challenges of categories, audiences and baseball park naming

walking to mays fieldwalking to mays field

Originally uploaded by me over on Flickr as fotogail.

I plopped this image into my Flickr photostream this weekend, knowing it was a fine thing to do in terms of recording history and providing tagged content for a few friends and the Mays Field blog.

The sign in the photo is a very cool phenomenon — Mays Field is a wonderful grassroots solution to the "Some Big Company Park" problem. The idea is that Mays Field will be the part of the name that won't change. Our ballpark has had three corporate names in six years as the regional phone company has been repeatedly gulped up and renamed. If fans call it "Mays Field at _____ Ball Park," then it doesn't matter what the owners of the team have to do to pay the bills, and we still have something we can use in natural conversation.

If you're a Giants fan, locate or download a sign, photograph yourself it around town, tag it "maysfield" on Flickr and see it on the site. It's a movement!


The accidental photo show – FotO2 at Oxygen

We're back at Oxygen, for a photo show on May 5th!

Through May 26 from 6:00 pm on, Tuesdays through Sundays.  Oxygen Sushi, 795 Valencia Street @ 19th, S.F. Opening 5/5 with dj ExtraLars providing a party atmosphere from 8:00p til at least midnight.

Here's the original tale of our first accidental oxygen photo show as I posted it in the Flickr discussion area at The WELL last September:


Back in May some of us put together an informal Mission Photo Walk. WELL members Art, Kay & i met up in San Francisco's Mission District with some other Flickrers (and old Fotologgers), took pictures, then went to have sushi.

what yuzu found on valencia street

(this is Kay, aka yuzu at Flickr)

One of the other participants had reserved a table for us at Oxygen at 19th on Valencia Street.

So we went over and ordered piles of sushi. this is where the story begins.

We passed around platters of sushi and unfiltered saki, and at one point
I remember suggesting each person shooting digital find their best shot and
we pass the cameras around and show what we saw, so we were doing this,
with ooohs and aaahs. The waiter came by and I said we were a digital
photography group and look at our stuff from today.

He was of course wowed, since each image he was passed was little, bright,
one of the best of the day. Quite arresting.

So I said "we'd like to have a show here." I fear I was guilty of making an
assumption about "we" since we'd never mentioned it, but it was out of my

He gestured towards the bar, and said that the boss was here.

So I got the boss and we repeated our display of our lcd screens.
The owner too was all positive and we swapped email addresses.

I wrote the first of a series of pitches and sent it off, and was not
totally blown off. I got a "we'll be working on our schedule later on and
might be interested" sort of reply.

Time passed.

When i saw some of the members of the group that had been out for that
stroll, they would ask about our show.

Eventually I said "look, we hadn't paid or tipped yet. Of course they were
positive about us having a show."


Get over it.

Then of course I got the email offering us a date! November 2005, at Oxygen!


And not only was it fun, but we're invited back, and open all over again with a new show there on 5/5/2006. DJ ExtraLars will spin something latin for us.

Here's the Flickr page we are using for a website for the show. Some of the images that were up last time are posted there:

Please come.

What Flickr could learn from Fotolog

How could the cutting-edge and more feature-rich Flickr have anything to learn from Fotolog, and from what customers from Fotolog experienced during the big group refugee period a year and a half ago? This question is the core reason I wanted to do start blogging about my experiences at Flickr, Fotolog, and a few other social and community sites.

While looking at Technorati results for links at work this week, I stumbled on an interesting blog post by Gene Smith:

His questions are good, and the fact that the report of discussions on The WELL was from a friend of mine (who’d read the laments from me and others) made me laugh. So I’ll speed though some of the backstory for now and try to explain some of the amazing differences in these two large social photo sharing sites.
First, it’s true that the reason we left Fotolog en masse was that performance there had become so slow. Thousands of loyal users sat cursing while trying to upload or even just navigating the site, day after day. The way the impulse to “swarm” spread was because of the lovely, simple Fotolog interface. If you were a heavily networked member who finally uploaded and saw your latest photo come up, or who came back to your page to see comments, you would see brilliant little thumbnails of new images from your contacts on the side of the very same page. Not their icons, their latest works in miniature!

