Flickr = Censorship

Flickr = Censorship

[I’m CEO of Zooomr]

Well it is with great disappointment that I found myself yet again a victim of censorship on Flickr. Early today while engaging in a debate about Flickr’s recent censorship in Germany I had over a dozen of my comments permanently deleted out of a debate by Flickr staff.

You can see the references to my involvement in the debate here and here among other places.

It’s ironic that of all places that Flickr would choose to censor me would be in a thread protesting their censorship. And without any warning even or explanation.

This is not the first time I’ve been censored by Flickr.

The points that I was making in my debate about censorship on Flickr had a lot to do with what I see as problems at Yahoo. The fact that their CEO is the highest paid CEO in the United States, the fact that Yahoo 2 days ago rejected an important shareholder proposal denouncing censorship. And yes this most recent issue of censorship where people in Germany can only access Flickr in “safe mode.”

Now some might say that it’s not right for me as a competitor to Yahoo to be critical of their practices. But let me point you to the screen shot above. It comes from Flickr employee Dunstan Orchard’s public zipline on Zooomr. Dunstan and other Flickr employees have been on Zooomr disparaging our site for the past week. So to me it seems a tad hypocritical that when I legitimately object to censorship on Flickr that I would have my words censored, while Flickr staff seems to feel that it’s perfectly appropriate to disparage Zooomr over at Zooomr.

It’s not right. And what Flickr doesn’t understand is that by censoring your critic you only make him stronger. I’m sure it’s probably only a matter of time before I get kicked off of Flickr entirely. All my photographs destroyed and deleted as well. Over 40,000 comments from many good friends.

This is the difference though between me and Flickr. When Dunstan and other Flickr employees disparaged Zooomr I let their words stand. Rather than censor them, I took the high road and did not. Meanwhile Flickr continues to build a name for itself: Flickr = censorship. Silencing me will not change this and it’s a sad state of affairs to see happen to the Flickr that I once loved so much and that even now professes to “love me” on the little icon above my page.

Censorship is borne out of fear and weakness. This is something always to remember.

Update: More from Salon.

48 Replies to “Flickr = Censorship”

  1. For some reason, this is the most disturbing bit of censorship that I’ve read re: flickr. Perhaps it’s the hypocrisy? Whatever it is, it’s certainly disconcerting to me as a flickr user. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Well, after many weeks of reading your blog, I opened a zooomr account.

    Yea, sometimes you really do go looking for trouble. But more often than not, I generally end up agreeing with you on some level or another

  3. You were posting completely off topic comments and spamming your website in that thread. Rude and uncalled for behavior in real life or on the net. Nearly every forum I know retains the right to delete off topic comments and spam posts.

    Stop kidding yourself, that wasn’t censorship at all.

  4. That’s completely immature and ridiculous. No reason for it. I know he has just as much right to bash a site as anyone, but that’s exactly the problem. It’s not ONLY that he’s a flickr employee, but in general, what purpose does that serve. If you don’t like a site, don’t use it. Ridiculous. Grow up.

  5. Frankly this is exactly the reason I canceled my flickr account. I have no interest in supporting their insane censorship tactics. It’s wrong on so many levels and anyone who defends flickr is an idiot. Plain and simple.

    Yes they’re a private company. Yes they have the right to do as they please, but having the right to do what you please doesn’t exclude you from the obligation to do the right thing.

    Sorry flickr, but you have seriously gone down hill directly into the crapper.

  6. Coleman. I was debating a topic about censorship in a thread about censorship. If they felt that individual things I was saying were off topic they could certainly have taken out those parts and left others. They also could have allowed me to self moderate. For instance, they could have said, “Hey Thomas, we have a problem with this and think that it’s off topic. We think we might delete it. Would you like to make a case for why it is on topic or possibly edit the post yourself.”

    But instead they did not warn me. They did not contact me. They did not partially censor me. They removed 100% of the posts I’d made on the topic.

    People can’t really see the threads now to try and make this determination for themselves because Flickr has permanently deleted them.

    One of the things that I pointed out though was that 2 days ago Yahoo rejected a shareholder proposal to more formally adopt an anti-censorship position. If you read loupiote’s comment here in the thread you can see him thanking me for pointing him to the Governement filing on this. This is relevant public information about a debate on censorship.

    So you see I’m critical of Yahoo’s censorship. Post a link to a government document that might be perceived as embarrassing to them and I get censored.

    Sure, I took some digs at the Flickr folk too. I was for instance pointing out that one of their employees was bragging about looking for porn on Zooomr while all this was going on (see screenshot above). But if they want to come talk trash over at Zooomr I kind of thing turnabout is fair play. At least I didn’t censor their trash talk.

    For Yahoo to try to silence their critics by censoring them is a bad move.

  7. just as a point of information, in the topic where thomas’ posts were deleted, there was a full explanation of what was deleted.

    the germans protesting the flickr censorship did not complain about the removal of thomas’ posts, and indeed one of the critical german users thanked stewart for removing the posts and keeping the discussion on topic saying, “Stewart Thanks for keeping track of this! And thanks for keeping the topic on track! I highly appreciate this.” –

    the truth is, thomas, that you were making the topic into a topic about you. stealing the attention from the issues the germans were presenting.

    german flickr users seem to be handling their dissent just fine, asking pertinent questions and not dragging up personal grudges, unrelated issues of flickr devs on zooomr etc. etc.

    the topic was becoming “the thomas hawk show” and now with the removal of your comments the thread is equally critical of flickr but is more focused on the needs of german flickr users and not the needs of zooomr.

