The Waiting is the Hardest Part

So this morning after reading an excellent post over at Stock Photo Talk on the reinvention of outdoor advertising, my thoughts on another new opportunity for Flickr have begun to crystallize. On Monday I posted on this cool new Flickr set up that lets night club patrons in Amsterdam control giant displays that randomly feed Flickr images by tags which can be changed by the patrons via cell phone. I wish they had one of these in San Francisco and I suspect we see more innovative public Flickr art like this in the future — but it got me thinking about how else we might be able to use a public display of Flickr affection and then it hit me.

Now I know at first this is going to sound cheesy and certainly it needs a better polished pitch job than this, but Flickr needs to become the new visual music on hold. Ok, ok, I know what you’re thinking. I HATE music on hold. But you don’t really. You just hate being on hold. Without the music you’d hate it even more. So what does this have to do with Flickr? Well another thing we HATE is waiting in line for things. God do we hate this. The waiting is indeed the hardest part.

Some waits of course are worse than others — the DMV for instance. Ugh. On the other hand I frequently go to this great little deli in San Francisco’s Ferry Building for lunch, Mastrelli’s. Now I don’t mind the wait near as much at Mastrelli’s as I do the DMV. The reason I don’t mind the wait as much is because these cool guys work there and they always have really interesting music on. The last time I was there they had Elvis Costello doing a live version of Allison with Neil Young singing harmony. Every time I’m down there they’ve got something interesting on and it makes waiting 10 minutes to get a good sandwich more palatable.

And this is where Flickr comes in. Flickr interestingness is, well, damn interesting from a visual perspective. As the cost of plasma displays continue to drop Flickr should be contacting businesses and selling them Flickr service for their plasma displays for their waiting customers. Imagine how much better your wait in line would be if while there you got to watch a giant 50 inch plasma run some of the top interestingness photos on Flickr across the screen. A watched pot never boils. Rather than having people in line looking at their watches and the clock on the wall, distract them with the best that Flickr has to offer via interestingness.

There would be two potential models sold here. One would be a free model for businesses and supported by advertising. The business would subscribe to the free service and they would get images interspersed with ads from Yahoo!. The paid version would have no ads. Both versions might carry a very unobtrusive “powered by Flickr” tag across the bottom of occasional screens.

You would need to sell this right to the Flickr community. You’d need them to not focus on the fact that Flickr was making money off their member’s works, but rather that they would be participating in making the world a more visually interesting and stimulating place as well as promoting digital photography in general. You for sure would need to let members opt in or opt out of this service although I suspect many would actually like the thought that one of their images could at any time randomly appear on a screen in a deli somewhere in Chicago for someone else’s enjoyment. By nature putting your photo up publicly on Flickr says I want other people to see it. This would just be a broader extension of that and it would be a way of beautifying our everyday world – a really good thing.

There would be three ways a business could use this service. 1. They could themselves select the images from Flickr (have their favorites stream for instance stream). 2. They could rely on a random sampling of the top 5% of interestingness photos on Flickr. 3. They could have a mix of both.

Flickr would of course need to manually screen the photos included in the program and this would be a hassle – but you couldn’t have a nude shot showing up in a public deli in Chicago now. If an individual selected their own photos from the participating members of course this could bypass any Flickr screening.

Businesses would need to have their own displays and a PC of course to run Flickr.

Businesses also would generate new customers as members of the Flickrnation could look on a Yahoo! Map to see which retailers were using the displays and stop by to check them out. Some good buzz would be built. Bars, restaurants, corporate lobbies, hotels, etc. would be easy candidates — but really the best value would come to businesses that could provide their customers something interesting to see while waiting. Let’s make the world a more beautiful place and take a little more pain out of waiting for everyone. Now that would be doing us all a service.