Derek Powazek

The wisdom of community

Derek Powazek on: The Wisdom of Community.

The Wisdom of Crowds (WOC) theory does not mean that people are smart in groups — they’re not. Anyone who’s seen an angry mob knows it. But crowds, presented with the right challenge and the right interface, can be wise. When it works, the crowd is wiser, in fact, than any single participant.

JPG Magazine goes under, thoughts on user driven content

JPG Magazine Goes Under

I’m a fan of both Derek Powazek and Heather Champ, they are both pioneers in the area loosely referred to as “the social internet” or in the subset of that area that might be called “user driven content” or “content driven community.”

They founded JPG magazine and then had it taken away from them in a way that led to bad blood that certainly contributed to JPG’s folding.

Heather is a driving force behind Flickr, one of the most successful user driven sites on the web and Derek publishes Fray, a quarterly print magazine that gets its content from submissions on the web.

All of the various things they’re involved in are pioneering efforts and while JPG might have lasted longer had they remained on board, I’m not absolutely sure about that.

Both Derek and Heather build beautiful, simple things; they both share tasteful graphic design aesthetics and they both understand user interface. They understand the social internet better than almost anyone, and have the connections and resources to build great things, which they’ve done. But, I’ve been thinking that there’s a weakness in the underlying model of user driven content and that weakness might have taken JPG down no matter what.

I was an early member of JPG mag but I got turned off when I found out that one of the ways images made the magazine was a social popularity system much like flickr explore. Whether or not these types of popularity systems actually work to pick good stuff is less important to me than the fact that over time, those systems become influencers on community interaction. I, for one, left JPG mag early because of that system. And, as I say in my long diatribe on flickr explore, it wasn’t for lack of popularity (sour grapes).

I’m just not sure that communities that include tracking systems and popularity contests, at least as they are currently implemented, are sustainable; at some point the crowd seems to alienate individuals.

My thoughts on this are raw, not very clear, and I don’t have much to substantiate them, but something isn’t right with some of these social sites and my hunch is that the popularity piece is getting in the face of the open-hearted sharing piece.

JPG folding will no doubt be thought of as the karmic rebound for the way Heather and Derek were treated but it would be foolish for those involved in user driven web sites to leave it at that. I think there’s more going on although I’m not quite sure what it is.

Reflections on the new MacBook Pro

Derek Powazek has issues with the glossy screens on the new MacBook Pros: Reflections on the new MacBook Pro.

This is not great news for me because I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel the same way when I see one this Thursday. There’s really no way to tell for sure until one gets the machine home and uses it in one’s own environment but one can get a sense and my sense is this is going to be a problem.

It could be that Apple is pushing those of us who have this problem to get a large screen monitor but there too, Apple’s latest entry in this area is a glossy screen.

If there is enough whining from the design community Apple will surely take note. What they do about it is anyone’s guess.

Three tales of trolls

Derek Powazek has an interesting post: Three Tales of Trolls which, for those of you who have not followed the evolution of this term, gives a nice back story on situations that are influencing its more modern meaning.

Troll (internet) on Wikipedia.

The Thomas Hawk – SF/MOMA incident is a fascinating situation in that it covers a lot of territory, including how fast someone like Hawk can get a blog post to go viral.

To be clear, I’m not saying Hawk was wrong in any of these cases. I’m just saying that when you keep being the victim in stories like this, one has to wonder if you may be trolling for a conflict.

I like Derek’s take on it and this gives us a new use for the term “troll.” Troll was initially analog: fishing boats trolling for shrimp, then digital: Nikon trolls causing problems in Canon forums, and now we’re on to both analog and digital: trolling (looking) for a conflict and then inciting digital trolls to go viral with the story, causing an enormous lynch mob.

Adding copyright notices to photos

A Savvy Approach to Copyright Messaging

This is a great piece by Derek Powazek.

As a photographer, I’m outraged when people grab photos off the web and use them without consideration of copyright. I’ve been fighting this “It’s on the internet, so it must be free!” ignorance for more than a decade.

I love the fact that Derek is thinking about this stuff. When creative folks start working on these kinds of problems good things happen and Derek is both a web geek and a photographer so he’s got the right set of ingredients to cook something up good. I’m not sure his first take on this is perfect but I like the way he’s going with it.

The real story of JPG Magazine

In The Real Story of JPG Magazine Derek Powazek, one of its founders tells of how he and his wife Heather Champ invented it and built the business, and, painfully how they just left their own startup company.

I have to say, while I loved the design and some of the spirit of JPG Magazine, I never really liked the flickr-like competition to get published in the print mag: voting and such. I realize this is a great web 2.0 method for getting users submitting and looking and voting, but I don’t think it necessarily leads to better photography. That said, the two issues of JPG magazine I’ve gotten have been beautiful with great images, really great, many of them coming from people I’m familiar with on flickr.

Anyway, I just deleted my JPG account. I don’t want to be associated with a site that treats its founders and visionaries this way.