On Flickr

by wsampson

Cora Mae Martin

Cora Mae Martin. Credit: Mississippi Department of Archives & History

Mississippi Department of Archives and History on Flickr

I’m happy to post that the Mississippi Department of Archives and History now has a Flickr page for our archival material. This is in addition to the Digital Archives we host already, along with numerous other scans scattered about in the catalog which are not exhibited.

I’m optimistic that Flickr will add something important to our online presentations. Along with user feedback in the form of comments and tags, Flickr allows us to more quickly highlight and share material not already exhibited or which exists as a single item outside of a collection. We also have our eye on joining The Commons at Flickr once we’ve managed the account for a while.

Some Thoughts on Flickr

So, it’s been a while since Flickr was the new hotness. Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and a handful of other platforms have established themselves as the preferred way for individuals to share photos. There are as well a few articles describing Yahoo’s mismanagement and costly misunderstanding of Flickr’s value and purpose.

(And yes, Flickr missed a few boats – for instance, amplifying its social network. Check out the vestigial Singleness option for you on your profile: Single, Taken, Open, ‘Rather Not Say’ (distinct from simply not filling in the options at all, of course). Not sorry to see this one go by.)

I remain convinced however that there is simply no better social media platform for a cultural institute to share their photos on than Flickr. Despite some rough years, Flickr still offers the very best space for showcasing this type of material.

  • It gives the photos adequate space for descriptive and technical metadata.
  • It manages and displays high-resolution photos very well.
  • Its grouping mechanism of sets and collections aligns well the archives, museums and libraries.
  • Built-in support for Creative Commons licenses and an appropriate license for archival material – No known copyright restrictions.
  • Again, The Commons.

And there has been an uptick in activity from the Flickr camp of late – a splendid uploader and organizer built on HTML5 being two of them. Flickr still has immense value.

I am especially interested to see how user contributions turn out. This has been a subject that cultural institutes on Flickr have discussed before – see this post by Larry Cebula and the discussion on Flickr generated from it. The issue discussed in those links is how valuable the user contributions are  — given the signal-to-noise ratio of great contributions to unhelpful contributions.

I can’t help but feel that Flickr could benefit from a filtering or ranking system that elevates and highlights valuable comments and lowers or hides less valuable or incorrect contributions — a solution suggested in the aforementioned Flickr thread. Wikipedia does this through editing. Reddit does this through voting. Stack Exchange does this through voting and a point-based reputation system linked to site privileges. All potentially valid ways of emphasizing the good over the not-so-great. Flickr could provide purpose and direction to its social network and the resulting content through systems like these (and finally get the confidence to drop the ‘Singleness’ option on its profile pages).

There are naturally any number of wonderful contributions, and any number of trivial or silly ones. It’s just that ratio that is the deciding factor. As I say, I’m interested and optimistic that we can get a good community going, and I’m really looking forward to more engagement with patrons and interested persons through the platform.