Flickr User Asks Flickr to Check if Her Self Moderated Account is OK, Flickr Responds By Deleting the User’s Account Without Warning

Flickr User Asks Flickr to Check if Her Self Moderated Account is OK, Flickr Responds By Deleting the User's Account Without Warning

Last week I blogged about a Flickr user Shéhérazade who without warning saw her self moderated account get permanently deleted. The user was upset about this because they thought that they were abiding by all of the Flickr rules and posted a thread on this in the Flickr Help Forum which was promptly censored and shut down there. A lot of people felt that this was not right.

This week we have another Flickr user who was concerned that her account might not be set up right and so she wrote to Flickr staff asking if they could review her account and provide her input regarding if she had set her account up correctly or not.

Flickr’s response? Rather than respond back to the user and/or direct her on what she might need to do to have her account structured correctly at Flickr, simply without warning just pressed the big fat red delete button wiping out her entire account and all of her content permanently.

From the deleted account:

“I had an adult orientated stream of photos on flickr and was slowly building up a list of contacts, comments and views. All my pics were public and marked restricted except for 1 that contained no nudity and was marked moderate. My account was rated safe.

I have been deleted in the past and had done quite a bit of checking around to make sure I was on the right side of the law. It will make me sound like a bit of an anorak but I spent in excess of 4 hours on this and still was not sure. I got a flickr mail from another user (one of many) which said put all my pics f&f [edit: f&f = friends and family] or I would be deleted and this prompted even more checking and in the end I decided I would try and request flickr for help – primarily because the guidelines are so vague.

My email was nice enough. It contained the information in the first paragraph of this post and then went on to say that I did not want to get my account deleted for doing the wrong thing and that I would appreciate a review of my account to check I was all ok.”

The deleted user goes on to document her reply from Flickr:

“I got a response back within 12 hours

[Flickr Case 1054684] Re: Account Review Request


Flickr account “flashergirl77″ was deleted by Flickr staff
for violating our Terms of Service and Community


Flickr reserves the right to terminate your account without
warning at any time.

-[edited out by staff]”

Now, Flickr tells people that they are allowed to host adult content as long as it is self moderated. Adult content, nudity, etc. is all over Flickr. The Flickr rules are that if you post that stuff you have to label it as “restricted,” this way people that don’t want to see it (and the default Flickr set up if people don’t bother to say one way or the other) won’t see it. It’s like it doesn’t exist to them.

So why when a Flickr user is playing by the rules and has self moderated all of their explicit photos “restricted,” do they summarily get their account deleted without warning simply for the crime of asking Flickr to review their account and tell them if they are doing everything ok?

Certainly Flickr owes its community more than this. It is the community after all that makes up Flickr. Flickr would be nothing without its community. And yet time and time again, over and over again, they seem to get away with deleting accounts and censoring content with no repercussion. Because Flickr seems to be the 800 pound gorilla and because today this is where the larger photo sharing community largely interacts, they seem to feel that they can just do whatever they feel like without any sort of consequence whatsoever.

And what’s sad, is maybe they’re right. Maybe they can just keep on censoring accounts and deleting accounts on a whim whenever they feel like it. Maybe they can continue destroying years of people’s work, thousands of comments, their uploaded images all without consequence because what are you going to do about it anyways?

But that still don’t make it right.

If you’d like to follow this case in the Flickr help forum you can do that here. Don’t be surprised though if the thread gets shut down shortly.

Update: Heather Champ has responded as follows in the Help Forum thread:

“I just wanted to follow up that I’ve sent an email about an hour ago to flashergirl1977 with an apology for the actions taken by the team in recent days. I’ll leave it up to them as to whether or not they want to share the content here.

That’s why I suspect this particular case is an aberration (not common, accident, etc) or there’s more to the story. The last thing Flickr wants to do is create a sense of distrust among the users. Unfortunately it’s only the cases handled improperly that end up getting any public attention (there’s no “Great Job Flickr!” forum.) and thus leads to public fear, as if that’s how all of their cases are handled.

