Why the Instagram Debacle Just Taught Every Tech Company to Take Your Photos More Seriously

Why the Instagram Debacle Just Taught Every Tech Company to Take Your Photos More Seriously

“Whatever kind of victory all those protests achieved, it wasn’t one for consumer rights — if anything, Instagram is the real winner here. The company just managed to score a round of positive press for retracting an unpopular change and give itself the ability to actually use photos in ads.” — Nilay Patel, The Verge

Over at the Verge Nilay Patel makes a case that the backlash earlier this week against Instagram’s unpopular TOS update was actually a loss for consumers, not a gain. He argues that Instagram’s current TOS is broader than their more explicit proposed one and so consumers are worse off, not better off. This is because Instagram technically still holds the rights to sell your photos under their current TOS, and even more broadly — the consumer backlash was misguided and really did more harm than good.

I disagree with Nilay and actually feel that this week’s backlash was one of the more significant movements yet for photo sharing on the web.

It’s not that Facebook (whose TOS is equally broad) and Instagram couldn’t legally sell your photos on the web under their broad TOS in the past or in the future, it’s that *politically* it is now far more difficult for them to begin selling your photos out from under you on the web using their broader TOS.

Who cares what the TOS says — the message that Facebook got loud and clear this week is not to f*** with our photos. Our photos are important. We care about them. They are much more personal than Facebook may have previously considered. They have emotional importance and significance and collectively users will rise up and bash you in the face if you try to exercise terms of your TOS that your lawyers have written to allow you to screw around with our photos.

Whatever your future monetization strategies might be, they will not be based on a loss of control over OUR creative efforts — even our duckface creative efforts.

No, there is no question about it. Instagram lost this week, and they lost big. This is in no way a positive for Instagram. People trust them less now and they had to turn around and eat crow — they gained nothing.

Flickr won big at Instagram’s expense and Google+ won a little. Flickr won more, because like Instagram, their site is 100% about photography. They also just released a pretty awesome new iPhone app that is, in fact, even slickr than what Instagram currently offers.

Flickr also went out of their way last year to really drive home the ownership rights of your photos. This old forgotten post was revived with new life as a stark contrast to what it felt like Instagram was trying to pull. Kevin Systrom eventually even had to parrot back some of that “yes, we know your photos are your photos” stuff in his awkward non-apology apology.

Dan Lyons wrote a post that talked about Google+ winning some here too. Google+ smartly has a provision in their TOS that specifically limits their rights to your photos to basic operational use. Google+ is probably the most active community of photographers on the web today and are a natural beneficiary from what Lyons’ refers to as “Facebook Greedheads.”

The biggest winner of all though was you, the photographer. Whatever Instagram’s original intention was with the new language in their TOS, it backfired on them. The idea that they could/would profit off your emotionally significant photos without your consent, authorization or, most important, sharing the dough hit a nerve with photographers and likely won’t be tried again by anyone for a long time.

The thing is, this didn’t have to be such a painful learning experience for Instagram. There was/is, in fact, a HUGE opportunity for some smart social network to make a ton of money off of your photos. Instagram just went about it wrong.

As much as Flickr’s deal with Getty sucks (photographers get a miserly 20% payout) photographers on Flickr still went bonkers for it when Flickr released it. The idea that you could actually get PAID to post your photos on a social network, paid ANYTHING, had most users on Flickr clamoring to get into the program, not out of the site.

Even though Flickr/Getty’s call for artists group is now closed (due to overwhelming demand) almost 90,000 photographers joined this group hoping to get selected by Getty for the right to sell their photos for the paltry 20% payout.

The difference with Flickr’s deal though is that 1. you CHOOSE to opt in and 2. at least you get paid something.

What if, instead of Instagram saying, “hey, we might sell your photos without your consent and pay you NOTHING,” they said, “hey, do you want to sell your Instagram photos and, if we sell them for you, split the money 50/50”? Instead of losing accounts and becoming the scourge of the internet for three days, they would have had photographers rushing to sign up and begin marketing their images on Instagram.

