14 posts categorized "User Generated Content"

Flickr lite

Probably stating the obvious, but Flickr should consider releasing a streamlined version of its new iPhone app to make it more appealing to average users.

"Flickr lite" would do little more than offer filters. Photos would be stored in some default manner that you couldn't fiddle with on the app; those who wanted to do so would have to go to the web.

I drink your milkshakeHere's the gambit: the social aspect of Flickr lite should be all Twitter. So Yahoo and Twitter would need to make some deal.

I think it could work, based on how compelling Twitter cards are. Flickr photos are right in the Twitter card. Have you noticed how many fewer Instagram photos you see now if you are a Twitter-but-not-Instagram user? Now that it takes a click to see an Instagram photo, I generally bypass it.

As for power Flickr users who like the robust feature set of the new Flickr app - let them keep it, but rename it "Flickr pro." It might be the first "pro" app offered for free.

Now here's the audacious part: Flickr lite and Flickr pro would both let users, from the app, license their photos in three ways: (1) not at all; (2) under a CC license; or (3) for a set royalty fee, payments to be processed through PayPal.

Setting up Flickr to permit celebrities to control or even profit from their own image-making - that would be wholly antithetical to the regressive Facebook mission and could drive the cool kids over to Flickr.

Photo: Luigi Guarino / Flickr.

It's not about privacy

Yesterday afternoon, Geekwire ran a piece I wrote about the proposed FTC-Facebook settlement. I was inspired by an earlier post on the same subject by Venkat Balasubramani, written in that style of understated provocation that he has.

As of this writing, there is only one comment to the Geekwire guest post, but it's a fortuitous comment.

6144146778_4e0d25a793_zI think the poster (anonymous) was making a point that alternative social media services may afford no more privacy to users then Facebook does.

The comment helps clarify something for me.

Imagine, for a minute, that someone running a social media service with plans for world domination really does have malicious intent. I'm not saying that she really does, just imagine it.

Wouldn't this mogul very much find it in her interest to speak in terms of "privacy" and "control?" With reference to the dissemination of your content, I mean. She might even give you a dashboard with all kinds of buttons and radial dials and checkboxes.

And all the while you might not notice she is monetizing your content, stuff you write, pictures you take and post and others tag. She is monetizing your likeness, using rights of personality associated with your person without actually telling you that's what she's doing. And not paying you any residuals. No royalty, no cut, not even a one-time license fee.

It is as if the owners of AMC told the producers of Madmen, "make a new season of that awesome show for us, for free, and we will give you absolute control over which households can and can't see it."

And they say nothing about the ad revenue.

Image: DonkeyHotey, using source images from NASA-Johnson Space Center and NASA/JPL.

Verifiable Identities

Reading a slew of posts this week about online identity. And they are not resonating with me.

Controversy around Google+ requiring use of a single, normative name; partisan debate over the social utility or antisocial aggression of pseudonymity; the quest to unify disparate identities across platforms: I don't find the fulcrum in these arguments to lever me into a particular camp.

@id-61Perhaps my complacency is the tolerance of someone who's perceived himself, since late adolescence, as a poet. "Poet" in the sense of a person who thinks feelings, ideas and spirit can be embodied in words. Words that have the specific weight and bite of coins in a pocket. 

I do have a problem with anonymity. If you're going to post, at least have the imagination to fabricate a backstory!

Image from The Unreliable Narrator.

Evan Williams on Improving Content on the Internet

Thanks to the miracle of C-SPAN at the YMCA, I recently heard some provocative comments from Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. C-SPAN was rebroadcasting video taken at a conference a couple months back.

Screen shot 2011-08-11 at 10.22.49 PMThe subject is how the internet should be leveragable to improve content. It should be. Though that hasn't happened yet. Evans points out that content online is yet more or less of the same quality as its analog counterpart.

I wonder if one possible answer to Williams' question (at the end of the transcript below) may be that publishers remain committed to an advertising model.

But it's great to hear him insist that we should be expecting more from content on the web:

"For the last 15 years we've worked on lowering the barrier to content creation. And that's had all these positive effects. But it seems like there's - no one has been working on how do we improve the quality of content on the internet.

