No Video on Flickr Movement Gains More Momentum

[I'm CEO of Zooomr]

Flickr Users Cry Mutiny Over New Video Feature | The Underwire from Wired.com:

Wired is out with yet another article about the no videos on Flickr movement. Yesterday CNET/Webware and the Register both carried articles covering the protest as well.

In less than 48 hours, two very large anti-video groups on Flickr have gained quite a bit of traction and momentum. We Say NO to Videos on Flickr now has over 23,000 members and No Video on Flickr now has almost 10,000 members.

Now is probably as good a time as any to give my own opinion on the whole video on Flickr thing.

Personally I’m not a big fan of the new video service on Flickr. But then again I’m not a huge fan of 90 second video clips in general either. I rarely use YouTube or other video services. I do have a video up on Vimeo but it’s over 90 seconds.

I think a lot of how I view video on Flickr comes down to how I view Flickr though. I view Flickr as sort of a new world online fine art gallery or museum. I believe that Flickr represents a democratization of fine art photography and a way for new and emerging artists to show their work.

This of course is not how most people who use Flickr view Flickr though. Where a handful of fine art photographers view this as one of the most important functions of the site, others view the site as simply a place to host their photos.

Most Flickr users in fact have no aspirations to be fine art photographers. Sure, they are pleased when their sunset shot gets 5 faves and a little attention, but for the most part most people on Flickr are there to simply share photos, good, bad or indifferent.

The problem is that there are a *ton* of really bad photographs on Flickr. I mean really really really bad photos. As much as the site has become a place where people show their fine art photography it has also been flooded with mediocre photography.

For the person who wants to use Flickr as a place to show and appreciate fine art photography the constant struggle is to wade through all the crap to find the good stuff. And when you find the good stuff, it’s oftentimes very, very good.

Now I believe that good original artistic fine art video is much more difficult to produce than good original fine art photography. That said, what video on Flickr means is that users who are focused on fine art photography will have to wade through that much more crap on the site.

Now on the one hand, so what, big deal. What’s the problem with having to see a bunch of crap video everywhere you go? Just don’t click on it and ignore it — same thing you’ve been doing with the crap photography. But it’s still clutter and I think clutter pulls down the overall clean feel of the Flickr site for many users.

Now, on the other hand, I do recognize that maybe I’m just taking the attitude of the grumpy old man here. Certainly there was resistance to digital photography when it first began to supplant film photography. Maybe rather than oppose video, I should embrace it. Maybe I’d be surprised by the quality of work I’d find. But I’m just not there yet. And maybe I’m not there because to watch a 90 second bad video involves a much greater commitment of time and energy to try and find the truly artistic fine art stuff than simply looking at a page of thumbnails of photos and deciding which ones I’m going to click on and view.

I watched a couple of videos on Flickr yesterday. I’m not going to say whose they were but they were definitely crap. Boring to no end. And my concern is that all this boring video will continue to deluge the site.

To me, the simplest answer is for Flickr to simply offer filtering technology for the new service. Flickr today gives a user an option to opt out of screenshot imagery, why not give the user the same option to opt out of videos. It seems to me that this would be a small price to pay and a way that they could show the Flickr Community that they do listen to them.

Now I do like video, heck, I work on a video show with Robert Scoble. I think video has it’s place out there. But I’m just not sure the place for it for me is Flickr. And mostly when I’m watching video I have no aspirations that I’ll be watching fine art. If I had the option I’d choose to opt out of video on Flickr. But I can’t opt out of video on Flickr today, and that’s the biggest part of the problem.

Empower user choice and you empower your user.

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12 comments on “No Video on Flickr Movement Gains More Momentum
  1. Cap'n says:

    Might it be that the problem is the expectations of the fine-art photographers? Flickr is (at least now) a big, general photo sharing site – it’s not a fine-art site.

    I use Flickr to share photos of my kid with my far-flung family, and until now I’ve had to use YouTube, etc. to do the same with video. This functionality will give my crowd the ability to catch both picture and video updates in one place. That’s a big plus for me.

    Yeah, it’s anything but fine art, but that’s the kind of stuff the vast majority of Flickr users use the service for.

    To complain about the quality of 90-second video on Flickr is sort of like looking for a great steak at McDonald’s.

    Is there not a “fine art”-focused alternative to Flickr? The complaints just seem a big misplaced and naive about the nature of the overwhelming majority of Flickr usage.

  2. publicenergy says:

    Some people just like complaining. News stories about people getting angry are more frequent than stories about good things and so it goes.

    For me, using Flickr today is no different to how it was two days ago without video.