You’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve circled round with the team here regarding our process and policies. “

As an aside there are currently 94 threads (most of them closed or locked by Flickr) in the Flickr help forum with the words “censorship” and “mistake” in them. And yet still Flickr doesn’t have a way to undo “accidental” account deletions.

Update, not unsurprising, but Flickr has now permanently closed this thread complaining about their censorship.

Update: Bonus Feature. What to do you do when Flickr deletes your paid Pro account not once but twice?

How Would You Feel if Your Flickr Account Were Permanently Deleted?

Watch Out, Your Flickr Account Might be Up for Deletion Next

One of the things that continuously pisses me off to no end is how capriciously and callously Flickr goes about deleting accounts with no warning. The latest example comes from Flickr user Shéhérazade. After paying for a Flickr Pro account and uploading photos to a stream on Flickr that had been visited over 150,000 times, Shéhérazade found that one day her account was in her words, “deleted without any reason or warning.” According to Shéhérazade, when she tried to contact Flickr about the problem, “Terrence” from the Flickr Censorship Bureau (FCB) told her that her account had been deleted because it included photos that had not been taken by her.

Although at first Shéhérazade had said that all of the photos in her stream were taken by her, she later admitted that 10 of the photos in her stream were not taken by her. But it turns out that, according to Shéhérazade, those 10 photos were actually of her from a model session that she participated in and she claimed that she had rights to them as the model being photographed. Now apart from whether or not Shéhérazade actually has legal rights to those photos, what pisses me off here is just that Flickr without warning continues deleting user accounts.

To make matters worse, when Flickr deletes your account it really is gone. There’s no going back. It’s permanently deleted. Gone forever. There’s no undo. There’s no, “I’m sorry we accidentally pressed the delete button.” Not only are all your photos gone, but thousands of comments left by users throughout the site are also permanently gone. Same goes for images that they delete from your account, like they’ve done to me in the past.

Anyways, so Shéhérazade gets pissed of course. You would be too if your Flickr account were deleted. So she does what anyone might do, she goes to the Flickr Help Forum to express her dissatisfaction over this and try to get some sort of response from Flickr (see screenshot above).

It should be noted that some of Shéhérazade’s photos were of a shall we say “adult” nature. But all of her photos had been correctly marked as “restricted” by her pursuant to the Flickr rules.

So her response back from Flickr? Well the only response she got back in the help forum was a rudely worded message from Flickr Community Manager Heather Champ locking the thread.

Flickr Closed Thread

Here first response she got back was:

“Apologies… I’ve been battling a cold and a little less observant that normal. This topic is way over heated. I’m going to close it for 24 hours to let people chill out. I would ask that once the topic is re-opened that we dial back the name calling and ugliness towards members and the team.”

but before the thread could be reopened, Champ then posted this follow up message:

“I’ve gone back and had the opportunity to read through the back and forth. While it might serve to continue to further the discussion, I think that attitude of the OP isn’t something that I want to give a further venue to. I think it would be better served via 1:1 Help by Email. As such, I’m closing this puppy permanently.”

Now this doesn’t really surprise me. In fact in my own thread the other day where I complained about five of my images being censored (a museum painting, a sculpture from Beverly Hills, and some screenshots critical of Flickr) that thread ended up locked as well (but at least I got Flickr to agree to uncensor 4 of my 5 censored photos).

But the point is this. Flickr should NOT be permanently deleting anyone’s account. Especially a paid account. And especially without warning. In the event that Flickr really feels that they need to delete an account, I think that they owe it to their customers to first engage in a dialog about the images. Were there images in Shéhérazade’s account that were not hers? Maybe. But maybe a perfectly reasonable explanation was that she was the model in the photos and had permission to use them.

Are there photos in your Flickrstream that are not yours? I know that I have a few photos in my stream that are not mine. For instance, this photo of me can’t possibly have been taken by me because I’m only about 6 months old and clearly was in no position to handle a camera in 1968. Should I deserve to have my Flickr account deleted without warning for this?

