San Francisco Photowalk, This Sunday at 4pm

Who: You

What: A DMU San Francisco Photowalk

Where: The walk will start outside the Civic Center Muni/BART Station.

We will shoot parts of the Tenderloin District making our way to Downtown to shoot the architecture and other street scenes.

We will plan on having dinner at the Embarcadero Osha.

After dinner we will walk along the Embarcadero towards the Bay Bridge and end up at the High Dive Bar along the Embarcadero for after shoot libation.

Why: To celebrate the arrival of our DMU Admin visiting from the Great Pacific Northwest Adameros.

When: Sunday, January 16, 4pm

You can get more information on the photowalk here (note: you have to have “safe search” turned off on Flickr to be able to see DMU)

Wow! Warriorwriter Actually Wrote a Scholarly Paper on Flickr’s DMU Group

Wow! Warriorwriter Actually Wrote a Scholarly Paper on Flickr’s DMU Group for his course at Georgetown.


“One such group is DMU. I had been a member of the Flickr community for nearly two years, and had participated in more than 20 groups, before my first experience with DMU on December 8, 2009. My first interaction with the group came after one of its members left unsolicited criticism on one of my pictures of photography equipment4. The member, Lee Shelly of Philadelphia, Pa. (leesure)5, saw my photo in another group where we were both members and commented that the work in my photostream (Flickr’s version of an online portfolio) did not justify the money I had spent on the camera gear in my photo. Offended by the apparent slight, I promptly blocked leesure from commenting on any of my shots. However, in the hours following my encounter with this DMU member, I began to notice something strange happening; my shot was receiving a massive number of views.

Flickr provides analytic tools for “pro” users like me who pay an annual 25-dollar fee to monitor activity on their accounts. I used those tools to track the location where all the visitors to my photo page were coming from. It turned out that leesure had posted a small version of my photo in a DMU post, which generated a great deal of discussion among the group’s other members. In his post, leesure disclosed that his main motivation for commenting on my photo had been jealousy of the gear pictured therein. He also pointed out that I had banned him from commenting on my images saying, “LOL…so he blocked me I guess. That’s funny since I offered [him] some help on how to actually shoot shots like that the right way…then actually went and shot one for him…including the setup shot.”6

I had never seen his follow-up offer of help because comments from blocked users do not display on the pages of those who are blocking them. Wanting to defend myself from what I perceived as unwarranted criticism, I joined DMU with the express intent of setting the record straight in lessure’s post and promptly leaving the group thereafter. The entire conversation in that initial thread could easily serve as the framework for a whole paper in and of itself, but the short version of my first foray into the DMU community is that I launched off on a self-righteous tirade about being respectful to other people, and found very little support for my viewpoint among the group’s members.

However, as the discussion progressed, I began to realize that there was something very authentic about the repartee. The members’ antagonism toward me was not entirely unwarranted, and there were undertones of humor in some of the jabs that reminded me more of fraternal hazing than mean-spirited bullying. I was curious to learn more about these people who regularly subjected their photos and viewpoints to the intense public scrutiny, and I ended the conversation by agreeing to disagree with leesure and accepting his invitation to remain a member of the DMU out-group.

Today, I am an active member in the group and remain a weekly contributor to the DMU photo pool. I have participated in four different photo walk meet-ups with other members over the past year in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Dayton, Ohio, and Boston. I communicate with members in my area on a frequent basis, and go out on local shoots with them on occasion. I even made a recent trip to Morgantown, Pa. to shoot a high school football game with one DMU member with whom I have become particularly good friends, leesure.”

You can read the whole paper here if you are inclined or interested in scholarly publications. Apparently he’s going to work on it some more and try to get it published.

You can join the DMU group on Flickr here (please read the rules before submitting any photos to the pool). This is the group where I hang out the most on Flickr.

On the Value of Groups Within Social Networks

I’m mostly spending time in two primary places on the web today. Google Buzz and DMU (a group in Flickr). Both offer unique and engaging experiences in social networking. And both are significantly and radically different.

My experience on Google Buzz is one of an entire limitless community. Your community is defined by those who you choose to follow and those who choose to follow you. You comment back and forth with each other. If someone is following me and comments inside one of my buzzes, I will see that. But if I am not following them back I will not see a buzz originated by them unless I go to it directly. If we are following each other, a symbiotic relationship is arrived at where strangers somtimes become acquaintances and acquaintances even sometimes become friends.

