Why Blocking is Important for a Social Network

Why Blocking is Important for a Social Network

Earlier today Twitter reversed their decision to change how user blocks are handled after a backlash reaction on their network.

From the Twitter blog:

“Earlier today, we made a change to the way the “block” function of Twitter works. We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users – we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe. Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect.”

In a way, the current block at Twitter is sort of ineffective. If I block someone, the only thing it really does is prevent them from seeing my tweets when they are logged in (which also serves as notification to them that I’ve blocked them). They can still open up an unlogged-in version of Twitter (as easy as cmd-shift-N in Chrome, or cmd-shift-P in Firefox) and see everything I’ve tweeted publicly. Still, Twitter’s reversal shows that users really do care about blocking functionality and want more control and powerful blocking tools, not less.

I would argue that there are three key benefits that come from strong blocking tools on a social network.

1. Users feel empowered when they are more forcefully able to deal with harassment on a network. If someone is saying something offensive, why shouldn’t I personally be able to take control over that situation? If someone is making me uncomfortable, why shouldn’t I be empowered to deal with that for my own personal experience?

2. More effective blocking tools encourage more civil interaction. The thing that most trolls, haters, griefers, offensive jerks, etc. want on a social network is attention. By making it super easy to mute them or diminish them (especially by an intended target) it provides a disincentive for anti-social behavior in general.

3. Empowering users with blocking tools provides immediate relief for a user. Since oftentimes harassment is happening in real time, this can be more effective than waiting for customer service / community management reps at a social network to respond to reports of community violations. It is frustrating for a user to have to suffer even an additional 12 hours of harassment while a complaint works its way through to a community manager.

As far as best practices go, I’d hold up Google+ and Facebook as the networks that provide users the best blocking protection on the internet today.

Like Twitter, on Google+ and Facebook when you block someone they cannot see your public posts.

Google+ and Facebook take it one important step further though. Not only do they prevent someone you’ve blocked from seeing your public posts, they *also* filter the blocked user entirely out of your G+ or Facebook experience.

On G+ and Facebook when you block someone they become completely invisible to you everywhere on the network. It’s like they no longer exist in your social utopia.

That second block function is even more important than the first.

Flickr by contrast has some of the weakest blocking tools on the internet. When you block someone on Flickr, all it does is prevent them from private messaging you or commenting/faving your photos. Because of Flickr’s weak blocking tools, I’ve seen many of the most active, social accounts on Flickr leave due to harassment. This is bad design.

What makes harassment even worse on Flickr, is that (unlike G+ and Facebook) they allow anonymous troll accounts. So if a Troll1022 is harassing you anonymously on Flickr, and you report them, and three days later that account is deleted, all they need to do is set up Troll1023 and continue with the practice. Flickr’s weak blocking function allows virtually unlimited harassment on their network by anonymous trolls.

Protecting users and providing more control over your experience on a social network is important. It’s your most social and active users who will most likely sooner or latter run into friction. These are the users that any social network should be striving to empower.

I’m glad Twitter reversed their block policy after user reaction, and hope all networks realize how important the block feature is.

Change is Good

Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin Sports the New Google Glasses at Dinner in the Dark, a Benefit for the Foundation Fighting Blindness -- San Francisco, CA

If you want to make enemies, try to change something.

— Woodrow Wilson

I’ve been watching with great interest over the past few weeks as the naysayers seem to have gone CRAZY overboard trying to bash Google Glass every chance they can. I’ve seen articles in Wired and on CNN and on blogs, etc., all stating how terrible Google Glass is. Oh NO, geeky white dudes are wearing Google Glass! This will never work! Oh no, someone wore a pair into the shower! Oh no, I will punch someone in the face if they try talk to me with them on — all sorts of gibberish.

There’s nothing like change to bring out the absolute haters.

It seems like every time something comes out that represents change, people freak the fcuk out.

It’s not enough to say, “oh no, this thing is not for me.” People have to go absolutely overboard, talking about how horrible some new thing is for everybody ELSE.

I remember when I waited in line overnight (with my pal Robert Scoble, probably today’s biggest Google Glass cheerleader) for the very first iPhone. Robert’s son Patrick was the very first person to buy an iPhone at the Palo Alto store.