Shéhérazade set up a new account on Flickr and posted a single black image in protest of her account deletion a few days ago and the image already has 106 comments on the image, mostly all expressing how much they will miss her work on Flickr.

Second Wave of Flickr/Getty Invites Being Sent “En Masse”

Flickr and Getty Images Begin Inviting Select Flickr Photographers Into Their Joint Stock Photography Business

Today on the Flickr blog Flickr is announcing that the “second phase” of their partnership with Getty Images is launching and says that a new round of invitations to participate in the stock photography program are being sent out “en masse.” Flickr says that the new service will formally launch in March. Flickr has an updated FAQ on the program here.

An interesting side note to the new offering is that if you are selected for inclusion in this program you will need to change the license on any Creative Commons photos put up for sale to “all rights reserved,” on Flickr.

From the Flickr FAQ:

“There is a chance one of your Creative Commons-licensed photos may catch the eye of a perceptive Getty Images editor. You are welcome to upload these photos into the Flickr collection on Getty Images, but you are contractually obliged to reserve all rights to sale for your work sold via Getty Images. If you proceed with your submission, switching your license to All Rights Reserved (on Flickr) will happen automatically.

If you’re not cool with that, that’s totally cool. It just means that particular photo will need to stay out of the Flickr collection on Getty Images.”

As an advocate for the Creative Commons license personally I would have liked to have seen Getty/Flickr allow this license. There is no reason why a CC non commercial image cannot be sold and it would have been a good endorsement for this license if they could have figured out a way to work with it.

If you want to follow more of the Flickr Community’s reaction to this offering there are a few threads on Flickr that you can follow here and here. Note, you have to be logged into Flickr and allow yourself to see “adult” content in your settings in order to read the first thread.

Getty’s announcement on the new service is on their blog as well today where they say that “thousands” of invitations were sent out today. If you want to see what the invite looks like you can see this screenshot of it here.

Did you receive an invitations from Getty/Flickr today? If so or if not, what do you think of this new offering?

Related: Mike Arrington had an interesting blog post over at TechCrunch last week as well entitled, “The Photo Marketplace That Never Launched: Flickr Stock.”

Top 10 Tips for Getting Attention on Flickr, All Fresh and New for 2008

Top 10 Ways to Get Attention on Flickr

“What is more pleasant than the benevolent notice other people take of us, what is more agreeable than their compassionate empathy? What inspires us more than addressing ears flushed with excitement, what captivates us more than exercising our own power of fascination? What is more thrilling than an entire hall of expectant eyes, what more overwhelming than applause surging up to us? What, lastly, equals the enchantment sparked off by the delighted attention we receive from those who profoundly delight ourselves? – Attention by other people is the most irresistible of drugs. To receive it outshines receiving any other kind of income. This is why glory surpasses power and why wealth is overshadowed by prominence.”

Caterina Fake, Co-founder of Flickr, 2005.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called Top 10 Tips for Getting Attention on Flickr that proved fairly popular. A lot has changed at Flickr in the past 2 years though and how imagery is rated and ranked on the site has also changed. That said, I thought I’d write a fresher updated post on the top 10 ways, presently, to get attention on Flickr.

Back in 2006 when I wrote my original article on how to achieve popularity on Flickr my photostream had been viewed almost 400,000 times. According to a Flickr stats page that’s been added since that time, the view count for my pages on Flickr now stands at 9,953,328. It should pass 10 million sometime this week. I’m averaging about 14,000 page views a day on Flickr.

Some of how one gets attention on Flickr has remained the same since 2006. Other stuff has changed.

1. Take great pictures. This was my number one way to achieve popularity on Flickr in 2006 and remains the number one way today. Despite all the other things that you might do to promote your photography, none of it will matter if your photos are not interesting. Everyone can be creative. Some are more creative than others. Sometimes your gear and photo processing matters, other times it doesn’t. I’ve seen incredibly beautiful and creative photos taken with a $10 toy camera. And I’ve seen incredibly beautiful and creative photos taken with a $40,000 digital Hasselblad. I’ve seen people upload interesting things from a crappy iPhone camera and I’ve seen people upload interesting things that they spent 8 hours on Photoshop with. But, the better your photos are the more likely that you will get attention. Taking great photos is a prerequisite to everything else in this article.