Although there are sites out there like 500px and SmugMug that let you sell your photos now, Flickr is the only larger social network that has a selling program. Google+, Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter all have a major opportunity to become the first large social network to allow us to license our images through their service and share in the revenue with them. This is a multi-BILLION dollar industry dominated at present by Getty who is not paying creatives enough for their work. What the internet does best is get rid of middlemen when they are being unreasonable, and an 80/20 split with photographers is unreasonable.

Instead of stealing our work and paying us zero, how about using your significant reach in reputation, marketing and search to partner with us and empower us to sell our work together. I guarantee you that whoever comes up with the best program first will have some of the best photography on the web flooding their network. Even if 99% of us never sell a single photo, simply giving us the feeling that we have the *opportunity* to sell a photo would be a powerful incentive to get us active and humming on your network.

Best Practices for Communities on Google+

Community Coffee

I love communities. There are great big giant communities that are social networks themselves, but then there are smaller and more intimate communities where over time you really do get to know people better. These have always been the communities that I end up liking best. Places where you can go and eventually some really cool people end up setting up part of their daily internet experience there. I used to use Flickr groups for these sorts of communities, now I use Google+ (for a lot of specific reasons).

Google+ communities are new though and so I thought I’d take a few minutes to point out some best practices for how to engage, grow and participate in communities.

1. If you are starting a new community yourself, there are several important things to think about. How you manage and grow your community will have a lot to do with the success. For starters, you must be committed to moderating the community. This means showing up, doing a lot of the grunt work (removing spam, managing members, etc.).

I think it’s important to be as friendly as you can and to welcome new members personally even when you have time.

It’s also important that you grow the community. If it is a public community, try and get the word out. Promote your community on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and your other social networks. Be sure to use the invite feature on Google+ to invite your friends — you may have to break down some of your larger circles into less than about 190 blocks of individuals if you want to invite a circle. Did you know that you can “share” your community to your current G+ stream? Consider putting a link to your G+ community on your G+ profile page. Don’t over invite someone to your community though. If you invite them once and they decline that’s probably enough. If you keep inviting them you will feel spammy.

Think about why you are starting a community. Should you even start one? What is unique about yours? Does it make sense to start a new general community for photograpy, or is there some unique area of photography you want to explore (portraits, urbex, long exposure, a specific geographic area, etc.)

2. Communities are best started with a closer group of friends. Find some of your friends who share your passion for whatever your community is about and make them mods. Make sure that they are on board with helping to manage, grow and promote the community as well.

3. Be nice. The worst communities are full of negative people. Try to avoid these types as much as possible — not just on Google+ but in life in general. πŸ™‚

As a leader of a community especially it’s your job to try and set the tone. I’m all for free speech, but I’d recommend against allowing bullying and harassment in your community. If you see it call it out gently. If someone is a real problem or trolling consider banning them.

4. As a participant in a community be thoughtful when you join a community. Are there rules? Try to figure out what these rules are. Try to engage with others on their posts first before starting lots of your own. Nobody likes spam. Don’t just show up to a community to post your photos and leave, or to promote some other community and leave, or worst of all dump commercial spam or links to stupid websites. Make sure you are posting the right thing in the right area. Some communities don’t want you to post dumb mind numbing photos in the discussion threads. Maybe there is a specific place for you to dump your photos. Find out where that is first.

5. The best communities are about discussions. Participate in these discussions. Find good ones that you like and get to know people through participation. +mention people specifically by name in community discussions. Unfortunately Google+ communities don’t bump threads yet πŸ™ and so this may be the only way that someone knows you are engaging them in a conversation in a community of fast moving threads.

6. Consider adding the most active members of your community to a specific circle. This helps you look at their stuff outside of the community as well. Circle sharing is also a great way to help promote your community. For the main community that I’m involved in, Light Box, I’ve created a circle for everyone who gets a photo voted into our Light Box. I shared it when it hit 100 members, 200 members and will share it next when it hits 500 members, 1,000 members, etc.

7. Pro Tip (thanks Ricardo Lagos): When you start a community make a separate private community just for your mods. Here you can hash out issues that come up with the community. You can discuss problems together privately and discuss policy issues. While you certainly will want to get the larger community opinion on the guidelines or direction of your community, having a smaller place for those most invested to figure things out is good too.

