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:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/fotolog/discuss/26156/

More thoughts to come on that mysterious discontent!

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