Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ok, one more parallel

I'm going to point out one more parallel between divisions over tradition within the Masonic world and similar conflicts on the outside, and then I'm going to try my darndest to stop flagellating this non-viable equine on this blog, because frankly I'm tired of reading about it in my own backlog of posts!

Last week, the popular photo sharing site Flickr rolled out a new feature: the ability for users with Pro accounts to post video clips.

"So what," you say? "Big deal! Everyone does video these days," you say? I present you with the We say NO to videos on Flickr group. At the time of this writing, more than 1,700 images and nearly 29,000 members, convinced that the addition of Flickr means the imminent ruination of their beloved photo sharing community.

Meanwhile, most of the people I've known through Flickr for 3 years are going quietly about their business, posting photos and now the occaisional 90 second video clip, (The maximum length allowed by Flickr,) and enjoying the site just as much as they ever did.

A bit of history about Flickr, which just turned 4 last month: my recollection is that Flickr started out as a MMORPG, part of which involved a chat room that included a unique feature allowing users to share things... people started sharing photos via the chat room, then they started sharing a LOT of photos via the chat room, and eventually the game part of it fell by the wayside and Ludicorp decided to go with the flow, and developed Flickr as a photo sharing community.

Unlike existing sites like Photobucket and Yahoo! Images, Flickr presented a clean, lightweight interface and made it very easy to browse through your own photos, and to connect to your family and friends and view their photos as well (and vice versa). Flickr first crossed my radar during the summer of 2004, when they followed the lead of del.icio.us and added the ability for users to arbitrarily tag photos. I signed up for a free account, posted a few photos, and dropped it a day or two later because of the irksome Flash-based display of photos.

When I took another look in early 2005, many improvements had been made, images were displayed with good old HTML, and Flickr had achieved what I think was the perfect balance - enough users posting enough photos that you could always find something exciting or beautiful, but few enough users that you got to know "familiar faces" from their photos... sort of like the people on your block you've said "good morning" to for the last five years without knowing their names. I took the plunge and signed up for a pro account, and there was no turning back. I've been a Pro user ever since.

In August 2005, it was announced that Yahoo! had purchased Flickr, and there was a huge panic in the Flickr community. Many, many people (myself included) were convinced that Yahoo! was going to take Flickr and pollute it with huge banner ads and cross-promotions for their other services; up to that point that's what they had done with pretty much every other online service they had bought, and there was little reason to think that they would have the sense to leave Flickr alone.

A year or so passed and Yahoo! seemed to be leaving well enough alone, but then it was announced that the "Old Skool" Flickr login system was being phased out, and that everyone would have to merge their Flickr login with a Yahoo! accound. More panic and protest ensued - it wasn't helped by the fact that there were some bumps for some users in the transition process. But ultimately, that all smoothed out.

Then it was announced that Microsoft was trying to buy Yahoo!, and the sky fell yet again.

And now, they went and started allowing videos, and a lot of people are absolutely convinced that it will be the downfall of Flickr; Flickr's a PHOTO sharing site, not a VIDEO sharing site, Look how crass people are on YouTube, Flickr's going to be JUST LIKE that, just you wait, et cetera, et cetera.

While I was admittedly quite upset by that first major change (the acquisition by Yahoo!), I have found each new round of hysteric protest increasingly tedious. What ever sense of "ownership" or privilege I used to have by virtue of being a relatively early adopter disappeared with my "Old Skool" login.

I'm not trying to make any 1 to 1 comparison between Flickr and any particular aspect of Masonic debate... but a lot of the noise generated online has a similar knee-jerk, black-or-white feel to it; "Putluck dinners are ALL BAD and NOT what Freemasonry is supposed to be about!" or "I hereby find you guilty of Masonic THOUGHT CRIME and if you don't recant, I'll report you to your Grand Lodge!"

So, like I said at the beginning, I'm going to try and stop writing about it, and get back to exploring Freemasonry... this time from the perspective of a newly-raised Master Mason.


Tom Accuosti said...

"Putluck dinners are ALL BAD and NOT what Freemasonry is supposed to be about!" or "I hereby find you guilty of Masonic THOUGHT CRIME and if you don't recant, I'll report you to your Grand Lodge!"

On/off. Either/or. In/Out.

My way/Highway.

Some of our brothers don't have the wherewithal to live in the full, rich world of the mind and instead prefer the binary world of the Matrix.

Glad to see that you've decided to take the red pill ;-)

A.C. said...

When do I get my shiny black PVC apron?