is fantastic. Thanks for jumping on adding another bookmarklet, too. Have you looked at the Mediachain app yet? You can install it from their GitHub page and it lets you see the history of the image via hash. I haven’t done it yet, myself, but it’s definitely worth looking into.

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