Yes… this is about Flickr.
When I sit down to write a Concerned Letter, I always get a little worried. Will it be clear enough? Will it say what I need it to say? Will the addressed person understand what I’m trying to tell them, and more than that, will they be receptive? Sympathetic? And even if I manage to get all this across—a rickety boat in rough waters—will anyone even really read it?
Today Violet posted an entry about sudden, vexing issues with her Flickr account. You can imagine how this made me feel. I’m a huge proponent of Flickr. I adore Flickr. Flickr has always been exactly what I wanted in a photo sharing site and even when they’ve fallen short, they have continued to develop and polish and improve in ways that fill my heart with glee. So when someone has something less than brilliant to say about them, I notice. And in this case, having long been a reader of Violet’s blog and other writings, knowing that her material is, as I say later, reliable and fact-driven as a rule, I have really noticed. And what I have found has greatly alarmed me.
So much, in fact, that I wrote this letter to Flickr.
I recently read the following article at Violet Blue’s site, tinynibbles.com:
If what she says is true—and I have never known her to be anything but reliable and fact-driven in her writing—Flickr is doing some slightly crazy things, pissing off some very large-scale users. Personally, I’m upset because I put a lot of stock in Flickr, and Violet having a Flickr account makes it really easy for me to follow a really neat person who has a lot of wonderful ideas and opinions. I consider her really valuable to the web and I can’t help but feel that if Flickr is enacting a poorly constructed system of standards on her in a way that causes her to abandon it altogether, what is likely to happen to the rest of us who use it? I know many people who are now using Flickr Pro accounts to really help them in displaying their personality on the web—but if you don’t help us play by your rules, if those rules aren’t clear and easy to use, we can’t trust you. That scares me, because I’ve always been a HUGE proponent of Flickr.
I do appreciate you reading this email, because I believe in what Flickr is—I am having a hard time processing the idea that this could be happening, and I certainly don’t want to entertain the idea that moving my accounts is a good option. But I am alarmed by what I’ve heard and I would really like to know what the future holds. Do ya’ll intend to do something about this? Is it possible that the Yahoo merge had unforetold consequences we would not see until later on? Please, please console me, as I have been incredibly, unwaveringly loyal in the time since Flickr was a teeny baby. And I really, really don’t want Violet to delete her account.
I would be so, so grateful for a response.
Thank you for listening,
Megan Elizabeth Morris
I wrote it off the cuff—thinking, someone has to say something. I’m sure many people have said something, probably far (far!) more eloquently than I did. My letter is little more than a plea to Flickr to soothe and placate one of my favorite Flickr users, but even typing that I realize that it’s bigger. Changes like this herald larger problems, and Flickr has long been one of my favorite institutions of The Good Web. I was nervous when Yahoo took over but the pastures continued to look green and healthy and affable. I am hoping to high heaven that the outlook I saw from there isn’t going to be any different now.
And hell, I know the world isn’t perfect. But when the world gets less perfect, people should know about it. Should have the chance to fix it. So many companies rise to that challenge! There’s no reason Flickr can’t be one of them.
Update, Friday 5pm: Saw another post from Violet about having gotten a response from Flickr, which makes me feel hopeful—but it will take a little time to find out what’s up, since Gmail is having issues. Pbph! Wouldn’t it be incredible if Flickr rose to the occasion? I mean, we can hope, can’t we? (And yeesh, what is up with all the web issues lately? Is this a June thing?)
Update, Saturday 1pm: Scoble mentioned these crazy shenanigans, too. AND, David Ewalt @ Forbes has a great post up, quote:
I’ve been really getting into Flickr myself the last few months and have found it an excellent, well run service. It would be a terrible shame if they screwed things up with excessive regulation or censorship.
Man, do I ever agree. In addition to all of that, one of Violet’s images on Flickr with a really interesting comment thread is here. I especially appreciate Ninavizz’s comment, clips:
The Flickr folks really, truly do mean well- tho despite being with Yahoo! for 2+ years, they continue to struggle with organizational red-tape bullshit …
Stewart and Caterina coulda both retired comfortably a couple of years ago, but both continue to put in long-hours to ensure that Flickr … doesn’t lose it’s integrity- despite the corporate absorption. They both care so deeply for the long-term integrity of online community spaces, and the individuals from all walks of life who make them special. They’re really fighting a humongo machine, and with all the Flickr peeps, are committed to it for the longhaul.
It’s good to call them out when they hit bumps in the road- but do be patient, and give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re doing everything they can.
This is what made me a Flickr fan in the good ol’ days, and I don’t like to believe, in light of everything, that Yahoo can possibly have eclipsed what Flickr is, at its core. Incidents like this make me nervous, but I prefer to believe in the basic humanity and worthiness of the thing in question. I’m grateful to others who battle on the side of worthy humanity! ;}
Update, Saturday 1:30pm: There’s a Flickr group called I’ve Been Restricted with some useful information for folks who are having similar problems.
Woo! Read about Flickr’s awesome response on Violet’s site here!