  8. Seriously…again?

    1. You constantly bash Flickr. It’s rude and unprofessional. You are clearly trying to stir up controversy to help get your name and you company’s name in the press. Please, stop whining already.

    2. You actually think that the screencap you posted from the Flickr employee is embarassing for *them*? You’re missing the point. Your site doesn’t work. That’s embarassing for *you*. I tried your site also last week, too. AWFUL.

    1. Very buggy.
    2. Uploading is a joke.
    3. Organizing features are basically non-existent.
    4. The zipline is a gimmiky piece of crap.

    And why, for the love of God, do I have to stare at your programmers face on my homepage? How freakin vain is this kid? First he broadcasts himself on the homepage and now I have to stare at his face on my homepage (because he’s attached to the welcome message)?

    Everyone knows that he rips off other competitors. And if Arrington and everyone else weren’t so impressed by the kids age they might actually realize that your product is seriously value deficient.

    And finally, a parting thought. If you spent as much time and energy on your own site as you do on Flickr, you might actually have product that someone wants.

    Zooomr = Crap

  9. No censorship on Zooomr, huh?

    Wow, that’s great. I will enjoy uploading pics of my kids knowing that when Grandma and Grandpa visit your site they’ll be able to enjoy all of the porn content you will be providing.

    Terrific. A site without “censorship”. Isn’t that pretty much a site without standards? Yeah, Zoomr is going to be awesome. Think of all of the kiddie porn and screencaps you’ll be hosting your servers. Hip Hip Hooray.

  10. Hey Striatic (aka: Mr-way-too-cool-for-caps): Here’s the point.

    Flickr consistently does one thing: Arbitrarily deletes comments in forums, photos in streams, and so on. The one consistent thing about flickr is its inconsistency.

    The fact that they refused to adopt a corporate policy of non-censorship is proof that they’re way more interested in censoring and control than they are about fostering a community.

    Enough is enough. Flickr is an absolute cesspool and if you don’t suck the corporate shlong of Flickr, you’re a target. Thomas is one of the most prolific users of flickr. He consistently posts thought provoking posts in the groups.

    He also prefaces his posts with the fact that he’s the CEO of Zooomr so people know he isn’t just another hack critic and understands the challenges of running a business like flickr.

    You obviously understand that because you’ve had your head so far buried up flickr’s ass that you can’t see its decline.

    As I said before, having the right to do what you please doesn’t exclude you from the obligation to do the right thing.

  11. RE Anonymous comment:
    1. If you want to be taken seriously, don’t post anonymously.

    2. Your comments are off topic. This is about censorship, not problems with Zooomr. Write your own Zooomr=crap blog if you dislike it so much.

    3. I didn’t read TH’s comments on Flickr and don’t have an opinion of whether or not they were off topic or if removing them is censorship. However Flickr is censoring content. That is bad whether you agree with TH or not. Censorship starts small, but eventually leads to oppression and content control.

    That being said, Flickr has the right to censor, but they should be honest and open about. And I have the right to cancel my account.

    TH is trying to bring this to light not to promote Zooomr, but to show how corporations start to become evil and self serving. He’s always been very open and honest about his position with Zooomr. Of course he’s going to promote Zooomr, that’s his job. But bashing Flickr is not the same as promoting Zooomr. I don’t see him saying “Cancel your flickr accounts and come over to Zooomr.” He’s just saying censorship is bad.

  12. vinny.

    you obviously have no idea of how critical i’ve been of flickr in the past. thomas knows this, he knows i’m not a flickr shill.

    for example, were you aware that i argued against flickr when they were suggesting they would deny zooomr’s api key request? i still think flickr ought to grant that request, despite the pretty dire technical state zooomr has been in lately and unfortunate and unnecessary copycatism. i don’t even think that zooomr should have to provide reciprocal api access in return, fancy that.

    i don’t have my head “up flickr’s ass”. i disagree with them ALL THE TIME [there’s some caps for you], i think they’re more often right than wrong, but that’s not due to any head-in-ass-ism i assure you.

    as for thomas’ deleted comments ..

    when you have the german users protesting against censorship also applauding flickr’s decision to remove thomas’ comments, you’ve got to know there’s a bit more to this story than thomas sharing here.

    do i think that this was a totally wrongheaded, boneheaded decision on flickr’s part? yes.

    do i think that, since i hold this opinion, i ought to go into the help forum and totally dominate the discussion from people with far more legitimate call to complain than i?


    that’s what thomas was doing. it was really rather over the top, and required a kind of insider knowledge of the flickr zooomr relationship that i’d guess most german flickr users would have no idea about.

    further, stewart links to zooomr in the post above his “official explanation”, links place in one of the most prominent locations in the discussion. he also links to this blog.

    seriously, the topic in question was becoming ‘the thomas hawk show’ when it really should have been ‘the german photographers’ show’.

    the people actually participating in that discussion, despite being super super SUPER critical of flickr, didn’t complain about the removal of thomas’ posts.

    this should tell you something.

  13. As pointed out the guy who started the German protest thanked Stewart for deleting your posts and keeping the protest thread on topic. Also, Stewart publicly acknowledged he deleted your comments and even gave you some free promotion with a link in his post to your blog (how I got here). Not exactly as nefarious as you make it out to be, eh?

    Have you tried starting a separate thread in the help forum for your OT thoughts?