I’m not sure I’d ever been mocked by people so much. “You waited in line overnight to pay HOW MUCH?” for a stupid phone??? People thought the iPhone was the dumbest thing ever. “Why would you ever need a phone to surf the web?” “Why would you pay so much for a phone?” They laughed at me for camping out overnight to get the first generation phone — even though camping out overnight in front of an Apple store has been one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. Getting to hear Apple luminaries like Andy Hertzfeld and Bill Atkinson talk about Apple’s early days was a blast! It’s where I first met the awesome guys from SmugMug. Was it dorky and geeky? Sure, but whatever.

Read some of these early quotes about the iPhone when it first came out. Even though some of us loved it early, so many more were so “doom and gloom” on it. Now, of course, everybody loves the iPhone and the whole generation of Android and other smartphones that followed.

I remember when Twitter first came out. People hated that too. “Twitter is still a fad, and according to a study out today, it looks like it’s popularity may soon fade,” wrote BusinessWeek. People constantly mocked Twitter — “who wants to read a dumb post about what someone had for breakfast,” they’d say. I hopped on Twitter right away while so many of my friends refused to join. Those same friends now complain about how everybody else has more followers than they do.

The same naysayers took umbrage with Google+. Despite being named earlier this week as the second largest social network, the “change is bad” crowd hated Google+ when it came out. How many articles out there were written about Google+ being a ghost town? My good friend Trey Ratcliff passed 5 million followers on Google+ earlier this morning. That sure is an awful lot of ghosts if you ask me.

I’m having the best time on Google+. I’ve met some of the most talented and interesting photographers in the world, I’ve been on tons of great live hangouts and photowalks, and it’s been the best designed social network I’ve ever been a part of. I’m glad I joined it the first day it was available to the public.

When one of my heros, William Eggleston, had the first color photography show at MOMA in New York, a lot of people hated that too. Many people called it the most hated fine art photography show ever. Ansel Adams, the most famous photographer in the world at the time, even wrote a letter to MOMA curator, John Szarkowski, trashing the change that Eggleston represented. Now everybody loves Eggleston and color photography is firmly established as a photographic fine art aesthetic. Just last month the Independent called him the world’s greatest living photographer.

I remember when I first started posting my photos online at Flickr back in 2004, their first year in existence. So many photographers gave me a hard time. They kept going on and on about how my photos would be “stolen.” “Who the hell cares,” I’d answer back. Now everybody posts their photos online, everywhere — well, almost everybody.

So what is it about Google Glass, the iPhone, Twitter, Google+, color photography, photo sharing that scare people so much? What is it that brings out the naysayers and haters?

It’s simple: most people hate change. Most people fear change. Most people hope the world around them never changes and turns into something else. They are afraid that change will take their job, or their income, or somehow hurt them. A lot of these people are also lazy. They groan about having to learn a new thing or technology. They worry they will be left behind. So it’s easier for these people to bash whatever is new and interesting and jump on the anti-change bandwagon.

As far as Google Glass goes, I have no idea if it’s going to be a hit or not. I do think it represents an interesting new tool to use for street photography and I’m excited about trying them out myself at some point. I think it’s dumb though to see article after article by scared people trying to talk the rest of the world out of them — articles that try to paint them as dorky or geeky or creepy. These are just more of the same old complainers/haters who hate on every new thing that comes along.

Change is good. Don’t let the naysayers tell you otherwise. The next time somebody brings up some new idea, check yourself. Instead of immediately starting to bash it, resist that urge and keep an open mind. Every so often you just might be surprised.

Oh, and personally speaking, I think journalists that like to bash change are far, far, dorkier than bloggers who like to take showers with their Google Glass on. ๐Ÿ˜‰

This article also appears on PetaPixel here.

As a Person, Publisher, News Organization and Twitter User, I Think Google’s New Personalized Search Results are AWESOME!

