Google+, The Nicer Social Network for Photographers
For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about online conversations. It feels like I’m constantly in one somewhere on some site.
More and more for me these are happening on Google+. I used to spend almost all of my social time online in Flickr group discussion threads. I stopped visiting Flickr groups for a while due to personal harassment — but you know what, it wasn’t just me who left, the velocity of quality conversations in Flickr groups have gone wayyyy down more broadly speaking in the past year.
This is not just a subjective thing — it’s easily measured ojbectively as well. Flickr Central is one of the oldest/largest/most active groups on Flickr. Over there years (as counted by threads) 11,503 conversations that have gone on there. Some are very successful, some are not.
If you look at Flickr Central today you’ll see that the time stamp for discussions on the first page goes back two weeks. This was not always the case. It used to be that the entire first page of discussions in Flickr Central were from the past 48 hours. Clearly the velocity of conversations in this Flickr group has gone way down. I suspect the same goes for other groups as well. Many of the groups recommended to me as “groups that Flickr has noticed” on the groups page haven’t had conversations in months, in some cases even years.
Meanwhile, over at Google+, in the past year I’ve been involved in some of the best conversations that I ever remember happening anywhere on the web. Interesting conversations about photography and art and meetups and hangouts and all kinds of fun things. it seems like there is always some great conversation somewhere on Google+ to jump into.
Over the course of the past few weeks I’ve jumped back into a few Flickr conversations to see what it feels like. What I’ve noticed is that the tone of conversations on Google+ feels so much more positive than it does at Flickr. There’s so much less snark and bitterness and negativity overall. I hadn’t seen the difference so dramatically before, but after having been gone awhile it felt more evident.
This made me think about what Google+ was doing right for community that Flickr is not.
When I first joined Google+ one of the things that I noticed is that some of the more hostile individuals from many of the old Flickr groups showed up. Some personal attacks took place, they aired their gripes about different things, typical BS hater stuff — but you know what? These people were quickly marginalized and moved out of the way to create a more positive environment. I blocked many of these people and so did so many other photographers on G+.
A few weeks went by and these people were just as hostile and negative but they were basically shouting to an empty room. The majority of positive forward thinking photographers on G+ had tuned them out with the tools that we were given. What we were left with was a more positive filtered G+ experience. I went back a few days ago to look at a few of the accounts of people that I blocked and you know what — they are gone. They quit G+. By empowering a mostly positive oriented community these people found no audience to bitch at and they left. Meanwhile, more constructive social photographers on G+ carry on.
Now, one worry with filtering out criticism is that it hurts meaningful conversation because all conversation is not always puppy dogs and roses, but that also hasn’t happened on Google+. Lots of criticism has gone on in tons of threads. The difference is though that the criticism feels much more respectful than some of what I’ve experienced in Flickr groups. People disagree on Google+ they just do it respectfully.
By giving users more powerful blocking tools on G+ Google has built a nicer community. A nicer community feels so much more enjoyable.
Every so often I’ll find someone new who comes along and leaves some sort of assholish comment in a thread on Google+. It’s almost delightful at how easy it is to block them and make them invisible.
In poking around Flickr Groups over the past week I did find what felt like some high quality conversations to me, I read them, I lurked — but I didn’t participate. The reason why I didn’t participate was that I noticed some of the toxic types that I’d run into previously on Flickr or G+. I’m sure I would have jumped into these conversations if I hadn’t seen them there, but what’s the point of jumping into a conversation about fine art photography when you know someone is just going to be a jerk?