Project Flickr: Final Update

Back in the summer, I decided to try to drag my friends and family into the 21st century by sending them invitations to join Flickr and share photos. Here’s the first part of the story.

Since then two things have happened. One, Flickr has gotten even better by adding lots of new features, including the ability to print photo albums and posters and the ability to order prints. Two, not one of my test subjects is using Flickr in any meaningful way. Neither my sister nor any of my cousins signed up and those friends who initially signed up either never uploaded a single photo or lost interest shortly after uploading a photo or two.

This could mean a couple of things. My friends and family could think I’m a honking nerd and decide that they’d rather dig ditches than join me in some sort of nerdathon photo-style. This is certainly possible, but most of these folks have enough other reasons (read relatives) to share photos that they could put Flickr to good use completely apart from me and my little experiment.

I think the answer is simple. A lot of people, particularly those my age and older, simply aren’t sold on the computer/internet as a time saving device. Either they think it’s too hard, or too dangerous or too time consuming. It’s not very hard. Flickr is very safe (since you can select who can see and print your photos). And it takes much less time to upload a photo for grandma than it does to drive to Walgreen’s drop off your film, go back and pick it up and then mail off the prints. True, grandma may not have a computer, but aunt and uncle probably do. So while Flickr may not be a complete substitute for all traditional prints (though it is for me), it can certainly be a substitute for some of them.

But it’s unfamiliar. Everyone understands how to drop off film. Most people understand how to email a digital photo. The new and different isn’t going to be universally accepted until it becomes familiar, the way it will seem to our kids who are growing up in the digital age.

All of this leads me to a couple of conclusions. First, my little experiment was probably doomed from the start. Second, and more importantly, all of these web services like Flickr, the various blogging platforms, My Space, iTunes and others still have tremendous, almost immeasurable, growth potential as the digital generation grows up. I will keep this in mind as I review and adjust my stock and mutual fund portfolio over the coming months. I’m not going to buy Google at a jillion dollars a share, but I’m starting to understand why it went that high.

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