Personalized Google Search Results
Personalized Google Search Results

Unpersonalized Google Search Results
Unpersonalized Google Search Results

The top story on Techmeme right now is Steven Levy’s “Is Too Much Plus a Minus for Google?”. Alot of people are talking about how including personalized Google+ search results is somehow bad or wrong. Earlier this week Twitter put out a statement saying that they thought this new search integration was “bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.”

I disagree.

Sure, it may be be bad for *Twitter*, but to say it’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users is wrong. I have been hoping for the integration of social search into image search for years now. Back in 2006 I wrote a blog post when Yahoo first started showcasing Flickr images into their image search results. I was a fan. I’m not sure why everybody didn’t get all wound up when Yahoo started adding Flickr photos to their search but they now seem to be wound up that Google is essentially doing the same thing.

As a person, publisher, personal news organization (aka blogger) and Twitter user I *absolutely* want Google+ integrated into my search results.


Well look at the two images above. Both are searches for New York. The top one represents the results when I’m logged into Google. The bottom one represents when I’m logged out. Why is the top one so much better for me? Well, as a photographer, if I’m going to New York there’s a big chance that I’m going to want to be photographing in New York.

The unpersonalized results are pretty photos of New York but they provide me no additional information about the locations. The first result goes to a wikipedia page, lots go to travel oriented pages — they are nice postcardly type photos of New York but really do me no good.

Now the personalized results are *far* more useful. Google+ knows that I like shooting urban exploration photography. They also know that my friend Amy Heiden has a kick ass photo of urbex photography from New York. Now *that* image jumps to page one. This is great because I *know* Amy. We’re friends. So now I can check in with Amy and say, “wow! love that shot, would you mind telling me more about it and how you got in, etc.). This is far, far, far, more helpful and useful to me than the bland postcardly photos without Google+.

Two of the images on the page are like some of the postcardly overhead New York sky images on the generic unpersonalized page — only there is a huge KEY difference for me. They were taken by my friends Tom Harrison and Ingo Meckmann. There’s also a kick ass shot of the Apple Store taken by my friend Trey Ratcliff. These are not just people that I sort of know. These are people that I know well and have known for years. These are friends that I can check in with and say, “whoa! where did you get that awesome photo from, which skyscraper were you in.”

Personalized results on Google+ are wayyyyyy more helpful to me than unpersonal results. And this is exactly what Google should be doing. Helping me find the information that is most helpful and most useful to me. As a photographer, this means that I *want* them to give preference to photos by people that I know. People who I can talk to. People who will share information about these photos with me. I don’t want to see some bland photo by some Associated Press photographer who I don’t know, can’t talk to, and is too busy to share information with me personally.

It pains me that Twitter and Facebook want to take this away from me. That they want to take this really useful thing and somehow rob me of it. All because they are afraid that Google+ is going to be a bigger, better social network.

So as a user this is super helpful to me. What about as a blogger or publisher? YES! It’s also super helpful to me. Now my photos will be shown to all sorts of people who have chosen to follow me and my work. I get bigger distribution. It’s the dream of long tail content. I suppose if you’re not on Google+ as a blogger/publisher this gives you a pretty powerful incentive to get your ass on there ASAP, but what’s so bad about that? Google+ is a vastly better social network than Twitter (photos look awful as little links of text) or Facebook anyways.

It seems like Twitter and Facebook don’t want Google competing in the social network space. They want to keep it all for themselves. At the same time they seem to want to force Google to pay through the nose even to have access to their realtime data and firehose. If Facebook and Twitter don’t like this integration, let them give away this data for free to Google, or better yet, they can go build their own search engines. But they shouldn’t try to pull this integration away from me. Why should users get caught as casualties in their war against Google? As a person, as a publisher and yes… even as a Twitter user. (BTW Twitter, just because something might be bad for *YOU* doesn’t mean it’s bad for your users, like *ME*).

I for one welcome these new search results and am super excited about personalized search and how it is going to help me find the things I need to find more easily in the future.

Google+ vs. Flickr vs. Facebook vs. 500px vs. Twitter

The Hatch

Yesterday I posted a photograph of mine on 5 different sites at about the same time. The photo above, The Hatch, was posted to Google+ (Google’s much hyped new social network), Flickr, Facebook, 500px (an exciting up and coming new photo sharing service) and Twitter.

