kottke.org posts about Matt Haughey
Matt Haughey comes not to bury Flickr, but to praise it.
Flickr represents one of the very best of things in the history of the internet. It was the first popular way to share photos in a social way instead of photos lingering in private accounts online and in the real world in shoeboxes under beds. It brought millions together and helped kick off first the digital SLR revolution, then it was eclipsed by the mobile photography revolution. Flickr—despite being a big corporate entity—embraced open licensing and took on the ambitious goal of being a mirror and gallery for oodles of museums around the globe.
Those values that drove Flickr during its influential peak can be seen in its Explore page, which still knocks your socks off. Matt calls it “an entire year’s worth of epic shots from National Geographic, generated each day, automatically by algorithms.”
Lots of wondrous shots from places I’ve never heard of. Lots of “how’d they even get that shot?!” photos of animals… Instagram has an explore tab but it’s popular music and tv stars and their dogs or it’s brand advertising-driven shots cooked up to sell something. There’s something so completely boring about Instagram’s explore page that makes me ignore it and go back to my friend feeds, whereas Flickr is the opposite: my friend feed is largely silent, but the best of the best page is truly awe-inspiring and at least one photo each day is going to take my breath away.
It is bizarre to think now that Flickr was only active for about a year before it was acquired by Yahoo. For those of us who were on the site then, that year felt like everything.
Jason’s first post that mentions Flickr is from March 2004. He wonders whether Flickr could be used as a universal login (much like Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts are today). Annotation quickly followed. Then calendar view. RSS feed splicing. Organizr. A public API. The interestingness algorithm. Prints. It was step-by-step, bit-by-bit, but every new feature was a milestone. It excited people, and got them thinking and working on what was next.
Jason even has a remarkable post from August 2004 where he imagines an entire web-based operating system linking different services together:
To put this another way, a distributed data storage system would take the place of a local storage system. And not just data storage, but data processing/filtering/formatting. Taking the weblog example to the extreme, you could use TypePad to write a weblog entry; Flickr to store your photos; store some mp3s (for an mp3 blog) on your ISP-hosted shell account; your events calendar on Upcoming; use iCal to update your personal calendar (which is then stored on your .Mac account); use GMail for email; use TypeKey or Flickr’s authentication system to handle identity; outsource your storage/backups to Google or Akamai; you let Feedburner “listen” for new content from all those sources, transform/aggregate/filter it all, and publish it to your Web space; and you manage all this on the Web at each individual Web site or with a Watson-ish desktop client.
Think of it like Unix…small pieces loosely joined.
That last part didn’t come true; the pieces didn’t join so much as fuse together into something new. The companies listed either took over the world, faded into relative obscurity, or stopped existing (at least for a little while). And then there’s Flickr — which didn’t do any of those things, but changed how we use the web forever.
I usually say that platforms stop being vital, even if they continue to have lots of users, when the platforms stop getting better. It’s a tricky thing: sometimes a ham-handed “improvement” can actually ruin a lot of what made a platform special. Flickr was extraordinarily vital, for years. It still has so much to offer. Sometimes there’s something reassuring about a tool that’s still much the same.
Photo by Tom Hall, via Flickr. Used under a CC-BY license.
Matt Haughey’s pervy internet-connected motion-sensing security camera recently snapped a photo of him in the nude and emailed it to him. Hilarious, right? Sort of?
But then I realized that image is on Dropcam’s system. And Google bought Dropcam so my photo is somewhere in Google’s cloud. There’s a web-accessible photo of my naked ass (with no black bar added above) somewhere and I have no idea where it is or how easy it is for anyone to find. Wonderful.
We’ve been using Eyefi cards to upload photos from the kids’ cameras to Flickr. Matt Haughey has a review of their newest card, the Eyefi Mobi, which automagically syncs to your phone, resulting in a 20-second DSLR-to-Instagram workflow.
In essence, the card turns any dumb camera into an outboard lens for your phone. Last week on a trip to NYC I took my new compact camera with me and could easily upload photos to Instagram and Twitter within seconds of taking the photos. I mean that literally: I can take a photo with my camera, open up my phone, touch the mobi app icon and about ten seconds later I can be saving that image to my phone’s camera roll. I could also manipulate and tweak the images in a plethora of iPhone apps like VSCOcam, Photoshop Express, etc. directly on the phone before sharing it out to the world.
This sounds amazing. Step one for me: get a camera. Any suggestions? I’ve been eyeing Fujifilm’s X100S for quite awhile…
Matt Haughey wrote an essay called Why I love Twitter and barely tolerate Facebook.