By contrast, my experience inside “the” DMU is one defined not by who I follow or who follows me, but by a broader group association. It’s not who *I* choose to follow and who chooses to follow *me*, rather it’s who chooses to join the DMU.

If someone posts in DMU I will see their post regardless of whether I have chosen to follow them or not. Membership to DMU is open to anyone, but you have to choose to join and be a part of that community. The community is run by admins who can set rules to shape conduct of the group, but each member in the group is largely considered equal.

If I start a thread in DMU it is seen by everyone in the group. If a brand new member to flickr only on the site a single day posts a thread, it is seen by the same number of people initially. Threads are bumped by comments of the members, so collectively the members decide what threads are interesting and of value. The more active members have more influence over the group certainly because they bump more threads based on the time committed to the group.

By contrast, on Google Buzz, a new member can post something that will be largely invisible. Seen by nobody. Of course they can post a comment to a thread of a popular member which will be seen. But their visibility is diminished in a structure like Buzz vs. a group like DMU. In Buzz, the superstars get the most attention. In DMU attention is more equalized and shared.

DMU has been nuked twice. Once by some of it’s own admins over a disagreement regarding harassment that was taking place in the group. And a second time by Flickr themselves. Despite these complete destructions, each time the group has been reborn. And while each time it lost an integral part of its historical record, and thousands of hours of user energy and work, like a phoenix, each time it did return.

The founding principle for DMU is that the community remain uncensored (DMU stands for DeleteMe Uncensored). It also has a photo voting game that uses a photo pool assigned to the group as part of the experience.

There are some key differences between the two communities of DMU and Buzz. I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other per se. But I believe that due to the way each is structured it produces different results.

Recently I was introduced to by Jeff Wilson from DMU. It’s actually one of the more fascinating and interesting things I’ve seen on the web in the past year or so. It’s basically a land of unlimited anonymous text. It’s one giant wiki with no borders, no rules and no definitions over what it is to be — as long as it’s limited to text (and no cutting or pasting). It’s a giant graffiti spot on the web. It’s super cool, especially at first, but then it’s cool factor wanes quickly, depending on what is done with it.

DMU has a yourworldoftext page. If you’re not a member of DMU, please be respectful of it and don’t vandalize it just to vandalize it.

I also started a yourworldoftext page for Google Buzz and posted it to my Buzz stream.

It’s interesting to see what happened between the two pages.

Your World of Text Google Buzz

The Google Buzz page quickly turned into complete anarchy. There is no real cohesiveness to any sense of community there. I suspect that because the bonds between people on Google Buzz are weaker than the bonds between people in DMU this is why this largely happened, I’m sure some people don’t even really participate in my buzz stream but just lurk.

Your World of Text DMU

On the other hand DMU turned their page into something actually really interesting. The group together created an interesting creative graffiti wasteland, full of rich ASCI text art, familiar group themes and slogans, lots of sexual references and innuendo. And feels much more familiar and recognizable to the members of DMU.

It is a far more cohesive community experience. Take a visit. It’s fascinating what the group built in just a few days (warning, the place has a lot of offensive content and again please be respectful of the community who has created this).

I do suspect both pages end up in anarchy in the end, but it is interesting what they both became after a few days of use.

Although DMU is older than Google Buzz I think that it is better at creating more intimate and personal connections than Google Buzz is today. Many of the DMU members have met in person. Many group outings have taken place. The group created a magazine together. A book together. A smaller group of people have spent thousands of hours with each other both online and offline. I think the members know each other a lot better and more personally than Buzz members know each other.

It’s also been a far more volatile experience than Google Buzz.

I’ve seen disagreements, skirmishes and fights on Google Buzz. But *nothing* like what I’ve seen in DMU. Intense, very personal fights lasting weeks and months and even in some cases years. Members that have felt so hurt by the place that they have permanently left. Some to return, some never to return. DMU frequently eats it’s own, spitting them out worse for the experience and making them wonder why they ever participated in the place in the first place.

But for better or worse, the emotions and connections seem to run much deeper and stronger within the structure of a group.

So should Google Buzz add groups? I don’t know. FriendFeed did and I never really felt that they were entirely successful.