I will try to compare, the best I can, the attention that the same photograph received from each of these sites over the course of 24 hours. If as a photographer you are looking at photo sharing sites, in part, as a way to promote your work to a wider audience, the engagement your photographs receive online may be of interest. This case is very specific and of course everyone’s circumstances will differ, but this is my experience.

Before examining the attention the above photograph received in various places, I think it is worthwhile to look at some of the numbers (for me) behind each of these sites. Following are the number of “followers” roughly that I have on each of the sites mentioned, the approximate time I joined the sites, and how active I engage on them.

Google+: Google+ is a brand new social network It was opened to limited beta users last week. I’ve been on it now less than a week, but I enjoy shiny new things and so I’ve been somewhat active. At present I have 1,861 followers there.

Flickr: Flickr is the largest well organized library of images in the world. It’s the grandaddy big gorilla of photosharing. I joined Flickr in August of 2004 and have been active almost every day that I’ve been on the site. I generally upload 50 photos every day to flickr, have favorited or commented on over 100,000 photos of other users, and am active as an admin in a large and popular group. 21,125 people call me a contact on Flickr.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network. I have 3,161 friends following me on Facebook. I joined Facebook in September of 2006, pretty shortly after they allowed non-college students to join. I’ve never been impressed with Facebook and spend the least amount of time on the site of the five mentioned. I do however post daily to Facebook and occasionally engage with other people on the site.

500px is an exciting new up and coming photosharing site being built by a small innovative team out of Tornoto. 500px currently has some of the best photography being shared on the web being published there. I joined 500px a few months ago in April. 1,558 people are subscribed to my photos there.

Twitter is the world’s most popular micro blogging service — I joined shortly after it was launched in December of 2006. Twitter just started photo sharing last month with a partnership with Photobucket. I currently have 19,285 followers on Twitter.

So not all of the sites above measure views. But here are the breakdowns on the photo published.

Views: Unknown
+1’s (i.e. likes/favorites): 45
Reshares: 2
Comments: 14

Views: 102
Faves: 7
Comments: 2

Views: Unknown
Likes: 10
Comments: 3

Views: 52
Favorites: 4
Comments: 5

Views: Unknown
Faves: 0

Conclusion: My photos posted to Google+ receive far more attention than posting them to any other social network. Part of this might be due to the fact that Google+ is still a brand spanking new super shiny social network with lots of activity as people are checking it out. Part of it also may be the fact that every time someone comments on my photo there it “bumps” the photo back to the top of my followers’ activity stream.

Google+ doesn’t seem to report views on your photo, but based on the engagement on the photo I’d guess that it was viewed far more on Google+ yesterday than any of the other sites. Whether or not this sort of high activity will continue is anybody’s guess — but at least for now, if you are a photographer who wants to promote their work on the web, Google+ seems like a place that you definitely want to be sharing.

As an aside, I think how each of these sites shows your photo is important to the attention that they receive. There are two ways that people see your photo, in more limited stream view and then in better detail/lightbox view. In my opinion Google+ and 500px do the best job sharing your photos most beautifully. Both provide big oversized thumbnails that are elegantly shown to your contacts and both have really nice detail pages when you click through to a photograph.

Google+’s lightbox view, however, is over the top. It really is the best detail photo page on the web today, big giant oversized photos that load super fast and are on a black lightbox background. It is a very fast one click away from a photo in a stream and one click back, encouraging people to click through. Flickr has a lightbox view but it’s 2 steps away from your contacts looking at your photo (not one like Flickr and Facebook). Also Flickr and Facebook’s lightbox views are not as elegant as Google+.

It should also be noted that photos on various social networks generally do not get as many views on a weekend day as they do a weekday when everybody is working. It also seems that because this weekend is 4th of July weekend that there are less people around and online than usual.

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Google Plus

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Flickr

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Facebook

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on 500px

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Twitter

Testing Out Twitter’s New Photo Sharing Feature

Testing Out Twitter's New Photo Sharing Feature

I just sent my first tweet with Twitter’s new integrated photo sharing feature. I was one of the lucky ones to get early access today to the new feature. ๐Ÿ™‚

The feature seems pretty straightforward. If you click on the message box there is a little camera icon right below it and you just click that to add a photo. You can then attach a photo and send it to your Twitter. So easy, even a Congressman could use it.