    It just seems to be another ridiculous over-reaction.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree wholeheartedly about offering the choice to opt-out of video on Flickr.

    As others have pointed out, Flickr has SO many areas they could have improved on before implementing video. Yet they didn’t.

    Personally, I’ve already seen enough boring web video to last a lifetime. I just don’t want to see any more.

  4. Nate says:

    Hey Thomas,

    Reasonable analysis. Thanks for sharing.

    Here’s my thoughts on yours:

    If someone uploads 250 snapshots from their family reunion, perhaps 245 of those are “crap” from an art perspective. Fine. But I don’t see how two short videos — grandma blowing out her bday candles or whatever — taken with the same point-and-shoot camera tips the scales any farther toward “crap.” 5/250 and 5/252 are, it would seem, practically identical.

    I enjoy the fine art on Flickr immensely. I also think it’s the best place to post my 250 reunion photos. I don’t see how one interrupts the other. And I don’t see how video makes it worse.

    (Having a search filter seems like a fine idea though.)

    Thanks,
    Nate

    (Disclosure: I work at Yahoo!, but not of the Flickr team.)

  5. Bo Nash says:

    I totally agree that user controlled filtering would solve 90% of the issues people have with this. (Bandwidth/stability/resource concerns probably make up the other 10%.)

    With that said, I think a lot of the grumpiness over this issue is from people who don’t want anything about Flickr to ever change, and seem to perceive any attempt by the company to do so as some sort of heavy-handed imposition and affront to their identity as an artist.

    That, in my mind, is just misguided and short-sighted.

    We could debate the business merits of the changes until we’re blue in the face, but when it comes down to it, it’s Flickr/Yahoo/MicroHoo’s property to run as they see fit.

    I, too, am drawn to Flickr primarily for the art, but I see the value of it as a sharing tool for journalism, as well as the family birthday photos. And I’ve used it for those purposes, and it’s a great tool. We’ve both used it to host screenshots of things we want to illustrate on our blogs. Calling that “fine art” would most likely be pushing the boundaries of that definition, as well.

    But that’s not to say I don’t agree that many of us photographers would like to see a lot more focus on the art end of the scale.

    I was even drawn to Zooomr because that community seemed to skew more towards the artistic.

    But if memory serves me correctly, a significant, and vocal part of that community objects to Zooomr’s efforts on a mobile platform for nearly identical reasons to those you highlight in this post about Flickr Video. I think it’s fair to say that photos from phones are very rarely art, or even intended as such. (Maybe when more of us have 5 megapixel phones this will change, but for now…)

    I think you’ve made some insightful points, as always, Thomas. But I think most of this controversy is way, way overblown.

  6. Poagao says:

    Good analysis, Thomas. I feel mostly the same way. To me, a filter would solve a lot of the problems I have with video, yet people would complain that users then wouldn’t be able to see their streams as they intended them.

    To me, though, the simple inclusion of videos changes the whole way I experience flickr. It’s sad, but it’s also inevitable? What’s wrong with thousands of pictures and videos of someone’s kid? Nothing, nothing at all. It’s just that there’s nothing great about it either. Just more between me and what I’m looking for, is all.

  7. Chris Nixon says:

    Fair point Thomas, but could the same not be said for the deluge of boring photographs on the Flickr. It’s up to the community to make sure quality floats to the top…exactly like it does with photographs.

    I see video as an opportunity to try something new…sure there’s plenty of crap, but we’ll become skilled at filtering that in the same way we do photography.

  8. TranceMist says:

    (correction: I mean to say “ignoring the videos”)

  9. TranceMist says:

    We came here because it was clean and it was just for photos.

    Ignoring the photos, though the feature you propose or otherwise, is similar to standing in a room full of people you don’t like and trying to pretend they’re not there.

    You can do it, if I know they’re there to begin with, I won’t go in the first place.

    Now I’m here and they’re showing up. I don’t want to be in their company. It’s only a few at first, and while those may be easy to ignore, I know there will be more, and more.

    And that’s what bothers me.

    So I’m faced with a choice. Stay and put up with the inevitable, or leave and not bother with it.

    Thomas, I see this very similar to your struggle with crime in Oakland. You don’t like it but you stay and fight it instead of leaving (or doing nothing).

  10. Quikboy says:

    I don’t really care. I just think that if you don’t like videos on Flickr, then don’t use or view them.

    There might be users that do, and they have the right to, right?

  11. Thomas Hawk says:

    I don’t really care. I just think that if you don’t like videos on Flickr, then don’t use or view them.

    There might be users that do, and they have the right to, right?

    Right, but why not just create a way to filter them out. It would make things easier for both people who want to enjoy them and people who do not.