“Are the comments on Flickr normally such a love fest?”
The above is is a direct quote from a (non photographer) friend of mine, I’d sent her a link to my photostream as we’d been out for the day and she wanted to see some of the shots I had taken. It got me thinking, dangerous I know, about Flickr and the nature of comments and favourites. I’m going to try and be as non-offensive as possible with this post, I’m not going to set out to rub people up the wrong way but I’m going to be covering some fairly contentious ground. As also feel free to agree or disagree, but if you feel strongly either one way or the other then please use the Comments box to let me know!
I also realise this may reduce the number of comments and favourites my own images receive, but I would hope that you lovely readers of my rambles can find it in your hearts to forgive a poor sinner. 😉
Flickr – The Anti-Social Network?
This is a question that Kyla and I have discussed a few times; Is Flickr a social network? I’m firmly of the opinion that it isn’t, while there is undoubtedly a social element to the site, I don’t think it’s primary raison d’etre is to be a platform for the mindless gibber of Twitter or the business networking of Linked-In or the “I had toast for breakfast” Facebook\G+ spam.
Flickr’s self stated two main goals don’t really have anything to do with social networking, yes they mention sharing(a lot!) but that isn’t the main goal of a Social Network either. I guess you could argue that the main goal of a Facebook and G+ is to generate money via targeted adverts, the saying “If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product” is true , but that really is a subject for a whole other blog post.
A bone of contention
So this is the (probably) contentious part; More than 95% of the comments on Flickr have nothing to do with the quality of the image that the comment is made about.*Hides behind wall*. I’ll come clean at this point and say I am as guilty of this as anyone else.
How many times do we see “Fabulous, nice DoF”, “Wow, gorgeous bokeh” or “This is stunning, I love the tones” in the comments of a shot?How many times have we looked at that shot and thought to ourselves “Well this is a particularly ordinary shot, if I’d have taken it I probably would have deleted it from the camera, it certainly would never have made it through my Lightroom workflow let alone get sent out, blinking and afraid into the wide wide wonderment of Flickr.”. But yet we still feel that we should comment on it, because it’s from one of our contacts.
To understand why I think we come back to my old friend Explore again, we all know that the magical formula for a Donkey Ride is something in the number of views, comments and favourites an image receives. The easiest way of getting those much valued tokens for the ride is to develop and nurture a reciprocal comment\favourite relationships with as large a group of contacts as you can manage to deal with on a daily basis.
In addition to the Donkey, there is always good old human nature. We all need to be loved and to have our work adored, it feeds something deep within the human psyche. At a basic level we all like to think that we operate on the “One good turn, deserves another” principle, so we will do our best to respond kindly to those that are kind to us.
I swing between those two reasons depending on just how jaundiced my world view is on a given day!
There is also a negative side to this group love fest; No one is willing to give honest critique in case it endangers those carefully built relationships. I think this is a REALLY unfortunate state of affairs. The number of times I have seen “Wow, this is PERFECT” on an image and I look at it and think, “Well it’s OK, but it could have been so much better if only the photographer had done THIS”. The quickest way to learn is to make mistakes, but how do we know we are making mistakes if every comment we receive drowns us in a wave of adoration?
Recently I was browsing through my contacts shots, as I do most mornings, and I came across this image from Linda(I’m sure she won’t mind me mentioning this here, she’s a very lovely lady and you should go and check her stream once you’ve read this paragraph, then come back and finish reading). Because Linda is such a lovely lady I thought I would bite the bullet and say I found the bag of poo distracting(you’ve now clicked the link again, haven’t you) and that I thought the whole image would work better as a square crop. The next day Linda posted this, is it a better image than the original? For me it is and the comments from others indicate they feel the same(beware of the cultivation trap here!).
Probably not the best heading in the world, but I hope it gets a point across. I certainly don’t want to advocate everyone changing to flat out critique, but I do think it would help us all develop and grow if there could be a greater degree of honesty in the comments we make.
I’ve got a couple of contacts who offer real constructive criticism, I find that refreshing. I also find it helpful. Very often I have gone back and tweaked an image based on their comments and it has been a much better one as a result. When those same contacts praise an image it also carries more weight for me, as I know they must actually like it, they aren’t just “blowing smoke up my ass”.