The first photo I tried didn’t take, because it only supports photos 3MB or smaller. It’s not really meant to be a replacement for Flickr or anything in that regard (Flickr allows photos up to 20MB in size — and some more forward thinking photosharing sites like 500px actually allow photos up to 30MB in size, time to step up your game Flickr) — but with most phone photos being smaller then 3MB, this shouldn’t really be a problem for mobile uploads.

The second photo I tried sending was a smaller one that I’d taken with my phone (pictured above) and it worked just fine.

I was impressed with the speed at which the photo had uploaded to Twitter. In the past I’d had problems with twitpic hanging on me when trying to upload, but the photo to Twitter’s own service was fast and flawless.

The photos are hosted at photobucket, but you don’t have to have a photobucket account to use the service.

I updated my Android Twitter app on my Samsung (piece of crap) phone to the most current version, but when I clicked on add a photo using that it still sent the photo to twitpic, not to to the new twitter service — so I don’t know if the new service supports the Android app yet — I don’t think it does.

Supposedly the new Twitter photo service is integrated with the new IOS5 on the iPhone though — which I suppose will be one more reason to ditch my horrible piece of crap Samsung phone and go back to the iPhone when the new ones come out this Summer or Fall — although I’m sure Twitter probably plans on integrating the photo sharing feature into their Android app too at some point in the future.

I also tried downloading “Snapbucket” to my Android phone (which was the app that the photobucket promo page suggested). I was able to get the app installed (you have to set up a photobucket account) and tried to send a photo to Twitter with it, but it seemed to take a long time. I sent the photo to photobucket (and it’s in my account) about ten minutes ago, but I told it to send it to Twitter and it’s not posted to twitter yet for me. I’ll probably still continue using mobypicture to share mobile phone shots directly until either Twitter updates their Android App or I move over to the iPhone.

One thing that is nice about this new Twitter photo sharing service, is that like all of your text tweets, the photos that you upload to it belong 100% to you. This is in stark contrast to the sleazy move by Twitpic to try to try and actually sell people’s Twitpic photos (keeping 100% of the money for themselves and giving the photographers 0%). There’s a certain sense of satisfaction that comes with knowing that this new photo sharing service by Twitter is going to end up putting Twitpic and their sleazy photographer rip offs out of commission.

Overall I’d say the new service is a win for Twitter. It simple, easy to use, and most importantly FAST! Nice work Twitter! This new service is just what I need to upload all those awesome new shots of my buffed out totally waxed new body.

More on the new service from TechCrunch here.

On Flickr’s Change in Data Retention Policy and Twitter’s New Photosharing Service

I’ve been out shooting for six solid days or so and so wasn’t around when two important news stories broke, so I’m commenting on them briefly after the fact.

The first news story was that Flickr has changed their policy from immediate and permanent deletion, to a softer one where user data is retained for 90 days prior to permanent deletion. I wish I knew more about why Flickr made this change or how this new policy came to be adopted, but I will say that this is excellent news. My single biggest criticism with Flickr over the years has been their tendency to shoot first and ask questions later regarding user account deletions.

Once flickr destroyed someone’s account they’d then claim that they couldn’t restore it even if they wanted to. Earlier this year Flickr took a lot of heat for accidently deleting the wrong account and showed that they were in fact able to restore an account.

At least one user has claimed that since adopting this new policy that they have in fact actually had a deleted account recovered. I don’t know the details on this case or why Flickr changed their mind and reinstated the linked account, but it would seem that appealing to flickr after the deletion will in some cases work.

My single biggest fear while on flickr has been that I’d wake up one morning and find my account nuked. They’ve already nuked one of my groups in the past and having my account deleted has always been a worry of mine.

While it’s still a worry of mine that Flickr could suddenly decide one day that I’m “that guy,” and nuke me, it’s good to know that I’d have time to fight for my account in the future should this happen.

