Saturday, 25 May 2013

Wishing (I had a Photograph Of You)

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK
or LinkedIn here

Are there any users of Yahoo Flickr out there? A lot of my work contacts take photos and many are on Flickr. I have been on there for about 4 years. If you are unfamiliar with it, Flickr is a photosharing website angled towards a photographic community. People on there know me as HotpixUK and I have nearly 6,500 followers and have had 1.5 million views on my 1,055 images.  I take my photography seriously and Flickr allowed me to make friends around the world, share techniques and tips etc.

It is a community of people bonded together by photography and few of my contacts I know in real life. Most I will never meet as they are in Iran, Argentina, India etc. It was a very clean and minimal user interface. Like a gallery. I pay £15 a year for a Pro account with stats and no ads.

If I go to The Tate, The Photographers Gallery in London, Bluecoat in Liverpool, Cornerhouse in Manchester, Ufizzi in Florence or the Louve in Paris, we see images/paintings/photographs surrounded by lots of wall or white space. That's how those things are best appreciated. There’s generally a caption telling us about technical or image details. Flickr previously focused on the image, caption, comments on it, groups it may have been added to and sets that the photographer organised images into.

I have completed a number of projects over the years and organised them into sets. I have one of the homeless winter night shelter in Warrington - , various numbers 0-30 and Edinburgh Festival Performers among others. I am proud of my images and quite keen to show them off to anyone who might appreciate it.

Change is a constant and I am an agent of change. I am constantly involved with helping change systems that people use and the processes they use. Change generally is worth doing if it saves time, effort, adds efficiency, improves things. They work best if the target audience are part of that process and over donkeys years have had this confirmed, time after time. This prototyping enables tweaks to what is being proposed before we are ‘pre-maturely’ physical. That phrase sticks in my mind from my old lecturer at Manchester Poly, Ian Beeson. I think he eventually ended up at Bristol University Of The West Of England. Get in touch mate if you read this!

A design project I have involved with recently has involved lots of prototyping with wire-framing (maybe more on a future post on the attractions/benefits of that) and that effort will drastically remove doubt and slash development costs. I saw that myself with a HPM (Housing Process Management) project at my old MIS-AMS shop with ActiveH. 15 months of discussion and only 9 months of development got us 90% to where we needed to be. More jaw-jaw, not code-code (adapted from Churchill). 

Anyone who knows me will perhaps confirm that I am a bit of a ‘sponge’. Sit me near any customer, employee or user and before long my curiosity will mean I ask and try to understand the context in which people work. What they need, what’s important to them and who they are, what they feel. Only by knowing that, can something (a product, software, service) can be shaped around them successfully. There needs to be a channel of trust too. For me that was my mobile number. If any customer of mine was dissatisfied they could phone me directly, any time of day. I still do it today. I doubt if any other customer of a HMS (Housing Systems Supplier) has a direct line to their system suppliers director, and could rely on fast action to resolve issues via it? Customer relationships are the keystone to successful systems.

Yahoo did a radical redesign change to Flickr this last week on a Monday Night with no prior notification or seemingly understanding of their customer base. A help forum thread at shows the extent of the response to this upgrade. Thea Lamkin, lead on the thread ( ) has tactfully disabled comments, as the only ones expected are negative ones.

Spookily enough she was clever to do this as over 24,000 Flickr users (so far as at 24/05/2013) have shared their opinion on how they feel about the recent ‘upgrade’. Unfortunately 98% of feedback has been less than complementary. For some reason the tempting carrot of 1TB of free (yep free, really free, like Wild Willy Barrett) didn’t calm the backlash. Tackling that one, anyone with even a slight photographic skill, will probably not want people stealing their shots on the net. So like me they probably post small watermarked versions with high JPG compressions (5 or 6). 1TB would only be useful if I could upload RAW format, which I can’t. Therefore a free TB makes a great headline, but is worthless to 99% of Flickr users.

