Flickr and the Wave Theory of Digerati Fashionability

Clay Shirky has a typically quirky and insightful look at the myriad ways that Flickr is inserting itself into people’s lives. Instead of going all airy-fairy-falalutin’ on us, however, Clay keeps both feet on the ground this time, and touches on some of the interesting ways that the service is being used — grassroots micro-newswires, etc. — as well as on some of the problems with Flickr’s current pricing:

Flickr is nominally asynchronous, but has achieved, at least at ITP, a kind of social near-synchrony. Everyone who’s used email for longer than a month knows the mental calculation of ’email vs phone’, as in “I need to reschedule a meeting happening N hours from now. Will they check their email, or should I call?” The more email-driven a person is, the lower N can be before email won’t work. This group is so camera-centric and Flickr-obsessed that that N for Flickr is sub 1 hour.

As a sidenote, how much longer long can it be until the inevitable “Flickr sux” serenade starts? Stewart et al., have had a smooth ride to the top of the charts, one unsullied by critics (mostly) nor even by anyone carping about the company’s transition to “Pro” pricing. And the Flickr folks deserve the praise, having crafted a brilliant and fast-moving synthesis of the “good bits” in social networks, web services, search, and syndication. Sadly, however, the wave-theory of digerati fashionability says that all such smooth rides eventually end, as even Google has learned, and so count on people bagging Flickr unnecessarily relatively soon.


  1. Heh. Have you seen the ‘flickr sucks’ website? Pretty funny:

  2. I don’t get this flikr bs. I know all the in-the-know-folks are investors but SERIOUSLY…What demographic is this shooting for? Anyone that can figure out how to use this inelegant tool can probably write code.
    This looks like a solution to a problem that nobody has: How can I share all of these ‘arty’ digital pictures with strangers?

  3. I figure we have a good six months still to go. There are grumblings, as there always have been, but it takes a while for the tides to really turn.
    And remember: even now, most people love Google. Suckers.

  4. Whoops – Sandy posted while I was composing.
    Sandy – we don’t do a very good job of making Flickr accessible to anyone but the geeks for now, but we will in time. This article (at; flash ad viewing required to read it) has a lot of interviews with users and might make it clearer why so many people have such an urgent need to share all of their ‘arty’ digital pictures with strangers.
    Come back in six months – you might even like it then :)

  5. I knew I could count on you Stewart to defend Flickr against these evil naysayers …. 😉

  6. Let me start off by saying I am not trying to bash your baby. I seriously wish you and your team the very BEST.
    Stewart I am a geek and I ‘get’ what you are doing. Neato.
    BUT, there are 100 scripts out there that will give enough of the functionality most folks are looking for regarding community based photo sharing. Yes Flickr allows someone who knows nothing about websites to do this on their own but I think…
    It is kinda like using the internet to organize around a political candidate. 1)A little bit easier. 2) Lots of buzz. 3) Excites the base. = End up with more of the same.
    Best Wishes! S