I’d say that this change is the most positive thing flickr has done in the past five years. Thank you especially to Daniel Brogan at Flickr for finally making this happen. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Secondly, TechCrunch is reporting that Twitter is getting into the photosharing game — supposedly an announcement is coming this week.

I think this is great for a couple of reasons. First the leading player in the Twitter photo space twitpic is a total ripoff for photographers. When you use it you are giving them the right to sell your photos through some fine print in the TOS. Many people don’t read TOS agreements and twitpic doesn’t really advertise or clearly disclose that they can screw you over and steal your rights.

It’s one thing for a company to actually claim this right, but then not actually try and use it. It’s quite another thing for a company to actually come out and state that they are going to start doing this. In twitpic’s case they violated this trust with their users. What’s worse, the revenue split that goes with your photos that twitpic sells is 100% twitpic 0% photographer.

So as far as a new Twitter photosharing service screwing over twitpic, I’m all for that. Unfortunately out of the twitpic rights grab, some other photosharing services used that opportunity to differentiate themselves (like Mobypicture). It will probably make it harder for any external photosharing service to survive which is based primarily on the Twitter ecosystem, with an actual Twitter photosharing component built in.

As far as what twitter might offer for us, I hope that they think about giving users full rights over their own photos (like flickr, Mobypicture, 500px and others do). It would a bummer to see Twitter try to do the same rights grab that twitpic did.

I do think that there is a place for microblogging photos. Many photographers don’t want camera phone photos cluttering up their flickrstream or other places, but still want to use them to show what’s happening and going on in their life on a daily basis. A Twitter photosharing option would seem ideal for this.

I’m not exactly sure what a Twitter photosharing service would/could look like. Maybe like Instagram a little bit except that you’d be able to use it without having an iPhone. Looking forward to seeing whatever they come up with though.

Digging the New Twitter

Digging the New Twitter, Plate 1

When I logged into Twitter this morning I noticed that my account had been integrated with the new version of Twitter. It’s my understanding that Twitter is rolling this out to everyone over time. Everyone may have it by now, or maybe my turn just turned on for my turn this a.m. Whatever the case, I’m really digging the new version.

Above is a screen shot which what a flickr set link looks like in Twitter now. In the past if you pasted a link to a photo or a set on Flickr it would just be a text only link. Now you can actually expand the tweet and in the right pane a rich media panel shows up detailing your flickr photos visually. That’s very slick. Sets especially are rich, with the ability to actually watch a mini slideshow version of the set right on Twitter itself.

I’m not sure yet if there is a way to automatically push daily Flickr uploads to your Twitter stream, or what this might even look like, but I’m really enjoying the ability to manually post more media rich links to Twitter.

I did use the tool on Flickr to link my Flickr/Twitter accounts, but I think this is more about giving me a special email address to tweet mobile flickr images than it is to auto publish my images like I have done in the past at Buzz or Friendfeed.

Digging the New Twitter, Plate 2

Geotags on photos it would appear now can also be included now on photos on Twitter. I haven’t exactly figured this out yet and am not sure if it will happen automatically on flickr geotagged photos or not, but this second screenshot of my friend @Troy (who works at Twitter) shows a recent photo of his dog @JPG’s account (who is now tweeting too) which shows what the geotag embed looks like.

One of my chief complaints about Twitter over the years as a photographer is that Twitter never did photos all that well. While sites like FriendFeed and Buzz provided a richer visual media experience, Twitter was always all text based and I never felt it particularly did a good job showing off photos. This new Twitter design though is pretty massive in terms of improving the visual appeal of Twitter for both myself and I’d think other photographers.

I’m actually using Twitter more and more these days based on some of the great new features like this that they’ve been rolling out. I also love their recently launched suggestions feature — which is probably the best suggestion feature I’ve ever seen on any site on the web. I’ve found Twitter suggestions to be far more spot on in terms of suggesting new people that I might want to follow. Ever since they launched this feature it’s been daily serving me up fresh and relevant suggestions on who I should follow. Many of the people are people that I was completely unaware I wasn’t even following. By contrast suggestions on other sites like Buzz have been far less relevant for me.

