Flickr faithful foam over faulty feature

It’s been like watching a pot bubble over on the stove today, watching the pissed-off Flickr fans — including prominent blogger and Zooomr CEO Thomas Hawk — venting about having to switch to a Yahoo login. A simple enough thing, right? Stop using the Flickr login and start using a Yahoo one. I did it months ago, and it really wasn’t a big deal. I had a Yahoo login from way back when I used to use My Yahoo as a home page, and so it was a slam-dunk.

Many of the people on the forums at Flickr have said the same thing — big deal, get over it you big babies, Flickr is owned by Yahoo now, they’ve been saying for months that this would happen, etc., etc. And all of that is true. But it also doesn’t help the die-hard Flickr fans from the “Old Skool” who have been there since it was a startup (started in Vancouver, incidentally) and feel like they are getting the short end of the stick from big, bad Yahoo.

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This has obviously created an opportunity for some other photo sites, one of which is offering Flickr “refugees” a discount to move their accounts over, but more than anything the 10 pages of comments on the Flickr forum about the move is a sign of how big a mountain users can make out of what Yahoo and Flickr no doubt see as a programming molehill. To them, no doubt, it is a simple data management shift, but to users, it is an emotional train-wreck.

My friend Scott Karp has a very insightful post on the whole mess. As he puts it, if you live by the community, you will die by the community. If your service relies on the “user-generated content” of millions of people, then every move you make will be watched by some sizeable proportion of those users, and the success or failure of those moves — and, theoretically, of your entire company — is dependent on how you handle them. Fair warning.

P.S. At this point, nothing whatsoever about the 10 pages or the blog uproar on the Flickr blog. And there’s some back-and-forth between Anil Dash of SixApart and Thomas Hawk over the Flickr changes on Anil’s blog. Factory Joe (Chris Messina) has some thoughts as well, including the fact that he thinks this shows the need for an OpenID standard, and Tara says community isn’t just a big love-in all the time, and that’s just the way it is.

Technorati foot-shooting again: WTF?

So I saw Steve Rubel’s post about Technorati launching a new buzz-tracking, Digg-like thing and the first thing I thought was “WTF?” I know that’s the name of it — or was, since it’s apparently been yanked now — but I meant it in the original blogosphere/instant messaging sense of “what the f**?” Among other things, why would Technorati bother trying to reproduce something like Digg this late in the game?

Unlike some people, I’m totally okay with the name (which apparently stands for “Where’s The Fire?”). It plays off the other meaning of WTF, which could add to the buzz, and I think it’s kind of funny. But why? And not just why launch something that appears to duplicate Digg — like dozens of other copycat sites, many of which use the Pligg open-source Digg platform — but why launch something that seems to have taken its servers down with it?

After all, it’s not as though Technorati has been sailing along as smooth as glass. There continue to be regular system issues, unexplained and sudden down-time, complaints about technorati’s blog-ranking numbers and so on. As someone commented at Darren Rowse’s Problogger: “How about they fix everything else that’s broken on their site before launching a new service?” A fair point.

Update:

The site seems to have re-launched, with an explanation from Dave Sifry about how it works. If I understand it correctly, it seems that Technorati is asking users to write an explanation of why a particular search topic or subject is important, and then other users can vote that explanation up or down.

Microsoft Vista launch is cold as ice

As part of the more than $500-million worth of advertising and marketing that Microsoft has been doing to promote Vista, the company paid to build a state-of-the-art home made entirely out of ice in the public square at the corner of Yonge and Dundas in Toronto (no doubt they got the idea from this place).

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A local blog called Torontoist (part of the placeblogging network started by Gothamist) has some pictures and a description of the 1,800-square-foot “home,” which comes complete with a working ice toilet-paper-holder, an ice bed and even an ice microwave (presumably good for only one use). The home took 270,000 pounds of ice to construct, and has computers running Vista and Office 2007.

Classic comment from the website: “I can’t help but think that this is analogous to how my computer is going to freeze if I try to install Vista.” That’s marketing for you.

Scoble says he’s biased — does it matter?

It started with Robert Scoble of Podtech complaining that Engadget didn’t link to his Intel video (which I wrote about here, complete with comments from Scoble), but it has turned into a discussion about whether that video was compromised by the fact that Intel is a sponsor of Podtech. As Scoble clarified in the comments on my post — and in the comments on his post — Intel paid for one of the other videos on the site, but not for his. However, Intel is a prominent sponsor.

So is that a conflict of interest, or is it just the old “this is new media, we play by different rules” thing all over again? Is Scoble a reporter, or is he something else? And given the tangled conflicts over the Intel video, how should we look at Scoble when he flies around with John Edwards as part of his pre-election campaign?

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In his discussion with commenters — one of the main benefits of Robert’s blog, as far as I’m concerned — Scoble admits that the site could have disclosed its ties to Intel more prominently, and that he has effectively been “used” by CEOs in the same way Intel used him. Then he admits that he could be perceived by some as being biased in doing the Intel video because he is biased:

Did I say my work is unbiased? I think the whole point of what I’ve been doing here for six years is telling you I +am+ biased.

Would Intel invite me back if I just made it look bad? Probably not. But that’s not what I do. If I think something is really bad I just don’t go.

This is an important thing to remember. What Scoble is saying is that he doesn’t want to be seen as a journalist, in the sense of being unbiased or objective. The bottom line, I think, is that Scoble is someone who is enthusiastic about technology and about technology companies. And there’s nothing wrong with that — provided everyone knows what that means.

In another comment at Scoble’s blog, Matt Kelly of Podtech News says that he was invited to the Auto Show by General Motors, who paid for his flights and his hotels and meals. It’s obvious that he sees nothing wrong with that — which I would argue is part of the problem. Car magazines might do that, but that’s why they aren’t considered “real” journalism.

Microsoft still wants to control your wallet

So Bill Gates, musing aloud during one of the sessions at the exclusive, celebrity-studded think-tank known as Davos, says Microsoft would like to get into the micro-payments game — maybe cut MasterCard and Visa out of a little action, elbow its way into the PayPal and Google Checkout business, that kind of thing. Pretty big news, right? Sure. Except for the fact that Microsoft has wanted to accomplish said goal for about the last decade or so.

Ever use Microsoft Passport (now Windows Live ID)? You sign in once with your Hotmail name and then get access to all sorts of wonderful places on the Web… that is, provided they are controlled by Microsoft. The plan to make Passport a universal ID card as well as a payment portal never really took off. Why? Because people don’t like to play with Microsoft unless they have to, that’s why. In fact, they would apparently rather get taken to the cleaners by MasterCard and Visa.

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More recently, Microsoft has been establishing a “points”-based system of payment, both for Xbox Live features and possibly to compensate people for sharing music over the Zune network (assuming anyone ever does that, of course). Although he was irritatingly vague about what the company has in mind, Mr. Gates seemed to be suggesting that this points system could become a micro-payment scheme for the Web.

Let’s be frank. This has virtually zero chance of ever becoming a reality. Don’t get me wrong — I think micro-payments are a great idea, and they would help any number of fledgling Web-based businesses make a living, up to and including blogs. But there are two problems with a Microsoft points system: The first is the word “Microsoft,” and the second is the word “points.”

Points-based systems are much like the system used at casinos, or the payment card used at some restaurants — just confusing enough that you forget how much you are really spending. And the odds of Microsoft somehow convincing thousands or tens of thousands of small retailers and businesses to sign up for a Microsoft payment system? A billion to one.