Community isn’t instant, but conversation can be

Making sub-groups by making an agenda together

thursday agenda-building at Online Community Camp (my photo, from Flickr)

Thursday, I spent the day at “Online Community Camp.” Notes to come later in the day. [On edit… Later, anyway. Still catching up at work! It was an interesting event, though I had no big “aha” takeaway this time. Will post some tidbits, notes and questions soon.]


On Online Communities

I'm going to Online Community Camp Thursday! I'll link back here, so here are some notes about online community.

I got involved in observing and trying to influence online community social dynamics soon after my first dial-up modem connection to The WELL — The Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link — back in 1990. In 1991, I became the WELL's Conferencing Manager, following the legendary John Coate. I became the Director in 1998 and still work at The WELL, currently part of, today.

While I have become increasingly more conversant and interested in the business, technical, marketing and operational issues over the years, my interest in the social dynamics has never faded.

It can't. Community feedback and user-produced content are part of the same interactive reality.

Below are some of the resources I have created for various events and conferences over the years. My perspective has shifted only a little over the years. In the last two years, I have been re-exploring many of the issues as a user on and At the urging of friends at Online Community Summit last October, I set up this blog to look at interface and interactivity from a user's point of view here. I have barely begun this project!

Online community resources I've posted before:
Online Moderator Guidelines and Community-Building Tips
(The WELL host manual for volunteer moderators, offisite version for anybody who moderates discussion)

My 1999 presentation at VirComm99. Here's an outline for your amusement and edification. Most of it stands today, despite changes in software platforms and moderator assumptions:
It's the People: Finding and Training Moderators for Virtual Communities and Ephemeral Discussions.

One more accidental resource: Recent controversies at Salon Table Talk.

Flickr Two by Two

Two by Two set, on my Flickr pages. The image above pulls both togther in a two element mosaic via Flagrant Disregard's Flickr Toys.

I'm experimenting with loading in images two by two over at my fotogail pages. I don't upload a camera full of images. In general, I will choose one or two per day, and visit people who comment on them. That's simply my style of social photosharing.

I'm struggling to figure out how to adjust to the new Flickr layout, which swapped from one at a time in a stream, to two up, more like an album or a contact sheet.  It's not easy for me.  I hate being critical of what Flickr does, since overall they are the best thing around, and my use patterns may be unusual. I have given feedback on the bugs pages, but perhaps playing with the new assumptions is a better approach. 

Here's my current plan — upload two shots at a time, in mini diptychs. i am going to give that a go, though the layout diminishes my interest quite a bit.

Still adjusting to it.

Talking about the

This week we are wrapping up the afore-mentioned discussion of and photosharing/photoblogging in general over at my home system, The WELL.

Johanna Neutrath is hanging out discussing the project through Weds 5/17! You'll find all kinds of insight into how a collaborative visual space could be (or never can be) translated into a book. Drop on by.

You may know her from fotolog as or at flickr as

Here's an interesting article she posted about today: Image Fatigue: how in "a culture saturated with visual images and increasingly cynical about their manipulation, photography is losing its status as an art form." Check it out, and note what Johanna has to say about it in the interview in Inkwell, the world-readable corner of The WELL.

Navigation changes coming to Flickr!

After a series of posts here about the Flickr's folksonomical genius versus the simple Fotolog brilliance of surfing around directly via the visual expressions of contacts and their contacts, two interesting things just caught my eye.

First, Flickr won a Webby for navigation, as well as the prestigious "Best Practices" award. Nice! I assume the judges were talking about the many ways people use tags, groups and sets to move around and to help others maneuver in visual space, and this is a key part of what we all love about Flickr.

The second cool thing that happened is that Flickr announced that a round of innovation is coming soon! A key element of the attraction of Flickr is the sense of ongoing innovation there… that yummy "beta" mentality, so there's no real need for Flickr's George to find the timing ironic, though of course she does in her current post about upcoming navigation changes.

This is very exciting! Here's one of the features they will lauch:

Person Menu
The pink balloon? Popped! Now you can mouse over anyone's buddy icon and get a useful menu which lets you jump directly to their photos, profile, favorites and more.

The pink balloon is what you see now when you mouse over a buddy icon. It says "Add fluffysomebody as a contact?" or "scaryyounggeezer is a friend. Change?"