Congrats to Twitter on the newtwitter. It’s a great new improvement to the site.

You can follow me on Twitter here.

An Open Letter to Bryan Lamkin, SVP, Consumer Products Group, Yahoo! Regarding “Yahoo!’s Open Strategy (Y!OS) to Make the Web More Open and Relevant”

Dear Bryan,

This morning I read your announcement over at Yahoo!’s Yodel Anecdotal Blog about your new relationship with Twitter. First off, congrats on that. While many of us have already moved on to more conversational platforms like FriendFeed and Google’s Buzz, Twitter indeed is huge. Kayne’s too busy being creative for it yet, but pretty much everybody else is there, even Oprah and John Mayor.

But there was one thing about your post that was bothering me and so I wanted to take a second and address it in a letter to you. And that was the phrase that you used in your blog post alligning this recent move with “Yahoo’s Open Strategy Y!OS” to make the web “more open and relevant.” (Emphasis mine, but to be fair, your words).

My biggest problem with your describing a Yahoo initiative to make the web more “open and relevant,” is that as a *heavy* Yahoo user, this has not been my experience. In fact my experience has been the opposite. So I read things like this and they just smack to me of pure PR spin, not as bad as Yahoo’s current Big Lie $100 million marketing campaign that “the internet is under new management, yours,” but something that should be addressed.

You see, when a company says they want to make the web more “open and relevant,” there are three ideas that immediately come to mind.

1. Uncensored.
2. Transparency.
3. Open Standards.

Uncensored. Bryan, did you know that if you live in Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, India or Korea that Flickr censors your content? India was just quietly added to the countries that Yahoo censors last year, but it’s true. Are the people at Y!OS aware of this? Because censorship does *not* make the web a more open place. It makes the web a more closed place.

Did you know that some of what is censored out of these countries is stuff like public art and sculpture or paintings that hang in museums? I’m not kidding. I took a photograph of a painting hanging in the Oakland Museum of California in an all ages gallery for anyone (even kids to see) but if you live in Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, India or Korea, Yahoo won’t let you see it. I wrote a blog post about this last year when Yahoo decided to censor another photograph of a painting that I took at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Heck, do you know that just last year here in the United States Yahoo nuked an entire group (Deleteme Uncensored) containing over 3,000 threads and conversations about things like politics and music and photography and art, without warning? As your Yahoo! staffer was deleting it she tweeted out (ironic, given today’s twitter announcement, huh) “I hate your freedom.”

Is this what Yahoo means by a more “open and relevant” web?

Transparency. Part of the transparency problem at Yahoo Bryan is that it’s near impossible to get any issues like those above addressed. Sometimes people turn to other outlets like Buzz (where if they are a high profile blogger with access to the mainstream media they *might* get their issues addressed). But generally there is no way to have a conversation about these sorts of issues. Criticism is verbotten. When people criticize, at least in the Flickr help forum, threads just get locked. Heck, I’m permanently banned from the Flickr help forum (more censorship) myself. At least I can write a blog post about some of these issues because, thank God, my blog isn’t on some sort of Yahoo platform.

Open Standards Does Yahoo support PubHubSubbub Bryan? If so, great, if not, why not? I’d like to be able to have my content at Flickr flow more freely (and quickly) over to your competitor Google on Buzz. Will you support this open technology in the future?

What about contact portability? One thing I’d like to do is to automatically import all of my current Flickr contacts over into Buzz. This could easily be done if the Flickr API contained email information where their emails (when they’ve explicitly chosen to share their email with me under their preferences) could be matched up to their buzz profiles. Does the Flickr API allow for this today? If not why not? Again, I’d ask these questions in the Help Forum instead but I’m permanently banned there.

Personally, I’d love to see some of these problems above fixed and I’d love to be able to really nod my head in agreement when I read that Yahoo is serious about a more “open and relevant web.” That would be much better than me shaking my head in disagreement and writing letters.

Feel free to have a conversation about these things in the comments below here, or I’ll also link this thread to the Yahoo! Anecdotal blog post and we can have them there, or by email, or heck even by phone. But don’t be a stranger, write back when you’re not so busy tweeting all over the place on Yahoo.

