How to Fix the 2nd Most Important Page on Flickr
Timoni West, a designer for Flickr, is out with a post detailing how broken what she calls “the most important page on Flickr” is. It’s refreshing actually. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone from Flickr actually dare to write a post that was openly critical of Flickr in public. Generally speaking Yahoo/Flickr does not handle criticism very well (have I mentioned that I’m banned from their help forum for life simply for respectfully criticizing Flickr in the past?)
The page that Timoni points to as the most important page on Flickr is in fact pretty important, it’s the page where you go to see your contacts’ most recent uploads. I would disagree with her about this being *the most* important page on Flickr (that would be the recent activity page), but it probably is the 2nd most important page on Flickr and it’s been languishing for years.
Basically the problem is this. When you go to view your contacts’ photos on Flickr, unless you actually go to their url *specifically*, there are only 4 ways to view your contacts’ photos. You can filter these photos by contacts vs. friends/family and you can filter these photos to show you the last single upload or the last 5 uploads.
Everything else gets buried.
So every day, the system buries much of the content that you really do want to see the *most* on flickr — the content you are absolutely most likely to engage with. The current page is quality agnostic and will show you the crapiest possible camera phone shot by someone that you barely know, just because you’ve made them a contact — at the expense of possibly showing you a photo of your own child losing her first tooth or your favorite rooftopper’s latest urban adventure (really click through on that one, you won’t be disppointed).
To compound the problem, the less frequently you visit flickr, the worse this problem becomes.
Apparently Timoni put a pitch in last year to rework this page, but we’ve yet to see anything tangible come out of this.
“The page fails on a fundamental level—it’s supposed to be where you find out what’s happened on Flickr while you were away. The current design, unfortunately, encourages random clicking, not informed exploration.
The page isn’t just outdated, it’s actively hurting Flickr, as members’ social graphs on the site become increasingly out of sync with real life. Old users forget to visit the site, new sign ups are never roped in, and Flickr, who increased member sign-ups substantially in 2010, will forego months of solid work when new members don’t come back.”
Spot on Ms. West.
So the question now becomes, how in the blazes do you fix this page? Timoni has some good ideas I think, but I’ll throw my own ideas in here too. And feel free if you have ideas on how to fix this page to comment below.
1. Flickr needs lists. Flickr’s current system of dumping your contacts into two buckets (contacts vs. friend/family) is sooooooooo 2004. Maybe even 2003. Flickr needs to understand that we naturally value our contacts differently. There will be a handful of people that I do not want to miss a *single* photo of. There will be some super important people in my life- my wife, my mom, my boss (joking), my dad, my best friend from when we were eight. While I have a lot of “friends” on Flickr, I need to be able to create a list of “super friends.”
I may also want to slice and dice my flickr contacts up (did I mention I like knives? again, totally joking Flickr do NOT delete my account).
What about a list of San Francisco photographers? What about a list of people that are in my Hot Box Group (the best group on Flickr by the way — join here now)? What about a list of people that I’ve actually met face to face? What about a list of graffiti photographers? What about a list of neon photographers? You get the idea.
By allowing us to create lists, and then filter our contacts photos by lists, flickr helps us design our own optimal customizable experience. Twitter did lists a long time ago. Flickr needs to get with the 2011’s.
2. Use Interestingness to show me the most interesting photos of my friends. Flickr has an internal system that effectively ranks every photo on the site with a hidden score. It’s pretty simple actually, the more faves, comments, tags, notes, views, external links, etc. a photo gets, the higher the score.
Basically the crowd rates every single photo on the site. They then do two things with this data. They pick out 500 high ranking photos each day and dump them into Explore (that is unless you’ve been blacklisted from Explore like I have after I wrote a blog post critical of them). And they also use that data in their search engine — to help you find the most interesting photos that you might be looking for.
There is no reason why interestingness cannot or should not be applied to the contacts page. Mediocre camera phone shots or other photos that people dislike, should not be shown at all. On the other hand if 10 people fave a shot and it gets lots of comments, then maybe people want to see that shot more.
Flickr should give me the option to see not only my contacts and friends/family photos this way, they should also allow me to see any of my lists this way. And they should give me 5 options on how to view these photos (the last 12 hours, the last day, the last 2 days, the last week, the last month).
Having this sort of a view will allow me to quickly uncover the best photos by the people that I want to see, not just the most recent photos randomly.
3. Have a “Fresh” section. Another option I should have when viewing my contacts photos should be called “fresh.” Fresh sounds so refreshing doesn’t it? Not stale like 2004.
This view would filter out all of the photos that I’ve either hid or have already interacted with. If I’ve already seen a photo in a particular view and faved it and commented on it, why show it to me again as a thumbnail? Or if I find a photo that I hate, why not let me hide that photo (or even that entire photographer’s stream without having to drop them as a contact). “Fresh” would be a new way to view only the photos that I haven’t hid/interacted with.
I will leave *what* the UI should actually look like to the Pros like Timoni. But the above functionality could turn Flickr’s tired old contacts page into something so much greater than it is.
I hope Timoni doesn’t get in trouble for writing something critical of a page on Flickr, by the way. I think it’s really great that she’s being transparent about what’s broken. Having people like that on the team is an asset. And engaging with the community to both talk about it and talk about how to improve it is a *good* thing, not a bad thing.
Speaking of which, someone really should make Zack unban me from the Help Forum one of these days. Heather’s long gone now. It’s petty and counterproductive.
Oh and totally unrelated, all of the best Flickr accounts are currently setting up accounts at 500px as well. If you are not already on 500px, you are so missing out — the quality of the photography there is mind blowing and totally blowing flickr away. You can follow me on 500px here. Check out the list of Flickr Pros who have already joined and add your own 500px url to the list as well.
Competition, such a beautiful thing!