Back to Flickr

Now that a big group of people I know have been energized by the resurgence of Flickr I am noticing something. Flickr was built well before the rise if the more “modern” social sites and lacks at least a few of the features that we’ve all come to expect. The one most glaring omission is the lack of a “like” button. Flickr asks us to not like a photo, but instead mark it as a favorite. I never really used that much, reserving it for truly favorite photos. It seemed like that was the case for a lot people. Now that we’ve bounced back to Flickr I am getting “favs” all the time. It seems to me that the feature sets of Instagram and Facebook has altered the way we use an older platform. It has made Flickr much more social and I like that.


Press Enterprise and Openness?

I and others have been critical about the lack of open and available news in and around Bloomsburg, PA over the last several weeks. It has been widely documented that the Press Enterprise offered two or three days of free digital distribution following the flood — primarily because they couldn’t deliver the physical paper to residents in flooded areas. After those first three days, the Press went back to posting daily stories behind a paywall.

Since the flood that has so devastated Bloomsburg, PA there have been several Facebook pages started to try and organize help and information for the people in town — many of whom have lost everything. Demands to the Press Enterprise to open their flood related information has been met with silence from them. Amazingly there have been so many people who have defended the approach by the Press, saying it is a business and we can’t expect them to give away the paper. That has been a faulty and mismatched argument from the beginning as I haven’t seen anyone demanding that all of the Press be opened, instead the focus has been on flood related images and news.

I haven’t been shy about sharing the numbers of views I’ve received for the 373 photos I posted openly to Flickr in the days following the flood. As a matter of fact, in a presentation I gave at the PA Newspaper Association’s Advertising Conference last week I shared that these photos were viewed 153,650 times from 9/11/2011 through 9/28/2011. What that tells me is that there is a market of need that wasn’t being filled by traditional channels.

Today, my wife shared with me a new page that appears in google search results for an open archive of 30 pictures from the Press Enterprise. The photos are shared in a gallery outside the paywall and are openly available to view and download. Like we have hoped from the beginning, the photos are excellent in that they are taken in the moment by newspaper professionals. Is the Press Enterprise listening to the pleas and (in my opinion) appropriately toned criticism? Perhaps, but either way we now have access to at least 30 images linked from the official newspaper site of the greater Bloomsburg area. I call that progress by any measure.

Social Media Lesson

A couple of weeks ago we held our annual Symposium on Teaching and Learning with Technology here at Penn State. It was an amazing event once again — this time with just shy of 400 faculty and staff choosing to spend a beautiful Saturday with us. Our keynotes rocked, with David Wiley supplying a rallying call towards openness that has helped move our OER conversations forward. At lunch, danah boyd delivered a whirlwind of a talk that people are still buzzing about. One thing in particular was how both David and danah hung out with us not only the night before, but all day on Saturday. Up until this year none of our previous keynotes have stayed and chilled with us — they even joined us for the post Symposium party afterwards.

danah wearing the hat.

danah wearing the hat.

Sessions were excellent and the conversations in the hallways was lively. I could go on and on, but nearly all the sessions are now captured over at the Symposium site — including David’s keynote with a slick side by side widescreen presentation that our Digital Commons team came up with (danah is coming soon).

Click for full image

Click for full image

But this post is about something related … two things are lingering in my mind after the event. The first is how much Twitter was used during the event itself. The tltsym09 hashtag turned into a trending topic early in the morning — sometime during David’s opening keynote. That in and of itself is really cool and very interesting. The Twitter stream of the day is long and it does tell a bit of a story all by itself. But, sometime during the morning I realized that people weren’t really blogging the event like they had in the past — does a Twitter stream provide enough for those not there to grab onto? With the lack of sessions being blogged I am afraid we could be doing the event a disservice. I’d love to hear thoughts on how to take the Twitter stream and do some real sense making on it all.

Click for Full Screen

Click for Full Screen

The other big social media lesson I am taking away from the event has to do with Flickr and community tagging. Early on we decided to use the tltsym09 tag for the event across the social web. We were thrilled to see hundreds of photos flow into the tag aggregation on Flickr. What I wasn’t thrilled about was the hijacking of the tag by a cross dresser on his bed in lingerie. It didn’t offend me per se, but I know for a fact (from a couple of emails) some folks were mortified and I was asked to “fix” it. Flickr doesn’t really allow me to delete tags from other peoples’ photos and while the pictures clearly didn’t fit into our group, there was nothing about the pictures that would cause Flickr to pull them. Turns out it was simple to just contact the guy and ask nicely — he removed the tag.

This is one of the reasons people are terrified of openness and the social web — lack of control. It has caused us to rethink our own use of the social web, so we’ve created a Flickr account that will be the repository for our pictures, but it doesn’t solve the community stuff. I think we need to have a conversation about how we take advantage of the social web in light of the fact that it is as simple as watching the trending tags on Twitter Search and hijacking them to insert your product, pictures, etc into the flow of the emergent conversation. Funny how even after all these years of participating in an increasingly open way, we can continue to learn and adapt our usage to really take advantage of what we are learning.

Any thoughts?

What to Write About? Flickr Video?

It has been a week since I’ve written and I am still struggling with what to share … I find myself in a bit of a post Symposium holding pattern with things. I can’t seem to pull it together. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that here at PSU we are in SRDP time. The SRDP is the staff review and development plan that is done with all staff every year. So I have been spending tons of time reviewing people’s plans and trying to be very thoughtful in sharing feedback and providing organizational direction for my direct reports. Let me just say that while it is a critical task, it is both time consuming and takes most of my mental energy to complete.

I do want to mention how interested I am in the Flickr Video announcement from the other day. I am very interested in it because of its limitations to tell you the truth — I am very curious if the 90 second time limit will push people to be more thoughtful with their video posts … much like Twitter pushes us to express our feelings in 140 characters bursts, will the 90 second limit unlock a whole new way to think about video expression? I did a quick video yesterday and things seemed to work very well — other than me on video. I really want to ask my students about it later today and class and get their sense, but I am thinking there are some really interesting things that we can dream up to get people to think hard about how to share a fully baked concept in 90 seconds or less.

Speaking of class, I am still having a blast with it and have been really happy with how things are progressing. I am going to really miss teaching over the summer and may not have a chance to get back in the classroom for quite some time. This has been a very good experience and I have learned a ton about so many things.

This blog is now running WP 2.5 which is a good thing … took a little time to get everything back up and running after the update, but it has been worth it. That’s it.