    I don’t think anyone is happy with the Germany censorship on flickr and that’s part of the irony of your blog post. You make it sound as if flickr is going out of their way to censor criticism over the changes, yet any sane person looking at flikcr today would be amazed at the level of dissent on the site. Whether it’s the gobs of protest images in Explore or the over now 900 posts in the German thread of scathing criticism of flickr it’s pretty hard to claim that flickr is silencing criticism.

    What they did was to silence you specifically as a direct result of your going OT and starting to make it all about you and not the Germans who are actually effected by this. Whatever happened to your promises you made on flickrcentral during the Zoomr Mark III launch support thread you hosted there? I can see you are a passionate photographer and like that very much about you, but it seems you are letting that zest leach into other fields of discourse where it’s more of an impediment than help for say the German situation. Which I will agree with you sucks.

  14. Isn’t some amount of censorship necessary? Does Zooomr have an open door policy to all content? Surely there is some conent that even Zooomr would object to hosting on their site.

    Flickr’s brand value is directly tied to the fact that they serve up quality content. Criticizing them for maintaining quality control and calling it censorship seems a bit overly dramatic. Bottom line? They have the right censor any content they choose.

    Maybe Zooomr can afford an open door policy. They are targeting an edgier (early adopter) demographic. That’s fine for them. But Flickr has to take care of it’s own house. It also sounds like there are some legality issues with Germany that have to be taken into consideration.

    I guess it’s a tough question. Is the abililty to post *anything* actually a good thing?


    As for Dunstan. It looks like he’s just doing some competative R&D; (which we all do, don’t we?). I’m sure his actions were Flickr-related. Otherwise I doubt he would have announced he was an employee.

  15. Man, Striatic has completely lost it lately. What the hell does he think he’s doing defending censorship and trying to blame YOU for getting censored?

  16. smaragd, when the people fighting the larger battle applaud thomas hawk being out of the equation, i’m going to agree with the people fighting the larger battle.

    so when the guy who started the anti-censorship thread says it’s better that thomas is gone – i’m going to agree with that guy.

    thomas’ “contributions” to the topic were very counterproductive.

    i’m not going to stick up for the big guy with the big blog and his own photohosting service, i’m going to agree with the little guy making the less theatrical [and more productive/important] point.

  17. Hello Thomas, it’s Dunstan/Dunsten/Dustin here. [I work at Flickr].

    Just to let you know that if you’d like to delete any of my zipline messages that annoy you, or in fact delete my entire account on Zooomr, please feel free. I would have done so myself, but there doesn’t seem to be an account deletion option.

    As for why I created a Zooomr account in the first place, I’ve seen many requests by you that people try Zooomr out, so that’s exactly what I did — I signed up, tried some everyday tasks, joked back and forth with some friends on zipline as to the success of those efforts, then gave it up until you so kindly started posting my (friend’s-only?) messages for the public on Flickr.

    I think this whole experience leads me to conclude that I won’t be using Zooomr as my primary photosharing service. So if it makes you feel better and will help the site run faster, please just delete my account from your system (I see you have a screenshot for posterity).

    Hope that helps, and thanks for being my friend on Zooomr. You were the best friend ever.

  18. Kara, don’t you think you ought to disclose that you work for a competitor of Zooomr when you post a post criticizing your competition. If you look at the head of this post it says [I’m CEO of Zooomr]. I think disclosure is a good thing.

    And as for your opinion about Dunstan taunting Zooomr on Zooomr’s site as a guise for “research.” I hardly think so given his public comment:

    “I am befriending porn people here to see what happens to them… and, you know, to occasionally look at naked ladies. But _mainly_ for the research ;)”

    Striatic I appreciate your support on the API key issue. Certainly there is a much to be critical of Zooomr still. We are a two man team working our assess off trying as hard as we can. We will fix much in the next year hopefully. But the API key issue is about user portability. That’s another thing that Flickr ought to support and it should not be conditional. Zooomr is committed in fact to an open API. The reason it’s not out yet is simply a matter of development resources.

    As for my comments being over the top in the forum Striatic, do keep in mind that Dunstan and Gino started it. While I’ve been critical of Flickr as a Flickr user, I am very much a legitimate Flickr user. I do primarily use the service exactly for what it is intended. Dunstan and Gino had no use in using Zooomr and just wanted to start shit. The difference is that I did not censor them. Yeah maybe I ought to be above that, but when Dunstan wants to brag publicly about surfing porn on Zooomr while this censorship debate rages sometimes it gets hard for me to hold back.

    It was still wrong of Stewart to censor me though.

  19. “Have you tried starting a separate thread in the help forum for your OT thoughts?”

    How many seconds do you REALLY think it would take for that to turn into the “everybody bash Thomas Hawk” show yet again? Get serious.

    It’s always the same: Thomas makes a valid point, then the same glassy-eyed gang of zombie-thugs pile on to him to enact their usual form of “mob censorship” — win the debate through ad hominem and distraction.

    It’s always the “bash Thomas Hawk show.”

  20. “i’m not going to stick up for the big guy with the big blog and his own photohosting service, i’m going to agree with the little guy making the less theatrical [and more productive/important] point.”

    O RLY?

    Way to stick up for the “little guy,” with the multi-million-dollar buyout, those scrappy underdogs who got so maliciously attacked by terrible people like Thomas Hawk and Shi Tao.

  21. thomas, gino and dunstan may have started it .. but they started it on zooomr.

    that is why bringing it into the german topic was inappropriate and confusing. it was off topic, out of context .. which wouldn’t have been so horrible if you hadn’t also been loud and repetitive about it.

    a bunch of people, perhaps less theatrical than you, were being critical of flickr – making points both small and large.

    when characters [and you weren’t the only one, thomas, just the most distracting] wade in and unnecessarily dominate the conversation with their own issues, many of those points get lost.

    which might not be ‘censorship’, but the effects are somewhat similar.

