Old Skool

Recovered from the Wayback Machine. 

Lifted my head long enough from Adding Ajax to see a fooflah about Flickr’s newest announcement.

Flickr had said a long time ago that there would be a time when you won’t be able to have a login separate from a Yahoo account. Today the group announced that it’s no longer viable to maintain separate login systems and folks will have until March 15th to create a Yahoo identification and port their account to it. I must admit to some amazement about the anger this has generated. It was a given this was going to happen. It makes no sense to have two completely different sign-on systems.

Ken from Digital Common Sense writes:

I don’t like this. I have multiple Yahoo IDs. They are disposable, in part, becauseYahoo is disposable. My loyalty to Yahoo is non-existent. Their email sucks. The IM client is a bloated pig given years of creeping featurism with continual incorporation of crap the doesn’t work and users don’t want. In short, I’m not a Yahooligan.

I can understand that Ken doesn’t like Yahoo, but Yahoo did buy Flickr. In fact, chances are if they hadn’t, Flickr would have fallen under the weight of the demands on the system. It’s not many companies that have the built in infrastructure to handle the access sites like Flickr, or Yahoo for that matter, demand. True there are bigger photo sites, but the larger ones are focused around the photos, themsevles, which are a static, easy to serve and maintain commodity . Flickr is a community site with enormous CPU, complex data storage, as well as bandwidth needs.

If Flickr was asking something that wasn’t reasonable, I could understand the push-back, but not wanting to maintain separate sign-on and identity systems makes perfect sense–I wondered at them keeping these separate for so long.

Still, if folks aren’t comfortable with a Yahoo ID, they should consider dropping this account. There are other social photo systems, such as Zooomr, though I agree with Anil Dash in that …using these sort of opportunities to promote a competing business… is not cool. Predictable, but not cool.

Other concerns are that you can only now have 3000 contacts, and no more than 75 tags per photo. Wow, what a hardship. One person has 19,000 contacts, and as soon as he mentioned this on the thread, those folks who were among his contacts asked to be taken off. There’s a new thing in social system called the contact junkie, who craves contacts as others would crave the next heroin fix. I suppose that Flickr making these folks go cold turkey is cruel, but I can’t see a system being maintained just for the less than 1/10 of one percent of connection addicts.

It’s interesting about how some people seem to think there’s an ulterior motive for all of this, because, according to these folks, putting limits on data structures is never necessary for enhancing the performance or robustness of the system. Before you ask, no, none of the people making statements like this have a clue in how systems are built.

There are legitimate concerns about this move, not the least of which is it is difficult to find a meaningful Yahoo identifier. Luckily mine, P2PSmoke is one I’ve had since P2P was the hot thing; way before all this social software stuff. When folks talk about ‘old skool’, I have a meaningful Yahoo account–can’t get more old ‘skool’ than that.

(Question: why can’t cool people spell words correctly? This trend to add ‘cuteness’ to words should die a sudden and irreversible death.)

The point is moot, though, because if these forms of social environment are meant to equalize between participants than separating between the ‘old skool’ identities and the Yahoo identities for the newer folks is just another way of creating a false sense of elitism. With this switch, some of this is being swept away, and I wonder how much of this fooflah is because of this very thing?

It’s fascinating to read the threads–all those folks feeling betrayed because, according to one person in one of the threads:

Stewart, why are the oldskool members being treated like second class citizens on this issue, we are the community that made Yahoo buy you guys. Nothing like alienating your core supporters and cheerleaders. We are the bloggers, podcasters, videobloggers, and photographers that made the community. Your alienating the most vocal people on the internet. It’s going to be a shit storm of bad press for yahoo and Flickr tomorrow from the blogosphere, I promise you that.

All I can say is: When the frog farts in a pond in the forest, the cat in the city doesn’t smell it.

As I said earlier, there are legitimate concerns about this move: what are the Terms of Service differences between having a Filckr account as compared to one for Yahoo? People have had problems with Yahoo sign-ons, and other technologies, and the merge doesn’t sound like it’s well crafted: what kind of support is available to help folks with this move? What additional constraints will this move have on folks, other than having to have a separate account? Can the people use the same email addresses? Not to mention that it is really tough to find a unique user name with Yahoo: how about a Flickr specific namespace for identities?

In a way, Flickr’s sign-on merge into Yahoo may actually have a reverse effect, because Flickr’s customers tend not to be as geeky as Yahoo customers (yes, I know they’re the same, bare with me); this move might actually lead a trend into improving the overall Yahoo customer service interface. Or not, and people will quit Yahoo and Flickr both.

I have my old, old Yahoo account, which I’m now using with a Flickr free account specifically for development purposes. Flickr still has one of the better open web services, made better with the new ‘machine’ tags concept. I don’t post photos much anymore, and certainly not at a ‘social’ site, so perhaps my lack of concern doesn’t reflect the concerns of others. I am sympathetic to those who are concerned about issues of privacy, or who have had problems with Yahoo’s technology, or with the photo merge. I have no sympathy, though, for those who seem to be more concerned about losing their ‘old skool’ status, or worse, using this as an opportunity to shill for another company within the threads set up for the discussions.

Bottom line, though, is that I’ve never known Flickr to pull their punches, and if they say this is going to happen, this is going to happen. That’s one of the things I’ve always admired about Flickr: lack of smarmy marketing. What you see, is what you get.

SmugMug is offering 50% off for Flickr jumpees. There you go, Thomas Hawk.

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