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Flickr of Destruction

Last April, photo sharing service SmugMug purchased photo sharing service Flickr and I was optimistic: Flickr of Hope. I still am, but Flickr's tension between being a public good and a private company is hitting the fan (so to speak) after they announced that they will delete photos from free accounts that have more than 1,000 photos: Why we’re changing Flickr free accounts.

I have 1,433 photos at Flickr and I'm not paying for a pro account so 433 photos will disappear in January. I'm not a pro member for many of the same reasons Brian Sawyer writes about here: So Long, Flickr, and Thanks for All the Photos. (Brian edited the Flickr Hacks book I co-wrote in 2006.) At one time I shared all of my photos online at Flickr but I don't use the service today. I downloaded those photos long ago, but I still think it's valuable to leave them in their original context. They're not important historic documents that need to be preserved but maybe the Flickr archives as a whole do count as an important historic document?

Alt copyright framework Creative Commons thinks so: CC Working with Flickr to Protect the Commons. They say, "Flickr is one of the most important platforms to host and share CC licensed works on the web, and over 400 million of the photos there are CC licensed – representing over a quarter of all CC licensed works on the web." Flickr's new policy could remove a good number of those but I haven't seen any estimates.

Flickr is in a difficult position. As a private company they can't store an infinite number of photos for free indefinitely. That's traditionally the role of institutions like The Library of Congress but does the LOC care about millions of personal snapshots? Maybe the Internet Archive could take them on, but I can imagine it would strain their resources as well.

I hope Creative Commons can help Flickr find a home for those photos. If not a new home, maybe a grant of some kind to help with the costs to preserve our collective history.

Link Defragmentation

I save links in Safari's Reading List on my iPhone so I can reference them later. Sharing them here on my blog is their final resting place. Once posted here, I remove the links from my reading list and the cycle of cruft can begin again. It's a similar process to—and as exciting as—defragmenting your hard drive. How many hours did I spend watching the defrag visualization colors rearrange themselves in Windows Disk Defragmenter? That's rhetorical, but many. Many hours. Of watching. Now you too can watch the metaphorical defrag colors along with me:

First, go listen to the latest episode of Matt Haughey's podcast Hobby Horse where he interviews people about their side projects. In Episode 4 he talks with Erica Baker about ancestry and geneology and it absolutely changed the way I look at family trees. We’re all connected in ways I hadn’t thought about before. So great—go listen!

While I'm talking podcasts, Gimlet has a new one out called The Habitat that I'm hooked on after one episode. It's about a NASA study to determine how six humans live together for a year in a confined space. They're trying to simulate the conditions that people would live in on a mission to Mars. You can binge the whole thing.

Last week I posted about the SmugMug/Flickr exchange and I've been enjoying the takes: Tom Coates, Ben Cerveny, Jim Ray, and for context this 2012 article (cold take?) by Mat Honan: How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet.

Did you know you can look up at least some of the interests Twitter has assigned to you for personalized advertising? I was surprised at how accurate some of the more obscure interests were but I shouldn't be. We need more privacy and dumber phones.

Google set up a new way to query information in books called Talk to Books. As an introvert I feel like Google really gets me with this project, you know? I'll just be over here talking to books.

@lhl found a tumblr dedicated to gathering depictions of floppy disks in anime. It's even better than it sounds.

ok, off to delete my reading list. Defrag complete!

Flickr of Hope

So the big news in my corner of the Internet on Friday was indie photo site SmugMug buying Flickr from corporate bohemeth Yahoo/Oauth (or whatever). You can probably tell by my framing how I feel about it. I'm hopeful!

I posted my first photo to Flickr on August 18, 2004: luna in her office bed. (This was back when the founders would comment on new photos!) I wrote little hacks for Flickr like Add Camera Images to Flickr. And a year after that first photo I was co-writing a book about Flickr that was released a few months later. I was all-in on Flickr and it was central to my online life.

But all was not well in the Flickrverse and I became more and more disappointed with what Yahoo! was doing with the service. A year after Flickr Hacks came out I started writing here about ways to move off of Flickr and back to hosting my own images: Going Off the Flickr Grid. My personal photo site/Flickr clone lived from 2007-2010 or so at (I posted what I thought would be my final photo to Flickr, here on March 14, 2007: 301_moved.)

After that initial burst of off-the-grid activity, my personal photo blog features couldn't compare with the upload, album, and sharing features available at Flickr. I didn't have time to scale up my site so I continued posting to Flickr—especially when I wanted to share a collection of photos. I was disappointed with myself for not living up to my online ideals. (This is a constant life theme!)

Anyway, all of this is just to say that my relationship with Flickr is complicated. I know my mixed feelings are nothing compared with the folks who were inside building Flickr and I hope their story gets told. I'd love to know why Flickr missed the mobile revolution and today we have Instagram influencers instead of Flickr luminaries (or whatever). I think this acquisition (is it? More details please!) is a great chance to revive the good parts of Flickr—especially its sense of community where Flickr started.
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