Your photos and data on Flickr
flickr is a popular online photo sharing community which millions of people the world over use. I’ve been using flickr to host images I embed in this site as well as as a community to meet and connect with other photographers since 2004. Flickr was one of the first large-scale social media networking sites to appear on the internet and last through its initial growth period.
Yahoo bought flickr from its founders a number of years ago and since then the core group of developers, administrators, and moderators has scattered to the wind. No doubt it was tough to take over from such a creative and smart group of founders and at that point many thought flickr would lose its way. In a sense, they were right, flickr has lost its way and Yahoo to this day has no sense of the worth of this large community.
Anyone can make a free account on flickr with caps on uploads, storage, and other features and for $24.95 a year you can upgrade to a “Pro” account which gives you unlimited uploads and storage and many other nice features. It’s quite a good deal if you post a lot of images online and/or want to meet up with other photographers and share notes and images.
Because flickr is a community with groups and discussions and such, there are community guidelines on online decorum and civility and the entire “flickrverse” is moderated. After Yahoo bought flickr and the core group of moderators scattered and flickr’s user base exploded as Yahoo images was folded in, Yahoo didn’t do much to fortify flickr’s policies or moderation.
One of the things that has happened over the years is that people who violate the community guidelines in various ways (copyright infringement, online bullying, for example) have had their accounts suspended. The situation for flickr is, if an account is suspended or, if a Pro user doesn’t renew his or her Pro subscription, what do they do with all of the images and the account information? How long do they need to archive this stuff before they can toss it. Couple this situation with a lack of core administration and moderation and you have a recipe for a problem.
Flickr was suspending users who had been members as long as me with thousands of images posted, captioned, tagged, and with huge threads of comments on each. Some of these users might have deserved suspension but some didn’t but there was no recourse and it was difficult to argue your case. Very quickly, all of your hard work was gone. Serious photographers have their work backed up on their computers but all the social stuff: the captions, the tags, and the comments from fans are all gone, never to be resurrected.
I don’t know how many people had this happen but enough had it happen by mistake that Yahoo/fickr finally got a clue and has now changed their policy on account deletion, giving users a 90 day window to work things out.
This is what can happen when you have a large community and the administration changes rapidly and the new administration doesn’t get what made the community grow and thrive in the first place. All Yahoo wanted was the numbers, they didn’t understand what made the numbers. I hope this announcement is the beginning of them getting it. I’m not holding my breath.