In the context of a tight community who could no longer connect with one another due to the slowdown, this meant that people who kept trying could eventually post images that said they’d left for Flickr — for example, overtly, in a jpeg sign with big bright letters, or symbolically, as a pure black image — and the thumbnails of those little images populated the main photo pages of all their contacts. It became obvious that people were leaving, and this news spread because of the nature of the interface, and the pattern of group communications that had grown out of the site’s interactive structure.

It’s good to remember that the great slowdown seemed to be a result of being loved to death, staggering under sheer load of seemingly infinite demand. The site had become wildly popular internationally, particularly with young Brazilians. It was a direct result of a popular journalist in a major newspaper there falling in love with the Fotolog community experience and writing about the thrill of it.

Directly navigating via people’s visions and expressions is one of the most compelling group experiences, and providing your contacts are excellent photographers, it’s one of the best ways to improve your photography without even trying. This style of visual networking can’t be done currently at Flickr, so I and some others have struggled to explain to those who only know Flickr how we miss that experience, even though we are settled in at our new community. I’ll have more to post about his.

Oddly enough, if you go to the main page at Fotolog, you don’t get a sense of any of this. Fotolog’s simple charms are hard to see until you have a page, regular uploads and contacts doing regular uploads.

Fotolog has finally had an influx of investment, and I am told that it works much better now. I have more to say about the two sites, and their challenges, and I’ll be uploading there again some to get a fresh take on that situation.

Flickr did and still does many things more useful features than Fotolog. The tone of communications with customers and the style of open collaboration is exemplary and exciting. Tagging, sets and Creative Commons licensing are all supported very well on Flickr and not at Fotolog. And yet, that ability to navigate through the visual expressions of friends of friends, rather than via profiles or buddy icons, is something I still miss in my regular near-daily Flickr presense.

When the Fotologgers emigrated to Flickr

A year and a half ago I gave up on Fotolog and followed friends in an exodus to Flickr. Wow, what a journey.

It was a traumatic, desperate time for many people who were heavily invested in visual socializing and improving their photo technique at Fotolog, but the system performance had become impossible, and something had to be done, no matter how much I or others liked the founders of Fotolog.

Because I have worked for 15 years in online communities (both The WELL and later Salon Table Talk), I've been on the management team when people were threatening to leave, and I've seen refugee groups arrive from elsewhere.

However, I had never been part of an exodus. I have to say that once I decided to go, our relocation was intensely emotional and exciting. People went out of their way to help one another figure out a different toolset, and some of the Flickr folks who were particularly helpful by nature worked to include and assist the newbies. We were in shock, and confused about whether the change was temporary or permanent. Some (such as Bruce Grant and Art Siegel) kept posting on both sites. Some toughed it out due to loyalty or inertia. A large number set up camp at Flickr and never looked back.

From the beginning, the Flickr emigres tried to request the features they'd left behind. Strangely enough, it was hard to describe what we missed from the simpler Fotolog site. And yet we knew that it was easier to find new photographers via their work alone there.

Since then Flickr has added feature innovations such as Interestingness, and those who transferred have figured out how to use some combination of group pools, group discussion threads, sets and tags to approximate the community-building tools they'd known previously.

Fotolog has beefed up their servers, and added a few features of their own, too.

Recently people on Flickr have celebrated the publication of the book about the Fotolog community where many of them met.

All of this has me thinking again about platform and/or community provider loyalty versus clusters of people who know one another via assorted platforms. I wonder if it's a requirement of communities that participants would be able to connect via assorted tools and still be a group. This mulit-platform remote continuity has probably been practiced since the invention of first writing and later telephones. The group is all about the people connecting in it, not merely defined by how they network. And yet, we all know that tool sets, platforms and other manifestations of "neighborhood" can still make a great deal of difference, and become too comfortable to change. Inthe hardest of times this makes for tension for users who don't want to "swarm" with their hive, so to speak. All this can be baffling for the people who are trying to be good managers.

Recently I re-read this exploration of discontent from the then relatively recent arrivals at Flickr. It captured a feeling but is sadly vague about what was missing:

More thoughts to come on that mysterious discontent!