Is Twitter Afraid of FriendFeed?

Is Twitter Afraid of FriendFeed?

Disclaimer: If you are not familiar with FriendFeed this post may not make so much sense to you. If you are familiar with FriendFeed, congrats to you, you’re on the cutting edge. If you’re not familiar with Twitter, what the hell rock have you been hiding under, time to stop taking so many photos and spend a little time on the internets no?

An interesting post over on FriendFeed by Steve Gillmor asking a simple question, "what is the delay between tweets and arrival in FriendFeed?" Steve is talking about how long it takes for a Friendfeed user’s tweets on twitter to show up on FriendFeed. It’s not the first time that Gillmor’s raised this issue.

For those of you unfamiliar with FriendFeed, it is the current mother of all aggregators. It %*$*%ing rocks. FriendFeed pipes in all of your various playgrounds on the internet (Twitter, Flickr, Zooomr, Google Reader, your blog, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, etc. etc. etc.) into one easy to consume feed. It’s been the most interesting thing to come out for a while. It’s a better way to follow your flickr contacts, a better RSS reader than anything else you might be using right now, and one of the best communities currently on the web.

FriendFeed also though is probably the closet thing Twitter has to a real and viable competitor. As a photographer, the simple fact that FriendFeed offers visuals whereas Twitter is entirely text based alone is enough for me to call FriendFeed the superior platform. Essentially you can do anything on FriendFeed that you can do on Twitter but, well, better. In addition to posting real time post updates on FriendFeed (that are not limited to 140 characters) you get a far more complete run down on what your friends are up to.

The thing is though, one of the things that makes FriendFeed work so well is that you can leverage the existing larger communities elsewhere on the web at places like Flickr and Twitter. This is all possible because of cool things like open APIs and the whole culture of sharing kumbaya stuff that Web 2.0 (for lack of a better name) is supposed to be about. All our data belongs to us. All our data ought to be portable. Companies are able to thrive in 2.0 because they put our (the producers) best interests above theirs. You know the speech.

Unfortunately though, one thing that I’ve noticed in the past month is that my tweets that used to be instantaneously posted from Twitter to FriendFeed seem to be slowing down sometimes. I’m not sure why this is, but a part of me worries that maybe Twitter is doing something to slow down the firehose from Twitter to Friendfeed because they are afraid of FriendFeed as a competitor.

Last month Dave Winer suggested that the reason that FF isn’t overtly challenging Twitter right now is because if they do, "they might find their firehose slows down or develops gltches it didn’t used to have." And, well, that’s what it feels like may be happening. Do keep in mind that Winer did not accuse Twitter of this or any other wrong doing, he merely suggested it as a huge "if" as a possible scenario.

Now I have no idea if the reason why tweets do not seem to be posting as fast to FriendFeed as they used to has anything to do with Twitter. For all I know there could be a technical problem on FriendFeed’s end causing this. But I think the fact that tweets have slowed down on FriendFeed deserves a conversation about the causes.

Of course two of the things that may raise FriendFeed as a greater competitor in the eyes of Twitter could be the recent move that FriendFeed made to allow people to auto subscribe to their Twitter contacts on FriendFeed and to automatically post their FriendFeed postings to their Twitter accounts. Every one of these FriendFeed updates posted to Twitter includes a link back to FriendFeed. This is probably a very useful tool for constantly reminding the Twitter community that a better way to do lifestreaming exists over at FriendFeed.

As an interesting side note, Robert Scoble suggests that in Twitter’s recent move to begin "suggesting" Twitter users to new and existing subscribers that they seem to have bypassed the two FriendFeed users with the most followers, Scoble himself and Leo Laporte. Both of these users have been active on FriendFeed and Scoble probably more than any single other person has been instrumental in promoting FriendFeed as a service online. "I think Twitter is being threatened by friendfeed. The two most popular users of friendfeed (Leo and me) were left off of the twitter recommended friends list over on Twitter," says Scoble in the Gillmor’s thread.

If you’d like to follow my updates on FriendFeed you can do that here. If you’d like to follow my updates on Twitter you can do that here too.