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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Project Flickr Update

About 8 weeks ago I decided to try to drag my friends and family into the 21st century by sending them invitations to join Flickr and share photos. The friend group consisted of our close friends who we see several times a week. We do stuff together all the time, so the pictures I take of my kids generally include a few of their kids. The prospect of seeing and downloading my “friends and family” photos sounded like good incentive. The family group consisted of Raina, my sister and my cousin Janet. These are the only family members I know of that meet the requirements: (a) they have a computer and (b) I have their email address.

Part One (signing up): I sent out “friend” invitations to Arnie (I didn’t have his wife Christina’s separate email at the time), Greg, Yvette, Ray, Sharon, Kyle, Martha, Dave and Lenora and “family” invitations to Raina, Anne and cousin Janet. I figured all the moms would sign up and the other dads (except for Arnie, who is fairly tech-savy and always willing to try new things) would blow me off. I figured 2 out of the 3 family members would sign up.

The results were a little surprising. Arnie signed up right away, as predicted, but so did the rest of the friend group. Greg and Yvette (spouses), Ray and Sharon (spouses) and Kyle and Martha (spouses) each signed up separately and Dave and Lenora (spouses) signed up together. Raina signed up right away, but Anne and cousin Janet ignored multiple invitations. At last count, I had sent Anne 12 invitations. I suppose they are paying me back for many years as a poor correspondent family-wise.

Part Two (uploading photos): Here’s where the pack started to separate. In a big surprise, Ray was the first one to upload photos, uploading 5 shots from Russia right away. Ray travels on business a lot, so this is not all that surprising. Ray is also a guy, however, and my theory (perhaps now disproved) was that the moms would do the heavy lifting photo-wise. Arnie put a bunch of vacation photos up right away, and of course I have uploaded a lot of photos. So far the only mom to break into the scoring column is Yvette with 5 photos from the hottest (temperature wise) swim meet in recorded history. Nada for all of the other folks, demonstrating once again that you can lead a horse to water and all that.

Part Three (adding friends to your contacts): Because the invitations came from me, everyone who signed up became one of my contacts automatically, either as friend or family, as the case may be. One of the many wonderful features of Flickr is that you can upload photos that can only be seen by people in the category (family, friend, public, etc.) you select. So in order for our group to share photos, everyone else has to manually add the other group members as a contact (family for spouses; friend for everyone else). I sent out an email with instructions on how and why to do this. A few people tried. One or two succeeded, but based on the questions I got, most were either actually or conveniently confused about the process. These are 40 something year old professionals with graduate degrees. I can’t imagine how hard it would be with parents or grandparents (as an orphan, I am sadly exempt from that hair-pulling experience).

Part Four (where do I go from here): I would say that my Flickr experiment has been, at best, only a partial success. Raina and our friends can now view my photos (including many from our recent camping trip). Arnie and maybe a few others will explore and enjoy the wonder that is Flickr. But the fact is that most people my age and probably everyone older still think of photos as paper things- not digital things (more on our transition from paper to digital in a forthcoming post). You can teach grown-ups technology, but it’s not easy (watching the older lawyers in my office wage war with email attachments is further proof of this). My little group will probably use Flickr, at least a little, if I keep hounding them. But it won’t be easy for me or for them.

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