No users to my knowledge were warned this was coming or had the chance to provide feedback of any kind. The new layout is very much ‘montage of images’ which is slow to load. There is limited emphasis on comments and sets, one of the keystones of what I found useful and other semi-serious photographers. Many of the forum comments describe how Flickr has been transformed to a Facebook timeline style. In many ways Flickr has chased the FB way. Surely though, if photographers wanted to post on Facebook they would be doing that already? Well I do, but rarely serious stuff that I want to share with a very different audience on Flickr.   

Worse than not telling folk, Flickr (and Yahoo) are not now listening either. Apart from above mentioned irritations, pages now take an age to load (at least here on my ADSL line in Warrington, Cheshire, Old England). I am not in silicon glen or silicon roundabout, so not seeing lightning downloads on my devices, I am afraid to report. Customisation options are not available either like in the past. I cannot have a gallery type view with white space or easy and fast to navigate thumbnails.Yahoo knows best.

I am acutely aware that we all need to turn a dollar. I visited the USSR in the 1980’s and inter-railed Prague, Yugoslavia & Bulgaria in the soviet era and accept that capitalism is not perfect, but can and does work, if we tackle it in a caring way. If Yahoo are needing to move to an ads model for all, just give us pro accounts for free, give us an ad in the top right hand corner and some stats. If we click through we make the 30p for Yahoo. For goodness sake though, don’t mess with the mechanisms proper photographers use on the site, like sets, notes, comments, tags, white space etc. Don’t bother suggesting you are building massive data centres Yahoo either, to give us all 1 TB. As your bean counters will already be aware, only 0.02% of Flickr users might find that useful.

A very revealing insight into the lack of understanding of Yahoo’s Flickr customers is to be seen right here:
Asked at a Yahoo press conference on May 17 2013 whether Flickr would be "shuttering" its Pro accounts, CEO Marissa Mayer said that she wanted "everybody to have professional-quality photo space", and that "there's no such thing as Flickr Pro because today, with cameras as pervasive as they are, there's no such thing, really, as professional photographers". In response to "outrage" from professional photographers, Mayer apologized via Twitter for wording her answer "terribly", saying that she was referring to the changes to Flickr's storage space and the number of photographs that people take.

I find that quite insulting. I sell quite a number of images. 90% of people roaming the streets with an iphone, Galaxy or whatever who upload dozens of images a day, could never produce that type of stuff, or have images published.
Its ignorance. Understand your customers and you understand your product Marissa.

I am happy moving on however, search for ‘HotpixUK’ on Google and I am sure you will find me. Let’s see if Yahoo wakes up to the mistake that they have made here. There are plenty of Flickr alternatives more focussed to photographers, I will mourn the loss of my valued contacts, but here are some of the more tuned in alternatives:

I was so happy with Flickr up to last week, but now I find myself looking seriously at other places. Yahoo may becoming the 21st century version of Lycos, Flickr like Geocities. The moral of this blogpost is respect your customers. Remember we have two ears and only one mouth. More listening is what we are made for. Get into your customers minds, understand their needs, fears and aspirations. If you don’t, you may be toast. Little more than a footnote over at the internet archive, that's where you are heading Flickr, I am afraid.

You can link with me on LinkedIn here - It would be great to connect !

A Flock Of Seagulls - Wishing (I had a photograph of you).

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I have (obviously) noticed how the Flickr has changed but my opinion is a bit different. Well, after reading this post and giving it a deeper thought I think you're very right saying that first thing they should've done was to ask their users what would they want. Prototyping, which may seem like a waste of resources is really a great tool. There are many services (let's focus on the Internet market) that did it and even if they went live with it despite negative response they still benefited from giving their users a chance.
    My impression of the new flickr is quite positive. Ok, it takes more time to load, but looks quite nice. I'm not a fan of facebook but flickr timeline suits me. Not that there's nothing I wouldn't change :) Is there anything missing from the old functionality?

    I should get active again and then I will see it from the other end.