8. Add different sections to your community. Create an FAQ.

9. Try out different communities, but don’t try out too many. I think it’s a good practice to check out a bunch of communities to see where you like hanging out. Different communities will have different flavors. If you spread yourself too thin though it will be harder to get to know people there. Take some time finding a few communities that you really like and then once you settle in invest more time with those communities. Remember the key to enjoying a great community is individual participation.

10. Remember not to neglect your other participation on G+. It’s easy to get sucked into a community and end up spending all of your time there. As much as communities can become really nice little watering holes where you become better friends with some members over time, remember that the world is big and that one of the things that still is nice about G+ is that there is a whole big network out there without community walls. Some people will not want to join communities. Some people don’t have TIME to join communities. Make sure to take some time keep up with these folks as well. πŸ™‚

Photographers Upset By Instagram’s Change in Terms of Service

Update: Instagram just posted a blog post clarifying their intentions with their new TOS. More specifically it sounds as if they are going to be changing the wording on the controversial portion of their new TOS and strengthening your ownership rights over your photos. Seems like all the backlash was enough to make them back pedal on this one.

From Kevin Systrom:

“The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.

Ownership Rights Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.”

Earlier today Instagram announced that they are changing their Terms of Service effective January 13th 2013.

The most controversial part of the change is outlined below:

“To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Now I have no idea if Instagram actually plans on selling/licensing your photos or not — sometimes the lawyers get a hold of things like this and push the envelope too far with a TOS — but this change seems to go further to me than the typical giving up of rights to your photos for typical social media display purposes.

Facebook’s TOS by contrast reads:

“For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

While this appears functionally similar to Instagram’s, Facebook doesn’t actually mention so specifically the idea of selling your content and you getting zero compensation.

Google+’s TOS tends to provide photographers greater protection with a provision that your content there can be used for the “limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our services, and to develop new ones.” Nothing about selling off your photos to third parties there, folks.

“When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.”

Flickr takes it even one step further actually dedicating a specific blog post to this issue last year titled “At Flickr Your Photos are Always Yours.

This change today has upset a lot of photographers and content creators. The New York Times takes apart the new TOS here. Blogger Robert Wagner puts his view more succinctly in a blog post titled Goodbye Instagram and f*** you.

Personally speaking, I trust that Google will not sell my photos out from underneath me. I think their TOS is pretty clear about their limited scope of use. I applaud Flickr for taking it one step further with a blog post spelling out that you always own your photos on Flickr. Interestingly enough, even before this announcement I saw my first “I’m leaving you Instagram for Flickr” post this past weekend.

Wired has a post that shows you how to take your photos off of Instagram and delete your account.

Gizmodo seems to take a different view of this situation, calling folks concerned with today’s announcement whiny little babies.

What are your thoughts? Will you continue to use Instagram? Are photographers overreacting here?

My own view is that I think Instagram is pushing it a little too far with this one. I think I’d rather pay them a subscription fee like I pay Flickr than have them out there selling my photos.

Thinking of Starting a Photo Community on the Web? Should You Do It on Flickr or Google+?

Google+ Communities vs Flickr Groups

Google+ launched their new communities last week and I’ve spent a lot of time exploring how they work since launch. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time super active over the past eight years in Flickr groups. Google+ communities are a lot like Flickr groups, but there are key differences, advantages and disadvantages to both. I thought I’d write a post comparing the two. I’ve long held that Flickr groups represent Yahoo’s best chance for social going forward.

So here’s the smackdown.

1. Thread bumping. Flickr wins. Probably the most significant problem with G+ communities is that they do not bump threads. With Google+’s new communities discussion topics are only shown by most recent post. Unfortunately the most recent post is not always the most interesting/engaging post. What’s more, because threads are not bumped upon a new comment, almost every thread over 24 hours in an active community on Google+ dies. Good conversations should last more than 24 hours. Flickr solves this problem by simply bumping each thread back to the top of the discussion forum anytime someone makes a comment on it. This is a far better way to keep a discussion forum active and engaged.

2. Muting discussions. Google+ wins. One of the problem with Flickr is that there is no way to screen out discussions that you are not interested in. If I don’t care about football, why should I have to see a thread about football in my favorite photography forum. At Google+ the answer is simple. Just go to the thread and choose to “mute this post.”