After flickr nuked DMU, some of us set up shop in a friendfeed group for a while, but it just wasn’t the same. It lacked some key components to our old group. You couldn’t post images inline in comments. FriendFeed wouldn’t allow paragraph breaks, allowing for longer free form conversations. Friendfeed sometimes stopped bumping a thread, so some of our most favorite long living threads (like listen to DJ Mo) wouldn’t be bumped when people added a new link to the thread to a new song. It lacked an integrated photo pool for us to play our photo voting game in.

Certainly from a user engagement standpoint Groups are H*U*G*E. I bet people who are active in Flickr groups spend 100x more time on Flickr than people who are not.

If I were working on Buzz I think I’d build groups. But I’d do a better job than FriendFeed did. They’d look more like groups on Flickr. Nobody on the web has groups like Flickr right now. Nobody’s groups come close. I’m not sure why this is.

I think an ideal group would have a photo pool and a video pool. I think it would have a wiki like yourworldoftext with admin controls over it to keep it from falling into total anarchy. I think I’d create a feature that allowed admins to set the group to undeletable. One of the problems with groups at flickr is that they are too often killed by their admins over petty disagreements. If members knew from the start that an admin couldn’t kill it I think this would be powerful (you’d have to really think this tool out though).

I think an ideal group would allow easily identifiable urls that could be promoted elsewhere around the web. I think it would contain tools to hide people (this was a killer feature at FriendFeed that Flickr lacks) — I think this would help with some of the animosity that can be created.

I think I’d set up a notification or tracking system where you could see when people posted in different groups. I think this would allow more cross pollination. If my good friend from group A is posting in group B, right now at Flickr I don’t know about it. You could set up a system though that let me track this and then I’d likely go engage in group B as well.

I think I’d integrate stores for groups. Let them create merchandise. Tshirts, mugs, clothes, books, magazines. Collaborative sorts of things that help build identity and association. I’d have all this stuff done at cost to keep the profit motive out of the hands of the members of the group, or let them add profit into their merchandise that went to charity maybe.

The communities that have been formed out of groups on Flickr are not limited to DMU. There are so many other rich, successful groups. Local user groups. Groups built around the art of photography. Other voting or game groups. Groups are where the flickr hardcore live and I’d think every web site in the world should want a piece of something like that.

You can find and join DMU here (you have to have your Flickr settings to 18+ to be able to join). You can find and follow me on Google Buzz here.

Update: To see a more travelable snapshot of one version of DMU’s yourworldoftext page as of June 4, 2010 click here.

DMU Hangs Out on Mare Island

Lights Went Out

Well I had a great time hanging out last night on Mare Island for the first time. Mare Island is a decommissioned naval base in Vallejo. I’ve been wanting to shoot Mare Island for a while and Ivan Makarov helped organize an official DMU outing out there. Always being prepared, Ivan even briefed security ahead of time that we would be there and the entire great outing was completely hassle free of security.

We met at 7pm near the middle of the island and spent most of the evening night shooting more of the grungy industrial stuff down off of Nimitz Street. Mare Island is huge and I feel like last night I barely scratched the surface there and I’m sure both DMU and myself will be back many times in the future.

Meta CodyNukinFutsSuisunShims

It was fun meeting more folks from DMU who I hadn’t met before. I can now confirm that the elusive Cody Robertson, aka SFlights, aka sfso is in fact a real to live person. Sometimes with internet folks you can’t be so sure. 😉 In addition to Ivan and Cody, Shims and NukinFuts made the drive up, Rumnose actually brought his girlfriend Heather, Dave, StefanB, suisun and G Dan Mitchell, who had shot there in the past with the Nocturnes and knew the lay of the land a bit showed up as well. Unfortunately my photos of Dave and Heather didn’t turn out.

Before the FloodIvan MakarovG Dan MitchellRumnose

Stefan had a really cool laser that he used to assist him with his focusing in the dark. StefanbI’d never thought of using a laser pointer that way but it seemed to work really well for him. I just may have to get one of those at some point. For the most part I was able to use my flashlights to get my autofocus to lock in on things, but there were a few cranes that I couldn’t quite get with my 135 where it might have been nice to have one of those.

The weather was perfect out there last night, the moon was just right, and we got some great wind/clouds for those long exposure night shots.

Sleeping GiantThe outing was pretty much injury free, although I did scrape my hand up on once fence and unfortunately tripped a motion sensor alarm at one point that lit up a whole building like jiminy christmas. The moon provided great ambient light to go with the cranes and we saw some huge bats. There was also this weird animal screaming on the island. It sounded crazy, almost human like, and wild. It sounded like some wild animal or something was birthing or some other sort of crazy thing. Added just the right eerie feel to the night.

