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.