This said, there are certain types of photos that tend to become more popular on Flickr than others. Provocatively posed female self portraits or photos of attractive women in interesting poses, extremely saturated photos rich with eye candy like color, cityscapes, night photography, photos depicting movement and motion, silhouettes, dramatic architecture, unique portraits, creatively arranged macros and cross processed and some film photography.

2. The order that you post your photos to Flickr counts. The number one way that your photos will likely be seen in Flickr comes from your Flickr contacts looking at their Flickr contact’s photos. At present Flickr allows you to set your contacts most recent photos to their last photo, or their last 5 photos. Anything beyond 5 photos in a single batch upload will largely be buried on Flickr. If you are uploading more than 5 photos at once, make sure that you upload your best 5 photos last and what you consider your very best photo last of all. Frequently people will upload a batch of 30 photos from a concert or something with no thought as to which will be the last 5 of the 30 in order.

3. Consider places outside of Flickr to promote your photography. Do you have a blog or a photoblog? If you want more attention on Flickr you should. Flickr makes it very easy to blog your photos, you simply cut and paste the html code above your photo and you are now photoblogging with a direct link back to your photo. My blog, is my number two external referrer of pageviews to my Flickrstream. Are you on FriendFeed yet? You should be. It’s easy to set up and makes sure more people see your photos. Pownce (when it is working) is another place to post interesting photos.

4. Do you have your settings on Flickr configured for maximum exposure? After Flickr itself, Google drives more traffic to my Flickrstream than any other source, even my blog. Yahoo search and both Google and Yahoo image search drive traffic as well. But your photos will be blocked from appearing in search engines unless you authorize Flickr to display your images in search engines. Make sure your photostream is set to not “hide your stuff from public searches,” here.

Same goes for the Flickr API. Lots of people are using the Flickr API in interesting ways. I get traffic from places like Flickrleech, Compfight, Technorati and lots of other places that use the Flickr API to extend your photos outside of Flickr. Make sure that you’ve authorized Flickr to allow API access to your photos here.

5. Explore. Explore still remains the number one way to get photos viewed on Flickr. Explore uses Flickr’s “Magic Donkey” algorithm to each day highlight 500 of what Flickr feels are the best photos on Flickr for that day. It’s a very popular section of the site despite the fact that everyone seems to constantly hate Explore and decry its mediocrity in selecting exceptional photos. Explore has changed and evolved a lot since it was first introduced at Flickr a few years back. Initially things like *when* you posted your photos mattered.

Whether or not Flickr chooses your photos for Explore is still very much a mystery. But there are some things that we do know. The more faves, comments, tags, etc. your photo gets, the more likely it is that it will appear in Explore. Explore also uses averaging in their algorithm now. This means that if your average photo gets 5 faves, then you’ll need to do considerably better than average if you hope to see that photo in Explore.

Photos are also constantly dropping in and out of Explore. I’ve got 157 photos in Explore at present but I’ve had 446 that have appeared in Explore at one time or another. You can check out which and how many of your photos that have been showcased by Flickr in Explore here. Just change my Flickr ID at the link above for your own.

6. Groups. Speaking of Explore, if you really want to get a particular photo in Explore consider adding it to a group that encourages tagging, faving and comments of photos. Photo critique groups are good examples of this. Some of the photo critique groups play games where tagging and commenting on a photo are part of the game. Flickr does not distinguish be
tween a photo that has been commented on or tagged organically vs. one that is included in some sort of photo critique game. If you want to boost the likelihood that your photo will be selected for Explore consider putting a strong photo into one of these pools. Photo critique groups on Flickr run the gamut from nice and friendly photo critique groups like TWIP’s, to hostile and brutal photo critique groups like DeleteMe Uncensored (note NSFW and maybe not the best group if you are easily offended).

