Posted on Apr 21, 2008


I’ve been sitting on this post for a while to let the dust settle over the buzz and debate that surrounded Flickr’s venture into video a couple weeks ago. What I found most interesting from the conversations that erupted across the inteweb was the sense of community (or lack there of) in Flickr and YouTube based on the comments the videos receive and the environment those comments live in.

People flock to both YouTube and Flickr for their easy portability that is supported by their simple UI design (read: easy embed codes). The general sense from people who use both Flickr and YouTube is that Flickr would provide a more relevant place to put videos due to there not being a clusterclick of comments. Comments on YouTube are typically stereotyped as being hundreds of negative remarks from users that are largely unknown to the YouTube “community”. It’s true that YouTube is more about the content than any social networking device, but the known lack of community management over negative and harassing comments on YouTube videos often gives off the same “hopeless mess” feeling as a MySpace profile design.

As Scott Beale has stated, “for the most part the comments on Flickr are relevant and add to the conversation, unlike YouTube comments“. This can partially be attributed to Flickr’s community management, both exerted by the Flickr team and the “self-help” tools like blocking that they provide to make sure that comments aren’t spam, harassing, or are just overall unwelcome.

Is it the community management or the content that has created a more relevant community? Is it that photography has become more niche than video, and thus feels like a closer-knit community? In ongoing discussions with colleagues about online social interactions ranging from Twitter to Xbox Live, seemingly, the less the feeling of having an active community management system, the less users feel a loyalty to the service, despite if all their friends are using it.


  1. Ruobé
    April 21, 2008

    I think the main difference between YouTube and Flickr is that YouTube features mainly “borrowed” content such as excerpts from TV whereas Flickr has original content, whether artworks or personnal stuff.

    As a result, people are more demanding and rude for professional videos that someone unknown has shared than they would be when talking directly to the creator of a beautiful or informative picture. In this respect, Flickr would be closer to Vimeo than YouTube.

    I don’t know for the community management problem, since I don’t contribute to any of those sites, but I’m pretty sure that it can’t be unrelated to the nature of their content. I mean, you were only speaking of the comment-side of the community, rather than including the contributor-side of it. Sure, it’s all about community, otherwise.

    Well, now, I will wonder if it’s a good idea to comment on a blog post about dull comments :)

  2. Erik R.
    April 21, 2008

    I agree with everything Ruobé just said. The whole “borrowed” content that youtube has, people are more rude. That is one of the reasons why I put my original videos at Vimeo, better community, less trash talk, etc. More smiles all around.

  3. robert
    April 21, 2008

    The combination of better community management tools, and users who have a stake in the service (ie: content stored there or paying for an accuont) is what makes flickr’s community so much more appealing than flickr.

    flickr is a two way street, everyone provides content, everyone provides feedback, whereas youtube is generally much more of a one way service.

    Sure some people both provide content and feedback on youtube but youtube is generally just a one way medium similar to television. This is one reason why I feel no connection with it.

    One other thing you didn’t cover that I think might make flickr a better service is the integration of tools like picnik’s image editing tools and the ability to add notes to photos and various other tools to customize your content. flickr seems much more proactive in supplying its users with tools, whereas youtube I would figure is much busier fending off lawsuits.

    On another note I really like the theme you chose for your blog.

  4. spiyCupcakes
    April 22, 2008

    is it ok to say that StickAm & Flick should be more of a bond?

  5. Allan Hough
    April 23, 2008

    After reading this, I got to thinking about community and decided to implement an ‘Introduce Yourself’ page on my blog. What do you guys think?

  6. TWD
    April 26, 2008

    Everyone knows that YouTube video comments suck, but what people fail to realize is that this is how viral video’s work. To really hit it big with a video on youtube you have to get onto one of their lists one way or another. One way that people do this is by getting into the most commented section. So how do you do this? Make duplicate accounts and spam. Post spam in your own video. Reply to spam comments with spam comments of your own. This is also the reason why you’ll see lots of videos with reply videos that have nothing to do with the content of the first.

    So I would exactly say that it’s the management tools. The issue is that the system encourages it. Spam and dumbing down the discussion is the easiest way for people to make their video popular.

  7. Clintus McGintus
    April 27, 2008

    I totally agree. I hate the comments on YouTube.

  8. nolandfone
    May 5, 2008

    The community needs to have pre-existed for the two to complement each other. Let me explain, a long long time ago before Flickr et. el., and even before digital camera (yes I know many of you don’t remember that far back!!), there was 35mm film. Photo’s where taken, photo magazines where published and a communities met as part of local SIG meeting. Making the leap to digital and then the online world allowed this existing pool (community) of amateur & pro’s to express their work and comments in real time. Flickr is made up of these people who then self govern and help manage all things that they “take pride in”. I’m not saying that a video of a coke bottle blowing up on YouTube was not created with love, care and is not the pride and joy of the teenage kid who filmed it on his Moto Razor …. Anyway you get the picture (no pun intended).

  9. Eric Susch
    May 7, 2008

    Not sure I agree with nolandfone (or really understand what he/she is saying.) There have been a lot of well established communities around amateur and professional video. Back in the day when I was growing up Super-8 was popular and I subscribed to magazines like Super-8 filmmaker and Cinemagic.

    Many of the other comments I agree with but there’s one thing that hasn’t been mentioned. I think the character of any social community is going to ultimately depend on the nature of the core reason people are getting together in the first place. Photography is a more contemplative art, a freeze frame of life. It encourages people to stop, look, and think. Video is seen as more disposable probably because after you’ve watched it, it’s done. It doesn’t stay there like a photograph. I think this makes it easier to dismiss a video or even the person making it in the comments.

    I wonder what you and others would think of a social website that has a very, very long standing and established real life community like

  10. Joe
    May 24, 2008

    I think Youtube set a very bad precedent for web communities. It’s probably the most uncivilized forum on the internet, and it’s kind of lowered the bar for everyone else.

    I think community management and content are both responsible for creating the kind of community Flickr. Vimeo, Veoh, Viddler, and most other video sites all have more mature user communities. This might be a function of size, but the fact that rival video survaves usually host user-created videos instead, and therefor have more invested in the site might have something to do with it.

    Also, we shouldn’t underestimate the role demography plays. Sites like Flickr and Facebook cater to more upscale users, whereas sites like Youtube and Myspace attract users that are more low-rent. In a way, Youtube is the biggest trailer park in the universe.