3. Photo pools. Flickr wins. At G+ you are forced to try to use typical discussion threads to post photos. Flickr, by contrast has a group photo pool that is associated with each group. Although it’s tempting to see photo pools as more of a photography niche feature, I’d argue that every community potentially has photos to share. Even if the photos are not artistic oriented photography, every group of people will potentially want to share photos with each other. Ideally, a group/community should be allowed to have more than one photo pool/album with settings to allow how content can be shared in those pools.

4. Community activity. Google+ wins. Even less than two weeks old, communities on Google+ are far more active than Flickr. Individuals are far more engaged and the rate of velocity around community conversations is much higher at Google+.

I started a new community called Light Box on Google+. It’s based on a voting game similar to voting groups I’d created on Flickr in the past. On Google+ the group already has over 4,000 members in less than a week. At Flickr it would take me months to build a group up that large. The G+ community is already 20x more active than any voting group/game I’ve ever seen on Flickr. When it comes to community velocity there is simply no comparison. Google+ communities are some of the most active I’ve ever seen anywhere on the web.

5. Invite process. Google+ wins. Google allows you to invite participants in circles up to around 195 people max. Sending out one invitation to 195 people is a lot easier than the way that Flickr allows you to invite people. On Flickr you can only invite a single member one by one by one by typing their individual name — wayyyyy too much work.

6. Sticky threads. Flickr wins. One of the thing Flickr allows a group owner/moderator to do is to make certain threads sticky so that they always stay at the top of the discussion threads. This is helpful if you have a group/community FAQ or other material that is important to stay prominent to the membership. At present you cannot make sticky threads at Google+.

7. Adult oriented communities. Flickr wins. Although there are some deep underground private communities on G+ focusing on nudes, G+ by TOS doesn’t allow nudity and this content is subject to being removed. On Flickr, they do allow nudity as long as it is properly flagged as nudity. In Flickr’s case this has resulted in both communities discussing artistic fine art nudes, but also a pretty seedy amateur underground porn network as well. Flickr routinely deletes many of the most offensive adult oriented communities, but if fine art nudes are your thing, you’re probably more likely to find these communities on Flickr than G+.

8. Moderating community membership. Flickr wins. It’s much easier to moderate community members in Flickr groups than in Google+ communities. On G+ you must scroll through an entire list of community members in order to find the person you wish upgrade to moderator or ban from your community — page after page after page after page. With any large community on G+ this is a very cumbersome process. Flickr by contrast has a powerful search tool which allows you to search for a member my name to upgrade or ban them. [UPDATE: yesterday, 12-17-2012, Google released a new feature that allows you to upgrade someone to moderator or ban them from a specific post that they make in the community, this goes a long way towards addressing the previous problem with moderating community membership before.]

9. Blocking members. Google+ wins. It cannot be overstated how important a good blocking tool is to community management. Inevitably some community members will not get along. Especially since Flickr allows obvious anonymous troll accounts to inhabit communities, users need some way to immediately protect themselves against bullying and harassment. Flickr’s community blocking tools are weak and non-existent. By contrast Google+ provides users a powerful blocking tool which turns anyone invisible that you choose to block.

Even more important than this user option is the tone that is set in communities because of it. When you know that you can be blocked by other people you are nicer and more polite. I wrote a post a while back about how Google+ is the nicer community for photographers on the web. Flickr groups are routinely full of trolls, jerks and assholes. Even the ones who are tolerable oftentime pride themselves on abusing other community members with their snide, disparaging comments. They think it’s cool to be “snarky.” On Google+ these people are routinely dismissed and blocked and the overall tone is far more positive.

10. Mobile tools. Google+ wins Earlier this week Flickr rolled out a new version of their iPhone app that has a simple thread reader for Flickr groups. The app is AWESOME by the way. When Google+ rolled out communities last week they did not have support for mobile, but today they added it for both iPhone AND Android. I would suspect that a group thread reader will be coming to a future Android app for Flickr.

11. Group/Community recommendation. Google+ wins. On Flickr I am recommended groups that are years old, super dead and with zero activity in them. These are old groups that some Flickr employee chose to highlight years ago. By contrast on G+ I’m recommended communities that really are personally directed and targeted towards me. These are communities that are thriving and active. I’m guessing that there may be some Google curation of these recommendations, but what I’m seeing feels much more algorithmically based and the algorithm recommending communities on G+ feels super smart and personalized to me.