  22. and smaragd, i’m not condoning what yahoo is doing.

    i repeat: i think it is a bonehead stupid decision and yahoo deserves to be criticized for it.

    but drowning out the germans with off topic nonsense only gets in the way of that.

  23. Actually, Striatic, I’ve read a lot of your fine writing in “Central” along with that of other geniuses like Brock and you’re all of the same cloth. Anyone who criticizes flickr gets piled on immediately by you and the rest of your little clique of admins and admin wanna-be’s. Anything you don’t like is called off topic and deleted (like a whole string of threads were a few months ago).

    In fact, you were one of the jerks that deleted a bunch of threads because they were mainly self-promotional and off topic and then proceded to allow threads about such flickr-related topics as President Bush to sit in the forum.

    Don’t lecture me on what I have and have not read of your work.

    Criticizing flickr for being wrong about giving Zooomr an API key is not the same thing as being critical of flickr. 99% of the time, you’re right up their ass, and I stand by what I said. Since you like the “everyone else thinks it so it must be true” line of thinking, go back and re-read this comment:

    How many seconds do you REALLY think it would take for that to turn into the “everybody bash Thomas Hawk” show yet again? Get serious.

    It’s always the same: Thomas makes a valid point, then the same glassy-eyed gang of zombie-thugs pile on to him to enact their usual form of “mob censorship” — win the debate through ad hominem and distraction.

    It’s always the “bash Thomas Hawk show.”

    I’ve seen that firsthand. Apparently so have others.

    Let me guess.. It’s all in our minds, right?

  24. Disclaimer: I work for photo hosting and sharing site.

    It wasn’t really a secret, Thomas. My blog is pretty straightforward about who I work for. And you know who I work for, too. But perhaps I took that for granted. Sorry.

    I agree with your thoughts on portability. Free the api. Viva la portability!

    As for censorship on a photo hosting site? Well, that’s a slippery slope. I know from my experience that we delete users and content who violate our terms of service and we don’t apologize for it. We’ve deleted plenty of naughty photos because that’s not what our site is about. Heck, if we had a dollar for every naked pic we’ve deleted we wouldn’t need to charge money for our service at all.

    Doesn’t Zooomr delete content, too? I find it difficult to believe that if you found truly disturbing content on your site that you would leave it. But maybe I’m wrong.

    I also think Dunstan probably has a right to miffed about you posting his ‘private/friends-only’ content to the public. I still think he was ‘mostly’ doing research. But I’m not sure what he does at Flickr so who knows. I’m a designer so I’ve visited plenty of photos hosting sites for research. I’ve been checking out the Zooomr interface, too. I sure hope my zipline doesn’t get published. Having private content published is almost as bad as having it deleted. Don’t you think?

    I also think if you *did* police content on your site there wouldn’t be much incentive for a guy like Dunstan to visit your site looking for porn. Just a thought.

  25. Thomas. I would love to see a truce here. You guys have obviously set yourself apart from the rest of the pack in many many ways. You are fighting an amazing fight here, which is exactly why I think that any issues back and forth with you guys, you are better than.

    At the end of the day it’s not worth it. Keep rocking on, you guys are doing a hell of a job. These are just my opinions and I felt like I wanted to share them. That’s all 🙂

  26. 99% of the time i’m up their ass?

    this is me, in central, from two days ago: “if viewers have made the conscious decision “i’m willing to see what’s behind the warning screen” why is flickr adding the hassle of making the content invisible in the first place and then requiring a convoluted process to actually see it?”

    maybe that’s not critical enough for you .. perhaps i should have added some swear words and called stewart a dick?

    i think flickr staff would really beg to differ on the “striatic is up flickr’s ass” subject.

    i’ve been called to account multiple times [privately and publicly] by multiple flickr devs for publicly criticizing their policies and features. sometimes i overreact against flickr, sometimes i under-react .. but if you think it is about toeing the line you’re sorely mistaken.

    if you think i’ve never been thoroughly repulsed and extremely angered by things flickr staff have said and done to me personally, you’d be very very wrong.

    and if you had ANY idea how often i argue with brock… gawd.

    but enough comparing our flickr bashing credentials.

    again, no one who was in the discussion is complaining about thomas’ removal. there are a lot of reasons for that, like the fact that discussion moderation is useful for letting the smaller voices be heard. as for bashing thomas hawk, thomas is a big boy, if he can dish it out he ought to be able to take it.

    as for ad-hominem distraction, what does my disuse of capital letters have to do with anything?

  27. as for ad-hominem distraction, what does my disuse of capital letters have to do with anything?

    No distractions, just an interesting side note accompanying plenty of tasty truth.

    It’s childish and silly.

    Then again, it’s not childish if you can’t actually find the Shift key to type like a big boy; in that case you can be excused. If you consider it an ad-hominem attack, maybe you should introduce the pinkies on your left and right hands to those little keys with the arrows pointing up on them. They make your typing look like something other than a 5-year-old’s.

    Now back to the point at hand. There’s no need to compare “flickr bashing credentials.” A few months ago, when flickr shut down the “post your 15th most favorited…” thread, you said:

    i’ve locked all the ‘nth most viewed’ threads except one.

    the one i didn’t lock was left unlocked because i think it actually asked an interesting question in an indirect manner.

    anyhow, the threads i’ve locked could be considered either self promotional or not leading to novel discussion. take your pick.

    if you like ‘numbers threads’ you ought to start a ‘numbers threads group’ and start inviting people to it.

