Think Deeply

With pundits like these...

On the topic of a recent photoblogger's critique of the Flickr redesign, I concluded an email exchange with a friend by saying I was disappointed with "[the pundits] with the time to write about photography and with the audience to listen. They don't think very deeply. And if that sounds harsh, I meant it to."

In particular, we were discussing Thomas Hawk's Trojan Horse: How Flickr Screwed Me Out of My Pro Account Through a Photo Walk published on PetaPixel.

Yes, you read that correctly. That was the headline he ran: "trojan horse," "screwed," and "me." The crux of the argument: Flickr redesigned its site and its product and no longer offered their "Pro" product unless you were grandfathered in by virtue of having an auto-renewal Flickr Pro Account. At $24.99 a month for ad-free, unlimited storage this was perfect for Mr. Hawk's ambitious lifetime goal of publishing one million photographs. I say "offered" because the changes have been rolled back, more on that soon.

Mr. Hawk had the good fortune of attending a photowalk and receiving a gifted Pro membership and did what anyone would do, cashed it in to save some dough. So it was that Flickr decided to change their offering and someone made the poor decision to allow one set of "Pros" continue and others not. Those with a credit card on file for recurring memberships kept unlimited storage and no ads, those with gift memberships or month-to-month memberships did not. At best it was arbitrary and, as a business strategy, silly.

Leave aside for the moment whether, with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, you'd have done as Mr. Hawk did and leave to risk your membership status when you depend so heavily on Flickr professionally to share and showcase your work, and instead ask whether the tone of the critique was carefully constructed. Mr. Hawk spent considerable time in the comments section asserting he was particularly vociferous about this issue to help right the wrong for others in the same situation. We'll take him at his word and I commend him for this, but if we allow the article to stand as originally published, it's a poor critique of Flickr's business practice and far too personal.

"Screwed" means cheated and "Trojan Horse" means an intended trick. Screwed is used colloquially to imply a personal affront. It's easy to feel personally attacked when your professional situation depends at least partly upon a web service that changes terms to your disadvantage. That's human.

As a pundit, however, we deserve a more considered approach. Why? Because the tone makes it so easy to assume he's concerned about the business change for personal reasons when, in reality, he slipped through the cracks of a poor business plan. Now, Flickr's response was very fast and very cool and Mr. Hawk does a great thing by trumpeting that change on his website, but his PetaPixel article and its tone will hang there forever in the internet, about how he was screwed. It will hang there and stink.

Why does it matter? Because Flickr listens to this guy (and this is why I said, "offered" earlier).

The Long Farewell