Flickr Community Fills Gap

In the recent round of Yahoo! layoffs was someone I’d just met, George Oates. She started the Flickr Commons, where galleries, libraries, archives, and museums can post photos and the community can tag them. She was a tireless ambassador, as well, with a gruelling travel schedule to bring the word to other institutions on what’s possible. Her blog post about how she found out about being laid off is moving.

Still shocked. So fucking brutal.

Within the sadness of that, however, comes some good news. The community is beginning to form and take control of its destiny. They’ve got a Flickr group and George is taking heart from it.

I’m reminded of Google’s philosophy around groups. They were so happy with the way that the Google Maps community rallied to support apps developers, they’ve rolled out a similar “help-less” support system for their other developer products. The thinking is: if we hold their hands then the work for us will grow faster than we can meet it, so it’s better to stand back even at launch and let the community form and do the work. From other experiences I’ve had (Google Docs, I’m looking at you) this community support is sketchy at best, and Google may well have learned the magic ingredient that creates a vibrant helpful community as opposed to a question-filled answer-free ghetto. With the passion for Flickr Commons that I saw at National Digital Forum last month, I’m sure the community’s on the right track.

(hint on the magic ingredient: Maps apps were public works, so the reward for helping was seeing another cool app appear. Google Docs are generally private, so there’s rarely any direct reward for helping someone with their DNS configuration or email client setup. Flickr Commons: very public)

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  • Susan Beezlebub

    1. Create app
    2. Get a champion to create the community
    3. Lay off champion once the community can support itself
    4. Cut costs
    5. Profit!

  • @Susan Beezlebub: yes, I’m absolutely appalled that they chose to lay off George. Commons is *worshipped* in the library community, and for the cost of one person they’ve lost a huge amount of respect and growth in the program. But while it’s easy to suspect the cynical flowchart you describe, I think we have to realize that there were a shitload of good Yahoo!s lost in the layoffs and George’s layoff wasn’t part of a big conspiracy from the start of Commons.

    I can’t wait to see what George does next. I know she’s friends with Seb Chan of Powerhouse museum, who does awesome work.

  • I talked with George a few times when the Smithsonian was considering joining the Flickr Commons and was very impressed by how she handled delicate negotiations with institutions such as the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress, in the process scoring a real coup for Yahoo which she helped make into the official public domain photo repository for a number of national institutions.

    Seems like not only a real mistake to get rid of somebody that effective, but also that the way the situation was handled speaks worlds about the dismal state of Yahoo today.