Caterina Fake has written an excellent commentary on the social evolution of online communities. For those who don’t know her, she co-founded flickr and has been involved in a lot of behind the scenes work in many online communities.
I’ve been involved with many online communities over many years as well and am still involved with many, some big, some small collections of people who hang out in comment threads. There’s something about this kind of connection that works for me, even with the issues of trolls and such. The fact that people are connecting is simply astounding to me and I’ve never taken it for granted.
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.
Flickr Co-Founder Butterfield and Chief Architect Henderson Working on Stealth Start-Up
When Yahoo bought flickr it made many of us long time flickr folk cringe thinking that Yahoo would mess up this excellent property. When flickr’s founders Stewart Butterfield and Catarina Fake left many of us got nervous but flickr remained strong and continued to grow. However, the loss of Cal Henderson coupled with the fact that Yahoo continues to struggle to survive seems to be painting a picture of flickr floundering
Independent of these people leaving flickr, about a year ago it seemed to have peaked socially: the early members were burning out and new members were joining at a fast enough rate that there didn’t seem to be a core of long term users to hold things together. This isn’t true of all groups on flickr, many are run by serious folks who do a great job moderating and keeping energy high and civil at the same time, but it does seem to be true of many.
I can say that I’ve been slowly burning out on the social piece of it for the past year and now spend very little time with it. I still host my images there but the thrill of lots of new people seeing and commenting on my work has worn off. It was bound to happen and when you couple that with the news that Yahoo is floundering and flickr founders are leaving it seems that flickr may have peaked for more people than just me.