Whatever the case, the key to groups is participation. If you simply dump a bunch of photos blindly into random groups you will likely not get much benefit. In fact, Flickr actually penalizes photo rank if someone posts their photo to too many groups. But posting your photo to selective groups where you participate will encourage activity on your photos and photostream.

7. Tag for Exploration (especially your most popular photos). Why has this photo of mine been viewed over 27,000 times on Flickr? Well in part because it shows up on the first page search results on Flickr for the search term guitar. And why does it show up in searches for the word “guitar?” Because I’ve got the photo *tagged* guitar. By tagging your photos appropriately you can ensure that more people will see them in search. Think of other ways that you can tag your photos. Are all of your photos taken in San Francisco also tagged “California?” They should be. Are all of your photos tagged “self portrait” also tagged with your name? Again, they should be.

The better you keyword and tag your photos, the more likely they will show up in searches that take place on Flickr. Even if you think that your photos will never be popular enough to rank highly in search, remember that there are other ways that Flickr users can filter search. You can search just by your contacts photos on Flickr for instance. So even if you don’t have the most popular sunset photo amongst millions on Flickr, you might have the most popular sunset photo amongst your contacts because you tagged it.

A note that I’ve seen some people on Flickr abuse tags. They will tag every photo with girl, sunset, cat, etc. Even if these things are not in their photo simply to try and trick people into getting to their photos through search. This sucks. I’m not sure what/if/how Flickr penalizes people who do this, but it’s a crappy thing to do and ruins the search experience for everyone. Tag early and often, but only tag your photos with tags that truly are accurate and descriptive.

8. Geotag. One of the more interesting ways to find photos on Flickr is through exploring photos that are geotagged on a map. When I’m going to a new place that I’m not familiar with, frequently Flickr’s “Explore the World Map,” is one of my first destinations. But of course your photos will not show up here if they are not geotagged. The best way to geotag your photos is actually at the file level before you upload them. I use Geotagger on the Mac which allows you to use Google Earth to geotag your photos. You can also download the free software program from Microsoft Pro Photo Tools to geotag photos on a PC.

Check what Flickr considers your most popular photos and make sure that you geotag (and more descriptively tag) these photos especially — even if you have to geotag these shots on Flickr using their tools. Geotagging has been documented by Flickr staff as increasing the Flickr “interestingness” rating of a photograph.

9. Consider creating a few “best of” sets and feature them prominently on your Flickrstream. Frequently when people first discover your photostream they don’t have time to check out your entire stream. But if you make it easier for them and create a few sets that highlight some of your best work they may stick around longer. I’ve created two such sets myself. My 10 faves or more set and my 25 faves or more set. These sets highlight what are some of my best work according to the Flickr community and are my two most visited sets on Flickr. As my photos are faved 10 or 25 times I add the tag fav10 or fav25 to these sets and then use SmartSetr to automatically generate these sets.

Make sure also that you change your Flickr page layout from the boring default one to one that highlights your collections and sets better.

10. Tell everyone you know about your Flickrstream. Are you active on other social networks? Is a link to your Flickrstream prominently displayed on your blog? On your Facebook profile page? Be sure to include a link to your Flickrstream in every profile that you are on with other sites. Consider buying Moo cards (even though has been lousy for me lately and won’t let me buy anymore cards from them) which highlight your photostream that you can give out to people that you run across while out shooting. Tell your friends and family and your offline “real life” contacts about your Flickrstream.

Bonus tip: Reciprocation. Above everything else, perhaps the most important thing about Flickr is that it is a community and a reciprocation based community. If you think that you can just post your photos on the site and they will garner thousands of faves and views simply because, you are wrong. Even the best photos on Flickr will not get very much attention if you simply upload them to the site and never participate.

Flickr has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back to your own photostream. While you may not have the time to check out *everyone* who faves your photos, spend time each day faving and commenting on other people’s photos on Flickr. By sharing with others the fact that you appreciate their photos they will return the favor. Be generous with your faves and comments. Remember, other people like the attention as much as you do.

On Digg here

Update: An interesting link to comments Flickr staff have made about the Explore algorithm here. Thanks, Ole!

