The Stickiness of Flickr

BloggerdyDoc: Inventive Flickr Usage Elin Sjursen, or Elinesca as she is better known to me by her Flickr id, has written a short piece on one of the games that I’ve been involved with on Flickr called delete me. Deleteme is a game whereby individuals rate and critique photos on Flickr as they are submitted to a voting pool. Think of it as kind of like “hot or not” but for the sophisticated modern day amateur photographer. Geeky? For sure.

Photos sit in a pool where they are critiqued and voted on. A photo will either get 10 saves or 10 deletes first. The photos saved go into a special place called “the safe.” The photos deleted go the way of the millions of other nameless, faceless photos in the Flickr universe. The group prides itself in many ways on it’s harshness and it’s ability to tell you the truth about your photo not just what you want to hear — in the same way that people upload their personal photos to hot or not to get a theoretically more objective assessment on how they look. The group is full of personalities and egos and folks whose feelings get hurt and others who say see, I’m tough enough, go ahead and tell me my photo looks like vomit.

A lot of times strangers happen upon these game photos and are aghast at the comments. Someone once was really offended when one of the deleteme comments on a self portrait I submitted to the pool talked about me needing to go on a diet and stop eating so many cherry pies. The comment was made by the incorrigible Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer (or PPWP) as we know him in delteme and was made in the context of a deeper friendship and I do in fact love cherry pie.

The point of Elinesca’s post though is not about the game really at all, but a byproduct of the game which is social interaction. And it is this social interaction that I’d propose is one of the ingredients that makes Flickr so much stickier than any other photo site on the internet today.

Elinesca writes about how a group of us playing the delteme game made the interesting jump from the original game to a 2nd version of the game. The same idea but without dictatorial leadership.

“With a community like this however, inevitably you’ll have an obligatory Civil War where strong personalities clash together in verbal wars. That’s when the powerful admins decide to use their banning powers: Suddenly, you’re out. Unwanted. A thorn in the admins eyes – your visa in Deleteme land has expired.

This happened to the mighty Thomas Hawk. He gathered the other rejects and thus, a new Deleteme tribe was born: Deleteme Uncensored

Uncensored. There is a message, here! The main difference between these two groups is that while Deleteme Classic is all about commenting on the photos, Deleteme Uncensored is all about the message boards. At Uncensored, the photos often turn stale in the pool before they get deleted or saved –? while everybody chats and enjoy each other company (or not!) in the threads. At Classic — the group attacs your photo and that’s that. And thus, there is no formal group memory, like the threads at Uncensored provide.

I am mentioning all this just because I find the social activities, hierarchy and strong personalities in these groups dazzlingly fascinating. Be warned, the trolls are here and sometimes ruin the fun with juvenile verb usage and stupendous behavior. Yet, in some ways they also contribute.

Everything can happen at Flickr. For instance: The latest group fun is now to send each other postcards via snail mail(!). Don’t ask me how we got from Digital Photography to Postcards in the mail .”

In fairness, it was really Superchou who started deleteme uncensored. But the interesting question that Elinesca’s post raises is, how did a once anonymous group of strangers who post photos on the internet and perhaps have photography as the only thing in common go from posting photos to sending postcards to each other in the mail? These strangers who I didn’t know six months I now consider my friends. While I’ve made friends through blogging through blogging dinners or meetups or things like that the intensity of these online friendships are much greater than anything I’ve ever seen anywhere on the internet.

And this community that Elinesca writes about is not limited only to this one game. It goes on all over the place at Flickr. And it is the strength of these communities that create a product evangelism like nothing you’ve ever seen online before. And it is this aspect of Flickr that is truly responsible for an amazing stickiness. Other communities exist on the internet for sure and I’ve been involved as a member or just passing through in many of them. But I’ve never seen anything with quite the stickiness of Flickr.

Update: Our own Flickr Deleteme Uncensored Beebo Wallace has his take on the rage of the game that is sweeping the nation as well.