12. Hangouts. Google+ wins. From time to time you will want to get more involved with the members of your community than just discussion threads. With Google+ you can hold a hangout and do live video/voice interaction with other members through Google’s hangout feature. Flickr doesn’t have anything like this.

13. SEO. Google+ wins. While both Google+ and Flickr offer you private communities with an option to not index the community for the web, both also allow public communities that can be indexed for the web. With any public community you will want to have your community index well in search on the web. Google promotes Google+ posts by the people that you follow — if you are searching for a group on the web, there is a much better chance that you will find groups by your friends on Google+. Already my new Light Box group indexes for the first page search results for Light Box when I search regular Google and am logged in. Personalized search gives your group an advantage for being found on Google by your contacts and friends.

The final verdict? Google+ communities win. In my opinion Google+ communities are far more engaging, active, positive places to hang out than Flickr groups. As much as I enjoyed Flickr groups in the past, I think all of my community time going forward will be happening on Google+ instead. While I’m optimistic that team Flickr can/should create a better group experience for users, it may be too little too late at this point.

While Flickr does have Google+ beat on some important features like thread bumping and photo pools, these features are not enough to make up for the current velocity and dynamic advantage that Google+ communities have. Social photographers have been leaving Flickr groups over the past few years as they’ve been setting up camp at G+. Now G+ gives them the one thing that they missed from Flickr, a solid community experience. I suspect that communities on G+ will only get better and better in the weeks ahead. Google+ tends to release things in beta form, bugs and all, and then iterate very rapidly. I’m confident that some of their limitations today will be improved in the future. Hopefully they even give us thread bumping and photo pools like Flickr. πŸ™‚

Google+ Launches “Communities” — Will Compete Directly With Flickr Groups for Photographers

This morning Google+ launched communities. It will be rolling out to users over the course of today. I don’t have it yet this morning but my Pal Trey Ratcliff does and has written a blog post about it here.

Over the past year, the photographic community has come together on Google+ probably more than any other site on the internet. Many of the most active of these social photographers early on migrated over from Flickr to Google. While there have been some great conversations that have gone on in many Google+ posts by individuals, what Google has lacked is a town square sort of feature where individuals could congregate around a shared idea. Today’s launch of communities addresses that and it also offers photographers a direct competing platform for Flickr groups for the first time.

I haven’t tried communities yet, so I don’t know how robust it is compared to Flickr groups, but one thing Google seems to do really well is quickly innovate and improve new features on G+ after they launch them. I’ll write a follow up post once I get a chance to try them out. I’m sure I’ll be joining Trey’s new community and probably creating one of my own. Stay tuned. πŸ™‚

Photographers Nicole S. Young and Brian Matiash Meet on Google+ and Get Married

Photo from Nicole S. Young’s G+ stream.

One way you can judge the health of a social network is by the relationships that come out of it. There has probably been no more vibrant social network for photographers this past year than Google+. Google+ attracted the most social of photographers early on last year when they launched and they’ve succeed in capturing the soul of social networking for photographers since. There are many sites where you can post photos, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, 500px, but none have quite the social magic that Google+ has in quite the same way right now.

I remember when Flickr first launched back in the day, back when they seemed to have a simliar magic. One of the first things you saw coming out of Flickr were romantic relationships — many people were meeting on Flickr, getting involved and in some cases even getting married. Google+ is only a year and a half old at this point, but today I saw the first photographer marriage coming out of the network that I’ve noticed so far, photographers Nicole S. Young and Brian Matiash announced that they tied the knot.

For those of you who don’t know Nicole and Brian, they are wonderful photographers and contributors to G+. Nicole is a photographer and author who specializes in stock and food photography and Brian works for photo processing company onOne Software and like me loves to shoot abandoned and urbex type photography.

From Nicole:

“Every once in a while something that is seemingly small comes along that makes a difference in your life, and other times it changes your life completely. In the summer of 2011 Google+ was brought to life, and with that the beginning of Hangouts and a swarm of amazing people from all over the world. This community here on Google+ has impacted my life so wonderfully and drastically, and in the process I’ve made many life-long friends and connected with people I barely knew before, but through the popularity of Hangouts I was able to actually interact with.

