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Archive: 28 June 2006

Forgetful Flickr

Jeffrey wrote yesterday about some Flickr problems he’s having, and while he’s found resolution, his post brought to my forebrain some problems I’ve been having with Flickr.  So I’ll record them here.  Wooo!  Flickr pile-on!

Actually, I really only have one problem, but it manifests itself in multiple ways.  The problem is this: any photo with a privacy setting other than “Public” doesn’t ever show up in Flickr RSS feeds.

Here’s why that’s a problem, instead of a good thing:

  • If one of my contacts has marked me as a Friend, and they post a photo that’s visible only to Friends & Family, that photo does not appear in my RSS feed of photos from my friends and family.  These same pictures show up if I go to the “Photos from your Contacts” page on the Flickr site.  In the feed, they’re entirely absent.

  • If I post a photo that’s visible only to Friends & Family, any comments made on that photo do not appear in my “Comments on your photos and/or sets” feed.  So I don’t know what anyone’s saying about pictures of my wife and child unless I go to the “Recent activity on your photos” page on the Flickr site.

  • Bonus related limitation: only comments appear in my recent activity feed; things like added tags and favorite-photo designations don’t show up in the feeds either.  In fact, the feed link on the Flickr site says “Subscribe to recent activity on your photos” but the only activity shown in the feed is comments on public photos.

There may be other, even more subtle hindrances in that vein, but those are the ones that have annoyed me the most.

So why is it that stuff I want to know about—in fact, the stuff that I probably want most to know about—is only available on the actual web site, and not in the RSS feeds?  Flickr knows exactly what it can show me and what it can’t when I visit the site, but when viewed through the lens of RSS, it suddenly forgets what non-public access I’m allowed to have.  To steal a perfectly appropriate line from Jeffrey’s post:

A user experience mistake like this feels quadruply wrong precisely because user experience is what Flickr typically gets so right.

Update: it seems to be a security thing, as a few people have already commented.  I guess I understand the concern, but it’s hard for me to give it a whole lot of credit: if I were that paranoid about people seeing photos I consider truly private, I wouldn’t put them on a central server that anyone can visit in the first place.  Yes, I’ve withheld some photos from being fully public, but that privacy effort is one security breach or late-night coding goof away from total failure.  (Remember when Amazon accidentally showed the real names of reviewers instead of their account names, thus exposing some authors as having slammed books competing with their own?)  So if my personal “recent activity on your pictures” and “photos from your contacts” feeds were based on long randomly generated tokens, and not the discoverable user IDs, that would seem to be private enough—for me, anyway.  Your paranoia may vary.

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