    You then proceeded to allow threads on such photography worthy topics as President Bush, American Idol and shooting one’s boss. Your standards for closing threads are apparently as inconsistent as flickr whose ass you aren’t up, so frankly anything you say on the subject is tainted.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Thomas consistently and repeatedly has phrased any criticism of flickr in the form of “Flickr is wrong, here’s how we do it at Zooomr.” There’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever. In fact, it bolsters his points because he’s saying he’s not unaware of what it takes to run a photo-sharing service.

    It’s really pretty simple.

    I also notice that Thomas was never censored before he started comparing the way flickr does things to the way Zooomr does things.

    Read into that what you will.

  28. “as for bashing thomas hawk, thomas is a big boy, if he can dish it out he ought to be able to take it.”

    Except that he doesn’t dish it out. Thomas attacks problems and policies. You attack people.

    Oh, sure, you’ll claim that’s not true. But it is.

  29. I also think Dunstan probably has a right to miffed about you posting his ‘private/friends-only’ content to the public. I still think he was ‘mostly’ doing research. But I’m not sure what he does at Flickr so who knows. I’m a designer so I’ve visited plenty of photos hosting sites for research. I’ve been checking out the Zooomr interface, too. I sure hope my zipline doesn’t get published. Having private content published is almost as bad as having it deleted. Don’t you think?

    Kara, when you join Zooomr your are presented with Zipline and encouraged to:

    “Put it on the line.”

    Ziplines are public not private. Nowhere on Zooomr have they ever been called private. Anyone can add you as a contact and see your ziplines. They are in fact built in as part of your profile that anyone can get to. While I’m willing to cut Dustin a little bit of slack. He’s very familiar with how our system works. Some of his ziplines were in fact very much directed at me. He was aware that his zipline was public before he posted what he posted. I had links to his zipline in the Flickr forum and he knew that anyone could see them. If he now is ashamed of his public behavior, well, then perhaps he should have thought about that prior to posting on a known public area of Zooomr.

    We might develop a method in the future to allow people to block certain users or make their zipline’s private. But as it stands now, it’s a public communication and notification system.

    When you “put it on the line” you are really “putting it on the line.” Just like when I “put something on the line” in a Flickr forum I’m also committing to my words publicly.

    The point is that Dunstan was using zipline to taunt Zooomr. He was full aware of what he was doing and his messages were in fact directed at me personally. He for instance complains about the fact that I mispell his name.

    If Flickr staff want to engage me I’m happy to oblige. But they shouldn’t cry sour grapes and censor me when things don’t go their way.

    Maybe Flickr and OutcastPR might want to have a little sit down and talk about how good a strategy it is to taunt me, and have their people post anonymous crap in the blogosphere without disclosing their Yahoo affiliation etc.

    Sometimes I tend to take things personally. It’s a weakness of mine. I’m a passionate person. But at least I don’t censor things when the don’t go my way.

    A ways back I posted a very polite thread in Flickr Central linking to a TechCrunch article about geotagging at Flickr. That thread was promptly deleted with no warning or explanation only to be followed by pretty much the exact same thread by another user. I’ve been censored many times at Flickr. It’s mostly been done by anonymous secret cowards that never take responsibility for their actions. That’s just the type of place that Flickr is.

    To taunt me and to censor me will only turn up the heat, not silence me.

  30. vinny, i know how to use the shift key, and i use it all the time in my professional communications.

    i’m clearly not the greatest typist in the world, however .. and just to keep up with people like thomas i have to make some sacrifices.

    you could also say i have “odd” manual dexterity. for instance, i am physically incapable of snapping my fingers. i also had to use those weird grippy things on my pencils for years to help me learn to write. similarly, i have difficulties with widely spaced keyboard shortcuts.

    you think that’s childish. fair enough. i’d suggest that it is certainly informal but suitable to the informality of the forum and my lack of typing ability.

    but what that has to do with anything else we’re discussing here, or why you suggest i do it to be “cool” is completely beyond me.

    as for your criticisms of flickr central, we really don’t like self promotion in the group. we prefer to reserve space in the group for other things.

    there are many groups on flickr for self promotion. again, it is all about drowning out other voices. when you have the majority of the threads on the front page of the group being essentially duplicates of one another, that drowns out other discussions so we tend to curtail duplication.

    what is the effect? the effect is that more diverse topics get more attention in our group that would otherwise. you might not agree or like all the topics that pop up in a more diverse stew – but i’m prepared to live with that.

    as for the geotagging post of thomas, i don’t know all the context behind the deletion of thomas’ post but reading it now it looks like he participated actively in the topic without complaint at the time. cordially going back and forth with stewart about interface quirks despite being competitors with similar features. which is sad, because there’s nothing cordial about that relationship now.


  31. Ahh, I didn’t realize my zipline was public to all users. You might make that slightly more clear to your users. Still, you must have had to do some digging to find Dunstan’s page. Or did he seek you out and then begin bashing away?

    I imagine there are probably more than a few Flickr employees who are not fans of yours. You do attack the company they work for quite a bit, Thomas. But I suppose the controversy is what makes your blog fun to read. There’s always a knock-down-drag-out-fight when Flickr is involved.

    I see you’ve adopted a strong anti-censorship stance. I was just reading through the official Zooomr blog. Supporting porn is an interesting move. Maybe even a profitable one. You guys are nothing if not ballsy. I think it will be interesting to see how it goes. I’m just wondering if pro fotogs want their beautiful landscapes hosted beside pictures of boobs. But I’m at least glad to hear that you will respect the law when it comes to something like child pornography. I’d also like to think that even if it wasn’t illegal your company would not condone those kinds of images or activity.