One of those people was +Brian Matiash, and just a few months ago we officially tied the knot!

Yes, it’s true. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him, and I said YES!!! We had a simple ceremony on what we call “Marriage Day”

My good Pal Trey Ratcliff got the assist for helping to introduce them to each other on, yep, you guessed it, a Google+ hangout.

Congratulations to Brian and Nicole both on this excellent news! I’m curious as to whether or not they’ll be registering at B&H or Adorama.

And for the rest of you, before you pony up for that match.com or eHarmony account next month, you just might want to reconsider and head on over and check out Google+ instead. My money’s on Scott Jarvie being next, btw. πŸ˜‰

Google+, The Nicer Social Network for Photographers

Are You on Google+ Yet?  If So Please Post a Link to Your Google+ URL Here

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?

Where Does a Former National Geographic Photographer and Current Yahoo Exec in Charge of Flickr Share His Photos? Yep, You Guessed it Google+

Update 12-01-2012, I think Yahoo Exec Adam Cahan just went public with a Flickr account.

Update 12-12-2012. Marissa Mayer just went public with her Flickr account today as well here.

Late last week over at All Things Digital, Kara Swisher reported on the appointment of the latest high profile Yahoo exec, Adam Cahan. In addition to reporting directly into Marissa Mayer and overseeing mobile for Yahoo (super important!) it was also announced that Cahan would be put in charge of Flickr, the photo sharing site that so many of us love.

On the surface this is great news. The fact that the guy who is now overseeing Flickr reports directly into Mayer may mean that Flickr’s profile is moving up internally at Yahoo. After a few years of Flickr layoffs and shrinking, it looks like Yahoo once again is staffing up in photo sharing!

In addition to staffing up, over the past year Yahoo has probably improved Flickr more than any other year in its existence. They’ve added a really nice new justified page layout for your contact’s photos and favorites (hopefully coming to search, photostreams and sets soon!), they added a new meet up page where they are getting active with photowalks again (check out this shot from their Austin photowalk this past weekend), they created a new liquid photo format that expands photos to the size of your monitor (slick!), they also increased the maximum size for photos for paid accounts to 50MB! (Facebook and Google+ downsize your photos).

So my question is, why with so much excitement going on around Flickr, why don’t Yahoo employees use or care more about the service?

A lesser known thing about Adam Cahan, the new Yahoo exec in charge of Flickr, is that according to the San Jose business Journal he’s a former National Geographic wildlife photographer. So here’s the guy who is in charge of Flickr, definitely talented with a camera, and where is he choosing to share *his* photographs? Yep, you guessed it Google+! Here’s a photo he posted earlier this year there for the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Of course, Cahan is just following by example really here, his boss Marissa Mayer chooses to post her own photos over at Instagram instead of Flickr.

Why is Flickr such a pariah that Yahoo’s own executives (even the one directly in charge of Flickr) won’t dare to use it personally?

Certainly Google and Facebook employees share their photos on Google+ and Facebook. So why aren’t Yahoo executives doing the same thing?

I believe that leadership is done by example. I also believe that every company should encourage dogfooding and should encourage their employees to use their own products. I think this sends a better message to users when you feel like people who work for the company use it too.

The message that Mayer and Cahen send when they shun Flickr and instead post their photos on competing photo sharing sites is that those sites are better than Flickr. The exact message that they should be trying to change if they really care about Flickr.

Now I’m all for Yahoo executives testing out the competition. Actually I think that’s smart. They *should* have accounts on Instagram and Google+ and Facebook and all that — but they should *also* have accounts at Flickr and they should be acting as Flickr’s biggest cheerleaders in the same way that Vic Gundotra does for Google+ over there.

There is a current conversation going on over at Flickr in their highest profile discussion group that Flickr is dying. Yahoo should care about discussions like this. Yahoo employees should actually be involved in them and trying to convince people that Flickr is not dying, that a comeback is just around the corner — but in order to be involved in conversations like this Yahoo employees need to actually, you know, have an actual Flickr account.

It’s not hard, really, you can even use your Facebook or Google+ account to sign into Flickr these days. Directly from the Flickr sign up page: “It takes less than a minute to create your free account & start sharing! Have a Google or Facebook account? You can use them to sign in!”