There’s no memory at Twitter: everything is fleeting. Though that concept may seem daunting to some (archivists, I feel your pain), it also means the content in my feed is an endless stream of new information, either comments on what is happening right now or thoughts about the future. One of the reasons I loved the Internet when I first discovered it in the mid-1990s was that it was a clean slate, a place that welcomed all regardless of your past as you wrote your new life story; where you’d only be judged on your words and your art and your photos going forward.
Facebook is mired in the past.
One of my favorite posts on street photographer Scott Schuman’s blog, The Sartorialist, consists of two photos of the same woman taken several months apart.
Schuman asked the woman how she was able to create such a dramatic change:
Actually the line that I think was the most telling but that she said like a throw-away qualifier was “I didn’t know anyone in New York when I moved here…”
I think that is such a huge factor. To move to a city where you are not afraid to try something new because all the people that labeled who THEY think you are (parents, childhood friends) are not their to say “that’s not you” or “you’ve changed”. Well, maybe that person didn’t change but finally became who they really are. I totally relate to this as a fellow Midwesterner even though my changes were not as quick or as dramatic.
I bet if you ask most people what keeps them from being who they really want to be (at least stylistically or maybe even more), the answer would not be money but the fear of peer pressure — fear of embarrassing themselves in front of a group of people that they might not actually even like anyway.
For a certain type of person, changing oneself might be one of the best ways of feeling free and in control of one’s own destiny. And in the social media world, Twitter feels like continually moving to NYC without knowing anyone whereas Facebook feels like you’re living in your hometown and hanging with everyone you went to high school with. Twitter’s we’re-all-here-in-the-moment thing that Matt talks about is what makes it possible for people to continually reinvent themselves on Twitter. You don’t have any of that Facebook baggage, the peer pressure from a lifetime of friends, holding you back. You are who your last dozen tweets say you are. And what a feeling of freedom that is.
Matt Haughey shares a bad experience he had backing a Kickstarter project and what the project creators could have done to avoid it.
This is the story of the worst project I’ve funded on Kickstarter. I am posting this not to single out the creators behind it, or bad mouth their business, but to go over my disappointment in the hopes that future Kickstarter project creators can learn from it. It’s all about communication with your funders, setting up and delivering on expectations for funders, and doing the right thing when things go wrong.
Shipping a product or app is hard. It requires experience, hard work, and a little luck. But providing effective and genuine customer service might be even harder because you just have sit there, take it, and react well under pressure over and over and over. The entrepreneur side of your brain is saying “this is a great product and I am proud of it and anyone who says otherwise is wrong and I will show them and succeed” and sometimes customer service is acknowledging publicly and repeatedly the exact opposite thing…that the product isn’t meeting needs, you are right, we will fix it, and thank you sir may I have another? That’s a lot of potential cognitive dissonance! The best teams and companies deflect that dissonance and turn customer service problems into opportunities to improve their products, their teams, and their relationships with their customers (current and potential). That’s when the magic happens.
Wow, for the 12th anniversary of MetaFilter, Matt bought the domain of the first site MF ever linked to (cat-scan.com) and dedicated it to stories from the site’s early years. More here.
Matt Haughey’s SXSW talk, Real World Moderation: Lessons from 11 Years of Community, was quite well received so he posted a version he recorded at home to Vimeo.
After 11 years of running MetaFilter.com, I (and the other moderators) have been through just about everything, and we’ve built dozens of custom tools to weed out garbage, spammers, and scammers from the site.
I’ll cover how to identify and solve problems including identity, trolling, sockpuppets, and other nefarious community issues, show off custom tools we’ve developed for MetaFilter, and show you how to incorporate them into your own community sites.
Matt Haughey recommends some iPhone games for kids.
Since then I’ve downloaded a lot of games and educational apps for my daughter (who is now four and a half) and I’ve been meaning to write up the ones I think are worth a few bucks and have stood the test of time, and here they are.
Matt Haughey reflects on running MetaFilter for ten years. MeFi in the early-to-mid 00s was a cesspool; Matt deserves several gold stars for pushing through, somehow making the site better than it ever was in the early days, and turning the site into a thriving business. Over the years as community fads have changed online, people moved from wanting to build their own Slashdot to Gawker to Digg to Facebook to Twitter, but MeFi as a model of online community deserves more scrutiny…people should be trying to make their own MetaFilters but nobody really does.
Anyway, here’s to you and The Blue, Matt. Congrats!
Matt Haughey shares some of his favorite weight loss advice for geeks. The moving average advice is particularly useful.