"I think this is highly possible, but if you look at what reading an article on the web looks like today, it's basically the same as if you read it in a magazine. Or if you printed it out, you have the same experience. And once it's published, it rarely changes, and the collective intelligence that's available in the world doesn't really collaborate to improve it, and the process of creation isn't very much different than traditional media, it's just the distribution is the only thing that's changed.

"I think all those things could potentially change: the consumption experience; the evolution of information after it gets out there; the production process could be way more efficient and open.

"So that's a really interesting opportunity and a way that things could actually improve that haven't really. The publishing industry in general, there's a lot of turmoil and despair it seems because like, well, 'the internet's screwed our distribution model,' which is true. But I'm optimistic there are more fundamental things than how distribution happens to change about publishing.

[Question from Walter Isaacson:] "And where does collaborative-ness come in beyond the wiki phenomenon?

"I think there hasn't been nearly enough experimentation between user generated content and professional content. They're pretty much different worlds on the internet today. And the best you get is an article and then a bunch of comments underneath the article completely separated. And those comments can be from anybody so nobody reads them because they are, you know.

"I want to read my New York Times after Walter has read it and highlighted and written in the margins. Not everybody in the world, but, you know, depending on the article, someone who is expert.

"I don't know exactly what that looks like. But there are all kinds of ideas. Just like Wikipedia, there is a collective intelligence that collaborates to make more accurate information (most of the time). Why doesn't that exist outside Wikipedia?"

The video can be found on C-SPAN here, and the bit I've transcribed above starts at about the 24:05 minute mark.

TOS for Disqus and Facebook Comments, Briefly Compared

This merits further inquiry, but looking briefly at TOS for each of Disqus and Facebook, it looks like Disqus more clearly acknowledges web publisher (trade press, aggregator, blogger, whatever) control over comment threads.

Disqus's TOS even suggests that you can assert a copyright in the compilation that is, presumably, a given comment thread on your blog, if not over individual pieces of a comment thread. And somewhat bizzarely, Disqus's TOS even gets into disclaiming responsibility for the effectiveness of your chosen license terms:

"For your content, you can label your compilations with one of several possible licenses. It is important to note that you can only copyright the compilation itself, not the individual links that make up the compilation. . . . Disqus does not provide legal services, and therefore, providing you with the ability to attach a license agreement to your compilation of links does not create an attorney-client relationship. The license agreements and all related information are provided on an "as is" basis. Disqus makes no warranties whatsoever regarding the license agreements and the information provided, and disclaims all liability for damages, including without limitation, any general, special, incidental or consequential damages, resulting from their use. Disqus will include this license label in making your content accessible to others, but any enforcement of your chosen license terms remains your sole responsibility."

I can't find the tool that would let me choose and implement a license. Maybe that is a feature of a paid, premium version of the service.

But that's all license geekiness. Because online, same as in real estate, possession is 9/10ths of the law, the fact that Disqus lets you export comments trumps inscrutable TOS. Last night I exported the Disqus comments for this blog, just to test and be sure it can be done!

Can you similarly take your threads out of the Facebook commenting system and go home with them? I don't know for sure, but the Facebook Platform Policies seem to be all about restricting what you can do with data posted to Facebook and seem to suggest that, should you leave the platform, you can't take data with you.

Image below: detail of comment thread for this blog, exported from Disqus.

Picture 53

Evgeny Morozov's "The Net Delusion"

Evgeny Morozov's "The Net Delusion" is a well-paced survey of how the Internet has behaved in extra-American contexts over the last 15 years, set against and largely belying a domestic, deterministic view of the Internet and social media as inherently democratic.

Morozov's discursive skills and bibliography are impressive, but his thesis is modest: social media and the Internet are more complex and powerful than people in Silicon Valley realize, and we need to be proactive and prudent in developing policies to regulate their use for good.

Whereas the Malcolm Gladwell pieces I've read (admittedly only two, and just magazine pieces, not books) on social media are dismissive and glib, Morozov takes social media very seriously. Facebook's lack of effective privacy controls, in Morozov's view, could very literally spell life or death for technologically naive, if brave, dissidents in a repressive regime.