Mare Island is remarkably open. It reminded me of Treasure Island in a lot of ways that way, but with a bit more development and a lot more cranes and dry docks. If you want to check out some of the photos from the outing check out these photos tagged DMU Meet Up 083009 on Flickr.

Anyways, great meeting up with a great group of dudes (and Heather, who’s great too) and look forward to the next DMU outing that gets organized. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s back out on Mare Island yet again.

DMU Launches DMU Magazine

Inside DMU Magazine, by Ivan Makarov

One of the places that I’ve spent a lot of time online over the past few years is in the Flickr Group DeleteMe Uncensored. DeleteMe Uncensored is a group on Flickr where users submit photos to a voting pool and group members then offer brief critiques of these photos along with a vote to either save or delete the photo. If a photo gets 10 “saves” before 10 “deletes” it is put into a portfolio of images called “The Lightbox.

There are probably two things to me that set DMU apart from other groups on Flickr.

First, it is one of the few (and was the first) “uncensored” group on Flickr. This means that admins don’t ban members, censor forum threads, lock threads, lock the entire group, etc. Along with the voting game there is a vibrant community of photographers who generally engage in all kinds of discussion from the super important to the super inane. Thoughtful threads about politics, photography, art, music and life are mixed in with immature threads about bad music videos, bad craigslist adverts, threads devoted to animated gifs, and well, you get the idea.

Second, the photo critiques in DMU are meant to be constructive, but no-holds-barred. Sometimes on Flickr you’ll post a photo and end up with a litany of “great shot” “wonderful” “beautiful” “nice” etc. type comments. And while those are pleasant and there is certainly nothing wrong with those, sometimes it’s also interesting to get more constructive criticism — even if negative, even if brutally honest. Having members point out your dust spots on your photo, or your bad crop, or your wrong angle, aren’t simply meant to talk down your photography, they’re meant to provide you criticism as a mechanism to improve.

What really makes DMU work more than anything else though is that it is a tight knit group of community photographers on the web. I’ve found that more than anyplace else I’ve seen on the web, people really get to know each other in this group. Many have met each other in real life. Many spend many hours a day hanging out in the group and chatting.

DMU Magazine Cover, by Ivan Makarov
DMU Magazine Cover, by Ivan Makarov.

So I was super excited when one of the DMU Members, Ivan Makarov, proposed launching a DMU Magazine. There is something about seeing photos in print that makes them even so much more vibrant than what you see on the web. And after several months of planning and hard work, issue number one of DMU Magazine is launching today. I personally contributed a lot of photography to issue number 1. It’s probably the first time so much of my own work has ever been printed in one place. That was super exciting to me. In addition to a profile on my work as one of the top Lightbox contributers, I also contributed some other photos and the editors also included a feature section on my $2 portrait project.

The magazine itself is 72 pages long and is printed on full color paper in large format magazine quality. 26 different photographers from DMU contributed to it and it also features profile pieces on the top four contributors to the group’s “Lightbox.” The magazine is chock full of interesting photos by many outstanding emerging photographers. It’s exciting to me that in today’s DYI world that something like this is possible. Issue one of the magazine costs $13.99. It’s published by HP’s MagCloud and can be shipped anywhere in the U.S., Cananda or the U.K. The quality of the MagCloud magazines are very high. HP is really one of the top names in color printing today and they’ve put together a really top notch offering with this magazine service. The $13.99 price involves no profit for anyone involved in the publication of this effort. This is simply a labor of love by a bunch of talented photographers to publish our work. If you like photography I’d encourage you to purchase a copy and take a look at what we’ve produced. I’ve already purchased my copy and if you’d like to purchase one as well you can do that here.

Inside DMU Magazine, by Ivan Makarov, 2

A lot of credit goes to those who helped put this magazine together. In addition to all 26 photographic contributors (along with many people not featured in this issue, but who provided valuable advice and feedback during the development process) Ivan Makarov deserves a lot of recognition as the one who really drove this project from the beginning. In addition to Ivan, Charlotte Reynolds worked as the magazine’s designer, and Ingo Meckmann, Mo Tabesh, Wendy Martyn and Pierre Honeyman all worked as co-editors and publishers.

If you’d like to learn more about DMU Magazine, also be sure to check out its website

More from Ivan here, and Meckimac here.