    At the very least you have given us all something to think about on the subject of censorship.

    On a side note: I think a zipline that is private only to approved contacts is a very good idea. It would also be helpful to be able to delete or edit a zipline post. Also, if ziplines are to be made public then it might be helpful to have a section of the community where users can view new zipline entries.

  32. as for the geotagging post of thomas, i don’t know all the context behind the deletion of thomas’ post but reading it now it looks like he participated actively in the topic without complaint at the time. cordially going back and forth with stewart about interface quirks despite being competitors with similar features. which is sad, because there’s nothing cordial about that relationship now.

    Actually I have complained about it in the past. To Sue. If memory serves correct, she asked around about it but nobody could clarify.

    Irrespective of my tone in the Forum thread Striatic, a tone that very much was influenced by Flickr’s own staff taunting me publicly on Zooomr, there were actually several important and salient points I was making with regards to censorship. Rather than do some moderation Flickr simply wiped out every single comment.

    I think loupiote, an active participant in the discussion, at one point thanked me for pointing him to a regulatory filing where Yahoo two days ago rejected a shareholder proposal to adopt an anti-censorship policy. I think information like this is very much relevant and on-topic in a thread trying to understand why Yahoo is engaging in censorship.

    I’d point to more specific on topic points I was making about censorship but they have been deleted. I may try to go back and revisit my screen shots of conversations there before I was censored if I have more time.

    Still, you must have had to do some digging to find Dunstan’s page. Or did he seek you out and then begin bashing away?

    Kara, I met Dunstan in person out on the street in San Francisco last week when he and Eric Costello asked me to be in a team building video that they were shooting. I happily obliged them. After that I looked him up on Flickr but couldn’t add him as a friend there because he had me blocked and then found him on Zooomr and added him as a friend there.

    We are building a section on the site where everyone can view unfiltered ziplines from everyone as they come across the system. It’s not there yet though.

    In terms of people communicating privately with each other on the site, we do offer something called “fan mail” where users can directly from a profile send a private message if it’s for something that they intend to be private.

    I’m actually not as worried as you are about our photos on the site being a magnet for porn. We have a very strong community that mostly drives what is promoted on the site through our discover section. At present they are promoting some *amazing* photos on the site. Check some of them out if you have not done so already.

  33. Thomas said: “The point is that Dunstan was using zipline to taunt Zooomr. He was full aware of what he was doing and his messages were in fact directed at me personally. He for instance complains about the fact that I mispell his name.”

    You have an almost magical ability to ignore timelines, Thomas. It’s plain to see only my last 2 ziplines were directed at you, after you started posting my stuff into the flickr forum.

    My previous ziplines were directed at Gino and Myles, the two people I had listed as contacts at the time. It wasn’t until you posted my messages into the flickr forum that I realised you could see them too, and started our little conversation.

    As for being “very familiar with how [y]our system works”, I’m really something of a beginner given that nothing except signing up, adding contacts, and posting to zipline works for me. (I do consider myself something of an expert on your 404 page though, since I see that more than anything else.)

    And finally, I’m certainly not ashamed of what I wrote, since it’s all true:

    [1] I couldn’t find Myles on Zooomr, [2] the site is almost entirely broken for me, [3] I can’t upload photos, [4] your contact page is a 404, [5] I did befriend a user who posted porn.

    I also take back my previous query regarding zipline messages being friends-only. It seems that was just me misunderstanding the function of something as lucidly named as “zipline”. Now I know better.

    Thank you for continuing to be my one-way-friend on Zooomr.

  34. If I were a cynic, I might think that Thomas Hawk kept pushing these issues & kept bad-mouthing Flickr on their site– on their official threads– until he provoked exactly this reaction. So that he would now seemingly have a legitimate reason to loudly proclaim how Flickr=Evil.

    If I were a cynic.

    Honestly dude, give it a rest. What you’re doing with Zooomr is great, but your criticism of Flickr sounds like so much self-parodying, self-serving BS that at this point even your friends are tuning you out. You badmouth Flickr for months & months on your photos, on Zooomr, on your blog & on their official forums & they let you. A few staff members test out Zooomr and post some jokes to their photostream– and now you declare moral equivalence? To top it off, you post their semi-public comments on a Flickr help forum, in a very well-read topic that doesn’t really have anything to do with their comments. And they deleted your comments. You know what– I don’t care. It’s enough– they’ve left up thousands of negative comments about Flickr in that thread. You know why you got picked on there.

    You can say whatever you want. You can also say pretty much anything you want on Flickr. But apparently, you can’t say anything you want on their official help forum. Deal with it. Have you never worked with Flickr staff to get troublesome folk removed from Flickr? Have you ever asked Flickr staff to remove content?

    It’s enough already. I give up, honestly, hearing you go on again about censorship is like listening to a boring, broken record.

  35. I have to agree, the constant Flickr bashing from the “CEO” of Zooomr makes me glad I’m on SmugMug. I’m worried about the day he decides to start picking on everyone else in the hopes of pushing his “service”.

    Thomas, just stay positive and it might work better.

  36. Dunstan, my friend, you say only your last two messages were directed at me, but *you* are the one that is obviously not paying attention to timelines. I’d point it out better to you but all my timestamps on my posts on Flickr have been deleted by Flickr.