Flickr Turns 3


Damn, three years sure go fast. I still remember the Flickr Fiesta celebrating their first year down at the Yahoo Campus. And then Flickr Turns 2 last year at the Adaptive Path offices and then this year even bigger at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Thanks to Flickr for hosting yet another kick ass party.

You can check out my complete set of shots from Flickr 333 here.

MyBlogLog Does the Right Thing

The MyBlogLog Blog: Everybody hurts… sometimes So I’ve kind of watched from the sidelines the past few days as this MyBlogLog drama has unfolded. I’d joined MyBlogLog in the past after reading about it on Fred Wilson’s blog but never seemed to really get into it. Maybe I just need to spend more time with it to figure it out, but anyways.

I quit MyBlogLog yesterday after reading a post over at Andy Beal’s blog where he was protesting the site after they banned this this blogger Shoemoney for documenting an exploit on his blog about how to impersonate people on the service. Shoemoney basically saw a flaw and used it to grandstand actually in kind of a funny way.

Compounding it all, MyBlogLog didn’t even have a TOS when it banned Shoemoney.

Again, anyways…

So now MyBlogLog has come back and done the right thing and unbanned Shoemoney. And I think they probably learned a good lesson in the process. It’s good to see them reinstate him, but if it were me I’d probably change his name on their site to Shoemonkey just for all the trouble it caused, in kind of a loving way of course. Bottom line is that Shoemonkey is a rascal and a troublemaker, but these are not necessarily bad things.

You see here’s the thing with communities. The best communities are full of rascals and the rascals actually make them a more interesting place. At Flickr, a community that I’ve been pretty engaged in for a while, it’s full of them. And even when they get banned and their trolls get banned, they typically are always back.

And it’s these people that make the community in part the interesting place that it is.

My good friend Mr. Chalk (warning Mr. Chalk is almost never SFW) has been banned numerous times from Flickr. All most likely for deserved reasons. Mr. Chalk is a crazy character. He claims that Flickr instituted the ability to lock threads because of him. He’d go to war with groups on Flickr flooding their forums with crazy threads and their pools with hundreds of repetitive photos of fireworks. This guy Vinny on Flickr once threatened to kill Mr. Chalk. This in turn got Vinny banned (you’re not allowed to threaten to kill people on Flickr).

Once Mr. Chalk impersonated me on Flickr. He took my avatar and got my name Thomas Hawk with a period at the end of it to make it look like me. Then he went around Flickr saying all kinds of craziness.

I thought Flickr might think it was me so I sent Heather Champ, their community manager, an email just letting her know that it wasn’t me saying all these crazy things and she deleted his account. Only afterwards did I discover that it was my good pal Chalk wrecking havoc on my reputation and I had a good laugh over this one.

My friend ShhexyCorin’s been banned numerous times on Flickr as well. She had this great account that went by the name Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer who would do the craziest things. Once Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer joined the Animal Rights group at Flickr and posted this huge block of cheese with a giant human teeth marked bite taken out of it. He was appropriately kicked out of the animal rights group. I’m not sure what PPWP actually did in the end to get banned, but when he was banned there were remembrances, even audio clips made and shared, etc. But the point is that despite all the antics Shhexy Corin is still there on Flickr and one of it’s most avid users.

Although he was never banned for it, one of my favorite pranks on Flickr was when Flickr pal Fubuki posted a bad camera phone shot of a package of toilet paper to his stream. He them pimped the shot up on various voting communities to build activity around it and soon had it promoted as the the number one “most interesting” shot for that day in Flickr’s Explore section where they highlight what they feel are the most interesting shots (by algorithm). It was quickly manually removed (I think by Fubuki himself when I threatened to send the link to Boing Boing), but we all had a good laugh about it at the time.

Sometimes bad behavior needs to be punished but it should never be permanent. These rascals at heart love their communities and play the important role of jesters and comedians.

I’m glad to see MyBlogLog let this Shoemonkey character back into their fold and in the future if they want their community to succeed they should realize that having folks like him around is a good thing not a bad thing.