Because you can't do bettr than Flickr

I’ve just started work with a local community group keen to build a civic website. I’m looking at open source CMS solutions like Drupal as the base system… but I must admit, I’m wondering if the best idea isn’t simply to aggregate stuff from elsewhere. Apparently that’s the direction the BBC is heading, according to this report of a chat between some of their leading lights, and their opposite numbers at the Telegraph.

But for me, it’s not so much the need to transfer (or shall we say abdicate?) responsibility for moderation. Instead, it’s a recognition that these specialised third-party sites are inevitably going to be better at what they do, than anything you or anyone else could cobble together.

Take the example of photo sharing… you won’t find a better website than Flickr. So why not just create a group, and let the members feed into it. Let Flickr take all the pain of hosting, user access rights, etc etc – not to mention the expense. That’s why they’re there. Meanwhile, you just consume the various RSS feeds (or whatever) back at base.

I’d almost describe it as the next step in ‘social networking’. Do what you do, in the best place (for you) to do it, and as long as RSS feeds are available, we can aggregate it. If anyone sees a catch, let me know. Preferably sooner rather than later. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Because you can't do bettr than Flickr”

  1. The only downside that I can see, Simon, is the lack of an overall look and theme for the various components of the social network. But that’s a small price to pay, really.
    I had a MediaWiki install on my hosting account to serve a wiki need, but then came across WikiSpaces via David Wilcox, and moved across to that. These free solutions really are pretty amazing.
    Have you looked at Ning for your project?

  2. Simon – there’s a possible downside.
    If any of the social network/community postings hold personal data (which includes photographs of named individuals I think), is it possible your organisation fall afoul of the EU’s data protection laws by storing and using data in a US-based server?
    Just a thought – I don’t know how much of an issue it really is, or if anyone has already sorted this out?

  3. On Dave’s look-and-feel point… I wonder how many typical users would actually ever see Flickr. The images enclosed in their RSS feeds are (back in a minute…) 240×180 or thereabouts, which actually makes for a pretty big thumbnail. That might be enough for most people in most use-cases. Of course, once you click through to the larger versions, you’re into Flickr branding. But in their case, since it’s still my no1 favourite website design, I’m actually quite happy with that. 🙂
    Yes, I’ve had a look at Ning and to be honest, I’m withholding judgement for now. I’ve played around with it, and it’s certainly quick and easy to get something passable up and running. But I need to see an example of a ‘serious’ community using it, and really pushing it hard. (Anybody know of one?)
    I hadn’t thought of the ‘pictures of named individuals’ thing Peter, and I suppose it’s arguable in principle… but I can’t believe it holds up. They’d have to start prosecuting people in their millions. I’m certainly in breach of it already, with named individuals in my Flickr-hosted photos.

  4. Fair point of course!
    I guess what I was trying to get at is that EU based organisations (business and non-commercial at least – I dont know what the rules are for private individuals) that store personal data generally have to register under the local equivalent of the DPA and describe what they’ll do with that data.
    This may be more relevant to Ning than Flikr – I found this thought out there in blogland: another person who is starting to raise boring (bit I think vital) jurisdictional question about Data Protection…

    Whatever privacy options you do have (you can set it to a private network), the servers of Ning run in the US. Period. I know this sounds like something I repeat over and over again but the States do not have the same data protection laws as Europe.

    … dont you think there’s a risk if a big organisation like the BBC gets into this sort of thing they could get bitten quite badly? Something to think about at least before opting for the full on Web2.0 mash-up appraoch.
    OK, I’ve wandered a bit from your point about Flikr (and you expressed doubts about Ning) – but it is Friday afternoon, so I hope you don’t mind 😉

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