Flickr’s tagline is “almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.” That’s been it’s tagline for years now. So if this is true, why don’t Yahoo execs want to use it to manage and share their photos? If that tagline isn’t true anymore maybe Yahoo execs should think about changing it to “almost certainly *was* the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.”

I was thinking yesterday back to all the excitement that was around Flickr back in the olden days. Natural disasters tend to be things that galvanize social sharing, and especially photos. Back in 2005 when Katrina hit, Flickr was the go to place for people to post photos online about the disaster. Not only were the best user generated photos flowing into Flickr, they were flowing in fast and furious. Flickr was recognized for the Katrina photos in the national press. A group was started on Flickr to do a print auction to raise funds for Katrina survivors. The very next year Time Magazine named Flickr co-Founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake as two of the 100 most influential people in the world! Butterfield and Fake both had Flickr accounts by the way.

More recently hurricane Sandy hit New York. Was Flickr the go to place this time for photos? No. Everywhere you went in the national press it was 24/7 Instagram. It’s telling that Time Magazine — the very same Time Magazine that recognized Flickr and their founders/managers after Hurricane Katrina — recruited five professional photographers this time around to cover hurricane Sandy for them on… Instagram, the same photo sharing site where Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer shares her photos.

By the way, photos taken after Oct 15th tagged Sandy on Flickr? 36,000. Photos tagged Sandy on Instagram? Over 800,000. Now just today Instagram announced photos on the web.

On a personal level, my photos at Facebook and Google+ get far more views and engagement than they do on Flickr — not just a little more, a lot more — as in hundreds of times more. I’m still rooting for Flickr though. They were the photo sharing service that I started out with back in 2004. They still have the best photo organizational tools on the web and at $25 for over 70,000 full high res photos of mine they are a bargain. Competition in the photo sharing space is good for all of us. It benefits the user. I just wish I felt like Yahoo actually wanted to win more with Flickr. Maybe this will change though and some day soon I’ll be able to add Mayer and Cahan as contacts of mine on Flickr. I bet as a former National Geographic pro Cahan has got some great shots. πŸ™‚

PetaPixel / Gizmodo

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Google Buys Nik Software

Google Buys Nik Software

Vic Gundotra announced this morning that Google has purchased Nik Software. Nik makes the popular iPhone app Snapseed and also makes some serious editing tools for Lightroom and Photoshop. I’ve been a big fan of Nik’s Silver Efex Pro and find that it is one of the best software packages for doing black and white conversion work.

It seems like photo processing is increasingly becoming a desired tool for photo sharing networks. Previously Google had purchased Picnik and has since integrated some of Picnik’s mad skills into the Google Photos experience. After the Google acquisition of Picnik, Yahoo’s Flickr switched from Picnik to Aviary earlier this year for online photo editing. Some of Flickr’s users have complained that Aviary is not as good as Picnik was.

With the Nik purchase, I’d imagine that even more photo processing tools will be coming to both Google Photos on the web and especially Google Photos on mobile.

It’s great to see Google continue pushing forward innovation and investment in the photography space. I don’t really use online photo editing tools as I prefer the more powerful and professional editing through Lightroom on my MacBook Pro, but obviously the masses out there do (as Instragram can attest to).

Facebook owns Instagram (and could theoretically include Instagrammy filters into the broader Facebook photos experience). Google now owns Picnik and Nik. Flickr feels like they are being left out in the cold in terms of online photo editing talent. People don’t seem to like Aviary.

So what should Flickr do? If I were them I’d seriously look at MacPhun’s FX Photo Studio Pro Software. This is the best super simple drag and drop photo processing application on the market today. MacPhun also has snapheal, which is a pretty interesting content aware photo processing tool that can remove objects from photos as well. Flickr could buy MacPhun and integrate these application based processing tools into an online photo editor and would have a pretty powerful online editor. Rumor is that Marissa Mayer just got a boat load of cash. Of course Google or Facebook could also buy MacPhun and integrate their drag/drop functionality as well.

Although for us photo geeks the big news story today is the Nik purchase, within his announcement post Vic Gundotra probably buried the real lead, which is that Google+ now has over 400 million members. Wow! 400 million! Amazing growth and congratulations to the Google+ team!