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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