1890673538_fb48867cf0And Morozov's analysis goes deeper than the "weak ties" trope Gladwell uses: Morozov worries that, in some contexts, social media may diffuse stresses that would otherwise generate genuine acts of confrontation. "Sometimes," he writes with disarming frankness, in the chapter titled "Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism" (Morozov has great chapter titles), "the best way to launch a social movement is to put an oppressed group into a corner that leaves no other option but dissent and civil disobedience."

The book reminds me of Jaron Lanier's, "You Are Not a Gadget," and both, each in its own way, are important correctives. Lanier's book is an exhortation for us to take personal responsibility, to assume agency, in our use of the Internet, to wield it as a tool of personal liberation and expression rather than permit the Lords of the Cloud to pacify us with it. Morozov's book demands accountability, too, but at the political level; the implications of his argument run essentially to US foreign policy.

Morozov is not so much disappointed by the behavior of the Western, corporate proprietors of the Internet and social media; if they make mistakes, occassionally shut dissidents down, as often as not it's for lack of local political knowledge, a cluelessness about who the good guys and the bad guys are in the region, rather than malice. Admittedly, where their economic interest is concerned, US businesses will tend to err on the side of the authorities (although, in regions where there is nothing to be gained, economically, a US corporation may well just withdraw service altogether). Morozov's incredulity, instead, is with how policy makers are abdicating the opportunity and the imperative to think of how the Internet and social media may impact different societies in unique ways, substituting dogma about technology for actual analysis of a region's politics.

You'll want to read this book for Morozov's international survey of the recent political history of the Internet, to learn about: the kind of Web content the Russian government underwrites; how China and other regimes crowdsource censorship; and Hugo Chavez's journey from Twitter-opponent to uber Twitter user. But I'll leave you in the meantime with four quotes that, using Morozov's own words, summarize what I take to be the main thread of his critique:

  • "It's political and economic factors, rather than the ease of forming associations, that primarily set the tone and vector in which social networks contribute to democratization; one would be naive to believe that such factors would always favor democracy."
  • "Getting people onto the streets, which may indeed become easier with modern communication tools, is usually the last state of a protest movement, in both democracies and autocracies."
  • "All the recent chatter about how the Internet is breaking down institutions, barriers and intermediaries can make us oblivious to the fact that strong and well-functioning institutions, especially governments, are essential to the preservation of freedom."
  • "The first prerequisite to getting Internet freedom policy right is to convincing its greatest advocates that the Internet is more important and disruptive than they have previously theorized."

Picture of Evgeny Morozov from Anthony Clark Arend's website.

Corporate Insurgency

It's mischievous to expect a big business corporation to aim to "do good" in the world.

Business corporations exist to generate profits for shareholders. I like how Robert Reich matter-of-factly summarized the point, when commenting recently on the radio about pitfalls for President Obama, should he expect too much from corporate leaders to whom he is now reaching out:

"I'm not criticizing GM or GE or any big company. They're doing exactly what they were set up to do: Maximize the value of their shares. And in a global economy, they'll do that however and wherever they can. Even if it means shifting jobs abroad, or replacing employees with software and computers, or pushing workers for more concessions on wages and benefits, or fighting their unions."

It's wise to be un-sentimental about the proper, just, natural role of corporations in the economy and in society.

Not that corporation are above (or beyond, or beside) criticism. I've been critical recently about corporate attempts to aggrandize rights of free speech, political sovereignty, and other rights and privileges that belong uniquely and exclusively to citizens and natural persons.

My critique has extended to Google, which collaborated with Verizon to successfully set US government policy, in the form of the FCC's underwhelming net neutrality order at the end of last year.

I've also been critical of Twitter, though not for corporate overreaching. In my view, Twitter has shown too little ambition, bypassing a very real opportunity to re-invent web commerce and overthrow for good the era of sponsored publishing (advertising). But that's not my call; Twitter's board obviously made a different business decision, one that is no doubt easier to pull off than what I would have Twitter pursue, a decision protected, moreover, as it should be, by the business judgment rule.

Picture 32All that said . . .

It's exciting, inspiring, thrilling, to read that Google has been working with Twitter to hack the Egyptian regime's blackout of the internet.

It's a "speak to tweet" feature that lets people post voice messages to Twitter. Here's a Twitter page with a stream of such messages.

Related Posts with Thumbnails