If as a user you ask yourself "what game are we playing here?" then the old pink balloon suggests we are playing relationship bingo. This wasthe primary early aspect of social software, and I remember some amusing discussions of it at places like Orkut and Friendster where one problem was that there was not much else to do, and the thrill ran out.

For a lot of us maxing out our contact lists has never been the goal in using Flickr. The game is partly social relationship ranking, but for many people the content of photos, in terms of their subject matter, quality or style, is the reason to "play" Flickr. Seeing and being seen brings in its own set of goals and games.  It seems to me that sending more than one kind of clue with this mouseover is a brilliant move in strengthening the appeal anof the already addictive Flickr.  It will give the Flickr managers a lot of information on what games we do want to play together, and that feedback may even help drive evolution. A little navigation menu there is a nice addition.

Like a broken record, I will say again don't think it is as clever as the Fotolog concept of making a thumbnail of a person's latest image the primary graphical navigation token, instead of the early social software and Flickr concept of using a fixed user icon on posts and lists, but swapping that out would probably be too drastic for the Flickr citzenry, except for the Fotolog immigrant community.

I'm eagerly looking forward to checking it out and learning to use it in the great ongoing Flickr dance. Should be fun!

Flickr photography show evicted without notice!

(evicted without notice photo originally uploaded by me at flickr.)

Recently I posted an announcement for a May photography show from nine photographers (including three who know one another from The WELL, overlapping with six who know one another from fotolog, and all nine of whom know one another from flickr.) We had a crowded, fun opening party Friday night. Rita’s pictures of the hanging and then of the party itself are terrific. Thanks to everybody who stopped by! I was in a daze part of the time and failed to say hello to some folks I later realized where there Friday.

This is where I thought I’d be saying to come by any time this month. However, Saturday evening I got a phone call that left me speechless.

Oxygen Sushi and Sake Bar has closed forever! No notice!

The cafe hosting our show closed out from under us immediately after our Friday night opening! Lars, their senior sushi chef and (also known as dj ExtraLars) called me saturday night to tell me Oxygen has closed and been sold. Our Friday night party was the last night. He terrifically responsible in getting to me swiftly, especially when you consider that he’s a new dad with an infant at home, now out of work. The employees were not warned, and were given a week’s pay and had their keys reclaimed, in a ritual that’s depressingly common in the restaurant world. It’s gotten so that having a business-closing party and thanking your community and your staff is a rare event, but it can be done. This was totally unnecessary.

The owner, a stressed out fellow named Thomas, knew he had listed the place for sale, evidently for quite some time, and that the application for ownership change had been executed for the weekend of our big party. However, he decided he stood to gain if he kept it a secret from us and his employees, who were causing him grief by coming in late, quitting and otherwise failiing to make owning and managing a restaurant effortless. For many people who’ve worked in cafes or bars that is no surprise at all. He stood to bring in a lot of cash from our crowded opening, which he could have expected to be big based on our November event there, so holding out through that day gave him a pile of cash for closing out.

Monday Thomas the owner unlocked and let us in to reclaim our prints. This doesn’t always work out for artists in this situation, so it was a relief.

So, anybody know a place to take in a homeless photo show for good karma and good publicity? Taking suggestions here or in my flickrstream.

The as yearbook

A few weeks back at a SF Flickr social gathering, Jef mentioned that the was like a yearbook. It's more elegant in layout and intention, but there's certainly a quality of a group history artifact about it.

music for the eyes - image

(this image is by zenog)

With that in mind, I brought mine to the little show we had last night on Valencia street, to get it signed by friends in the book. It was a little bit strange asking, but I was pleased to get notes from some of my favorite photographers in this lovely picture book.

The pages are too pretty to write on, so we kept signatures and notes to the insides of the covers.

It was strangely satifying, the lingering touch of ink on paper.

(Over at The WELL in a publically readable book discussion we are currently talking with some of the contributors to the and settling in for a two-week long conversation.)



I'm reminded that tools are a starting point. Creativity and effort are the next ingredients.

We're talking about tools and social experience right now at Inkwell at The WELL as we discuss

I hope I can get a chance to expand on a few of my brief posts over there and say a little more here.

Meanwhile, the FotO2 photo show I posted about opens tonight! Please come if you're in San Francisco. It has strong fotolog, flickr and WELL connections.