There are many explanations of why one would use a moving average, but I’ll just say that it covers your weight trends and lessens the daily fluctuations. This means if you drop 0.1 pounds every day for a week then one morning you weigh in at one full pound heavier than the previous day, your entire week wasn’t shot that morning because you’d still be trending downwards. If you stick to your plans you’ll often see weight continue to go down even with the occasional hiccup.
Two things of which you should not fret the daily movement: the stock market and your weight.
Matt Haughey lists a bunch of ways that political candidates can get his nerdy vote.
I’ve been thinking lately about a dream candidate for my nerd habits, my nerdy business, and the way I live my nerdy life. Regardless of party affiliation, if you’re running for an office from as small as city council all the way up to president, if you hit on any/all of these things, you just might get my vote.
Universal healthcare, universal broadband, and a renewed commitment to science are on his list…anything missing?
What if you traded Apple stock around Steve Jobs’ January Macworld keynotes…would you make any money? Short answer is yes but buying Apple stock 10 years ago and holding would have been the better move. Also interesting is the market’s reaction to OS X and Jobs’ installment as CEO…Apple lost 7.3% of its market cap the day after the announcement.
Fashion & Style? I don’t know… (via matt)
Matt Haughey’s seven tips on how to run a successful community, based on his experiences with MetaFilter. “It takes great care and patience to create a space others will share and you have to nurture it and reward your best contributors. It’s a decidedly human endeavor with few, if any, technical shortcuts.”
Matt Haughey recently launched a new blog about “doing business online” called fortuitous. In his introductory post, Matt describes his job as “professionally screwing around on the web”, which is an accurate description of my current vocation as well.
Regarding last week’s post about LED lightbulbs, Matt Haughey bought a variety pack of LED bulbs, tried them out, and says “save your money”. “The color is definitely blue and the light is dim. There’s no way on earth these bulbs are worth running out and spending $30+ per bulb on.”
Matt Haughey has a great idea about how to better search for missing persons: fly helicopters with cameras over the suspected locations, upload the resulting video/photos to the web, and an army of volunteers look the video/photos over for possible evidence. With enough eyeballs, all missing people are shallow.
In this interview with .net magazine, Flickr founder Caterina Fake likens building an online community to throwing a party:
According to Caterina: “The most difficult part is not the technology but actually getting the people to behave well.” When first starting the community the Flickr team were spending nearly 24 hours online greeting each individual user, introducing them to each other and cultivating the community. “After a certain point you can let go and the community will start to maintain itself, explains Caterina. “People will greet each other and introduce their own practices into the social software. It’s always underestimated, but early on you need someone in there everyday who is kind of like the host of the party, who introduces everybody and takes their coat.
I recall those early days of Flickr…Stewart and Caterina were everywhere, commenting on everything. A core group of people followed their example and began to do the same, including Heather Champ, who now manages Flickr’s community in an official capacity. Matt did a similar thing with MetaFilter too…he spent a lot of time interacting with people on there, taking their coats, and before long others were pitching in.
Joel Johnson used to work for Gawker, recently quit, and started a smart blog about guy stuff called Dethroner. Matt Haughey noticed the quality and low level of desperation in the tone of the site (I find many of the blogs that are attempting to make money are clingy and nearly pathological in their need for attention) and interviewed Joel about the site. “So I’m just saying, I wish more people would just be happy making a modest living on the web, because I think that it’s pretty neat that it can be done.”
Matt used MacSaber and his new MacBook to recreate the Star Wars kid video. In related news, the Portland, Oregon area reported a huge nerdquake this afternoon.
Online TurboTax as a text adventure game. “I should write up a complete walkthrough to solve Tax Return 2006 in as few moves as possible.”
Matt’s first impressions of and experiences with the Web sound a lot like mine (visiting those first few sites with Mosaic was a transformative experience for me, like falling in love), except I did quit grad school.
Matt writes about finding good food in an unfamiliar city. We’ve been struggling with this on our trip to Asia. Offline approaches (books, recommendations by locals, etc.) seem to work well, as does taking a peek on eGullet or Chowhound.
You can now post from Microsoft Word to your Blogger blog. More interesting to me is how former Pyra folks remember this old idea. Matt says it was “something we talked about building back when the blogger api was brand new” and that Anil Dash, then a Blogger enthusiast, knocked up a working prototype (which I also remember). Ev says it’s “a product that I first thought about five years ago”. Both accounts are no doubt accurate, but how they’re remembered is interesting.
Matt’s moblogging the birth of his daughter. We’ll soon see the heir to the MetaFilter empire.
“Get over yourself and drop the ‘MSM’ bullshit, please”. “If you use the term ‘MSM’ in a unironic way to denote the ‘Mainstream Media’ I will write you off as a quack, unsubscribe from your RSS, and stop reading your blog.”