    Your comment on Zooomr: “I am befriending porn people here to see what happens to them… and, you know, to occasionally look at naked ladies. But _mainly_ for the research ;)”

    This comment was made after you already knew that your zipline was public. I’m glad you stand by your comments though as you suggest because it’s nice to know that while Flickr staff is not communicating in any substantive way with their users about censorship that you feel good about surfing for porn in the meanwhile.

    Hopefully it was especially stimulating “research” you were engaging in there while the rest of your users were asking for explanations over censorship 😉

    Thank you for continuing to be my one-way-friend on Zooomr.

    You’re welcome Dustin. And thanks for continuing to block me on Flickr!

    By the way Pal, nice photo of you on Valleywag for that swanky Flickr/press only deal. How was the caviar and jumbo shrimp?

    Especially like your quote.

    “Dunstan Orchard, Flickr, formerly of Apple. When I asked why he moved from Apple to Yahoo, he responded ”I didn’t. I moved from Apple to Flickr”

    Righto, Dustin, Righto. You just keep on telling yourself that.

    By the way, does Stewart and OutcastPR know you’re back in here on my blog this afternoon? Thanks for keeping the conversation alive buddy, really appreciate it.

  37. TH,

    You really should be more thoughtful when you decide to enter the fray at Flickr…no one wants to see another of these:

    Thomas Hawk says
    …I probably need to work on how I react to situations better because the reactionary dramatics could probably better be channeled into more productive and positive things…

    How does it feel to be the number one result when you Google for Drunken CEO?

  38. Lots of anonymous users who don’t have the guts to back up their words with a name.

    I like Slashdot’s way of displaying such users under the name “Anonymous Coward.” Very fitting. Anonymous comments are slightly less worthwhile than fresh, warm dog turds.

  39. The Zooomr CEO is drunk posting on Flickr and the Flickr staff is surfing for porn on Zooomr.

    What is the photo hosting world coming to???


    And Dunstan, the more I read, the more it sounds like you wanted to provoke Thomas. What is it that you do for Flickr exactly? Besides surfing for porn on the company dime.

  40. TH can turn off anonymous commenting anytime he wants to…apparently it doesn’t bother him…

  41. That point about Yahoo’s CEO is disingenuous. He might indeed have the largest salary of any CEO, I’ll take your word on that – but he and most CEO’s don’t get most of their money from salary – they get options and packages. And there are many, many CEO’s that get a hell of a lot more actual cash than Yahoo’s.

    Not that I’m defending the guy, mind you, I just don’t feel that point helps your argument. I think Yahoo and Flickr are dead wrong in this instance, and it’s sad that this is only the latest in a series of screw ups.

    I applaud you and Zooomr for adopting the anti-censorship policy. I’ve never understood why it’s so difficult for some to simply do the right thing and stand up for free speech, which should be among the highest considerations anyone should have. But then I’m not a corporate shithead at Yahoo, and clearly they see things in a way I don’t.

  42. “How does it feel to be the number one result when you Google for Drunken CEO?”

    OK, that wins the award for best comment in this thread. If you asked me before I did the search I would have said Doug Parker, but I guess I would be wrong.

  43. This is one argument where I can see both sides, partly because I have involvement in online communities and have been faced with situations similar to this.

    Flickr/Yahoo may have undisclosed business reasons for choosing to filter images. I can see situations where they are weighing the legal liability against the censorship aspect and the legal liability trumps. Because of their size and brand, they are targets for legal action in situations like this.

    What bothers me the most about your post, though is Dunstan Orchard’s behavior here and on Zooomr. As an employee of Flickr with the power to exercise “censorship” (though I would argue it may be more along the lines of enforcing t&c; of use), to come onto Zooomr and this blog to trash you and Zooomr is something that would not be permitted in my neck of the woods — it’d be grounds for termination rather quickly.

    The rule with regard to community management is that you allow open criticism by members, respond reasonably where possible, and leave it there. To take the step of jumping into the fray with both feet leaves me with a really bad taste in my mouth.

    As an aside, I prefer it when you make your criticisms of Flickr here rather than there…just my opinion, but when you’re on your own blog you should say whatever you want. When you’re on Flickr’s real estate, maybe not.

    If you were to equate online community to people’s homes, you might wipe your feet before entering the door at someone else’s home, but perhaps not when walking into your own house. The same holds true for online communities, in my opinion.

    On your comment farther up about being deleted in discussion threads, no community manager/moderator will partially edit someone else’s post by removing part but not all of it, by the way. It’s an all or nothing thing — either it’s removed or it stays. To edit another person’s post is asking for trouble, accusations, and more trouble. I’m sure they could have told you that they had problems with it, but when arguing a censorship issue, would they have any reasonable expectation that you’d self-censor? Honestly, I wouldn’t — it would just open me up to more criticism to ask such a thing of you. Better to suck the criticism of the removal up and move on.

    I think reasonable minds can differ over the censorship issues…it really is a two-edged sword. If there is no censorship, you will lose customers who don’t want to see images they think are objectionable and if there is censorship you will lose customers who object to censorship. It’s no-win. The best you can do is hope to ride a middle line that pleases almost everyone.

  44. OK, so as I see it there are 2 topics here:

    1) Thomas Hawk, the CEO of a completing photo-sharing site, being

    critical of Flickr
    2) Flickr censorship.

    Here is my disclosure statement: I am NOT affiliated or employed by any photo-sharing site. I have active accounts on both Zooomr and Flickr, both under user name tjcrandley. I do not know anyone on the Flickr Team, I do not know Thomas or Kristopher(although I would really like to).

