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:
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!