    My take on issue 1. Thomas Hawk does criticize Flickr. There are a number of very famous rants about the issues that Flickr has had in the past, or things that he thinks are broken about the site/service.

    However, there are also a number of posts on his blog extolling the problems with Zooomr, and the highlighting and applauding the things in Flickr. He does a pretty good job at playing both sides.

    After reading Thomas’ blog for over a year, and watching his photo stream (as well as a ton of others in Google Reader), I have come to learn two VERY important facts about TH: He is an avid Flickr supporter and it deeply involved and respected in the Flickr. I would go to say, based on TH’s own postings and chats, that he is First and Foremost a Flickr user.

    I have asked him multiple times in the Zooomr chat why he uses Flickr when he is the CEO of Zooomr. He has always given a consistent answer: “Because it has a community I’ve been apart of for many years, AND it’s not the same service as Zooomr”. Flicker and Zooomr are both Photo-sharing sites. That really is their only similarity. They are, currently, after different markets and users. Maybe someday that will change, but for now it’s the way it is.

    TH absolutely has the right to criticize Flickr because he A) Uses the service more than he uses and other service, and B) Competition is GOOD for both sites. It will make them better in the end. And I think it’s awesome that Flickr employees reciprocate on their blogs and Zooomr Ziplines. It will make Zooomr better in the end. I may be foolish, but I think TH’s comments will make Flickr better. We’ve already seen big-brass at Flickr respond to some of his criticisms, and usually they are agreeing with TH, acknowledging the problem, and promising to fix it.

    To TH’s credit, and negative criticism about Zooomr that is put into the Zooomr chat room is addressed by TH if he is in, otherwise it is quickly handled by someone else in the room. Zooomr has a wiki where anyone can anonymously post bugs, suggestions and gripes. Outside of the Flickr forums, Flickr has nothing like this.

    I also want to quickly note that by not having any other real venue for complaints (other than email which you get a standard reply from), Flickr encourages people to complain about their service in the Flickr forum AND in people’s blogs. But what is more damaging to Flickr. If they hadn’t censored Thomas by deleting his posts (regardless if they were in the right place), TH wouldn’t have posted something to his blog. And then Twittered it. And then his post get picked up by other web mags. And I wouldn’t have ever seen it and written this.

    Issue 2: Let’s start with a quick baseline (taken from

    Main Entry: censor
    : to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable censor the news; also : to suppress or delete as objectionable censor out indecent passages

    Using that definition, Flickr does remove content that users have posted, and suppresses access to certain content. Not just TH’s content. Many other very prominent bloggers and internet celebs have been censored. Many non-internet celebs – regular people – have been censored. Heck, recently entire countries have been censored.

    This is a fact.

    Now, some have suggested that TH’s comments were taken out of the particular thread because he turned the threads focus to TH’s problem and not the original intent of the thread. The complaint was about censorship, and NOT as much about TH’s personal vendetta against Flickr (because as I mentioned before, he LOVES Flickr). When writing for public consumption, including personal accounts of the critique draws people into the conversation. It sounds like Thomas was retelling his experiences with censorship on Flickr. That helps people who may not know him quickly related to his experience, and empowers the reader to take TH’s story and compare it to their own.

    This process of sharing and relating is also an integral part in building and participating ANY community.

    In conclusion:

    Was Flickr wrong? Maybe. It’s hard to tell because their rules are so entirely subjective, and very hard to define.

    Was TH wrong for complaining? NO More people with censored content, regardless if they are pictures or forum posts, should scream when Flickr censors their content. Scream on the Flickr forums, scream on their blogs, scream in public if they think it will help. Censorship is a slippery slope that only leads to power, and power always corrupts.

    What needs to happen to stop these kinds of rants? Flickr needs to set some better rules, decide what moral ground they are going to stand on, and then communicate that to their users. And they need to do a MUCH better job of PR when things like this happen. I imagine they haven’t done this much since it will jeopardize the user base. That is cowardly.

  45. Thomas, you should not really make assumptions about what a person does and does not know unless:

    1. They have stated they know.
    2. You have seen examples that they know.
    3. The information is clear, precise and prominant.

    Does it say anywhere on Zoomr when, where and under what circumstances Ziplines are viewable? In todays world of word play and ambiguity “Putting it on the line” could mean ANYTHING.




  47. I have been a supporter of flickr like TH all along. Although I have a Zooomr account, but I am not too active.

    To me, These events are a history repeated by itself of flickr-Yahoo.

    Yahoo – flickr = Yahoo!

    TH is a user of flickr. However, flickr have the Supreme God & goddess. Whom decide who should be censored; block or deleted…etc.

    I have experience that since Sept 29, 2005 till today.

    To me flickr is a great photo management community, but over time the Power – politics seem to be happening in both internal & external which are the “customers”.

    If the management on the top is assuming the imperialism management or authoritarian style then e-gangsterism or e-hooliganism would born naturally.

    TH is good heart by sounding out for flickr to improve. It means well & good. However, that is not really appreciated as my earlier experiences.

    Perhaps it is the same as what I have been served & f-team God think that it is a threat to their existence.

    Especially, TH have commented at his own flickr. Which they have the power to do what they want. Anytime a violating the TOS can just created. & then they can exercise their power.

    flickr junior staffs messing at Zooomr site are totally un-professional in the web2.0 era.

    In my opinion, Yahoo CEO Terry Semel should need to come forward to the front to assume the leadership to iron out those censorship issue including Germany, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea & also those blockage, suspensions, deletions, harassments; oppressions; bully to the Yahoo customers..etc. before it is too late.

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